Search for Names, Places and Biographies

Already layed Stumbling Stones

back to select list

Hermann Goldschmidt als Soldat im Ersten Weltkrieg
© Kurt Goldschmidt

Hermann Goldschmidt * 1880

Marienthaler Straße vor Spielplatz (vormals Nr. 57) (Hamburg-Mitte, Hamm)

JG. 1880
JUNI 1943

Hermann Goldschmidt, born on 29 Nov. 1880 in Bebra, died on 2 June 1943 due to the effects of imprisonment

Hermann Goldschmidt came from a Jewish family of horse traders in Bebra, which, despite being an important railroad junction even then, was a small town with a population of approx. 1,400 located on the Fulda River in the district of Rotenburg/North Hessen. The Goldschmidt family had their domicile in a spacious half-timbered house at Mühlenstrasse 4. They were not the only Jewish family in town. In addition to them, there were other Jewish horse traders, as well as textiles and grain dealers in Bebra. Hermann Goldschmidt and his family maintained a close relationship to his relatives in Bebra all of their lives.

The grandparents, Honas Goldschmidt and Breinchen, née Katz, had eleven children, two of whom continued the parental horse trading operation: Joseph, born in 1838, and his brother Salomon, who was 15 years younger. On 17 Jan. 1866, Joseph married the teacher’s daughter Amalie Grünthal, called Malchen, a native of Morschen, a small town located further northwest on the Fulda River. The marriage produced four children: Louis, born on 21 Mar. 1867; Caroline Clara, born on 25 Aug. 1870; Hermann, born on 29 Nov. 1880; and Frieda, born on 7 Oct. 1883.

Honas Goldschmidt passed away in 1869, so he was already deceased by the time the three younger grandchildren were born. They grew up with their grandmother Breinchen, who died at the age of 83 in 1898, and with the family of their uncle Salomon. In 1897, the first of the four siblings to get married, Caroline, moved to Hamburg. Her husband, the Dutch merchant Gompel Aron van Dam, a native of Groningen 17 years her senior, operated an "equipment store” ("Ausrüstungsgeschäft”) in Hamburg-St. Pauli, and they lived at Schlump 52. Caroline became a mother to three children.

Being the oldest son, Louis joined the parent’s company, eventually taking it over. Shortly before the turn of the century, he married Hilda Werner from Klein Eibstadt. Their firstborn was Herbert in 1899, followed by the four sisters Helma, Bertha, Hanna, and Edith.

Hermann Goldschmidt attended upper secondary school (Höhere Schule) in Kassel and completed training to become a merchant. He followed his sister Caroline to Hamburg at the end of July 1909, living as a subtenant with the van Dams on Schlump. On 27 Aug. 1909, he registered with the industrial inspection agency a business trading in yard, white, and dry goods at Silbersackstrasse 26 in St. Pauli. As a sales assistant, he hired the tailor Helene Nagel, the daughter of a working-class family from Altona. She took over the store management when he was drafted for military service in the 75th Regional Infantry Regiment (Landesschützenregiment 75) on 5 Aug. 1914.

In 1914, the youngest of the four siblings, Frieda, married Dr. Vilmos Stadler and moved to Vienna.
In 1915, the mother, Amalie Goldschmidt, passed away, and that same year, Helma, the oldest daughter of Hilda and Louis, threw herself from a bridge in front of a moving train at the age of 17, an act of defiance because her family disapproved of her associating with a Christian girlfriend and refused her wish to become an actress. Caroline van Dam’s only son was killed in action during the First World War.

Hermann Goldschmidt fought on the eastern front until the end of the war, undergoing treatment for a fractured fibula in the Kharkov and Brest-Litovsk military hospitals as late as Nov. 1918. He returned to Hamburg, decorated with the Iron Cross Second Class and the Hanseatic Cross. On 15 Aug. 1919, he married his business manager, Helene Nagel. She had been born on 21 May 1892 in Altona, at Fischmarkt 20, as the daughter of the worker Hans Hinrich Nagel and his wife Margaretha, née Loop, and belonged to the Protestant Church. Her parents had already passed away by the time of her marriage. She lived at Breitestrasse 68 with her brother, the shipbuilder Heinrich Nagel.

The young couple moved to Thalstrasse 21, not far from their store. At this place, their daughter Edith was born on 17 Oct. 1919. In 1922, Helene Goldschmidt converted to Judaism for the sake of her husband and his family, becoming a member of the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community. On 30 Mar. 1923, son Kurt was born. The parents had him circumcised according to Jewish tradition but otherwise followed Christian customs.

In 1921, father Joseph died. Whereas owing to Louis’ industry and his good integration into the Bebra business world, the family in Bebra did not suffer any existential financial losses during the period of inflation, Gompel Aron’s revenues from his equipment store declined considerably, and in 1924, he was without any income at all. He died in 1927 at the age of 74. Three years later, his widow Caroline moved in with her daughter Gertrud in Amsterdam for a while.

In 1929, Hermann and Helene Goldschmidt sold their thriving business and moved from the rather poor St. Pauli neighborhood to the more upscale Rotherbaum, living on Hochallee. Economic and social advancement went hand in hand. Initially, they opened up two new stores for women’s lingerie and stockings; one on Eppendorfer Landstrasse, the other at Fuhlsbütteler Strasse 120. A nanny and a housekeeper moved into the household as well. The circle of customers also included Dr. Alberto Jonas, the principal of the Jewish girls’ school on Karolinenstrasse. Subsequently, a third store was added on Wandsbeker Chaussee near Ritterstrasse, prompting the move to Marienthaler Strasse 57 in 1934.

Assimilated liberal Jews, Hermann and Helene Goldschmidt initially sent their children to private elementary schools: Edith to Ria-Wirth School on Mittelweg and Kurt to the exclusive Bertram private pre-school on Esplanade, later relocated to Harvestehuder Weg. Although these schools were not Jewish, the students were largely sheltered from anti-Semitic attacks there. Along with their move to Hamm, the children changed to public schools, Edith to the girls’ school on Burgstrasse, Kurt to the Oberrealschule for boys [a secondary school without Latin] at Brekelbaumspark. "We lived a rather content life until Hitler came to power and one anti-Jewish measure after the other impaired business life,” Kurt Goldschmidt sums up these years. The merchant family did not pursue any special interests, such as sports or music, and Hermann was no exception to this. Instead, he liked to go out to restaurants with the family or window-shopping in the city center with Kurt, even though the latter was bored by this.

Edith suffered from occasional epileptic seizures. However, after completing school she nevertheless managed to do an apprenticeship as an office worker, taking on a responsible position in her company, despite her youth. When the enterprise was "Aryanized” ("arisiert”), she was kept on staff by her new employer. This unusual occurrence had become possible due to the intervention of a high-ranking member of the Nazi party with whom the new owner was friends. Edith was supposed to declare before the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront – DAF) and have it confirmed by Dr. Nathan, the chair of the Jewish Community, that as of 15 Sept. 1935, the day the Nuremberg Laws [on race] were passed, she had not belonged to the Jewish denomination. Hermann Goldschmidt put a request to this effect to Dr. Nathan, who pointed out that "the circumcision of a son born after Edith proved that he was intent on raising his children in the Jewish faith.” Evidently, the clue to the non-Jewish upbringing of the children, who had not attended Jewish schools or received any religious instruction, carried more weight, and Edith was able to keep her job.

The situation of the family in Bebra changed on the one hand due to the death of Salomon Goldschmidt in 1934, which left Louis as the only operator of the horse trading business; and on the other hand, due to mounting repression, culminating in the Pogrom of November 1938, which already took place in Hessen on 7 Nov. Louis closed down operations, ending the horse trade of the Goldschmidt family in Bebra after more than 100 years. In 1938, Louis and Hilda Goldschmidt, financially supported by their son Herbert, temporarily moved in with their relatives in Hamburg, living with them at Marienthaler Strasse 57, before emigrating to the USA via Britain in Aug. 1939.

Owing to the boycott of Jewish businesses, Helene and Hermann Goldschmidt also suffered financial losses, which Hermann Goldschmidt sought to compensate by taking on a sub-agency for "Goldfisch [brand] bathing suits” and "FTO stockings” [made by the Friedrich Tauscher Company in Oberlungwitz] but revenues remained very modest and dried up entirely when the Jewish sales representative had his contract revoked. In 1937, Hermann and Helene Goldschmidt began commissioning the manufacture of aprons and smocks under the domestic system, which was relatively successful in the beginning but had to be stopped due to lack of cloth material.

After the November Pogrom of 1938, the Goldschmidt couple gave up the three stores and the smock production in succession, the last one being the store on Fuhlsbütteler Strasse. They had signed it over to Caroline von Dam, who held Dutch citizenship, in 1932, as a result of which it was regarded as a Dutch business. Nevertheless, the customers stayed away. In the meantime, Caroline had returned to Hamburg once more, living with her brother Hermann and then moving to Brussels in 1936.

Helene and Hermann Goldschmidt planned to emigrate to the USA as well, where one of Helene’s sisters lived since World War I, but it was too late for that. They rented out part of their apartment to subtenants and cut down on their lifestyle.

After successfully completing secondary school, Kurt began an apprenticeship as an import and export merchant, which was stopped by the "Aryanization” of the company training him. In preparation for possible emigration, he attended the training workshops of the Jewish Community for metalwork and carpentry on Weidestrasse. Helene Goldschmidt took on part-time jobs in order to earn a living.

The financial situation was really difficult. Hermann Goldschmidt was unable to meet his tax liabilities vis-a-vis the Hamburg Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband), which in the end amounted only to the "head tax” ("Kopfgeld”) of 12 RM (reichsmark) a year set by the "Reich Association of Jews in Germany” ("Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland"). His brother-in-law, Vilmos Stadler, having emigrated from Vienna to Britain by then, had promised him a monthly sum of 100 RM from his blocked account; but the transfer of the funds was delayed and eventually cancelled by the trustee altogether because the brother-in-law’s account balance did not suffice. The correspondence that came about regarding this matter reveals the predicaments on both sides in a depressing manner.

Edith got engaged to an "Aryan.” The couple did without applying for a special permit for marriage, living together in a small apartment on Landwehr until the fiancé was drafted into the German Wehrmacht. One week later, Edith Goldschmidt delivered her first son, Hans, and moved in with her parents again. Hermann Goldschmidt thus had a new task, namely to take care of "Hänschen.”

Despite being the son of parents living in a "privileged mixed marriage” ("privilegierte Mischehe”), Kurt was, in contrast to his sister, treated as a "person considered to be a Jew” ("Geltungsjude”) and already ordered to report for "resettlement” ("Aussiedlung”) in the fall of 1941. He was scheduled to be deported on the second transport of Hamburg Jews to the Minsk Ghetto on 8 Nov. 1941. His mother succeeded in having him deferred until clarification of his status.

At the end of May 1943, Hermann Goldschmidt, by then 63 years old, was assigned by the employment office for Jews to do warehouse work. In the course of working in the draft on open loading hatches, he contracted a serious cold and was taken to the emergency hospital of the Jewish Community at Schäferkampsallee 29, where he already died on the following day, on 2 June 1943, of pneumonia. Hermann Goldschmidt was buried in the family grave of the Nagel family in the Diebsteich cemetery in Altona.

During the large-scale air raid of the British Air Force on 27/28 July 1943, the home at Marienthaler Strasse was destroyed. Helene Goldschmidt and her children found accommodation outside of Hamburg. Two years after clarification of Kurt’s status had begun, the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt) eventually declared him a "full Jew” ("Volljude”), which he simply ignored, however. At first, the Gestapo did not manage to stay on his heels. Finally, though, he was tracked down at Wohlersallee 24 in Altona, where he had found shelter with relatives of his mother. On 30 Jan. 1945, he was added to a small transport comprised of 20 "half-Jews” ("jüdische Mischlinge”) that went via Berlin to Theresienstadt. There the Red Army liberated him, and he returned to Hamburg.


In 1949, Kurt Goldschmidt married Sonja Schäfer and emigrated with his wife and his mother Helene to the USA in Dec. of that year. Helene Goldschmidt died in 1958 when she was hit by a municipal bus. Her ashes were interred in the family grave on Diebsteich cemetery in Altona.

Edith’s fiancé came back from Russian captivity in 1950. Their marriage was considered valid as of 21 Feb. 1940 and son Hans received his father’s last name.

In the course of decades, Kurt and Sonja Goldschmidt visited their relatives, who are scattered in various parts of the world, also returning several times to Bebra and Hamburg.

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Hildegard Thevs

Quellen: StaH, 332-5 Standesämter, 3343-626/1919; 6275-1743/1892; 8185-325/1943; 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 5081, 42988; 376-3 Gewerbepolizei Spezialakten, Spz VIII C 77 4338; 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden, 992 b, 992 d Band 10, 992 e 2 Bde 2 und 5; div. Adressbücher; Hans Möller, Stadtarchiv Bebra; Heinrich Nuhn, Jüdisches Museum Rotenburg a.d.Fulda, unveröffentlichte Word-Datei "Goldschmidt.Stand 2011"; Mitteilungen von Angehörigen; Deutsche Dienststelle, schriftliche Mitteilung 24.1.2012.

print preview  / top of page