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Rebecca de Haas (née Levy) * 1881
Rüterstraße 73 (Wandsbek, Wandsbek)
REBECCA DE HAAS
John de Haas, born 13 Feb. 1876, deported 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Rebecca de Haas, née Levy, born 13 Mar. 1881, deported 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Edgar de Haas, born 26 Sep. 1910, deported 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Rüterstraße 73 (Kampstraße 73/74)
The de Haas family had lived in Wandsbek since the mid-19th century. The first family member in the records is Simon de Haas, who was born in 1844. He sold manufactured goods, and lived at Kampstraße 24. John was his son from his first marriage, to Mary Alexander (*1843). John was born on 13 February 1876 in Wandsbek, and lost his mother at the age of five. His father later married Johanna Philip, and they had three sons. Two of the sons, Georg and Alfons, married the sisters Olga and Regina Seligmann (see entry: Seligmann).
John de Haas entered the same business as his father, becoming a travelling fabric salesman. This job was apparently not particularly lucrative, as he continued to live with his parents for some time, and didn’t marry until he was forty. He and his wife Rebecca Levy had two children: Mary in 1906 and Edgar in 1910. The family’s first home was at Kampstraße 73/74 on the second floor. John de Haas held several offices in the Jewish Community. In 1920/21 he was the community treasurer, and from 1923 to 1929 he was the community chairman. He was well-known and respected, not only because he had served from 1915 onwards in the First World War, but also because he helped many ladies in Wandsbek make sure their husbands were well-dressed. A contemporary witness recalls: "My father didn’t pay much attention to his clothes, he left that to my mother. Herr de Haas came by the shop regularly for a chat, and when it was time to get new clothes, my mother would say to my father, ‘You need a new suit.’ The next time Herr de Haas came by, my father told him – somewhat reluctantly, as he didn’t like the whole process of picking out the cloth and trying on the suit – to bring by some suitable cloth. That was my mother’s moment. She gave my father advice, who then asked Herr de Haas for advice, but Herr de Haas knew to listen to my mother. They went back and forth, until my father finally decided on a particular cloth. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the whole business was finished, and the successful transaction was celebrated.”
On 25 September 1933 the de Haas family moved to Brahmsallee 16 in Hamburg. In July 1936 they were registered at Grindelallee 77, and the registration file lists John de Haas’ profession as gardener. Maybe it had become more difficult for Jewish travelling salesmen in Wandsbek to earn money, maybe de Haas hoped to avoid the high taxes that the Wandsbek Jewish Community saw itself forced to impose by moving to Hamburg. The move was beneficial for both of the children, who were still living with their parents, since they both worked at companies in Hamburg. The family joined the moderate orthodox religious association of the New Dammtor Synagogue.
Even though the family had not lived in Wandsbek for several years, John de Haas’ name was included on a 1935 flyer listing the names and addresses of Jewish business to be boycotted. He was even given his own category – "door-to-door salesman of fabrics, etc.” – and it was noted next to his address that he had moved to Hamburg. Evidently the authorities mistrusted him and his customers, and suspected them of continuing their business relations. It is not known if this was actually the case and that John de Haas still did a limited business in Wandsbek. Up until the end of the 1930s, poorer citizens and those who received welfare benefits still tended to buy from Jewish merchants and peddlers, because their prices were often lower.
John’s son Edgar de Haas went to middle school in Wandsbek and then at the Talmud Tora School on Grindelhof. After a three-year apprenticeship at the Möller tobacco company in Hamburg, he worked as an office clerk and later as a representative in the tobacco branch. He paid social security taxes from 1926 until early 1937. After that he was forced to give up his job because he was Jewish, and was unable to find a new one. In preparation for his planned emigration, he learned the craft of cigar making – knowledge that, according to his sister, he considered would be highly useful for his future life outside of Germany. The outbreak of the war prevented him from emigrating, however. Edgar de Haas was conscripted as a forced laborer and assigned to do excavation work, until the became ill on 11 November 1939. He was then unable to work for some time, and remained at home.
Edgar’s sister Mary de Haas attended the Israelitic Girls’ School on Carolinenstraße from 1913 to 1921, and then spent a year at the trade school in Hamburg. She worked as a secretary at Strauss & Co. in Hamburg from 1922 to 1924, and then at the Leon Levy company until 1936. From then until she emigrated, she worked at Emil Frensdorff & Co. at Curschmannstraße 53.
According to the Jewish Community’s tax records, father, son, and daughter paid their religious community taxes in irregular intervals. The records indicate that John de Haas was regularly employed for only three years between 1934 and 1941. For a time he received welfare benefits, and was probably conscripted as a forced laborer, like his son. Edgar de Haas earned 60 Reichsmarks per month, which was tax-free, so that he was not required to pay religious community taxes. It seems that things were not much better for Mary de Haas – she was assessed the minimum fee until 1938, and it was deferred beginning in 1936.
On 10 May 1939 the family moved into a "Jews’ House” at Kielortallee 24. Mary was there about two months, and then was able to emigrate to England in July with the financial help of the Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden (German Jews’ Relief Organization). She worked there as a maid and was supported by relatives in the US. On the same day that she left for England, the rest of the family moved into the house next door. It was from there that John, Rebecca, and Edgar de Haas were deported to Minsk on 8 November 1941. It is not known how long they were able to survive the catastrophic conditions in the ghetto. The family is regarded as missing. John de Haas’ date of death was declared as 8 May 1945, as were, in all likelihood, those of his wife and son.
Mary de Haas initiated restitution proceedings after she moved to the US in 1947. During these proceedings the Red Cross reported: "There is no notification of death or proof of death for the parents. Death certificates can thus not be issued.” Mary had a job in the US, but when she later became ill, she was dependent on the help of friends and did odd jobs. In 1963 she submitted a testimony about the Fränkel family from Wandsbek (see: Fränkel, Ida and Max).
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: October 2016
© Astrid Louven
Quellen: 1; 4; 8; StaHH 332-8 Meldewesen Wandsbek, Auskunft von Jürgen Sielemann am 12.8.03; AfW 091206; AB 1883, AB 1897 IV, AB 1939 II; Heimatmuseum Wandsbek, Auskunft von Ilse Fischer 1988; Frank Bajohr, "Arisierung", 1997, S. 151; Ina Lorenz, Juden, Teil 2, S. 1397; Astrid Louven, Juden, S. 134, 153–55, 201, 228.