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Hans (Johannes) Görtz * 1901

Mansteinstraße 9 (Eimsbüttel, Hoheluft-West)

JG. 1901
ERTRUNKEN 3.5.1945

further stumbling stones in Mansteinstraße 9:
Wolf Loewenhof

Hans (Johannes) Dietrich Görtz, born on 9 Mar. 1901 in Lägerdorf, since 1933 arrested several times, as of 1943 detained in the Neuengamme concentration camp, drowned on 3 May 1945 aboard the MV Thielbek

Mansteinstrasse 9

"I charge the person named as follows: To have prepared, in Hamburg in the years from 1934 to 1935 (…), the treasonous undertaking of changing the constitution of the Reich by use of force, in the context of which the offense of the accused was aimed at establishing and maintaining an organizational connection toward preparation of high treason and in the context of which the offense of the accused G ö r t z [author’s note: spacing in the original] was furthermore aimed at influencing the masses by distributing writings” – this was the wording of the indictment by the Chief Public Prosecutor (Generalstaatsanwalt) with the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht – OLG) dated 6 Jan. 1936 against Johannes "Hans” Dietrich Görtz and five other defendants. To provide evidence, the public prosecutor presented, among other things, two leaflets, of which one contained the rallying cry of "Fascist murderous incendiaries set fire to the Reichstag.” The court pronounced Hans Görtz guilty of "preparation to high treason” (Vorbereitung zum Hochverrat), sentencing him to eight years penitentiary starting on 21 Jan. 1936. It turned out to be his death sentence.

Hans Görtz was born in the small town of Lägerdorf near Itzehoe. He completed the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule) in Hamburg. His parents, Johannes Görtz, born in 1876 in Wesselburen, and Anna, née Piening, a native of Lägerdorf who was three years younger, moved to the Elbe River in 1910. They had married on 17 Mar. 1900 and had three other children besides Hans: Karl-Friedrich, born in 1903; Bruno, who was born in 1912 and died in 1922, as well as Elfriede, born in 1914.

After attending secondary school, Hans Görtz left Hamburg and did an apprenticeship as an iron turner [Eisendreher, i.e., lathe operator] in the Saxon city of Plauen. He returned to the Hanseatic city [of Hamburg] as a journeyman. On 6 June 1930, at the age of 29, he married Rosa Lea Loewenhof (in some documents, her name was also spelled Laja Radjzla or Laya Rejzla Lewenchof), who was eight years his senior. She had been born on 29 Mar. 1893 in what was then the Silesian town of Krzepice, District of Czestochowa (German: Tschenstochau). Her parents were Herschel Lewenhof and Chaja, née Chaskel, and she had a brother as well as a sister. Whereas Hans Görtz was first a Protestant, then "without any religious creed,” she came from a Jewish family, though having herself baptized a Christian.

From 1915 until 1917, Rosa Loewenhof completed an apprenticeship as a tailor in Chemnitz, passing her journeywoman’s exam before the Leipzig Chamber of Crafts in 1919. From 1921 until 1926, she operated a fashion boutique together with her sister. Both had plenty to do and at times employed several workers. In 1927, Rosa came to Hamburg, where she continued to work as a tailor. At first, she was still a subtenant, at Mansteinstrasse 9 with the Rosenbaums. After she had met and married Hans Görtz, the couple moved into an apartment of their own in the same house. From 1931 onward, one Wolf Loewenhof lived with the Rosenbaums in Mansteinstrasse. Possibly, this was Rosa’s brother whom she was able to leave her room vacated after her marriage and move.

Starting in 1925, Hans Görtz became politically active. He joined the German Communist Party (KPD) and the political aid organization called "Red Aid of Germany” ("Rote Hilfe Deutschlands”), which was close to the KPD, as well as the German Metalworkers’ Union (Deutscher Metallarbeiterverband – DMV). He left the latter again, however, in Apr. 1931. Until 1931, he worked in his occupation as a turner [lathe operator], then he became unemployed. His last job was at the University Hospital in Eppendorf (UKE).

On 13 Nov. 1931, Hans and Rosa Görtz’ only child was born, Paul Hermann. Since Hans Görtz no longer had any work, it was a stroke of luck that "Rosel,” as she was called, was able to support the family with her income as a tailor. She took only a short break from work before and after the birth of their son.

Since being dismissed from the UKE, her husband was active as a KPD party functionary. For instance, from the summer of 1932 until Jan. 1933, he headed the unemployed committee of the party, subsequently becoming an instructor within the KPD’s Wasserkante District leadership. The Wasserkante District covered today’s federal states of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg as well as the northeastern part of today’s Lower Saxony.

Immediately upon Hitler’s appointment to Reich Chancellor on 30 Jan. 1933, the measures of persecution by the NSDAP against the organized workers’ movement commenced. Hamburg, as one of the latter’s traditional strongholds, was particularly affected. This manifested itself in the open terror against Nazi adversaries as well as in numerous bans and arrests. As an instructor, Hans Görtz was active in Dithmarschen and Lübeck, among others. There, a "Commando for Special Use” ("Kommando z.b.V.” [i.e., "zur besonderen Verwendung”]), raised by the SS especially for such operations, arrested him in Mar. 1933. Because of "treasonous activities,” he was sentenced to ten months in prison, which he served in the Lübeck-Lauerhof penal institution from Apr. 1933 until Feb. 1934.

Rosa Görtz, who continued to live at Mansteinstrasse 9 with her son Hermann, three years old by then, had been struggling with substantial losses of income after the Nazis came to power. Many of her primarily non-Jewish female regular customers no longer wished to go to a Jewish tailor.

After his release from prison, Hans Görtz continued to be unemployed. Since he was considered "politically unreliable,” the Hamburg employment office did not place him. On his own initiative, he applied with a large plant in Nuremberg for a job as a turner. The company intended to hire him at the beginning of 1935, to which the employment office raised no objections. However, two days before starting his job, on 28 Jan. 1935, he was arrested again in Hamburg and, as mentioned at the outset, sentenced to eight years in prison for "preparation of high treason” ("Vorbereitung des Hochverrats”).

During his detention in the Fuhlsbüttel police prison, Hans Görtz was able to establish contact with his wife. He urgently advised her, being Jewish and the wife of a political prisoner, to leave Germany. Indeed, starting at beginning of 1939, Rosa Görtz undertook everything in her power to flee. She already managed in April of that year to send her eight-year-old son Hermann to the Netherlands. After that, she settled all of the required formalities toward her departure. She found a job in Britain, obtained a visa from the British Consulate General, applied for a tax clearance certificate (steuerliche Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung), and drew up an extensive list of moving goods. Furthermore, she gave notice of moving out of the apartment on Mansteinstrasse, selling or giving away parts of their household effects. Standing at 1.48 meters (just over 4 ft 10 in), Rosa Görtz was a very small person. She also described herself once as "sensitive” and "not overly capable of withstanding stress.” Nevertheless, she managed to cope with all of these strains while continuing to earn a living for herself and her son in the Netherlands and enduring several house searches by the Gestapo. The membership of her husband in the KPD suggests that she also received support from political companions.

Ultimately, however, her efforts were in vain. With the outbreak of World War II on 1 Sept. 1939, she had to change her plans. "Due to the political situation,” she withdrew her application for departure from Germany on 11 September. Fortunately, she was able to stay in the apartment on Mansteinstrasse and continue to work as a tailor. Since she lived in a "privileged mixed marriage” ("privilegierte Mischehe"), she was initially exempted from the deportations commencing in Hamburg in the year 1941.

As early as 1940, huge numbers of Jewish men and women in "mixed marriages” already had to perform forced labor. Rosa Görtz was spared that fate, too, for the time being. Not until Apr. 1943 did she have to report to Willibald Schallert, the head of the special section at the Hamburg employment office in charge of this "labor deployment.” He ordered her to go to Max Ludwig contract packers on Wexstrasse at Grossneumarkt. At this company, numerous Jewish women and women married to Jewish men had to do piecework, packing herbs and chemical substances in bags and packages for eight hours daily starting at 6 a.m. – under the supervision of an "Aryan” foreman and for 70 pfennigs [0.7 reichsmark] an hour. Once or twice a week, Schallert came by personally to check on the women.

Rosa Görtz worked there until the end of July 1943. Then, the company was destroyed in the air raids on Hamburg, and the company owner and his wife were killed. In December of that year, Rosa moved in with her parents-in-law in Hamburg-Neustadt. She was arrested in their apartment by two Gestapo officers in Feb. 1944 and transported to the Fuhlsbüttel police prison. Allegedly, she had collaborated politically with her husband. Three months later, she was taken to the Hütten police prison and from there to the Auschwitz concentration camp in June 1944. No judicial charges were ever brought against her, and there was never any trial.

The liberation of Auschwitz on 27 Jan. 1945 still did not end Rosa Görtz’ suffering, however. She was afflicted by suppurative pleurisy and not fit for transportation. She weighed less than 29 kilograms (64 lbs). Only by July 1945, had she gained some strength, which made it possible to take her back to Hamburg. Her son Hermann, according to Nazi terminology a "half-Jew of the 1st degree” ("Mischling ersten Grades"), had survived the Nazi reign of terror in the Netherlands, returning to Hamburg as well.

Both would never see their husband and father again, though.

As the period of detention dragged on, Hans Görtz had increasingly suffered from the prison conditions. Eventually, he became so seriously ill that in Nov. 1942 he was taken from the Fuhlsbüttel police prison to the prison hospital in the Holstenglacis pretrial detention facility, which served all Hamburg penal institutions at one central site. He remained there probably until the end of his prison term. On 30 Jan. 1945, he had served his sentence but he was not released. Even though he was seriously ill, he was transferred as a "protective custody prisoner” ("Schutzhäftling") directly to the Neuengamme concentration camp.

Three months later, as British troops advanced on Hamburg, SS men began clearing the camp. They brought about 10,000 inmates to Lübeck, among them Hans Görtz. In Lübeck, they distributed the prisoners to the confiscated cargo ships Thielbek, Athen, and Elmenhorst, as well as the cruise ship Cap Arcona. Crowded in the narrow cargo holds, the people received little to eat or drink.

Then came 3 May 1945. British fighter planes bombed the German ships in the Bay of Lübeck in order to prevent suspected withdrawals of military units. In doing so, they also attacked the Cap Arcona and Thielbek, by then anchored off Neustadt. Of 2,800 prisoners aboard the Thielbek, only 50 reached the shore alive. Hans Görtz was not among them. In Haffkrug near Scharbeutz, a memorial cemetery commemorates the victims of the tragic disaster.

Rosa Görtz died on 11 Nov. 1970 in Hamburg.

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Frauke Steinhäuser

Quellen: 1; 2 (FVg 7430); 5; 8; StaH 241-1 I Justizverwaltung I, 2911; StaH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferung 16; ebd., Ablieferung 13; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 15640, darin eine Kopie der Anklageschrift im Rahmen des Verfahrens OJS 423/35 gegen Heldt u. Andere; ebd., 4483; Vereinigte Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Naziverfolgten (Hrsg.), Totenliste; Meyer/Szodrzynski (Hrsg.), Vom Zweifeln; Hochmuth, Niemand und nichts wird vergessen; Meyer (Hrsg.), Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden; Diercks, "Die Freiheit lebt!"; Dohnke, 5 Minuten, 50 Meter, 50 Jahre. Gedenken an die Cap Arcona, nach einem halben Jahrhundert, (letzter Zugriff 20.5.2012); KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme, Geschichte, (letzter Zugriff 20.5.2012).
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