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Elisabeth Gorden, ca. 1934
© Privatbesitz

Elisabeth Gorden (née Wolfers) * 1879

Parkallee 84 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)

1941 Lodz

further stumbling stones in Parkallee 84:
Herbert Otto Gorden, Dr. Felix Gorden

Elisabeth Gorden, née Wolfers, born on 23 Dec. 1879 in Hamburg, deported on 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz

Parkallee 84 (Hamburg-Harvestehude)

Elisabeth Wilhelmine Gorden, née Wolfers, was the daughter of Eduard Wolfers (1839–1919) and Natalie Wolfers, née Alsberg (1847–1906). Eduard Wolfers was a native of Minden, had founded a textiles company (Schönfeld & Wolfers) in Hamburg in 1869, and had obtained Hamburg civic rights in 1875. To this end, one was required to establish proof of an annual income of 1,200 M (mark) over a period of five consecutive years. His membership in the Jewish Community can be documented for certain only from 1913 onward but may be assumed for the time from 1884 onward; but there are no documents to this effect.

Elisabeth’s brother Hugo Wolfers (see corresponding entry), born in 1875, attended the Academic School of the Johanneum high school (Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums) in Hamburg until obtaining his intermediate secondary school certificate (Mittlere Reife). Elisabeth Wolfers is likely to have attended a girls’ secondary school; in addition, she was a very gifted pianist. Since 1892, the family lived at Hochallee 64 in Hamburg-Harvestehude. The brother, Gustav Wolfers (died in 1909), joined the Schönfeld & Wolfers Company as a partner in 1902, and one year later, Hugo Wolfers followed suit as a partner. After the death of the company founder, Eduard Wolfers, in 1919 and a change in the legal form to a limited partnership (Kommanditgesellschaft – KG), Elisabeth Gorden, née Wolfers, also acquired a stake in the company in 1920 with an investment of 130,000 M (increased to 200,000 in 1922). Her sister-in-law, Gertrud Wolfers, née Fränkel, and Gertrud Wolfers’ children, Sigrid Hess, née Wolfers (born in 1903), and Natalie Kramer, née Wolfers (born in 1906), invested the same sum each into the company.

On 14 Aug. 1901, Elisabeth Wolfers, provided with a handsome dowry, married the district court judge (Amtsrichter) Dr. Felix Leopold Gorden (1863–1939) in Hamburg. Only afterward, did she join the Lutheran Church. Her husband, a native of Hamburg, had already dropped his Jewish last name Cohen in May 1887 when still serving as trainee lawyer in Berlin, assuming the English-sounding name Gorden. His half-brother Rudolf (born on 13 Aug. 1873) also assumed the new last name. In Prussia, after being baptized Jews were allowed to adopt only last names not used by Christians until then. Probably, with his change of name and denomination, Felix Gorden wished to preempt disadvantages in legal circles due to his Jewish descent. His father, the merchant Otto Leopold Cohen (1831–1868), had also been a member of the Lutheran Church. He had obtained Hamburg civic rights in 1859 and had died in New York at a young age. The mother, Linna Cohen, née Rosenthal, had married her second husband, the Sanitätsrat [a title roughly equivalent to "medical councilor”] Dr. med. Max Salomon (born c. 1837); she passed away in Berlin in 1907. The grandparents, the broker and Hamburg citizen Leopold Cohen (1794–1867) and Rosa Cohen, née Magnus (1801–1880, daughter of Louis and Caroline Magnus) also lived in Hamburg – built in 1903, the "Leopoldshof” office building at the intersection of Poststrasse 3 and Neuer Wall (formerly Poststrasse 1–7) was named after the grandfather. In 1892, Felix Gorden had returned to his native Hamburg as an assistant judge and was appointed judge there in 1895. After the birth of son Herbert Gorden (see corresponding entry) in 1902, the family moved to Eppendorfer Baum 20 and in Dec. 1906 purchased the house at Parkallee 84 in Hamburg-Harvestehude, newly built by the architect Otto Köster. The zoning plan for this former monastery land, subdivided and developed with streets in a checkered pattern, provided that "the area … be earmarked for garden apartments …” and that no multi-story houses with rented apartments or factories would be permitted there. This is where Hamburg’s bourgeois upper class moved. The house at Parkallee 84 featured eleven rooms and was tastefully furnished: heavy furniture, Persian rugs, oil paintings, engravings, Hamburgensien [a term designating a variety of memorabilia, including books and prints depicting scenes associated with Hamburg] in mahogany frames in the stairwell, bronzes, an old inherited Gobelin tapestry, chandeliers, and a mahogany Bechstein grand piano bought in 1925 on which the Polish pianist Paderewsky had apparently given a concert. The library room contained about 2,000 books from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including a first edition of Goethe. The basement level accommodated the kitchen, coal cellar, wine cellar, pantry, and the room for the maid. Located on the ground floor were the dining room (with a dumbwaiter from the basement), separated by a sliding door, the salon with chairs and tables made of Caucasian walnut tree, armchairs, a sofa, grand piano, note cabinet, ladies’ writing desk, as well as an oil painting inherited from Eduard Wolfers depicting a Low German landscape, a library/study, and a roofed veranda. The second floor accommodated the rooms of the daughter and the son as well as the master bedroom, bathroom and dressing room, and the everyday living room (when no visitors were calling). The third floor included three guest rooms and a small kitchen, all of which were rented out as early as 1931. On 22 Jan. 1911, this house saw the birth of daughter Hildegard (Hilde). On 25 May 1911, she was baptized by the pastor of the Protestant St. Catharinen main church and entered in the baptismal register of St. Johannis Church in Harvestehude. The godparents were her aunt Leonie Herholtz, née Cohen (1868–1959), from Hamburg and the uncle and photo chemist Rudolf Gorden, who had moved from Hamburg to Berlin for good in 1902. After attending the private secondary girls’ school (Lyzeum) operated by Mary B. Henckel and Elsa Berblinger (sometimes called "Henkelsche Töchterschule”) at Tesdorpfstrasse 16 (Rotherbaum), Hildegard Gorden went to Hamburg business school for dressmaking (Hamburger Gewerbeschule für Damenschneiderei). From 1931 to 1932, she did an apprenticeship with the Arpe, Brusch & Co. GmbH fashion house (at Jungfernstieg 40), which had just been founded in the previous year.

In the period from 1923 to 1926, the autograph book of the student Hildegard Gorden also shows entries by adults. They are testimony to the circle of people with whom the Gorden family maintained close contact. For instance, the autograph book contains lines by the arts and craftswoman and journalist Margarethe Windmüller (1883–1941) (see corresponding entry). Persons writing entries included Ernst Alsberg (1879–1944) (see corresponding entry), who was an authorized signatory for the Schönfeld & Wolfers Company for a while and related to the wife of the senior director, as well as Ernst Alsberg’s wife Gertrud, née Feiss (1895–1944), who in 1930, during the elections for the college of representatives of the German-Israelitic Community in Hamburg, became politically active for the religious-liberal list (Religiös-Liberale Liste). The autograph book also features a serious admonition for life by the Hamburg university professor Dr. med. Ernst Delbanco (see corresponding entry), a friend of Felix Gorden; he chose to take his own life in 1935. Moreover, the young Brazilian pianist Ophelia Nascimento (born in 1909) also left her mark for posterity in the book during a vacation in Bad Oberdorf (Oberallgäu), as did two dozen female classmates and friends from Hamburg, among them cousin Natalie "Puppi” Wolfers (born in 1906). The classmates contributing entries also included Vera Philip (1911–2005), the daughter of the successful metal broker Ivan Philip from Winterhude (see corresponding entry). Even a teacher, Else Wodtcke, left her mark for posterity in the little book.

In 1905, Felix Gorden was appointed Regional court judge (Landrichter) in Hamburg and in 1913 District court judge (Amtsrichter) with "commercial cases” as an area of responsibility. On 15 July 1933, he was forced to retire by the National Socialists. In Oct. 1934, the Gorden couple drew up a joint will, complemented with addenda in Mar. 1937 and Dec. 1937. The document, drafted personally by Felix Gorden, took into account the increasing lack of rights in as much as the following clause was added to each of the items to be inherited: "…to the extent they were not disposed of in other ways.” Since Mar. 1937, the widowed Pauline Dratwa, née Bloch (born in Hamburg on 10 May 1881), worked for the Gorden family as a "domestic help (in return for) room, board, and 45 RM in cash wages,” as her Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) file card of the German-Israelitic Community substantiates. In 1941, she had to move to an apartment of the Oppenheimer Foundation (Oppenheimer Stiftung) at Kielortallee 22 (Eimsbüttel), which was used as a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”) toward preparations for the deportations; on 25 Oct. 1941, she was deported from there to the Lodz Ghetto and further to the Chelmno extermination camp on 9 May 1942.

Probably since 1938, the second floor of the house at Parkallee 84 was also rented out as furnished accommodation, with the library on the ground floor now serving as a dormitory as well. After the Pogrom of 9 Nov. 1938 across the Reich and the forcible transport of Herbert Gorden to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the Gorden family also obtained copies of documents from the records office for a possible emigration to join daughter Hildegard in Palestine. In Feb. 1939, after his release from concentration camp, Herbert Gorden had submitted all of the papers and documents necessary to depart for Hatay to the relevant authorities. This miniature state existed only from Sept. 1938 to June 1939, when it became a Turkish province. It is not known why Herbert Gorden’s emigration failed to materialize. Possibly, the unexpected death of Felix Gorden on 15 Mar 1939 (probably of a heart attack) had led to a delay in the departure.

In Sept. 1933, daughter Hildegard had married the jurist Dr. Fritz Rosenberg (1906–1960) in Hamburg; in 1931, he had worked in the law firm of the Hamburg lawyers Bauer, Robinow, and Butenschön. A few months prior to her wedding, Hildegard Gorden had returned to the Jewish faith. Both emigrated to Palestine in 1936 and became naturalized there in Jan 1939. The documentation required for departing without assistance from an aid organization included a "certificate” issued by the British mandatory government in Palestine and proof of 1,000 British pounds in cash funds. For issuing the papers and other fees, some additional 1,000 marks were due. In Aug./Sept. 1938, Elisabeth Gorden went on a trip to Geneva in neutral Switzerland for four weeks in order to see her daughter and son-in-law as well as her grandchild, who had all traveled there from Italy. It was to be the last meeting of mother and daughter. At the end of 1938, the passports of all Jewish citizens in the German Reich were called in and handed out again marked with an imprinted "J;” at this stage, travels abroad were systematically restricted for these passport holders. Until the outbreak of the Second World War, the mother and daughter maintained frequent contact by mail.

From July 1939 onward, Elisabeth Gorden was also subject to compulsory membership in the Reich Association [of Jews in Germany] (Reichsvereinigung der Juden [in Deutschland]), which was under the control of the Reich Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt) in Berlin. The baptism and membership in the Lutheran Church provided no protection for her at all. Starting in Aug. 1939, her son’s visa probably became invalid due to the incorporation of his country of emigration into the Turkish state. Step by step, the rights of Elisabeth Gorden and her son were revoked, and they were banned from participating in public life (theater, concerts, museums, sports events, swimming pools) by late 1938. On 19 Oct. 1939, the Reich Main Security Office ordered all Jews to hand in their radio sets without compensation, and all of their driver’s licenses as well as vehicle registrations were called in; their phone connections were cut off. Even during this time, Elisabeth Gorden continued to play on the Bechstein grand piano and gave concerts at home. Financial plundering followed the humiliations. The former lawyer Max Heinemann (Jungfrauenthal 24), by then designated as merely a "Jewish legal adviser” ("jüdischer Konsulent”) according to Nazi regulations, had already taken over the estate planning resulting from Felix Gordens’s last will in May 1939 and now, as Elisabeth Gorden’s fully authorized representative, he looked after the "atonement payments” ("Sühnezahlungen”) demanded from her by the Nazi state. In addition, he managed the surrender of gold and silver (including the valuable 46 gold and 314 silver coins dating from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries that belonged to Felix Gorden’s private collection) to the "public purchasing point” in Gotenstrasse in May 1939. As early as 14 June 1939, all of Elisabeth Gorden’s accounts, securities, and real estate had been blocked by way of a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”), and from then on, she was allowed to withdraw merely 350 RM (reichsmark) a month from her account.

Starting on 19 Sept. 1941, Elisabeth and Herbert Gorden also had to wear a yellow "Jews’ star” ("Davidstern”), clearly visible in the chest area. A few days before 25 Oct. 1941, Elisabeth Gorden and her son received an "evacuation order” by registered mail to the following effect: "Your evacuation to Litzmannstadt [Lodz] has been ordered. Effective immediately, your assets are confiscated, and disposing of any assets is subject to punishment.” On 24 Oct. 1941, Elisabeth Gorden, her son Herbert Gorden, as well as the subtenant Mrs. Bonnette Benjamin, née Lyon (born on 27 May 1886 in Hamburg), and the maid, whose name is not listed in the few preserved family documents, had to report to the deportation collection point in the "Provincial Masonic Lodge” on Moorweidenstrasse (Rotherbaum). Moorweidenstrasse was blocked by uniformed police and the organization was in the hands of the Hamburg Gestapo (including baggage control, removal of cash, collection of the lists of assets). The passenger train of the German Reichsbahn was scheduled for departure from the Hannoversche Bahnhof (Lohseplatz) at 10:10 a.m. on 25 Oct. 1941 and arrival in the Lodz (German: Litzmannstadt) Ghetto on the next day at 11 a.m. All of the 1,037 deportees were permitted to take along only one suitcase weighing a maximum of 50 kilograms (some 110 lbs), bedding, food supplies for two days, and 100 RM. The banker Lipmann Josias (see corresponding entry) and the shipping company owner Lucian Luca (see corresponding entry) were appointed transport overseers, answerable for smooth implementation of the orders. Sixteen members of the uniformed police force (Schutzpolizei) accompanied the train as guards; during a stopover, the train was surrounded by guards. It was the first deportation train to leave Hamburg.

Herbert Gorden died in the Lodz Ghetto on 9 Mar. 1942. Elisabeth Gorden’s exact date of death is not known; a certification by the "Jewish Eldest in Litzmannstadt” ("Judenältester in Litzmannstadt”) dated 22 Dec. 1941 confirmed that she was still alive at that time, quartered at Zimmerstrasse 6/18. In May 1942, transport lists were drawn up in Lodz for further deportation of about half of the 21,000 German-speaking Jews there. The destination of the deportation was the Chelmno (German: Kulmhof) extermination camp. The only persons interned in Lodz able to obtain an exemption from this deportation by means of an informal application were holders of the Iron Cross or of the Wound Badge from World War I or those having an official job in the Lodz Ghetto (e.g., in one of the textiles plants). No such application by 62-year-old Elisabeth Gorden has been preserved, and her subsequent fate is unknown.

The widow’s pension amounting to 260 RM a month was cancelled as of the deportation date. The Nazi state claimed the fully furnished house of the Gorden family for its own purposes by means of a "confiscation decree” ("Entziehungsverfügung”) dated 21 Oct. 1941 (delivered by mail on 24 Oct. 1941). The front-door key had to be handed in to the authorized police station. In the 1943 Hamburg directory, the owner of the property at Parkallee 84 listed is "The German Empire” ("Das Deutsche Reich”), without any tenants indicated. Notes in the file concerning the restitution of the house, however, prove that SS-Sturmbannführer [equivalent to the rank of major] Adolf Ellenberger (born in 1910, joined the SA in 1927, member of the NSDAP since 1928, member of the SS since 1930, full-time member of the SS since 1931), moved from Feldbrunnenstrasse 72 (Rotherbaum), the base of an SS storm unit (SS-Sturmbann), into the house at Parkallee 84, still fully furnished, on 18 Dec. 1941. The mind boggles at the thought of the uniformed SS officer with a golden Nazi party badge and SS Skull Ring (SS-Totenkopfring) standing in front of the shoe cabinets containing women’s and men’s shoes and, sitting on the leather couch in the study, looking at the bound rulings of the Reich Court dating from the Weimar Republic and the bronze figure of Justitia with the scales. It is unknown what share in the loot he envisaged for himself. In 1942, Ellenberger no longer appeared listed in the Hamburg directory, but in his SS file, Parkallee 84 was indicated as his private address as late as Mar. 1944; by that time, however, he had already been stationed as an SS staff leader (SS-Stabsführer) in Zagreb/Croatia for half a year.

On 7 Oct. 1942, the household effects of the Gorden family were auctioned off publicly by Hamburg-based Carl F. Schlüter auctioneers, probably in their "auctioning halls” at Alsterufer 12, and the goods yielded 2,000 RM in proceeds for the benefit of the Nazi state – a fraction of the actual value.

For her brother, Hugo Wolfers (1875–1942?), partner in the Schönfeld & Wolfers textiles trading company, and his wife Olga Wolfers, née Oppenheimer (1885–1942?), Stolpersteine were laid at Hofweg 31 (Uhlenhorst). Both were deported to the Riga Ghetto on 6 Dec. 1941; the exact circumstances and the dates of their deaths are not known.
A Stolperstein at Ottersbekallee 27 (Eimsbüttel) commemorates the subtenant Bonette Benjamin; she was probably deported in May 1942 from the Lodz Ghetto to the Chelmno extermination camp and murdered there at the age of 66. Elisabeth and Herbert Gorden were threatened with this fate as well.
At Schäferkampsallee 25–27 (Eimsbüttel), Stolpersteine were placed for Gertrud and Ernst Alsberg, both of whom were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto on 15 July 1942 and murdered in the Auschwitz extermination camp in Oct. 1944.

The parents-in-law of the daughter, Bernhard Rosenberg (1872–1942) and Hedwig Rosenberg, née Speyer (1874–1942), who managed the Speyer Department Store in Sonneberg (Thuringia) until 1935, had to sell the business due to anti-Jewish boycotts and pressure by the NSDAP district leadership to Hepprich & Gerards (Weimar) in 1935. In 1938, the sale of the real estate significantly below market value followed and so did their relocation to Frankfurt/Main. From there, they were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto on 2 Sept. 1942 and further to the Treblinka extermination camp.

After the surrender of Nazi Germany, the house at Parkallee 84 was put at the disposal of the tax and foreign currency consultant August H. Kramer and his wife Natalie Kramer, née Wolfers, the cousin of Herbert and Hildegard Gorden, for use as accommodation. In the early 1950s, Hildegard Rosenberg, née Gorden, returned to Germany along with her ailing husband; the son followed, after completing Israeli military service. The family moved to Frankfurt/Main. They did not speak about the persecution, deportation, and murder of their family members and their own homelessness. Hildegard Rosenberg visited Hamburg a few more times, for instance, in 1968 to attend a class reunion, and in 1990 along with her granddaughter. On this occasion, a female neighbor returned to her three Hamburgensien in mahogany frames that Elisabeth Gorden had given her as a present at the very end. The neighbor survived the Nazi period in Hamburg only because she had been married to a non-Jewish husband.

Status as of July 2014

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Björn Eggert

Quellen: Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StaH) 231-7 (Amtsgericht Hamburg, Handels- u. Genossenschaftsregister), B 1982 – 104 Bd. 1 (Schönfeldt & Wolfers), 1869–1939; StaH 241-2 (Justizverwaltung – Personalakten), A 1229 (Felix Gorden); StaH 314-15 (Oberfinanzpräsident), FVg 4758 (Herbert Gorden); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 80 u. 3432/1880 (Sterberegister, Rosa Cohen); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 8610 u. 363/1901 (Heiratsregister); StaH 332-7 (Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht), Bürger-Register 1845-1875 (Cohen); StaH 332-8 (Alte Einwohnermeldekartei 1892–1925), Eduard Wolfers, Rudolf Gorden; StaH 351-11 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung), 36921 (Hildegard Rosenberg, geb. Gorden); StaH 522-1 (Jüdische Gemeinden), 992b (Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburg, ab 1913), Elisabeth Gorden, Herbert Gorden, Hugo Wolfers, Pauline Dratwa, geb. Bloch; Bundesarchiv Berlin (ehem. BDC), NSDAP-Zentralkarte, Mitglieds-Nr. 87176, Ellenberger, Adolf, 21.2.1910; Bundesarchiv Berlin (ehem. BDC), SS-Offiziere, Ellenberger, Adolf, 21.2.1910; Bundesarchiv Berlin (ehem. BDC), Rasse- u. Siedlungsamt der SS, Ellenberger, Adolf, 21.2.1910; St. Johannis zu Harvestehude, Tauf-Register (Hildegard Gorden); Hamburger Schulmuseum (Lyzeum Tesdorpfstraße/Heimhuderstraße); Gedenkbuch Hamburger Jüdische Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, Hamburg 1995; Freimark/Jankowski/Lorenz (Hrsg.), Juden in Deutschland, Hamburg 1991, darin: Hans Dieter Loose, Wünsche Hamburger Juden auf Änderung ihrer Vornamen und der staatliche Umgang damit, Seite 61; Ina Lorenz, Die Juden in Hamburg zur Zeit der Weimarer Republik, Band 1, Hamburg 1987, S. 235 (Gertrud Alsberg); Heiko Morisse, Jüdische Rechtsanwälte in Hamburg. Ausgrenzung und Verfolgung im NS-Staat, Hamburg 2003, S. 134 (Max Heinemann); Carmen Smiatacz, Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Barmbek und Hamburg-Uhlenhorst. Biografische Spurensuche, Hamburg 2010, S. 208–215 (Hugo u. Olga Wolfers); Ursel Hochmuth/Gertrud Meyer, Streiflichter aus dem Hamburger Widerstand 1933–1945, Frankfurt/Main 1969, S. 206, 208, 211, 216, 219; Hamburger Adressbuch 1937 u. 1943; Amtliches Fernsprechbuch Hamburg 1902, 1906–1908, 1910, 1920, 1933, 1938–1940; Hamburgisches Staatshandbuch 1912, 1915, 1925, 1929 (Richter Dr. Felix Gorden); Hamburger Börsenfirmen, Hamburg 1935, S. 25 (Arpe, Brusch & Co.); Dienstaltersliste der Schutzstaffel (SS) der NSDAP vom 1.10.1934, Nachdruck von 1994, S. 20, laufende Nr. 458 (Ellenberger); Denkmalschutzamt Hamburg: Leopoldshof; Stadtarchiv Sonneberg/Thüringen, Kaufhaus Speyer; Korrespondenz von Hildegard Rosenberg geb. Gorden, Privatbesitz; Testament von Felix und Elisabeth Gorden, Privatbesitz; Gespräche mit A. R., 2012.

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