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Richard Carl Abraham * 1871
Agnesstraße 39 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)
GEDEMÜTIGT / ENTRECHTET
FLUCHT IN DEN TOD
Richard Carl Abraham, born on 22 Jan. 1871 in Hamburg, driven to his death on 8 Apr. 1942 in Hamburg
Richard Abraham was born on 22 Jan. 1871 in Hamburg. His father Heinrich (born in 1825) had gone to Hamburg from Culm, the mother Johanna (née Cohn, born 1839) was a native of Hamburg. By the time Richard Abraham was born, Heinrich was already a well-to-do tobacco importer, the owner of Heinrich Abraham & Co.
Richard spent his childhood with two brothers significantly older than he, Emil, born in 1866, and Paul, born in 1861, and his parents at Grindelallee 170, where the family resided in a rented house well into the year 1885. In 1886, they moved into a house of their own at Hagedornstrasse 16; until the death of the mother in 1914, this house remained in the family’s possession and it served at least the mother as a residence for as long. Richard Abraham, too, lived all of his life in the immediate vicinity of Hagedornstrasse. The tobacco trade of Heinrich Abraham & Co flourished. Heinrich Abraham had a fixed spot at the stock exchange, and at the end of the 1880s, the business premises of the company were relocated from Catharinenstrasse to Brook in the Speicherstadt (warehouse district). Until the end of the company, the warehouse remained at this location, whereas additional offices existed in the city center (Bergstrasse and Mönckebergstrasse), at least for some time.
Two of Abraham’s three sons became merchants and joined their father’s company; Emil as early as 1893; Richard followed him in 1894. Only Paul, the oldest one, strove toward an entirely different direction, one rather rare for Jews at the time – he became a judge. All of the three brothers had themselves baptized, Richard probably in 1891. Paul, at any rate, would not have been able to start a career in the justice system without this baptism. As it turned out, however, after a few years as a judge at the District Court (Amtsgericht) and the Regional Court (Landgericht) in Hamburg, in 1906 he was appointed Associate Judge (Oberlandesgerichtsrat) at the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court (Hanseatisches Oberlandesgericht).
In 1892, Richard Abraham married Anna Martha Catharina Jens from Stade, born in 1872. Perhaps only afterward, this family moved into an apartment of their own; in any case, from 1896 onward they resided at Parkallee 22. There, a daughter was born to the couple on 11 Jan. 1898, named Hertha Stephanie Johanna. After a brief interlude on Werderstrasse from 1899 until 1902, the family moved into a house of their own at Leinpfad 61 in 1902. The siblings also stayed in the immediate vicinity. Thus, Emil – after a few years on Hallerstrasse and on Agnesstrasse – moved into a house at Willistrasse 3 in 1905 and Paul, after a "detour” on the Alsterchaussee, into a house of his own at Leinpfad 63 next door as early as 1904. In the summer of 1901, the father and company founder, Heinrich Abraham, passed away. At this point, the company belonged to Emil and Richard. Apparently, they jointly managed it until 1933.
In terms of the personal circumstances of the Abraham family, quite a few things changed in the first two decades of the twentieth century: Emil, too, who according to Nazi terminology had married a "Jewish” woman, Henriette, née Hertz, had become a father, of son Curt (in 1901) and daughter Edith (in 1902). In July 1906, Richard Abraham’s wife passed away.
In 1910, Emil Abraham changed his name to Emil Asten. His brother Paul followed him in this, and he too called himself Asten, though not before Mar. 1918. Richard, on the other hand, kept his Jewish last name. On another count, however, Richard Abraham emulated his older brother.
On 31 Oct. 1910, Emil Asten and on 1 Jan. 1911, Richard Abraham became members of the Patriotic Society (Patriotische Gesellschaft), the latter entering his name in the subscription book on page 223 on 31 Jan. 1911.
In Jan. 1912, Richard Abraham married a second time. The daughter of a merchant, Tony Heydorn, born in 1884, already had a first brief marriage behind her and was divorced. She was an actress, having been on stage at the Deutsche Schauspielhaus from 1908 until 1911 in any case, and she had achieved a high degree of popularity there. The marriage with Tony remained childless.
Richard Abraham’s daughter from the first marriage, Hertha, married the merchant Rudolph Dallmer in 1918, the son of a coffee broker; the fathers of the bride and groom acted as witnesses. Hertha moved with her husband to a home "around the corner” as well, to Maria-Louisen-Strasse 59. She continued residing there even when her husband died as early as 1926.
Brother Paul was promoted to the Reich Court (Reichsgericht) in 1918, causing him to move with his wife to Leipzig, leaving the close vicinity to Richard Abraham. He died there in 1925.
Until the 1930s, the business of the brothers Richard Abraham and Emil Asten must have gone very well, even though fluctuations in the 1920s are likely. Richard concentrated on the import of Havanas, also founding additional companies in pursuit of this objective and eventually acting as sole partner of the American Tobacco Trust for Havana cigars not only for Germany but as a reseller for the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Turkey.
For the duration of many years, Emil was appointed as a commercial judge at the Hamburg Regional Court, documenting his profound rooting in the Chamber of Commerce and thus in the local business world. Apart from his involvement in the tobacco trade, in the 1920s he had also taken up trading in insurances, something that apparently did not prove very lucrative though.
In 1929, Richard Abraham left the house on Leinpfad with his wife, moving to Maria-Louisen-Strasse, and from there further to Agnesstrasse 39 in 1936, where he resided until his death. The urban villa at Agnesstrasse 39 belonged to Charlotte Rosenbacher, a member of the Jewish Community. She had lived there with her daughter and son-in-law. Due to the harassment by the Nazi regime, however, they had emigrated to Cairo in Nov. 1936, resulting in the home being vacated.
Richard Abraham’s daughter did not live in the vicinity for much longer either. In the fall of 1932, she got married to Kurt Hasperg, the son of a cigar wholesaler, moving with him to Berlin a short time afterward. At this wedding, however, it was no longer both fathers acting as witnesses but only the Haspergs. It is impossible to gather from the scant files whether there is any significance to this, whether Abraham got to know his granddaughter, born in 1934, at all, or whether the relationship to his daughter had deteriorated. At any rate, there is no trace to be found of daughter Hertha in the restitution proceedings (Wiedergutmachungsverfahren).
In July 1933, Richard Abraham liquidated the Havana trading company he had founded, resigning, as mentioned earlier, from Heinrich Abraham & Co, and taking the Havana business along with him into the newly founded Richard Abraham OHG, a general partnership. He also took over the warehouse on Brook and continued to operate successfully the tobacco business for the time being. His income tax statements of the early 1930s reveal a net profit of slightly less than 14,000 RM for 1934 and all the way up to 29,000 RM for 1937. His bother Emil had renamed the father’s enterprise "Emil Asten” as early as 1935. However, all of this was no remedy against the new rulers’ "will to Aryanize.” In Oct. 1935, Richard Abraham had already been forced under this pressure to take in a nephew of his wife, the merchant Wilcken, as a partner. Finally, in Jan. 1938, he had to leave the company for good.
Certainly, his wife, Tony Abraham, née Heydorn, became a partner in his place for a short time, but that could not stave off the complete "Aryanization” of the enterprise. Only in 1938, she was still allowed to conduct the transit business while Wilcken – who had taken over the company shares without any corresponding capital payment – operated the domestic business all by himself, continuing it under his own name from the spring of 1938 onward. The authorities struck the Richard Abraham Company from the company register in 1939, reporting that the "Aryanization” had been carried out.
Thus, Richard Abraham was cut off from any means to earn an income and deprived of the greater part of his assets. The attempt to collect the accounts receivable amounting to several hundreds of thousands of reichsmark from a governor residing in Spain who was friends with Hermann Göring failed. In the following years, the couple largely lived on their savings. Only the US Tobacco Trust continued to transfer to its former main customer a monthly support payment of 125 US dollars. Upon the Americans entering the Second World War, this ceased as well.
The company of brother Emil Asten was also "Aryanized." Emil passed away in Apr. 1939. Also in 1939, his daughter Edith emigrated to Britain. Son Curt had married an Aryan woman, having a son with her. He had tried to keep the "Aryanization” within the family, as it were, by carrying out a transfer to this very son, especially since there were active Nazis among his in-laws. However, this attempt failed.
The situation of Richard and Tony Abraham came to a head. As the wife of a husband declared by the Nazis to be "Jewish,” it was just as impossible for Tony to resume her former job as an actress as it was to earn money by trying her hand at writing. The couple made a living by selling Tony’s jewelry and valuable furniture.
The sister-in-law, Henriette, the widow of brother Emil, was deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941. Charlotte Rosenbacher, the landlady and fellow occupant of the house at Agnesstrasse 39, was deported to Minsk on 18 Nov. 1941 and along with her the Olschewitz couple that had been forcibly quartered in her apartment.
Richard Abraham was protected somewhat by his "Aryan” wife. However, in the winter of 1941/42, after a Gestapo officer by the name of Tesenfitz had occupied Rosenbacher’s apartment, the terror escalated once again. Thus, Richard Abraham was reported to police because he had signed a postcard without his compulsory added first name of "Israel.” His wife Tony, too, became the target of the everyday harassment and malicious agitation of Mrs. Tesenfitz.
On 2 Apr. 1942, Richard Abraham was arrested from his apartment because he had not worn the "Jews’ star” ("Judenstern”). When he was interrogated in the presence of his wife, in her recollection the Gestapo officer demanded that he plead guilty of fraud because of this offense. In addition, he ought to vacate the apartment immediately, since Tesenfitz neither could nor wished to live in the same house with a Jew. Surrendering all "excess” furniture and furnishings, the couple ought to move to a room in another building. When Richard Abraham referred to the fact that he was baptized, married both in his first and in his second marriage to an "Aryan” wife, and that he had a daughter and grandchild from the first marriage, the response was that no "benefits of mixed marriages” applied to him because his current marriage was childless. Furthermore, that he had to reckon with imminent evacuation because all Jews would be removed from Germany to make Germany completely "free of Jews” once and for all. In addition, he was told that since Easter was just around the corner, he was allowed to go home one more time by way of exception. He was to report again wearing a "Jews’ star” ("Judenstern”) on 8 April to learn at the Gestapo offices how to behave as a Jew – especially when living in the same house with a senior Gestapo officer.
On the morning of 8 Apr. 1942, Richard Abraham was found dead in his bed, with empty Barbital (Veronal) packages next to him. He left a farewell letter.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: April 2018
© Carola v. Paczensky
Quellen: Digitalisierte Telefon- und Adressbücher Hamburgs, http://agora.sub.uni-hamburg.de/subhh-adress/digbib/start. StaH 332-3_A 235 Zivilstandsamt Geburtsregister (1871); 332-5_2071 Geburtsregister Standesamt 1 (3854/1884); 332-5_9142, Geburtenregister Standesamt 3a (61/1898); 332-5_7946, Sterbehauptregister Standesamt 3 (2044/1901); 332-5_9664, Sterbehauptregister Standesamt 3a (1756/1906); 332-5_6490 Heiratshauptregister Standesamt 21 (1/1912); 332-5_9569 (509/1918) Heirats-Hauptregister Standesamt 3a; 332-5_13907, Heirats-Hauptregister Standesamt 3a (550/1932); 351-11_1098 Wiedergutmachungsakte Erbengemeinschaft Emil Asten; 351-11_7253 Wiedergutmachungsakte Tony Abraham; 351-11_24324 Wiedergutmachungsakte Curt Asten; 213-1_1905 OLG Verwaltung; 314-15_20 OFP Liste arisierter Firmen; 331-5_3 (1942/551) Unnatürliche Todesfälle; 231-7_B1995-216 Handelsregister; Hamburger Abendblatt vom 8.6.1960; Handelsregisterauszüge zu A 38191; A 5236; C 6262; sämtlich Archiv der Handelskammer Hamburg,
www.hohenemsgenealogie.at. Björn Eggert, Charlotte Rosenbacher, in: Ulrike Sparr, Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Winterhude. Biographische Spurensuche, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Hamburg, Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden (Hrsg.), Hamburg 2008, S. 220 ff. Frank Bajohr: "Arisierung" in Hamburg, Hamburg 1997.