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Paul Belmonte * 1894
Eppendorfer Weg 62 (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)
Gustav Abendana Belmonte, born on 13 Aug. 1891 in Hamburg, detained in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp in 1938/1939, deported to Theresienstadt on 19 July 1942, deported to Auschwitz on 16 Oct. 1944
Jenny Belmonte, née Simon, born on 21 Dec. 1860 in Altona, deported to Theresienstadt on 19 July 1942, died there on 13 May 1944
Alfred Abendana Belmonte, born on 4 Sept. 1895 in Hamburg, murdered on 29 Apr. 1939 in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp
Paul Abendana Belmonte, born on 2 June 1894 in Hamburg, murdered on 29 Apr. 1939 in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp
Salomon Abendana Belmonte, born on 29 Sept. 1890 in Hamburg, murdered on 30 Apr. 1939 in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp
Willibald Abendana Belmonte, born on 27 Sept. 1892 in Hamburg, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Eppendorfer Weg 62
The Portuguese-Jewish Belmonte family, with forebears possibly residents of Hamburg since the seventeenth century, is not untypical for old-established, well-to-do Hamburg Jews whose assimilation process was accompanied by social advancement. Salomon Abendana Belmonte (born in 1843), who had a doctorate in law, became a lawyer, merchant, as well as a journalist and editor-in-chief of Die Reform magazine, belonged to the Masonic lodge "Ferdinande Caroline,” and was a deputy in Hamburg’s city parliament until his death in 1888. Beyond that, he held the office of a member of the executive committee of the Portuguese-Jewish Community in Hamburg. His brother, Michael Abendana Belmonte (born in 1855, died in 1939) worked successfully in the financial sector and founded a bank, which he operated – subsequently together with his son Willibald – until 1938 in a prime location at Jungfernstieg 30. Michael Belmonte also belonged to the executive committee of the Portuguese-Jewish Community whose synagogues were located on Markusstraße and at Innocentiastraße 37, respectively. The parents of Salomon Abendana Belmonte and Michael Abendana Belmonte were Salomon Abendana Belmonte and Brayne Belmonte, née Wagner.
Michael Belmonte and Jenny Simon were married on 20 June 1889. The marriage produced five sons: Salomon Abendana (born in 1890), Gustav Abendana (born in 1891), Willibald Abendana (born in 1892), Paul Philipp Abendana (born in 1894), and Alfred Isaac Abendana (born in 1895), who would later be active as merchants. At the time the sons were born, the family lived in St. Pauli at Marienstraße 59, today’s Simon-von-Utrecht-Straße. In 1905 the marriage was divorced. Around the turn of the century, the family then lived at Schanzenstraße 62.
The brothers and their father, Michael Abendana Belmonte, were owners of a variety of companies up to the 1930s, with residential and business addresses not always clearly distinguishable according to the information in the directories. The home of the parents was at Eppendorfer Weg 62. This was also the residence at which son Willibald Abendana Belmonte was registered with the authorities, with the addition of "at the Michael Belmonte Company.”
In 1934/35, the brothers Alfred and Paul Belmonte moved from Schanzenstraße 62 to Schäferkampsallee 11, which was at the same time the address of their private residence and of their company, P(aul) and A(lfred) Belmonte. Their father Michael Belmonte lived with them at Schäferkampsallee 11, and his bank had its premises at Jungfernstieg 30, where there was also a commission office operated by Paul and Alfred Belmonte. Both companies were moved to Neuer Wall 54/60 in 1938. For the apartment in Schäferkampsallee, father and sons employed the Jewish housekeeper Bertha Simon (born 12.11.1862), who was deported to Theresienstadt on 10.3.1943, where she died the same year at the age of 81.
The house at Jungfernstieg 30 accommodated not only the bank of Michael Belmonte but also a branch for commission transactions managed by Paul and Alfred Belmonte. Both companies were relocated to Neuer Wall 54/60 in 1938.
What action could the Belmontes, the five grown-up sons, not without financial means, active in banking and business life, "in their prime,” take in the hard-pressed situation of the year 1938 to stave off their ruin? As bankers they were probably in a position to assess the effects that the restrictive measures of the foreign currency office had. These measures involved withdrawing from Jews wishing to emigrate their assets and free disposal thereof, respectively, by means of taxes, dues, and "security orders” ("Sicherungsanordnungen”). Passages from an audit report of the Chief Finance Administration (Oberfinanzdirektion) dated Nov. 1938 about the family read, "It was not possible to ascertain intentions to emigrate.” There are no clues at all for the Belmontes attempting to evade foreign currency legislation, for instance, by illegally transferring money abroad. Nevertheless, the foreign currency offices monitored the bankers and other "persons suspected of capital flight” particularly strictly.
In Sept. 1938, a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”) was issued against Michael Belmonte, a measure targeting his safety deposit boxes, which from then on he was able to dispose of only with permission by the Hamburg foreign currency office. Before that, the customs investigation department had searched the safety deposit boxes the Belmontes had at banks and transferred the securities found to blocked securities accounts at the Vereinsbank and the Deutsche Bank. This emerges from a letter dated Oct. 1938 informing the foreign currency and customs investigation offices about a so-called suspicion of capital flight against Michael and Willibald Belmonte. Beyond that, the customs investigation department suggested ordering a foreign currency check. In this way, the authorities aimed at seizing the private assets of Willibald Belmonte, which obviously was not possible at this time since one could not yet differentiate between his business and private assets. Because of the alleged offenses against foreign currency laws, a "security order” was issued against Willibald Belmonte as well in Dec. 1938. Inquiries with his banks, however, did not reveal any "irregularities.” At any rate, his stocks in the securities account of the Vereinsbank had been blocked already for the Hamburg-Neustadt Tax and Revenue Office, and he did not have a private securities account with the Deutsche Bank.
The November Pogrom of 1938 had grave consequences for the Belmonte family. The closure of the Michael Belmonte Company was imminent, and according to a file memorandum, it took effect "in liquidation as of 31 Dec. 1938.” Alfred and Salomon Belmonte were among the 900 men – mostly coming from prosperous Jewish families – who were brought to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp as a result of the pogrom and forcibly taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In Jan 1939, they were released, presumably because the family had made preparations (for them) to emigrate. However, emigration did not materialize any more. In Apr. 1939, the customs investigation department initiated preliminary proceedings because of "strong suspicion of violation against the foreign currency law,” against, among others, the owners of the Michael Belmonte banking company. Willibald and Gustav Belmonte were arrested and interrogated. The files do not reveal any details regarding the violation in question. One may presume that the family had made the attempt, deemed punishable by law, to transfer abroad funds or goods – their own funds or goods, to be sure. In July, an article appeared in the Hamburg press that provides further information. It says that the brothers Gustav and Willibald Belmonte had disobeyed orders to hand over their possessions in precious metals to one of the public "purchasing points” of the Reich (Ankaufsstelle des Reiches). They were charged with not having surrendered "a gold watch with chain, cuff links, and sets of silverware,” instead trying to transfer these items to the Netherlands using intermediaries. The brothers were sentenced to prison terms of six and ten weeks, respectively, as well as a fine of 200 RM (reichsmark) each.
However, pretextual reasons for persecution and humiliation related not only to the business conduct of the male members of the family, but also to their very personal lifestyle. An interrogation protocol from April 1939 has been preserved in the files. Wilibald had to undergo a humiliating interrogation in which he was accused of "racial defilement" with a prostitute and had to give detailed information about his sexual practices.
The arrest of the family by the Gestapo at the end of Apr. 1939 also fits in the context of the preliminary proceedings initiated: On 26, 27, and 28 Apr., the Gestapo arrested all of the Belmonte brothers as well as their mother Jenny Belmonte and took them to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp. According to the recollections of Max Plaut, the secretary of the Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband), only three of the brothers were arrested, a fourth one reportedly fled. Max Plaut was taking part in a meeting when he was called by phone – probably by the Gestapo – and told, "‘The three Belmonte brothers are dead. They hanged themselves.’ (…) All three had indeed been hanged on the mullion and transom.” Under supervision of the Gestapo, members of the Jewish Community washed the dead bodies of the brothers Alfred, Paul, and Salomon Belmonte. "The corpses had atrocious wounds from beating.
They must have been beaten with instruments, and all three of them had been injured badly beyond recognition.” The Gestapo issued the death certificates. In all three cases, the cause of death listed was "suicide through hanging.” Although the brothers were probably tortured to death on the same day, the Gestapo entered different dates of death: According to this, Alfred and Paul Belmonte died on 29 Apr. 1939 at Suhrenkamp 98, their brother Salomon one day later. Today, Suhrenkamp 98 is the location of the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp and penitentiaries memorial site. Michael Belmonte survived the murder of his sons by only a few days. On 1 May 1939, he died at the age of 83 in the Israelite Hospital – possibly as a result of a suicide attempt. The register of deaths indicates as the cause of death sclerosis and pneumonia. In Sept. 1940, the liquidation of his company was stepped up by the "Reich Supervisory Office for Banking” (Reichsaufsichtsamt für das Kreditwesen) by appointing a liquidator, the auditor Heinrich Mäurer. The persons also affected by the proceedings included Jenny Belmonte and her sons Gustav and Willibald, the latter as the co-owner of the company. A letter from the liquidator reveals that the company owned securities on a large scale and that the separation of business and private securities had still not taken place. Therefore, the auditor proposed extending the "security order” to all securities owned by the Michael Belmonte Company. Five months later, at the end of Feb. 1941, the unraveling of the assets was concluded, enabling the auditor to report the liquidation of the Michael Belmonte Company completed. In the meantime, a "security order” had been issued against Gustav Belmonte as well.
The 1942 Hamburg directory still listed Jenny and Willibald Belmonte at Eppendorfer Weg 62, although the entry was obsolete long since. Willibald Belmonte had already been deported to Minsk on 8 Nov. 1941. In July 1942, a violin and a typewriter belonging to him were publicly auctioned. From May 1942 onward, Gustav Belmonte lived at Rutschbahn 25 a, house no. 1, probably together with his mother, who was registered at this address in 1942. The building was a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”). Jenny and Gustav Belmonte were deported to Theresienstadt on 19 July 1942.
The tragic family history shows not only how old-established, prosperous Jewish families of outstanding merit were prevented from emigrating by the expropriation policies of the Nazi regime but also that they in particular were persecuted in especially relentless ways.
So far, Stolpersteine exist only for Gustav Abendana Belmonte and for Jenny Abendana Belmonte at Eppendorfer Weg 62. The records reveal some further details about Gustav Abendana Belmonte’s life story: Born in St. Pauli, he attended the Realschule [a practice-oriented secondary school up to grade 10] there, leaving it after finishing his one-year graduating class ("Einjähriges”). Afterwards, he did a commercial apprenticeship with a company in Hamburg and until the beginning of the war in 1914, he went to Berlin to work for Orenstein & Koppel as a commercial clerk. Subsequently, he joined the Schaefer & Scael Company in Düsseldorf and became a soldier in 1915. He fought in the Russian campaign and returned to Germany at the end of 1915, finding employment with the Reich Post Office in Düsseldorf as a temporary postal worker. Afterwards, until 1919, he worked for the Peltz safe manufacturing company based in Düsseldorf, where he lived until 1920. Later, he came back to his father in Hamburg, temporarily working in his banking company. However, Gustav Abendana was artistically inclined and probably never really satisfied with his commercial jobs. He thought about studying music and took on training as an actor and vocalist. In 1929 – at the age of 38 – he took on various commercial agencies, receiving financial assistance from his father for a long time and living with him as well in the end. At the time of his arrest and interrogation, he indicated as his occupation agent for oils and fats. From a passport record dating from 1924, when Gustav Abendana Belmonte applied for a passport for Denmark and Sweden, clues emerge concerning his physical appearance: He was of medium height, had an oblong face, dark brown eyes, and black hair.
Gustav Abendana Belmonte survived the horrendous prison conditions in Theresienstadt, the hunger and the strains. But he could not evade further deportation to Auschwitz in Oct. 1944. This transport on 16 Oct. 1944 comprised of about 1,500 people is also called the "artists’ transport.” Until then, the Nazis had used the artists in Theresienstadt for propaganda purposes, enabling them to present Theresienstadt as a Jewish model settlement. Many musicians and composers who had participated in the Brundibar Opera were sent to their deaths on this transport.
Translator: Erwin Fink /Changes Beate Meyer
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: April 2023
© Susanne Lohmeyer, Astrid Louven
Quellen: 1;2;4;5; StaH 213-11, 60402; StaH 214-1 Gerichtsvollzieherwesen, 140; StaH 231-7 Handelsregister, HRA 11 444 Firma Michael Belmonte; StaH 332-5, 2231 + 4111/1890; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 2258 + 3429/1891; StaH 332-5, 2289 + 3914/1892; StaH 332-5, 2344 + 2192/1894; StaH 332-5, 2375 + 3015/1895; StaH 332-5, 9907 + 228/1939; StaH 332-5, 9907 + 229/1939; StaH 332-5, 9907 + 230/1939; StaH 332-5, 1103 + 273/1939; StaH 332-5_8543; StaH 332-8 Meldewesen A24 Bd. 318 Nr. 23355; StaH 351-11 AfW AZ 130891, AZ 051055; StaH 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden 992e 2 Band 5 Deportationslisten; Hamburger Anzeiger 52 (1939), Nr. 170 (24.7.1939), S. 11; Michael Studemund-Halévy, Die Hamburger Nachkommen des Amsterdamer Kaufmanns Jacob Israel Belmonte, in: Festschrift 25 Jahre Galerie Morgenland Geschichtswerkstatt Eimsbüttel, S. 141ff; Auskunft Archiv Sachsenhausen; Gedenkbuch Konzentrationslager Fuhlsbüttel; Totenlisten Fuhlsbüttel, Dokumentenhaus Neuengamme, Liste vom 24.6.1987 und 27.2.1987; WdE, Erinnerung Dr. Max Plaut; "Wo Wurzeln waren S.142ff; Gräber auf dem jüdischen Friedhof Ilandkoppel.
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