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Siegfried Berliner * 1871
Gryphiusstraße 7 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)
GEDEMÜTIGT / ENTRECHTET
FLUCHT IN DEN TOD
Siegfried Berliner, born on 20 June 1877, flight to death on 21 June 1943
Gryphiusstrasse 7, Hamburg Nord
"The defendant has culpably broken up the marriage to such an extent that the restoration of a cohabitation appropriate to its nature can no longer be expected. The reason for this is that the defendant belongs to the Jewish race, while the plaintiff is Aryan.” In these words, the Hamburg court provided grounds for the divorce of Siegfried and Wilhelmine Berliner in 1938, after 24 years of marriage. The Jewish defendant Siegfried Berliner thus lost the protection of the "privileged mixed marriage” ("privilegierte Mischehe”).
Siegfried Berliner was born in Kattowitz/Silesia (today Katowic in Poland) on 20 June 1877 as the child of the Jewish couple Edward Berliner and Bianka, née Schwartzer (the birth date of 1871 on the Stolperstein is based on an error).
We know as little about his childhood and schooling as we do about the time he arrived in Hamburg. He began his professional career there with an apprenticeship as a merchant. According to the residents’ registration file, he lived at Lagerstrasse 5 in Hamburg St. Pauli near Dörnbrack on 11 Jan. 1909.
On 8 Feb. 1914, he married the non-Jewish woman Wilhelmine Therese Bagger in Copenhagen. During the Nazi era, this marriage was considered a "mixed marriage.”
Wilhelmine Bagger was born on 11 Jan. 1868 in Mühlhausen/East Prussia (today Mlnary in Poland) as a child of the married couple Wilhelm Bagger and Henriette, née Langhans. From 1891 to 1903, she was married in her first marriage to the non-Jewish merchant Johann Kolochowski, who had died on 19 Dec. 1912 in Hamburg’s St. Georg Hospital. The couple resided in Hamburg. Their marriage produced two daughters, Frieda Johanna Louise (born on 15 May 1891), who died on 5 Apr. 1916, and Ernstine Emilie Elisabeth (born on 21 Aug. 1892).
After her mother married Siegfried Berliner, he adopted her. The Berliner family lived with the Stegemann family at Kleine Gärtnerstrasse 103 in Altona. Their marriage remained childless. Instead, the couple got themselves a parrot, which they both loved very much.
The adopted daughter Ernstine married Heinrich Ferdinand (Heinz) Berens, born on 28 May 1886, in Sonderburg on 15 Mar. 1921.
From 1916 to 1935, Siegfried and Wilhelmine Berliner lived at Gryphiusstrasse 7 in Winterhude. From there, the couple moved to Hamburger Strasse 112 (today Bramfelder Chaussee) in Wellingsbüttel. The couple lived a very secluded life and maintained contact to only a few friends.
Heinz Berens founded a company for laboratory equipment with his father-in-law Siegfried Berliner in 1921, which was entered in the company register on 19 Mar. 1921: Heinrich Ferdinand Berens was the owner of the company; Siegfried Berliner was given power of attorney. One year later Heinz Berens’ wife, Ernstine Berens, also received power of attorney. When Siegfried Berliner became a partner in 1926, Ernstine remained the only authorized signatory in the company.
Among the customers was the Homrich & Sohn photo technology company, located at Grosse Rainstrasse 41-43 in Altona, which was also a borrower. The owners of that company were not Jewish. At the beginning of 1935, they stopped accepting orders from their business partner, the Heinz Berens Company, on the grounds that it was a Jewish enterprise. In order to avoid business disadvantages, Siegfried Berliner left the company and Heinz Berens became the sole owner. The transfer of the business to him was documented in the company register on 29 Nov. 1935 but it did not change Siegfried Berliner’s practical work in the company.
However, when Heinz Berens died on 11 Apr. 1937, Siegfried Berliner lost not only his closest colleague. Heinz Berens’ widow, Siegfried Berliner’s adopted daughter Ernstine Berens, was entered in the company register on 27 Sept. 1937 as sole owner of the company. Wilhelmine Berliner and her daughter Ernstine bought a house at Hamburger Strasse 112 (today Barmfelder Chaussee 112). Siegfried Berliner acquired a co-ownership title to it.
Until 1938, the business was operated as a company trading in photographic articles under the address Steindamm 7 in Hamburg’s St. Georg quarter, and the Dürkopp Company became co-owner. Afterward, Ernstine Berens moved the company headquarters to her home in Wellingsbüttel. Her adoptive father Siegfried Berliner continued to work in the business. At this time, the company had to commit itself to no longer manufacture copying and enlarging devices, to deliver all photocells in its possession to Dürkopp Werke, and to supply spare parts for repairs only. Despite these restrictions, the company had to be sold to Dürkopp Werke in the context of "Aryanization.” This happened on 23 Nov. 1938. Thus, Siegfried Berliner had lost his livelihood.
In the summer of 1938, Wilhelmine Berliner had to undergo serious eye surgery. As a result, she was left with a severe nervous disorder as well as a serious visual impairment.
After the November Pogrom of 1938, Siegfried Berliner was obliged to pay the "levy on Jewish assets” ("Judenvermögensabgabe”). He made the first payment of 1,500 RM (reichsmark) on 16 Dec. 1938 and the second payment of 4,650 RM on 19 Jan. 1939. Immediately afterward, he made over his remaining assets to his wife Wilhelmine.
The spouses separated, and their marriage was legally divorced on 21 Feb. 1939. The Jewish origin of the husband was used as a reason, as quoted above. As he emphasized in court, Siegfried Berliner still loved his wife, who lived separated from him. The separation was difficult for him to accept.
Siegfried Berliner planned to emigrate to the USA on 8 Mar. 1939.
His adopted daughter lent him a contribution of 5,800 RM to cover the costs. The funds were to be used primarily to pay the "Reich flight tax” ("Reichsfluchtsteuer”). He paid a first installment on 19 Jan. 1939 and a second installment on 21 Feb. 1939 for a total of 9,597 RM. Thereupon he received the indispensable "tax clearance certificate” ("Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung”) from the tax office, with which he could have left the country legally – something that did not happen.
It remains unclear what ultimately caused the emigration to fail. Through a lawyer, his adopted daughter Ernstine claimed back the money she had given him to emigrate to the USA.
Siegfried Berliner lived at Hamburgerstrasse 112 until 9 May 1941, on which day his furniture was confiscated and sold through the Peters & Löwenthal Company, located at Deichtorstrasse 8. The proceeds amounted to 5,648.50 RM. For the storage of the furniture, the company charged Siegfried Berliner 1,173.70 RM.
The property on Hamburgerstrasse was confiscated in 1942 by the acting city inspector Theo Klever. The documents of the Heinz Berens Company were still in the building, and nothing was allowed to be taken away.
The divorced wife, Wilhelmine Berliner, was permitted to continue living there, while Siegfried Berliner first moved to Grindelallee 54 and from there to Rutschbahn 35.
On 29 Oct. 1942, he was briefly imprisoned in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, without any reasons given. On 18 Nov. 1942, he was arrested once again and taken to the Stadthaus on Stadthausbrücke.
Instead of at Rutschbahn 35, the Jewish Community then accommodated him in the "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”) at Dillstrasse 15. On the evening of 20 June 1943, Siegfried Berliner returned to Wellingsbüttel and took a sleep-inducing drug in front of his house at Hamburgerstrasse 112 with the intention of committing suicide. He was found asleep and transported to the Jewish Hospital on Schäferkampsallee, where he died the following day. He did not leave a suicide note.
Siegfried Berliner was buried on 21 June 1943 in the non-Jewish part of the Ohlsdorf Cemetery at gravesite BM 67 – 172-173.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: July 2020
© Bärbel Klein
Quellen: StaH, 1; 2; 5; 8; StaH 621-1/87_37; StaH 351-11_54001; StaH 331-5_3 Akte_1012 /1943; StaH 522-1_992d Band 3; StaH 332-5_2070/1891; StaH 332-5_2104/1892; StaH 332-5_1129/1891; StaH 332.-5_91/1948; StaH 332-5_148; StaH 332-5_268/1937; StaH 332-5_190/1943; StaH 332-5_410/1965; In conformity with the ITS Archives, 1966, 220.127.116.11   ITS Digital Archive Bad Arolsen.
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