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John Kugelmann * 1884

Pepermölenbek vor Park (Altona, Altona-Altstadt)

JG. 1884
TOT 7.5.1943

John Kugelmann, born 4 Dec. 1884, deported 24 Mar. 1943 to Theresienstadt, died there 7 May 1943

Jakob (John) Kugelmann was the son of the Jewish merchant Gustav Gumbert Kugelmann and his wife Sara, née Hirsch. His father had moved to Altona in 1880, where he rented an apartment at Neue Burg 27. The couple had four or five children.

John Kugelmann trained as a coppersmith. He married Anna Busch and they had three children. Their daughter Ella, who survived the Nazi era, was born on 15 March 1913. When she was born, the family lived at Alter Steinweg 52. Kugelmann’s wife died in 1920.

Five years later, on 1 August 1925, aged 41, John Kugelmann married Bertha Marie Knöfler (formerly Sandow). She was born in 1888, and of non-Jewish heritage. At that time Kugelmann was working as a furniture dealer. The couple lived at Neue Burg 33 in Altona – apparently John Kugelmann had taken over his father’s apartment when he died in 1921. His second wife brought seven children into the marriage. His niece Ingrid Pfeifer, who was eight years old when he was deported, remembers that he was good with children, that "Uncle Jonny” visited often and was exceptionally nice to the children and played with them.

John Kugelmann became a grandfather in April 1936. His daughter Ella had a child with her non-Jewish fiancé. The Nuremberg Laws prohibited them from marrying

In the fall of 1941, John Kugelmann was forced to give up his trade because of his Jewish heritage. He had been working as a coppersmith at the Schmidt Sons company on Herderstraße in Hamburg, where he earned an average of 60 to 70 Reichsmarks per week. Thereafter he worked, probably as forced labor, as a laborer at the Heickmöller company on Grindelallee.

The Gestapo arrested Kugelmann on 8 March 1943. The charges are unknown, but he did not return to his home. Rather he moved into the "Jews’ house” at Beneckestraße 2. After the war, Bertha Kugelmann said that Dr. Plaut, the chairman of the Jewish Community in Hamburg, had called her to his office and explained, on behalf of the Gestapo, that she had to divorce her husband or he would be sent to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp and she would never see him again. Her belongings would be confiscated and she would also be sent to a concentration camp. If they divorced immediately, he would be sent to Theresienstadt, and she would suffer no consequences. With the consent of her husband, and in order to save him – the Nazis claimed that Theresienstadt was home for elderly Jews – she divorced her husband on 19 March 1943. She could not know that the dissolution of a "mixed marriage” was almost always a death sentence for the Jewish partner, who would be transferred from Theresienstadt to an extermination camp or be sent directly to Auschwitz.

Five days later, on 24 March 1943, at the age of 58, John Kugelmann was deported to Theresienstadt, along with 49 other Jews from Hamburg. Bertha and John still saw themselves as married, and exchanged letters for a time. But the death rate in the so-called ghetto for the elderly was high. John Kugelman died only six weeks after his arrival, on 7 May 1943. Only two of those deported from Hamburg with him would survive.

After the war, Bertha Kugelmann, who had kept the name of her late husband, fought for many years to be recognized as his widow and to receive the pension owed to her. It was 1955 before the authorities acknowledged that the divorce had been concluded under pressure from the Gestapo, and it was retroactively annulled. Bertha Kugelmann died in 1974.

Translator: Amy Lee

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2016
© Birgit Gewehr

Quellen: 4; 7; 8; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 7582 (Beers, Ella von), 7583 und 38835 (Beers, Ella von); AB Altona 1933, Gespräch mit Ingrid Pfeifer, Februar 2007.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Link "Recherche und Quellen".

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