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Paula Cohen (née Stern) * 1898
Brahmsallee 10 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
1943 Sobibor aus NL
Hugo Cohen, born 12/6/1885 in Hamburg, deported to Sobibor from the transit camp in Westerbork/Netherlands on 7/20/1943
Paula Cohen, née Stern, born 5/10/1898 in Paderborn, deported to Sobibor from the transit camp in Westerbork/Netherlands on 7/20/1943
Ursula Cohen, born 3/13/1922 in Hamburg, deported to Auschwitz from the transit camp in Westerbork/Netherlands in 1944
Susi Cohen, born 11/29/1925 in Hamburg, deported to Auschwitz from the transit camp in Westerbork/Netherlands in 1944
Hugo Adolph Cohen was born in 1895 as the son of the Hamburg merchant Adolph Cohen (1850–1895) and his wife Bertha. née Stickler (born 5/16/1861 in Hamburg) at their home in Steindamm 110 (St. Georg). Adolph Cohen had been running a hosiery and linen store on the ground floor of this four-storey building since the end of 1885. The fur, hat and cap store of Adolph Mittag was next door, as was the workshop of master glazier Koch. The businesses and proprietors changed frequently – in 1883, the workshop of the optician D. Brauckmann and the shoe and boot store of J. M. Kohn had been on the ground floor. A year later, the glazier had moved into the optician’s workshop, and in 1885, the two shops had become three, and Frl. Helene Minden ran a branch of her store for artificial flowers and feathers for a year. Then, Adolph Cohen and Adolph Mittag opened their textile shops on the former premises of the hatter and the shoe store, but they, too, did not last long. Adolph Cohen was listed in the street list of the address book for the last time in 1889, when the store next door was already closed again and stood empty. The frequent change of proprietors indicates the difficulties small businesses had to make ends meet. The address book does not reveal where the Cohen family lived in the years from 1890 to 1892. A hatter and fashion store was listed from 1893 to 1895 at Grindelallee 165, the residence was on Grindelallee 163/165, in "Weg nach dem Grindelstieg” that consisted of five house entrances – the Cohen family lived on the second floor of house 2. Adolph Cohen died there in 1895, leaving behind his 34-year-old widow Johanna Cohen and the two children Johanna Cohen (born 12/20/1883) and Hugo Cohen, almost ten years old. The business was still listed in the address book as "Ad. Cohen, Putz- u. Modew.” in Grindelallee 165 (1896) resp. Grindelallee 167 (1897). Possibly Bertha Cohen, née Schickler, was supported by members of her family who were in the same trade, because in 1896 there were two businesses in the same line listed under her maiden name: "J. Schickler & Sohn, Seidenband u. Putzartikel, Ellernthorsbrücke 9” and "Abr. Schickler, Putz- u. Modew., Steindamm 29" (presumably Abraham Schickler, 1837–1893). In 1895 Nehemias Schickler (born 7/12/1855 in Hamburg), merchant and burgher of Hamburg, residing at Ellernthorsbrücke 9, had reported Adolph Cohen’s death to the registrar’s office.
The culture tax card of the German-Israelitic Community kept since 1913 also lists the residential addresses of the now adult Hugo Cohen: Isestrasse 93 (inter alia 1920), Brahmsallee 10 (1922), Hansastrasse 38 (1923–1924), Eppendorfer Landstrasse 91 (1925), Klosterallee 49 (1926–1934), Hallerstrasse 83 (1935–1937). He worked in Hamburg as a real estate agent, In May 1921, he married Paula Stern in Paderborn, born there and thirteen years younger than him. Paula’s father Josef Stern (born 10/28/1867 in Etteln) had moved from Etteln to Paderborn in 1896 (Borchener Strasse 13) and settled as merchant and horse trader. Josef’s also Jewish wife Sophie, née Eisenstein (born 12/6/1867), was the same age as her husband and came from Bergheim, a neighboring village of Nieheim. Paula had an elder brother, Leo (born 5/27/1896 in Etteln).
In 1922, the Hamburg address book still listed Hugo Cohen as self-employed broker; actually, Hugo had already received power of attorney at the M. Hesslein company, real estate and insurance broker, on July 18, 1921. The company founded in 1897 by Martin (Mechel) Hesslein (q.v.) was turned into a general partnership in January 1925, and Hugo Cohen entered as a partner in February. In the meantime, the Cohens had got the daughters Ursula (1922) and Susi (1925).
The company had representative offices on the third floor of Jungfernstieg 8/9, directly next to the Neidlinger House (no. 6/7), the beginning of the Alster Arcades. From 1935, the company offices were in the Hildebrandhaus at Neuer Wall 16-18, a representative office building. Martin Hesslein belonged to the group of wealthy Hamburg Jews. As late as the end of 1938, the SD (security service) of the SS estimated his assets as "approx. 1½ million RM ".
On September 16, 1937, Hugo und Paula Cohen emigrated to the Netherlands, to Courbetstraat 15 in Amsterdam, where they looked for and found jobs and a home, before they had their daughters, now 16 and 12 years old, join them on April 20, 1938. On September 30, 1938, the family moved from Dintelstraat 72 to Scheldestraat 187, where Paula’s mother Sophie Stern, née Eisenstein, also found shelter on August 16, 1939 – her last home in Germany had been in Mattierzoll. It is not known whether the family planned to move on from the Netherlands.
In Amsterdam, Hugo Cohen started working as an insurance agent. In addition, he handled sales of real estate in Hamburg as agent and trustee for the company Zilversmit & Pinto GmbH (Hamburg), founded in 1931, He issued full power of attorney to his wife, who in turn in December 1937 issued a sub warrant for Mechel Hesslein, who had remained in Hamburg. In doing this, Hugo Cohen tried to keep the business in Hamburg running, in order to assure a source of income for the family.
His emigration and the fact that his partner remained in Nazi Germany caused tensions within the M. Hesslein brokerage company. It seems that Cohen’s personal problems had overlaid the company’s troubles. The ever tightening closely knit restrictions for Jewish businesses forced the remaining partner to perform the splits between securing the company and following the discriminating Nazi laws. The loss of the fiscal year 1938 triggered a controversy into which the Reichsbank, the currency office of the Chief Finance Administrator (including government assistant Cai von Rumohr, department F 10), the German chamber of commerce in occupied Amsterdam and the Hamburg Gestapo quickly intervened. On November 8, 1939, Martin Hesslein gave the Reichsbank a negative report about his longtime procurator and partner, for which he could not supply any proof; nonetheless, this was subsequently passed on to the currency office. Hesslein’s report read:
"For some time, he has been dealing in insurances, but business is slight. He cannot make a living from it, so that most of his apartment is sublet. As to his tradesman’s morality, the opinion on the enquired is not always constant, and he is said to very unpleasant in business traffic. Property or other type of assets do not exist, but up to now we have not received complaints about non-fulfilment of financial obligations. In a business connection, it is recommended to make binding agreements, and on uncovered loans, there is no opinion.” In his negative assessment, Martin Hesslein made absolutely no mention of their longtime partnership. It almost seems as if acrimonious competitors were fighting a tragic forlorn battle over the rapidly dwindling business capital of the ostracized Jewish economic actors. The real estate company Hansa Grundstücksverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH (1935: Neuer Wall 16–18, later Maria-Louisen-Strasse 104), whose general manager Hugo Cohen had been from 1923 to 1927 and Mechel Hesslein was since 1929, was already in liquidation since April 1939 and was struck from the company register in December 1939. On June 3, 1939, an employee of the company remarked to the Currency Office (department F 19) that "Herr Cohen hardly makes enough for his subsistence.” On August 22, 1939, the Hamburg Gestapo agent Rehder ordered the "confiscation of the total domestic assets of the Jewish emigrant Hugo Cohen, his wife and his children.” On September 6, 1939, Hugo Cohen was deprived of the citizenship of the German Reich, and this pseudo-legal act was finalized by a notice in the Reich Gazette of November 8, 1939. This made personal business contacts with Germany impossible; now stateless, he had no valid passport to travel on.
After Hugo Cohen left the real estate company M. Hesslein, Martin Hesslein had dissolved the general partnership in November 1937 and continued the company as sole proprietor until it was deleted from the company register on October 13, 1939 in the course of the systematic destruction of the economic existence of Jews. In August 1940, Martin Hesslein waived Hugo Cohen’s 978 Reichsmark share in the loss of the real estate insurance company Hansa Grundstücksversicherungsgesellschaft that Cohen had disputed to the end. A few weeks later the Hamburg branch of the Reichsbank agreed to this waiver.
In March 1940, Hugo Cohen registered his own insurance agency in the Netherlands and had it entered in the commercial register of Amsterdam under the number 54150. Deprived of their German citizenship and passports, the Cohen family was now forced to remain in the Netherlands illegally. Founding his own new company under these circumstances proved his energy and determination to fashion the conditions of his family’s living situation by his own actions. The family had three more years to realize this.
After the German invasion and the surrender of the Netherlands on May 15, 1940, the Cohen family here too was subject to the persecution by the occupants. There was no more way to escape for the stateless Jewish family. About 20,000 refugees were stuck in Holland in May 1940.
Regarding the claim for indemnity against Hugo Cohen for the loss complained by Hamburg, the German Chamber of Commerce for the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Keizersgracht 520) in May or June 1940 summoned the alleged debtor to their office for an interview. At this occasion, Hugo Cohen presented his Netherlands tax return for 1939/40, which amounted to approx. 1,200 Dutch guilders.
From January 1942, Hugo Cohen worked for the Jewish Council in Amsterdam for the central register of Westerbork camp since July 1942("Kartothek en dossierbewerking Westerbork”) in Lijnbaansgracht, where all the inmates of the camp were registered (the registry is not preserved); Cohen’s elder daughter also helped out at the central registry ("Centrale Kartotheek”) from July 1942. A short mention to "Ulla Cohen” in the diary of Anne Frank dated August 22 is supposed to refer to her. The entry, however, gives no further information about the Cohen family. From December 1942, Hugo Cohen’s younger daughter Susi worked as a seamstress for the Amsterdam Jewish Council. On account of their work for the council, the Cohen family was preliminarily deferred from deportation. From June 3, 1943, Hugo Cohen assumed tasks in the Expo (branch) department of the Jewish Council. From June 20, 1943, however, most of the employees of the Jewish Council were also interned at the Westerbork camp. By then, most of the Jews in the Netherlands had already been deported, so that only a few people were still needed to do the organizational work. The Cohen family succeeded in obtaining three more weeks’ deferral before their internment.
Finally, Hugo and Paul Cohen were taken to the Westerbork transit camp by order of the German occupants on July 10 and billeted in Barrack 60 until July 20, when they were deported to the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland, where they arrived three days later and were murdered. The exact date of their death is not known.
Their daughters Ursula and Susi Cohen were interned in Barrack 62 from June 20, 1943 until February 8, 1944, when they were deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp, which they reached three days later. The exact date of their death in Auschwitz-Birkenau is not known.
On May 25, 1943 Sophie Stern, née Eisenstein (born 1867),and another 2,861 internees were deported from Westerbork to the Sobibor extermination camp in occupied Poland and murdered there. She was later declared dead by a West German court.
For Hugo Cohen’s business partner Mechel (Martin) Hesslein, who took his own life on June 23, 1943, the day before he was to be deported to Theresienstadt, a Stumbling Stone was laid before Maria-Louisen-Straße 104 in the Winterhude district.
Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: September 2019
© Björn Eggert
Quellen: StaH 314-15 (Oberfinanzpräsident), F 275 Band 1 (Hugo Cohen, Treuhänder); StaH 314-15 (Oberfinanzpräsident), F 275 Band 2 (Hugo Cohen, Treuhänder); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 2641 u. 741/1882 (Heiratsregister 1882, Adolf Cohen u. Bertha Schickler); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 2096 u. 4349/ 1885 (Geburtsregister 1885, Hugo Cohen); StaH 332-5 (Standesämter), 7894 u. 1774/1895 (Sterberegister 1895, Adolph Cohen); StaH 332-7 (Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht), A I e 40 Bd.9 (Bürger-Register 1876-1896, A-K), Ad. Cohen; StaH 332-8 (Alte Einwohnermeldekartei 1892–1925), Adolph Cohen; StaH522-1 (Jüdische Gemeinden), 992b (Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburg), Hugo Cohen; Stadtarchiv Paderborn, Einwohnermelderegister (Josef Stern), Geburtsregister 1898 (Paula Stern); Sonderarchiv Moskau, Sign. 500-1-659, Liste einflußreicher und vermögender Juden, Nr. 23 (Hesslein, Martin), Blatt 56–58, SD-Oberabschnitt Nordwest; Erinnerungszentrum Kamp Westerbork (Hooghalen/Niederlande); Stadtarchiv Amsterdam, Wohnungskarte (Scheldestraat 187); Hamburger Adressbuch 1887, 1889, 1893–1897, 1922–1929, 1934, 1935, 1937; Hamburger Börsenfirmen, Hamburg 1926, S. 449 (M. Hesslein); Hamburger Börsenfirmen, Hamburg 1935, S. 326 ("Hansa" Grundstücksverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH), S. 367 (M. Hesslein); Handelskammer Hamburg, Firmenarchiv (M. Hesslein, HR-Nr. A 10187; "Hansa" Grundstücksverwaltungs GmbH, HR-Nr. C 5118); Yad Vashem, (Hugo Adolf Cohen) Verfolgtenliste Niederlande und Volkszählung Niederlande; Sparr, Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Winterhude, S.110–112 (Mechel/Martin Hesslein); Bruhns, Geflohen, S. 167f.; Gilbert, Endlösung, S. 160; Bundesarchiv Koblenz, Gedenkbuch, Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland 1933–1945, Internet;Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburger jüdische Opfer, S. 63–65; www.joodsmonument.nl (eingesehen am 7.1.2015).