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Christine Bensch (l.) und Ida Burg (r.) mit Asta Burg und Enkelkind Ulrich, Dänemark, September 1937
© Privatbesitz

Ida Burg (née Seligmann) * 1864

Hermann-Distel-Straße 34 (Bergedorf, Bergedorf)

Freitod 26.02.1942

Ida Burg, née Seeligmann, born 28 Oct. 1864 in Hainholz near Hanover, death by suicide 26 Feb. 1942 in Hamburg

Hermann-Distel-Straße 34 (Bismarckstraße 34)

Ida Seeligmann was born in 1864 in the town of Hainholz, north of Hanover, to the factory owner Siegmund Seeligmann (1842-1910) and his wife Elise, née Oppenhiem (1843-1890). A second daughter, Ella, was born in 1866, and a son Georg in 1868. The parents were from Derenberg in the Halberstadt administrative district. In 1887 the family moved to a home on Akazienstraße 10 in Hainholz. Hainholz would be merged with Hanover in 1891. Siegmund Seeligmann was the director of the Vereinigten Schmirgel- u. Maschinenfabriken AG, formerly S. Oppenheim & Co. and Schlesinger & Co., at Siegmundstraße 16. Ida enjoyed a wealthy upbringing, and studied to become a concert pianist. In Berlin, where she had moved to continue her education in music, she met Fritz Jakob Burg (*27 Mar. 1860 in Berlin). The wedding was celebrated in her parents’ home on 10 April 1886. As was the norm for women in Imperial Germany, she gave up her profession when she married.

The couple moved, probably in that same year, to Berlin, where their son Wilhelm Dietrich Burg was born in 1887. Fritz Burg, who had written his dissertation on "The Elder Nordic Runic Inscriptions,” was listed in the 1887 Berlin Address Book as a legal secretary. In 1888 he was listed with the title Dr. phil. It can be assumed that he was employed at the Prussian Royal Library in Berlin. Ida Burg kept house and took care of their child.

The Burgs lived in Berlin until 1892. They then moved to Hamburg, where Fritz Burg had gotten a position as Secretary of the City Library. They lived in the Uhlenhorst district, a well-to-do area with villas and townhouses, first at Erlenkamp 21 (1893-1894) and then at Papenhuderstraße 9 (1896-1897). In 1898 their living situation improved once again, when they moved to a second-floor apartment at Hartwicusstraße 5. The building is five-storied, with stucco adornments and a grand entryway, and overlooks the Alster Lake. Fritz Burg had been granted Hamburg citizenship on 8 March 1895. At that time he already had the assured income required for citizenship. Their second son, Eckbert Heinrich, was born in Hamburg in 1905.

The elder son, Wilhelm Dietrich, rose to the rank of captain in the Imperial Navy in the First World War, and commanded his own ship. After the war he became a businessman, as did the younger son Eckbert Heinrich.

In February 1919, Fritz Burg bought a townhouse in Bergedorf at Bismarckstraße 34 (today Hermann-Distel-Straße 34) for his family. By this time he had become a professor and, as head librarian at the Hamburg University, he was deputy director of the City and University Library. He retired on 1 October 1926 and died on 16 November 1928 at the age of 68. It is not known if he was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Bergedorf (Gojenbergsweg). The Burgs had left the Jewish Community in 1926, after at least 13 years of membership. The land on which the Jewish Cemetery was situated was confiscated in 1938 and the gravestones were removed.

A publication series by the City and University Library published Burg’s work Qualiscunqu Descriptio Islandia: Based on the Manuscript of the City and University Library. Earlier publications were "In Memory of Robert Münzel” (1918), a tribute to the head of the City and University Library; "The Caspa Ambrosii in the former Copenhagen University Library” (1911); and the summary of holdings "Oriental Manuscripts in the City Library” for the 1902 International Orientalist Congress in Hamburg.

Ida Burg remained in her home at Bismarckstraße 34 after she was widowed. She and her sons suffered increasingly under the repressive measures against Jews after the Nazi takeover. In September 1935 Eckbert Burg and his wife Asta, née Bensch, the daughter of the Bergedorf trade school headmaster Bruno Bensch, fled to Copenhagen. Asta’s uncle, a bank manager with good contacts to businesses, helped him get a position at a company that sold paint for ships. He later opened his own export company in Denmark.

Eckbert and Asta Burg had a son in July 1937 while they were living in exile in Denmark. The Nazi authorities denied Ida Burg permission to transfer Reichsmarks to Denmark on the occasion of his birth. She was allowed to visit her son and daughter-in-law in Denmark in 1935, 1936, and in September 1937. The Nazi regime, however, finally took administrative measures to prohibit her visits by revoking her passport at the end of December 1937. Astra Burg died in Denmark in 1939. After the German invasion of Denmark on 9 April 1940 and the resulting increased persecution, Eckbert Burg fled to Sweden. A skipper smuggled him out of the country by night on his boat, but as this escape route was too dangerous for a six-year-old boy, a safer, seemingly ‘offical’ route was chosen for the son. A Danish citizen took him with her as her own child on the ferry from Bornholm to southern Sweden, where Burg met them. He had to leave all of his belongings behind in Denmark, including the furniture he had brought from Germany. His German citizenship had been revoked shortly after he emigrated, so that father and son were now stateless.

Ida’s son Wilhelm Dietrich had lived in Hanover since 1923: 1923-30 at Hegelstraße 4 and 1931-1938 at Ostwenderstraße 8A. He was forced to give up his bandaging materials factory Mann & Co (founded 1918) at Blumenauer Straße 8 in Hannover-Linden. Financially devastated, he and his son (*1921 in Berlin) left Hamburg on 8 December 1938 on the SS HANSA for the US. His wife, an elementary school teacher, was not able to leave until 6 November 1941, when she emigrated to Cuba. In the US, Burg sailed with the Merchant Marine, but because of his German heritage, he was not allowed to serve as a captain but only as a second mate.

In 1939 Ida Burg was required to hand over all of her gold and silver items to a state purchasing agency and to pay a penalty tax as an "act of atonement.” An injunction had been placed on her house and property in May 1938. Although she was still the formal owner, she could not dispose of it at her will. On 15 February 1939, the house and property came under the mandatory state "fiduciary” administration of the Hamburgische Grundstücksverwaltungegesellschaft von 1938 m.b.H., a property management association initiated by the Hamburg Gauleiter Karl Kaufmann. Although the Law to Amend the Trade Regulations for the German Reich (Gesetz zur Änderung der Gewerbeordnung für das Deutsche Reich) of 6 July 1938 did not stipulate that house and property be mandatorily administered, a fair judicial settlement of the matter was out of the question.

In 1939, Ida Burg was forced to accept the 53-year-old chief technical inspector Karl Lehmann as a boarder on the ground floor of her home. She lived in the rooms on the second floor. Karl Lehmann was employed by the city planning department of Hamburg. He joined the Nazi Party and the Reich Association of German Civil Servants (Reichsbund der deutschen Beamten) in 1937. He did not receive the promotion and financial advantages he had hoped to get by joining the party, but at least he had declared his agreement with the Nazi ideology, and thus guarded himself against the eventuality of becoming a victim of "political cleansing” of the civil service by the Nazis.
When the 11th Decree to the Reich Citizenship Law was passed on 25 November 1941, revoking citizenship for all German Jews living abroad, Ida Burg’s property fell in its entirety to the state, since her children were no longer recognized as viable heirs according to Nazi law. Although the German Reich was now the formal owner of the property at Bismarckstraße 34, the deed was never officially transferred.

Karl Lehmann evidently realized that he could reap substantial financial benefits by taking advantage of the prevailing atmosphere of anti-Semitism, harassment and coercion. Ida Burg’s access to her assets was restricted with a security order in November 1941. By the end of that year, Lehmann had convinced her that she should sell the house to him at some point in the future. Lehmann had the purchase option notarized by Dr. jur. Helmuth Nathow in Bergedorf on 1 December 1941. The foreign exchange office had no objections, since the potential buyer was an "Aryan” according to the Nazi definition.

The Hamburg foreign exchange office had sent a questionnaire to Ida Burg on 17 November 1941 "for verification of her financial circumstances.” The notification included the threat "Be advised that you are required to submit the required declarations, correctly and in full, and that failure to do so will result in severe penalties.” A potential arrest was particularly threatening for Jews. An interrogation for a minor discrepancy could easily lead to being sent to prison or a concentration camp. These humiliations finally robbed Ida Burg of her will to live.

Karl Lehmann later told the police in 1942: "When she was forced to wear the yellow star [ed.: 19 Sep. 1941], that was the last straw. With the Gestapo knocking at the door because of her radio, and having to move into a home (for Jews), all she talked about was suicide. She didn’t have any financial worries.” Ida Burg took her life with an overdose of Veronal, a barbiturate used as a sleeping aid. She was still alive when the police found her on 22 February 1942, but she was unconscious and died on 26 February 1942 in the Israelitic Hospital at Johnsallee 68 in Hamburg-Rotherbaum. The Jewish executor of her will, Fritz Scharlach, (1898-1943) confirmed that the Gestapo had ordered that she be housed in a home for Jews, and until it was determined which home, she was to move to the Kellinghusen Home. Ida Burg had said that she would commit suicide if she were forced into this situation.

After her death, a senior citizen and a businessman moved into the rooms on the second floor. Karl Lehmann still lived in the house at the end of 1945. On the British Military Government questionnaire, he listed his living situation since 1939 as "shared housing with the Jewish woman Mrs. Ida Burg, widow, cared for her until her death on 20 Feb. 1942, aged 78.” Whether or not this description reflects the truth can no longer be determined. Karl Lehmann was not required to answer any more questions about his "shared housing,” and remained in the civil service. He died in 1955.

Ida Burg had made Bruno Bensch, her son’s father-in-law, her sole heir, but the Nazi judiciary found a reason to deny her wishes. Judge Heinemann of the Hamburg Regional Court ruled in August 1944 that the appointment of the sole heir Bruno Bensch was "void according to the Decree on the Utilization of Jewish Property from 3 Dec. 1938, since it was done without the approval of the appropriate authorities.” The fact that Bruno Bensch was not the sort of "Volksgenosse” (National Comrade) whom the Nazi judiciary found it necessary to defend certainly played a role. He was a staunch supporter of the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) and had been relieved of his position as headmaster at a trade school. After the war, Bensch (†1955) endeavored to have at least parts of Ida Burg’s estate restored to the family. The sons died in exile in 1945 and 1955.

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Björn Eggert

Quellen: 1; 2; 4; 5; 8; StaH 213-13 (Wiedergutmachungsamt Landgericht Hamburg), Z 2101 (= 1 WiK 442/52, Grundstück); StaH 314-15 (OFP), R 1938/834 (Sicherungsverfahren); StaH 314-15 (OFP), R 1941/226 (Sicherungsanordnung); StaH 331-5 (Polizeibehörde – unnatürliche Sterbefälle), 1942/516; StaH 351-11 (AfW), Eg 281064 (Ida Burg); StaH 332-8 (Hauskartei), Film-Nr. 2466 (Hermann-Distel-Str. 34); StaH 221-11 (Staatskommissar für die Entnazifizierung), T 13128 (Karl Lehmann); StaH, Bürger-Register 1876-1896, A-K (Nr.22207, Dr. Fritz Burg); Stadtarchiv Hannover (Judenkartei, Sterbefallanzeige 1910); Staats- u. Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg, Sonderbestand HANS (Computereintrag zu Fritz Burg); AB 1893, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1905, 1913; Adressbücher Berlin 1887 (Abt. II), 1888 (Abt. I), 1892 (Abt. I); Adressbücher Hannover 1925-1935 (Wilhelm Burg); Amtliches Fernsprechbuch Hannover, 1935 (Wilhelm Burg); Frank Bajohr, "Arisierung" in Hamburg, Hamburg 1998, S. 290–293 (Hamb. Grundstücksverwaltungsges.); (eingesehen am 13.4.2009); Auskünfte des Enkels U. B., Nov. U. Dez. 2010.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Recherche und Quellen.

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