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Edith Cahn * 1922

Abteistraße 35 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)

1941 Riga
ermordet im KZ Stutthof

further stumbling stones in Abteistraße 35:
Minna Aron, Hermann Glass

Edith Cahn, born on 31 Dec. 1922 in Ottweiler (Territory of the Saar Basin), deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga-Jungfernhof, further deported in Oct. 1944 to the Stutthof concentration camp

Abteistrasse 35 (Harvestehude)

Edith Jeanette Cahn was the daughter of Alfred Cahn (born on 17 Dec. 1881 in Oberhausen-Sterkrade) and Gertrude Cahn, née Grünebaum (born on 15 Nov. 1888 in Delkenheim, today Wiesbaden), who had married in May 1921 in Ottweiler at the bride’s place of residence. Their first child Edith was born on 31 Dec. 1922, in Ottweiler, a Prussian district town with 7,000 residents, located about 20 kilometers (approx. 13 miles) northeast of Saarbrücken. Her sister Marianne (born on 9 Nov. 1924) was born there two years after her.

Her paternal grandparents, Leopold Cahn (born on 10 Jan. 1853 in Bottrop) and Jeanette Cahn, née Blumenthal (born on 26 Mar. 1847 in Bad Berleburg), resided in Bochum. Jeanette Cahn died there in 1894 and was she buried in the Jewish Cemetery. From her maternal grandparents, the "tradesman” Jakob Grünebaum (1832–1899 in Delkenheim) and Rebecka Grünebaum, née Weiler (1849–1929 in Ottweiler), came her grandmother from Ottweiler (parents: Israel Weiler and Sara, née Hanau). Her father Alfred Cahn, a participant in the First World War, was the owner of "Weilers Möbelhaus,” a furniture business in Ottweiler, since Mar. 1920, and from 1926 onward, he served as deputy member of the Synagogue Association there. He was listed in the 1931 directory as a merchant based at Wilhelmstrasse 10. Gertrude Cahn had learned the profession of milliner (Putzmacherin) in the company of Bert Weiler in Ottweiler (at Wilhelmstrasse 10). A sister of her grandmother, Bertha Weiler (1839–1908), had also worked as a milliner in Ottweiler.

Her home region, the Territory of the Saar Basin, was subject to the League of Nations under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. As provided for in the treaty, a referendum was held on 13 Jan. 1935 to decide whether the present state of affairs should remain in place, or whether the territory ought to belong to France or Germany. The residents voted in favor of the German Reich by a margin of about 90 percent. Subsequently, the Nazi ideology determined daily life there as well.

Wilhelmstrasse in Ottweiler was renamed Adolf-Hitler-Strasse (today Wilhelm-Heinrich-Strasse) on 1 Mar. 1935 (the day the Saar region was reunited with Germany). The turnover of "Weilers Möbelhaus” declined sharply, as did sales of almost all Jewish stores in Nazi Germany. State economic and financial institutions gradually carried out the economic existential destruction of German Jews; the police and judicial apparatus intimidated, criminalized, and persecuted them. Thus, on 20 Aug. 1936, Alfred Cahn was ordered to the mayor’s office for questioning and was beaten without reason by a Gestapo official.

Following the November Pogrom in 1938 ("Reichskristallnacht”) organized by the Nazi regime, almost 30,000 Jewish men were deported to concentration camps, among them Alfred Cahn. Gestapo officials, including the Ottweiler police inspector August Richter (born on 20 Sept. 1885 in Möllbergen, Nazi party [NSDAP] member since 1 June 1936), forcibly entered the Cahn family home on 15 Nov. 1938, mistreated Alfred Cahn and dragged him to the Ottweiler Paulseck municipal prison, from where he was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp and held until 19 Dec. 1938.

According to the residents’ registration cards of the city of Ottweiler, Edith Cahn stayed in the Bavarian town of Rodalben in the Palatinate with a population of 5,000 from 18 Apr. 1937, to 28 Nov. 1938, returned briefly to Ottweiler, and then was again in Rodalben, about 40 kilometers (approx. 25 miles) southeast of Ottweiler, until 3 Apr. 1939. Whether she lived there with relatives/acquaintances and what she did there, we do not know. In the register of residents, by contrast, her stay in Rodalben was recorded only for the period from 25 Jan. 1939 to 13 Apr. 1939.

The state-ordered sale of Jewish commercial enterprises and Jewish real estate also robbed the Cahn family of their income and their career and life prospects in Ottweiler. With a notarized purchase contract for 10,000 RM (reichsmark), their business was "Aryanized” in June 1939 and the house, including a five-room apartment, was sold to the milliner Helene Kramer at well below market value. Presumably, the account of Alfred and Gertrude Cahn, to which the proceeds of the sale were transferred, had already been blocked by the revenue office. This was a common practice in the Nazi state aimed at subsequently appropriating the assets of Jews by means of special taxes and newly enacted levies.

Three of Edith Cahn’s uncles managed to flee to France and hide there: Max Cahn (born on 22 Sept. 1885 in Bochum), a merchant who in late Aug. 1933 found refuge for ten days at the Cahns in Ottweiler with his wife Rosa and sons Heinz and Erich en route from Dortmund, survived in Paris; Richard Grünebaum (born on 16 July 1895 in Delkenheim), in Toulouse (where he died in 1979); and master upholsterer Siegmund Grünebaum (born on 13 Sept. 1885 in Delkenheim) in Strasbourg-Neudorf.

Since 19 Sept. 1940, Edith Cahn was on file as an independent member of the "Reich Association of Jews in Germany, Branch Office Northwest Germany” ("Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland, Bezirksstelle Nordwestdeutschland”) in Hamburg, as whose district offices the Jewish communities, which had not yet been dissolved by then, worked. On her Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) file card, "student of the tailoring school” was noted in 1940 and "vocational school for dressmakers” in 1941. However, the Jewish religious tax for her was settled through the "Ludwigshafen Branch Office,” to which her parents belonged as members of the Community.

The Hamburg Jewish Community had housed training courses in the building at Heimhuderstrasse 70 (Rotherbaum), which it had received as an endowment in 1935. The third floor accommodated classrooms for the Jewish vocational school for dressmakers. This vocational training, which lasted two years, was intended as a basis for emigration. Edith Cahn’s training would have lasted until 1942. The management of the technical school was first held by Margarethe Neumann and later by Nelly Toczek, née Nathan (born on 15 Jan. 1909 in Oels).

As early as 25 Oct. 1941, Jewish women were deported from there, including the teacher Alfriede Wagener (born on 3 May 1880 in Hamburg). On 18 Nov. 1941, the housekeeper Irmgard Blatt, née Posselburg (born 29 Dec. 1907 in Hamburg), was deported
from there to Minsk. In spring 1942, the Nazi regime declared the building a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”), where only Jews were allowed to live. On 11 July 1942, Dina Reichmann, née Scheideberg (born on 21 Apr. 1880 in Brakel/Höxter) was deported from there to the Auschwitz extermination camp.

Starting in May 1940, Edith and Marianne Cahn’s Hamburg residential address was Klosterallee 65 on the third floor (Harvestehude) with Paul Bernhard (born on 16 Jan. 1895 in Tessin/Mecklenburg), his wife Lisbeth Bernhard, née Kramer (born on 26 Nov. 1901 in Brieg/Silesia, today Brzeg in Poland), and their daughter Lotte (born on 29 Apr. 1929 in Rostock). The Bernhard family had moved to the city from Tessin in June 1937, joined the Hamburg Jewish Community, and rented this apartment. The note indicating "no wage earner” for the year 1938 refers to the unemployment of Paul Bernhard, whose family at this time had to rent out rooms in their three-and-a-half-room apartment. In addition to the Cahn sisters, Frieda Frank (born on 12 Apr. 1922 in Cloppenburg) of the same age, who had moved in from Helene Rabi’s apartment at Brahmsallee 16, also resided with them starting in Feb. 1940. In July 1941, Richard Bernhard (born on 23 July 1867 in Tessin/Mecklenburg) visited for the last time his son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter for 14 days and then traveled back to Berlin-Pankow, where he lived at Kavalierstrasse 22; he was deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto on 7 Sept. 1942. Immediately after he moved out in Hamburg, Gertrud Elise Leseberg, née Ascher (born on 2 Jan. 1884, in Hamburg), followed as another subtenant. She was deported to the Litzmannstadt (Lodz) Ghetto on 25 Oct. 1941, which was recorded in the "house registration” card file (Hausmeldekartei) as "evacuation.” The Bernhardt family was deported to the Minsk Ghetto on 8 Nov. 1941. Stolpersteine in front of the house at Klosterallee 65 commemorate the family members.

Edith Cahn and her sister Marianne Cahn were assigned new accommodations after their landlords had been deported. In Hamburg, too, the housing office and Gestapo pursued the goal of "de-Jewification” of residential space. With reference to "Aryan” air raid victims, the Jewish Community was obliged to evacuate apartments and relocate residents. At this time, the sisters moved in with Hermann Glass (born in 1863) at Abteistrasse 35.

Four weeks later, they received an "evacuation order,” as the deportation order was euphemistically called. On 6 Dec. 1941, they were deported to the Jungfernhof subcamp (Jumpravmuiža) of the Riga Ghetto in occupied Latvia. The run-down Jungfernhof farming estate consisted of a manor house, several smaller buildings, three very large wooden barns, and livestock sheds. Many camp inmates froze to death in the unheated quarters or died of hunger and typhus, while sick people were murdered outside the estate. On 26 Mar. 1942, about 1,800 camp inmates who could not perform forced labor because of their age or illness were shot in the surrounding woods on the orders of the camp leader, SS-Unterscharführer [an SS rank equivalent to staff sergeant] Rudolf Seck (cover designation "Aktion Dünamünde” – "Operation Dünamünde”).

Both sisters survived this initial period and ended up in the Riga Ghetto. After its evacuation in the summer/autumn of 1943, they were transferred to the newly built Kaiserwald concentration camp in the suburb with villas by the same name in Riga. The prisoners performed the extremely hard labor for various companies and Wehrmacht facilities in the surrounding area; we do not know where Edith and Marianne Cahn were deployed. From there, the Riga Security Police transferred them as "political protective custody prisoners” ("politische Schutzhäftlinge”) to the Stutthof concentration camp about 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) east of Danzig (today Gdansk in Poland). From early Aug. to early Oct. 1944, the Kaiserwald concentration camp was cleared using, among others, military transport ships and on 13 Oct. 1944, the Red Army already marched into Riga.

According to the prisoner personal information card, Edith Cahn was committed to Stutthof on 1 Oct. 1944 (prisoner no. 94977) and Marianne Cahn (prisoner no. 97945) on 4 Oct. 1944. Both were presumably murdered shortly after their committal. Various methods of killing were used in Stutthof: Gas chamber, shots in the neck, and gasoline/phenol injections directly into the heart. In addition, many prisoners starved to death or died of disease in the overcrowded camp.

A clue that both sisters were abducted to a soldiers’ brothel can be found, among other places, in the restitution file of their mother, Gertrude Cahn. However, a file card, created in 1953 by the French Liaison Mission (now archived at the USHMM in Washington), noted this circumstance as well. A school friend of the same age from Ottweiler had expressed this view, which Uncle Richard Grünebaum then apparently referred to in his statement to the Restitution Office in 1959. Later publications in turn referred to this restitution file. Holocaust researcher Peter Klein, who has studied the Riga Ghetto in depth, was not aware in 2017 of "any case in which a deportee was forced to work in a soldiers’ brothel. There is no contemporary material on this subject in Riga. Nor are there any indications of this in the deportees’ statements in postwar German trials.” Conceivably, therefore, it was a rumor that found its way into a restitution file, which in turn became a source for researchers and, in the absence of documents to the contrary or confirming it, was given the status of a fact.

Her parents Alfred and Gertrude Cahn were deported on 22 Oct. 1940, from Ottweiler (Tenschstrasse 25) to the French Gurs internment camp (in Vichy-France), together with their landlord Leo Salomon (born on 10 Nov. 1869 in Felsberg/Saarlouis), a tradesman, and his wife Bertha Salomon, née Haas (born in 1873). In the camp, Richard Grünebaum (born on 16 July 1895 in Delkenheim) managed to see his sister Gertrude Cahn, née Grünebaum, for the last time in 1941.

From Gurs, the Cahn couple was deported to the Rivesaltes internment camp on 3 July 1942, then on 11 Aug. 1942 further to the Drancy camp near Paris, and on 14 Aug. 1942 to the Auschwitz extermination camp, where they were murdered. Immediately after their deportation in Oct. 1940, the Nazi state confiscated their apartment furnishings and the remainders of their furniture and shoe business, auctioning them off in Jan. 1941 to the benefit of the "Saarpfälzische Vermögensverwaltungs-Gesellschaft,” an asset management company of the Saarpfalz District.

In Ottweiler, Stolpersteine were laid for Alfred, Gertrud, Edith, and Marianne Cahn at Wilhelm-Heinrich-Strasse 12 in Feb. 2014.

In Hamburg, a Stolperstein in front of the house at Abteistrasse 35 has been commemorating Edith Cahn since Apr. 2003.

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

Stand: December 2020
© Björn Eggert

Quellen: 1; 4; 5; Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StaH) 332-8 (Meldewesen), Hauskartei 2445 (Klosterallee 65); StaH 351-11 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung), 17563 (Richard Grünebaum für Edith Cahn); StaH 522-1 (Jüdische Gemeinden), 992b (Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburg), Edith Cahn, Paul Bernhard, Irmgard Blatt, Dina Reichmann; Bundesarchiv Berlin, NSDAP-Mitgliederkartei (Polizeikommissar August Richter, geb. 19.9.1885 in Möllbergen, Mitgliedsnummer 6.920.582); KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau, Zugangsbuch (Alfred Kahn, Vertreter aus Ottweiler, Häftlingsnr. 26822); Stadtarchiv Neunkirchen, Einwohnerbuch (Adressbuch) der Städte Neunkirchen und Ottweiler sowie der Gemeinde Wiebelskirchen, 1927, 1931, 1939/40 (Ottweiler, Alfred Cahn); Verbandsgemeinde Rodalben, Meldekartei Rodalben (Edith Cahn); Stadtarchiv Wiesbaden, Standesamtsregister Delkenheim 1874–1900 (Grünebaum); Martin Gilbert, Endlösung. Die Vertreibung und Vernichtung der Juden. Ein Atlas, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1982, S. 48 (Gurs), 208/209 (Evakuierung Stutthof 25.9.1944); Hans-Joachim Hoffmann, Seid vorsichtig mit der Obrigkeit. Beitrag zur Erinnerungskultur und Lokalgeschichte Ottweilers, 2015, S. 260–279 (Stolpersteine für Familie Cahn); Markus Krämer, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Ottweiler Juden, Ottweiler 1989 (Nachdruck 2007), Manuskript, ca. 230 Seiten; Ina Lorenz (Hrsg.), Zerstörte Geschichte, Vierhundert Jahre jüdisches Leben in Hamburg, Hamburg 2005, S. 201 (Wohnungen); Beate Meyer (Hrsg.), Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden 1933–1945, Hamburg 2006, S. 64–67 (Deportationsziel Riga); Meyers Lexikon, Band 9, Leipzig 1928, S. 203/204 (Ottweiler); Meyers Lexikon, Band 10, Leipzig 1929, S. 424 (Rodalben); Wilhelm Mosel, Wegweiser zu ehemaligen jüdischen Stätten in Hamburg, Heft 3, Hamburg 1989, S. 23–25 (Heimhuderstr. 70); Bernhard Press, Judenmord in Lettland 1941–1945, Berlin 1988, S. 114–115 (Riga-Jungfernhof), S. 117–122, 127 (KZ Kaiserwald), S. 128/129 (Jüdinnen für die SS-Männer); (Volkszählung Mai 1939) Edith Cahn, Marianne Cahn, Gertrude Cahn geb. Grünebaum, Paul Bernhard, Lisbeth Bernhard, Lotte Bernhard, Richard Bernhard, Dina Reichmann geb. Scheideberg, Johanna Scheideberg, Leo Salomon; (Familie Cahn); (Helene Rabi, Nelly Torczek, Alfriede Wagener); Information von Hans-Joachim Hoffmann (Ottweiler), Prof. Dr. Peter Klein (Berlin), Dr. Beate Meyer (Hamburg).
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