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Franziska Joseph (née Horwitz) * 1890

Hastedtstraße 20 (Harburg, Harburg)

JG. 1890
ERMORDET 15.5.1942

Franziska Joseph, née Horwitz, born on 11 Sept. 1890 in Oldenburg/Holstein, deported on 1 Nov. 1941 from Berlin to Lodz, murdered on 15 May 1942

Harburg-Altstadt quarter, Hastedtstrasse 20

Franziska Horwitz was the second child of her Jewish parents Ferdinand (5 July 1864–5 Oct. 1933) and Johanna Horwitz, née Behrens (7 Mar. 1859–2 Feb. 1919). Together with her older brother Willy (born in 1889) and her younger siblings Richard (born in 1892), and Gertrud (born in 1895), she spent a happy childhood in Oldenburg in Holstein Her parents ran a textile and ready-made clothing business there from 1888 to 1893 and a cleaning business from 1893 to 1905. According to family tradition, as historian Dietrich Mau reports, Ferdinand Horwitz could not have wished for a better business partner than his wife Johanna. As a trained hatter, she was the real soul of the business. She spent more time in the business at the market place than in their private sphere. She garnished ladies' hats, sewed skirts and always paid the highest attention to her customers. For raising children and running the household, she was able to enlist her older sister Sophie and, time and again, nannies and maids. Meanwhile, Ferdinand Horwitz usually roamed the countryside on horse and cart and looked after the customers in the surrounding villages.

In the house there was a traditional Jewish atmosphere. On Shabbat the shop remained closed. During the Passover days no bread came into the house, at Hanukkah the lights were lit, at Yom Kippur the whole family fasted. On high holidays, Pesach, Shavwoth, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, the parents had the four children exempted from school lessons.

Although Ferdinand Horwitz had been advertising for years to run the "acknowledged largest and cheapest plastering studio on the square", his professional and economic prospects in the small East Holstein town and its rural surroundings were anything but rosy. He had competitors who made his business life increasingly difficult with ever new sales ideas. In the autumn of 1905 he sold his residential and commercial property in Oldenburg and moved with his wife and children to Harburg a. d. Elbe.

Relatives lived here and it was here that the couple had met. Ferdinand Horwitz' brother Bernhard was the owner of the large Harburg department store 'Horwitz & Co' in Wilstorfer Strasse (today: Lüneburger Strasse). His employees had temporarily included the plasterer Johanna Behrens from Plau in Mecklenburg and the assistant Ferdinand Horwitz from Neustadt in Holstein, who after some time found that they got along well, not only at work.

After the family had changed residences several times for various reasons, during the First World War they finally found a longer-term home on Hastedtstrasse, which their fifth child Kurt Horwitz, born as a late arrival in Harburg in 1906, remembered particularly fondly in later years.

As mentioned, Franziska Horwitz had completed an apprenticeship as a milliner and at that time, had developed a very special skill particularly in the production of women’s hats. For some time, she worked with great success at a Harburg store for women’s hats. Even after business hours, she could not part with her hats, which impressed her younger brother Kurt time after time: "My sister Fränze was a true artist in this field with her ‘golden’ hands and her good taste. After finishing her day’s work ... she was still sitting at home in the evening – sometimes ... until late at night – and made hats. Every season you had to have at least one new one. She provided [hats] for female family members, and not only for the closest relatives, but also for all sorts of aunts, cousins, and girlfriends, and of course without payment. When I see her today in my memory engaged in this work, [I’ll never forget that] she developed a special creative joy.”

During this time before the First World War, she fell in love with a young Harburg non-Jewish man who returned her love. When they were already making wedding plans, her father forbade her to have any further contact with this young man, as he was strictly against his daughter’s marriage to a man of a different faith. He insisted that she always came home early in the evening, and when that was not the case, there were always very unpleasant arguments between father and daughter. Franziska’s admirer soon emigrated to the USA and from there, he maintained correspondence with her for many years, which always revived her sorrow.

In the First World War and in the first post-war years, she left her parents’ home for some time to gain further professional experience in two hat stores in Herford in Westphalia and in Goch on the Lower Rhine. At the beginning of Feb. 1919, she received the sad news that her mother had died completely unexpectedly at the age of 59. She found her last resting place at the municipal Jewish Cemetery on Schwarzenberg.

Soon afterward, Franziska Horwitz returned from the Lower Rhine to Harburg and together with her sister Gertrud continued the management of the household, which was especially good for her brother Kurt, who was only 13 years old and suffered from the early death of his mother for a long time.

The father, Ferdinand Horwitz, died 14 years after the death of his wife on 5 Oct. 1933, shortly before his seventieth birthday. He was also buried in the municipal Jewish Cemetery. This was not the only family change in this dramatic year of 1933: before the end of the year, Franziska’s brother Kurt, by then a young physician, left the country after he had been dismissed by the Barmbek hospital because of his Jewish background. For years, he had previously been concerned with the ideas of religious and political Zionism, and so it was now logical in a certain sense that he, newly married to his wife Hilde Horwitz, née Stein, set off for the Promised Land, Palestine. There the two of them were admitted to a kibbutz, in which above all agricultural knowledge and ability were in demand.

Franziska’s brother Willy and sister Gertrud, too, later managed to flee from Nazi Germany.

Franziska Horwitz stayed behind. There is little knowledge about how she fared in the last years of her life that she still had. Did she try to emigrate? If so, why did this fail, if not, why not? These questions can no longer be answered today.

It is certain that she married Willy David Joseph (*23.3.1892) in Berlin-Charlottenburg in February 1940, the widowed owner of a Jewish shoe shop in the small town of Woldenberg (today: Dobiegniew) in the Neumark, who brought two children into the marriage. He was one of the 19 Jewish men, women and children who had witnessed the destruction of the small synagogue of this place in November 1938.

Immediately afterwards he was arrested in Germany, like so many other Jews. After a short stay in the city's prison, he was committed to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After his return to freedom, things seemed to turn for the better for him once again. But his private happiness was only short-lived.

He was released again, but on 1 Nov. 1941 he, Franziska Joseph, and the two children Manfred Joseph (born 3 Dec 1924) and Gerd Joseph (born 15 Aug. 1929) were deported from Berlin to Lodz, where the German occupation authorities had set up a huge ghetto for the Polish Jews. Thousands of people soon lived here in cramped conditions and were constantly suffering from hunger and cold. In the fall of 1941, when another 20,000 Jews from Luxembourg, Prague, and Vienna as well as from the Old Reich [Altreich, i.e., Germany within the 1937 borders] were added to this number, the problems increased.

In the ghetto, the German newcomers met co-religionists who were completely alien to them. These strangers spoke in a language they did not understand and they were generally rooted in Orthodox Judaism. The houses were dilapidated, the streets polluted, and the people dressed shabbily. Waste accumulated in the streets, and a terrible stench prevailed. That is how survivors later reported it.

On Wednesday, 29 Apr. 1942, posters were put up in the Lodz Ghetto announcing the "resettlement” ("Aussiedlung”) of all "unemployed” German Jews. The reactions among those affected varied. While some believed that things could not be any worse elsewhere than in this place, others were not comfortable with this journey into the unknown. Many of those who suspected nothing good, including Willy Joseph, turned to the "Office for in-migrants” ("Büro für Eingesiedelte”) in the ghetto administration with written petitions. He asked for deferral and referred to his Iron Cross decoration from World War I and his current employment in the ghetto as a day laborer.

His objection was turned down. Together with his wife Franziska Joseph and his sons Manfred and Hans Gerd Joseph, he was one of the 1,306 people who began their journey to death on Thursday 14 May 1942 and Friday 15 May 1942.

In Kulmhof, they were immediately taken to a large room, where they were told that they would have to take a shower before continuing their journey to a well-equipped work camp. After they had undressed, they were driven through a long corridor, at the end of which they entered the load bed of a truck with open doors. Once enough people were in this dark part of the truck, the doors were locked. At the same time, the engine of this converted truck started. Through flexible lines, the exhaust fumes entered the interior of the box body. The corpses were then transported to a remote forest area and buried there.

Franziska Joseph was 51 years old when her life came to an agonizing end in this "death factory.”

Translator: Erwin Fink/Additions Beate Meyer
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: May 2020
© Klaus Möller

Quellen: Staatsarchiv Hamburg, 522-1, Jüdische Gemeinden, 992b; Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburger jüdische Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, bearbeitet von Jürgen Sielemann unter Mitarbeit von Paul Flamme, Hamburg 1995; Gedenkbuch für die Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft, Bundesarchiv Koblenz (Hrsg.), Koblenz 2006; Yad Vashem, The Central Database of Shoa Victims´ Names:; Harburger Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, Bezirksamt Harburg (Hrsg.), Harburg 2003; Barbara Günther, Margret Markert, Hans-Joachim Meyer, Klaus Möller, Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Harburg und Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg, Hamburg 2012; Eberhard Kändler/Gil Hüttenmeister, Der jüdische Friedhof Harburg, Hamburg 2004; Harburger Adressbücher; Matthias Heyl, Vielleicht steht die Synagoge noch. Jüdisches Leben in Harburg 1933 – 1945, Norderstedt 2009; Alfred Gottwaldt, Diana Schulle, Die `Judendeportationen´ aus dem Deutschen Reich 1941 – 1945, Wiesbaden 2005; Samuel Krakowski, Das Todeslager Chelmno/Kulmhof. Der Beginn der Endlösung, Göttingen 2007; Die Chronik des Gettos Lodz/Litzmannstadt, Sascha Feuchert, Erwin Leibfried, Jörg Riecke (Hrsg.), Göttingen 2007; Andrea Löw, Juden im Getto Litzmannstadt. Göttingen 2006; Deutsche Jüdinnen und Juden in Ghettos und Lagern (1941 – 1945), Lodz, Chelmno, Minsk, Riga, Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, Beate Meyer (Hrsg.), Hamburg 2017; Dietrich Mau, Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Juden in Oldenburg, in: Jahrbuch für Heimatkunde Oldenburg/Ostholstein, 63. Jg, Oldenburg 2020; Haus der Ewigkeit, Rolf Verleger, Nathanja Hüttenmeister (Hrsg.), Kiel 2019; Kurt Horwitz, Erinnerungen, Typoskript (unveröffentlicht), Tel Aviv 1982; http://www.woldenberg- Ex/Dobiegniew, eingesehen am 17.10.2017.

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