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Heinrich (Henoch) Herbst
Heinrich (Henoch) Herbst
© Privat

Heinrich (Henoch) Herbst * 1868

Kielortallee 22 (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)

JG. 1868

further stumbling stones in Kielortallee 22:
Martha Brager, Frieda Brager, Werner Brager, Siegmund Brager, Liesel Brager, Bela Brager, Joel Falk, Hermann René Falk, Dina Hähnlein, Julius Hähnlein, Karoline (Caroline) Herbst, Helene Horwitz, Alfred Levy, Martha Levy, Manuel (Emil) Neugarten, Herta Neugarten

Else Zimmak, née Herbst, born on 14 Apr. 1914 in Oldenburg, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga, murdered there on 26 Mar. 1942
Denny Zimmak, born on 13 June 1941 in Hamburg, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga, murdered there on 26 Mar. 1942

Bogenstrasse 25

Henoch (Heinrich, Henry) Herbst, born on 26 Aug. 1868 in Nowy Sacz (German: Neu Sandez, today in Poland), deported on 15 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, deported on 21 Sept. 1942 to the Treblinka extermination camp, murdered there
Caroline Herbst, née Wolf, born on 4 Sept. 1878 in Jever, deported on 15 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, deported on 21 Sept. 1942 to the Treblinka extermination, murdered there

Kielortallee 22

The spelling of the last name of Zimmak is not consistent – neither on the deportation lists nor in the Memorial Books. The spelling taken as the standard here follows that used by the surviving descendants.

In the early 1940s, Else Zimmak lived with her husband Leonhard Lewin Zimmak in a one-bedroom apartment in a house at Bogenstrasse 25 that belonged to the Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband), and both were employed there as caretakers. Probably it was primarily Else’s task to do the janitorial work because her husband had to perform forced labor. In the summer of 1941, their son Denny was born in the Israelite Hospital located on Johnsallee.

Else Zimmak was a native of Oldenburg. She was the youngest child of the Herbst family and had three older brothers: Leon (born in 1905), Edmund (born in 1908), and Arnold (born in 1909). Her parents were Henoch and Caroline Herbst, née Wolf. They had been married in Jever, Caroline’s hometown, in 1904. In 1905, the year the oldest son Leon was born, the Herbst family lived at Achternstrasse 4 in Oldenburg, where the father worked as a merchant and manufacturer of ready-to-wear men’s clothing. In 1909, when the second son Arnold was born, the family lived in Bant near Wilhelmshaven.

Bant belonged to the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg (after the First World War, Free State of Oldenburg) and was merged with the Oldenburg towns of Heppens and Neuende in 1911 to become the City of Rüstringen. In the course of the "Greater Hamburg Act and other territorial adjustments” (Gross-Hamburg-Gesetz und andere Gebietsbereinigungen) dated Jan. 1937, the Prussian city of Wilhelmshaven and the Oldenburg city of Rüstringen were merged into the new, now City of Wilhelmshaven in Oldenburg as of 1 Apr. 1937. Under Sec. 7 Par. 1, the legislation read as follows: "The administrative district of Wilhelmshaven … is transferred from Prussia to the State of Oldenburg and is merged with the administrative district of Rüstringen. The urban administrative district goes by the name of Wilhelmshaven.”

Until the early 1920s, Henoch Herbst operated a business for ready-to-wear men’s clothing in Rüstringen with a branch store on the Island of Norderney. After the inflation, the family moved to Bremen, where Henoch Herbst tried his hand at running two ready-to-wear women’s clothing stores. There is a photo owned by the family that depicts a two-story house with a retail store. A banner above the shop window and lettering on the glass pane of the shop window read "Job lot store of H. Herbst.” ("Partiewaren-Geschäft von H. Herbst”) Unfortunately, it was impossible to establish in which city and when this store existed.

Then, in 1926, the move to Hamburg took place – initially to Hochallee, later to Kielortallee 22 into the Oppenheimer-Stift residential home, where the Herbst family had rented a two-bedroom apartment. In Hamburg, Henoch Herbst worked as a secondary raw material dealer (Rohproduktenhändler) from 1929 onward, though earning very little in this line. He bought textiles and paper waste from department stores. On 3 Apr. 1929, he had registered his business as a dealer in rags and waste paper for Hamburg, Elbstrasse 64, basement.

Also in 1929, on 7 October, the Herbst family suffered from a cruel stroke of fate: The youngest son, only 21 years old, the unmarried commercial clerk Edmund, was recovered dead from the Elbe River near the Altona fish market on Hamburg territory. He had been missing since 30 Sept., as reports in Hamburg newspapers dating from 30 Sept. 1929 reveal. When the missing person’s notice appeared, Edmund was already dead. In the newspaper reports, he was portrayed as "melancholic.” His description was as follows: height of 1.68 meters (approx. five foot six), slender, black hair, oval-shaped face, dark brown eyes.

Up to her marriage, Else Herbst lived with her parents. She worked as a sales assistant in Altona at Holstenstrasse for Julia Gruzierowski, earning about 100 RM (reichsmark) a month. She had to use this amount to support her parents as well. Until Apr. 1935, her brother Arnold also lived on Kielortallee. Else Herbst and Leonhard Zimmak got married around the end of 1938/ beginning of 1939. They had probably met through Else’s sister-in-law Gerta, née Cohn, who had married Arnold Herbst and was a neighbor of Leonhard Zimmak’s parents. The civil wedding of Else and Leonhard took place on 28 Dec. 1938 in Eimsbüttel. One of the witnesses to the marriage was Ernst Brager, the cousin and husband of Gretchen Brager, a former neighbor of Else at Kielortallee (see also text on the Brager family). Gretchen was two years older than Else and got married in 1938 as well. Shortly before Else and Leonhard’s wedding, Ernst Brager had been released from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on condition that he emigrate as soon as possible.

Leonhard Zimmak had had to change his accommodations rather frequently prior to his marriage but he had always lived in the Grindel quarter. Temporarily he probably also stayed with his parents on Rutschbahn and with his sister on Heinrich-Barth-Strasse.

On 6 Dec. 1942, 964 Jewish men and women were deported from Hamburg to Riga-Jungfernhof, including the Zimmaks: Else, Denny, and Leonhard, Leonhard’s parents Otto and Helene Zimmak, née Rosenberg, who lived at Heinrich-Barth-Strasse 17, where Stolpersteine are located for both of them, as well as Leonhard’s aunt Bertha Wartelski, née Zimmak, for whom a Stolperstein is located in Rothenburgsort.

The father, Otto Zimmak, born in 1879, was a native of Gilgenburg in East Prussia. Otto, Helene, and Leonhard Zimmak had come to Hamburg in 1936. Before that, they had lived in Pestlin, District of Stuhm in West Prussia, where the parents Otto and Helene owned a grocery store and a bakery. Leonhard Zimmak was born there on 18 Nov. 1907. He had a sister by the name of Frieda, who in 1930 had married the baker Wendelin Johannes Richert, a non-Jewish man, and now lived in Hamburg as well. Leonhard’s uncle on his mother’s side, Albert Rosenberg, had moved with his first wife Rosa, née Goldschmidt, and his children from Kassel to Hamburg in 1913. In 1931, Rosa passed away and Albert Rosenberg married Bertha Nathan in Dec. 1941. The two were sent to their deaths from Hamburg. For both of them, Stolpersteine are located at Heinrich-Barth-Strasse 17. Albert’s children from his first marriage survived.

The state-owned Jungfernhof [literally, virgin’s estate] was a provisional arrangement. On grounds covering about 500 acres, the deportees were quartered in any possible way. On 26 Mar. 1942, 1,800 persons from Jungfernhof were murdered in connection with "Operation Dünamünde” ("Aktion Dünamünde”), among them Else Zimmak and her baby.

Leonhard Zimmak was not murdered because he could be used as a laborer. In Oct. 1944, the Riga Ghetto was evacuated. In Feb. 1945, Leonhard reached Hamburg again, more precisely the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp. From there, he came to Kiel into the Hassee concentration camp. Leonhard was taken to Sweden by the Swedish Red Cross in the context of the Bernadotte Action, shortly before the British entered Hamburg on 3 May 1945. Leonhard Zimmak stayed in Sweden. He started a family once again and died in Stockholm in Oct. 1993.

Henoch and Caroline Herbst were deported to Theresienstadt on 15 July 1942 and then murdered in Treblinka.

Else’s brother Arnold moved out of his parents’ apartment on Kielortallee in Apr. 1935 when he got married. He was unemployed, received welfare assistance, and was enlisted for "compulsory labor duties.” Initially, he lived at Grindelallee 73 (with Schwarzschild), later in a room on the fourth floor at Rutschbahn 12. His wife Gerta, née Cohn, gave birth to two sons, Raphael (born on 6 Apr. 1936) and Manfred (born on 14 June 1937). From June until Sept. 1938, Arnold was detained in the Oranienburg concentration camp. Emigration, which he had already attempted to arrange in vain in 1935, became urgent, and on 17 Oct. 1938, he succeeded in leaving for Paraguay. After his departure, his wife Gerta lived at Heinrich-Barth-Strasse 19 (with Goldschmidt). In Jan. 1941, she followed with their sons to join her husband– very arduously on the overland route via the Soviet Union and Japan. The parents of Gerta were Sigmund Selig Cohn (born on 30 Aug. 1874 in Friedland, Mecklenburg) and Ida Cohn, née Wintersberg (born on 13 Aug. 1875 in Wolfhagen in Hessen-Nassau), who lived in Lübeck in the very end. Both were deported on the same transport as Else, Leonhard, and Denny Zimmak from Hamburg to Riga. Gerta’s brother Siegmund survived the deportation and forced labor, as did Leonhard Zimmak. He later lived in Australia. For a long time, Gerta and her brother had no knowledge of each other’s fate, living under the assumption that their brother and sister, respectively, were dead. Not until 40 years after the end of the war did they find each other again.

In Nov. 1941, the family of Arnold managed to leave Paraguay and enter Argentina. Gerta reached a very old age. She passed away in Argentina in Nov. 2006, well over 90 years old.

Else’s older brother Leon moved to Berlin, probably in the 1920s. He was trained as a machine fitter. For financial reasons, his actual career goal, engineer, was impossible to realize. In 1927, Leon Herbst got married in Berlin. In 1936, being Jewish, he lost his job, and fled with his wife Ida, née Weiss, whose family came from Eastern Europe, and his son to Budapest, where Ida had relatives. In Apr. 1937, a daughter was born there. The family’s destination was Palestine but problems arose with the entry certificate and, on top of that, with the residence permit in Budapest. The flight led them via Vienna to Prague. Finally, in Sept. 1938, the emigration of the family of four to Palestine succeeded. Until the outbreak of war, Leon corresponded by letter with his Hamburg family. Leon’s daughter, grandchildren, and great grandchildren live in Israel to this day.

Else’s brothers and their families learned about the fate of their parents and their sister only long after the end of the war.

Following the war, Else’s husband, Leonhard Zimmak, found a number of relatives and friends again, and in 1946, he described his deportation experience in letters to his sister. The following are detailed quotes from copies of these letters to his sister Friedel and her husband, Wendelin Richert. His much younger Swedish son Fred Zimmak added text in brackets for better understanding.

"Now, however, I would like to give you a brief cross-section of my life during the past years. Well, after we bid you farewell in Hamburg, we were put into a passenger train in the Hannoversche Bahnhof station. The destination was unknown to us. The train was heated and well provided with food supplies, so we did not have to go hungry. We were all together in one compartment, Mom, Dad, Aunt Betti, Else and I, and the child (Otto Zimmak, Helene Zimmak, née Rosenberg, Bertha Wartelski, née Zimak, Else Zimmak, née Herbst, Leonhard Zimmak, and Denny Zimmak). For the child, we had obtained a small hammock and so he was in good shape as well. On the third day of the journey, we ended up on a train station near Riga, and there we were greeted by the SA [SS], meaning the first two were done in right there in front of our very eyes. Everyone had to get in line, and then the people were herded away by the Latvian SS, which was even more dreadful than its German counterpart. Thirty men were selected to unload the train, including myself, which was my luck, because upon reaching the camp (it had the beautiful name of Jungfernhof), the other men were immediately lined up for roll call and were taken away to the Salaspils camp near Riga. Ask Hilde Loeb what the Salaspils camp is. Every day, 30 to 35 deaths. Death camp. Albert (Rosenberg) was also among them and he was supposedly dead after a mere three days. However, I learned about this only three weeks later, from Philipp, the father of the girl that had been delivered parallel to Else in the same hospital. Perhaps you still remember the girl. She was lucky and returned from there to our own camp. So, we had to unload the train, and I believe that never before has a train been unloaded this quickly, and as it had grown dark by then, we also went to the camp, covering a distance of 30 minutes. Well, what kind of a camp was this? A completely decrepit farmstead. Now the first thing I intended to do was see how everyone was accommodated. I ran into Dad right away. He was already waiting for me, and you know, Dad has always been the very practical sort. He had already prepared a place to lie down for himself and me, far off from all the others, and even hot tea. I could not look for Mom and Else and the child anymore, since darkness had fallen by then. What can I write to you about how they were quartered? An estate approx. as large as Klein Bamsen, occupied by 6,000 [4,000] people, for prior to us transports from Vienna, Bavaria, Stuttgart had been there already. Every transport had its own makeshift kitchen, and the Hamburg transport had to set one up as well. Daddy and I took on this task, prepared everything, and fortunately, in this way we stayed in the kitchen, as we also arranged spaces to sleep for the kitchen staff, meaning that we were quartered relatively well and able to lie down without getting snowed in at night. In addition, we had a bit of warmth from the stove (The temperature apparently dropped to minus 30 °C). Mom stayed in the kitchen during the day, not working, but she was allowed to be there. At night, she had to go to her quarters. The small children from Hamburg, about 18 of them, by then had also found accommodation that protected them from freezing to death, and Else took care of all the children almost by herself. Shortly before Christmas (1941), Dad began complaining about aches and pains in his lung, and he also had fever. On Christmas Eve, he did not get up any more and did not feel well at all. The doctor diagnosed pneumonia and pleurisy. Now actually the most difficult time began for me. Mom was also ill (vomiting and diarrhea). Else went to sick quarters with a sore throat, and the child had measles.

It all happened at the same time, and we had nothing to eat, as we never got our luggage. Things were the worst with Dad, who had an appetite for something different all the time and nothing was available. But what choice did I have? Certainly, enough suitcases were lying around in the dirt. I "organized” some of them, sneaked out of the camp at night and went peddling them to farmers in order to procure at least a bit of bread. I traded our winter clothes that we were still wearing for a bit of fat and meat, allowing the sick persons to have at least something, and it was my greatest joy that these things helped get Mom and Else on their feet again. By then our father only nipped a bit to do me a favor, for he knew how much effort it took me to obtain all the stuff. The child had also recovered and thrived rather well considering all the hardship. In the meantime, there were roll calls almost every day and people were taken away. We were told, to the Riga Ghetto, and we were naïve enough to believe it. However, since we definitely wished to stay together, I always hid our elderly ones until one day there was a surprise roll call. Mom had just been crossing the yard that very moment and was grabbed, put on the truck, and I only saw her wave from the distance. That was it, I never heard from her again. The date was 10 Feb. 1942. At this time, another 600 elderly people were taken away. Dad’s condition worsened all the time, and on 22 Feb. 1942 at 3:30 in the afternoon, he peacefully fell asleep in my arm. He still lies buried with 600 other Jews shot, hanged, and frozen to death in a mass grave there on Jungfernhof. However, our father died a natural death. Then, on 26 March, the estate was scheduled for complete evacuation with the exception of the 300 persons detailed for clearing up. I was also among these 300, even though I had reported not to go because I wanted to stay with Else and the child. I was not allowed to do so, however. I was told, all of you will follow, and things first have to be tidied up here. Word went out that the camp occupants, about 2,000, would go to Dünamünde to work in food canning plants and we would follow in three weeks’ time. So, without imagining that it would be forever, I bid farewell to Else, the child, Aunt Betti (Bertha Wartelski, née Zimak), who incidentally had held out very well. However, as early as two hours later, we were already told that we would never see our loved ones again. When I think back to all that now, to bartering, to hiding the parents, etc., cold shivers run down my spine to this day. That I am still normal is really a miracle. Putting down all of the details in one letter is impossible, for everything involved playing with death. However, the whole thing entailed not just clearing up the estate but rebuilding it completely and farming it. Hilde Loeb, with whom I was together the entire time, will surely tell you how we worked. Supposedly, a man by the name of Herbert Simon also returned to Hamburg from there. He apparently lived on Amandastrasse or Marthastrasse in Eimsbüttel. Perhaps you want to make inquiries about him. He would be able to tell you a lot, for he too was employed in the kitchen, and until we were sent to the ghetto we both kept house there. On 10 Apr., the Jews were replaced by Russians and I was taken to the ghetto in Riga for six weeks. From there, I was quartered in the car repair shop of the SA and SS and often deployed on front missions with a mobile workshop. Dear Wendelin, now you will probably say, why didn’t I desert to the Russians? Well, dear boy, we were chained with shackles and able to take very short steps only. This work had one advantage, though, namely that I trained well in automotive electrics. In this workshop I was until 9 Nov. 1944. We were just on a frontline mission again in Liebau, Latvia, and were on our way to East Prussia. However, by then the Russians had encircled Liebau and we, that is, the SS, were stuck there like in a mousetrap. They turned us over to the German Wehrmacht and boarded ships bound for Germany, and I ended again in Hamburg’s ‘Fuhlbütteler [sic!] prison’ on 25 Feb. 1945. From there I also came on …? again, as an electrician, and in this way, I had the opportunity to take a look at the destroyed city of Hamburg. But what was more important to me was that I tried to inquire about you with the help of a gentleman whose name unfortunately escapes me now, and this man found out as much as that you were completely bombed out and that no one of the Zimaks was alive anymore either. Now I also assumed that you were no longer alive either, especially you, dear Friedel, after Elias said you ended up in Theresienstadt. On 14 Apr. 1945, we were marched off again in the direction of Kiel, arriving there once more in a concentration camp on 15 Apr. 1945. I really do not have to write anything about treatment in the camps, you know that yourselves, and I myself was used to a lot, but Kiel was hell, run by beasts in human form. Thank God, things did not take very long there anymore, as Swedish Red Cross took us into their care on 1 May 1945, and our long ordeal was over. On 2 May 1945, we arrived in Malmö, Sweden. By that time, I weighed only 48 kilograms [106 lbs]. Louse-ridden, beaten, and sick. We were given an entirely new set of clothes, as we only had prisoners’ clothing, and the excellent Swedish care got us on our feet very soon. After our four-week quarantine, we came to a refugee camp (Holsbybrünn). Well, what kind of a camp was this? A sanatorium, located in the middle of the forest. Everyone had their own room. Simply wonderful. However, after a while, I got bored and looked for work, eventually ending up here. As I wrote to you in my first letter, I had to take a break from work here due to illness for ten weeks, but now I am doing well except for something minor in the shoulder, and I wish you nothing more than that you could be here as well. A marvelous little city located on the shores of Sweden’s largest lake, with forest and rocks everywhere. Dear Friedel, I am so sorry that you have nothing to wear but one is not allowed to send clothes yet, especially because many things are still rationed here, too. I can imagine that you have nothing, for I too came here wearing prisoners’ clothing and I have to buy everything again, though not at outrageous prices but regularly in a store. Well, my dear ones, these are the essentials worth reporting. To be sure, there certainly are more individual experiences, but I do hope that we will see each other again, and then we will still have a lot more to tell. Dear Friedel, please write to me how you are doing in terms of your health. What do you do now and how do you make a living? I am very concerned about you and I would like to help you if only it were possible. What have you heard about Grübenau (Wilhelm and Lisbeth, née Richert) and Edith (Hoffmann, née Richert) and Else (Richert) (Wendelin Richert’s sisters), or don’t you know anything about them? Is your father still alive, Wendelin?

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2016
© Susanne Lohmeyer

Quellen: 1; 2 (F991); 4; 5; StaH 314-15 OFP – Devisenstelle und Vermögensverwertungsstelle, "Ablieferung 1998, H 692; StaH 332-5, 954 + 356/1929; StaH 351-11 AfW, 33013, 34956 und 060436; Geburtsurkunden 214/1905 und 353/1914 Standesamt Oldenburg; Hildegard Thevs, Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Rothenburgsort, S. 107ff.; HAB IV 1933; Hamburger Echo v. 9.10.1929;; Videofilm "Herbst in Oldenburg" von Farschid Ali Zahedi; Auskunft von Marina Herbst am 8.4.2012.

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