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Leo Bornstein * 1899
Bramfelder Chaussee 316 (Wandsbek, Bramfeld)
RAASIKU BEI REVAL
Leo Bornstein, born 7.9.1899 in Berlin, 24/26 Sept. 1942 deported from Belrin to Raasiku (near Reval/Estonia), where he was murdered in Oct. 1942
Bramfelder Chaussee 316 (Lübecker Straße 42)
Leo Bornstein was born the son of Michael Bornstein and Margarete Bornstein, maiden name Luft, in Berlin. On 15 May 1923 he married Gertrude Rita Cohen in Hamburg, the daughter of an old well-established Jewish family. Leo Bornstein worked as a merchant for his father-in-law Louis Joseph Cohen (1872-1948), who presented the young couple with a house in Lübeck Straße 42 (today Bramfelder Chaussee 316) in the former Prussian district of Bramfeld. A short time later his wife gave birth to two daughters, Helga and Ursula, in 1924.
According to information from the daughter Ursula, the Bornsteins divorced in 1926. Leo Bornstein presumably returned to Berlin in 1925, as it is noted in the Bramfeld Registry of 1925 that he had moved. Gertrude Bornstein remained with the children in Bramfeld. The couple ceased contact with each other.
In an interview in 1998 with the district archives of Bramfeld Ursula Bornstein recounted that Leo Bornstein had been a social democrat and had worked as a writer for an underground newspaper, was arrested and shot near Reval in 1942.
Leo Bornstein’s parents were of Jewish descent. His father was a merchant. Leo Bornstein attended a middle school and acquired his business know-how in his father-in-law’s company. At the age of 18 he was called up in 1917 for service in the state army, deployed on the West front and returned to Berlin in 1919 after the war, where he worked in various positions, finally as a bookkeeper. His short marriage and the time spent in Hamburg are not mentioned in the file records from the 1930s and 1940s, except that in 1925 he was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment for attempted bribery. He did not go to prison but was reprieved in 1929. In 1925 he was christened in the evangelical church.
In the Berlin address records from 1928 to 1935 there are no entries referring to Leo Bornstein, which would suggest that he was not able to finance his own flat but rented a room, his last address being Kaiser Friedrich Straße 52 in the district of Charlottenburg. Leo Bornstein was continually a target for the National Socialist tracking authorities, because he – in actual fact or supposedly – contravened the anti-Jewish laws and decrees: in 1937 – apparently a recognised punishable crime – he obtained by devious means a vacancy under the pretence of having an "aryan” descent and was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment by the Berlin district court for withholding information. He remained in prison until 11 June 1938. In the same year he was arrested for a short time under the suspicion of "racial disgrace”. In 1942 he was given two short prison sentences for not submitting his Jewish identity card.
On 26 Feb 1942 the Special Court II in Berlin charged him with violation of the Law against Acts of Subversion. In this way the military power-holders introduced legal grounds to imprison NS critics. They therefore accused Bornstein of "continually acting subversively”, e.g. (he had claimed) that the "Führer” (Hitler) was building cannons; he would prefer butter,” and "the people in the ‘Volkspalast’ were shouting (support) because they were all members of the party. Hitler always said the same and that he got on his nerves. All those (people) I know are not in agreement with the regime.” Four informers certified these accusations. According to the Special Court "the severity of the sentence was increased because he obviously was not prepared to obey the special laws that the Jews were subject to, "and because he had found his way into an armaments factory in Feb. 1942 in order to foster chaos".
The punishment of one year and seven months imprisonment was extended in 1942 to a combined four-year jail sentence by the Regional Court for the further charge of repeated racial defilement. The verdict was reached on 16 Jun. 1942 while he was already imprisoned in the Plötensee prison. With a document from 18 Aug. 1942 he was transferred to the Brandenburg/Havel-Görden penitentiary and from there he was deported to Estonia on 26 Sep. 1942 in different vehicles. In actual fact his release from custody was scheduled for 25 Sep. 1943. He was, presumably on the basis of a decree that the prisons and penitentiaries in the "old Germany” were designated "free of Jews”, assigned to a large deportation programme.
The transport left for Berlin on 24 Sep. with 237 Jews from Frankfurt-on-Main, where they were coupled onto 812 other Jewish prisoners at the Putlitz Straße goods train station. Altogether 1049 people were deported on this train, of which 895 were women, 354 men and 108 children under the age of 10. On the transport lists the date of the transport was stated as 3 Oct. 1942, but the correct date (according to information from the Reval historian Diana Schulle) was 26. Sep. 1942. Only 26 people survived the transfer. Raasiku near Reval (Tallinn today) was an execution site. When the people arrived there they were either immediately shot or taken to surrounding labour camps to mine oil shale. Leo Bornstein, according to details from Yad Vashem which his daughter Hega had
left there in 1995, died near Reval in Oct. 1942. We have only found a few details from the criminal records about the fate of Leo Bornstein in the period between 1925 and 1942. There were no indications that he was involved in organised political protests. Inquiries at the archives of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the SPD party executive produced no results. The two Bornstein daughters were no longer available for our questioning in 2007.
While her father lived in Belrin, Ursula Bornstein attended the school at the present-day site of the village common of Bramfeld. Her memories of Bramfeld were determined by anti-Semitic discrimination: "On my way home from school I had to pass the police station and there was a tree in front of the police building. And the boys in my class, possibly others as well, I can’t quite remember, always called out – and that happened every day: ‘Ursula Bornstein, Jewish pig, must go back to Palestine.’ We were in a village outside Hamburg and I believe that such things took place even earlier. It must have been sometime in 1933, then on 1 May 1934 we left the area. I didn’t even attend school for the last 3 months. It must therefore have been earlier.
In a talk with representatives of the city archives in 1998 she also recounted that pupils at her school whispered behind her back and that even her best friend no longer talked to her. Her mother felt very lonely in Bramfeld and travelled to her grandparents in Eppendorf at least once a week. It was clear that when she felt threatened in Bramfeld she used her parent’s house as a refuge for herself and her daughter. "I think that whenever there was a political demonstration we were always warned by somebody. And on one occasion we were asked to hang out a flag. And my gradmother had an Irish flag; she was Irish. And my mother then hung out the flag. And when we returned a Nazi flag hung in every window. Our windows in the living-room had been broken and inside the house many things had been damaged. And every time there was a procession we travelled to Eppendorf. (…)”
The mother of Gertrude Bornstein, by birth a Cohen, was Irish. In 1934 she left for England and took her grandchild with her. Ursulas Bornstein was 10 years old at the time. She never saw her father again. Only after the war did she hear through the Red Cross and Yad Vashem that he had been arrested and shot in a shale mine near Reval. Gertrude Bornstein followed her family to England in 1938. Her father, Louis Joseph Cohen, was imprisoned in Dachau at that time. After his release he too emigrated to England.
In 1973 the former plot of land of the Bornstein family was divided up, the old buildings demolished and replaced with a new building. In order to ensure the correct placement of the stumbling block memorial plaques the location of the Bornstein house was reconstructed using the old Bramfeld ordinance maps.
Translator: Peter Huggett
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Britta Burmeister, Ulrike Hoppe
Quellen: 5; Gedenkbuch Berlins der jüdischen Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, Freie Universität Berlin, Zentralinstitut für sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung, Berlin 1995; Gedenkstätte deutscher Widerstand, Häftlingskartei Plötzensee, Nr. 2582, 2586 und 2588; Ulrike Hoppe, Stadtteilarchiv Bramfeld, Interview mit Ursula Bornstein, 1998. Yad Vashem, Central Data Base of the Shoa, Gedenkblatt für Leo Bornstein; Monica Kingreen/Wolfgang Scheffler, Die Deportationen nach Raasiku bei Reval, in: Buch der Erinnerung, Hrsg. Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, Berlin 2003, S. 865–871; Auskunft Dr. Diana Schulle/ GDW vom 7. u. 8.9.2011; Archiv Friedrich Ebert-Stiftung, Auskunft Dr. Christoph Stamm 3.1.2011; Parteivorstand SPD, Auskunft Elie-Lukas Limbacher vom 17.12.2010; StHH, 423-3/3 I A III 5 Wählerliste1925; Bundesarchiv Berlin, Bestand Ergänzungskarten für Angaben über R 1509 Abstammung Volkszählung 1939; Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv, Akte 213, Akte 213/1 Leo Bornstein 7.9.1899.