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Reinhard Blumenthal * 1897
Lübecker Straße 13–15 (Hamburg-Nord, Hohenfelde)
FLUCHT 1938 HOLLAND
Reinhard Blumenthal, born on 17 June 1897 in Angerburg/East Prussia (today Wegorzewo/Poland), in 1938 flight to the Netherlands, in 1943 interned in the Westerbork police "transit camp,” deported from there that same year to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and further to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, deported in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp, murdered on 1 Oct. 1944
Lübecker Strasse 13–15
In the summer of 1927, Reinhard and Resy Rebecka Blumenthal married in Altona, at that time not yet a district of Hamburg, but the largest city in Schleswig-Holstein. Resy was born there on 21 Aug. 1901 and lived with her parents on Marktstrasse, today’s Ehrenbergstrasse, until her wedding. Reinhard Blumenthal, on the other hand, came from Angerburg in East Prussia, today Wegorzewo in Poland. His parents were the Jewish religious official (Kultusbeamte) Jacob Blumenthal and his second wife Rosa, née Cohn. Both later moved to Wartenburg/East Prussia (today Barcewo in Poland), where Jacob Blumenthal died in 1911, his wife ten years later.
Reinhard Blumenthal had five siblings: Louis, nine years older; the three sisters Rahel, Leni, and Martha; and half-sister Rosa from his father’s first marriage. Originally, he wanted to graduate from high school and study – preferably law, as he would have liked to become a lawyer. But then, in 1914 the First World War began and he went to the front as a soldier. He was seriously wounded in action by a shot in the head. After recovering and being awarded the Iron Cross, he had to return to the front and he was captured in France by British troops. From captivity, he was released one year after the end of the war, in 1919. He then completed an expedited high-school leaving exam for conscripted youths (Notabitur) and attended business college. Subsequently, he moved to Halle/Saale and began working as a sales representative for Abramowitz & Co., a textiles company.
Resy’s parents were the merchant Moritz Cohn and his wife Rosa, née Nathan. Moritz Cohn had owned a "Woll- und Weisswaarenhandlung,” as store selling woolen and linen goods in Altona on Bahrenfelder Strasse, which he expanded in 1902 to become the "Berliner Warenhaus Moritz Cohn” – in line with the trend of the times, because department stores divided into individual departments featuring a wealth of openly presented goods also became fashionable in Germany at that time. Resy had three siblings: two older sisters – Selma Else and Gertrud Betty – and a younger brother named Manfred. After attending secondary girls’ school in Altona from 1907 to 1918 (today’s Gymnasium Allee on Max-Brauer-Allee), she went to business school (Handelakademie) and subsequently worked as a secretary in an export company. Because her father, who had a heart condition, was getting worse and worse, she joined his business in 1923 to support him.
Reinhard Blumenthal and Resy Cohn had probably met through their siblings, because Reinhard Blumenthal’s brother Louis had been married to Resy’s sister Else Selma since 1920 (see Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel und Hoheluft-West as well as www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de). Thus, Resy’s sister was her sister-in-law at the same time and Reinhard’s brother-in-law his brother-in-law at the same time. Reinhard and Resy were engaged for four years because Reinhard wanted to establish himself professionally before getting married. He succeeded in 1927: The Abramowitz Company promoted him to authorized signatory. In the same year, Resy’s brother Manfred returned to Altona and took over the father’s business, enabling her to go her own way. She left Altona and her parents and moved to Halle. Reinhard, who still worked for the Abramowitz Company, had rented a spacious four-bedroom apartment for them.
In 1932, Reinhard Blumenthal found a new position as an organizer at the H. Friedrich Frommhagen publishing house in Berlin. For him and his wife, this meant moving to the Spree River. Then, in Jan. 1933, power was handed over to the National Socialists. The publishing house did not want to dismiss Reinhard Blumenthal "as a Jew,” Resy later said. Instead, it instituted an "Aryan” colleague by his side, with whom he had to work closely from now on. In return, his salary was reduced, and as "compensation,” he received a press card. Shortly afterward, the publishing house moved him to the Rhineland, which is why his wife and he moved to Wuppertal-Elberfeld.
However, business was getting worse for Reinhardt Blumenthal. In 1934, Resy and he moved to Hamburg. He also continued working for the Berlin publishing house at a low rate of remuneration. Initially, the two lived as subtenants in the St. Georg quarter, at Lange Reihe 93. In the same year, they registered with the Jewish Community in Hamburg. They only resided on Lange Reihe for a few months, and then found new quarters at Eppendorfer Weg 55. However, even there they lived only for a short time. Reinhard’s brother Louis owned a women’s clothing store on Osterstrasse in Eimsbüttel and he owned several propertied he rented out. Together with his wife Else and their two children Heinz Joachim and Liselotte Ruth, he lived in a spacious three-bedroom apartment at Heussweg 11. When Reinhard and Resy Blumenthal moved out of Eppendorfer Weg, Louis offered them temporary accommodation with him and his family. Afterward, both lived again in the St. Georg quarter, only for a few months on Gurlittstrasse and Schmilinskystrasse, respectively. In July 1935, her housing odyssey ended. They moved into their own small apartment at Lübeckerstrasse 43b, on the ground floor.
When Reinhard Blumenthal had to surrender his press card in 1937, this obviously meant the end of his career. His wife and he decided to leave Germany. On 9 Mar. 1938, they emigrated to the Netherlands. Resy’s sister Gertrud Betty had been living in Amsterdam since 1922 together with her husband Salomon van Adelsberg and their two children, Elma Sara and Martin. Reinhard and Resy Blumenthal, however, settled in Hilversum. At first, they lived in a guesthouse and looked for a suitable apartment from there. In Aug. 1938, they found what they were looking for and moved to Spoorstraat 11, which they could furnish themselves with the furniture they had taken along from Germany. In the same month, Reinhard Blumenthal became a partner at the Amsterdam-based Hamo, Hertz & Cie., Lederwaren und Bijouterie engros, a wholesaler of leather goods and jewelry based in Haarlemmerstraat 36. He was supported in this venture with a loan from his brother-in-law Salomon.
Business went well for almost two years, but then came 10 May 1940: The German Wehrmacht occupied the Netherlands. Thus, Jews like Resy and Reinhard Blumenthal, who had emigrated from Germany to the Netherlands and thought they were safe there, were once again exposed to Nazi persecution policy. At first, however, nothing seemed to change for the Jewish population. Then, however, in Oct. 1940, the Reich Commissioner for the occupied Dutch territories issued the decree that all Jewish and Jewish-led companies had to register. This also affected Reinhard Blumenthal’s business; later, this bureaucratic act was to facilitate "Aryanization.” At the beginning of 1941, all Jews were ordered to register. In the following months, as in Germany, they were increasingly isolated and cornered. They also had to deposit their assets in blocked accounts. The Jews were living in great fear by then. The evenings were particularly threatening, as they had to stay in their homes from 8 p.m. onward and were thus an easy target for the arrest operations of the Dutch police. Resy Blumenthal later reported multiple house searches late in the evening and at night.
On 27 Jan. 1942, all Jews in the Dutch provinces received a message from the Jewish Council of Amsterdam (Joodse Raad voor Amsterdam), set up by order of the German occupying forces. According to this, they were to "move” to the Westerbork camp. When the SS came to pick up Reinhard Blumenthal and his wife, Resy suffered a bilious colic out of fear and panic. She was thus not fit for transport. In Feb. 1942, her gall bladder was removed in a Catholic hospital. In the following weeks, the couple received two more committals to Westerbork, but each time, they did not come about due to Resy’s poor state of health.
Finally, in Apr. 1942, they both received a letter from the Joodse Raad, based on which they were forcibly resettled from Hilversum to Amsterdam. They were forced to move to Amsteldijk 157 and allowed to take only two suitcases. They had to leave all their furniture and household items behind and close the shop.
Nine months later, in Jan. 1943, the couple was transferred from Amsteldijk to a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”) at Schalk Burgerstraat 9. Since their forced resettlement to Amsterdam, they lived from the modest savings they had once hidden from the Nazi authorities and led, according to Resy Blumenthal later, a very miserable life. By this time, Reinhard Blumenthal worked at the Amsterdam Jewish Council, thus both were protected from deportation for the time being.
The protection lasted until 25 May 1943. On that day, the first major raid took place in Amsterdam in search of "spared” Jews and members of the Jewish Council. The second raid took place on 20 June 1943, the day Resy and Reinhard Blumenthal were arrested. They were taken to Amsterdam’s Schouwburg, a former theater that served as a collection point for the deportations of Jews by then. There they had to sit on hard benches for eight days and eight nights; space was so confined due to the large number of people that nobody could lie down to sleep.
On 29 June 1943, both were taken by train to the Westerbork police "transit camp” in a large collective transport. Upon arrival, they were first registered, all the internees had to hand in their remaining valuables, and then they were distributed to the various barracks.
Three months later, on 14 Sept. 1943, Resy and Reinhard Blumenthal were deported from Westerbork to the Bergen-Belsen camp in the Lüneburg Heath. The transport was supposed to go to Theresienstadt, but it was then diverted to Lower Saxony. The journey lasted three days,”(...) in dark cattle cars, one person sitting on top of the other, there was only one bucket for excrements to be emptied through the cracks of the train car; several people went mad,” Resy Blumenthal described the conditions in the train after the war. In Bergen-Belsen, Reinhard and she came to the so-called "star camp” ("Sternlager”). The name came about because the Jews imprisoned there – many of them from Westerbork – had to wear the yellow "Jews’ star” ("Judenstern”) on their civilian clothes. In theory, they were to serve as exchange prisoners, i.e., prisoners who could perhaps be exchanged for German civilian internees or goods essential to armaments production because of their connections with other countries. But that was rarely the case. All those detained in the "star camp” had to perform forced labor; most of them – including the Blumenthal couple – belonged to the so-called shoe squad. Every day they had to rip open old shoes for twelve hours and cut out usable leather leftovers, permanently and often brutally harassed by the SS squad leader.
Resy and Reinhard Blumenthal were taken from Bergen-Belsen to the Theresienstadt concentration camp on 25 Jan. 1944. There, Resy reunited with her sister Selma. About eight months later, on 28 Sept. 1944, Reinhard Blumenthal was deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp and murdered three days later.
Resy Blumenthal survived the Shoah. The Red Cross picked her up from Theresienstadt on 5 June 1945 and took her to Amsterdam. She stayed there until her emigration to the USA on 15 Nov. 1947, where she remarried in 1951. Her second husband was Ewald Blumenthal, the father of the former director of the Berlin Jewish Museum, W. Michael Blumenthal. Despite the same name, he was related neither by blood nor by marriage to her first husband Reinhard.
From the USA, Resy Blumenthal filed an application for "restitution.” In it, she also described her story of persecution in detail. Among other things, she reported that she did not want to believe in her husband’s death in Auschwitz. At first, she tried several times in vain to be deported voluntarily from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz in order to be with him again. When the first return transports from Auschwitz arrived in Theresienstadt in Mar. and Apr. 1945, she looked for her husband in every transport. But what she saw was terrible: "These were no longer men,” she wrote, "but rather animals, screaming animals, as thin as skeletons.” She looked for her husband among the "skeletons,” but never found him. "At that point, my will to live went out of me,” she continued, "and by the time I was liberated by the Russian army on 10 May 1945, I didn’t care about anything any longer.”
In Amsterdam, friends found her a job with a milliner. "I was very fearful and unsociable at the time,” she explained in her request for restitution. "I could not stand company; I started when the phone or the doorbell rang, as I thought it might be my husband every time.”
Resy’s brother Manfred had managed to escape from Germany to Chile. Her sister Selma perished in Auschwitz, as did her sister Gertrud Betty and her husband, Salomon van Adelsberg.
Reinhard Blumenthal’s sister Leni died in 1939 shortly after emigrating to Shanghai. His sister Martha was murdered together with her son Joachim in Auschwitz, his half-sister Rosa in Sobibor. His nephew Leonhard Prinz, the son of his sister Rahel, was declared dead in Bergen-Belsen as of 31 May 1945, at the age of 25. He, too, had emigrated to the Netherlands and was arrested trying to hide from deportation.
Resy Blumenthal passed away in the USA on 5 Jan. 1986.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: December 2019
© Frauke Steinhäuser
Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 8; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 13681 u. 878/1901; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 6099 u. 781/1927; StaH 351-11 24880; StaH 351-11 10944; StaH 351-11 19885; StaH 351-11 45012; E-Mail-Auskunft Jose Martin, Joodse Monument, vom 28.8.2013; Berliner Adressbücher; Hamburger Adressbücher; Blumenthal, Die unsichtbare Mauer, 1999; Susanne Lohmeyer, Louis Blumenthal, in "Stolpersteine in Eimsbüttel und Hoheluft-West, S. 104 ff.; Astrid Louven, Familie Blumenthal. Existenz vernichtet, in "Wo Wurzeln waren", S. 133ff.; Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Hrsg.), Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland 1933–1945, Bd. 5, West- und Nordeuropa 1940–Juni 1942, München, 2015, S. 31–45; Anna Hajkova, Das Polizeiliche Durchgangslager Westerbork, 2004, PDF, Download am 10.12.2013 von https://www.academia.edu/455726/Das_Polizeiliche_Durchgangslager_Westerbork_The_Police_Transit_Camp_Westerbork_ (letzter Zugriff 15.7.2015); Ancestry.com, California, Marriage Index 1949–1959 (database on-line), Resy Blumenthal (letzter Zugriff 10.12.2013); Ancestry.com, New York, Passenger Lists 1820–1957 (database on-line), year 1947, Resy R Blumenthal (letzter Zugriff 10.12.2013); Ancestry.com, Califonia, Death Index, Santa Clara, 5 Jan 1985, Resy Blumenthal (Resy Cohn) (letzter Zugriff 10.12.2013); Ancestry.com, U. S. Naturalization Record Indexes 1791–1992 for Edward Blumenthal (name changed from Ewald Blumenthal; letzter Zugriff 10.12.2013); Ancestry.com, U. S. Naturalization Record Indexes 1791–1992 for Rosy Blumenthal (name changed from Resy Rebecka Blumenthal; letzter Zugriff 10.12.2013); Hollandsche Schouwburg, Geschiedenis, hollandscheschouwburg.nl/geschiedenis (letzter Zugriff 11.9.2013); holocaust.cz, Reinhard Blumenthal, holocaust.cz/de/victims/PERSON.ITI.2182025 (letzter Zugriff 11.9.2013); joodsmonument.nl: 456693 (Reinhard Blumenthal); 495346 (Gertrud Betty van Adelsberg-Cohn); 495347 (Salomon van Adelsberg); 380121 (Salomon van Adelsberg and his family) 462781 (Leonhard Prinz) (letzter Zugriff 11.9.2013); Onderzoek Oorloogsgetroffenen WO2, Joodsche Raad voor Amsterdam, oorlogsgetroffenen.nl/archiefvormer/JoodscheRaad (letzter Zugriff 20.9.2013); Stadsarchief Amsterdam, Archiefkaarten van Persoonskaarten (1939–1994), Reinhard Blumenthal, kurzurl.net/Zbrtl (letzter Zugriff 2.7.2013).
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