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Minna Dessau (née Hilsheim) * 1873
Husumer Straße 16 (Hamburg-Nord, Hoheluft-Ost)
Minna Dessau, née Hilsheim, born on 11 Sept. 1873 in Hamburg, deported on 20 July 1943 from Westerbork/Netherlands to Sobibor
Sam Samuel Dessau, born on 13 May 1904 in Hamburg, deported on 11 Jan. 1944 from Westerbork/Netherlands to Bergen-Belsen, died there on 21 Feb. 1945
At the time of her birth, Minna Dessau’s parents, Simon and Josephine Hilsheim, née Levi, lived in Hamburg. No information is available about her childhood and education. The wedding with Salomon Dessau, a broker living in Hamburg, was celebrated in an upper middle-class setting in Bad Bevensen on 19 Nov. 1899. Salomon Dessau came from a family of rabbis and scholars; his father Samuel was the principal of the Israelitische Bürger-Realschule in Fürth [a practice-oriented secondary school up to grade 10 for the middle classes]. His brothers were the renowned historian Hermann Dessau in Berlin and the physics professor Bernardo Dessau in the Italian city of Perugia. The basic conservative-religious outlook stemming from the family tradition can be gathered from the wedding invitation and the menu card, which showed great importance attached to kosher food.
Within eight years, the Dessau couple had five children: Lisa in 1902, Samuel in 1904, Lotte in 1906, Alfred in 1908, and Fritz in 1910. Samuel Dessau was named after his grandfather who had died shortly before his grandson’s birth. In terms of the children’s education, particular emphasis was placed on secular schooling. Thus, the sons were not enrolled in the Talmud Tora School, but instead attended the Heinrich-Hertz-Realgymnasium [a high school focused on science, math, and modern languages], since they were expected to receive better training there. Samuel and Fritz passed their high school graduation exams (Abitur), studied at university, and obtained their doctorates. Samuel studied law in Hamburg and Marburg, began his practical legal training in 1925 and obtained a doctorate in Hamburg in 1926. Afterward, he was licensed as a court assessor and in 1929 as a lawyer at the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court (Hanseatisches Oberlandesgericht – OLG); his law office was located at Gerhofstrasse 3/5.
Fritz studied medicine at the University of Hamburg from Apr. 1928 until Dec. 1933, worked in a laboratory in Amsterdam from May 1934 to Jan. 1937, and obtained his doctorate in Hamburg in 1937. The following year, he worked at the University of Istanbul and at the end of 1938 emigrated to the United States, were he became known in New York as a pathologist going by the name of Frederick Isaac. Alfred left school after six years and did a commercial apprenticeship, working for the Warburg Bank in Hamburg and Amsterdam from 1924 onward. Together with his wife Sitta, née Golde, he emigrated to the USA.
With respect to the two daughters of the Dessau family, attention was also paid to their receiving a good education; Lisa graduated from high school (Abitur) and studied languages. She worked as a teacher until she lost her post due to the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums) dated 7 Apr. 1933, which excluded, among others, Jewish civil servants from teaching. The youngest daughter, Lotte, received training as a nurse. Both sisters emigrated to Palestine in 1933, married, and had one child each. Samuel’s license to practice as a lawyer had been revoked on 25 Apr. 1933 because of his Jewish descent. Together with their oldest son, the Dessau couple moved to Amsterdam in the summer of 1933. Following his emigration to the Netherlands, Samuel had "only a minor office job at an Amsterdam bank.” In 1938, he married Jeanette (called Netti) Golde, born on 19 June 1909 in Frankfurt/Main. Their daughter Lotte Nechama was born on 10 Dec. 1939. Salomon Dessau died a natural death at the age of 79 in 1941.
As of 2 May 1942, the Dessaus, too, were forced to wear the "Jews’ star” (Judenstern) as stipulated by decree for Jews living in the Netherlands. Family correspondence reveals that Fritz undertook great efforts from the USA to make the family’s emigration to the USA happen, attempting to obtain visas for his mother and Samuel’s family for Uruguay. Samuel and his wife would have emigrated to Palestine as well but were unable to do so because of British entry restrictions.
Minna Dessau was deported on 20 July 1943 from Westerbork to Sobibor and declared dead as of 23 July 1943.
Samuel Dessau’s arrest took place on 6 Nov. 1943; together with his wife and the three-year-old child, he was interned in the Westerbork assembly camp and deported from there to Bergen-Belsen on 11 Jan. 1944. Samuel Dessau died there of malnutrition on 21 Feb. 1945. His wife Jeanette and his daughter survived the Bergen-Belsen camp and emigrated to New York. Daughter Lotte suffered from "permanent paralysis of the left arm and leg” because of the living conditions in the concentration camp.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Claudia Pufahl
Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 8; StaH 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden, 390 Wählerliste 1930; StaH 362-2/19, Heinrich Hertz-Schule; AfW 280702, AfW 190609, AfW 191239; Wannack Herrmann Dessau, 2007, S. 4–9, 177; Morisse, Jüdische Rechtsanwälte, 2003, S. 82, 123f.; persönliche Mitteilungen von Angehörigen.
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