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Dr. Dorothea Bernstein * 1893

Hauersweg 16 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)

1941 Lodz
ermordet 05.06.1942

Dorothea Bernstein, born on 10 Aug. 1893, deported on 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz, died there on 5 June 1942

Lerchenfeld 10 (Gymnasium Lerchenfeld)/Hauersweg 16

Dorothea Bernstein was born in Tilsit. She had lived in Hamburg since about 1919. Working as a teacher, she taught from Mar. 1927 until Sept. 1933 at the Oberrealschule für Mädchen (secondary school without Latin for girls) am Lerchenfeld, today’s Gymnasium Lerchenfeld (Lerchenfeld Secondary School). To mark the occasion of the 90-year anniversary of the secondary school, students in a project group headed by Principal Hans-Walter Hoge looked into the history of their school from 1933 to 1945. In this context, they researched the fate of Dorothea Bernstein. On the initiative of the school, a Stolperstein was laid for her in front of her former workplace.

On the occasion of dedicating the Stolperstein on 14 Nov. 2005, Maris Hubschmid, a student at the time, held the following speech:

"The history of our school in the horrible years from 1933 to 1945 remained in the dark for a long time. Hardly anyone had an interest during the post-war years and well into the 1960s and 1970s in shedding light on the dark spots of the German past. Spots such as: looking away, remaining silent, not wanting to see the danger, repressing. The students of our generation were left with huge gaps in the school chronicle. It treats the period from 1933 to 1945 only extremely meagerly. Some anecdotes, some data, a lot about the evacuation of children from bombing raids ("Kinderlandverschickung”), and a bit about the bombing in 1943, that was it. Nothing that points to the changes of everyday school life at Lerchenfeld Secondary during this time, not a note about the fates of individual female students, only vague information about the ‘retiring-from-office’ of some teachers. Two years ago, some of us have made it our business to fill in these gaps together with our principal, Mr. Hoge. We wanted to know more about the history of Lerchenfeld Secondary, more about a generation who once experienced, at the same age and at the same place, school days that were so different from ours today. So we set out searching. Looking for information, looking for contemporary witnesses, looking for answers. The Stolperstein we are dedicating today is the symbol for one finding of our search. It is meant to commemorate Dr. Dorothea Bernstein, who was a teacher at our school from 1927 to 1933 and who in 1942 was murdered in the concentration camp […] because she was a Jewish woman. It is meant to serve as a reminder that our school has a past, that we all have a past. Measuring 10 x 10 cm, it is meant to fill in one first gap.”

Dorothea Henriette Bernstein was born on 10 Aug. 1893 in Tilsit (East Prussia). Her parents Aaron and Sophie Bernstein were both of the Jewish faith.

In 1914, she graduated from high school in Danzig, then studied German, French, and Philosophy in Königsberg, Munich, and Hamburg, where she completed the examination qualifying her for secondary school teaching in 1922. The same year, she attained a Ph.D.

Initially, she came to the Mädchen-Oberrealschule on Lerchenfeld as a substitute for a sick teacher in Mar. 1927, after she had completed teacher training at the Oberlyzeum (secondary school for girls) in Altona and at Helene-Lange-Schule. Two-and-a-half years later she was appointed supernumerary civil servant. Ms. Bernstein taught French and German in all grades.

Contemporary witnesses describe her as a teacher committed to social causes, whose classes were strict but of excellent quality. She was among the youngest staff members and was very open-minded about the problems of her female students. A former student recalls that Ms. Bernstein brought breakfast every morning for a girl whose alcoholic father seriously neglected her.
The students appreciated her ways. Word is that in her presence students felt free to make remarks they would not have dared vis-à-vis other teachers. On 25 Sept. 1933, Dr. Bernstein was forced into retirement without any pay based on Sec. 3 of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums) dated 7 Apr. of that year […]

On 1 June 1939, she was employed at the last Jewish school in Hamburg, which had resulted from the merger of the Girls’ School of the German-Israelitic Community with the Talmud Tora Oberrealschule for Boys and had to call itself "elementary and secondary school for Jews” ("Volks- und Höhere Schule für Juden”). This school was maintained by the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland) […] Barely solvent by that time, however, the Association was forced to dismiss many of its last Jewish teachers. Accordingly, Dr. Dorothea Bernstein received her letter of dismissal in June 1941, leaving school teaching altogether on 16 July 1941.

Dr. Duhne, a female teacher with whom Ms. Bernstein had close contact, tells of a phone call in which Dorothea Bernstein announced her transport away for the following Saturday. She reportedly said she had wished to hear one last time a warm, human voice.
On 25 Oct. 1941, Dr. Bernstein was deported on the first deportation train along with 1033 other Jews to Lodz (formerly Litzmannstadt) in Poland [...]

Since the year 2000, the artist Gunter Demnig has been laying so-called Stolpersteine (‘stumbling stones’), thus reminding of the victims of the Nazi period by inserting commemorative brass plaques into the pavement in front of the last residence of their choosing. […] The Stolperstein we are dedicating today to Dorothea Bernstein differs somewhat from most others. Instead of the usual initial line, ‘Here lived,’ it features engraved the words ‘Here taught.’ We deliberately had it laid here to express that Ms. Bernstein will remain unforgotten at our school as a teacher and human being. And to make clear that for us she belonged here, to this school, and that she will therefore be forever part of this school and of the history of Lerchenfeld Secondary. ‘A person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten,’ says Gunter Demnig. With this stone at our school entrance, we wish to keep alive the memory of this person, Dr. Dorothea Bernstein, who once taught here. [...]"

An additional Stolperstein for Dorothea Bernstein is located at Hauersweg 16, in front of the last residence she was able to choose on her own. Her very last address in Hamburg prior to her deportation was Klosterallee 11, where she lived as a subtenant. Dorothea Bernstein died on 5 June 1942 in Lodz. In the future, there will be another memorial site. A new residential area is taking shape near Lerchenfeld Secondary, and a street there, Dorothea-Bernstein-Weg, will commemorate her.

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

© Ingrid Budig

Quellen: 1; 5; 8; Arbeitsgemeinschaft des Gymnasiums Lerchenfeld, Hamburg; Hamburger Wochenblatt, Wochenzeitung für Barmbek, 29.4.2009.
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