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Rosa Heller * 1876
Rosenhagenstraße 3 (Altona, Groß Flottbek)
1942 Chelmno ermordet
Rosa Bertha Luise Heller, born 11/14/1876, deported to the Lodz Ghetto on 10/25/1941, murdered at the Chelmno extermination camp on 5/10/1942
Rosa Heller was a staunch follower of the National Socialists and hailed the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933 in the fatal misjudgment that her Jewish origins would be no problem for her. But neither her political beliefs, her social affiliation to the wealthy class, nor her Lutheran Protestantism kept her from being disfranchised, persecuted and destroyed. Rosa Bertha Luise Heller was born on November 14th, 1876 in Prague as the daughter of the merchant Moritz Jakob Heller and Beselerplatz in Altona-Gross Flottbek.
Her brother Josef Heller had purchased the six-room villa and furnished it some years before his death in 1927. Rosa Heller lived there up to her deportation in 1941. She never married, but had an adopted daughter, Helga Pankoke, born April 4th, 1913 in Altona; Helga’s parents were the "business traveler” Wilhelm Hermann Emil Pankoke and his wife Olga Dorothea, née Olson. After the death of her mother, Josef Heller became her legal guardian; following Josef’s death in 1927, his sister Rosa assumed the guardianship. She grew fond of the orphan girl, adopted her in 1930 and appointed her as her heir in her Testament. Helga Pankoke-Heller absolved an apprenticeship as graphic designer. In 1938, with the consent of her adoptive mother, she married the copy-editor Kurt Waldenburger, who was drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1942 and returned from British war captivity severely disabled. Rosa Heller was a wealthy woman, her brother, too, had been very wealthy, and had accorded the Hanse City of Hamburg substantial endowments, e.g. for the Laiesz Halle (Musikhalle). She benefited from regular payments from her brother’s estate and possessed a fortune, mainly in stocks and bonds that was managed by the Bankhaus Magnus & Co. In spite of her Jewish origins, she was enthused by the ideology of the Nazis.
Arthur Stern, a friend of Josef und Rosa Heller who emigrated to the USA in October of 1937, after the war, by request of Rosa’s adopted daughter Helga Waldenburger told the German compensation agency that Rosa Heller "had not been afraid of the National Socialist state”: "Only a few days before my emigration, I introduced Miss Heller to the recently deceased banker Max Warburg. In that conversation, Miss Heller’s situation was discussed in detail, but no decisions were made. At the time, Miss Heller wanted to engage the house of Warburg as her advisors, and an Aryan corporate counsel of the Warburgs was to advise her in the future, Of course, I don’t know if this actually came about […] In 1934, Miss Heller had reported all her foreign assets to the tax authority, taking advantage of the amnesty in effect at that time. Miss Heller had decided against emigrating, wanting instead to stay near the family graves in Hamburg … She was deeply impressed by the rise of Germany, was convince that the state would flourish and succeed and longed to be a part of the greatness of this state. Even if she had suffered some minor rigors and inconveniences by then, she would never have imagined the course of events that, unfortunately, did occur. I therefore consider it totally impossible that Miss Heller should have declared only a part of her foreign assets to the tax authorities. I am sure that declared everything to the German Reich, down to the last cent.”
In doing so, Rosa Heller ignored the clear signs of the Nazi policy threatening Jews: already in 1933, the year Hitler came to power, the boycott of Jewish businesses, companies and shops began; non-"Aryan” civil servants were dismissed. Jews were barred from beaches and public baths; the government introduced hereditary and racial doctrine as compulsory subjects in schools and initiated a policy aimed at driving out the Jewish population.
In a first wave of emigration, many Jews left their home town of Altona. In 1939, Rosa Heller was forcibly registered as a member of the "Reich Association of Jews in Germany.” Like all people who had four Jewish grandparents, she was now considered a "full Jew.” From then on, she was forced to pay high regular contributions to the Reich Association controlled by the Nazi authorities. Like all wealthy Jews, she was systematically and "legally” robbed.
Rosa Heller was living from the yield of her assets and drew an annuity from her brother’s estate. But from 1939 on, she was little by little deprived of all her assets. The currency office of Hamburg’s Chief Finance Administrator on April 18th, 1939 issued a "security order” depriving her of the disposition of her securities and bonds as well as her share in the property Altona Rosenhagenstrasse 3 without special permission.
In September, 1939, she was forced to declare that she was regularly spending 593 Reichsmarks (RM) for her two-person household; on October 20th, the office of the Chief Finance Administrator to draw 4785 RM per month from her accounts. Following the Pogrom Night of November 8th, 1939, the Nazi government levied stiff "atonement payments” on Jews as compensation for the damages inflicted on shops, businesses and other property of Jews by the storm troopers and other Nazi demonstrators.
Neither was she spared the humiliation of being branded by having to adopt an additional Jewish first name which he had to register everywhere. On February 27th, 1941, the Hamburg Prosecutor’s Office indicted Rosa Heller for "an offense by a Jewish telephone subscriber against the Ordinance on the Execution of the Law on the Changing of Family and First Names of August 17th, 1938.” According to that law, Rosa Heller had to assume the additional middle name Sara from the beginning of 1939, and had neglected to apply for the entry of that name into the new issue of the telephone book on her own. This constituted an offense; she had to report to the police precinct in Gross Flottbek. In the report, her religion was given as "Lutheran, formerly Israelitic.”
Rosa Heller declared that she had mistaken the notification for printed business matter and had not read it carefully. And she added: "In January of this year, my telephone was taken away by the authorities.” Thus, an entry of any kind was no longer needed. The fact was of no avail: on May 22nd, 1941, the district court sentenced her to five days in jail or to a fine of 100 RM.
From September 19th, 1941, Rosa Heller had to wear the "Jew’s Star” on her clothing. A month later, she was served the deportation order to Lodz. The Polish town had been renamed "Litzmannstadt.” Rosa Heller was no. 374 on the list for the "Transport to Litzmannstadt on 10/25/1941.” The entry read: 374 Heller, Rosa Sara, 11/24/76 Prague, Othmarschen, Rosenhagenstr. 3.” (Her date of birth on the list differs from that on the Culture Tax Card of the Jewish Community, where it is given as November 14th. After her deportation, her assets were confiscated. Her Account at the Bankhaus Magnus, her co-ownership of the house, her securities, the yield from the estate of her brother were sequestered by the Oberfinanzkasse Hamburg; her household and personal effects, including antiques, Persian rugs and works of art, were auctioned to the benefit of the German Reich. In the Lodz Ghetto, Rosa Heller was assigned to the house in Richterstr. 9, flat 11. Almost 65 years old, she survived the winter in spite of hunger, cold and infectious diseases. On May 10th, 1942, she was assigned to a transport from Lodz to the nearby camp in Chelmno.
This "Evacuation” meant death. Upon arrival at Chelmno, the deported people were murdered on arrival by exhaust fumes in closed trucks. Only able people who work in the ghetto had a chance to escape the transport to Chelmno. From May 4th to 15th, 1941, twelve trains left Lodz for Chelmno. 10,993 children, women and men were murdered there, among them Rosa Heller.
On January 4th, 1944, the appointed executor of Rosa Heller’s will, an attorney named Rehwoldt, wrote to the Gestapo in "Litzmannstadt” asking for information about the whereabouts of his client. On February 7th, he received the following letter: "Re: Jew Rosa Sara Heller, last living in L’stadt. ‘Event.: There. Letter of 1/4/44, The H. was expelled from Litzmannstadt further east and died on the transport. A record of the death case cannot be provided because she could not be registered by the authorities.” This wording was obviously chosen to obscure the fate of the deportees in order to avoid further research and inquiries.
In her will written on March 20th, 1941, Rosa Heller bequeathed 2,000 RM to her housekeeper Wilhelmine Greibke, born 1891, who had lived with her at Rosenhagenstrasse 3 from May, 1927 up to her deportation. It was her intention that Wilhelmine should use this amount to buy herself into a retirement home. In addition, Rosa bequeathed her the furniture of the bedroom, the maid’s room, the sewing table, the complete furniture and equipment of the kitchen, her clothes and underwear and some pieces of needlework Wilhelmine herself had made. Also, Rosa’s housekeeper was to receive a lifelong annuity from the earnings from the estate of her adopted daughter. In amendment of July 16th, Rosa Heller bequeathed the valuable set of Meissen china to Wilhelmine Greibke, prizing her with the words: "This is my thanks for the loyalty rendered to me in the hardest time of my life.”
After the war, Rosa Heller’s friend Arthur Stern supported Wilhelmine Greibke’s efforts to realize her claim to Rosa Heller’s estate. Tern expressed his respect for the former housekeeper with the words: "I am extremely grateful that this simple, honest woman was so valiantly loyal to Miss Heller.”
Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: April 2018
© Birgit Gewehr
Quellen: 1; 2 (R1939/2375 Heller, Rosa); 4; 5; 8; AB Altona, StaH 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden, 992 e 1 Band 1 (Deportationsliste Litzmannstadt, 25.10.1941); StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 38617 (Waldenburger, Helga); StaH 424-111 Amtsgericht Altona, 6969 und 6919 (Aufgebot zur Todeserklärung Rosa Heller); StaH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 4051/41 (Strafsache gegen Heller, Rosa Bertha Luise Sara).
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