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Irma Chassel (née Weiss) * 1878

Isestraße 69 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)

1941 Lodz
ermordet am 30.6.1943

further stumbling stones in Isestraße 69:
Liesel Abrahamsohn, Johanna Adelheim, Henry Blum, Rosalie Blum, Louis Böhm, Gertrud Böhm, Bertha Brach, Hillel Chassel, Michael Frankenthal, Erna Gottlieb, Ella Hattendorf, Frieda Holländer, Gertrud Holländer, Henriette Leuschner, Elfriede Löpert, Helene Löpert, Walter Löpert, Ella Marcus, Ernst Maren, Josephine Rosenbaum, Günther Satz, Selma Satz, Else Schattschneider, Gottfried Wolff, Lydia Wolff

Irma Chassel, born 4 Jan. 1878 in Hamburg, deported 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz, died 30 June 1943
Hillel (Henry) Chassel, born 28 Jan. 1876 in Brody, Galicia, deported 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz, died 14 July 1943

Henry Chassel was born in 1876 in Galicia, and came to Hamburg in 1891 when he finished his schooling. His mother had died in 1880 in Brody and his father had moved to Hamburg in 1890. Hillel, who later called himself Henry, first worked for a moving company, and then, beginning in 1906, he worked for the Relief Association of Jews in Germany (Hilfsverein der Juden in Deutschland). His last position there was as general manager. He was a member of the board of the Association from 1936 until 1941.

Henry Chassel married Irma Weiss, the daughter of the rabbi Heinrich Weiss and the author Karoline Weiss. The couple had four children between 1901 and 1911. One daughter, Harriet, died at the age of 21 in 1928. The other children survived the Shoah. Alice, the eldest daughter, became a pediatrician. She, her husband and two children emigrated to the US in April 1939. The younger sister Ruth and brother Heinz moved to Palestine, and both started families there.

Henry Chassel was finally granted German citizenship in 1926, after he had unsuccessfully attempted to do so 20 years earlier. The process took an entire year, and was not without difficulty. The reasons that Henry Chassel gave for requesting citizenship were that he had lived in the country since 1891, and that he intended to stay. His three younger children, who had not yet reached their majority, were included in his application for citizenship. Alice, who was already an adult, had to apply separately. Their applications were processed together with that of Jakob Ambor (see Isestraße 61).

On his application form, Henry Chassel gave his citizenship as Austrian, his nationality as Jewish. Although the Hamburg police authority submitted an excellent certificate of conduct, and asserted that "faithful fulfillment of civil duties can be expected,” the Senate Commission for Imperial and Foreign Affairs in Lübeck had objections. Since, according to Section 9 of the Imperial and National Citizenship Law, citizenship could only be granted if no federal state raised objections, it can be assumed that Hamburg had consulted with Lübeck before it sent the application to the next level of jurisdiction.

The statement from Lübeck is fundamentally anti-Semitic – proof that seeds of the persecution that followed in later years had already been sown. The statement concerned Jakob Ambor, and "the same should apply to Hillel Chassel”: he was "of Jewish heritage and first came to the country at an age where upbringing and education had long been concluded and at which, in general, adaptation to a foreign culture is hampered by the individuality of the applicant … Although he has resided in the country for 29 years, it does not conclusively follow that a sufficient adaptation to the German nature has been reached, assuming this is even possible considering his heritage…”

The objections to Alice Chassel’s citizenship applied "to a lesser extent,” but "misgivings must be raised, in order to protect against a gradual penetration of the German culture by foreign elements, which are detrimental to the upholding of the German nature.”

The application process reached the Imperial Ministry of Internal Affairs in Berlin, and was to have been submitted to the Reichsrat (one of the two legislative bodies during the Weimar Republic, similar to an upper house of parliament) – a procedure required by law when a member of the chamber (Lübeck, in this case) raised objections. The officials in Berlin reached a different conclusion, however. The clerk processing the application wrote: "According to the documents received from the Hamburg Senate, Hillel Chassel has lived permanently in Hamburg since June 1891. He has been the secretary of the Relief Association for German Jews since 1906. His financial situation is secure. It can be concluded, since he has worked successfully for more than 20 years in the area of immigrant welfare, that he has the respect and trust of the Hamburg citizens of Jewish faith. … The Reichsrat has thus far declared the granting of citizenship for permissible in many similar cases. For this reason, Hillel Chassel’s naturalization will, in all probability, also be approved. With regard to his daughter Alice Chassel, no differing decision can be expected. She was born in Hamburg, has lived in Germany with good conduct since her birth and attended German schools.”

The Hamburg Senate, which had apparently accepted Lübeck’s reasoning, acquiesced: "In the case of the naturalization of the secretary Hillel Chassel and his daughter Alice, it is hereby declared that, after having reviewed the situation, the Senate withdraws its objections. The Imperial Minister of Inner Affairs has likewise been informed.”

The naturalization was approved upon payment of a fee of 200 Reichsmarks on 6 May 1926.

When, after the Nazis came to power in 1933, the question arose as to whether Henry Chassel’s citizenship should be revoked because he was an "Eastern Jew,” the Police Commissioner’s recommendation was that he should retain his citizenship, since nothing unfavorable was known about him, and he had "altruistically provided valuable services.” The Senator in charge of the case agreed with this recommendation.

Henry Chassel was very active in the community and was involved in many associations and organizations. He was the chairman of the Association of Austrians and Hungarians, and for his work as the head of the Austro-Hungarian War Relief in Hamburg during the First World War he was named a Knight of the Order of Franz Joseph and was decorated by the Austrian Red Cross.

His membership in the Henry Jones B’nai B’rith Lodge was of great importance for the Hamburg Jewish Community, especially for the New Dammtor Synagogue’s religious association.

He was the chairman of the Dammtor Synagogue from 1928 until it was dissolved in 1939. Rabbi Holzer congratulated him in the name of the congregation on his 60th birthday in 1936, and Jacob Valk, vice-chairman of the congegration, said: "What you as chairman of the New Dammtor Synagogue mean to the congregation cannot be described in only a few words. Thanks to your proficiency, your energy, and your prudence, you have steered our synagogue through all perils of these difficult times and overcome all hurdles these times have put in our way.”

Henry Chassel was still employed with the Jewish Relief Organization, specifically at the Israelitic Support Association for the Homeless. The Association was founded in 1884 to aid eastern European Jews who were travelling to a new home abroad via Hamburg. Many were destitute and had to be supplied with necessities before their departure.

Through his work with the Hamburg War Relief, Henry Chassel was familiar with issues of emigration, passports, and visas. He accompanied foreigners, who generally didn’t understand German, to the authorities, especially to the aliens’ police, and acted as their advocate in all respects. On the occasion of his 25th anniversary in office in 1929, Hamburg’s chief rabbi, Joseph Carlebach, said that the impression Henry Chassel made on him when he saw the care with which he treated the emigrants in the emigration centers and how he organized lessons for their children was unforgettable. "Herr Chassel’s work is especially difficult, since he has to deal almost exclusively with people who have been dogged by misfortune.”

Seven years later, Henry Chassel was doing the same work for his own countrymen. "When you began your life’s work, you believed, as did we all, that your task was to aid fellow members of your faith from the East in reaching a new home. Neither you nor any of us believed that the day would come when you would have to stand at the side of your own fellows here in Germany in their hour of need. Those whom you could help with material goods, you helped with an open hand. … Those who were near to desperation and saw no way out, you often helped find their way back to Judaism and to a new Jewish life somewhere in the world,” said a speaker at the Henry Jones Lodge on the occasion of Henry Chassel’s 60th birthday. He closed his speech with the wish: "May you have the great fortune of seeing your dear wife, your children, and your grandchildren be happy, may you experience the day that peace descends upon you, upon us, upon all of Israel.”

Henry Chassel was so dedicated to his work in Hamburg, especially his social work, that he did not at first consider emigrating himself. He visited his children in Palestine in 1934 and 1935, returning to Hamburg both times. The good wishes from the Henry Jones Lodge were not to be fulfilled.

Henry Chassel and his wife Irma were deported to Lodz on 25 October 1941. According to his own statement, the Gestapo assigned him to be the leader of the transport. In Lodz he was reunited with his sister Ester. The three of them lived together at Hohensteiner Straße 33.

In May 1942, Henry Chassel submitted a request for the "retraction of the relocation order Nr. 111-318-320” for himself, his wife and his sister. This order was for their deportation from the Lodz Ghetto to Chelmno, although none of them knew the actual destination (see biography of Alfriede Wagener, Isestraße 11).

The request was denied for Ester Chassel, but Irma and Hillel Chassel were spared, since medal-holders from the First World War were excepted. The couple lived for another year in the ghetto. Both died in the summer of 1943. The cause of death given for Henry Chassel was "heart failure;” for his wife "heart attack.” Henry Chassel was buried in the ghetto cemetery, and it is likely that his wife was as well.

After the war, their daughter Alice searched for her parents with an advertisement in the New York magazine Aufbau.

Translator(s): Amy Lee

Translation kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg

© Christa Fladhammer

Quellen: 1; StaH, 331-7 Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht, BVI 1924 Nr. 144 und Nr. 111; AfW 240176; 141101; 240109; 180711; USHMM, RG 15.083, M 301/437-438; Jüd. Gemeindeblatt vom 24.04.1929; Hamburger Fremdenblatt (HF) 16.01.1936; HF 30.01.1936;, Zugriff: 30.3.2009; mündliche Auskunft der Enkeltochter in Israel; Katja Wüstenbecker, Von Hamburg nach Amerika, Hilfsorganisationen für jüdische Auswanderer 1880–1910 in: Zeitschrift des Vereins für Hamburgische Geschichte, Band 91, 2005, S. 77ff; Linde Apel (Hg.), In den Tod geschickt, Berlin 2009.
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