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Herbert Otto Gorden * 1902
Parkallee 84 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
Herbert Gorden, born on 24 Sept. 1902 in Hamburg, deported on 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz, died there on 9 Mar. 1942
Herbert Gorden was born in Hamburg in 1902 as the son of the judge Dr. Felix Gorden, formerly Cohen (1863–1939) and Elisabeth Gorden, née Wolfers (1879–1942?). Stolpersteine also commemorate his mother and his uncle Hugo Wolfers (see biographies under their name).
His parents belonged to the Lutheran Church, and thus Herbert Otto Malte Gorden was baptized a Christian. Appropriate to his father’s position, the family lived in the district of Harvestehude in a spacious detached house at Parkallee 84. Herbert Gorden was described as a quiet, introverted, and artistically inclined person. He was passionate about playing his grandfather’s violin. He had a sheltered upbringing. From 1909 to 1912, he attended the Realschule [a practice-oriented secondary school up to grade 10] in Eppendorf; in Apr. 1912, he changed to the Heinrich-Hertz-Realgymnasium [a high school focused on science, math, and modern languages] at the intersection of Bundesstrasse 58 and Schlump. In contrast to the grammar schools emphasizing the study of the classics (humanistische Gymnasien), this Realgymnasium, opened in 1910, attached greater importance to English and French as foreign languages as well as to the sciences and mathematics. With about 20 percent, its student body had a relatively large share of Jewish students. Herbert’s sister Hildegard, who was eight years younger, attended the secondary school for girls (Lyzeum) in the Rotherbaum district. After graduating from high school (Abitur) in Jan. 1921, Herbert Gorden opted against studying at university. He completed a commercial apprenticeship at the Schönfeld & Wolfers textiles trading company, in which his uncle Hugo Wolfers was a partner and his mother held a substantial stake. Hugo Wolfers repeatedly sent him on purchasing assignments to Sweden and Finland.
He used the business contacts acquired in this way to serve his own company in Hamburg, "Herbert Gorden,” from 1929 onward. According to testimony by his sister, he independently represented largely Swedish companies (net curtains and roller blinds) in Germany, in this context also maintaining business relations with his sister’s father-in-law, Bernhard Rosenberg (1872–1942). The latter operated the Speyer fashion department store in Sonneberg (Thuringia).
In the spacious eleven-room house of his parents at Parkallee 84, Herbert Gorden set up his company office. Due to his parents’ Jewish descent, he was increasingly obstructed in terms of business from 1933 onward. The parents helped him out with a financial support payment in Jan. 1934, hoping to secure the company’s survival in this way. However, the calls for boycott by the Nazi party were successful, leading to a massive decline in sales and finally, in 1937/38, to the closing down of the enterprise. For Herbert Gorden, the years of hopelessness and mounting lack of rights culminated in his arbitrary arrest in the course of the pogrom of 9 Nov. 1938 (on this day, approx. 30,000 Jews or, respectively, German citizens of Jewish descent, were arrested across the Reich and taken to concentration camps. As "atonement payments” ("Sühneleistung") for damages occurring in the pogrom, the Nazi state confiscated a percentage of assets as a "levy on Jewish assets” ("Judenvermögenssteuer”).
Forcibly taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and obliged to remain silent under threat of further punishment, Herbert Gorden was released to go home, "a completely changed person.” In Feb. 1939, he filed an application for emigration to Alexandretta (Turkish: Iskenderun), the capital of the short-lived miniature state of Hatay on the border between Turkey and Syria. Aspects in favor of this host country were the relatively swift granting of visas and the proximity to the British mandated territory of Palestine.
His sister Hildegard Rosenberg, née Gorden (born in 1911), who had been living with her husband Dr. jur. Fritz Rosenberg and son Georg (born in 1934) in Tel Aviv (Palestine) since Jan. 1936, undertook efforts to assist him in getting closer to Palestine, so that he would be able to travel onward to join her in Tel Aviv. At the same time, she attempted to obtain a visa for him to the USA. However, emigration to the USA was a long-drawn-out matter and subject to quotas. In addition to business attire (suits, replacement shirt collars, gaiters, coats) and the essential tuxedo and tails for formal occasions, the list specifying Herbert Gorden’s "moving goods” for Alexandretta also contained equipment allowing for the large differences of temperature in the country of emigration (linen suits, a pith helmet, a kerosene stove, blankets). Customs secretary Jesse noted in his "investigative report” that in principle, there were no objections against exporting the items. However, "there are reservations concerning clearance of the silverware and the golden pocket watch. Taking along the pearl (tie) tack is to be refused.” Herbert Gorden also wished to take with him the valuable Gian Battista Guardagnini violin inherited from the grandfather to the father, sheets of music and notes, as well photo albums, and he had already negotiated with the Keim, Krauth & Co. furniture transport and shipping company (Jungfernstieg 2).
The death of the father on 15 Mar. 1939 was another heavy blow to the family. Herbert Gorden, not endowed with a strong will and energy to begin with, showed the first signs of depression. He increasingly abandoned himself to passivity and resignation, whereas his 59-year-old mother thought about emigration and language courses. Rousing letters from his sister also failed to achieve their goal. "He lives entirely in the past and does not think about the future at all,” she noted with alarm. Just a short time afterward, the conditions for departure had already changed radically. The miniature state of Hatay had been incorporated into the territory of Turkey on 24 Aug. 1939, and thus the visa had become invalid. One week later, as the Second World War began with the invasion of the German Wehrmacht in Poland, quite a few host countries closed off their national borders. In addition, the assets of the Gorden family were systematically plundered by the Nazi state, which meant it was no longer possible to furnish the proof of funds required for emigrating to many countries.
As of July 1939, Herbert Gorden was listed as a compulsory member of the Reich Association of Jews [in Germany] (Reichsvereinigung der Juden [in Deutschland]). He was forced to have the additional compulsory first name of "Israel” entered in all documents by Jan. 1939, and from 19 Sept. 1941, he was obliged to wear a yellow "Jews’ star” ("Judenstern”). He had to perform forced labor for the company of "Alwin Hedermann, Gartengestaltung, Ausführung, Instandhaltung, Hmb.21, Winterhuder Weg 110” as an excavator and gardener.
On the first deportation train leaving Hamburg, Herbert Gorden and his mother Elisabeth Gorden, née Wolfers, were deported to the Lodz ("Litzmannstadt”) Ghetto on 25 Oct. 1941. In a segregated area of Poland’s second largest city, a ghetto administration headed by a Jewish council (Judenrat) undertook efforts to secure survival. Provision with food supplies was meager and occurred by means of food stamps, but many died of malnutrition nevertheless. The inadequate sanitary and medical provisions in conjunction with overcrowding resulted in the high mortality rate (taken into account by the German occupational authorities). By the end of 1942, about 4,200 Jews from the German Reich had perished in the Lodz Ghetto, among them Herbert Gorden on 9 Mar. 1942 at the age of 39 years; his mother’s exact date of death is not known.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Björn Eggert
Quellen: Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StaH) 241-2 (Justizverwaltung – Personalakten), A 1229 (Felix Gorden); StaH 314-15 (Oberfinanzpräsident), FVg 4758 (Herbert Gorden); StaH 332-8 (Alte Einwohnermeldekartei 1892-1925), Eduard Wolfers; StaH 351-11 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung), 36921 (Hildegard Rosenberg geb. Gorden); StaH 522-1 (Jüdische Gemeinden), 992b (Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburg), Herbert Gorden, Elisabeth Gorden, Hugo Wolfers; Heinrich-Hertz-Schule, Archiv (Schüler-Kartei, Matrikel 581, Herbert Gorden); Gedenkstätte Sachsenhausen (Herbert Gorden, Häftlings-Nr. 008778), Archiv, Sonderliste (D1 A 1024; Bl. 029) und Anweisung der Politischen Abteilung (D1 A 1022, Bl. 500); Gedenkbuch Hamburger jüdische Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, Hamburg 1995; Ursel Hochmuth/ Gertrud Meyer, Streiflichter aus dem Hamburger Widerstand 1933-1945, Frankfurt/ Main, 1969, S. 214; Wilhelm Mosel, Wegweiser zu ehemaligen jüdischen Stätten in Hamburg, Heft 2, Hamburg 1985, S.68 (Heinrich-Hertz-Realgymnasium); Hamburger Adressbuch 1937; Amtliches Fernsprechbuch Hamburg 1920, 1933; Wikipedia – Angaben zu Alexandrette (eingesehen am 18.10.2011); Stadtarchiv Sonneberg/ Thüringen; Gespräche mit A.R., Berlin 2012.