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Else Behrend (née Blank) * 1901
Wandsbeker Zollstraße 89 (Wandsbek, Wandsbek)
Bruno Behrend, born on 28 Oct. 1898, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Else Behrend, née Blank, born on 24 Apr. 1901, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Ursula Behrend, born on 23 Mar. 1930, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Wandsbeker Zollstraße 89 (Zollstraße 14–16)
Mixed in with the varied fragrances pervading the streets of the Wandsbek quarter once, reminiscent of spices, yeast, tobacco, and malt, may have been the aroma of cocoa and roasted almonds. For at Zollstraße 14–16, Bruno and Else Behrend operated a retail store in which chocolate and candy products were manufactured, for the most part, on location. The couple was married in Hamburg in 1927 and lived at Bundesstraße 95. Daughter Ursula Lilli was born on 23 Mar. 1930. At the beginning of 1933, the family moved to Wandsbek, initially to Lübeckerstraße 106 and then farther eastward to Zollstraße 16. After a temporary stay at Rauchstraße 4, they eventually returned to Zollstraße.
Bruno Behrend was born in Hamburg as the son of Rebekka Behrend, née Mahler, on 28 Oct. 1898. His biological father was – as Behrend learned only later – Arnold Dürkop, a man not of Jewish descent. Little is known about Behrend’s schooldays and his occupational history. A file memo reveals that he worked as a candy maker for the Paul Schröder Company, which means he had experience in the candy industry.
His wife was the daughter of Albert Blank and Hedwig, née Dessauer. Else Behrend was born on 24 Apr. 1901 in Steinhude/Hannover. She had an older brother. After going to elementary school in Rehburg, she attended the school in Rinteln and completed her education at the local secondary school for girls (höhere Mädchenschule).
Thanks to her dowry, Else Behrend was able, together with her husband, to take over the existing confectionary and marzipan plant in Wandsbek, with Bruno Behrend acting as sole owner. In addition to the retail store for candy, the company also supplied candy in bulk to other retailers. Else Behrend managed the retail business alone, and beyond that she took care of the office and accounting work. Located on the property were the store premises and attached in the courtyard a workshop for making candy. Aside from Bruno Behrend, the business was comprised of another two to three employees. In the recollection of the subsequent purchaser of the equipment, business went very well because the owners manufactured high-quality products.
The family’s home was located in the same house. It was a spacious two-bedroom apartment with ancillary accommodations that were furnished in a solid middle-class manner. The family employed a cleaner; they also had a car. Everything seems to have develop favorably until in 1935 the store was listed among others in a Nazi inflammatory leaflet. In 1939, the business had to be given up, and in addition the marriage was in trouble. Else Behrend had commissioned her lawyer to file for divorce on 19 Dec. 1938, which came into effect in Feb. 1939. Together with her daughter, she moved in with her parents, who by then lived on welfare assistance, to Pelzerstraße 9 I. For her part, she received alimony from her husband amounting to 20 RM (reichsmark) a week and twice that sum in the following year.
In 1931, Else Behrend’s parents had given up their textiles business in Rinteln and moved to Hamburg, closer to their married daughter. The mother, Hedwig Blank, operated a drop-off point for laundry with a hot-air wringer at Pastorenstraße 20. The residential quarters were in Altona, at Grosse Gärtnerstraße 25. Later, the couple moved to Hamburg-Neustadt, Pelzerstraße 9 II.
In 1939, Bruno Behrend was also registered at Pelzerstraße 9. He now undertook efforts toward recognition as a "half-Jew of the 1st degree” ("jüdischer Mischling 1. Grades") because after all, his father had not been Jewish. An entry of the foreign currency office dated June 1939 states, "… turned out only now that he is a half-Jew of the 1st degree. B. belonged to the Jewish faith until Feb. 1933 and then left the denomination. B. was married to a Jewess. Marriage divorced since Jan. ’39.” However, according to an entry in his Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) file card, he had not declared his leaving the Jewish religion until 4 May 1938.
The probable scenario is that when he moved in 1933, he left the German-Israelitic Community and joined the Wandsbek Jewish Community.
In 1939, the business of the Behrend couple was closed, without being transferred to an "Ayran” successor. Bruno Behrend would have liked to sell the company but the responsible senator Wilhelm von Allwörden refused permission for the sale in June 1939. Behrend was only able to sell equipment and product inventory. They went to the owner of the future Hamburg cocoa and chocolate plant (Hamburger Kakao- und Schokoladenfabrik), Gustav Hamester, for 300 RM (reichsmark).
Although by that time, everything seemed to be wrapped up just as it suited the foreign currency office – there was one less "Jewish” company, and the Behrend couple no longer owned any assets either – the passport office under the authority of police headquarters intervened. A letter to the Tax and Revenue Office dated July 1939 dealt with the issue of "preparatory measures toward relocating the place of residence abroad” and listed both names of the divorced couple. Under the passage "grounds for suspicion,” the letter read, "Behrend was under arrest for racial defilement [Rassenschande]. He has been given the condition by police to proceed with his emigration immediately. First date as of 1 Oct. ’39.” The offense of "racial defilement” was a common means of exerting pressure to force Jewish business owners to give up their companies or, if that had happened already, to push them toward emigration.
Emigration did not materialize. After all, where should the family, destitute by then, have turned? Certainly, Else Behrend’s brother, Paul Blank, had been living in Palestine since 1934, but after the outbreak of war on 1 Sept. 1939, the possibility of legal emigration there ceased to exist. Insufficient funds and a lack of countries willing to take them in caused all plans for emigration – if the family pushed ahead with them – to come to nothing. In this way, Bruno, Else, and Ursula Behrend eventually received the deportation order and boarded the train to Minsk on 8 Nov. 1941. Was Bruno Behrend, a so-called "half-Jew,” even obliged to go on the journey as well? Had the authorities not "bought” his "Aryan” father, or had he volunteered out of a sense of responsibility for his wife and daughter? These questions must remain unanswered here. Generally, those deported from Hamburg to Minsk stayed together as a group. From their ranks – they were the first ones to arrive there – the camp administration was recruited, among them evidently Bruno Behrend as well. He is almost the only one among all deportees from Wandsbek about whose subsequent fate at the deportation site contemporary witnesses reported, including also his brother, Walter Mahler. He was questioned as a witness in 1959 at the trial against the SS-Obersturmführer [SS rank equivalent to first lieutenant] and Kriminaloberrat [approx. equivalent to senior commissioner of the criminal investigation department] Georg Heuser and for the record stated the following about conditions in the Minsk Ghetto: "In Jan. 1942, my brother, Bruno Behrend, was arrested because he had sent … letters about the … officer of the Schutzpolizei [uniformed police force] back to the Reich territory. When the answer arrived, my brother was arrested. The people detained at the same time included the members of the Jewish Council (Judenrat), about ten to eleven men, because they were responsible for affairs in the ghetto. On 18 Jan. 1942, the persons mentioned were arrested. … At the end of Feb. 1942, all of these persons were executed. The execution was carried out, probably as a deterrent, within the ghetto, more specifically, in front of the seat of the Jewish Council. Back then, I had to carry out my brother’s burial on my own.” According to the statement by another contemporary witness, the execution took place on 13 Apr. 1942, in the course of which eight members of the camp administration were murdered, all of them residents of Hamburg. "The other seven were transported, lying on a truck, to the courtyard of the camp. Goaded with kicks and lashes of whips, they had to climb from the truck one by one, lie face down on the ground in a circle, and align their feet toward the center. Then, SS-Obersturmführer Burckhardt stepped to where their feet were located and first shot the right wingman, … repeating the maneuver … until the last one was shot dead.”
Whether Else and Ursula Behrend were still alive at this time has not been clarified.
The parents of Else Behrend were deported from Bundesstraße 43 to Theresienstadt on 15 July 1942. Only two weeks later, Albert Blank died there. His wife, Hedwig Blank, was deported further and murdered in the Maly Trostenets (Maly Trostinez) death camp.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Astrid Louven
Quellen: 1; 2 R 1939/2759; AfW 240401; Staatsanwaltschaft Koblenz, 9 Ks 2/62 Verfahren gegen Heuser u.a., Vernehmung Walter Mahler vom 8.12.1959, S. 5; Frank Bajohr, "Arisierung", S. 184, 234f; Astrid Louven, Juden, S. 201, 207f; Beate Meyer, Deportationen in: dies. (Hrsg.), Verfolgung, S. 62–64, 174f; Heinz Rosenberg, Jahre, S. 18–36; Aleksandar-Sasa Vuletic, Christen, S. 25f, 31.