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Agnes Joel * 1864

Güntherstraße 90 (Hamburg-Nord, Hohenfelde)

JG. 1864
ERMORDET 5.8.1942

Agnes Joel, born on 23 Apr. 1864 in Hamburg, deported on 15 July 1942 to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, perished there on 5 Aug. 1942

Güntherstrasse 90

Alice Joel, born on 20 Nov. 1869 in Hamburg, deported on 15 July 1942 to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, deported from there on 21 Sept. 1942 to the Treblinka extermination camp, murdered

Landwehr 16 (green space)

Julius and Therese Joel had four daughters. All four remained closely connected for almost their entire lives. Julius Joel was born on 2 Feb. 1828 in the village of Netzeband (then Mecklenburg-Schwerin). His parents, Moses and Wilhelmine Joel, gave him the first name of his father, Moses. Around 1845, at the age of 17, he moved with them to Hamburg. There he completed an apprenticeship with Elias Warburg, Geld- und Wechselgeschäfte, an enterprise dealing in money and exchange transactions, where he remained employed. His father died in 1855 and was buried in the Grindel Cemetery according to Jewish rites. Since that time, Julius took care of his mother Wilhelmine. In 1856, he was accepted into the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community and at the same time, he declared to the Community that he would no longer call himself Moses but Julius. In the same year, he applied for citizenship in order to be able to set up his own business as a moneychanger in Hamburg. On 9 Dec. 1860, he married Therese Heimann in Berlin. She was born in 1840 in Schwerin. On 26 Sept. 1861, Therese gave birth to their first daughter in Hamburg, whom Julius and she named Rosa. Agnes, Minna (born on 17 Nov. 1867), as well as Alice followed.

A heavy blow hit the family in Dec. 1878: Julius Joel had been a fund broker for years and by that time, the family lived together with his mother in a quiet avenue of sycamore trees in Hohenfelde, at 3rd Alsterstrasse, today part of Ackermannstrasse. Then Therese Joel died at the age of only 38. She was buried like her father-in-law in the Jewish Cemetery on Grindel. At that point, Julius was on his own with his four daughters, of whom the oldest, Rosa, was 17 years old and the youngest, Alice, just eight years old. Probably his mother would have taken care of the girls from then on. They all later learned a trade or worked, respectively, in order to earn their own living. Rosa became a teacher; Agnes worked as a housekeeper; Minna as a piano teacher; and Alice as an accountant. None of the sisters got married. Julius’ mother Wilhelmine passed away in 1889 and was buried in the Ohlsdorf Jewish Cemetery. Ten years later, in Dec. 1899, her son followed her. He was 72 years old and buried with his wife and father in the Grindel Cemetery. The daughters had all come of age in the meantime.

After their father’s death, Rosa, Agnes, Minna, and Alice looked for a new apartment together. From 1901, they lived on Güntherstrasse in Hohenfelde, first in house no. 98, then in a four-bedroom apartment in house no. 90, on the fourth floor. For Agnes, however, it became increasingly difficult to support herself as she grew older. In 1922, at about 42 years of age, she had to apply for support from the Hamburg welfare authority for the first time. At that point, she was managing only the sisters’ household, also receiving modest financial support from a cousin, Ida Hamberg, whose son Percy was co-owner of the L. Behrens & Söhne banking house. Therese Joel had also bequeathed to her four daughters 12,000 RM (reichsmark). However, the 5,500 RM left over in 1923 were devalued by inflation. In 1924, Agnes had an accident that also impaired her health: As a pedestrian, she was hit by a car and suffered a concussion. Since then, she suffered from nerve paralysis to her face. She also had heart problems, repeated attacks of dizziness, and she suffered from a generally weakened physical condition.

On 4 Sept. 1926, the oldest sister, Rosa Joel, passed away at the age of 65. Her death shocked Agnes deeply. Her financial situation also became more difficult – though not only hers alone, but also that of Minna and Alice. For Rosa, the former teacher, had paid the entire rent for a long time, first from her salary, then from her pension. The sisters’ cousin, Ida Hamberg, had also died and after that, her son Percy only supplied Agnes with food now and then. As a result, the three sisters were solely dependent on the low earnings of Minna and Alice as well as on the modest welfare support for Agnes, which was far from enough for a life free from worry. In Jan. 1928, Alice Joel became unemployed and received unemployment benefits. This meant that the sisters had even less money at their disposal.

As a first measure, Minna and Alice moved from their apartment on Güntherstrasse to cheaper accommodation at Landwehr 19, and in the fall of 1928, when their work situation still had not changed, Alice asked the German-Israelitic Community to waive the Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer), since, as she wrote to the Community, "Currently, it is impossible for me to raise the money, all the more so as winter is just around the corner and the heating has to be paid.”

Agnes had stayed on Güntherstrasse and rented out rooms to subtenants – which did not go smoothly, because the first subtenants soon stopped paying the rent, forcing her to give them notice and look for new ones. In the spring of 1930, she decided to give up the apartment and look for a smaller one on her own. However, given her limited financial resources, this proved difficult – a problem she shared with many elderly and single women.

Since Agnes, as she told the social welfare worker at the time, was "very down” in terms of health due to the "great excitements,” she first had to go to the Israelite Hospital for four weeks at the beginning of June 1930. Following her release, she asked the "Jewish Middle-Class Aid Society” (Jüdische Mittelstandshilfe) for help in finding accommodation, for example, in the Home for Jewish Girls and Women (Heim für jüdische Mädchen und Frauen) at Innocentiastrasse 19, but no solution was found for her. Thus, she eventually continued to reside on Güntherstrasse after all, but only lived there in a room with a makeshift kitchen for 30 RM a month. This allowed her to sublet most of the apartment. Every month, she received 40 RM in small pensioner assistance from the welfare office, plus 8 RM from the Jewish Community. That left her only 18 RM less the rent a month for all other expenses – including food, clothing, as well as household goods and toiletries. In the following years, she repeatedly applied to the welfare office for, among other things, cards for potatoes and fat, as well as coupons for coal in the winter. She also took advantage of the small pensioners’ soup kitchen (Kleinrentnerspeisung), which, however, was possible only until 1934. As a result, the Jewish Community increased its support to 11 RM a week.

Agnes’ sisters Minna and Alice also had difficulties paying their rent. In 1931, they quit their apartment on Landwehr and moved to Eppendorf, to the Julius-und-Betty-Ree-Stift on Schedestrasse, a charitable residential home established in 1909. There they both had to pay only about 5 RM in rent per month.

Minna Joel died on 15 Dec. 1934, shortly after her sixty-seventh birthday. Thereupon Agnes moved in with Alice on Schedestrasse at the beginning of Jan. 1935. At that point, both lived together from the approx. 72 RM Alice received each month. Added to this was the modest support for Agnes from the welfare office, which meanwhile totaled only about 20 RM per month, as well as the 11 RM per month from the Jewish Community. Meanwhile Agnes was 71 and Alice 66 years old; they were poor, old, and sick. Agnes’ heart problems weakened her increasingly so that she was hardly able to cope with any kind of strain. A welfare worker, who visited the sisters in Apr. 1935, noted afterward that they were "miserable.” She added, "Sister Minna’s death has hit both sisters so badly that they can hardly provide for the necessities.”

In May 1935, Agnes Joel asked the welfare authority to increase the weekly amount of 5 RM paid to them – in vain. This attitude of the public welfare institutions toward her was in line with the anti-Jewish exclusion measures that affected Jewish welfare recipients, too, after the transfer of power to the Nazis in 1933. Moreover, with the introduction of the Nuremberg Race Laws in Sept. 1935, she received only basic required benefits; all "can” benefits from public welfare were dropped. As a Jewess, from 1936 onward, she was also excluded from the special subsidies that small pensioners and recipients of small pensioner assistance received at Christmas through welfare services. Her situation became even more difficult when she no longer received any more money from the Jewish Community starting in July 1937.

In the spring of 1938, the Hamburg welfare authority divided the recipients into four groups. "Non-Aryans” and thus Agnes Joel, too, fell into the third group comprising all persons "who were not [considered] valuable German national comrades [Volksgenossen].” By the "Ordinance on Social Welfare for Jews” ("Verordnung über die öffentliche Fürsorge für Juden”) dated 19 Nov. 1938, the then Reich Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick excluded Jews from public welfare, initially subject to some restrictions: "In the event of need for support, Jews are to be referred to the help of Jewish non-statutory welfare services. If these cannot help, public welfare intervenes. The conditions must be strictly checked. Only accommodation, food, clothing, nursing care and, if necessary, medical treatment and, if required, funeral expenses are to be provided. No further help will be given to Jews. Further impediments apply.” On 30 Nov. 1939, Jews were completely, without exception, excluded from public welfare in Hamburg – almost three years before a corresponding provision took effect throughout the Reich. By this time, the agency responsible exclusively for needy Jews in Hamburg was the Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband), as the German-Israelitic Community had to call itself since the beginning of 1938.

As early as Jan. 1939, Agnes Joel no longer received any state support. Thereupon, on 3 Feb. 1939, she turned directly to the director of the welfare authority and asked him "both politely and urgently” to "consider [her] request for support,” since she and Alice would now be forced to live only on Alice’s approximately 72 RM in pension benefits per month. Yet again, she did not succeed. The authorities referred her to the Jewish Religious Organization.

The two women, by then 70 and 75 years old, were living in even greater poverty. Moreover, they faced further restrictions yet. Thus, they also suffered from the order issued by the Reich Ministry of the Interior in the autumn of 1939 that the "Winter Relief Program” of the Jewish Community (Jüdische Winterhilfe) must not make any donations in kind, but only give cash to those in need. As a result, Jews had to buy food, clothing, and heating material on the open market, which, in view of rationing measures and price increases, made life and survival even more difficult, especially for the elderly. Nevertheless, Agnes and Alice Joel repeatedly and formally put up resistance to the unacceptable burdens, in order to preserve at least their dignity. In 1941, with their few possessions, they also had to move again – to the Warburg-Stift at Bundesstrasse 43, which had been designated a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”) in the same year.

With the three transports that left Hamburg in July 1942, all 148 residents were deported from the Warburg-Stift. Among them were Agnes and Alice Joel. On 15 July 1942, they were transported from Hamburg to the "ghetto for the elderly” ("Altersgetto”) in Theresienstadt. Many of the old people who arrived in the ghetto from Germany and Austria were deeply traumatized and had little resilience left to withstand the appalling circumstances there, the unhygienic conditions, the rampant diseases, and constant hunger.

Agnes survived for three weeks. She died on 5 Aug. 1942. The responsible physician diagnosed "myodegeneratio cordis,” myocardial degeneration, as the cause of death. Apart from her, 54 other Jews died on the same day.

Her sister Alice Joel was deported from Theresienstadt to Treblinka on 21 Sept. 1942. This deportation was one of the ten transports that took 8,000 Jews in freight trains from the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp in Sept. and Oct. 1942. Immediately after arrival, the men were separated from the women and children. Afterward, they were all forced to undress completely, driven into the "bathhouse,” and murdered within 15 minutes by means of carbon monoxide. Alice Joel was among them.

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

Stand: December 2019
© Frauke Steinhäuser

Quellen: 1; 3; 4; 5; 8; 9; StaH 332-3 Zivilstandsaufsicht A 79 u. 6823/1869, A 113 u. 4324/187, A 40 u. 6004/1867; StaH 332-5 Standesämter: 7762 u. 2443/1878, 247 u. 3486/1888, 6832 u. 1959/1899, 1024 u. 484/1934, 909 u. 1296/1926; StaH 332-7 Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht B I a 1856 Nr. 996; StaH 351-14 Arbeits- und Sozialfürsorge 1351; StaH 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden 390 Wählerliste 1930; StaH 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden 696 f Geburtsregister 1861–1865 u. 84/1864; StaH 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden 992 d Steuerakten Bd. 15; StaH 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden 992 e 2 Band 4 Transport nach Theresienstadt am 15.Juli 1942, Liste 1; Wählerverzeichnis 1930; Angela Schwarz, Jüdische Wohnstifte in Hamburg, in: Arno Herzig (Hrsg.), Die Juden in Hamburg 1590 bis 1990. Wiss. Beitr. d. Univ. Hamburg z. Ausst. "Vierhundert Jahre Juden in Hamburg”, Hamburg, 1991, S. 447–458; Uwe Lohalm, Hamburgs öffentliche Fürsorge und die Juden 1933 bis 1939, in ders., S. 499–514; "VO über die öffentliche Fürsorge der Juden”, in: Walk, Sonderrecht, S. 257; Wolf Gruner, Öffentliche Wohlfahrt und Judenverfolgung. Wechselwirkungen lokaler und zentraler Politik im NS-Staat (1933-1942), Studien zur Zeitgeschichte, Band 62, München, 2002; Friedhofsdatenbank Grindelfriedhof 1712–1909 u. Friedhofsdatenbank Ohlsdorf 1883–1889, Datenbankprojekte d. Eduard-Duckesz-Fellow u. d. Hamburger Gesellschaft für Jüdische Genealogie, PDF-Download von www.jü (letzter Zugriff 30.11.2014); Vojtech Blodig, Dezimierungs- und Transitfunktion von Theresienstadt, online auf: Portal, (letzter Zugriff 12.1.2015); Tereza Stepkova, Treblinka, online auf: Portal, (letzter Zugriff 12.1.2015); Joel Agnes: Todesfallanzeige, Ghetto Theresienstadt, online auf: Portal, (letzter Zugriff 12.1.2015); Order of the day by the council of the elders no. 190, August 7th 1942, online auf: Jewish Museum in Prague, (letzter Zugriff 2.3.2015).
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