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Helene Burghagen (née Nathan) * 1866
Landwehr 37 (Wandsbek, Eilbek)
Helene Burghagen, née Nathan, born 15 Feb. 1866 in Hamburg, deported 19 Jan. 1944 to Theresienstadt, died there 28 Feb. 1944
When Helene Burghagen, the daughter of Jewish parents, was deported to Theresienstadt, the "ghetto for the elderly,” aged 78, she was severely ill and died within six weeks of her arrival. She had converted to Christianity and lived in a "privileged mixed marriage.” But when her husband died in 1935, she lost the partial protection that the marriage to her "Aryan” husband had afforded her. She avoided joining the Jewish Religious Association, as the Jewish community was now called, in 1939, when it was decreed that all citizens of Hamburg who were classified as Jewish according to the 1935 Nuremberger Racial Laws were required to do so. With the help of her family she was also able to avoid being moved into a "Jews’ House,” which would have meant an early deportation.
Helena Burghagen was born Helene Friederike Nathan in 1866 in Hamburg. Her father, Samuel Simon Nathan, was a cigar manufacturer; her mother’s name was Blondine, née Schwabe. Her maternal grandfather was the artist Levy Isaac Schwabe from Jever in East Frisia. Helene had one brother, Ludwig, who was ten years older. On 2 June 1888 she married the clerk Georg Johannes Burghagen, called John, whose parents, the insurance agent Johann Ludwig Otto Burghagen and his wife Catharina, née von Horsten, were Protestant. At the time of their marriage, John and Helene lived at Fuhlentwiete 80 in Hamburg-Neustadt. As was tradition, John’s father acted as his best man. Since Helene’s father was deceased, her brother Ludwig, a brewery manager, represented the bride’s family. He lived with his wife Auguste, née Heilbut, in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst, where the Burghagens would later live as well. Their first apartment, however, was on Mathildenstraße in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel.
Helene Burghagen had four children between 1889 and 1893 – Margaretha Blondine Clara, Blanka Luise, Susanne Ottilie Helene (called Susi), and Johannes Siegwart Otto (called Hans). All four children were christened. The date of Helene’s conversion to Christianity is not known. Helene’s brother Ludwig Nathan and his wife Auguste did not convert, although their son did.
John Burghagen rose from a clerk to a bank official, and the family moved from Eimsbüttel to Hamburg-Uhlenhorst. The daughters went to secretarial school.
John had an elder brother, Otto, who never married. He was headmaster at a trade school in Altona, and later founded a publishing house. With the advent of the typewriter and its influence on office work, Otto Burghagen recognized the need for a trade magazine, and in 1898 he published the first issue of the "Schreibmaschine-Zeitung Hamburg” (Hamburg Typewriter Magazine).
On 6 July 1906, Otto died unexpectedly in his apartment at Mundsburger Damm 31. His brother John inherited the publishing house. From that point onwards the publishing house determined the course of Helene’s and Hans’ lives. Although Hans was just finishing his secondary schooling at the Uhlenhorst Oberrealschule, he was involved in the publishing activities.
Helene’s brother Ludwig, manager of the Löwen Brewery, and his family also lived in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst. Her mother Blondine Nathan died on 22 January 1907, aged 72, and was buried at the Jewish cemetery Ilandkoppel.
John and Helene Burghagen and their children had moved to Lerchenfeld 3. The two elder daughters left home in 1913. Margarethe, who had trained to be a shorthand typist, married in July in Copenhagen, and moved with her husband, whose name was van Doehn, to Porto Alegre in Brazil. It is not known if she remained in contact with her family in Hamburg. Blanka had trained as a clerical worker and moved to an apartment at Griesstraße 73 in Hamburg-Hamm, but returned to live with her family the next year. By that time the family had moved to Papenhuderstraße 53/55. In 1919 Blanka Burghagen acquired a travel pass that allowed her to travel in Germany for one year. It indicates that she was of medium stature, had dark blonde hair, an oval face, and gray eyes.
Helene Burghagen’s son Hans fought in World War I and remained involved in the veterans association of his regiment until it became a member of the "National Socialist Imperial Warriors Association” (NS-Reichskriegerbund).
In summer 1921, Helene and John Burghagen celebrated the weddings of two of their children, both with non-Jewish partners. In June Hans Burghagen married Gertrud Thomsen, the daughter of a businessman from Eimsbüttel. They lived at Hirschgraben 44 in Hamburg-Eilbek, where their only daughter, Christa, was born on 10 January 1921. On 9 July Blanka married Ernst Meyer, a businessman from Bremen. Their first child, Rose-Marie, was born the following year. Because Ernst Meyer worked primarily outside of Hamburg, and generally abroad, the family rented rooms or lived with Blanka’s parents when they were in Hamburg. In 1926, Blanka Meyer obtained a passport with a visa for China for herself and her daughter. It had no date of expiry, while Ernst Meyer was required to renew his passport regularly.
It is not known whether Helene Burghagen’s daughter Margarethe had any children. Her daughter Susanne never married.
As the scope of office work widened, the "Schreibmaschinen-Zeitung Hamburg” became "Burghagens Zeitschrift für Bürobedarf” (Burghagen’s Magazine for Office Supplies) in 1922. At the end of the years of inflation in the Weimar Republic, on 30 October 1923, John Burghagen registered his company, John Burghagen & Sohn, with the trade commission and paid the fee of 18 billion marks. The company flourished and ensured that both families, that of the father and of the son, were financially well-to-do. John and Helene Burghagen and their daughter Susanne moved to Schenckendorffstraße 3 in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst, and Hans and Gertrud Burghagen moved to Schröderstiftstraße 17/18 in Hamburg-Rotherbaum.
At the end of January 1935, the Reich Association of Magazine Publishers (Reichsverband der Zeitschriftenverleger e.V.) strongly urged Hans Burghagen to sell his company. He refused to do so, on the grounds that he was in no danger because he had fought on the front in the First World War. He was able to continue running the business successfully, despite several heavy blows in his private life. In the span of four months his mother’s brother Ludwig and his wife Auguste died, as did Hans’ father John, on 18 April 1935, aged 75. Hans now supported Helene, and she and her daughter Susanne moved to Landwehr 37 in Hamburg-Eilbek. Susanne had her own income as a dog groomer. She attempted to establish a business as a dog breeder, but because of her status as a "Mischling” (half-breed), she was not allowed to join the Dog Breeders Association.
At the end of 1936, the president of the Reich Writers’ Chamber (Reichsschrifttumskammer) ordered Hans Burghagen to cease his activities as publisher, issuer, and chief editor. He was able to postpone the order, but two years later he was again ordered to cease his activities or to sell his business. He finally sold it to the Otto Hoffmann publishing house in Berlin on 20 March 1939 for 22,000 Reichmarks. He found another job only at the end of the year, as a sales agent.
There are no indications that Helene Burghagen’s family made plans to emigrate. The census of May 1939 lists Helene and her daughters Susanne and Blanka as living at Landwehr 37. The Jewish ethnicity of Helene’s mother, Blondine, was not noted. When it was made mandatory that all Jews become members of the Jewish Religious Association, Helene Burghagen did not comply. She was not required to do so, since she was the widow of a "privileged mixed marriage.”
For a time, Blanka Meyer lived with her mother and sister. She had returned from Cameroon, where she had lived, probably since 1926, with her husband on the tobacco plantation Batschenga near Jaunde. Blanka’s husband Ernst Meyer did not find work in Hamburg, but he found a well-paid job as technical director with Tabakanbau Ukraine GmbH in Kirowograd. He was forced out of this position in 1943 and assigned to work in Norway.
The family members who remained in Hamburg were bombed out of their homes in summer 1943. Where Helene and Susanne Burghagen lived after the bombing, and whether they remained together or were separated, is unclear. At some point they lived at Lerchenfeld 3, the address where the family had lived 30 years earlier. When the landlady refused to let them live there any longer, Susanne, possibly with her mother, found accommodations on Zimmerstraße in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst. The reason and date for Helene Burghagen’s move to Rothestraße 42 in Ottensen/Altona are also unclear, as is the name of the landlord. The building was privately owned.
The Gestapo deported Helene Burghagen, along with 60 other persons, on 19 January 1944 to the "ghetto for the elderly,” Theresienstadt. She arrived there on 22 January. She sent several postcards to her daughters before she died, less than six weeks after her arrival, on 28 February 1944. 40 of those deported with her from Hamburg survived.
Immediately after the war, Hans Burghagen applied for a license from the British Military Government for "Burghagens Zeitschrift für Bürobedarf” and bought the rights to use this title for his magazine from the Otto Hoffmann publishing house for 3,000 Reichsmarks. He re-established his company.
Within the span of only few years Susanne (1965), Blanka (1969) and Hans Burghagen (1970) and his wife Gertrud (1968) died. With Hans Burghagen’s death, the company was no longer in the possession of the family. It continued to publish magazines for several years, under the management of the publishing house’s employees.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Hildegard Thevs
Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 7; 9; StaH 232-1, Serie II 3866; 332-5 Standesämter 581-146/1907; 1461-256/1970; 2629-1142/1881; 2727-708/1888; 4973-580/1965; 6319-1869/1891; 6584-503/1921; 7164-369/1935; 7440-4481/1968; 8130-171/1935; 8130-335/1935; 8268-366/1969; 8759-489/1921; 9048-725/1889; 9058-549/1890; 9087-1566/1893; 332-7 Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht K 4316 4648; 332-8 Meldewesen A 24, Bd. 186, Nr. 3579, Bd. 252, Nr. 22416, Bd. 284, Nr. 10006, Bd. 325, Nr. 10809, Bd. 332, Nr. 1778; 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 13324 (darin Firmenfestschrift), darin: Reese, Martin: Der Burghagen-Verlag, 15746, 15747; 552-1 Jüdische Gemeinden 992 e 2 Deportationslisten, Band 5; 376-3 K 3833; weiterführende Mitteilungen von Hermann Bredl, Februar/März 2018.
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