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Ruth Jacobson * 1923

Bei der Friedenseiche 6 (Altona, Altona-Altstadt)

1942 Auschwitz

further stumbling stones in Bei der Friedenseiche 6:
Dr. Ernst Jacobson, Else Jacobson

Else Jacobson, née Storch, born 14 Mar. 1891, deported 11 July 1942 to Auschwitz where she was killed
Ernst Jacobson, born 27 Feb. 1887, arrested repeatedly, deported 10 Dec. 1942 to Auschwitz where he was killed
Ruth Jacobson, born 16 May 1923, deported 11 July 1942 to Auschwitz where she was killed

Bei der Friedenseiche 6

In an interview with the Shoah Foundation in 1997, Marianne Bohm-Jacobson told the story of her Jewish family who had lived in old town Altona at the square "Bei der Friedenseiche”, where her father had his medical practice. Her parents Ernst and Else Jacobson and her sister Ruth were killed in Auschwitz in 1942. She herself survived in Switzerland.

Ernst Jacobson was born on 27 Feb. 1887 in Lüneburg where his parents, the merchant Arnold Jacobson and his wife Clara, née Heinemann, lived at Große Bäckerstraße 33. He attended the Johanneum high school in Lüneburg until 1907 and then studied medicine at universities in Munich, Freiburg, Berlin and Munich where he passed the state examination in 1912. After receiving his license to practice medicine in 1913, he had an assistant position at the Altona Children’s Hospital. During World War I, he served as senior physician on the Macedonian front.

In 1920 Ernst Jacobson moved to Hamburg where he married Else Storch, known as Elsie. The Hamburg native had been born on 14 Mar. 1891 as the daughter of the doctor Jonas Alexander Storch and his wife Fanny, née Phillip. She had a brother, three years her senior, by the name of Alexander. The Storch Family lived at Paulinenstraße 10 in Hamburg.

Initially, Ernst Jacobson substituted for his father-in-law in his medical practice on Paulinenstraße, where the Jacobsons also lived, until he returned from war. In 1920 he opened his own practice on Altona’s Lessingstraße, then moved in 1922 to Bei der Friedenseiche 6, between Lornsenplatz and Allee (today Max-Brauer-Allee) where he practiced as a general practitioner and pediatrician with a special license as obstetrician.

The Jacobsons had two daughters, Marianne who was born on 25 Dec. 1921 and Ruth who was born on 16 May 1923. From Mar. 1926, the family lived in the corner house at Bei der Friedenseiche 6, a house which today is under historic preservation.

Marianne Bohm-Jacobson remembered: "Our house was a large historical residential building. […] It was an apartment building, but not our home, we lived on the first floor and had our practice in our apartment. There were historic paintings on the ceilings of the emperor, General Moltke, etc. It was very large. […] We had a completely kosher kitchen, my sister and I had one room, then we had a dining room, a very large living room, my parents’ bedroom and dressing room, then there was my father’s office, the waiting room and the examination room. We had two rooms for both of our domestic help who lived with us.”

Relatives of Else Jacobson lived in Altona and in neighboring Hamburg; her Aunt Dora Lehmann lived nearby with her husband Philipp and two unmarried daughters. "Before 1933, it was tradition in our family that we all met at my grandparents’ house every Saturday evening, and everyone came who possibly could. I was still little, but I remember how wonderful that was. It was really a strong feeling of family and being together. My grandmother died in 1932, my grandfather in 1934, their house was sold. We celebrated the Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah [New Year celebration] and Yom Kippur and Sukkot in a simple way. Off of my parents’ bedroom, we had a large veranda, a balcony with furniture and everything, and we had a Sukkah [hut] there. But after 1933, you couldn’t do that anymore, we were afraid because the people down below always stared up at us. Instead we went to the Sukkah at the synagogue of the High German Israelite Community (Hochdeutschen Israelitischen Gemeinde) in Altona. It was a very old synagogue. There were still bullet holes from the Danish-Prussian war of 1866. The synagogue was very beautiful, very impressive. At the time it wasn’t customary for women and children to go to the synagogue, and my father wasn’t very religious. When I was little, I went there on Saturdays. Later on I stopped, but the high holidays I always observed if I could. At home we celebrated Yom Kippur and Passover. We celebrated Passover at my grandfather’s house as long as possible. But we were too afraid to open the door for Elijah the Prophet. My mother said, we can open the window. That was a concession to our fear, so many things had happened on Passover. My mother couldn’t fast during Yom Kippur; as far as I can remember, she was a very sick person for most of her life. I was twelve and fasted half a day. And then we had a big lunch, very impressive, very traditional.”

The family did not dare to open the door because Lornsenplatz was the center of National-Socialist activities in Altona. That was where the first flags with swastikas hung out of the windows. After 1933, fewer and fewer patients came to Ernst Jacobson’s practice. "My father had many patients who received welfare assistance, […] the Nazis threatened those patients that if they continued to see Jewish doctors, their welfare payments would be canceled. Then my father lost his health insurance authorization. Most of his patients were referred to him through health insurance. He lost his many patients who worked for the railroad. They had special health insurance, and my father treated many of them. He did not have many Jewish patients; most Jews went to orthodox doctors, and my father was not very orthodox so he wasn’t very popular among them.”

Even before the National Socialists came into power, Marianne Bohm-Jacobson was discriminated against as a Jew at school. "For four years I went to the Jewish Community School [an der Palmaille]. Then I went to high school [Girls’ High School Allee in Altona]; my parents wanted me to study the classics, Latin and Greek. I was there from 1932 to 1933. That was already very shocking. Nobody spoke to me. It was already that way in 1932. Hitler was not yet in power, but our homeroom teacher showed up at school in her BDM uniform and said, she wanted everyone in the class to become a member of the League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädchen). She also said that to me. She didn’t get at all that I was Jewish and that that would cause a great fuss. I was very isolated. I was allowed to go home for lunch; that was good, otherwise I would have been all alone in the school yard. In 1933, when Hitler took power, the director of our school was fired because he refused to hoist up the Nazi flag. From that day on, there was one other half-Jewish girl in my class who had been raised Protestant, and another Jewish girl who wanted to graduate from high school. She changed over to the Jewish boys’ school; she couldn’t take it any longer. It was awful. I belonged to a Jewish youth group, Esra [orthodox youth hiking club], and my youth leader Rosi Kahn persuaded my parents that it would be better if I left high school of my own accord before I was thrown out or something happened, and my parents followed her advice. First I went to a Jewish girls’ school in Hamburg, formerly the Löwenberg School, that wasn’t bad. But then the older girls, like me, had to change to another school [Israelite Daughters’ School on Karolinenstraße] that was located in a very bad neighborhood, near the slaughterhouse. The stench was horrible. It took over an hour to get to school. The school was poorly heated. It was always cold, I was constantly sick during that time. The teaching was good, but it was very orthodox, and the older I got, the less orthodox I became. It was so old-fashioned, you had to go to school on Sundays too, with a book in your hand. So everybody knew, oh, so she’s Jewish. Our class went on strike.”

After finishing the Jewish elementary school on an der Palmaille, her sister Ruth first attended the Jewish girls’ school on Johnsallee and then also changed to the Israelite Daughter’s School on Karolinenstraße.

Like many Jewish young people, Marianne, already as a young girl, saw emigration as the only escape. Her mother’s brother Alfred Storch had immigrated to Switzerland in 1933 after he had been dismissed from his position as senior physician at the Gießen University Psychiatric Clinic. "My parents wanted to close us off from everything, that’s why it was hard for me to talk about it. My sister was too young to comprehend that. I tried to persuade my parents to leave Germany. They refused and thought a child didn’t have the right to say something like that. Besides, it was very hard for them. My father wrote to an uncle in the United States to provide him with an affidavit. He was a multi-millionaire and lived in Chicago. He refused. Another rich uncle also didn’t want to be bothered. My mother was sick, she couldn’t work, nor could we children. My father said in the USA he would immediately take the medical practitioner’s exam and work as a doctor. My father came from the middle class; we were not wealthy, but we were fine. However you needed much more money than we had to get a ‘Capitalist Certificate’ for Palestine [a requirement for immigrating was owning 1000 pounds sterling]. And my mother couldn’t have worked in a kibbutz, we couldn’t have either. My father was caught in a trap; he hoped the army would overthrow Hitler – he had such illusions that never came true. Our lives changed dramatically. Many of our family members emigrated, some went to Palestine, others who had an affidavit went to the United States. Others were on the lists and disappeared.

There was much less contact within the family; people withdrew into themselves.

A lot changed after 1936. Our domestic help, Fräulein Emmy, had to leave us. My mother was in a terrible state. Her illness had begun to express itself mentally. She couldn’t cope with life anymore. My father tried to manage. But then his practice declined.

The long route to school also made me sick. The atmosphere at home was very gloomy and it really stressed us kids. One time something happened to me. I wanted to buy yarn at a store, Nazis were posted outside and said, ‘Jews aren’t allowed to buy here.’ I went inside nonetheless and said I wanted to buy yarn. The man said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t sell you anything, please leave.’ I cried the whole way home.”

Marianne suffered from the ostracism, her health deteriorated. In April 1937, she was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland to get her high school diploma. She went home when she had vacation. "Summer 1938. The situation had become impossible. My parents had sold the piano, I had always had piano lessons. They needed the money. My father’s practice barely existed. My aunt in the US wanted to help him get an affidavit through the OAS, an organization in the USA that helped Jewish physicians re-establish themselves, so that he could get his accreditation in the USA. My father learned English, which he found very difficult. We no longer had any contact with family members apart from my Aunt Dora Lehmann; she was the only one. But I could only rarely visit her.

When I was in Germany for the last time, it felt like a noose was slowly tightening around my neck. I nearly suffocated in that environment. As I […] packed my things, I took a handful of photos out of my father’s cabinet and put them in my luggage. I was convinced I was seeing my family for the last time. My sister helped me pack and cried and cried. Suddenly the Nazis marched by outside, singing ‘When Jewish blood spurts from the knife, then we’ll be doing twice as good.’ I hugged my sister and tried to encourage her; I said to her, you will go to England on one of the children transports, you have to try to get out of here and to think positively. It was horrible. Before my train left, I said goodbye to my mother. My mother was lying on the sofa, she had terrible sciatica pain. She took my grandmother’s ring off her finger and gave it to me. She said to me in Hebrew, ‘God is with me and I have no fear.’ Neither of us cried.

My father and my sister went with me to the Altona train station. […] My father wasn’t allowed past the platform gate to go with me onto the platform. My father and my sister drove the car to Hamburg; my father still had a car. But he wasn’t allowed onto the platform. My sister ran alongside the moving train and waved as long as she could see me, and I waved back.”

Marianne crossed the Swiss border on 1 Sept. 1938. She was 16 years old and hoped to be reunited with her family abroad. "My family planned to emigrate and reunite with me in America or England.”

Ruth, in the meantime, had left school. She was denied a high school diploma, and there were no longer apprenticeships for young people of Jewish extraction. Ultimately she took courses on tailoring and clothing design offered by the Jewish girls’ orphanage Paulinenstift.

"On 1 Oct. [1938] my father was arrested. That was a devastating experience. My mother had collapsed, my sister was beaten by the Gestapo. […] Martha Lehmann, my aunt’s daughter who was able to emigrate later told me, ‘They destroyed everything in the house, all the porcelain, the China, the Meißen porcelain, my father’s valuable record collection.’ They beat my sister who didn’t want to testify against my father. They accused him of having raped female patients, the usual lie.”

Gestapo officials maltreated Ruth during questioning, and as a consequence she suffered from paralysis in her right hand.

Her uncle who lived in Switzerland finally informed Marianne about her father’s fate. He had received a postcard with coded intimations: "My aunt, my father’s sister-in-law, wrote my uncle, ‘Ernst is there where Henry was.’ That meant he was at a concentration camp or in prison.” No one in the family knew where exactly he was being held.

Ernst Jacobson had been denounced for "racial defilement”. Hamburg’s public prosecutor’s office pressed charges because he allegedly had started affairs with five married "Aryan” women. Extramarital affairs between Jewish and non-Jewish partners were forbidden according to the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor”, one of the Nuremburg Laws. The court concluded that Ernst Jacobson had had relations with female patients, with a domestic servant and with a governess. As his file stated, he endangered German marriages "as a habitual offender”. On 5 July 1939, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for "racial defilement” and transferred from the Fuhlsbüttel remand prison to the Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel Penitentiary on 7 Oct. 1939. His prisoner file shows that his prison term was to have lasted until 14 Dec. 1953. On 20 Oct. 1939 he was moved to Bremen-Oslebshausen Prison, on 25 May 1940 back to Fuhlsbüttel.

The family’s assets were seized. Marianne had to leave her boarding school because her mother could no longer afford the tuition. First she was accommodated in a strict Catholic convent school, however she refused to convert. After a breakdown, a Protestant family in Basel cared for her for a while until she found accommodation in a girls’ home. Her departure for England with a visa as a domestic worker did not succeed. After war broke out, the home was turned into an internment camp for German refugees.

The Basel police chief, a "Nazi” according to Marianne Bohm-Jacobson, threatened to deport her to Germany if she did not withdraw her application for an affidavit for her mother in Switzerland. Since her mother could no longer leave Germany legally anyway, Marianne withdrew her application. Feelings of guilt plagued her her entire life.

It wasn’t until 1941 while browsing through old newspapers that she read in the "Hamburger Fremdenblatt” about her father having been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Through the help of the International Red Cross, she managed to correspond with him once a month.

Her sister Ruth began working at the Jewish kindergarten in 1941. She and her mother had first lived in Hamburg, Beim Andreasbrunnen 3, and then were accommodated in various "Jewish houses” in the Grindel quarter, at Rothenbaumchaussee 27, at Werderstraße 43 and at Papendamm 3; finally they lived in the "Jewish house” at Rutschbahn 25a. From there Else Jacobson wrote on 9 July 1942 her last letter to Marianne:

"My treasured child, today I was very happy to receive your beautiful, lovely letter that I will forward to Daddy. How joyful he will be with your sweet, lovely letter, also with the picture! These are now words of farewell from Ruth and from me, tomorrow we leave, and then will come a time when only our thoughts will meet, but they are so deeply connected, they can never be separated. What can I tell you, beloved child, that you don’t already know. May our father in heaven who looks after us protect you and see you through, you and all of us. We will not lose hope of a happy reunion, which will comfort us throughout. I know that good people will take care of you, nor are we forsaken. Above all, you must write Daddy regularly, every six weeks, remember the date each time! Daddy will also reply to you. My love will accompany you down all of your paths, we both hug and kiss you. Goodbye and farewell! Your Mommy and Ruth.”

Else and Ruth Jacobson received the deportation order for the 11th of July 1942 at their address Rutschbahn 25a. The veiled comment was noted on Ernst Jacobson’s culture tax card: "Wife and child migrated on 11 July 1942.” The destination of the transport was Auschwitz. In Dec. 1942, Else Jacobson was killed there. Ruth Jacobson, 19 years old at the time of deportation, also never returned.

On 6 Dec. 1942, Marianne received her father’s last, very distressed letter. He hadn’t heard anything more from her mother or sister. In Aug. 1942 he had tried, through the Jewish "legal consultant” Hugo Möller, to discover the whereabouts of his wife and daughter Ruth. He also asked him to have a translation of the Bible sent to him with the help of the Jewish Community.

Marianne’s letters to him soon were returned as undeliverable. On 10 Dec. 1942, he, like other Jewish prisoners, was deported after a directive ordering that "half-breeds” and Jewish prisoners be moved from penitentiaries and concentration camps in the "Old Reich” to Auschwitz extermination camp. Ernst Jacobson was killed in Auschwitz. In 1946, Marianne immigrated to New York. Not until later did she learn that her family members had been killed. She concluded her contemporary witness report in 1997 with the words, "Don’t ever forget the six million. It can happen again anytime. Starting from small things. In the beginning, Hitler only had a small group of people, and you see what happened. Neo-Nazis and anti-Semitism are only the seeds.”

In 1998, the German Bundestag repealed all judgments of "racial defilement”.

Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: April 2018
© Birgit Gewehr

Quellen: 1; 4; 8; StaH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft, Landgericht – Strafsachen, 782/40; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 10242 (Dr. Storch, Alfred), 44868 (Böhm, Marianne, geb. Jacobson); StaH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferung 13 (Strafhaftzeiten); AB Altona 1929, 1937; Lehberger, Reiner/ Randt, Ursula, "Aus Kindern werden Briefe", S. 52; USC Shoah Foundation Institute, Visual History Archive, Interview Nr. 38048, Marianne Bohm-Jacobson, Kaguna Hills, USA, 9.11.1997, Übersetzung von der Autorin.
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