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Eugen Schendel * 1890

Am Radeland 26 (Harburg, Heimfeld)

JG. 1890
ERMORDET 15.6.1943

Eugen Isidor Schendel, born 5 Dec. 1890 in Reichenbach, imprisoned several times at Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, deported 18 Feb. 1943 to Auschwitz, killed 15 June 1943

Am Radeland 26 (District Heimfeld)

During the 1940s, as they still do today, many garden allotments dotted the part of the street Am Radeland along the north side of the railway line from Harburg to Cuxhaven, where today the Hamburg S-Bahn (S3) emerges from the tunnel to continue along the DB-Bahndamm. It is not clear when and why the merchant Eugen Isidor Schendel privately settled down here. He came from a Jewish family in Vogtland. Professionally he was primarily engaged on the other side the Elbe river.

It was there in 1927 that he opened a fabric business with a large cloth warehouse at Bergstraße 28, at the corner of Alsterdamm (today Ballindamm). His store soon became one of Hamburg’s top addresses in that line due to its rich and exquisite selection of goods. His high-quality English fabrics above all were in high demand among his customers. Many well-known Hamburg tailors knew that they would be served well by Eugen Schendel and that his warehouse always had a good selection.

His clientele reached across all of northern Germany, hence his sales representatives were on the road much of the time. On such days, and indeed others, he relied entirely on the wholehearted support of his non-Jewish wife Martha, née Gerloff (born on 17 Jan. 1891).

When Jewish business people were increasingly being shut out of German economic life in 1938, Eugen Schendel also tried to save what he could. He transferred part of his assets to Denmark where he intended to build up a new existence. However before it came to that, he was arrested by the Gestapo on 8 Nov. 1938 in the course of the mass arrest operation following the Reich-wide pogrom and taken to the Fuhlsbüttel Police Prison. After two weeks he was released. Afterwards he had to contribute a fifth of his wealth as an "atonement payment” imposed upon all Jews to pay to clean up the damage caused by the pogrom night.

Due to the "Decree to Eliminate Jews from German Economic Life" from 12 Nov. 1938, Eugen Schendel was forced to sell his business and his fabric warehouse on Bergstraße far below market value. During the following weeks and months he tried to keep his head above water by working as a sales representative.

On 4 May 1941, he was again taken into "protective custody” and admitted to the Fuhlsbüttel Police Prison because as a Jew he had not turned in his radio in a timely manner as required by law. This time his detention lasted one month and a day. From 19 Sept. 1941 he had to wear the "yellow star” like all other German Jews.

In the spring of 1942, Eugen Isidor Schendel went into hiding. There are various indications that he found refuge with Alma Schultz at Heimfelder Straße 80 during that period, as later reports claimed she hid "a Jewish businessman” for four weeks in her apartment at Heimfelder Straße 80, and the man was arrested when he wanted to "visit his wife at Am Radeland”.

On 31 Dec. 1942 Eugen Schendel was apprehended by the police and once again taken to the Fuhlsbüttel Police Prison. He was accused of having left his wife and neglected his obligation to support her financially. The following days and weeks became a crucial test for Martha Schendel. New marriages between Jews and non-Jews were banned since the Nuremburg Laws were officially pronounced. Subsequently the National Socialists tried to reduce the number of existing mixed marriages. To this end they exerted a great deal of pressure on the non-Jewish partner, promising them the "return to the German brotherhood” with all attending benefits if they divorced their Jewish partner.

Gestapo Officer Walter Wohlers of the "Jewish Department” (Judenreferat) intimated to Martha Schendel that her husband could only be saved if she divorced him. Out of desperation, Martha Schendel agreed to this step. She was divorced from Eugen Isidor Schendel on 4 Feb. 1943 "since the defendant abandoned the plaintiff in May 1942, violating the provisions for his stay … and since that time no longer provided for her, [and in doing so] he was guilty of marital transgression.”

Martha Schendel’s hopes turned out to be an illusion. After the dissolution of his marriage with his non-Jewish wife, her husband lost the last effective protection from deportation, which she was not aware of. 16 days later he was taken to Auschwitz on a collective transport via Berlin. He died there on 15 June 1943.

In Martha Schendel’s later redress of wrongs proceedings, her divorce was declared void. Max Plaut, the Chairman of the Jewish Community in Hamburg from 1938 to 1943, attested on her behalf following his return from exile: "The fact that you divorced your husband at that time was instigated by the Gestapo Official Wohlers who threatened to have your husband sent to Auschwitz concentration camp where he would be killed if you did not divorce him. Otherwise there was still hope that he would survive. Based on your experience with similar cases, you had no other choice if you wanted to save your husband.”

On 23 Sept. 1987 a street in Langenbek District was named after Eugen Schendel.

Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: January 2019
© Klaus Möller

Quellen: 1; 2 (R 1940/R/664 Eugen Schendel); 4; 5; 8; StaH, 351-11 AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 170191 Schendel, Martha; Heyl (Hrsg.), Harburger Opfer; Heyl, Synagoge, S. 195; StaH, 351-11 AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 170191 Schen­del, Martha; Meyer, "Jüdische Mischlinge", 2. Auflage, S. 30ff.; Hartwig, Harburg ’45, S. 42.
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