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Gustav Behrens * 1870

Bornstraße 2 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)

JG. 1870

Gustav Behrens, born 17.3.1870 in Hamburg, deported to Riga-Jungfernhof on 6.12.1941

Bornstraße 2

Gustav Behrens worked as an editor for the Hamburger Anzeiger (messenger), Hamburg's daily newspaper with the highest circulation until World War II. He reported on horse races for the newspaper and, for 25 years, answered readers' questions on all kinds of human and interpersonal problems as a "mailbox uncle”. All this ended on October 1, 1933, when his employer, the Girardet publishing family, dismissed him because he was Jewish.

He had been born in Hamburg-St. Pauli. His father was the editor Marcus Behrens, his mother Leonora, née Holländer, worked as a housewife. After leaving school, Gustav Behrens completed a commercial apprenticeship. But he never worked as such. In 1888, he began working for the Hamburger Anzeiger as a career changer.

In 1893, at the age of 23, he married Elise Halberstadt, a Jewish Hamburg woman two years his senior. The couple had seven children: Margarethe in 1893, Edwin in 1895, Irma in 1896, the twins Hertha and Maximilian, called Max, in 1897, Käthe in 1903 and Ilse in 1904. From 1904, the family lived in the Grindelviertel, on the third floor of the house at Bornstraße 2. With five rooms, the apartment offered enough space for nine people. The former owner of the house, Salomon Ullmann, lived on the same floor.

Son Edwin Behrens died in 1918 as a soldier in the First World War. Hertha and Max followed in their father's footsteps. Gustav Behrens was able to place both of them at the Hamburger Anzeiger. Hertha wrote about motorcycle and automobile sporting events as well as jiu-jitsu competitions. She also wrote articles for the paper's women's supplement. Max also became a sports reporter. In 1920, he moved to Frankfurt am Main.

In 1921, Gustav Behrens, by then 51 years old, met Hedwig Loah, a non-Jewish 27-year-old clerk, at the "Juristische Sprechstunde" (Legal Consultation Hour) he held for the Hamburger Anzeiger. She wanted advice on possible claims against the father of her illegitimate son, then six years old. Hedwig Loah and Gustav Behrens fell in love with each other. However, he and his wife Elise did not divorce.

From 1928, Gustav Behrens held the position of managing director of the Hamburg Stamp Exchange in addition to his journalistic activities. He was therefore probably also a passionate stamp collector himself. In 1928, he was appointed guardian of Hedwig Loah's son.

Less than two months after the handover of power to the National Socialists, the Hamburger Anzeiger was banned on March 29, 1933. On April 20, 1933, the newspaper reappeared, its editor-in-chief now being Hans Jacobi, who was also the main editor of the NSDAP newspaper Hamburger Tageblatt. On June 1, 1933, Gustav Behrens' daughter Hertha received a letter that began with the sentence: "Dear Ms. Herrmann, Mr. Jacobi has decided that the Hamburger Anzeiger must do without your cooperation." The letter from the publisher to her father probably read very similarly.

On December 3, 1937, Elise Behrens died at the age of 69 in Eppendorf Hospital. Gustav Behrens then moved out of the large apartment in Bornstraße into a smaller one at Rentzelstraße 19. His relationship with Hedwig Loah continued. Then neighbors denounced the couple for what the Nazis called "racial defilement." According to the Nuremberg Laws, a relationship between a Jewish man and a non-Jewish woman was considered a criminal offense. However, according to the wording of the law, the woman was not prosecuted; it was only the Jewish man who was affected.

On September 8, 1939, the Hamburg District Court sentenced Gustav Behrens to three years in prison. Since a decree in the fall/winter of 1942 stipulated that prisons and penitentiaries were also to be made "judenrein" (clean of Jews), he was added to the large-scale deportation to Riga in Wehrmacht-occupied Latvia before the end of his prison term on December 6, 1941. The deportees from Hamburg were sent to the alternative camp in the nearby Jungfernhof estate. Gustav Behrens was murdered there.

Margarethe Behrens' traces have been lost; her five siblings were able to leave Germany in time. They later applied for compensation for the persecution and murder of their father.

Hertha Loah had the "racial defilement" verdict officially overturned by the Hamburg public prosecutor's office in 1956.

Translation Beate Meyer

Stand: February 2023
© Frauke Steinhäuser

Quellen: 1; 5; StaH 351-11_1277; StaH 241-1 II_10927; Hamburger Adressbücher 1904–1938; Frauke Steinhäuser, Biografien Hertha und Max Behrens, in: "… bis zu seinem freiwilligen Ausscheiden im April 1933". Jüdische und als jüdisch verfolgte Sportler:innen im Nationalsozialismus in Hamburg, Hamburg 2022, S. 94–99.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Recherche und Quellen.

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