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Already layed Stumbling Stones

Hedwig und Walter Alexander
© Verein zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Juden in Blankenese

Dr. Walter Bismarck Alexander * 1871

Erik-Blumenfeld-Platz 15 (Altona, Blankenese)

1942 Theresienstadt
ermordet am 6.12.1942

further stumbling stones in Erik-Blumenfeld-Platz 15:
Hedwig Alexander

Hedwig Alexander, born 4 Nov. 1877, in Vienna, deported 19 July 1942, to Theresienstadt, date of death: 15 Feb. 1943
Dr. Walter Alexander, born 16 Sep. 1871, in Brooklyn, New York, deported 19 July 1942, to Theresienstadt, date of death: 6 Dec. 1942

Erik-Blumenfeld-Platz 15 (Altona, Blankenese)

My grandfather Walter Alexander was born in Brooklyn. His father, Albert Alexander, left for America in 1857, at the invitation of his two uncles Siegmund and Salomon Alexander. They had emigrated to New York in 1851 for economic reasons. Albert worked for eight years in his uncles’ shop. In 1865, now an American citizen, Albert opened his own store for fancy goods in Brooklyn, NY. Five years later, on a visit to his parents in Prussia, he proposed to his cousin, Ernestine Gumpert. They were married a few weeks later. She moved with him to Brooklyn, NY, where by then he had a thriving business.

However, the American intermezzo did not last long. A few years after the birth of my grandfather, they returned to Germany, to Berlin, and reassumed German citizenship. My great-grandfather was such a patriot that he had given Walter, the oldest of his children, the middle name of Bismarck. After graduation, my grandfather studied chemistry. He received his doctorate from the philosophy faculty of the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University in Berlin (today Humboldt University). He became a well-respected chemist, both in Germany and abroad. In 1902, he married Hedwig Grundmann, the daughter of Jonathan and Rosalie Grundmann, née Taussig, from Vienna. Like him, his wife was of Jewish heritage. Their son Gerhard, my father, was born in 1903. He was baptized. On 21 January 1915, Hedwig, and then a year later, Walter as well, converted to Christianity. In World War I, my grandfather served as a non-commissioned officer, for which he (as all Jewish frontline fighters) was awarded the Cross of Honor for Frontline Fighters on 16 February 1935.

Hedwig Alexander had earned a teaching degree with honors, but never pursued this profession, as far as I know. She was an excellent piano player and wrote very colorful accounts of her and her husband’s travels. I still remember how I loved her reading fairy tales to me.

My grandfather, together with a cousin, founded a chemical plant in Köpenick, but after the First World War, he left, and moved to Hamburg, wherehe became a partner at the German oil refinery in the free port of Hamburg. From 1 April1919, it was called "Deutsche Oel- und Factisfabrik Dr. Alexander, Dr. Bünz und Richard Petri G.m.b.H.” and from "1929 Deutsche Oelfabrik Dr. Grandel & Co.” My grandfather was very well-to-do. He and his family lived in Blankenese, a posh Hamburg suburb, in a large villa. They had several servants, an automobile and chauffeur, and many good friends and acquaintances. In 1917, at the age of only 40, my grandmother had a stroke from which she never fully recovered. It caused a severe loss of hearing, and when she went shopping in downtown Hamburg (I’m told she was a very elegant lady right up to the day she was deported), she sometimes lost her orientation and no longer knew who she was or where she lived. For this reason, she always carried a card with her address. She was also often forgetful at home, and I can remember her holding her basket of keys and calling "Walter, Walter!”

After receiving his Ph. D. in Nordic Philosophy, Comparative Linguistics, and Germanic Philology, my father married the daughter of a pastor. In 1934, he lost his permanent position as librarian at the Prussian State Library in Berlin because of the so-called "Aryan Paragraph” and moved to Hamburg with his wife. He found employment at the oil factory in which his father was a partner. When I was born in 1935, my grandfather had a small house built for the three of us on the southern portion of his property. Three years later, in April 1938, he and my father were forced to leave the oil factory because of the political situation.

In March 1939, Walter Alexander spent more than 14 days in Gestapo detention at the Stadthaus (Gestapo headquarters) and in the Fuhlsbüttel prison on charges of political dissidence.

In that same year, my grandparents had to sell their house. They moved into our house (we found another place to live). In July 1942, one week after my seventh birthday, they received their deportation papers. My mother sorrowfully asked him how he felt. He answered, "I think I’m going on a long journey.”

It was a journey of no return. Both grandparents were deported to Theresienstadt on 19 July 1942. My grandfather died there on 6 Dec. 1942. Did he die of starvation? Was he murdered? The death notice lists blood poisoning and degeneration of the heart muscle as the cause of death. My grandmother died on 15 Feb. 1943 – according to the death notice she suffered from erysipelas and diarrhea.

Her son, Gerhard Alexander, who had been protected by his "privileged” mixed marriage, was also deported to Theresienstadt, on 14 Feb. 1945. He was liberated on 8 May 1945. He died in Hamburg in 1988.

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
/ text expanded by Dr. Iris Bork-Goldfield

Stand: August 2022
© Ulrike Bork/Text erweitert von Dr. Iris Bork-Goldfield

Quellen: 1; 3; 4; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 1730 (Dr. Alexander, Walter Bismarck).
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Link "Recherche und Quellen".

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