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Fanny Berlin (née Meyer) * 1878
Eppendorfer Baum 10 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
Fanny Berlin, née Meyer, born on 27 Apr. 1878 in Hamburg, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga
Olga Wolf, née Berlin, born on 27 Aug. 1910 in Hamburg, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga
Dan Wolf, born on 22 Feb. 1939 in Hamburg, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga
Eppendorfer Baum 10
Fanny Berlin was born on 27 Apr. 1878, the second oldest child of Jacob (born in 1848) and Flora Meyer, née Jaffeé (born in 1854) in Hamburg. She had six siblings.
On 10 Sept. 1905, she married Eduard Berlin (born on 11 Sept. 1879), who after attending the Talmud Tora Realschule was trained in the trade of his maternal grandfather as a stonemason, running a tombstone business under his name in Ohlsdorf, Fuhlsbüttler Straße 679 at the time. The family reports that Eduard collaborated on the cenotaph for the soldiers killed in World War I designed by Ernst Barlach and located at the market square in front of Hamburg’s city hall. The marriage produced three children, Ivan Ernst (born on 11 June 1906), Olga (born on 27 Aug. 1910), and Herbert (born on 14 May 1918).
On 15 Jan. 1934, Eduard Berlin died. His widow and his oldest son Ernst, who was also a stonemason, continued to manage the company. After Eduard Berlin’s death, the business was relocated to Fuhlsbüttler Straße 668, opposite the old business address. The Hamburg directories from the years 1938 and 1939 list the address as Fuhlsbüttler Straße 666–672. These properties were located on both sides of the access to Ihlandstraße (today Ihlandkoppel) in the immediate vicinity of the Jewish Cemetery in Ohlsdorf.
Olga Berlin worked as a clerk. Via a friend who worked at "Ephraim, Gumpel & Co.,” she came to know a colleague of that friend, Donat Wolf, a son of Leopold Wolf (of the Wolf Brothers). In this connection, Donat Wolf wrote in his memoirs to his grandchildren:
"At the office a girl by the name of Ilse Neuhaus worked there too as a secretary & she invited me one day to visit her and her husband together with some other people from the office. It was there that I met Olly Berlin and fell in love with her. The same evening we walked till the morning hours to Ohlsdorf, where she lived and from then on, we got together quite often. She told me that she was engaged to be married to a non-jewish fellow, but had broken the engagement on account of the Nuremberg Laws and returned to him a very costly engagement ring. Well, the way was clear for me and it did not take very long that we went to her mother – her father had passed away long before – and asked her to let me marry Olly. Well the engagement was arranged and I met with all the family members of the Berlins – a very nice crowd – and on November 12, 1937 we got married.
We moved in to a small apartment – a new built apartment house – which did not even have a bath. We bought ourselves a portable bath, which we stored in the attic and whenever we wanted to take a bath we had to take it down and let the hot water from the sink into the bathtub. Well, we were still young and it really did not matter so much to lug the tub down and bring it up again. Olga – she was called Olly – and I were quite happy with each other and she even went working together with me at E.G. & Co. [ Ephraim, Gumpel & Co.]. We spent time quite often with her mother and her two brothers Ernst and Herbert at their place in Ohlsdorf and everything would have been fine and dandy, until Olly happened to become pregnant. In view of the very bad circumstances in Germany at that time, we had not planned on having a family. Our efforts to find a doctor to make an abortion were fruitless and so on February 22, 1939 our son Dan was born.”
At this time, Olga, Donat, and Dan were already staying with the Berlin family in Ohlsdorf.
After Olga’s brothers, Ernst and Herbert, as well as Donat’s brother James had been arrested and deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for about a month following the November Pogrom 1938 ("Kristallnacht”), their decision to leave Germany began to take shape. In Mar. 1939, Herbert succeeded in fleeing to Britain, while Donat, his brother-in-law Ernst, and his brother James intended to emigrate to Donat’s and James’ older brother in Manila and to have their families join them there later.
In his memoirs, Donat wrote on this topic:
"The time had come to do something about our leaving the country and Ernst Berlin and myself were every day going from one place to another to get a visa. Every foreign consulate, every steamship line, we tried refused to give us a visa or a ticket to another country. My eldest brother Gustav had already left and was in Manila and we tried to get to the Philippines, which at that time was still under USA rule.
There was not a single consulate, we did not approach – not a single shipping line, we did not try to get a passage to Manila which we intended to go, and finally I think Ernst was it, who got it, we got a passage to Bangkok in Siam (now Thailand) with the East-Asiatic-shipping-line. But after a while we had all our papers together and on July 26, 1939 we were ready to leave on the SS Selandia for ……. Bangkok!”
How shall a man describe the days before he is going to leave his home, his wife, his son and everything he ever believed in to be his future? I still see myself leaving the house in Ohlsdorf, Olly standing in the doorway with our son on her arm and also my then mother in law, Fanny Berlin …. never to see them again.
Since Donat, Ernst, and James were not allowed to leave the ship in Manila, they finally secured a passage on a ship to reach Shanghai.
Even while the three were on their journey, Fanny Berlin, her daughter Olga, and grandson Dan had to leave the house in Fuhlsbüttler Straße, moving on 1 Aug. 1939 to Eppendorfer Baum 10. The company was "Aryanized.” The 1941 Hamburg directory lists as owner of the property on Fuhlsbüttler Straße 666/672 "Kallmes & Levy” and as occupants of house no. 668, among others, "Dannemann, K., Grabmale [tombstones]” and "Schwarz, Alb., Steinmetz-Meister [master stonemason].”
During a stopover on 28/29 July 1939 in Southampton, where they met up with Herbert Berlin, Ernst and Donat took the move to Eppendorfer Baum as an opportunity to write a little poem for their family in Hamburg:
Zum 1. August 1939 !
Wir sitzen hier und denken wie verstohlen
an die vergangene schöne, schöne Zeit.
Ihr braucht nicht mehr Briketts und keine Kohlen
und auch die Küche ist nicht mehr so weit.
Ihr braucht nicht mehr die Treppen raufzulaufen
Im Keller nicht mehr nach dem Feuer sehn
Nach Barmbek nicht, um Fische einzukaufen.
Habt’s auch nicht weit, um Minna mal zu sehn.
Wollt Ihr zum Bridge, braucht Ihr nicht mehr zu beben,
Krieg ich die Bahn um 4 Minuten später noch.
Ja endlich könnt Ihr ruhig für Euch leben
Ist auch das Zimmer klein, die Küche nur ein Loch.
Sei wie ihm sei, wir greifen nun zum Punsche
Und trinken ihn auf Euer gutes Wohl
Und sagen Euch, es gibt nur noch ein Wunsche,
Dass schnell es sei, bis Ernst die Mami hol.
Drum setzt Euch hin in Eure neue Klause,
Und nehmt die Tage, nehmt sie einfach hin
Fühlt Euch dort jetzt genau, gradwie zu Hause
und haltet hoch den Kopf und auch den Sinn.
Seid frohen Muts und lasst’s Euch nicht verdrießen
Wenn auch das Neue anfangs etwas schwer
Mit diesen Blumen wollen wir Euch grüßen
und senden unsere ganze Liebe her.
On the occasion of 1 Oct. 1939!
We are sitting here almost not daring to remember
The good, good old days which are over now.
You don’t have to get briquettes and coal anymore
And the kitchen is not so far away anymore.
You don’t have to run up any stairs anymore
Or check the fire in the basement
Or go to Barmbek to buy fish.
You are closer to Minna, for visits.
Going to play bridge, you don’t have to worry anymore
About catching the tram four minutes later.
Yes, finally you can live all by yourselves
Even though the room is small, the kitchen all but a hole.
Be that as it may, we are grabbing the punch now
Raising the glass to your health
And tell you that we have one wish alone
That it be soon now that Ernst can get the Mommy.
So sit down in your new abode
And take the days as they are, just let them go by
Feel right at home there
And keep high your heads and your spirits.
Be cheerful and don’t let anything get you down
Even though the new may be a bit hard on you
We want to greet you with these flowers
And send all our love to you.
Correspondence with Herbert Berlin provides information about the life of Fanny Berlin as well as her daughter Olga and her grandchild Dan.
Fanny Berlin, 8 Aug. 1939:
"So now we have been living in our new house for a week already and Olly, I, and Dan as well like it a lot; we have no longing for Ohlsdorf, not for one minute yet. You can imagine that I have almost forgotten the old sty. After all, in the end it was simply too filthy; the plaster was literally crumbling from the walls, all you could do was mop up the rainwater, since it was raining through everywhere. Gone is gone, for once the swine there are bitterly disappointed, at least because of the apartment. Today we have finally finished up our apartment, and now we will carry on until one day we shall meet again, I am so absolutely convinced of that. That is also why I am so glad Ernst and Donat are now off, as they will certainly make their way. There is actually nothing new at all here.”
Addition by Olga Wolf:
"We are really happy that they and you as well have made it out. As the reports stand here, any day may bring something, but hopefully the dust will settle on it. – Our apartment is fabulous and comfortable, for only 55 RM (reichsmark) rent. Our little kitchen is located by the large one that belongs to the front apartment.”
Fanny Berlin 15 Aug. 1939:
"Little news here, we hope and wish that everything will continue in calm waters, as always. Dan is a great joy to us; in a few days, he will surely have his first teeth. He also says "Mama” already, sometimes even to me. He is coming along well, even though he can no longer be left standing outside all day. The weather is actually still quite nice, some rain now and then, but we have had a good summer overall.”
Olga Wolf 2 Oct. 1939:
"Great that we have the neutral Lucoses [Fanny’s brother Ludwig and sister-in-law Coba/Jacoba in the Netherlands]. Just how much we thank them altogether we cannot say often enough. Well, you know yourself. Just the same with Dan, who is developing marvelously, putting the diapers and … etc. received as gifts from them to good use. Hope he will soon become (Henkell) dry. Baby laundry all the time! Today, Sunday, we took him out for a walk to the Alster in the afternoon for about two hours. That does Mommy some good as well. When she is not playing bridge, Mommy usually comes along. – Although the winter fashion is starting, Mommy still goes for walks wearing her straw hat. The good felt hat still sits in the box! Fine speeches don’t have any effect. On the way, among all the ladies we saw only two with straw – covered – heads. I deliberately counted this quantity. Well, surely you know her! –
Dan now weighs at least 18 lbs. The other day, I went to the doctor’s because he is too healthy, meaning he eats too much. He was weighed at 8.3 kilograms. He [the doctor] patted him a few times, repeating all the while, ‘A peach of a guy he is!’ Considering his weight, he is big and sturdy. Has a broad and high man’s chest; promises, if all business transactions fail, to become a world champion in prize fighting or the like! For the moment, he promises to be a little rascal. He is very well-behaved. A pretty cheerful one. Miss Bertha Heymann calls him ‘Snuten und Poten-Wolf’ [‘Snuten und Poten’ (Low German for ‘snout and paws,’ a hearty North German meat dish) was one of the popular songs by the Wolf Brothers]. He sometimes shows off mightily. Stirs things up around here. Laughs when Mommy Jr. laughs. Incidentally, he smiles at everyone in a friendly way and is not shy at all with strangers. Is passed around from one lady’s lap to the other. He does not mind at all! He has tremendous chances already and is admired a lot. Even Richard [Fanny’s brother, Richard Meyer] also delights in him. … – We are really doing well and are not giving up hope that soon there will be peace and all of us will be reunited.”
Fanny Berlin, 19 Nov. 1939:
"He [Dan] has now already gone ‘backe, backe Kuchen’ [a popular German-language nursery rhyme]. Yes, our lad is doing his first routine, ‘backe, backe Kuchen,’ and now he also listens to the music and waves; he has come along quite splendidly, he takes to the food, he is friendly to every lady and laughs. He is, after all, already three quarters of a year old, and you, dear Peter [Fanny Berlin often called her son Herbert Peter] have already been away for three quarters of a year as well.”
Fanny Berlin, Jan. 1940:
"My America number is 11,403! For the time being, it will not be my turn, though. What is your number? A rumor has it that all of those waiting for their number abroad will be bumped back and those waiting here in Germany will take precedence, well, let’s wait and see. I would very, very much rather go there, but I suppose one can have a decent life in Shanghai as well.”
Fanny Berlin, 23 Jan. 1940:
"At present, for about three weeks now, it has been cold here, and our heating is not as it used to be, especially when the wind sweeps through the streets, but [we are] not [going] back to the old apartment. On 15 Jan., I was at the cemetery but everything there is snow-covered and iced up. Regarding the Reichs’ passage to the USA, it has not worked out yet, they could have been off already, but the man over there still has to produce a guarantor. So far, however, they are doing well, and Hilde is still so-so.”
Olga Wolf, 23 Jan. 1940:
"The Lucoses have recently sent us a plentiful parcel, which showered and still showers Dan with presents. He is a peach of a guy, constantly growing in weight and talents. Donat will not have us raise him to be a dandy, and you know, that is not our thing either. Now you can really romp around with him already. He is ticklish … the only thing he has inherited from me so far!
– Afternoons, Dan already wears boots. Thus, he is gradually becoming a man. He livens up things and is already very popular. – We are going to the movies nearly once every week, and they always show the latest and nicest films.” [Showings of the Jewish Cultural Federation (Jüdischer Kulturbund)]
Fanny Berlin, Feb. 1940:
"The request for Olly is no. 10,069 [visa for Shanghai]; picture it yourself, just like America, it is terribly difficult, for me, too, of course, but Donat will surely take care of it, since if you have a lot of money [it is] the same as everywhere. Next week, Dan will be one year old already, how fast this year has passed, and it has also brought too much. On 8 Mar., dear Peter, you will also have been away for a year already, but I do not want to complain, only think that one day we will certainly see each other again, healthy and well. Thank God, I am in good health, much better than last year around this time. If only the sun did shine soon all around, but so far it does not look like it at all. It has been ages since we had such a severe winter here and so much snow. Unfortunately, our apartment has the one single flaw that the entry to the basement is right below us, and when you sit as I do now, you get icy legs. Olly also caught a moderate cold, which will hopefully get better again pretty soon.”
Fanny Berlin, 21 Mar. 1940:
"We actually still do not have warm weather. This week Easter has already come, how time flies. Dan is a cheerful little tot; to be sure, he does not fancy his food so much anymore, but he can be satisfied and he actually is. In terms of health, Olly and I are also doing as usual. Though the family is not very big anymore, we get to see Minna and Richard [Richard Meyer, a brother of Fanny Berlin, was married to Minna Berlin] quite often. Good thing, however, that they do live a bit farther away after all. Malchen [Malchen Berlin was Richard and Minna Meyer’s foster child] is going to Hasslinghausen [where the family of Malchen’s biological mother lived] again for some time. She will have it comfortable there, and after all, she is not missing anything here. Werner Beit [a friend of Herbert Berlin] I have not seen anymore, and I do not know whether he still works at the hospital.”
Fanny Berlin, 29 Nov. 1940:
"Dan has become a splendid boy, now he can almost wear the pinafore you gave him on his birth; one must really give practical gifts. The only one I see around here sometimes is Werner Beit with his wife, who looks pretty good, and he always asks how you are doing. After all, I know only very few of your male and female friends. Malchen is still here as ever. Klaus [the person referred to is probably the son of Ludwig and Jacoba Meyer in the Netherlands, who was already in Britain at this time] is apparently also well. We still have our one-bedroom apartment, which is really nice and cozy, but one day we hope to land in Shanghai. Ernst really does not have it easy but I hope things will be fine again someday. Richard underwent quite the operation, and his intestines are completely misplaced. His recovery is very slow but the professor is very satisfied.”
Fanny Berlin, 14 Jan. 1941 (the last extant letter):
"Things are really well with Olly and Dan. We are healthy and chipper. We have only one wish, to be together with you very soon. I also have good news from Uncle Ludwig. Is Klaus doing well and Rösi with her family, too? Richard is also his old self again. Minna leads the way … and Malchen is the same as ever. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you much about your old friends, they have probably gone away as well; except for Beit, whom I see now and then at the movies in the Community Center, and he looks unchanged. Our cute little apartment is warm and cozy, and I have settled in quite quickly here. I would, of course, much rather hear from you.”
Addition by Olga Wolf:
"Your azalea (plant) that you gave to Mommy as a farewell present is blooming for the first time again and gives us double the joy. We think of you a lot and hope to see you again soon!
Your loving Olly"
On 11 Mar. 1946, Ludwig Wolf wrote to his nephew Donat Wolf:
"Well, dear boy, where do I start and where do I end? It’s best to begin where we looked after your beloved Olly, Dan, and your mother-in-law. Day after day, your Aunt Magda [Magdalene Wolf, née Felst, the second wife of Ludwig Wolf] and I were packing from morning till night in your apartment up to the evacuation, marking linen and sorting everyone’s luggage. I labeled each piece of luggage as follows: Olga Sara Wolf, née Berlin, born in Hamburg, born in 1910, evacuation luggage. Each piece of luggage had to be completely packed and tied up and delivered to Carolinenstraße on the day of departure. On these days, I pulled a heavily laden Scotch cart together with Cäsar Koppel [Cäsar Koppel was a musician and acquaintance of Ludwig Wolf], as I would not have been able to manage by myself. It was my birthday present on that day [Ludwig was born on 4 Dec. 1867] and it was all for nothing, since the luggage never left Hamburg; the bandits simply kept it right here. As your Aunt Magda told me, they were all very composed here leading up to the departure. None of the relatives were present except for your Aunt Magda. Some neighbors as well as the cleaning lady walked along up to Moorweide.
This time around, Carola [Carola Israel, the daughter of Henriette Isaac and niece of Ludwig Wolf], who should have been off on an earlier transport and had poisoned herself with Veronal tablets but recovered, accompanied the three on their journey into the unknown. Since those days, evacuations took place repeatedly day after day, and I was asked by different people to come and label their suitcases and luggage. I made sure that not too much was left in the apartment, and actually everything was supposed to be left in the apartment, with the keys handed in at the police station. I made sure that the Nazis did not get too much, even taking out the light bulbs and giving them to Koppel.
Olly sold and gave away anything she could not take along. As it was, the furnishings had to stay put. To enumerate everything would go too far. She had me give her the last of the remaining money in order to sew it into her corset, despite my warning not to take it along. A little later, I had to order things for your Aunt Minna Meyer, who had collapsed during the first transport when her name was called and was therefore deferred, as well as Malchen’s belongings. After that, it was Aunt Rosa’s [Rosa Stern, née Gumpel, sister of Leopold Wolf’s wife Olga, née Gumpel] and Aunt Betty’s [Betty Worms, née Gumpel, sister of Olga Gumpel see above] turn. In that case, too, we were the only ones to pitch in. Subsequently, mail arrived from the Netherlands and Denmark, and I answered it all. We never heard any news from the evacuees, and we do not know where they got. Of our family, those evacuated included Uncle Hans and Aunt Flora [Hans and Flora Seligmann, née Isaac, sister of Ludwig Wolf] as well as your Cousin Lotte Issel and a bit later Uncle James, Aunt Paula, and Lene [James and Pauline Wolf as well as Helene Löwenthal, née Isaac, siblings of Ludwig Wolf]. There was agitation and work constantly.”
Lieselotte Höbejögie, the then 12-year-old daughter of Ludwig Wolf, recalls Olga and Dan visiting Ludwig Wolf’s family, at Hütten 86, on the evening prior to their quartering in the Masonic Lodge house on Moorweide. There Dan got one more bath, an image Lieselotte Höbejögie has not forgotten to this day.
On 6 Dec. 1941, Fanny Berlin as well as Olga and Dan Wolf were deported to Riga and murdered. The dates of their deaths are unknown.
The persons mentioned in the letters, Ludwig and Jacoba Meyer (Auschwitz), Minna Meyer and Malchen Berlin (Riga -> Stutthof), Rosa Stern (Theresienstadt), Betty Worms (Theresienstadt), James and Pauline Wolf (Theresienstadt), Hans and Flora Seligmann (Minsk), as well as Werner, Bertha, and Berl Beit (Auschwitz) did not survive the Shoah either. For them, too, Stolpersteine were laid in Hamburg.
After the death of Olga and Dan Wolf, Donat was married in his second marriage to Beatrice Feibusch. The marriage produced their son Frank, who in turn named his son, born in 1975, Dan in memory of his murdered half-brother. Dan Wolf is a musician, actor, and author. In his play Stateless, staged in Hamburg several times as well, he is coming to terms with the story of Donat, Olga, and Dan.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Johann-Hinrich Möller
Quellen: 1; Briefe aus Nachlass Herbert Berlin, San Raphael, Kalifornien; Brief Donat Wolf vom 9.3.1977 an seine Enkelkinder Dan und Jessica, Privatbesitz, Familie Wolf, San Raphael, Kalifornien, Deutsche Übersetzung Lena-Maria und Johann-Hinrich Möller; Wiedergutmachungskammer Hamburg AZ 2 Wik 655/52; Gespräche und Korrespondenz mit Lieselotte Höbejögie, Schweden.
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