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Elsa Behrend * 1879
Hochallee 23 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
Dr. Roland Behrend, born on 20 Mar. 1875 in Hamburg, deported on 15 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died there on 22 Mar. 1943
Nanny Behrend, née Auerbach, born on 27 July 1882 in São Paulo, deported on 15 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died there on 24 Jan. 1943
Frickestraße 24 and Alsterkamp 43
Elsa Behrend, born on 13 Feb. 1879 in Hamburg, deported on 18 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Martha Behrend, born on 3 Dec. 1881 in Hamburg, deported on 18 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Helene Behrend, born on 3 Feb. 1883 in Hamburg, deported on 18 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Edith Behrend, born on 24 May 1880 in Hamburg, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
"After all children had been dropped off at their quarters in the evening of the second travel day, the recruiting work began on the third day of my vacation. Together with my sister, Edith Behrend, I visited 45 relatively scattered villages within the span of 21 days. During this time, 180 fixed places were recruited. We were hoping to dare expect some additional 100 places. In years past, we had only visited villages in the Neckar Valley. This year, we have extended our activity to the valleys of the Danube and the Jagst rivers.” With these lines, Frieda Behrend described to the school authority how she had spent her vacation for the "Organization for Vacation Stays, reg. soc.” (Vereinigung für Ferienaufenthalt e. V.).
In this way, for several years in succession, she and her sister Edith enabled Hamburg children from socially underprivileged families to spend time in the countryside. Frieda was the oldest daughter of Simon Behrend and his wife Rosa, née Lazarus. The seven siblings grew up in a household that attached great importance to educating the children, including the girls. Her father, Simon Behrend, was an architect and had his office at Hohe Bleichen 34.
Her oldest brother, Edwin Behrend (born in 1873), followed in his father’s footsteps and became an architect as well. Roland Behrend studied law, four of his sisters became teachers:
Elsa Behrend (born in 1879) was a teacher at the Israelite Girls’ School on Carolinenstraße since 1906. She taught needlework, sports, and writing. The level-headed, calm, and always friendly teacher was exceptionally well liked among her female students.
Edith Behrend (born in 1880) was an elementary school teacher at the school at Alsenstraße 21. She taught elementary school classes from grades 1 to 6. Her students remember her as a socially involved, nature-loving and animal-loving woman. Her teaching was very progressive. She was enthusiastic about the ideas of progressive educational reform emerging in the 1920s, and she made particular efforts toward Jewish-Christian understanding. A long-standing friendship existed between her homeroom class and some students at the Girls’ School at Carolinenstraße 35 who were about the same age. Both homeroom classes had an aquarium, exchanged fish specimens as presents, and, via lively correspondence, gave each other advice and support. Together they undertook trips and organized sports festivals in the schoolyard of the school on Alsenstraße.
Joining her sister Frieda, Edith accompanied female students from Hamburg to the Black Forest, where they had found families willing to accommodate Hamburg schoolchildren. Like her sister Martha, she belonged to the "Society of Friends of the Patriotic School and Education System” ("Gesellschaft der Freunde des Vaterländischen Schul- und Erziehungswesens”), the precursor of the subsequent teachers’ union, the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft – GEW).
Martha Behrend had completed her training for secondary school teaching, and she taught at Emilie-Wüstenfeld-Schule (EWS), which was a private "secondary girls’ school” from 1897 onward and received state recognition as a "Lyzeum,” a high school for girls, in 1912. She taught needlework and gymnastics. Former students reported "that at that time, the EWS was regarded as the strictest school in Hamburg (wearing rings was not allowed, the cleanliness of fingernails and of the cloth handkerchief were checked daily, the students had to sit upright and with their hands on the table, and they were not allowed to turn their heads to the side). The relationship of the students to the teachers was extremely reserved. The students knew nothing about their teachers’ private sphere. They also did not know that their PE teacher, the strict Ms. Behrend, was Jewish.”
Together with the painter Gretchen Wohlwill, Martha Behrend belonged to the "Kindergesellschaft,” a casual affiliation of female teachers that organized evening get-togethers.
Since Mar. 1899, Frieda Behrend had been a teacher at the secondary school for girls run by "Miss (Fräulein)” Laura Nemitz at Grindelhof 59, subsequently at the school at Stiftsstraße 69. She would have liked to work at the school on Alsenstraße like her sister Edith, but in response to her application, she was instead transferred to the school at Breitenfelderstraße 35 in Oct. 1912.
Due to a severe leg ailment, the youngest sister, Helene Behrend, was not able to pursue a career. She managed the household for her siblings and in turn was supported by them all of her life.
The five sisters were unmarried and lived with their parents and their brother Edwin, also unmarried, in a house at Klosterallee 28. Following the deaths of their parents in 1921 and 1922, Martha, Edwin, and Helene lived on the ground floor, Frieda and Edith on the floor above, and Elsa lived on the third floor. In Nov. 1931, they moved to Hochallee 23 and occupied three apartments there as well.
After Frieda had emigrated to Switzerland in 1938 and got married, and Edwin had died of cancer on 24 July 1939, Edith moved to Abendrothsweg.
Roland Behrend had moved out of the parental home after obtaining his high school diploma (Abitur) at the Wilhelm-Gymnasium in 1893 and studied law at four different universities: one semester in Heidelberg, two semesters each in Munich and Halle, and seven semesters in Berlin, where he passed his final exam in 1901.
He obtained a license to practice as a lawyer in Hamburg, lived at Bahnhofstraße 34 in Klein Flottbek, and operated his law firm at Gänsemarkt 35.
Three years later, in 1904, he submitted his doctoral thesis on the topic of "The concept of the lost item in accordance with the law pertaining to lost, mislaid, and abandoned property in the German Civil Code” ("Der Begriff der verlorenen Sache nach dem Fundrecht des BGB”) to the University of Rostock. Five years afterward, he fell ill with pulmonary tuberculosis, which forced him into frequent stays at sanatoria over the following years. During one of these stays, he met Nanny Auerbach. They were married in June 1908.
Nanny was born in São Paulo but she grew up in Hamburg. After spending several winters in Switzerland together, Roland Behrend had his name deleted from the lawyers’ directory in 1911. From 1911 until the outbreak of the First World War, he worked as a private teacher for law in Heidelberg. His physician had advised a change of climate because Hamburg’s climate did not really agree with him. When his tuberculosis was cured completely, he returned to Hamburg when the war started in 1914, working as a deputy judge at the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht). In Oct. 1916, the presiding judge of the District Court (Amtsgerichtspräsident) put in a good word for him: "Until now, the deputy judge Assessor Dr. Behrend was discharged from the forces as permanently unfit for service. At the examination that took place on 14 Oct. before the replacement commission in Pinneberg, Dr. Behrend was classified as permanently fit for garrison service. In view of these circumstances, it cannot be ruled out that he may be drafted for service soon. However, in light of the current shortage of judges, it is very much in the official interest that Dr. Behrend be kept in his position. In consideration of the minimal degree of military use, I would therefore obediently leave it to your discretion to effect the deferment of Dr. B. He is under the command of District Command II in Altona. The Presiding Judge of the District Court.”
From the position at court, Roland Behrend was dismissed at his own request on 27 July 1917, joining the M. M. Warburg & Co banking house as a legal adviser. However, since in everyday practice he found "no satisfaction from the rather commercial activity as a legal adviser,” he once again set up as a lawyer in Hamburg as of 13 Oct. 1919. One year later, he applied for the position of district court judge, but his application was turned down with reference to his poor health. He continued to work as a lawyer until his lawyer’s license was revoked "because of non-Aryan descent” on 31 May 1933. The contentious issue was whether the special regulation stipulating that lawyers licensed to practice since Aug. 1914 were allowed to continue their work applied to him because he had not been active as a lawyer for a period. After the executive board of the Bar Association had approved his application for relicensing, he was again permitted to work as a lawyer as of 28 June 1933.
On 30 Nov. 1938, he was disbarred definitively. During the Pogrom of November 1938, he had been arrested like many others and interned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Upon returning on 19 Nov., he and his wife Nanny submitted an application to emigrate. They wished to emigrate to New Zealand but the endeavor failed. In 1941, they were forced to move to Martin-Brunn-Stift at Frickestraße 24, a residential home that had meanwhile been converted to a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”). Like Roland’s sisters, they received a deportation order as of 18 Nov. 1941. Because of the anxiety and humiliations, the 66-year-old man’s state of health, weakened to begin with, deteriorated significantly. By November, he was so ill that he was deleted from the deportation list. His sisters Martha, Edith, Elsa, and Helene were deported to Minsk on 18 Nov. 1941.
Regina van Son, a friend, wrote in her diary on 17 Nov., "Today I feel really dejected. The farewell from the four Behrends did affect me deeply in the end. Except for Helene, they were all brave, and even she made a great effort. I was there today one more time from 11 to 1 o’clock but did not pitch in because for one thing, there was enough help and secondly, I was so beat from the days past. … It was uplifting to see how many friends the B[ehrend]s have, and all of them lent a hand, and all of them brought the nicest things for them to take along. This time, I was not able to contribute much; I had already exhausted my stocks when Hess and the Kahns left, and after all, I have to think of myself as well.”
The four sisters traveled on overcrowded trains to the Minsk Ghetto for five days. Upon arrival there, what awaited them was subzero temperatures of minus 25 °C and a camp in which thousands of people had just been murdered a short time before to make room for the new transport. People suffered horribly from hunger, cold, the arbitrary shootings; the death rate was extremely high. We do not know for how long the sisters survived this terror.
On 26 Jan., Regina van Son wrote in a letter to her friend in Switzerland, "My friends, the sisters of Dr. Roland B[ehrend] already departed earlier. They are amazingly capable people with their feet firmly on the ground, and two of the sisters, Helene und Martha, prevailed so that their bother, who is not quite stable with his lung, was allowed to stay, together with his wife.”
The reprieve lasted only half a year. Roland and Nanny Behrend were deported to Theresienstadt on 15 July 1942. Nanny died in Jan. 1943; her husband Roland two days after his sixty-eighth birthday in Mar. 1943.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Maria Koser
Quellen: 1; 2; 3; 4; 7; 8; 9; StaH 241-2 Justizverwaltung – Personalakten A 1797; StaH 314-15 OFP, R 1942/56; StaH 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden, 992e 1 Bände 3 und 6; StaH 332-5, Personenstandsbuch 8656 187/1908; StaH 332-5, 8163 Bd.1 1939; StaH 213-8 "Verzeichnis der im Monat November 1938 durch den Vollzug von Schutzhaft für die Geheime Staatspolizei entstandenen Kosten November 1938"; Hamburgisches Lehrerverzeichnis des Stadt- und Landgebietes, 1920–1933; schriftl. Auskunft Gedenkstätte und Museum Sachsenhausen vom 6.11.2008, AZ 2-10/5: Häftlingsnr. 008368, Häftlingsblock 19, Meldung: zu entlassen am 19.11.1938; The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, AHW-TT-94-18.jpg; Gemeindeblatt der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde, 1930 Nr. 10, S. 4f.; Schriftliche Auskunft des Archivs der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München vom 27.10.2009; Schriftliche Auskunft des Archivs der Universität Halle vom 29.10.2009; Schriftliche Auskunft Werner Moritz, Universitätsarchiv Heidelberg vom 13.11.2009; Schularchiv des Emilie-Wüstenfeld-Gymnasiums; Lehberger/de Lorent (Hrsg.), "Die Fahne hoch", 1986; Morisse, Jüdische Rechtsanwälte, 2003, S. 118; Sielemann, Aber seid alle beruhigt, S. 152 f, S. 176.
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