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Bertha Katzenstein (née Ehrlich) * 1862

Heimfelder Straße 80 (Harburg, Heimfeld)

1942 Theresienstadt
ermordet 25.11.1942

Bertha Katzenstein, née Ehrlich, born 6 Jan. 1862 in Gehaus, deported 15 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died 15 Nov. 1942

District Heimfeld, Heimfelder Straße 80

When Adolf Hitler became Reich Chancellor on 30 Jan. 1933, Bertha Katzenstein, the daughter of Jewish parents, lived at Heimfelder Straße 80 in one of the more distinguished quarters of Harburg. The large, multi-family dwelling was owned by the eminent Rosenschein Family who had rented it out and lived themselves in a villa at Bleicherweg 2. Bertha Katzenstein had been a widow for more than two years since her husband Isidor Katzenstein (born 21 Apr. 1856) died on 5 Apr. 1931 at the age of 75. At the time he was well known locally for his position on the Judicial Council. While he was alive, he had worked in a law firm at Wilstorfer Straße 11 with the lawyers Paul Friedmann and Georg Schaeffer. His grave is located at the Jewish Cemetery at Schwarzenberg.

In 1934 Bertha Katzenstein gave up her apartment in Harburg – presumably for financial reasons. She moved to Hamburg where she found a new place to live at Klosterallee 36. On 28 Apr. 1934 she joined the German-Israelite Community of Hamburg. Due to her small pension of 69 RM a month, she was exempt from paying church tax. Two years later she had to move again. Both the house at Innocentiastraße 19 and the building complex at Schäferkampsallee 25/27, where Bertha Katzenstein subsequently stayed, belonged to the Jewish Community of Hamburg or the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland). The rooms of the duplex, which originally housed several Jewish institutions, were increasingly used to accommodate older community members and those in need of care at the end of the 1930s. The greater the housing shortage, the more old people had to be on good terms with one another in very close quarters.

The many, mostly aged, female residents of that old-age and nursing home who were deported to Theresienstadt on 15 July 1942 included Bertha Katzenstein. These frail people were driven with their suitcases to the nearby school at Schanzenstraße 20 the day before. The school was intended as a collection point for that transport. There, Gestapo and civil servants of the Asset Recovery Office of the Regional Finance Director (Vermögensverwertungsstelle des Oberfinanzpräsidenten) awaited them in several rooms and inspected their eight-page asset declaration forms and packing list. In the evening, "roughly 50 people were led into a room that had 25 upper beds and 25 lower beds. Simple wooden beds, with no mattress whatsoever. It was the accommodation for the night".

Mere hours later, different finance officials invaded the rooms and apartments of those awaiting their onward deportation to inspect their asset declarations on site. Everything that the civil servants deemed appropriate was publically auctioned a few days later "for the benefit of the Reich".

When Bertha Katzenstein reached Theresienstadt at the age of 80 on 16 July 1942, her first impression will likely have opened her eyes, if she had ever believed the myth of the "model ghetto". The majority of the new arrivals found themselves again in mass housing. In the old garrison city where approximately 7,000 people had lived before the Second World War, now 53,000 people were jammed together in July 1942.

The constant hunger and multitude of diseases, which afflicted the old people in particular, increased the suffering of the deported. The squalid living conditions went hand in hand with a high mortality rate, an effect definitely intended as part of the "Final Solution".

Bertha Katzenstein lived another four months in Theresienstadt until she closed her eyes forever on 25 Nov. 1942. The attending physician noted the cause of death as pneumonia, coupled with cardiac insufficiency.

Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2016
© Klaus Möller

Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 7; 8; Heyl (Hrsg.), Harburger Opfer, Heyl, Synagoge, S. 196; Mosel, Wegweiser, Heft 2, S. 27ff.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Recherche und Quellen.

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