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Bertha Alexander * 1893
Brahmsallee 11 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
1942 Chelmno ermordet
Bertha Alexander, born on 3 Nov. 1893 in Lauenburg/Elbe, deported on 25 Oct. 1941 to the Lodz Ghetto, murdered on 4 May 1942 in the Kulmhof (Chelmno) extermination camp
Bertha Alexander was born on 3 Nov. 1893 in Lauenburg. Her parents, Samuel and Rosalie Alexander, née Marcus, were not born in Lauenburg. They came from Burgdorf near Hannover and Walsrode. They were married on 16 June 1891 in Lüneburg, the residence of the Marcus family. In 1902, Samuel Alexander founded a department store for workwear in Lauenburg, at Elbstrasse 115, which was expanded into a "ready-made clothing store” in 1906.
The Alexander couple was blessed with an impressive number of children: Arthur (born in May 1892) was born before Bertha (born in Nov. 1893); after her, Erna (in Nov. 1894), Clara (in Dec. 1895, died in June 1896), Irmgard (in Nov. 1901), Kurt (in Dec. 1905), and Margot (in July 1913). No biographical traces could be found of Arthur and Erna; perhaps, like Clara, they died early. Bertha, the oldest daughter, probably stayed in her parents’ household after finishing school. We were unable to trace which path she actually took until her arrival in Hamburg on 1 Feb. 1932.
As a profession, she stated that she was a housemaid when she registered as a member of the Jewish Community in Hamburg. Her Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) file card with the Community provides information about the many jobs she took up since her arrival in Hamburg, usually in Jewish households. A frequent change was not uncommon among domestic helpers. After 1933, this intensified when the increasingly tight restrictions of daily life for Jews also reduced the possibilities for Jewish servants to find work. Bertha Alexander was affected as well. On 12 Feb. 1938, the Community led her with the status of "without work,” in 1940, she worked "without cash compensation,” i.e., in return for room and board.
The effects of the Nazi dictatorship in Hamburg become apparent when looking at the fates of Bertha Alexander’s employers:
Schlüterstrasse 22, E. Dr. Wolff: This refers to Dr. Alfred Wolff (born in 1880), who worked as a judge, bank counsel, and lawyer. He was banned from his profession on 30 Nov. 1939 and died on 30 Nov. 1941.
Brahmsallee 11, E. Sander: Behind these brief particulars is Emma Sander, née Königsberger (1876). Widowed since 1936, she emigrated to British Honduras at the age of 63.
Haynstrasse 29, Pat. b. [ground floor with] Freund: "Freund” – that was Hermann (born in 1872) and Helene (born in 1876) Freund, née Pincus. Hermann worked as a footwear salesman. Their private dwelling was used as a so-called "Jews’ dwelling” ("Judenwohnung”). The Freund couple was deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto on 15 July 1942 and did not return from there (see Stolpersteine for Helene and Hermann Freund, Hedwig Rosskamm, and Euphrosine Jaques).
Bertha Alexander’s last address before her deportation was Rothenbaumchaussee 209, with Feis. In the Feis household, she had taken on a task that went far beyond regular work as a domestic help. The household included the widower Leopold Feis (born in 1872) and his daughter Gertrud (born in 1913). Leopold Feis had been a single father since the death of his wife in 1926. A difficult task, for the daughter lived spiritually in her own world. Thus, it was all the more important to entrust the household to a person whom Gertrud accepted as belonging to the family. This seemed to be the case with Bertha, and accordingly, the Feises missed her very much. Gertrud Feis’ guardian, the lawyer Herbert Bichmann, had unsuccessfully interceded with the Gestapo in the very end to avert the deportation in the interest of his charge. Bertha had to comply with the deportation order and leave Hamburg on 25 Oct. 1941.
Leopold Feis and daughter Gertrud stayed behind in Hamburg.
Leopold Feis died in Feb. 1942 in the Israelite Hospital at Johnsallee 68, and at this point, nobody took care of Gertrud Feis anymore, who was taken to the Jewish retirement home at Schäferkampsallee 29. She could not stay there in the long run, and the central "sanatorium and nursing home of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany in Bendorf-Sayn” ("Heil- und Pflegeanstalt der Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Bendorf-Sayn”) (Mayen-Koblenz district), in which she was to find a residence, was about to be dissolved. Thus, Gertrud was deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto on 15 July 1942 and murdered three months later in the Treblinka extermination camp. A Stolperstein in front of the house at Rothenbaumchaussee 209 commemorates her.
Bertha Alexander had received the deportation order to the Lodz Ghetto. There was only a short time left to her. With eleven other people, she was crammed into a room at Hausierergasse 6 under inhumane conditions. She probably could not find any work in one of the ghetto’s workshops. On 4 May 1942, she received the "resettlement order” ("Aussiedlungsbefehl”). With this euphemistic term, the Gestapo disguised the transport to the Chelmno/Kulmhof extermination camp, about 60 kilometers (approx. 37 miles) from Lodz. Bertha Alexander’s transport was the first of a deportation operation, lasting until 16 May 1942, that affected about 10,000 Reich-German Jews who had been deported from the "Reich” to Lodz from Oct. to Nov. 1941 and who were not considered "fit for work” (any longer). Probably the day of Bertha Alexander’s death was also the day of departure.
Bertha’s siblings survived the Holocaust by emigration:
Irmgard Alexander was able to emigrate to Britain in the spring of 1939, where she worked as a secretary in London.
Kurt Alexander lived in Montreal, Canada, where he married Lea Wieseberg in Apr. 1931. The couple later settled in Detroit, USA. Kurt Alexander died on 25 Oct. 1952.
Margot Alexander was able to emigrate to Britain in June 1939 with the support of the "Relief Organization of Jews in Germany” ("Hilfsverein der Juden in Deutschland”). She married in 1948 and lived with her husband Hans Alex Maimon in Cape Town/South Africa.
Samuel and Rosalie Alexander, Bertha’s parents, were initially able to continue running the clothing business until 1937.
Of course, Nazi ideology had also established itself in the city on the Elbe. A passage from a speech given by the head of the district school, Principal Schwarz, at a meeting of the Nazi party in June 1936 on the topic "Racial Thoughts in the National Socialist World View” read, "Northern Germany is to be regarded as the primal seat of the Germanic people.” Even after the forced closure of the business, the Alexander couple initially remained in Lauenburg and lived at Gartenstrasse 3, but the reprisals against Jews in 1939 severely affected the Alexander couple, by then aged 73 and 71. They no longer felt safe in their apartment in Lauenburg. Thus, it was only natural to move to Hamburg, close to their daughter Bertha, and to spend a retirement with as little disturbance as possible in the supposedly safer city. They had to leave their household behind and, respectively "sell it off cheap” below its actual value. Possibly, many a Lauenburg family embellished its apartment with furnishings from their possessions.
In Hamburg, the couple found temporary accommodation in the "Altenheim des Jüdischen Religionsverbandes” ("Retirement home of the Jewish Religious Organization”) at Jungfrauenthal 37, and a move to Schäferkampsallee 25 in the spring of 1942, by then used as a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”), became their last – certainly not freely chosen – address. The mother could only guess the fate of her eldest daughter Bertha. In a letter to her daughters Irmgard and Margot on 5 May 1942, she reported, "We are healthy, but worried about Bertha. Since October without any news. We now live at 25 Schäferkampsallee. Love, the parents.”
Samuel Alexander died in June 1942, his widow Rosalie was deported four weeks later, on 15 July 1942 to the Theresienstadt Ghetto and murdered two months later in the Treblinka extermination camp.
The Stolperstein for Bertha Alexander lies, in memory of her and on behalf of her numerous Hamburg stations, at Brahmsallee 11.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: September 2019
© Christina Igla
Quellen: 1; 5; 7; 9; StaH 131-1 II Senatskanzlei II Korrespondenz mit ehemaligen jüdischen Hamburger Bürgern -3796 Irmgard Alexander; 232-4 480 Vormundschaftsakte Gertud Feis, Rothenbaumchaussee 209; 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung -1030 (Samuel Alexander), -15122; Morisse, Ausgrenzung, Bd.1 Rechtsanwälte, S. 179; Walk, Sonderrecht; Gottwald/Schulle, "Judendeportationen", S. 67; Bohlmann, Lauenburg/Elbe, aus: http://www.beirat-fuer-geschichte.de/fileadmin/pdf/ band_04/Demokratische_Geschichte_Band_04_Essay12.pdf (download vom 4.10.2013); Dokumente von Archiwum Panstwowe Lodz; Euphrosine Jaques, Haynstraße 29 – Zugriff am 27.3.2015; Auskünfte v. Dr. Anke Mührenberg, Archivgemeinschaft Schwarzenbek v. 8.10.2013, Auskünfte v. Heike Schwarz, Stadt Lauenburg/Elbe und Amt Lütau, Standesamt v. 24.8.2012; Auskünfte v. Heimatbund und Geschichtsverein Lauenburg/Elbe, Horst Eggert v. 27.3.2015.
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