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Henriette Arndt * 1892
Alter Teichweg 200 Schule (Hamburg-Nord, Dulsberg)
Henriette Arndt, born 13 May 1892 in Regenwalde, Pomerania, deported 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz
"She was a real mensch,” a former pupil remembers about Henriette Arndt, who was his teacher from 1936 to 1938. She loved children, but was very strict: "She could get very angry.” What sounds like a perfectly normal memory of a long-ago teacher gives a glimpse of the emotional strain under which Henriette Arndt must have stood during the years of persecution after 1933. Former students from the years before 1933 remember her only as a caring and affectionate teacher, who was also there for her students outside of school.
Henriette Arndt was born on 13 May 1892 in Regenwalde in Pomerania (modern-day Resko). She had two sisters who died in childhood. Her father, Georg Arndt, was a doctor. Her mother Rosa (née Lichtenstein) died in 1896. Henriette had an older sister, Helene, and two brothers. Leopold Felix Ernst, the elder brother, later became a doctor, like his father, and had a practice in Regenwalde. The younger brother, Georg, studied law and opened an attorney’s office. After the death of Henriette’s mother, her father married Luise Rudolphsohn, whom Henriette later called her mother. Her father died in 1932, and Luise died in early 1941. Henriette’s brothers were also persecuted during the Nazi regime, but survived. Georg emigrated to Palestine, became an Israeli citizen and later lived in Berlin. After the war Leopold was able to flee from the Soviet sector to Lübeck.
For a short time Henriette Arendt bore the name Kirchoff. She had married the merchant Friedrich Kirchhoff, probably in 1931, but the marriage was annulled shortly thereafter. She retook her maiden name.
Henriette Arndt began working as a teacher in 1913. Between 1914 and 1933 she was employed by the Hamburg School Authority and taught at various schools in the city. Her last position was at the girls’ school at Graudenzer Weg 34. As described above, she was said to have been close to her pupils. She even took at least one of them with her on a holiday trip to Regenwalde. When the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” was passed on 7 April 1933, Henriette Arndt lost her position as a civil servant. She continued to receive compensation payments until October 1933. From then until her deportation to Lodz she received a monthly pension of half of her previous income.
After her dismissal from the Hamburg School Authority Henriette Arndt applied repeatedly for a position at a Jewish school in Hamburg, but without success. Despite her own financial worries, she supported her brother Georg (until 1939) and her mother Luise. She gradually lost her entire fortune, some of which she had inherited from her father, in part through the compulsory payment of the Jewish Property Levy (Judenvermögensabgabe). On 30 January 1940 legislation was passed restricting Jews’ access to their assets. Without special permission, Henriette Arndt was only allowed to withdraw up to 300 RM per month from her account. She repeatedly requested permission for extra funds to purchase birthday presents for family members, for example, or to finance a trip to Regenwalde.
Henriette Arndt evidently first identified with her Jewish heritage after 1933, even though her maternal family from Breslau were practicing Jews. Unlike her brothers, though, she had not officially converted to Christianity. From 28 April 1933 until the day of her deportation to the ghetto in Lodz she was a member of the German-Israelitic Community in Hamburg.
From 1936 to 1938 Henriette Arndt led the Blankeneser Schulzirkel, a private group dedicated to teaching Jewish children who had been prohibited from attending "Aryan” schools. This group was an offshoot of the Jewish school on Palmaille in Altona, and was founded by Rahel Liebeschütz-Plaut and her husband Hans Liebeschütz. They made rooms available in Rahel’s mother Adele Plaut’s home, the "Villa Plaut.” Among other subjects, Henriette Arndt instructed the pupils in Hebrew, a language which she learned herself especially to teach it there. After Rahel Liebschütz emigrated to England, she tried to arrange for Henriette to join her, but without success.
In 1939 and 1940 Henriette Arndt taught at the Lübeck Israelitic Community’s Jewish elementary school. The income from this job and her pension was still not enough for her to support herself, especially since the travel costs to and from Lübeck were quite expensive. Her situation deteriorated when the school in Lübeck was closed and she was unable to find work in Hamburg, despite her good references. She taught at the "Elementary and High School for Jews” from 1 October 1940 until her deportation on 25 October 1941. She and her colleagues were fired in June 1941, but they continued to teach for free. Like her colleagues, she was forced to wear the yellow star from 19 September 1941 onwards.
On the orders of the Hamburg Gestapo office, Henriette Arndt was deported to the ghetto in Lodz with the first Hamburg transport on 25 October 1941. Shortly before, she had received an "order of evacuation.” All of her property and assets were confiscated, and she was ordered to report to the "collection point,” the former Masonic Provincial Lodge at Moorweidenstraße 36. From there she and 1033 others were taken to the Hanoverian Train Station (Hannoversche Bahnhof) in the port district, from where the transports departed. Henriette Arndt’s address in the Lodz ghetto was Rauchgasse 25, Apartment 17. She and 12 others lived together in one room with a kitchen.
A colleague who taught with her at the schools at Lutterothstraße 36 and Graudenzer Weg 34, and who had lived with her for a time, remembers that in early May 1942, mail addressed to Henriette had come back with the stamp "address unknown.” This is the last known trace of Henriette Arndt. She was listed as missing until 28 March 1953, when the Hamburg district court, at the request of her brother Leopold, declared her dead and entered her date of death as 31 December 1942. Today we know that she was murdered by gassing on 3 June 1942 in the Chelmno extermination camp.
In December 1941, Henriette Arndt’s "furnishings, confiscated for the benefit of the German Reich” were "voluntarily” publicly auctioned. The inventory listed a total of 133 individual objects including: "2 large colorful vases”, "1 samovar”, "1 3-piece desk set,” "1 Nilfisk brand vacuum cleaner, 220V with accessories,” "2 oil paintings,” "3 cupboards,” "1 sofa with 4 cushions, 2 armchairs,” and "1 ladies’ bicycle.” Also listed were flatware, dishes, glasses, lamps, sheet music, books and notebooks, tables, a bed and bed linens, carpets, etc. These objects offer a glimpse into Henriette Arndt’s life.
In addition to the Stolperstein at Semperstraße 67, the last building in which she lived, a plaque on the "Villa Plaut” memorializes Henriette Arndt’s life and work. From 1936 to 1938 she taught children of Jewish families from the Hamburg districts along the Elbe.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Alexander Reinfeldt
Quellen: AfW 130592; Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg/Werkstatt der Erinnerung, WdE/ FZH 575 W.L.; StaHH 214-1, 112; StaHH 314-15, R 1940/63; http://data.jewishgen.org/wconnect/wc.dll? jg~jgsearch~model2~[lodzghetto]lodzghetto; Frank Bajohr, Von der Ausgrenzung zum Massenmord, Die Verfolgung der Hamburger Juden 1933–1945, in: Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg (Hrsg.), Hamburg im ‚Dritten Reich’, Göttingen 2005, S. 471–518; Beate Meyer (Hrsg.), Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden 1933–1945, Geschichte. Zeugnis. Erinnerung, Hamburg 2006; Christiane Pritzlaff, Henriette Arndt, eine jüdische Lehrerin in Hamburg, in: Miriam Gillis-Carlebach/Wolfgang Grünberg (Hrsg.), "Den Himmel zu pflanzen und die Erde zu gründen" (Jesaja 51,16), Die Joseph-Carlebach-Konferenzen. Jüdisches Leben. Erziehung und Wissenschaft, Hamburg 1995 (Publications of the Joseph-Carlebach-Institute), S. 225–237.