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Already layed Stumbling Stones
Felix Halberstadt * 1877
Hallerstraße 76 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)
further stumbling stones in Hallerstraße 76:
Alice Baruch, Sara Carlebach, Charlotte Carlebach, Dr. Joseph Zwi Carlebach, Noemi Carlebach, Ruth Carlebach, Margarethe Dammann, Gertrud Dammann, Charlotte Dammann, Dina Dessau, Josabeth Halberstadt, Elsa Meyer, Margarethe Meyer, Alice Rosenbaum, Julius Rothschild, Jente Schlüter
Felix Halberstadt, b. 5.31.1877 in Hamburg, deported to Riga-Jungfernhof on 12.6.1941
Josabeth Halberstadt, b. 6.28.1887 in Hamburg, deported to Riga-Jungfernhof on 12.6.1941
A half year before the Halberstadt couple were sent to their deaths in Riga, the Röhling & Co. forwarding firm wrote the following letter to the Office of the Chief Financial Governor, which aptly characterizes the political and bureaucratic conditions in Hamburg: "We had for Helmuth Israel Halberstadt, formerly of Hamburg, in the warehouse a transport of goods for relocation, which meanwhile has been shipped to New York. Mr. Halberstadt is owed RM 30 in unused storage time; we were today requested by him to pay out this sum to his father: Felix Israel Halberstadt, Hamburg 13, Ostmarkstrasse 76. We ask authorization for this purpose and sign with Heil Hitler.”
With just this sort of Prussian correctness, the bureaucracy and commercial code of honor functioned at the edge of mass graves. The reality that stamped the year 1939 was that the façade of a state ruled by law served to veil the intention to rob and annihilate the Jews of Germany.
The Halberstadts were an old Hamburg merchant family. According to the Hamburg directory of 1877, Samuel Halberstadt, Felix’s father, ran the firm Heymann & Halberstadt, a ribbon, yarn, and stocking goods warehouse. Felix Halberstadt remained bound to this tradition and, from 1904, was an independent trade representative for woolens, gloves, etc. Until 1939, he was listed in the directory as "Member of the Assembly of Honorable Merchants.” This committee of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce has roots going back to 1517 and is concerned especially with economic ethical issues.
Felix Halberstadt’s place of business was on Kaiser-Wilhelm-Strasse; from 1927, it was in his home at Blücher Strasse 4. According to the testimony of a former office clerk, the yearly income before the Nazi seizure of power was between 8,000 and 10,000 RM. In reparations proceedings after the war, his son said that his father had employed, in addition to a full-time office clerk, at least two sub-agents. He had "always provided well for his family … We lived in a modern home and had a maid, until 1933.”
In 1910, Felix Halberstadt entered into an arranged marriage with Rosi Joseph van der Walde, who was born in Queenstown, New Zealand and moved to relatives in Hamburg. Out of this marriage came two sons: Helmuth, born 10.31.1911, and Werner, born 6.19.1920. The family was religiously observant and belonged to the Hamburg Synagogue Association. Felix Halberstadt worked pro bono for the congregation’s welfare system. The family attended the synagogue on Hoheluftchaussee. Like the Halberstadts, the van der Waldes were also a Hamburg commercial family rich in tradition. These families moved in a Jewish middle-class milieu, had their businesses in the inner city, and lived by preference in the Grindel neighborhood.
Also part of the large Halberstadt family was Max Halberstadt, a cousin of Felix. He ran a photographic studio on Neuer Wall Street and was a notable representative of the still young field of art and commercial photography. His portrait photographs of Sigmund Freud, for example, are still constantly published today, mostly without the name of the photographer, who was Freud’s son-in-law. He had two sons in his first marriage, to Freud’s daughter, Sophie. Max Halberstadt and his family saved themselves by going to South Africa in 1936.
Felix Halberstadt served during the entire First World War. He was a bearer of the Iron Cross and a member of the National Organization of Jewish War Veterans. He returned late from the Eastern Front, where after the Armistice and the Peace of Brest-Litovsk he was assigned to an orderly office for German troops until 1919.
After the war and the inflation, there was just a short phase of recovery in the 1920s for the veterans’ generation. Then their personal and economic chances were again put into question. The new economic crisis and the rise of the Nazi Party, with its boycotts and legislative exclusions, bore down heavily, especially on Jewish business people. For Felix Halberstadt and his family two additional blows of fate befell them. On 20 October 1935, first Rosi van der Walde died, and then, on 23 December 1936, 16-year old Werner, the younger son, who had since 1931 been in a home for mentally handicapped children in Lübeck, also died.
Felix Halberstadt married again in 1939. Again, inside the explicitly Jewish merchant community. His wife was the widow Josabeth (Josabath) Heckscher, whose husband Herman had died the year previously. Hermann Heckscher was also listed in the directory as a "fabric representative.” Both wives’ family names – van der Walde and Heckscher – were each listed with offices at the same address, Brandsende 15–17. Thus, the families were associated with one another, or at lese were acquainted. Before emigrating, Felix Halberstadt’s son, Helmuth, also married a Heckscher (Jenny), whose father Samson, according to the commercial register, operated a firm dealing in upholstery materials. Samson Heckscher and Felix Halberstadt were colleagues in the work of the welfare operations for the Jewish Congregation.
The existential threat to the Jews of Germany must have been evident to the Halberstadts, when both father and son were arrested during the November Pogrom of 1938 and bundled off to the Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg concentration camp. While the son was free again after a few days, the father was held for two months. After the Pogrom, they closed the home on Blücherstrasse and moved in to Hallerstrasse 76.
Helmuth, 27 years old at the time and freshly married, went practically from the concentration camp to the American consulate in Hamburg, where he had a visa that expired on 15 November 1938. Because he had guarantees from distant relatives, and with the support of the Jewish Congregation, of which he was an employee, he was able to get a visa. In February 1939, together with his wife Jenny, he emigrated to the USA, arriving in New York on 3 March 1939. Upon a verbal request, the Foreign Exchange Office of the Chief Financial Governor gave permission for him to take a Torah scroll out of Hamburg.
An insight into the brutality of the Nazi regime was had by the Halberstadt family, not in the least, because Felix Halberstadt’s son, up to his emigration, worked in the Jewish Congregation and was concerned with the care of the Polish Jews made stateless and expelled by the so-called Poland Action of 28 October 1938, leaving from the Altona railroad station for the no man’s land near Zbaszyn.
Helmuth Halberstadt, now called Howard Hall, initially had a difficult time in America. His German training as a bookkeeper and auditor did not much help him in the beginning. After various jobs all over the country, and also in the US Army, he again trained and was able finally in 1948 in New York to open his own office as an auditor notary. From America, as his father’s heir, he initiated reparations proceedings, which by the standard of such determinations was certainly not grandiose, yet reasonably favorable.
Applications for reparations came out the lands of exile, the USA and Israel, made by three nephews and nieces, eligible heirs of Josabeth Halberstadt. They were represented by the attorney, Dr. Herbert Pardo, who before his family’s emigration was a friend of Max Halberstadt. After the war, Dr. Pardo returned to Hamburg and was a Socialist (SPD) deputy to the Hamburg City Parliament. He represented several surviving Hamburg Jews in legal matters.
For Felix Halberstadt, 64 years old, and his 10-year younger wife Josabeth, the exodus from Hamburg began with a bureaucratically precise procedure. They received a deportation order for 4 December 1941. Felix Halberstadt, in this context, applied to the Foreign Exchange Office of the Chief Financial Governor on 23 November 1941 an exceptional allowance of RM 600: "For travel and purchases related to evacuation for myself and my wife. The evacuation will take place, in all probability, with the next transport on 4 Dec. this year.” The application was granted. Total assets estimated at RM 13,440 were taken away and placed under "Security Custody.” After deportation, money and material assets were routinely confiscated for the benefit of the German Reich.
In the Hamburg State and University Library, during research into the provenance of its holdings in November 2015, a standard religious work owned by Felix Halberstadt was discovered: "The Five Books of Moses,” in a Hebrew-German edition of 1914. The book was handed over to the Leo Baeck Institute of New York, where the family papers of the Halberstadts are archived.
Translator: Richard Levy
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: September 2019
© Bruno Lowitsch
Quellen: 8; StaH: 351 – 11, Amt für Wiedergutmachung_10054, _37344; 314–15, Oberfinanzpräsident_R 1940/356; FZH/WdE 426, Interview Howard Hall v. 9.6.1996; Stolpersteine in Hamburg, www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de; Hamburger Adressbücher; Auskünfte Jürgen Sielemann; Blog der Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg vom 7.12.2015, Anna von Villiez, Buchstiftung an das Leo Baeck Institut; Weinke, Verdrängt, S. 110–175; Meyer (Hrsg.), Verfolgung.
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