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Wilhelm Adler * 1881
Billhorner Mühlenweg Ecke Billhorner Kanalstraße (Hamburg-Mitte, Rothenburgsort)
Wilhelm Adler, born on 18 May 1881 in Himmelstadt, deported from Munich to Theresienstadt on 3 June 1942, died there on 6 Dec. 1942
Bertha Wartelski, née Zimak, born on 27 Aug. 1882 in Gilgenburg, deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941, shot on 26 Mar. 1942
Louis Wartelski, born on 17 May 1879 in Königsberg, committed suicide on 28 Sep. 1938 in Flensburg
Billhorner Kanalstraße/corner Billhorner Mühlenweg (Billhorner Canalstraße 33)
"They said, all the people – there were about 2000 – would be brought to Dünamünde to work at the canning factory, and in three weeks you will follow them. So I said goodbye to Else, the child, and to auntie Betti – who was, by the way, still in very good shape- not thinking that it would be forever. Two hours later they told us that we were not to see our families again. Thinking about all this today – bartering, hiding the parents, and all this – is still sending cold shivers up and down my spine. It is a miracle, that I am still sane. ”Leonard Zimak, one of Bertha Wartelski’s nephews who called her "Auntie Betti”, survived the deportation to Riga. In May 1946 he heard that his sister Frieda Richert, née Zimak, had also survived and was living in Hamburg. The letters the two of them exchanged helped to answer many questions brought up after the consultation of a variety of documents connected to the family’s story.
There is a variety of trails leading to Bertha Wartelski, née Zimak, but finding the right one turned out to be difficult due to the many ways of writing the name. The above given information corresponds with the Hamburg Memorial Book for the Jewish victims of National Socialist Persecution (Hamburger Gedenkbuch für die jüdischen Opfer der NS-Verfolgung). The Memorial Book of the National Archive (Bundesarchiv) spells Bertha’s name Wartelsky, her husband’s name Wartelski. Her relatives are referred to under the name Zimack, Zimmack, and Zimak. The later way of writing is used in the Hamburg Memorial Book with reference to her niece in law Else and her son Denny. Next to the first name Bertha one can also find the names Betty and Betti.
The different ways of writing the same person’s name also occur in the "family saga" to follow. The chaos grows even bigger because Wolf Zimak often used the alias name Simon Freybuschewitz or the short version Wolf Simon. And finally, the family was very big.
Bertha and her five siblings Therese, Helene, Otto, Leopold, and Benjamin were born in Eastern Prussian Gilgenburg between 1876 and 1884. As grown-ups they all settled in Hamburg, Otto Zimak being the last in 1937. Their father, the merchant Wolf Zimak, died in Gilgenburg, and their mother Julie, née Simson (born in 1846), initially moved to Dombrowken with Therese and Bertha.
In 1906 Bertha moved to Hamburg. Her mother Julie Zimak followed quickly afterwards together with the sister Therese – who was a shop assistant like Bertha – and the brother Leopold who was a bags-tradesman. They lived together – or in close vicinity – in the area Hamburg Neustadt.
In Dombrowken, Bertha had met her later husband Wilhelm Adler from Bavaria. Wilhelm Adler was born on 18 May 1881 as an illegitimate child of Helene Adler – later a married Oppenheimer – in Himmelstadt.
He had worked as a (kosher) butcher and tradesman in Dombrowken before moving to Hamburg where he registered on 26 Feb. 1906 as a lodger at Peterstraße 71/73. On 9 Aug. 1906 Wilhelm Adler and Bertha Zimak married, most likely in Würzburg. Back in Hamburg, they lived at different places in the Neustadt area. There, daughter Hannchen was born on 17 Dec. 1906, followed by son Siegfried on 4 Jan. 1908. When their son Arthur was born on 2 Oct. 1910 they were living at Vereinsstraße in Eimsbüttel. In 1911 Wilhelm Adler left Hamburg to go traveling. In 1912 he lived in Frankfurt for a while and left his wife.
The marriage was divorced in the same year. After the divorce, Bertha Adler had to take care of the three children- none of them old enough to attend school then - on her own; her brother Leopold supported her. Bertha and her sister Therese married in Hamburg during the First World War. Therese married the butcher Jakob Ries in 1915 (she died in 1927), and Bertha married on 7 Mar. 1917 the goldsmith Louis Wartelski. He was from Königsberg, where he was born on 17 May 1879 son of Daniel Wartelski and Pauline, née Spicker.
Louis and Bertha Wartelski and their children joined the German Isrealitic Community in Hamburg and lived in Eimsbüttel. Louis Wartelski ran his goldsmith shop at Fruchtallee 53; the family lived at the same street in house number 117. (Step-) son Arthur Adler attended the school Talmud Tora Realschule. There is no information about where and when Hannchen and Siegfried Adler went to school. The latter died in 1921 as a result of an epileptic seizure shortly before his Bar Mizva (the ritual celebrated when a boy becomes a fully entitled member of the community). Arthur describes his stepfather as a nice man, tall and big, and friendly with the children, while his mother had more strict views. In his opinion, this may have been the reason why her second marriage did not last. Bertha and Louis Wartelski separated in 1927 and got divorced later. Louis moved to Flensburg and ran a goldsmith workshop there at Norderstraße 43. He lived there with the protestant Frieda Hansen from Flensburg and converted to Protestantism.
Bertha Wartelski moved to the area Rothenburgsort, Billhorner Canalstraße 33, close to her children. She worked as an employee, and after being dismissed from work because she was Jewish and could not continue working in this sector, she worked as packager and housemaid. There is no information about plans to emigrate; she stayed in this flat and continued working in Hamburg. On 13 June 1941 her grandnephew Denny – son of Leonard and Else Zimak – was born.
Wilhelm Adler also re-married; Rosa Landau from Frankfurt am Main became his second wife on 24 Dec. 1912. Their four children Alma, Rolf, Sophie, and Leopoldine were born between 1913 and 1923. Wilhelm Adler served as an infantryman in the First World War between May and Nov. 1918, and was decorated with an order. Later, he and his family settled in Munich where Wilhelm Adler ran a stationary wholesale trade. He lost this business shortly after the November Pogrom. Two daughters – Alma and Sophie Hanna- migrated to Palestine. Sophie Hanna migrated in 1939 and was still living there in 2009.
Like their parents, Rolf and Leopoldine were murdered in the Holocaust. Leopoldine learned to become a tailor and was arrested for political reasons when she was 20 years old. She was interned at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp on 7 Mar. 1942 and from there deported to Auschwitz. There, her name was listed in the death register on 5 Nov. 1942 with the number 38970. Her parents Rosa and Wilhelm Adler were deported from Munich to Theresienstadt. Wilhelm Adler died there on 6 Dec. 1942, at the age of 61. Rosa Adler was sent on a transport to Auschwitz on 12 Oct. 1944. There is no further trace from her.
Leopold Zimak married Flora Bähr (born on 17 Nov. 1888 in Dransfeld close to Göttingen). In 1914, their first daughter Ilse was born, in 1919 the second daughter Ursula. Leopold served as a soldier in the First World War in the Landwehr-Infanterie Regiment Nr. 99 and received an order from the city of Hamburg for his service (Hamburgisches Hanseatenkreuz). The brothers Otto and Benjamin Zimak – not registered in Hamburg at the time of the First World War – also served as soldiers.
In 1923, Leopold Zimak and his family joined the German Israelitic Community in Hamburg. After the November Pogrom in 1938 and after Arthur Adler’s emigration, also Leopold Zimak and his wife Flora left Germany; together with their daughter Ilse and her husband Martin Fleischer they migrated to Shanghai. The second daughter Ursula migrated to Holland where she survived in hiding. They all left Hamburg in February after Helene Zimak – Leopold’s and Bertha’s sister – had died at the age of 61.
After the First World War, also Bertha’s youngest brother Benjamin settled in Hamburg. He married the Non-Jewish Auguste, née Geist (born on 30 Jan. 1891 in Lübeck). He had different jobs until he managed to establish two modern shops for men’s clothes. In 1921 he joined the German Israelitic Community and his wife converted to Judaism. She gave birth to two sons; Egon was born in 1921, Arno was born three years later. Benjamin Zimak supported his mother Julie who also lived with him. Helene, who had only a small income as a housemaid and who lived in close vicinity to the family, needed his support, too, also because she suffered from homesickness and longed for Dombrowken. She took care for her mother after a stroke and until the mother died at the age of 77 on 2 July 1923. Julie Zimak’s picture only remains in her family’s memory; she would not allow anybody to take photos of her. She argued that the human being was a reflection of God and it was not allowed to take pictures of God.
Egon and Arno Zimak – Benjamin’s and Auguste’s sons – wanted to migrate to Palestine, Egon as a farmer, Arno still as a pupil. Auguste Zimak left the Jewish Community in 1940. Doing so, she was able to keep her status as an "Aryan". Her sons, however, remained "Half-Jews” (Halbjuden), because of their Jewish parents (the father being Jewish by birth, the mother due to conversion); they were registered as "Geltungsjuden" and treated like Jews. Whether their migration to Palestine was not successful or whether they returned is not clear, but they were in Hamburg in 1943. On 20 July 1943, Arno was at the Jewish hospital where his aunt Frieda Richert worked. She was having an operation at this time herself. Her Non-Jewish husband Wendelin served in the Wehrmacht.
On 1 Sept. 1927, Bertha Wartelski’s daughter Hannchen married the Non-Jewish locksmith and mechanical engineer Max Hellerbrand. He was born on 8 Apr. 1895 in Gotha and thus ten years older than her. On 18 Jan. 1929 their son Siegfried was born, and on 17 May 1933 their daughter Eva. The family belonged to the Protestant Church and lived at Heidenkampsweg in the area Hammerbrook.
Bertha’s son Arthur Adler successfully finished his apprenticeship as shop assistant and decorator at the company Rudolf Karstadt AG at Billhorner Röhrendamm in Rothenburgsort. Having completed his apprenticeship in 1933, he was employed as executive director of the Jewish company Semmler at Wandsbeker Chausee, but this employment ended when he was arrested on 3 Nov. 1935. The special court of the City of Hamburg sentenced him to six months in prison because of "Rassenschande". Since he had been in investigative custody, only one more month in prison remained. He had been in a relationship with a Non-Jewish woman and had been informed on by a rival. After having been released from prison, Arthur Adler was employed as executive director in a shop for work-wear at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straße.
On 12 Aug. 1937 Arthur married Erna Auerbach, born on 19 Oct. 1910 in Hamburg. Their son Gert was born in November. Arthur Adler considered to emigrate and since 1938 intensified his migration plans to the USA. In the course of the so-called "Juni-Aktion” 1938 he was arrested at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp for three months. This happened after Heinrich Himmler had ordered to include Jewish petty criminals in the wave of arrests of so-called "Asoziale” ("A-Socials”) and "Arbeitssaboteure” (people not willing to work). When he was released on 16 Sep. 1938, Arthur Adler could not return to his former work.
In the meantime his family lived with his mother in Barmbek at Weidestraße 9. There Erna Adler gave birth to their daughter Judis on 27 Oct. 1938. Arthur escaped to the Netherlands together with his wife, the one year old son Gert, and the baby daughter Judis. From there, they began their journey to New York on 13 Dec. 1938.
At Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Arthur Adler is likely to have met his stepfather Louis Wartelski who had been imprisoned there from 23 June 1938 to 7 Sep. 1938. Relatives assume that he had also been accused of "Rassenschande”. Louis Wartelski did not talk about his experiences at Sachsenhausen because they had been too horrifying. He said he would rather kill himself then letting them arrest him a second time. When he was cited to the police office on 28 Sep. 1938, he poisoned himself there with potassium cyanide which he had brought with him from his workshop.
In 1937 also Bertha’s oldest brother Otto Zimak (born on 26 May 1879) moved to Hamburg. Before, he had lived with his wife Helene, née Rosenberg (born on 1 Feb. 1874) in her hometown Pestlin close to Danzig. Their children Frieda (born on 8 Feb. 1906) and Leonard (born on 18 Nov. 1907) were born there, and Otto and Helene owned a grocery store until 1937. About this shop Otto used to say: "You can come to the Zimak family hungry and naked, but you will leave them fed and dressed.” He was very generous towards poor people. Under the National Socialists they had to give up their shop and to sell it below value. In Hamburg the couple first lived with their daughter Frieda at Heinrich-Barth-Straße 17. Otto Zimak found work at the home for the elderly of the Jewish Community. Frieda had married the Non-Jewish baker Wendelin Richert in 1930. They had to give up their bakery in Marienburg, and the new start in Hamburg in 1935 was very difficult.
Together with Otto and Helene came also their son Leonard (Bertha’s nephew). The quote at the beginning are his words. He found work as a locksmith and on 29 Dec. 1938 he married Else Herbst (born on 14 April 1914 in Oldenburg).
In late autumn 1941 Bertha Wartelski received the order to go on the transport to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941. At the age of 59 she was deported together with her brother Otto Zimak, her sister-in-law Helene, her nephew Leonard Zimak, and his wife Else and their son Denny. Since there was no space for the Jews coming from the Reich in the Riga ghetto, the newcomers were brought to Jungfernhof, a rundown country estate outside of Riga, where they were lacking everything.
Leonard Zimak was one of the 30 men who unloaded the train and afterwards began to build the kitchen. Together with his relatives he found a space to live close to the fireplace slightly protecting them from snow and cold. They never got their luggage back. Those of the deported who were able to work had to build up the Jungfernhof estate, but some also had to build the camp Salaspils. Leonard Zimak stayed at Jungfernhof and protected his parents Otto and Helene as much as he could. His mother was walked off on 10 Feb. 1942 and never returned; together with her, 600 elderly people disappeared.
Otto Zimak died of exhaustion on 22 Feb 1942 "peacefully" in his son’s arms, shortly prior to his 63rd birthday. Else Zimak who was sick herself and also had to take care of her sick son Denny, collected the children from Hamburg – there were about 18 of them – and took care of them as much as she could, most of the time on her own. At the risk of their lives, Leonard Zimak and others sneaked out of the camp at night to barter clothes and other things for food with the local population.
Bertha Wartelski, Else and Denny Zimak were tricked when they were walked into death. They shared this faith with chief rabbi Joseph Carlebach and his wife and daughters. They were told that they were going to be given lighter work at the in Dünamünde at the factory producing canned fish. In fact, they were shot at the forest of Bikernieki close to Riga at 26 Mar. 1942. "I said goodbye to them not knowing that it would be forever”, Leonard Zimak wrote to his sister in 1946.
Leonard himself had been at the Riga ghetto for six weeks one year after the Dünamündeaktion. After that he worked as a forced labourer at the car and truck workshop of the vehicle fleet of the German Military. This was part of the so-called "barracking" (Kasernierung), later under the adminsitration of the Kaiserwald Concentration camp.
In 1946 he wrote about his work: "Often, I was on frontline duty on a mobile workshop. Dear Wendelin (his brother-in-law), you may ask why I did not defect to the Russians. Well, my dear boy, we were tied with leg chains and could only walk in very small steps. There was one positive thing about this work; I got a good education in car’s electrics. We – or rather the SS – were sitting like in a mouse trap. They handed us over to the Wehrmacht before they embarked in the direction of Germany. On 19 Feb. 1945 we were also put on ships towards Germany and thus I ended up in Hamburg on 25 Feb. 1945 at Fuhlsbüttel prison.”
As an electrician he worked in the city and used the chance to search for relatives – without any success .When Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp was dissolved in mid-March 1945, the Gestapo interned inmates at the Arbeitserziehungslager Hassee close to Kiel. At the camp – which was liberated by the British Army in early May 1945 – Leonard Zink suffered from heavy abuses. He was brought to Sweden by the Swedish Red Cross after the liberation.
Bertha Wartelski’s daughter Hannchen – who was living in a "privileged mixed marriage” with Max Hellerbrand and her children – and her brother Benjamin Zimak, as well as his wife and their children Egon and Arno died in the night of the "firestorm” on 28 July 1943 at Heidenkampsweg. There is no information about Eva Hellerbrand’s whereabouts.
Frieda Richert – although she had not fully recovered from her operation - was evacuated to Kalmsee/Westphalia together with her husband who had been released from the Wehrmacht. She was denunciated of being Jewish and was interned at Stutthof Concentration Camp close to Danzig on 17 Apr. 1944. When the Concentration Camp was evacuated in March 1945 she was liberated by the Red Army while on the "Death March”. Overcoming various difficulties she made her way to Hamburg where she found her husband Wendelin. After a one-year search she received a message from her brother and brother-in-law Leonard in Sweden. Leonard re-married after the war and had a son, Fred Zimmak.
Translator: Paula A. Oppermann
Kindly supported by Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung.
© Hildegard Thevs mit Fred Zimmak
Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 6; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 021010; 332-8 Meldewesen K 5768; 332-5 Standesämter, 1213+2731-2733/1944; AB 1931, 1935 und 1938; Flensburger Straßenkartei; Schiller-Brief an Pust; Erinnerungen der Katz-Töchter; Schreiben der IHK; Philipsen: "Jüdische Opfer in Flensburg"; Standesamt Flensburg, Standesamtliche Liste (Sterbefälle 1936-40; St. Marien u. St. Petri); Gedenkbuch der Münchner Juden; Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück, Schreiben vom 23.2.2010; Meyer, Beate, "Schicksalsjahr 1938"; Weinmann, 2001; Enzyklopädie des Holocaust; Schreiben Leonhard Zimaks, 1946; persönliche Mitteilungen von Fred Zimmak, Dezember 2009; Goldberg, Juden, S. 75, 93.
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