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Gudrun “Gynna“ David, undatiert, Brustbild
Gudrun "Gynna" David, undatiert
© Privat

Gudrun David * 1870

Eilenau 15 (Hamburg-Nord, Hohenfelde)

JG. 1870

Gudrun Sara Camilla David, born on 5 Apr. 1870 in Hamburg, suicide on 18 July 1942 in Hamburg

Eilenau 15

On 29 May 1940, Gudrun Sara Camilla David made her declaration of assets to the foreign currency office of the Hamburg Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident). Instead of listing her expenses individually as provided on the form, she wrote in the lower margin, "I board with relatives and pay 130 M. [marks] per month and I need, without special expenses, an allowance of about 30 M. From a license that I have not yet received this year because of the war, I get 600 M. a year, and I am also supported by relatives.” Gudrun David’s address was Eilenau 15, an art nouveau town villa on the Kuhmühlenteich in Hamburg-Hohenfelde, and at the time, she was the only Jewish woman among the female residents of the house.

Gudrun David was born into a Jewish-Protestant merchant family and in old age, she designated herself as "believing in God” ("gottgläubig”), [a Nazi alternative to other Christian denominations]. Her father, Ludvig Johan David, was born in Slagelse on Zealand in Denmark, where he was born as the son of Jonas David and Friederike, née Warborg, in 1821. Relations with Scandinavia existed throughout the entire family history.

Ludvig Johan David arrived in Hamburg, was granted civic rights in 1848, and initially worked in the commission business. On 1 July 1851, he had his business entered in the company register. In about 1858, Ludvig Johan David married Isabella Josephine Jonas, called Bella, born on 19 Nov. 1832 in Hamburg and thus eleven years his junior. Her parents, Elkan Joseph Jonas and Cadette, née Dieseldorff, belonged to the German-Israelitic Community. It was Bella’s second marriage. Not yet 20 years old, she had married the hat maker August Cahen, also of Jewish faith. After a few years, the marriage was divorced.

Ludvig and Bella David’s first child, Ferdinand Wilhelm Eduard, was born on 11 Oct. 1858. At that time, the couple lived at Rödingsmarkt 15 and Ludvig David also ran his company from the apartment. About a year later, on 27 Dec. 1859, Bella David gave birth to a second son, Ludwig Eduard. In 1865, the family of four moved to Pöseldorf, while Ludvig left his office on Rödingsmarkt. Gudrun Sara Camilla was born as a late arrival in Pöseldorf, at Böhmersweg 2, on 5 Apr. 1870. Her family called her Gynna and she also chose this name for herself. Only in dealing with authorities, she later used the official first name of Gudrun. In spirit, she is still present in the family under the name of Gynna to this day.

About ten years later, Ludvig and Bella David and their three children found a new apartment at Mittelweg 44; by this time, Ludvig David operated his company on Alter Wall. On 3 Jan. 1880, after the death of his authorized signatory, he granted his wife Bella the power of attorney. In the following ten years, he continuously expanded his export and import company. In 1890, the company was located on Catharinenstrasse, and separate from that, there was a warehouse on Sandtorquai. Ludvig David participated in stock exchange trading at stock pit Q 37. The family lived at Mittelweg 25 then.

While their two sons Ferdinand and Ludwig received commercial training, nothing is known about Gynna’s education and employment. One year after her birth, compulsory schooling was introduced in Hamburg. In keeping with the prosperity and status of her family, she may have received the education befitting a daughter of good background. Her letter to the Chief Finance Administrator, in which she disregards the guidelines of the form in impeccable writing and free, clear language, testifies to her education and self-confidence. The photo of her also underscores this attitude.

We are not aware of the role played by the Danish or Hamburg grandparents for Ferdinand, Ludwig, and Gynna David. As the last of the four, Cadette Jonas died in Apr. 1888. Although her son-in-law, Ludvig Johan David, was still alive, Ferdinand’s grandson actually reported his death at the records office. He also joined his parents’ company on 1 Jan. 1896, which effectively ended Bella David’s power of attorney, which she had exercised for 16 years.

Ferdinand and Gynna David remained single while their brother Ludwig married. His wife Fanny, née Döring, came from a non-Jewish family and was born on 16 Feb. 1869 in Eichede/Stormarn. She was a teacher, as were her three sisters Anna, Isa (Elisabeth), and Gertrud. The former headed a girls’ secondary school named after them, which was initially located at Berlinerthor 6.

Before the marriage, Fanny had also taught there after a stay in Britain in 1892 and then went to Guatemala. Four years later, she returned to Hamburg sick and lived for two months with the David family at Hartungstrasse 3, where they had moved in the meantime. On 19 Feb. 1898, Gynna’s brother Ludwig and Fanny Döring were married in New York. They then travelled on to Mexico City, where Ludwig worked in the coffee business. The children, Alice Gynna Gretchen, Ludwig Claus Friedrich Wilhelm (C. F. W.), and Fritz Ferdinand were also born there.

In Hamburg, Ludvig David made his oldest son Ferdinand co-owner of the company in 1900. When Ludvig died on 3 June 1904 at the age of almost 83, Ferdinand became the sole owner of the company. He continued running it under the established name of "Ludvig David.” Gynna’s mother Bella gave up her apartment on Hartungstrasse after her husband’s death and moved with Gynna first to Schlüterstrasse 77 and in Sept. 1906 to Jungfrauenthal 8. Ferdinand David took an apartment at Hochallee 116. He moved the company headquarters to Ness 1, in the old stock exchange building.

Meanwhile Ludwig and Fanny David commuted between Hamburg and Mexico. But then Fanny died in 1913 (according to another source, in 1915) in New York. Thereupon Ludwig stayed with the children in Hamburg. His sisters-in-law, Anna, Isa, and Gertrud Döring, had already moved their girls’ school to Eilenau 15 around 1901. The building there was part of an ensemble of three villa-like buildings built around 1880, whose halls and large rooms served as classrooms. The school had been closed in 1912 and transferred into the Elise-Averdieck-Schule on Wartenau, but the sisters still lived on Eilenau. Ludwig moved there with the children.

In 1917, at the age of 17, his son of the same name joined the infantry, and in Dec. 1918, he was discharged from the army to Tingleff near Schleswig. In the same year, Ferdinand David granted his brother Ludwig power of attorney for his father’s company, which he was running by then.

When Ferdinand died on 15 Aug. 1919, at the age of 60, Ludwig continued the Ludvig David Company. He developed it into an import and export business for coffee and obtained a trade license for it. Passports for the domestic market, issued between 1921 and 1923, indicate business trips, just as they did in the case of his brother. Among other things, there were business relationships with Iceland, which resulted in a license that provided the family with an annual income. In 1923, Ludwig David granted power of attorney to his oldest son Fritz and two years later to his daughter Alice.

Already in 1922, on 13 September, Bella David died shortly before her ninetieth birthday in her apartment in Harvestehude. Gynna David had stayed in the apartment and very soon after her mother’s death had acquired a trade license as a landlady renting out rooms "to locals.” In 1926, she is listed for the first time in the Hamburg directory as Gynna David, not as Gudrun. A year later, she got her own phone line. Two years later, just like her brother Ludwig, she acquired a passport valid for five years without geographical restrictions.

Ludwig David’s prosperity allowed his children to study. Alice chose medicine and Fritz decided to study singing after a commercial apprenticeship. Ludwig Jr. preferred agriculture. He acquired a farm in Grossenrade, which he later exchanged for another one on the Island of Rügen, and married Margarethe Böthern from Hohenaspe. The children Ludwig and Fanny, the latter called Fannychen by Gynna David, resulted from the marriage. For years, "Aunt Gynna” sent her grandniece affectionate cards.

Alice David completed her medical studies in Hamburg in 1927 and took over a medical practice in Schnackenburg in the District of Dannenberg in Oct. 1930, which provided her with a good income. Fritz David became co-owner of his father’s company on 1 Jan. 1928 and at the same time began a career as a bass baritone, going by the name of Friedrich Gynrod. He chose the stage name in reference to the inversion of the maiden name "Döring” of his mother, who had died early.

The picture that emerges from the few facts is that of a wealthy, educated, artistically interested, bourgeois family of assimilated Jews who stood up for each other during strokes of fate. However, against Hitler’s anti-Jewish policies, they were no longer able to defend themselves with the proven means of family solidarity.

In 1933, the year Adolf Hitler came to power, Gynna’s brother Ludwig gave up the company founded by their father. Gynna moved in with him, his son Fritz, and sisters-in-law Isa and Gertrud Döring to Eilenau 15 with his son Fritz and his sisters-in-law Isa and Gertrud Döring. A female musician, a female painter, the Baltic sculptor Constance von Wetter-Rosenthal, and a female farmer also lived there and were registered, respectively, as residents with the authorities. The building at Eilenau 15 was constructed as a detached house with a single bathroom on the second floor. It was therefore not suitable as an apartment house. For the female artists, however, the halls and large rooms were apparently suitable premises. While the neighboring house was converted into a large residential building with nine apartments in 1933, Isa Döring as the owner did not change anything in the original construction plan.

Fritz David soon left Hamburg and relocated to Wiesbaden. There, on 10 Mar. 1934, he married, as the "opera singer Fritz Ferdinand David,” Gertrud Altgelt, seven years his junior and not practicing any occupation, who had moved to the city from Bremen. On 1 Apr. 1935, he lost his engagement at the opera in Breslau (today Wroclaw in Poland), but received a new one at the Vienna State Opera.

Alice David would have had to give up her license to practice as a statutory health insurance physician based on "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” ("Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums”). However, she was allowed to continue her practice in Schnackenburg until a successor was found. After that occurred in Feb. 1935, she was still allowed to treat private patients only, which did not enable her to make a living, however. She also found shelter with her relatives on Eilenau. There, her father, "Aunt Gynna’s” brother Ludwig, died in on 24 Apr. 1935, the month of her arrival.

After Alice David was banned from her profession on 3 Aug. 1938, she left Germany and worked – albeit only for a short time – in Great Britain and the USA. In the German national census of May 1939, she and her aunt Gynna were recorded under the address of Eilenau 15. Soon afterward, she moved to Hohenaspe to "Granny Böthern,” her brother’s mother-in-law, and lived on her farm, which she called "Aspenhof.” After the Germans entered Austria, Fritz David/Friedrich Gynrod fled with his wife to New York, where he made his living as a casual laborer. Only after 1943 did he get small engagements at the Metropolitan Opera.

Following the liquidation of the Ludvig David Company, the heirs still received royalties from the Icelandic partner company until the start of the war in 1939. When this income was also lost, they could no longer support their sister-in-law and aunt Isa Döring. As the original school building, Eilenau 15 was not suitable as an apartment house. The sisters could not support themselves and the house from the low rental income alone, so that Elisabeth Döring finally sold it to the neighbor Dr. Ing. M. Tillmann, an engineer, in 1941. However, she retained the right of residence.

There is no Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) file card for Gynna David. She probably did not register with the Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband), although she was obliged to do so. In May 1940, the foreign currency office of the Chief Finance Administrator contacted her with a demand for disclosure of her financial circumstances. She owned less than 5,000 RM (reichsmark), which is why the authority refrained from issuing a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”). Since Sara was her middle name, her signature in the letter to the Chief Finance Administrator was not the additional compulsory name for Jewish women introduced by the Nazis. Gynna David did not have a regular, sufficient income. She lived under the protection of her "Aryan” sister-in-law Isa Döring, related by marriage, and with the support of relatives. The 600 RM due to her annually from her father’s Icelandic license had not been paid out to her since the beginning of the Second World War. As an "Aryan,” Isa Döring endangered herself by letting her Jewish sister-in-law stay with her in the summer of 1942.

In the autumn of 1942, Gynna David decided to pre-empt deportation. Before putting an end to her life, she wrote a farewell letter addressed to "All of my loved ones”:

"Now the relentless ‘must’ approaches. You will understand that at my age, often in pain, I do not want to end my life as a beggar in a foreign country. Thus, I have to resort to the only means left to me and depart a life that people have gradually turned into hell. I [underlined in the original] have still had it good so far and I am infinitely grateful for that. – I would have loved to continue living in peace for a while yet and would have spent time with you even more often later, would have accompanied Fannychen’s future a little bit longer and seen the little boy grow up. May you be quite well after the war, may you, dear Mother Böthern, still take quite a lot of joy in your children and grandchildren. I wish my Fannychen a happy life at the side of her Karl and her number of lovely children. I thank you all for how lovingly you have always welcomed me and I hope that you often think of me.
So once again now, adieu and accept the most heartfelt farewells
from your old aunt

Gynna David took an overdose of Barbital (Veronal), a sleeping-inducing medication, and died in the Harbor Hospital on 18 July 1942 at 1.30 p.m., at the age of 72. Her belongings were given to her niece Alice from Hohenaspe. Her sister-in-law assumed fear of "evacuation” as the reason for her flight to death. It was impossible to determine where she was buried.

On this score, an excerpt from the suicide report filed by the criminal investigation department reads:

"On 18 July 1942 at 9.50 a.m., the retired teacher Gertrude [author’s note: this person had already died in 1930, but this contradiction could no longer be clarified afterward] Döring, born on 14 Mar. 1864 in Eichede, residing at Eilenau 15, appeared at the police station and announced that the Jewess named David, who resided with her, had done something to herself. Lying on her bed, she had allegedly still showed signs of life. Veronal poisoning was detected by the doctor. The patient transport crew hauled her to the Harbor Hospital,” began the police report and continued: "The landlady, Miss Döring, stated, ‘The Jewess David lived with me as a subtenant. This morning at about 7.00 a.m., the maid Miss John told me that she had done something to herself. ... I found her with her head and hands sagging. Notified police by phone. Made another call at 9 o’clock, as no response to the first one.’ The effects were picked up by her niece, the physician Miss Alice David, born on 21 Dec. 1898 in Mexico, residing in Hohenaspe near Itzehoe (Aspenhof) and taken for safekeeping.”

House Eilenau 15 was destroyed during an air raid in 1943. Isa Döring died in Oct. 1945 in Hohenaspe; Ludwig (C. F. W.) was abducted from his farm on Rügen by Soviet soldiers and disappeared without a trace. Alice David died in Mellendorf in 1975, Fritz Friedrich David Gynrod in Mönchengladbach in 1978. "Fannychen” passed away on 21 Jan. 2013, and until her death, she cherished the memory of "Aunt Gynna,” as the family continues to do.

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

Stand: December 2019
© Hildgard Thevs

Quellen: 2; 9; StaH 314-15 OFP R 1940/730; StaH 231-3 Handelsregister, A 6, Band 12 (3147), A 7, Band 9 (2510), Band 12 (3334), Band 31 (7813), Band 34 (8399), A 13, Band 19 (29893), A 33 Band 1; StaH 231-5 HR A 12, Band 51 (38827); StaH 231-7 HR, A 1 Band 55 (13394); StaH 331-5 Polizeibehörde – Unnatürliche Todesfälle 1942/1139; StaH 332-7 Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht A I e 40 Bd. 5 Bürgerregister; StaH 332-5 Standesämter, 7831 u. 1624/1888; 7974 u. 1404/1904; 8054 u. 534/1919; 8069 u. 568/1922; 1151 u. 508/1942; StaH 332-8 Meldewesen, Melderegister K 4353, K 4354, Hausmeldekartei B, K 2413 L; Reisepassprotokolle, A 24 Bde 88 (1266), 103 (1222), 214 (10 686), 250 (19 521), 319 (616), 363 (9292, 9293); StaH 361-2 II, Oberschulbehörde, B 178, Allg. Schulakte Isa Döring; StaH 376-3 Gewerbezentralkartei, VIII C c 1, StaH 741-4, K 3834; Bauamt Hamburg-Nord; LASH Abt 761 Nr. 8123; LA NRW, 2 G 8548 B/V/W; Hamburger Adressbücher 1845 bis 1943; Hamburger Fernsprechbücher 1926 bis 1935; Stadtarchiv Mönchengladbach, Sterberegister; Standesamt Wiesbaden, Heiratsregister; Gedbas Eichede, Zugriff 18.10.12; David, Alice, Zur Frage der Pseudotumoren des Dickdarms, Med.Diss., Hamburg 1927/1928,; Fotografien, Dokumente und persönliche Mitteilungen von Fanny und Jens Hansen 2012f.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Link "Recherche und Quellen".

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