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Werner Geistlich auf dem Balkon in der Wexstraße
Werner Geistlich auf dem Balkon in der Wexstraße
© Privat

Werner Geistlich * 1922

Wexstraße vor Parkplatz/Axel-Springer-Platz (vormals Nr. 6) (Hamburg-Mitte, Neustadt)

JG. 1922

further stumbling stones in Wexstraße vor Parkplatz/Axel-Springer-Platz (vormals Nr. 6):
Ursula Geistlich, Rosa Neumann

Rosa Neumann, born on 23 Dec. 1903 in Hamburg, murdered on 23 Sept. 1940 in the Brandenburg/Havel euthanasia killing center
Ursula Geistlich, born 18 Aug. 1924 in Hamburg, deported on 5 May 1943 to Theresienstadt
Werner Geistlich, born on 24 Apr. 1922 in Hamburg, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk

Wexstrasse 4 in front of the parking lot (Wexstrasse 6)

The siblings Ursula and Werner Geistlich as well as their half-sister Rosa Neumann came from a large working-class family in Hamburg. Their mother Elcka (called Ella) was born in Kiel on 15 June 1884 as the daughter of the Jewish merchant and wine cooper Lewin Neumann and his wife Mathilde, née Lohde. When exactly the parents left Kiel is not known.

At the time Ella’s younger brother Siegfried was born on 26 Jan. 1900, the family already lived in Hamburg. Lewin Neumann ran a fruit trade on Grossneumarkt in a so-called Bude (a stall), which still exists today as a replica. Paul Geistlich, the father of Ursula and Werner, was born on 19 July 1885 in Hagenow-Heide in Mecklenburg and he came from a non-Jewish family. When his father, the railroad worker Friedrich Johann Geistlich, died in an occupational accident, Paul Geistlich moved to an aunt in Hamburg after finishing school. In 1906, the journeyman baker was drafted into the navy and stationed in Kiel. With the "SMS Fürst Bismarck,” he sailed all the way to China. Following his service, he worked on the construction of the Hamburg Elbe Tunnel for a while and then went to sea again. Since 1910, he was employed as a firefighter at the Blohm & Voss shipyard. Shortly before the beginning of the First World War, Paul Geistlich worked as a Schauermann (dock worker) until he was drafted into the navy again in 1914.

The married couple Ella and Paul Geistlich married on 14 Dec. 1912 and had nine children between 1913 and 1926. Together with Ella’s premarital daughter Rosa, whose father is not known, and her son Max Wysocki, born in 1908 in Kiel from her first marriage to Casimir Leo Wysocki, eleven children had to be fed at times. Two sisters, Margot Paula, born in 1917, and Carmen Ruth, born in 1921, had already died as infants.

On 15 May 1928, with the family living at Elbstrasse 41 (today Neanderstrasse) at the time, Ella’s oldest daughter, 25-year-old Rosa Neumann, was admitted to the former Alsterdorf Asylum (Alsterdorfer Anstalten). Rosa suffered from "rachitic dwarfism” due to malnutrition in early childhood, i.e., a severe growth disorder with deformation of the bones. At this time, Rosa’s son Hermann, born in 1922, was six years old. We have no information about his subsequent fate.

Around 1938, the Geistlich family moved via the streets Hütten 99, Norderstrasse 49, and Taubenstrasse 21 in Hamburg-St. Pauli back to Hamburg-Neustadt, into a two-and-a-half-bedroom apartment at Wexstrasse 6.

Although Ella and Paul Geistlich lived in a so-called "mixed marriage” ("Mischehe”), it was considered "non-privileged” ("nichtprivilegiert”) according to Nazi terminology, since three of their children attended a Jewish school: Werner and his older brother Kurt, born on 24 June 1914, went to the Talmud Tora School; their sister Ursula attended the Israelite Girls’ School at Carolinenstrasse 35. Werner would have liked to learn the craft of precision mechanic in 1937 after completing his schooling, but due to his Jewish descent, he did not obtain an apprenticeship position. His sister Lieselotte, born on 18 Jan. 1920, later remembered that her brother was employed in various, mainly small, craft businesses. For a while, he worked at night as a packer for the Hamburger Fremdenblatt, a newspaper. At the beginning of 1940, he was forced to enlist for a company in the port.

In the spring of 1938, after completing her schooling at the Israelite Girls’ School, Ursula was also unable to realize her original plan of becoming a kindergarten teacher or pediatric nurse. She was also denied an education because of her Jewish descent. In the fall of 1938, she took a job as a messenger at a printing company, and later she worked in an industrial company in Altona. In mid-1941, the Gestapo ordered her to perform forced labor as a packer at the Georg Dralle soap factory in Altona-Ottensen.

The employment of Ursula’s sister Esther, born on 13 June 1923, at a jute factory was converted into forced labor in 1941. Their sister Asta, born on 13 Mar. 1913, who was still able to complete her training as a kindergarten teacher with a state examination in Bad Segeberg and Altona as late as 1934, was no longer allowed to accept private positions in households from 1938 and was also used for forced labor in a fish factory and a wool spinning mill. Only Ursula’s sister Lieselotte was allowed to do homework because of her polio infection at an early age.

When the Geistlich family was forced to give up their apartment at Wexstrasse 6 on 28 Sept. 1942 and move to Bornstrasse 22 into a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”), son Werner had already been deported to Minsk on the first Hamburg transport on 8 Nov. 1941.

Brother Kurt had been in custody since 1 Sept. 1937. In 1933, he had completed his apprenticeship as a mechanic at Schneider & Sohn, located on Hohlerweg in Hamburg-Neustadt. In Danzig (today Gdansk in Poland), he worked at a shipyard and attended a naval engineering school there until 1935. After passing his exam, he went to sea as an assistant with the Arnold Bernstein shipping company. In Aug. 1937, he was picked up from the ship in Cuxhaven and accused of "racial defilement” ("Rassenschande”) because of his non-Jewish girlfriend. On 17 Aug. 1938, Kurt Geistlich was sentenced to two years in prison by the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht), and on 17 Nov. 1939, he was transferred from the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp to the prison in Celle.

Shortly before the Geistlich family moved to Bornstrasse, granddaughter Ruth, born on 12 Jan. 1928, the oldest child of Asta Geistlich, who lived in the Jewish orphanage, returned to her family in a special way. Her grandfather Paul Geistlich, who in the very end operated a "bicycle and motorcycle guard booth including repair” in the harbor at Sandtorkai 1 until 1942, must have been a determined man. When Ruth and the other children were ordered by the Gestapo to move from the Paulinenstift girls’ orphanage at Laufgraben 37 to the orphanage institute for boys at Papendamm 3, an educator informed him about her impending deportation to Auschwitz on 11 July 1942. Thereupon he picked up his granddaughter from the orphanage after dark, loaded her things, including the bed frame, onto a Scotch cart and saved her life. Neither the remaining 13 children nor the last orphanage staff survived the deportation.

Quartered in a store apartment on Bornstrasse, Ella and Paul Geistlich, their daughter Lieselotte, and their grandchildren Ruth and Dorrit, the youngest daughter of Asta born on 27 Mar. 1935, had to pack washing powder into small sachets for the Max Ludwig Company.

On 10 Mar. 1943 Lieselotte, Esther, as well as Asta Geistlich with her two daughters Ruth and Dorrit received their deportation orders to Theresienstadt. Their sister Ursula had already been arrested on 8 Jan. 1943 at her workplace in the Dralle soap plant for unknown reasons. She had to follow her sisters and nieces almost two months later, on 5 May 1943, to Theresienstadt.

In order to protect at least the youngest daughter, Vera, born on 28 May 1926, from deportation, she was baptized in St. Michael’s Church. When her name was nevertheless put on the deportation list, her mother Ella filed for divorce on 28 May 1943. She gave up the protection of a "mixed marriage” ("Mischehe”), only so she could accompany her daughter on 9 June 1943 to Theresienstadt, where she managed to keep the family together. Paul Geistlich remained behind in Hamburg, had to move out of the "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”) as an "Aryan” and found accommodation on Roonstrasse.

Ella Geistlich and four of her daughters, Asta, Lieselotte, Esther and Vera, as well as the two grandchildren Ruth and Dorrit survived the end of the war in Theresienstadt. They returned to Hamburg in June 1945. Ursula is also said to have experienced the liberation of the camp by the Allies on 10 May 1945. Her family remembers, however, that shortly before the liberation of Theresienstadt she was deported to another camp. After the war, they were told that Ursula had been killed by a shot in the back of the neck by the guard unit at the roadside during a death march to the east after the Ravensbrück concentration camp had been disbanded. The Memorial Site there could not confirm her imprisonment in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Rosa Neumann, Ella Geistlich’s oldest daughter, who had lived in the Alsterdorf Asylum since 1928, was as much affected as her family by the Nazis’ coercive measures against the Jewish population.

After 1933, the Alsterdorf Asylum developed into a Nazi model operation where eugenics ideas were supported and, associated with them, forced sterilization as "prevention of unworthy life” ("Verhütung unwerten Lebens”). It was only a matter of time before the persecution of the Jews in the German Reich also led to corresponding measures at the Alsterdorf Asylum. A ruling by the Reich Audit Office (Reichsfinanzhof) of 18 Mar. 1937 served as a pretext for preparing the discharge of all Jews from the Alsterdorf Asylum. Pastor Friedrich Karl Lensch, the director of the Alsterdorf Asylum, deduced from the verdict the danger of the loss of non-profit status under tax law if Jews continued to stay in the institution. A letter dated 3 Sept. 1937 to the Hamburg Welfare Authority contained 18 names of "Jewish charges who are accommodated here at the expense of the welfare authority,” including that of Rosa Neumann. On 31 Oct. 1938, together with 14 other Jewish occupants from Alsterdorf, she was first transferred to the Oberaltenallee care home (Versorgungsheim) and from there to the Farmsen care home. In Apr. 1940, the Alsterdorf Asylum eventually managed to rid itself of the last Jewish institutional inmate.

In the spring/summer of 1940, the "euthanasia” headquarters in Berlin, located at Tiergartenstrasse 4, planned a special operation aimed against Jews in public and private sanatoriums and nursing homes. It had the Jewish persons living in the institutions registered and moved together in what were officially so-called collection institutions. The Hamburg-Langenhorn "sanatorium and nursing home” ("Heil- und Pflegeanstalt” Hamburg-Langenhorn) was designated the North German collection institution. All institutions in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, and Mecklenburg were ordered to move the Jews living in their facilities there by 18 Sept. 1940.

Rosa Neumann arrived in Langenhorn on 18 Sept. 1940. On 23 Sept. 1940, she was transported to Brandenburg/Havel with a further 135 patients from North German institutions. The transport reached the city in the Mark (March) on the same day. In the part of the former penitentiary converted into a gas-killing facility, people were immediately driven into the gas chamber and killed with carbon monoxide. Only Ilse Herta Zachmann initially escaped this fate (see corresponding entry).

Rosa Neumann’s birth register entry contains an addition with the following wording: "Died no. 303/1941 Cholm II on 10 Feb. 1941 General Government [in Poland].” In all documented notices, it was claimed that the person concerned had died in Chelm (Polish) or Cholm (German). Those murdered in Brandenburg, however, were never in Chelm/Cholm, a town east of Lublin. The former Polish sanatorium there no longer existed after SS units had murdered almost all patients on 12 Jan. 1940. Also, there was no German records office in Chelm. Its fabrication and the use of postdated dates of death served to disguise the killing operation and at the same time enabled the authorities to claim higher care expenses for periods extended accordingly.

Rosa Neumann’s half-brother Kurt Geistlich survived for two years in penitentiary detention and for six years of inhuman living conditions in various concentration camps such as Sachsenhausen, Gross-Rosen, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. After the war, he went to sea again as an engineer and started a family in Augsburg. His daughter was given the name of Ursula in memory of his sister, his son the name of his brother Werner. Sister Asta left Germany in 1949 and emigrated to the USA with her youngest daughter Dorrit. Daughter Ruth stayed in Hamburg.

Paul and Ella Geistlich married a second time on 2 Feb. 1946 and last lived at Kielortallee 24. Paul Geistlich died on 27 July 1954, Ella Geistlich on 5 Aug. 1955. Esther Geistlich outlived her mother by only seven years. She was seriously ill because of the strenuous work she had to do on an irrigation ditch in Theresienstadt, in the cold and wearing wet clothes. Her sister Lieselotte, married name Himmel (see, cared for her until the end of her life in 1962. Max Wysocki, the son from Ella’s first marriage, escaped arrest by the Gestapo by choosing suicide in Kiel in 1939.

Ursula Geistlich, Werner Geistlich, and Rosa Neumann are commemorated by Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Neustadt at Wexstrasse 4, in front of the parking lot/Axel-Springer-Platz (formerly Wexstrasse 6). For Ursula Geistlich, another Stolperstein is located in Hamburg-Rotherbaum at Bornstrasse 22.

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

Stand: March 2020
© Susanne Rosendahl

Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 7; 9; StaH 133-1 III Staatsarchiv III, 3171-2/4 U.A. 4, Liste psychisch kranker jüdischer Patientinnen und Patienten der psychiatrischen Anstalt Langenhorn, die aufgrund nationalsozialistischer "Euthanasie"-Maßnahmen ermordet wurden, zusammengestellt von Peter von Rönn, Hamburg (Projektgruppe zur Erforschung des Schicksals psychisch Kranker in Langenhorn); 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht-Strafsachen 1804/41; 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 7370 Ella Geistlich, Asta Still, 8103 Paul Geistlich, 45073 Werner Geistlich, Werner, 46689 Ursula Geistlich, 28526 Vera Geistlich; 332-5 Standesämter 788 Sterberegister Nr. 891/1918 Margot Paula Geistlich, 884 Sterberegister Nr. 243/1924 Carmen Ruth Geistlich, 3090 Heiratsregister Nr. 217/1907 Ella Elcka Neumann/Casimir Leo Wysocki, 3195 Heiratsregister Nr. 746/1912 Paul Geistlich/Ella Elcka Wysocki, 13401 Geburtsregister Nr. 273/1900 Siegfried Neumann; 352-8/7 Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn Abl. 1/1995 Aufnahme-/Abgangsbuch Langenhorn 26.8.1939 bis 27.1.1941; 621-1/84 Firmenarchive, Firma Ernst Kaufmann 19; Evangelische Stiftung Alsterdorf, Archiv, Erbgesundheitskarteikarte Rosa Neumann; Gespräche mit Ursula Geistlich und Ruth Dräger, 2010 und 2011. Guth, Karin, Bornstraße 22. Ein Erinnerungsbuch, Hamburg 2001.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Link "Recherche und Quellen".

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