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Elsbeth Fieseler (née Riese) * 1872
Vierländer Damm 6 (Hamburg-Mitte, Rothenburgsort)
Elsbeth Fieseler, née Riese, born 17 Dec. 1872 in Berlin, deported 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died there 24 Feb. 1943
Vierländer Damm 6 (Vierländerstraße 6a)
Elsbeth Fieseler was the eldest of eight children. Two of her siblings died young, the others left Germany before the outbreak of World War II for Sweden, Spain and the US. When Elsbeth married Franz Fieseler in 1896, she converted to Catholicism. The couple had three daughters. The family lived in Berlin and for a few years in Florence, for which reason the second daughter, who was born there, was named Fiorenza. The couple divorced in 1922. Elsbeth Fieseler moved to Coburg to be near her eldest daughter, who was doing an apprenticeship in home economics on the farm of the Rückert family. She later moved to Bad Saarow on the Scharmützelsee. As a Jew she was not welcome there, and left the spa village in 1937 to return to Berlin.
In 1939 the Jewish pediatrician Dr. Eduardo Meldola contacted her. He was born on 23 May 1869 in Blumenau in Brazil, studied in Germany and took German citizenship. He originally wanted to marry Elsbeth, but she chose Franz Fieseler instead. The two nevertheless remained in contact.
Eduard Meldola married Henriette Beermann (*4 Novemer 1876 in Potsdam). They had five daughters. After the death of Henriette in 1931, the eldest daughter, Margarethe Bauer, lived with her father in the townhouse at Vierländer Straße 6a, today Vierländer Damm 6. In light of the increasing threat to Jews in Germany, Eduardo Meldola moved to Portugal and considered settling in Porto. He renounced his German citizenship on 24 April 1939 and attempted to convince Elsbeth Fieseler to leave the country with him. She refused because she didn’t want to be separated from her daughters and grandchildren. Eduardo Meldola then offered her the use of his townhouse in Hamburg, which could not be confiscated because of his Brazilian citizenship, and where she would be relatively safe. Elsbeth accepted. Who besides Elsbeth and Margarethe Bauer lived in the townhouse on Vierländer Damm is unknown.
In 1941 Eduardo Meldola returned once more to Hamburg and pleaded with Elsbeth Fieseler to go with him to Brazil. By using his connections, he had arranged for her permission to leave the country. She turned him down again, saying she couldn’t imagine "what the Nazis wanted to do to an old woman like me, we’re hardly using up anything with our sparse foodstuffs.”
Eduardo Meldola departed and travelled alone to Blumenau in Brazil, where he continued to practice medicine. Jews were officially prohibited from leaving Germany in October of that year.
In the catalogue for the exhibition In den Tod geschickt, there is a letter from the Hamburg Telephone Office, dated 9 January 1942, in which the Office for the Administration of Confiscated Assets requests the Hamburg Chief Tax Authority to transfer the outstanding telephone charges of Jewish residents who "as a result of their evacuation had not paid their last telephone bills.” Among those listed is:
"Meldola | Eduardo, Israel | Vierländerstraße 6a | Telephone Number 386551 | unpaid charges 5 RM, 40 Rpf | plus 4% interest since 19 Sep. 1941.”
It cannot be determined if this was the date that Elsbeth Fieseler moved to Haynstraße 7 in Eppendorf. It is the date on which all Jews were required to start wearing the "Jews star.”
When a Jewish woman on Vierländer Straße with whom Elsbeth Fieseler was acquainted received her deportation notice, Elsbeth was frightened. She tore the "Jews star” from her coat and took a night train to Munich to her daughter Fiorenza, who lived there with her four daughters. Elsbeth couldn’t remain there because the apartment was too small to hide her, because she could not get any rations without being registered, and because she couldn’t go to the air raid shelters during the air raids, which occurred on an almost daily basis. She returned to Hamburg two days later.
Two months later Elsbeth telephoned with her daughter and told her, in an agreed-upon code, of the pending "evacuation.” Fiorenza travelled to Hamburg immediately. On 19 July 1942 she accompanied her mother to the collection point at the Masonic Lodge on Moorweidenstraße and to the Hannoverian Train Station at Lohseplatz, from where the deportation train departed for Theresienstadt.
Two letters from Elsbeth Fieseler from the Ghetto at Theresienstadt reached her daughter. In the last one she wrote "Sonja’s clothes now fit Ulrike.” "Ulrike” was the agreed-upon code word for Elsbeth, Sonja was the youngest grandchild, at that time 9 years old. In 1943 the camp administration notified the family that Elsbeth Fieseler had died on 24 February 1942 of typhoid fever. If they so wished, the ashes could be delivered to them. The family turned down the offer, suspecting that they would receive a package of random ashes. Elsbeth Fieseler was 70 years old at her death. After the war, a Jewish woman who had survived Theresienstadt and met Elsbeth there visited the family. She told them that Elsbeth had given hope and comfort to others in the camp until the day of her death. She painted with the children, taught them songs and sang with them.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Michael Zuch
Quellen: 1; 4, 5; 7; BA Volkszählung 1939; StaH 552-1 Jüdische Gemeinden, 992 e 2, Bd. 5; Mitteilungen von Angehörigen 21.6.2009–27.1.2010; In den Tod geschickt, Ausstellungskatalog, Hamburg 2009.
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