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Josef Beith * 1897
Wandsbeker Marktstraße 18–26 (Wandsbek, Marienthal)
1942 ermordet in Chelmno
Josef Beith, born on 24 June 1897, deported on 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz, on approx. 10 May 1942 to Chelmno
Martha Beith, née Fränkel, born on 29 June 1905, deported on 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz, on approx. 10 May 1942 to Chelmno
Harald Beith, born on 19 Oct. 1927, deported on 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz, on approx. 10 May 1942 to Chelmno
Günther Beith, born on 14 June 1933, deported on 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz, on approx. 10 May 1942 to Chelmno
Uri Beith, born on 23 Sept. 1938, deported on 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz, on approx. 10 May 1942 to Chelmno
Stolpersteine: Wandsbeker Marktstraße 20–22 (formerly Hamburgerstraße 13)
The photo, captured in an atmosphere between farewell and exodus, between worry and hope, shows a wedding party in the fall of 1934 and at the same time one of the last major gatherings at the Beith family’s house. The family portrait was taken in the living and dining room of the house at Hamburgerstraße 13, third floor, at the wedding of the youngest daughter Cora to the physician Kurt Abraham. Eight years later, none of the 24 persons depicted, including three children, lived in Germany any more. Of the members of the well-to-do family residing in Wandsbek for generations, eight were deported, killed in ghettos, or murdered in extermination camps. The remainder managed to emigrate to the USA by 1940. Erika Freundlich, the girl with the sailor’s blouse and the bride’s niece, reached Britain on a "children transport” (Kindertransport) in 1938 and emigrated to the USA after the end of the war.
On the right edge of the photo, one can see, standing, Josef Beith and next to him his wife Martha, both born in Wandsbek. His father was the native of Altona and real estate agent (Benjamin Wolf) Benny Beith, who held the position of head of the Wandsbek Jewish Community for decades. His mother Selma, née Auerbach, was born in Wandsbek, the same as her own mother Dina, née Hirsch. Benny and Selma Beith were married in June 1891 (both sitting to the left of the bride). The married couple had five children, sons Siegfried and Josef, as well as daughters Irma, Else, and Cora, all born between 1894 and 1907.
Josef Beith was the second youngest. Except for a short interruption before the First World War, until 1926 he lived in his parental home, which belonged to Benny Beith since 1914. Once the poet Matthias Claudius had lived at this place, and an (his) old linden tree supposedly grew in the garden until the mid-1930s. In addition, the location was the address of the Jewish Community for many years and it accommodated the real estate agency Benny Beith operated in Wandsbek since 1905. Three tenant parties shared the Claudius house; the Beith family lived in the central part. The ground floor housed the real estate agency, the two upper floors served as residential quarters for the family. Today’s building itself no longer features any historically relevant traces; a plaque commemorates the period of Matthias Claudius and the Stolpersteine point to the Beith family.
Starting in 1912, Josef Beith lived in Mainz for two years, became a combatant in World War I as an 18-year old, and was injured so severely by poison gas that he was fit for work only to a limited extent. Although he was active as a real estate agent, he required financial assistance from his father. In the 1920s, he held the office of head of the newly founded Jewish community association in Wandsbek and environs.
Since he intended to marry, he moved into an apartment on the ground floor of Jüthornstraße 1d in Nov. 1926.
The marriage to the Jewish merchant’s daughter Martha Fränkel took place in early 1927. Her father was the footwear merchant Jacob Fränkel, who lived with his family at Schillerstraße 2. At the end of that same year, a child arrived: Harald Beith was born in Wandsbek on 19 Oct. 1927. His cousin, Erika Freundlich, described him as a handsome and very intelligent boy, who suffered, however, from breathing problems due to asthma. In order to provide the growing family with more adequate accommodations, the family moved to the villa at Bärenallee 16 in 1929. Josef Beith had bought the house from the Seligmann family. However, against the backdrop of the world economic crisis, he was able to come up with only part of the purchase price, which caused the sale to be reversed two years afterwards and Helene Seligmann to be entered in the land register as the owner. The Beiths moved to Von-der-Tann-Straße 7a. All in all, Josef Beith must have experienced a period of crisis, as his conflict with the Wandsbek Jewish Community demonstrated one year later. In Dec. 1932, he complained about Rabbi Bamberger. Supposedly, Bamberger judged Beith incorrectly while the latter recited a religious text at the synagogue, thus ridiculing him before those attending the service. In his letter of complaint to the Community Council, Beith went so far in his accusations against the rabbi that they were considered offensive and rejected as untrue by the Community Secretary. The Community was not on good terms with Josef Beith anyway, since he owed taxes to the organization, which meant he had to put up with the following lecture: "Anyone not meeting his obligations has no right to criticize the leadership of the Community.” The Community refused to deal in any more detail with Beith’s letter and intimated that only in consideration of his father, the long-standing head of the Community, did they refrain from taking further measures. Josef Beith, who felt "like a man lying on the ground” as it was, probably did not do any better after this defeat.
Following the birth of son Günther on 14 June 1933 (on the photo left of his grandmother), the family changed homes again, moving to Lübeckerstraße 121, near the business of the parents-in-law, the Fränkels. In the years to come, Josef Beith must have worked as a real estate agent, for his name and address were listed on an anti-Semitic Nazi leaflet – as were the businesses of his father, brother, and father-in-law.
In 1934, another relocation followed, to Löwenstraße 10. On 23 Sept. 1938, the third son, Uri, was born in Wandsbek. Erika Freundlich remembers two incidents connected to his birth: The parents were compelled by law to choose a name from a set list. The first names entered there, however, hardly found acceptance among the Jewish population, especially because biblical first names were expressly excluded as Christian families frequently used them as well. In addition, a Jewish baby born at this time burdened the family with the stigma of the [compulsory] first name and this had potential to push a situation difficult to begin with all the way toward desperation. Uri’s birth, too, had an effect on the family situation, fragile in the first place, – as Erika Freundlich recalled: "I remember my mother and grandmother weeping because my aunt was having another child at such a terrible time.” A few weeks later, the family no longer saw any perspective for themselves in Wandsbek. After Jewish real estate agents had been banned from working in their profession as of the end of the year, the Beiths moved to the Grindel quarter in early 1939, Heinrich-Barth-Straße 11 III., their last address before the deportation.
This researcher received the wedding photo from a former domestic help. As a young woman, she worked in the household at Hamburgerstraße 13 for several years. She also remembers an instance of spying on the family by ill-disposed neighbors. Possibly, local authorities and party organs were behind this action as well, since Jews were under general suspicion of pushing ahead with their emigration and committing flight of capital. Apparently, Benny Beith did not harbor any intentions of emigration yet, as he had completely renovated the house as late as the 1930s, relocating the business premises from the side of the street to the rear upper part of the building.
Only a few years later, individual family members’ plans for emigration became more clearly defined. In 1937, the married couple Cora and Kurt Abraham emigrated, and Siegfried Beith (standing in the center of the photo), also injured in the war years ago, followed in Oct. 1938. The married couple Benny and Selma Beith, who remained in Wandsbek, were confronted with further difficulties after the November Pogrom of 1938. Their assets, business, and house attracted the attention of the foreign currency office, which withdrew from them free disposal of their assets on 19 Nov. by imposing a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”). The S. & J. Hirsch Company, whose owner Benny Beith was and which had existed under management by his predecessor Sally Hirsch since about 1875, was liquidated by notarial act.
A few months later, the house at Hamburgerstraße 13 changed owners. The new owner, the optician Bruno Weser residing in Wandsbek at Marienstraße 25, had to transfer the purchase price to Benny Beith’s blocked account. According to the purchase agreement, the Beith couple was able to keep their home until 30 Sept. 1939, though they already left Wandsbek on 7 Sept. During the last months prior to the emigration in Apr. 1940, they lived at Werderstraße 43 with a landlord by the name of Neustadt. Their moving goods were in storage with the Keim, Kraut & Co. moving company.
For years, Benny Beith had been his large family’s breadwinner, and he continued to be concerned about his relatives. The assets he eventually had to leave behind in Germany would have sufficed to take care of his needy children and grandchildren, but the authorities had blocked his accounts and forced him to sell his real estate. However, he tried until the last minute to support his relatives as long as he was in the country.
For instance, just under two months before his emigration, he applied to have 3,600 RM (reichsmark) unblocked for the Josef Beith family, more specifically, as he explained, "for my daughter-in-law, Martha Sara Beith, and her three children, one and a half to 12 years old, and the war-disabled husband Josef Israel Beith... The persons listed have no assets at all. The 3,600 RM are … to be deposited in a savings account at a bank under the name of the above-mentioned Martha S. Beith and the same is to be eligible to withdraw 150 RM on the first day of each month starting on 1 Apr. 1940.” He proceeded in a similar way with his nephew Rolf and his daughter Else Salmon, whose husband only had one arm, drawing only a war pension. All applications were approved by the foreign currency office on 19 Mar. 1940.
From abroad, too, Benny Beith seems to have used all (limited) means to alleviate the desperate situation of his relatives without income. At the beginning of Oct. 1941, to be precise, the Commerzbank inquired with the foreign currency office whether it was possible to credit a sum of 150 RM, split in monthly installments of 25 RM, from Benny Beith’s blocked account to his grandson, Harald Beith. Prior to approval, the transaction involving this relatively small sum had to be accepted by Martha Beith as a gift for her underage son.
By the time the foreign currency office finally granted permission on 11 Nov. 1941, the family had already spent 14 days in the Lodz Ghetto. They had already been forced to board the deportation train to that location on 25 Oct. On the Hamburg Gestapo list, Josef Beith was entered as a laborer, probably a clue to forced labor. The Lodz list of residents, on the other hand, identified him, like most German new arrivals, with the old occupational designation – as a merchant. The address in the ghetto was Franzstraße 25a, apartment 8. Until late Apr. 1942, the German Jews were still exempted from the transports to the Chelmno (Kulmhof) extermination camp, but between 4 and 15 May 1942, their names appeared almost exclusively on the transport lists. They did not suspect yet that they were heading toward their certain deaths. After word had spread among those affected that there was the danger of further deportation to a potentially even worse camp, Josef Beith filed a petition to the camp administration. In his letter dated 8 May 1942, he attempted to have him and his family deferred from "resettlement.” To provide a reason, he enclosed a copy of his wound badge, an award from the First World War. He also argued that since 22 Mar. 1942, he was employed as a "feces worker,” i.e. a poorly respected but important activity. The request convinced the committee, which approved the application and marked it with a stamp indicating, "considered (berücksichtigt).” Nevertheless, the entire family was deported to the nearby Chelmno extermination camp between 9 and 11 May 1942. Documents from archival holdings accessible only recently, such as the request by Josef Beith, prove that, contrary to what was assumed until now, the three-year-old Uri was still alive as well and departed Lodz for Chelmno.
Like other deportees, the family of five also had their German citizenship revoked.
Two sisters of Josef Beith were deported as well: Irma Freundlich and her husband, the pharmacist Paul Freundlich, were deported to Auschwitz in 1942. The photo shows them at the very front to the left. Else Salmon (standing next to her husband Emil to the right behind the bride and groom) also ended up in Auschwitz via the Theresienstadt Ghetto, as did their son Rolf (center of the photo between Rabbi Bamberger and his wife).
Relatives of Martha Beith were deported in 1941 as well, her mother and her brother, Ida and Max Fränkel, ended up in Riga.
To return to the photo one last time: It shows a German-Jewish family shortly before they were destroyed by the political conditions. Neither services nor sacrifices that the Beiths had rendered and made like other Germans – such as three war-disabled veterans of the First World War – protected them. Stigmatized and marginalized as Jews, they suffered the fate of their Jewish fellow citizens. They were forced to leave their country, some reached safety abroad, and others went to their death in ghettos and extermination camps.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Astrid Louven
1; 2 FVg 8021, R 1938/ 1386, F 115; StaH 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden 992e2; ebd. 956 + 957; ebd. 932 a; STAH 332-8 Meldewesen K 4386; AfW 250263, AfW 240697; 8; Grundbuchakte Wandsbek Bd. 2, Bl. 5 121/2533; 4; AB 1937 VI; Lodz Ghetto List www.JewishGen.org/databases; Erika Estis, geb. Freundlich, Briefe vom 5.8.1992 und 7.8.1992, E-Mails 2005-2007; RGBl. I, S. 835 Gesetz zur Änd. Gewerbeordnung vom 6.7.1938 www.hansreip.de/Projekte Die Nürnberger Gesetze in der Rechtsprechung des RG;
Frank Bajohr, "Arisierung", S. 154, 304; Hans-Dieter Loose, Wünsche, S. 58-80, hier: S. 77 in: Peter Freimark u.a. (Hrsg.) Juden; Astrid Louven, Juden, S. 34, 77, 134, 150, 201, 208-211; Lodz-Briefe von Hamburgern, Mail von Fritz Neubauer 13.1. und 25.1.2010.
aus: Astrid Louven/Ursula Pietsch, Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Wandsbek mit den Walddörfern Biographische Spurensuche, Hamburg 2008 (siehe Literatur)