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Hedwig Sofia Benzihn * 1869

Heideweg 11 (Hamburg-Nord, Uhlenhorst)

JG. 1869
ERMORDET 13.11.1942

Hedwig Benzihn, born on 30 Jan. 1869 in Hamburg, in 1942 in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, deported on 19 July 1942 directly from detention to Theresienstadt, death there on 13 Nov. 1942

Heideweg 11

Hedwig Sofia Benzihn was the oldest of three children born to the hide and fur trader Rudolf Heinrich Benzihn and his wife, Elise, née Philip, born on 5 May 1849 in Glückstadt. Rudolf Benzihn, born on 25 Mar. 1830 in Berlin, had moved to Hamburg in the 1850s, acquiring local civic rights in 1856. Upon starting a family in 1869, he lived at Besenbinderhof 5 in the suburb St. Georg, while running the company with the warehouse at Deichstraße 52 in the Neustadt quarter. A year and a half after Hedwig, Clara Magdalene Dorothea, called Magda, was born, another three years later Edgar Moritz. The children apparently grew up enjoying middle-class prosperity. It is not known which schools they attended.

Rudolf Benzihn’s trading company was successful. As a broker in hides, furs, and leather, he had his stock pit between pillars 7b/8b. Economic success was reflected also in the relocation from Besenbinderhof to the Oben Borgfelde quarter, and subsequently to Hohenfelde in 1892, where the family continued to live at 1 Alsterstraße until the death of the head of the family. Rudolf Benzihn died on 6 Jan. 1897 aged nearly 67 years. Apparently, it was only afterwards that Hedwig and Magda, both single and nearly 30 years old, began with their teacher training. Elise Benzihn moved with her now adult children within Hohenfelde, settling around 1910 at Ifflandstraße 73. Edgar started up his own business, a chocolate sales agency at Münzweg 12, and moved out. This address in the Klostertor quarter remained his company headquarters, even after he had switched to trading in other goods.

Magda Benzihn completed the female teachers college in Münster. At the age of 34, she began teaching for the first time, entering the Hamburg public school service on 1 Dec. 1907. Contrary to her younger sister Magda, Hedwig became a private school teacher. Her work activities are verifiable for the school years from 1912 to 1915 as a teacher at the Höhere Schulen für Mädchen, a secondary school for girls at Beim Strohhause 68, in 1918/19 at the school located at Eppendorfer Landstraße 57, and in 1920/21 at the Augusta-Schule at Harvestehuderweg 105. After that, she is no longer listed in the Hamburg Teachers’ Directories. In 1912, the sisters had already moved apart. Magda moved to Eilbeck [today: Eilbek], initially living at Uferstraße 16, then moving to Auenstraße 31, and from there to Wandsbeker Stieg 24.

Hedwig Benzihn stayed in Hohenfelde and moved to Haideweg 11 (today: Heideweg). She converted at a date unknown to us and became a member of the Lutheran Church, to which she felt a lifelong affiliation. Edgar Benzihn entered a "mixed marriage” on 8 June 1917 with Minna Anna Schulze, born on 8 June 1885 in Dobberkau in the "Old March” (Altmark). The marriage remained childless but the couple adopted a daughter. Edgar Benzihn left the German-Israelitic Community and did not belong to any denomination until the end of his life.

Little is known about Hedwig Benzihn’s life up to the fall of 1939. She continued to live at Heideweg 11. On 7 Oct. 1939, her mother died at the age of 90 in her home at Hartwicusstraße 13, not far from where her daughter Hedwig lived. Edgar, who reported her death to the office of vital statistics, had meanwhile moved with his family to live with his sister Magda at Caspar-Voght-Straße 84 in Hamburg-Hamm. Apparently, Elise Benzihn had also turned her back on the Jewish religion. Neither was she buried in a Jewish cemetery nor was there any Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) file card for her. She died before she would have been forced to join the Jewish Community that was by then called Jewish Religious Association (Jüdische Religionsvereinigung) and was now a branch of the compulsory organization designated as "Reich Association of Jews in Germany” ("Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland”), as it happened to Hedwig and Edgar. Joining entailed payment of membership dues.

Hedwig Benzihn’s income consisted of a pension amounting to 122 RM (reichsmark) a month. Her savings of 1300 RM in bonds, which she kept in a securities account at the Hamburg Sparkasse, had already been taken away from her at the beginning of 1940, with the "Haspa” transferring them to the Prussian State Bank (Maritime Trading Company) (Preußische Staatsbank [Seehandlung]). This particular point in time and the small sum are unusual, without any evidence available about the context.

For 1940, Hedwig Benzihn was assessed by the Jewish Community for the basic amount of 1 RM per month. Despite the financial difficulties facing the Jewish Community, she was exempted from her dues in 1941, as every month another 20 RM of her pension was earmarked for "support,” possibly for her brother. In the meantime, Edgar Benzihn had become completely destitute and lived in his sister Magda’s household. (see Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Hamm, p. 71–73).

After nearly 30 years, Hedwig Benzihn was forced to give up her apartment on Heideweg. The Jewish Community quartered her in the Oppenheimer-Stift residential home at Kielortallee 22. This was where the Gestapo arrested her on 13 Mar. 1942, detaining her in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp. The concrete reasons for this "protective custody” are not known. The Hanseatic special court (Hanseatisches Sondergericht) opened investigations against her for "treachery” ("Heimtücke”), having her transferred on 9 Apr. 1942 to the Hamburg-Stadt pretrial detention center. However, a trial never took place. Instead, she was "released to the police authorities” on 19 July 1942. Their usual course of action in such cases was transfer of the released detainees to Auschwitz. Hedwig Benzihn, however, was transported on the same day on the second major transport in the summer of 1942 to the Theresienstadt "ghetto for the elderly,” where the 73-year-old would have been deported if it had not been for the "protective custody.”

Four days before, her siblings, Magda and Edgar Benzihn, had arrived at Theresienstadt. They were put in separate quarters.

Hedwig died approx. four months later on 13 Nov. of the enteritis that raged in the completely overcrowded ghetto.
Magda succumbed three days later to phlebitis. The two sisters reached the ages of 72 and 73 years, respectively.

Edgar survived only beyond the turn of year, dying of sepsis on 15 Jan. 1943 at the age of 70. Each of the three was buried two days after their deaths.

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Hildegard Thevs

Quellen: 1; 2 Abl. 1998, J 7/36; 4; 5; 7; 9; Hamburger Adressbücher; StaH 242-1 II, Abl. 2001/1; 331-1 II Polizeibehörde II, Abl. 15 Band 2; 332-8 Melderegister 1892-1925, K 4227; 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden, 992 e 2, Band 5; Hamburger Lehrerverzeichnisse;, Zugriff 21.11.2013; Mitteilungen der Haspa vom 3. und 4.12.2013; Geheimes Staatsarchiv, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Schreiben vom 12.12.2013.
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