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Herbert Epstein * 1892

Zesenstraße 15 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)

1942 Theresienstadt
ermordet 06.12.1942

further stumbling stones in Zesenstraße 15:
Hermann Epstein

Herbert Epstein, born on 20 Sept. 1892 in Hamburg, deported on 15 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died on 6 Dec. 1942 in Theresienstadt

Zesenstrasse 15 (Winterhude)

Founded in 1876 in Hamburg, the M. Epstein soap and perfume plant, being a family business, significantly shaped the lives of several generations of the Epstein family. With the company named after its founder Moses Epstein (1830–1912), his son Hermann joined the management in 1885 and his grandson Herbert in 1923. An L. Epstein was also a co-owner in the early stages of the company until 1883. Hermann Epstein’s brother-in-law Hermann Norden (1857–1924) became an authorized signatory in the soap and perfume plant in 1913, which produced perfumery and cosmetic articles, exporting them to West Africa, India (British), and the Straits Settlements (= Malay Peninsula with Singapore, British). The company kept its own recipe books and had a registered trademark.

In the 1930s, Herbert’s brother Kurt Epstein (born on 1899) was a ‘silent partner’ (financier who was not active in the company) with a one-fifth share in the profit and loss. The company set up its first production premises at Alter Steinweg 42 in the middle building/intersection of Grossneumarkt (1879–1889), then moved to Wilhelmstrasse 2 (1890–1900), as well as briefly to Mercurstrasse 2 (1901–1903), and finally to Kleiner Grasbrook (Steinwerder) near Reiherstieg, at Werftstrasse 10 (1904–1935), a municipal property. Also in Steinwerder (Buchheisterstrasse 6) was the soap factory of Georg Dralle (founded in 1853) from 1914. As of 1936, the M. Epstein Company was no longer listed in the Hamburg directory – having ceased production in Dec. 1934, it had been deleted from the company register in June 1935.

The company founder Moses Epstein (born on 9 Sept. 1830), who was born in Gehaus (Thuringia) and had his first name abbreviated in all Hamburg directories, had moved to Hamburg before 1850 with his parents Baruch Epstein and Mine, née Baum. At that time, many residents, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, had left the village of Gehaus, where they could no longer make a living.

In the Hanseatic city of Hamburg, Moses Epstein was commercially successful, so that he was able to acquire citizenship there in 1855. It was not until 1849 that Jews, too, had been able to obtain citizenship in Hamburg; to do so, they had to prove an annual income of 1,200 marks for five consecutive years.

The marriage of Moses and Pesse Betty Epstein, née Koppel (died before 1883), produced the following children: Julie (in 1855), Hermann (in 1857), Albert (in 1862), and Rosa (in 1872). The family lived at Alter Steinweg 42 (including 1882–1883), where an L. Epstein was already listed as the main tenant from 1861, and at Parkallee 15 (1884–1898). Moses Epstein then moved in with his daughter Rosa Gutmann, née Epstein, at Hansastrasse 14 (1898–1899) and Eichenallee 54 on the second floor (1899–1912), which was later renamed Brahmsallee 18.

Hermann Epstein (born in 1857) and his wife Minka Epstein, née Norden (born on 13 Sept. 1860 in Hamburg), had married in 1883 and had four children: Betty (born on 7 Sept. 1884 in Hamburg), Paula (born on 27 June 1887 in Hamburg), Herbert (born on 20 Sept. 1892 in Hamburg), and Kurt (born on 13 Dec. 1899 in Hamburg). The residential addresses of the family were: Alter Steinweg 36/ Hamburg-Neustadt (1884–1886); 2nd Durchschnitt 24 (renamed Rentzelstrasse in 1899)/ Rotherbaum (1887–1888); Schlump 18/ Eimsbüttel (including from 1889 to 1891); Hohe Weide 9/ Eimsbüttel (including from 1893 to 1895); Grindelberg 9a/ Harvestehude (1896–1898); Klosterallee 27/ Harvestehude (a seven-room apartment, from 1899 to 1932, where the Grindel high-rises are located today); Loogestieg 17/ Eppendorf (a five-room apartment, from 1933 to 1934); Zesenstrasse 15/ Winterhude (1935–1938); and Jungfrauenthal 28 (1938–1941, first a three-and-a-half-room apartment and later an attic apartment).

Since at least 1927, Herbert Epstein (see was also listed in the directory with the same residential addresses as his father; his mother Minka Epstein passed away on 26 Oct. 1932.

Herbert Epstein had attended the private Wahnschaff secondary school until 1911, was trained as an export merchant (in Britain, among other places), and participated in World War I starting in Oct. 1914 as a soldier in the Infantry Regiment 76 Replacement Battalion.

Since 1922, he belonged to the German-Israelitic Community as an independent member. He married the non-Jewish Hertha Doeling (1903–1985) in 1931.
After the closure of the M. Epstein soap and perfume factory in 1935, Herbert Epstein found temporary employment at the M. A. Frischmann drug wholesaler (at Neuer Wall 54), until this company, too, was economically damaged in the course of the Nazi "Aryanization policy” and finally forcibly deleted from the company register. He then worked for the Landauer Company in 1938/1939. From 1939 onward, he was unemployed.

During the November Pogrom (9/10 Nov. 1938), Gestapo officers appeared at the door of the apartment at Jungfrauenthal 28 to pick up Herbert Epstein. However, he was already hiding in Fallingbostel in the Lüneburg Heath with his sister-in-law Anna Weberling, née Doeling, and her husband Friedrich "Fritz” and did not return to Hamburg until three weeks later.

In Nov. 1941, the Hamburg Gestapo threatened Herbert and Herta Epstein with deportation (from which they were temporarily exempt under Gestapo guidelines as spouses in a "mixed marriage” ["Mischehe”]). In the event of a divorce, however, the Gestapo officer promised that the deportation orders would be lifted. Under this pressure, the couple divorced. "What my beloved Herta and I are currently going through emotionally, and how we are already suffering from the future changes, certainly does not need any special mention. You know how much we are attached to each other, and with what deep love and loyalty we belong to each other,” wrote Herbert Epstein to friends on 19 Nov. 1941. In the meantime, he had been forced to leave the apartment they shared and was temporarily living in a guesthouse. The decree of divorce was passed on 26 Nov. 1941, and Herta Epstein subsequently resumed her maiden name. As soon as political circumstances would permit, they intended to marry again.

Herbert Epstein did not receive any deportation order in 1941. He had to move into an apartment in the so-called "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”) at Agathenstrasse 3 (Eimsbüttel). On 15 July 1942, however, the time had come: In addition to the older Jews who had been deferred from deportation until then, the Jews who had lived in divorced "mixed marriages” at this time also received the deportation order to Theresienstadt. He was forced to join many other Jews in the schoolyard of the nearby Schanzenstrasse elementary school (at Schäferkampsallee 29). In Theresienstadt, he was quartered in an overcrowded room in building L 305 (= Lange Strasse 5), where he died on 6 Dec. 1942, of enteritis, according to the death certificate.

His wife learned three years later from an acquaintance who had also been deported there that he had died of pneumonia and cardiac insufficiency. In any case, the cause of death was probably malnutrition, poor hygiene, and inadequate medical care.

In 1953, Hertha Doeling invoked the post-war law on the recognition of free marriage. She succeeded in 1956 in having annulled the divorce dated 2 Dec. 1941.

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

Stand: May 2021
© Björn Eggert

Quellen: Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StaH) 231-7 (Handelsregister), A 1 Band 18 (M. Epstein, HR A 4834); StaH 231-7 (Handelsregister), A 1 Band 32 (M. A. Frischmann, HR A 7970); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 2655 u. 669/1883 (Heiratsregister 1883, Hermann Epstein u. Minka Norden); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 2082 u. 4188/1884 (Geburtsregister 1884, Betty Epstein); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 13091 u. 2566/1899 (Geburtsregister 1899, Kurt Epstein); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 8012 u. 578/1912 (Sterberegister 1912, Moses Epstein); StaH 332-7 (Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht), A I e 40 Bd. 5 (Bürger-Register 1845-1875 A-F), Moses Epstein (16.2.1855 Nr. 152); StaH 332-7 (Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht), A I e 40 Bd. 9 (Bürger-Register 1876-1896 A-K), Hermann Epstein (10.6.1887 Nr. 13744); StaH 332-8 (Meldewesen), Alte Einwohnermeldekartei 1892-1925, K 6047 (Moses Epstein); StaH 342-2 (Militärersatzbehörden), D II 7 Band 1 (Hermann Epstein); StaH 342-2 (Militärersatzbehörden), D II 147 Band 2 (Herbert Epstein); StaH 342-2 (Militärersatzbehörden), D II 27, Band 1 (Albert Epstein); StaH 351-11 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung), 27613 (Herta Epstein); StaH 522-1 (Jüdische Gemeinden), 992b (Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburg), Albert Epstein, Herbert Epstein, Paula Lisser; Jüdischer Friedhof Hamburg-Ohlsdorf, Gräberverzeichnis (Moses Epstein, Grablage C 9-9); Nationalarchiv Prag, Institut Theresienstädter Initiative, Todesfallanzeige Ghetto Theresienstadt (Herbert Epstein, Hermann Epstein); Landesjustizverwaltung Hamburg, AZ 346 E – 1 b/2/10 (dort enthalten zitiertes Schr. v. 14.10.1941); Bad Fallingbostel, Einwohnermelderegister (Friedrich und Anna Weberling); Handelskammer Hamburg, Handelsregisterinformationen (M. Epstein, HR A 4834; Albert Epstein, HR A 24598; M. A. Frischmann, HR A 7970); Hamburger Börsenfirmen, Hamburg 1910, S. 168 (M. Epstein, gegr. 1876, Parfümerie-Fabrik für Exp., Kleiner Grasbrook, Werftstr. 10, Inhaber: M. u. H. Epstein); Hamburger Börsenfirmen, Hamburg 1926, S. 260 (M. Epstein, gegr. 1876, Parfümerie-Fabr., Kleiner Grasbrook, Werftstr. 10, Inhaber: Herm. u. Herbert Epstein, Prokurist: Herm. Norden); Adressbuch Hamburg (L. Epstein, ohne Berufs- oder Firmenangabe, Alter Steinweg 42) 1861-1863, 1865, 1870; Adressbuch Hamburg (Firma M. Epstein) 1879, 1880, 1882-1893, 1895-1905, 1908, 1911, 1913; Adressbuch (Hermann Epstein) 1884-1891, 1893, 1895-1898, 1900-1905, 1908, 1911, 1913, 1920, 1927, 1930, 1932-1936, 1938; Adressbuch (Herbert Epstein) 1927, 1930, 1932-1936, 1938; Frank Bajohr, "Arisierung" in Hamburg. Die Verdrängung der jüdischen Unternehmer 1933-1945, Hamburg 1998, S. 356 (M. A. Frischmann, Drogerieartikel-Großhandel, Neuer Wall 54); Horst Beckershaus, Die Hamburger Straßennamen, Hamburg 1997, S. 85 (Durchschnitt), S. 299 (Rentzelstraße); Wilhelm Westermann, Gefallene – Verwundete – Kriegsgefangene des Ersten Weltkriegs, Hrsg. Wolfgang Brandes, Stadtarchiv Bad Fallingbostel 2015, S. 25 (Fritz Weberling, geb. 20.6.1898, Angaben zu Verletzungen und Gefangenschaft).

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