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Johann Max Land * 1866

Arnoldstraße 21 (Altona, Ottensen)

Freitod 1.3.1942 Hamburg

Johann Max Land, born 17 May 1866, death by suicide 1 Mar. 1942

On 1 March 1942, a Sunday afternoon, the building caretaker from Arnoldstraße 21 appeared at the police station and reported that a tenant in his building, Max Johann Land, hadn’t been seen for days. The caretaker was afraid something had happened to Land. A police officer had a locksmith open the door to the apartment. Max Land was found dead in his bed. He had taken his own life.

The apartment was in a state of chaos. Two suicide notes were found. The police report does not fail to mention the Land was a "full Jew.” The body was taken to the Altona morgue on Weidenallee, where the medical examiners investigated the cause of death. Max Land had apparently suffered a painful death. The death certificate lists the cause of death as "poisoning with a caustic liquid,” which caused "severe chemical burns in mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach.”

Max Johann Land was originally from Danzig (present-day Gdansk, Poland). His parents were Joseph and Rosalie (Michaelson) Land. He was married to Clara Wiehmann, who was of non-Jewish heritage. The couple had no children. Max Land had worked as a businessman, but at the end of his life was dependent on welfare benefits from the Jewish Community and lived alone in a sparse, one-room apartment on the second floor at Arnoldstraße 21 in Ottensen. He had to fetch water from the cellar every day, and use the toilet there, which is why the caretaker and the other tenants noticed his absence.

In a suicide note to his neighbor Captain Fritz Winkelmair, Land explained his reasons for committing suicide. "My dear Fritz, In the past 24 hours my bladder affliction has worsened to such a degree that I have chosen to leave this life behind me. I will do it tonight by taking poison. I do it with no fear of death, so that I am no longer a burden on the state welfare system, and so that I will not waste away in pain in an old folks’ home, which could possibly last for months. Please accept my heartfelt thanks for your friendship in the past years, which I will remember in all eternity …”. Max Land asked him to give his regards to "the lovely residents in these buildings, where I have lived for 22 years.”

In a second suicide note "to the Social Services Administration,” he explained that his bladder affliction had worsened, despite two operations between November 1938 and February 1939, to the extent that he did not want to die a painful death and did not want to be a burden on the state. Max Land was a Christian, and attached a certificate to the note, which stated that he had been a member of the congregation of the St. Nicolai church since 1914. He requested that Pastor Lensch from the nearby Christianskirche be present at his burial. He stated finally that he had no family, that his rent had been paid, and expressed his thanks for "the Social Services’ charity.”

Max Land was 75 when he died. He saw no way out of his desperate situation. It is very probable that he would have had better care as an "Aryan.” He was probably afraid of the threat of deportation. Even if no one at that time could imagine the systematic murder of Jews, the thought of a long transport and the prospect of living in the East in severe conditions must have aroused dread and desperation. He chose to forego this future.

His wish to be buried as a Christian was not fulfilled. His tax records with the Jewish Community note "Central Cemetery” with a question mark, but police records indicate that his body was given to the Hamburg anatomical institute for scientific research.

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: March 2017
© Birgit Gewehr

Quellen: 1; 4; StaHH 314-5, Polizeibehörde, Unnatürliche Sterbefälle 1942/517, Land, Max.

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