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Julius van Cleef * 1877
Maria-Louisen-Straße 63 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)
Julius van Cleef, born 19 Feb. 1877 in Emden, deported 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Gertrud van Cleef, née Bromet, born 14 Apr. 1899 in Emden, deported 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Herbert van Cleef, born 25 July 1928 in Hamburg, deported 1944 to Auschwitz, murdered there 31 July 1944
The von Cleef family had lived in Emden since 1828. At that time the Israelitic Community of Emden had put together a list of the new family names of its members. Five men took the name van Cleef, indicating that they had come to Emden from the city of Cleves. Before they chose the name van Cleef, it had been the tradition to use the patronymic, so that the fathers’ given names became the children’s family names.
The patriarchs of the van Cleef family were merchants and had been granted Emden citizenship. In 1854 Benjamin E. van Cleef sought permission from the city magistrate to open a furniture workshop and store. He justified his request as follows:
"I have been a salesman of furniture for many years, a trade for which I have a concession. As profitable as this trade was at the start, the increasing competition in the past years has weighed heavily on my business and it has become less and less profitable, so that I must fear for my livelihood. I desire to establish a workshop and wholesale distribution in addition to the above mentioned furniture store, and humbly request that the honorable magistrate grant me permission to operate a workshop and store.”
After submitting the request five times, the magistrate finally granted his permission, along with citizenship rights for Benjamin E. van Cleef. The Emden address book of 1902 lists Salomon van Cleef as the owner of the business. His sons Benjamin, Wilhelm, and Julius van Cleef later rose to management positions.
The expansion of his business must have been profitable, since the company opened a store in Hamburg in 1906. A furniture dealer represented the interests of the company in Emden. Benjamin’s son Julius van Cleef and his wife Dina moved to Hamburg in 1906. In 1913 they moved into an apartment at Heinrich-Barth-Straße 21 in Rotherbaum, where Julius’ brother Wilhelm had previously lived. Wilhelm van Cleef was a partner in the Benjamin E. van Cleef company, and was active in the Jewish Community. He was chairman of the board of representatives of the New Dammtor Synagogue from 1929 to 1937.
Julius’ brother Benjamin van Cleef (*15 Sep. 1875 in Emden) had also lived in Hamburg (Grindelberg 17) since at least 1913. At this time, Julius van Cleef already had two children. He was a partner of the Benjamin E. van Cleef company, "exotic woods and furnishings” (1907-1920 on Wendenstraße, from the mid-20s onwards at Süderstraße 173-175). The company management had thus been handed on to the second generation.
From 1914 to 1927, Julius van Cleef and his family lived at Isestraße 49 in Harvestehude. Julius was first listed in the tax records of the Hamburg Jewish Community in 1920. After the death of his wife Dina (née Stern, 1884-1921), who was buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Ohlsdorf, he married Gertrud Bromet in the late 1920s. She was also from Emden. In 1928 they moved to Maria-Louisen-Straße in Winterhude, where their son Herbert was born. In 1936 or 1937 they moved to Maria-Louisen-Straße 63.
In 1938-39, the racially motivated Nazi policies forced the family to sell their long-established and respected business to "Aryan” owners or to close it completely. The circumstances were shamelessly taken advantage of, and the purchase price was driven to far below the actual value of the company. Arthur Dubber (see Dirk Dubber) and August Duwe bought the company in 1938, and the purchase was approved by the Reichsstatthalter (Reich Governor) in January 1939. The Nazi authorities issued security orders on the van Cleefs’ bank accounts – the account holders were only allowed to access a monthly allowance approved by the authorities.
The former company partner Dr. jur. Karl-Ernst Rosenfeld (*1908), Julius van Cleef’s son-in-law, left Germany with his wife and three children for the US, probably in March 1939. Edgar van Cleef (*1906), Wilhelm van Cleef’s son and former general partner in the company, also emigrated with his wife. On 2 May 1939, Julius van Cleef submitted the "Questionnaire for Emigrants” for himself and his wife. Their sons Fritz and Herbert had already left the country – Fritz for Australia in 1938, Herbert for Holland on 27 Jan. 1939. But the couple’s emigration to Holland was delayed. By the time they were finally granted permission to leave, the situation in Europe had changed dramatically. They left Germany on 12 September 1939, but returned three days later – with the outbreak of the war, Holland had refused them entry.
Julius van Cleef now tried to keep his and his wife’s heads above water as a sales representative for textiles. But he could not stop the financial and social decline. They lived in rooms at Badestraße 2 in Rotherbaum, in the apartment of the widow of Dr. Alfred Delbanco (1868-1938), district court judge from 1900 to 1933; then at Eppenforfer Stieg 11 as lodgers in the Seidner residence – neither of these residences can be considered freely chosen. Robbed of their rights and of a financial foundation, the couple saw themselves forced to live in close quarters as boarders.
Their son Herbert van Cleef lived with Joachim Bromet (*28 June 1867 in Hardenberg) and his wife Bernhardine, née Schönberg (*28 Feb. 1863 in Emden) at Euterpestraat 80 in Amsterdam. The Bromets were deported to Auschwitz and murdered there on 1 February 1943. Herbert van Cleef remained in Holland for about 18 months, until he was also deported to Auschwitz.
Julius and Gertrud van Cleef were deported to Minsk on 8 November 1941. Both children from Julius’ first marriage, Ruth (*1908) and Friedrich (1913) were able to emigrate. Julius’ brother Benjamin van Cleef and his wife Sarah, née Löwenberg (*9 Apr. 1883 in Hersfeld) were also deported to Minsk, on 18 November 1941. A Stolperstein for Julius van Cleef (*25 Dec. 1879), probably a cousin, was placed at Brahmsallee 14 in Harvestehude.
Translator(s): Amy Lee
Translation kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg
© Björn Eggert
Quellen: 1; 5; 8; StaHH 314-15, R 1938/1993; StaHH 314-15, FVg 8674 u. FVg 2905; Hamburger Fernsprechbücher 1906–1940; www.joodsmonument.nl (eingesehen am 28.12.2007); Stadtarchiv Emden, Liste der Jüdischen Gemeinde von 1828, Gewerbezulassung jüdischer Familien (III, 644), Bürgerrecht an Juden (III, 306), Adressbücher 1902, 1904, 1906, 1911; Frank Bajohr, "Arisierung" in Hamburg, Hamburg 1997, Firmenliste im Anhang; Handelskammer Hamburg, Firmenarchiv: Benjamin E. van Cleef (1923–1941); Wilhelm Mosel, Wegweiser zu ehemaligen jüdischen Stätten in Hamburg Heft 3, Hamburg 1989, S. 146; Gräber-Kartei des Jüdischen Friedhofs Ohlsdorf.