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Louise Hess (née Mecklenburg) * 1873

Blumenstraße 31 a (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)

Flucht in den Tod 18.07.1942

Louise Hess, née Mecklenburg, born 6 Oct. 1873 in Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad), Eastern Prussia, death by suicide 18 July 1942 in Hamburg

Blumenstraße 31a

Louise Mecklenburg Hess was born in Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad), Eastern Prussia in 1873. She was the youngest of six children. Her parents were Louis Mecklenburg (*1829 in Märkisch Friedland), a merchant, and his wife Rosalie, née Kaufmann (*1844 in Drossen). Her grandfather Peritz Mecklenburg, who received a government pension, died in 1862 in Stargard, Pomerania. Louis Mecklenburg and Rosalie Kaufmann married in 1863 in Berlin, where her father ran an "English Manufactured Goods Store” near the courthouse. The couple moved to Königsberg before 1865, and then probably in the 1870s or 1880s to Landsberg on the Warthe (in the Prussian province of Brandenburg).

Very little is known about Louise Mecklenburg’s siblings. They were Anna Mecklenburg (*1867), Paul Mecklenburg (1868–1937), Julius/Israel Mecklenburg (*1871), Moritz Mecklenburg (born after 1874), and Clara Seeler, née Mecklenburg (1865–1942). Georg Mecklenburg (1869–1932) was the owner of a successful dyeing business, Kunath & Mecklenburg, in Chemnitz, and was chairman of the Chemnitz Jewish Community for five years.

An entry in the Hamburg Trade Register from 3 October 1892 lists Siegfried Hess as the sole owner of the Siegfried Hess Trading Company. A second entry seven months later lists a name change for the company and the addition of a partner. The Altona businessman Siegfried Hess (1862–1940) and Paul Mecklenburg (1868-1937) were now the co-owners of the Hess & Mecklenburg Company. Its offices were originally located near the free port at Brandstwiete 17, and later at Dovenhof 86/87. An entry in the 1895 Hamburg telephone book described the company as an "agency and commissioner for spirits, grain, and milling products.”

In November 1895 Louise Mecklenburg married her brother’s business partner Siegfried Hess (*25 Oct. 1862 in Altona) in Landsberg on the Warthe in Brandenburg, where her parents lived. The families were now closely bound to each other, both in their business and private lives. They also lived near each other in Harvestehude. In 1905 the company moved its offices to the newly-built Niedlingerhaus at Jungfernsteig 6/7, one of the impressive end-buildings of the Alster Arcade.

In 1905, after the birth of their second son, the Hess family moved from their ground-floor apartment at Brahmsallee 11 in Harvestehude to a townhouse at Blumenstraße 31a, which had been built in 1897 for the lawyer Julius Levy (1858–1935). The cellar housed the kitchen and pantries, as well as a room for the cook. A dumbwaiter supplied the meals to the 2nd floor. The silk-wallpapered salons, two rooms connected with a sliding door, were on the ground floor, but were only used for special occasions. The ground floor also had a smoking room with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The dining and living rooms were on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The family had a butler, who wore livery and white gloves. The veranda at the rear of the house was expanded in 1914. The garden, which was tended by a gardener, sloped gently down to the Rondeelkanal.

Siegfried Hess had been a member of the Hamburg Jewish Community since at least 1913. His eldest son Walter (1898–1952), however, was baptized in the Protestant faith in 1912. After finishing his secondary schooling at the Johanneum in 1915, Walter was drafted and fought in the First World War, earning an Iron Cross 2nd Class. After the war he did a commercial apprenticeship at the Walter Robinow clothing store, joined his father’s company and married Sigrid Wolfers (1903–1948) in 1924. She was the daughter of Gustav Wolfers (1874–1909) and his wife Gertrud, née Fränkel (1882–1956) (see Biography: Hugo and Olga Wolfers). Walter Hess played the cello, like his father, and also played soccer with the Hamburger Sportverein (HSV), much to the distaste of his father.

Käthe Hess (*31 Aug. 1896), Louise and Siegfried Hess’ daughter, died in 1920. On her death certificate her profession was listed as "artisan.” Three years later their younger son Gerhard (*1904, died before 1956), who had also attended the Johanneum, emigrated to the US. By this time, the Hess & Mecklenburg Company had chosen to specialize in ethanol and fusel alcohol (with a production plant in the free port so that the wares could be sold to ships without customs duties). In the late 1920s the company bought Helmers & Son (Schaarmarkt 6), Hamburg’s oldest schnapps and liqueur distillery. Siegfried Hess and his son Walter, together with Richard Witt, Eugen Guttmann (see Biogrphies: Edith Benndorf), also founded a spirits-trading company (Sprit-Handels-AG) in 1923. Sind the Hess family and Richard Will held the largest portion of the company stocks, Richard Witt and Walter Hess were named chairmen of the company. Louise Hess remained the authorized signatory of the Hess & Mecklenburg Company until 1933.

Paul Mecklenburg (*27 May 1868 in Königsberg) never married. He lived at Hochallee 96, and owned a racing stable with six horses, located at Brahmsallee 121 in Harvestehude, under the name "Mr. Ray.” The stable even had its own telephone. He ran his horses in prestigious races, such as the Empress Auguste Victoria Hunting Race for Officers, which his horse and jockey, Lieutenant von Baumbach, won in 1908. The Hamburger Fremdenblatt wrote, in an article titled "Kaisertage in Hamburg” (Imperial Days in Hamburg): "(…) After the Empress Auguste Victoria Hunting Race, Lieutenant von Baumbach, the rider of the winner Haltefest, and the horse’s owner Herr P. Mecklenburg, a Hamburg businessman, were invited to the Imperial Box, where the Empress presented them with exquisite honorary prizes and offered words of congratulation. The Emperor also recognized both men in a congratulatory speech.” In addition to the winning purse, the Emperor also presented Paul Mecklenburg with a horse made of marzipan at the after-race party in the Uhlenhorster Fährhaus. Mecklenburg gave this horse to his nephews Walter Hess and Gerhard Hess.

Paul Mecklenburg, who was only listed as a member of the Hamburg Jewish Community from 1913 to 1917, was an honorary commercial judge from 1915 to 1929, deciding trade disputes. In 1927 he moved into an apartment in the four-story apartment building the corner of Barmbeker Straße and Maria-Louisen-Straße. The building was designed by the Hamburg architect Robert Friedmann for the Stadtpark Baugesellschaft. His modern, four-room apartment was on the ground floor, with terraces both to the front and to the back. In 1937 he visited a spa in the hopes of improving his heart problems, but he died there. His nephew returned the urn to Hamburg by train, in order to bury him there. His nephew’s son remembers when the household was cleared – there were many people in the spacious apartment, where objects were being packed or auctioned off, including the horse-racing trophies.

According to the trade register, both Siegfried Hess and Paul Mecklenburg had left the Hess & Mecklenburg Company on 30 September 1933. Richard Witt took over, while retaining the name, with O. F. C. Bock and Emma Witt, née Thuman, as authorized signatories. Walter Hess was forced to resign his directorship at the Sprit-Handels-AG in February 1938 and sell his stock in the company, valued at 25,000 Reichsmarks. According to the "3rd Ordinance of the Reich Citizenship Law” of 14 June 1938, companies were considered Jewish if the owner, the liable partner(s), or members of management or the board were Jewish according to the Nazi definition. The new owner Richard A. L. Witt (*1884), who was a member of the Deutsche Volkspartei before 1933, did not join the Nazi Party. At the end of December 1938, the name of the Hess & Mecklenburg Company was changed to Richard A. L. Witt, whose sole proprietor lived at Maria-Louisen-Straße 106. The entry for Hess & Mecklenburg in the 1939 telephone book read "see Richard A. L. Witt.”

The anti-Semitic Nazi laws systematically robbed Siegfried and Louise Hess of their fortune. Between December 1938 and November 1939 they were forced to pay 79,500 Reichsmarks for the "Jewish Property Levy.” A higher income tax was levied on Jews, and the family’s silver and jewelry was confiscated. In September 1939, a Telefunken radio was confiscated from Walter Hess. Walter was, at first, exempted from conscription to forced labor by the Hamburg Unemployment Office’s department for Jews, headed by Willibald Schallert, so that he could care for his sick wife. In 1944, however, he was forced to work as a packer and warehouse worker in a "Jewish crew” at the Rasch & Jung rubber boot wholesalers at Große Bleichen 31. The heavy labor, combined with the humiliation, led to a chronic heart condition.

Siegfried Hess died in October 1940. By that time the Reich laws had rescinded the right to freely choose a place of residence and rental protection for Jews. Under these conditions, Walter Hess’s four-member family moved out of their apartment at Maria-Louisen-Straße 107 to a first-floor apartment in the building at Blumenstraße 31a, which still belonged to the family. Louise Hess lived on the ground floor. The other rooms had to be let out. Henry and Erna Borchardt, who had a "privileged mixed-marriage”, and one of their three grown sons lived in the Hess daughter’s former room, which had remained unchanged since her death. A family named Seemann moved into the attic room. The building at Blumenstraße 31a had become a "Jews’ house,” in which "predominately or exclusively” Jews, as defined by Nazi criteria, lived. Henry Borchardt (*24 Dec. 1881 in Hamburg), a brother-in-law of Lucy Borchard(t), the owner of the Fairplay Shipping Company, was deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto on 14 February 1945.

Beginning on 19 September 1941, all Jews in the German Reich were required to wear the yellow star. In early January 1942, Louise’s son Walter Hess, his wife and their two children received their deportation orders. His mother-in-law, Gertrud Wolfers (née Fränkel, the widow of Gustav Wolfers), immediately sought out a lawyer and requested a "legitimacy contestation suit.” The Nazis had changed the laws to allow for such suits, not imagining that it would, in some cases, be used to circumvent persecution. Gertrud Wolfers testified (falsely) that her daughter was the illegitimate child of an "Aryan.” The court, which had heard other, corroboratory witness testimonies, approved the suit, and thus the status of Walter Hess’ marriage was changed to that of a "privileged mixed marriage,” which postponed his and his sons’ deportation. His wife, Sigrid Hess, née Wolfers, was given the status of an "Aryan” by dint of her three "Aryan grandparents.” Paul Mendel, the lawyer who represented Gertrud Wolfers, recalled in 1956: "I took the court’s ruling to the family in person. I still remember clearly how all of them cried with joy and tore up the yellow stars.”

But the status change had no benefit for Louise Hess. One day before she was to be deported, on 17 July 1942, she committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. She was buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Ohlsdorf.

Her sister Clara Seeler (*6 Sep. 1865 in Königsberg, Eastern Prussia) was deported from Berlin on 17 August 1942 to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. She was sent from there to the Treblinka Extermination Camp on 19 September 1942.

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: April 2018
© Björn Eggert

Quellen: Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StaHH) 332-5 (Standesämter), 8618 u. 569/1902 (Heiratsregister 1902, Gustav Wolfers u. Gertrud Fränkel); StaHH 332-5 (Standesämter), 9785 u. 2686/ 1920 (Sterberegister 1920, Käthe Hess); StaHH 332-5 (Standesämter), 8790 u. 79/1924 (Heiratsregister 1924, Walter Hess u. Sigrid Wolfers); StaHH 332-5 (Standesämter), 9910 u. 599/ 1940 (Sterberegister 1940, Siegfried Hess); StaHH 332-5 (Standesämter), 9928 u. 532/1942 (Sterberegister 1942. Louise Hess geb. Mecklenburg); StaHH 351-11 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung), 2191 (Louise Hess geb. Mecklenburg); StaHH 351-11 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung) 21531 (Walter Hess); StaHH 522-1 (Jüdische Gemeinden), 992b (Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburg), Gerhard Hess, Luise Hess, Siegfried Hess, Paul Mecklenburg, Henry Borchardt; StaHH 741-4 (Zeitungen mikroverfilmt), S 11664 (Hamburger Fremdenblatt, Mo. 23.6.1908, S.5); StaHH 221-11 (Staatskommissar für die Entnazifizierung und Kategorisierung), Fa 1430 (Richard Witt); Hamburger Adressbuch 1904, 1920, 1922, 1940; Berliner Adressbuch (L. Kaufmann) 1852–1854, 1858, 1862; Amtliche Fernsprechbücher Hamburg 1895, 1901, 1904, 1906, 1908, 1914, 1920, 1932, 1937–1940; Hamburgisches Staatshandbuch 1915, S. 105 (Handelsrichter Paul Mecklenburg); Hamburgisches Staatshandbuch 1921, S. 60 (Handelsrichter Paul Mecklenburg, Franz Rappolt, Richard Löwenthal); Hamburgisches Staatshandbuch 1929, S. 143 (Handelsrichter Paul Mecklenburg); Bezirksamt Hamburg-Nord, Bauamt/Bauprüfabteilung, Blumenstraße 31a und Barmbeker Straße 129/133; Handelskammer Hamburg, Firmenkartei: Helmers & Sohn (1920–1922, HR-Nr. A 11305), Hess & Mecklenburg (HR-Nr. A 7640), Richard A. L. Witt (HR-Nr. B 2006); Hamburger Börsenfirmen, Hamburg 1910, S. 285 (Hess & Mecklenburg); Hamburger Börsenfirmen, Hamburg 1933, S. 370 (Hess & Mecklenburg); Hamburger Börsenfirmen, Hamburg 1935, S. 366 (Hess & Mecklenburg); Jürgen Nitsche/Ruth Röcher, Juden in Chemnitz, Dresden 2002, S. 407–410; Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt/M., Signatur A 122, handgeschriebene Auszüge aus den Akten des Stadtgerichts Königsberg/Ostpreußen, Ostdeutsche Judenakten Nr.22, Heiraten 1862–1863; Hauptbibliothek Gymnasium Johanneum/Bibliotheca Johannei, Schülerkarte Nr. 8274 von Gerhard Hess; Hauptbibliothek Gymnasium Johanneum/Bibliotheca Johannei, Schülerkarte Nr.7906 von Walter Louis Hess; Jüdische Gemeinde Hamburg, Gräber Kartei des Jüdischen Friedhofs Ohlsdorf (Louise Hess); Jahres-Renn-Kalender für Deutschland, 1906, I. Theil, S. 16 u. S. 99; Jahres-Renn-Kalender für Deutschland, 1908, I. Theil, S. 156, II. Theil, S. 324 u. XLII; Wochen-Renn-Kalender für Deutschland, 1908, S. 1906; Heiko Morisse, Jüdische Rechtsanwälte in Hamburg – Ausgrenzung und Verfolgung im NS-Staat, Hamburg 2003, S. 141 (Dr. Julius Levy), S. 146 (Dr. Paul Mendel); Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Gedenkbuch. Hamburger jüdische Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, Hamburg 1995, S. 165 (Louise Hess); Bundesarchiv Koblenz, Gedenkbuch, Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland, Internet (Louise Hess, Clara Seeler); (eingesehen 22.9.2007), Passagierliste der S.S. Resolute (Gerhard Hess, 1923); Gespräche mit Herrn O. H., 2007; E-Mail von Herrn M. B., Juni 2014.

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