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Gusti Zucker * 1891
Schäferkampsallee 41 (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)
LODZ / LITZMANNSTADT
CHELMNO / KULMHOF
Gusti Zucker, born on 26 Sept. 1891 in Galatz (Romania), deported to Lodz on 25 Oct. 1941, murdered in Chelmno on 26 June 1944
Anna (Annetta) Zucker, born on 25 June 1894 in Galatz (Romania), deported to Lodz on 25 Oct. 1941, murdered in Chelmno on 26 June 1944
Gusti and Anna Zucker were born in Romania as daughters of Henriette Zucker, née Zucker, and Joseph Zucker. In 1905, they came with their widowed mother and their older sister Eva via Austria to Altona. Several members of the Zucker and Wellmann families, who were related by marriage, lived there and in Hamburg. In her first year in Altona, Henriette Zucker was registered as a subtenant with the Wellmanns. She earned her living as a seamstress. Since Anna was only eleven years old, she still went to school in Altona, and the 14-year-old Gusti began an apprenticeship. We know nothing about the fate of their sister Eva.
Gusti and Anna received a solid vocational training. Anna became an office clerk and worked in the issuing office of the welfare institutions in Hamburg, i.e., as a municipal employee. Gusti passed the master’s examination as a dressmaker, got a job as a manageress in the fashion house of Robinsohn Bros. on Neuer Wall, among other things training the apprentice tailors.
The sisters lived on Kleine Gärtnerstrasse in Altona, initially with their mother until she passed away. In 1932, Gusti and Anna moved to Hamburg. Both had already been paying their Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) to the Hamburg Jewish Community since 1923. In Hamburg, they first lived on Kleiststrasse, then on Weidenallee, and in 1936, they furnished a two-room apartment at Schäferkampsallee 41. By this time, Anna was already unemployed. She had lost her job in 1933 due to the "Berufsbeamtengesetz” (law on civil servants) and henceforth she was dependent on the support of her sister. In her leading position, Gusti earned 400 RM (reichsmark) per month.
On 3 Aug. 1938, the Robinsohn Company applied, via the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for a visa for Gusti Zucker to enter France. She was probably supposed to do some purchasing for the fashion house there. The application was approved by the Chamber, on condition that Gusti Zucker re-enter the country by 25 August. On 9 Aug. 1938, the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) requested the Chief of Police to provide precise information on Gusti Zucker’s financial circumstances due to "suspicion of capital flight [Kapitalflucht], with the request to "inconspicuously determine whether she intended to emigrate.” It took until 29 September for the reply to arrive: The review had shown that there was no reason to fear emigration. It remains unclear whether Gusti Zucker was able to seize the opportunity and actually travel to France.
Three months later, she lost her good position. When she wanted to go to her usual place of work on 10 November, it was no longer in existence. Hans Robinsohn, son of one of the bosses and "company leader” ("Betriebsführer”) of the business, described how the November Pogrom had ravaged the Robinsohn fashion house: "The first and second floors looked like they had been subjected to shelling. All of the windows were smashed. In the atrium, heavy cupboards and tables had been hurled from the second floor on to the first floor. Typewriters had been pried apart with crowbars, all card index system (Kardexkartothek) drawers had been bent, all mannequins had been thrown through the windows into the Alster canal located behind the premises; large bales of cloth had gone the same way. All glass tables and cupboards were destroyed. In one staircase, all toilet facilities had been systematically smashed to pieces. The glass and wood splinters piled up so high that we set up two dressing stations where staff clearing the site had their injuries to feet, legs, hands, and arms bandaged.”
This was followed by the "Aryanization” of the Robinsohn Company, and Gusti Zucker lost her job. From Robinsohn Bros. she received a severance payment amounting to 1,260 RM (reichsmark).
The sisters immediately initiated steps toward their emigration: They wanted to follow their two second cousins, doctors Albert Zucker and Jaques Wellmann, via France to the USA. On 3 Jan. 1939, the St. Pauli-Eimsbüttel tax office replied to an inquiry by the Secret State Police (Gestapo) that "according to the files on hand, no assets” were available. The reason for the inquiry was that the sisters had applied for the "tax clearance certificate” ("Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung”) toward emigration. On 16 January, it was clear that issuing a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”) was not required. Gusti Zucker owned only 1,200 RM, i.e., the settlement from Robinsohn Bros. The apartment had been terminated as of 31 Jan. 1939. On 20 January, the sisters sent a list of moving goods to the foreign currency office of the Chief Finance Administrator. Their entire belongings were listed: the solid furnishings of a one-bedroom apartment, plus tools for the seamstress. Evening dress and opera glasses suggest that the sisters participated in the cultural life of the city. The most valuable item was a golden wristwatch, a gift from the company to Gusti for the work anniversary. Since no objections were raised to the export of the moving goods, there were no tax arrears, and the only capital was the company’s severance pay, the sisters received the "tax clearance certificate,” valid until 31 Mar. 1939. One can only speculate as to why emigration did not take place. The last entry in the emigration file reports, in response to an inquiry by the Chief Finance Administration (Oberfinanzdirektion), indicates that Anna and Gusti Zucker did not emigrate, but were registered at Weidenallee 6 since 12 February. The two of them only stayed there for a short time. In Sept. 1939, they moved to Hansastrasse 21, and again a year later, in the summer of 1940, to Isestrasse 39, their last address in Hamburg. They lived with the wealthy widow Paula Meyer (see volume Stolpersteine in der Hamburger Isestrasse, p. 121).
At that address, they received the order to report the [former] Masonic lodge on Moorweide for the purpose of "emigration,” as the Nazi authorities called the deportation euphemistically. The train left for Lodz on 25 Oct. 1941. There, the "Western European Jews” ("Westjuden”) from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia encountered a ghetto overcrowded with local Jews. Only a few days after their arrival, they were moved from quickly assembled emergency shelters and accommodated in existing houses. Anna and Gusti Zucker’s address was "Gänsegasse 16.” The "normal” address by no means meant normal accommodation; the primitive apartment in a wooden house, usually without water supply or drainage, had to be shared with other prisoners. Hunger, freezing cold, and hard labor awaited the new arrivals. There were 96 workshops in the ghetto, where production was carried out under murderous conditions for the German economy and the Wehrmacht. At least ten of these were tailor shops; evidence proves that production was also carried out there for the "Alsterhaus” in Hamburg. Gusti Zucker found work as a master tailor in one of these companies and held a prominent position as "group leader.” From today’s perspective, the question arises whether she had to produce for the department store, located only a few steps from her old workplace.
At the end of Apr. 1942, unrest spread throughout the ghetto. A new "evacuation” threatened the "newly settled,” that is, the Jews who had arrived from the West in Oct./Nov. 1941. They received no information about where the journey would take them, but feared that they would face an even tougher labor deployment. Many tried by last desperate pleas to be released from deportation. When they wrote how poorly they were doing after the harsh winter – many complained of open wounds after frost to their hands and feet – and that they were unable to work, that resulted in exactly the opposite of what they wanted to achieve. The transports did not go to work, but the trains were destined for Chelmno, about 70 kilometers (about 43.5 miles) away, where the unsuspecting were murdered in gas vans on a former farm. A chance to evade this fate was afforded only to those who managed to document a war decoration from the First World War and those who were strong and had jobs.
Gusti and Anna Zucker received the "exit order” for the first of ten transports, whereupon Gusti Zucker obtained confirmation of her work activity and submitted the letter written in Polish with her application to the "Amt für Neueingesiedelte” ("Office for Newly Settled Persons”). She wrote, "As you can see from the enclosed confirmation, I am working as a group leader in the tailoring department in Marysin and the management is very satisfied with me, so they are keen to keep me on. I therefore politely ask for exemption from the resettlement, at the same time also for my sister Annetta Zucker, as we have always had a house community and do not want to separate. Annetta Z. has a good knowledge of tailoring and makes every effort to be accommodated in the tailoring department. We have a joint account book, so I would cover her upkeep at any time. I therefore respectfully ask that my request be granted and would be very grateful if you could send me a [illegible] reply to that effect.”
Based on this letter, deferral was granted until 6 May. On 4 May, Gusti Zucker received a certificate of her work in German as well and wrote a second letter asking for the deportation of her and her sister to be withdrawn. At this time, it was stamped "UWZGLEDNIONE,” which means, "taken into account.”
Twelve trains went to Chelmno from 4 to 15 May 1942; 10,993 people headed for their deaths.
Anna and Gusti Zucker lived in the Lodz Ghetto for another two years. From Jan. 1943, work passports, so-called legitimation cards, were issued. Anna’s document has been preserved as one of a few, so we know that she too had found work, probably as a stenographer. Her card was issued on behalf of the notorious head of the German ghetto administration, Hans Biebow. He was extradited to Poland after the war, sentenced to death in Lodz, and executed on 23 June 1947.
Almost exactly three years before, Anna and Gusti Zucker were murdered in Chelmno. The original extermination camp on the farming estate had been dissolved there in spring 1943 and all traces had been carefully erased. One year later, however, a new killing camp was set up in the forest near Chelmno – Jews from the ghetto had to help build two barracks and two large ovens from firebricks.
In the summer of 1944, the dissolution of the ghetto began. The Jews were deported to various extermination camps, ten transports went to the newly built Chelmno camp from 23 June to 14 July 1943. The number of Jews murdered there during this period was 7,176. The chronicle of the ghetto on 23 June, when the first transport left, stated: "On the suitcases, you can often read a German name and a German city. They belong to Jews who were resettled in Litzmannstadt [Lodz] in the fall of 1941 and have now received an order to depart ...”
Gestapo inspector Fuchs had some reassuring words for the "departing persons. He declared that the journey was now going toward work in the Reich and that decent rations would be provided.” However, their luggage was immediately taken from them; they were told that it would be transported in another part of the train. They themselves had to travel in freight cars whose floors were lined with straw.
The second transport left on 26 June. Among the 912 "passengers” were Anna and Gusti Zucker. On this day, the entry in the chronicle read, "Loading was carried out in the same train unit, under the same circumstances as the first time. This time, too, Gestapo inspector Fuchs directed a few words to the people. This transport comprised a larger number of younger persons, including several volunteers who left the ghetto in good spirits. On the other hand, there were also quite a lot of weak and ailing people.” It was the day following Anna Zucker’s fiftieth birthday. Certainly, she and her sister were not departing in "good spirits,” as panic had already spread in the camp the day after the first transport, because the train had returned very quickly to the Radegast departure station, just as it had done for the large transports two years before.
It had only covered the approximately 70-kilometer (approx. 43.5 miles) distance to Warthbrücken, today called Kolo again, where people had to change to a narrow-gauge train that took them to the "death forest” (Todeswald) of Chelmno.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: July 2020
© Christa Fladhammer
Quellen: 1; 2; 5; 8; StAH 332-Meldewesen K 7407; AB Altona 1920 und 1929; FZH 11/R36 (Hans Robinson, Manuskripte); USHMM, RG 3949, M 302/1115-1118; USHMM JewishGen, Reel 676 pages 0108/0109; Die Chronik des Gettos Lodz/Litzmannstadt, Bd. 4/1944 S. 389f., S. 498; Peter Klein, Die Gettoverwaltung Litzmannstadt, S. 569ff.; Linde Apel, In den Tod geschickt, S. 99; Auskunft per E-mail von Fritz Neubauer, Universität Bielefeld am 17. und 18.11.2009.
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