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Emil Behrens * 1859
Beim Andreasbrunnen 8 (Hamburg-Nord, Eppendorf)
Emil Behrens, born on 15 Nov. 1859 in Teterow, deported on 15 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died there on 29 July 1942
Jenny Behrens, née Levy, born on 12 Aug. 1868 in Harburg, deported on 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died there on 8 Aug. 1942
Emil Behrens was born on 24 Nov. 1859 in Teterow in the region of Mecklenburg Switzerland (Mecklenburgische Schweiz). No further details are known about his parents, Bernhard Behrens and Henriette Behrens, née Cohn. The father was apparently a merchant. Teterow was a Jewish community grown over the ages. The year 1792 saw the establishment of a Jewish cemetery; a synagogue with an associated religious school, destroyed during the November Progrom of 1938, was probably built around the same time. For the early nineteenth century, it is possible to ascertain the names of 41 Jewish families in Teterow.
One may therefore assume that Emil Behrens was born into a Jewish family and a sufficiently cohesive Jewish municipal community. Presumably, it was the grandfather who changed his name from Lazarus Behr to Lazarus Behrens in 1814, thus adjusting it to North German conventions. The children obviously no longer received Jewish first names. When Emil Behrens left Teterow either alone or with his family and where he obtained his school education could not be clarified. Possibly the family used the freedom of movement associated with the Act of Emancipation passed in the North German Federation on 3 July 1869 to move away from Teterow, maybe directly to Hamburg, as did many residents of Mecklenburg. For it was not only Emil Behrens who lived there for decades but also his two unmarried sisters Therese (1854–1938) and Helene Behrens (1858–1940). All of the siblings belonged to the German-Israelitic Community. Until his deportation in 1942, Emil Behrens paid the communal taxes.
Emil Behrens studied law. By then already 24 years old, he passed his first law exam before the Celle Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht – OLG) on 1 Dec. 1883. The exam grade indicated is "good” [approx. equivalent to a "B”]. The place of examination suggests that Göttingen had been his university town. Shortly afterward, Behrens was appointed to legal trainee (Referendar). This may point to the fact that he already lived in Hamburg at this time or perhaps even before, or that he studied outside of Hamburg simply due to the lack of a Hamburg university.
Generally speaking, residents of Hamburg studied law at the universities of Kiel or Göttingen. Another clue in favor of assuming Hamburg as his place of residence is his marriage in Mar. 1883. His wife, Jenny Levy (born on 12 Aug. 1868), came from Harburg, which had become Prussian by then. The marriage did not produce any children.
In June 1887, Behrens completed his legal training with the final state examination. The examination chair was the presiding judge of the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht – OLG), Ernst Friedrich Sieveking. It stands to reason that Sieveking encouraged him to apply for a post with the Hamburg judicial system. For his personal file with the administration of justice contains a note indicating that the presiding judge had commented about Behrens with a remark to the effect of "passed with particular distinction.” The explanation related to this is that at the time it was common in Hamburg to certify the examination only with either "passed” or "not passed” and that this instance seems to have demanded a personal assessment. At any rate, Behrens was appointed judge as an assessor at the Hamburg District Court (Amtsgericht) that same month, initially in the criminal law and later in the civil law section. However, in the fall of 1888, he retired from service as a judge and was licensed as a lawyer with the Hamburg courts in Nov. of the same year. He became – whether immediately or later is not known – a member of the law firm Dr. Philipp (called Paul) Oppenheimer (1854 [Hamburg]–1937), Dr. Eduard Beith (1882 [Hamburg]– 1937), Dr. Louis Levy (1891[Hamburg]–1971), and Dr. Albert Bruno Oppenheimer (1892 [Hamburg]–1983). Paul Oppenheimer, like Emil Behrens a member of the Society of Hamburg History (Verein für Hamburgische Geschichte), had been licensed as a lawyer since 1878. He can likely be regarded as the founder of the law firm. His father, the Hamburg merchant Hirsch Berend Oppenheimer (1794–1870), had initiated the "Oppenheim Foundation” ("Oppenheimer Stiftung”) with orthodox orientation in 1868, a charitable organization that made available rent-free or low-rent apartments for needy Jewish families at Krayenkamp. Together with the lawyer Dr. Ruben Oppenheimer, Paul Oppenheimer managed the administration of the foundation.
Emil Behrens was probably the second partner in the law firm that was in the process of forming. The place chosen for the law practice, Dammtorstraße 14, was in the immediate vicinity of the Regional Court (Landgericht) and of the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht – OLG), which had their seats on Dammtorstraße, and of sections of the District Court (Amtsgericht) at Gänsemarkt. One may therefore imagine the law firm as a well-established operation that earned Emil Behrens a secure income. Beith, a member of the board of trustees of the Israelite Hospital, received his license to practice law in 1907 and probably joined the firm at that time. Levy was licensed to work as a lawyer since 1920. He belonged to the Working Committee of the Academic Cooperative Groups (Arbeitsausschuss für die Akademischen Arbeitsgemeinschaften) within the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community, which in turn was closely associated with the Hamburg Rosenzweig Memorial Foundation (Rosenzweig-Gedächtnis-Stiftung). Albert Oppenheimer, the son of Paul Oppenheimer, was a lawyer since 1921. He entered his father’s law firm in 1925. His close affiliation with the Jewish Community emerges from the fact that he was an employee of the Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband) from Feb. 1939 to July 1941.
In 1931, Emil and Jenny Behrens moved to Eppendorf, to Beim Andreasbrunnen 8. They lived there until the Gestapo ordered them to move out in Mar. 1942. The "Jewish” law firm fell apart after 1933. However, none of the partners in the firm had his lawyer’s license revoked, as it would have been possible concerning the two younger lawyers, Levy and Albert Oppenheimer, based on the "Law on the Licensing of Lawyers” (Gesetz über die Zulassung zur Rechtsanwaltschaft) dated 7 Apr. 1933. According to this legislation, it was possible to revoke the licenses of lawyers of "non-Aryan descent” as of Sept. 1933 if the licensing had taken place after 1 Aug. 1914. Behrens and Paul Oppenheimer left the Society of Hamburg History (Verein für Hamburgische Geschichte) in July 1933 already, a step they quite certainly took based on mutual agreement. The first one to leave the law firm in 1933 was Albert Oppenheimer, who set up his own law practice. Levy emigrated to Palestine in July 1934. His lawyer’s license was deleted at his own request on 12 July 1935. At the end of 1935, Beith emigrated to Britain. His license was deleted at his own request on 20 Apr. 1936. Paul Oppenheimer died in Hamburg in Nov. 1937. Evidently, Albert Oppenheimer rejoined the law firm. At any rate, in 1938 the law practice was comprised of Albert Oppenheimer and Emil Behrens. Both, Emil Behrens after 50 years of working as a lawyer, were barred from practicing their profession by revocation of their licenses as of 30 Nov. 1938. As late as Aug. 1941, Albert Oppenheimer succeeded in fleeing to the USA via Barcelona.
The disbarment as a lawyer resulted in the dissolution of the law firm. Emil Behrens lived, together with his wife, from their savings but also from an old age pension he received from the German Lawyers’ and Notary Publics’ Insurance (Deutsche Anwalts- und Notar-Versicherung). On 1 Apr. 1939, the married couple was put under "temporary security order” (Vorläufige Sicherungsanordnung) in accordance with Secs. 59, 62 of the Foreign Currency Act (Devisengesetz) dated 12 Dec. 1938. Thus, they were deprived of disposing freely of their assets. Revenues from the existing assets were unblocked only based on individual applications to be submitted, and only for use toward covering living expenses, and, in addition, paying all taxes and public levies, including the 20-percent "atonement payment” ("Sühneleistung,” "Sühneabgabe”) imposed on Jews, all taxes and compulsory dues to the Jewish Community, the duties without recompense to the German Gold Discount Bank (Deutsche Golddiskontbank), and toward making payments for the social welfare system of the Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband) in Hamburg. The pension payments due had to be deposited in the security account with limited access for the account holder, and the same applied to the low monthly rent paid by his subtenant, the Jewish public prosecutor Dr. Leonhard Stein (see corresponding entry). After the "temporary security order” had been imposed on 1 Apr. 1939, Emil Behrens wrote a letter to the foreign currency office with the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) on 24 Apr., which read,
"The undersigned is 80 years old; his wife is 70 years old. After 50 years of practicing as a lawyer, the undersigned was forced to give up his profession and no longer has any income at all. At his age, he also has no intention or opportunity to emigrate. His marriage is childless, and he has no relatives that would be able to support him abroad. […] Your most obedient servant, Emil Israel Behrens.”
On 18 Mar. 1942, Emil Behrens applied for the unblocking of moving expenses amounting to 80 RM (reichsmark). Before that, he had been given notice to vacate his apartment at Andreasbrunnen 8 "by the Jewish Religious Organization on the authority of the Secret State Police [Gestapo]” as of Mar. 1942. As a "replacement apartment,” he was allocated a room in the Z. H. May and Frau-Stiftung (Maystift), a residential home at Bogenstraße 25. On 15 July 1942, Jenny and Emil Behrens were deported to Theresienstadt at the ages of 73 and 82 years, respectively. Emil Behrens died there 14 days later; on 29 July, Jenny Behrens died, just ten days after her husband, on 8 Aug. 1942.
For Emil and Jenny Behrens one Stolperstein each was laid at Jungfrauenthal 18.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Ina Lorenz
Quellen: 1; 4; 7 (S. 383); StaH 622-2, Wissenschaftlicher Nachlass Hans Nirrnheim, Nr. 8; StaH 314-15 Oberfinanzpräsident (Devisenstelle und Vermögensverwertungsstelle), R 1939/2315; Morisse, Jüdische Rechtsanwälte, S. 118, 142, 150; Francke, Norbert, Krieger, Bärbel, Die Familiennamen der Juden in Mecklen- burg; 1813/14 wurden in Mecklenburg erbliche Familiennamen der Juden angenommen; vgl. auch Silberstein, Siegfried, Familiennamen der Juden, S. 356; Therese Behrens starb im Mai 1938, sie wurde auf dem Jüdischen Friedhof Ohlsdorf bestattet, vgl. Jüdisches Gemeindeblatt vom 17.6.1938 S. 9. Sie hatte im Samuel Levy-Stift, Bundesstraße 35, gewohnt. Helene Behrens, die im selben Stift wohnte, starb im Januar 1940. Emil Behrens übernahm die Beerdigungskosten, die ihm die Finanzkommission der Beerdigungsbrüderschaft des Jüdischen Religionsverbandes Hamburg aufgegeben hatte. Grolle, Joist, Lorenz, Ina, Der Ausschluss der jüdischen Mitglieder in: ZHG 93/2007, S. 95; Laut Todesanzeige vom 8.8.1942 starb Jenny Behrens in Theresienstadt an "Pneumonia – Lungenentzündung".
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