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Paul Dieroff * 1928
Niendorfer Marktplatz 7a (Schule) (Eimsbüttel, Niendorf)
Paul Dieroff, born on 30 Nov. 1928 in Badenstedt near Zeven, deported on 5 May 1943 to Theresienstadt, deported on 19 Oct. 1944 to Auschwitz and on 27 Oct. 1944 to the Dachau concentration camp, killed in Dachau-Kaufering on 15 Dec. 1944
Garstedter Weg 101
Paul Gottfried Dieroff was born as the child of Carl Heinrich Dieroff and his wife Bertha Louise, née Rothgiesser (born on 17 Oct. 1889 in Hamburg). Bertha’s mother Rosa, née Aronstein, was the co-founder of the "H. u. R. Aronstein” linen and trousseau store at Neuer Wall 12. The family was Jewish. In 1909, after the death of their parents, Bertha Rothgiesser took over the company together with her brother Otto. The brother was killed in action during World War I near Vilnius (Lithuania) in 1915.
In 1911, Bertha had married the non-Jewish accountant Carl Heinrich Dieroff, who was baptized a Protestant. In 1914, she moved with him to Tostedt in the "North Heath” (Nordheide). In 1918, they purchased the site of an old brickyard near Badenstedt, planting an orchard and vegetable garden and living from the yield. Their son Paul was born in 1928, and in 1930, his father Carl died. In 1932, the widowed Bertha Dieroff married the animal feed trader and lumber importer Wilhelm Freudenthal, who was also of non-Jewish descent. That same year, their son Paul was baptized in Bruchhausen, and in 1935, he was enrolled in school in Zeven.
Since Bertha Freudenthal was Jewish, life in the countryside was made difficult for her and her family after 1933. Consequently, they sold the property in Badenstedt in 1938 and moved to Niendorf near Hamburg, a town still rural at the time. There, at Garstedter Weg 101, they again acquired a property, building up another horticultural operation. From Easter of 1938 onward, Paul Dieroff attended the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule) Niendorf at Niendorfer Marktplatz, and in 1939, he was transferred to the Lokstedt middle school [Mittelschule – a practice-oriented secondary school up to grade 10] located on Sootbörn. Contemporary witnesses described Paul Dieroff as a nice, sensitive boy, who was guarded and sometimes appeared to be intimidated. However, he was also one of the top students in his class and was reportedly a member of the "German Youth” (Deutsches Jungvolk), the organization of the Hitler Youth for ten to fourteen-year-old boys. This suggests that his status as a "half-Jew” ("Halbjude”) or, respectively "Jewish half-breed of the 1st degree” ("jüdischer Mischling ersten Grades”) was not known initially or that those who knew chose to ignore it.
In the spring of 1943, Paul Dieroff was confirmed in the parish of Niendorf. Well into the 1940s, the family thus seems to have led not an entirely unimpaired, but nevertheless reasonably "normal” life. Contemporary witnesses stated they had not even known that Paul’s mother was Jewish. Others, who knew it, did not care about it, saying, "You met up on the way to school or at home in the afternoon.” The Freudenthal family was regarded as very harmonious and fond of children, neighbors and acquaintances enjoyed coming to visit. The first instances of harassment probably set in against Bertha Freudenthal, who lived in a "privileged mixed marriage” ("privilegierte Mischehe”), her son, and her husband, along with the numerous anti-Jewish decrees passed after 1938. In 1939, the couple transferred the property, until then registered in both their names, to the "Aryan” Wilhelm Freudenthal in order to remove it from possible control of the Nazi authorities.
During this time, a neighborhood couple, whose property bordered on the Freudenthals’ property in the back part of the garden, from the direction of Rebhuhnweg, played a very ignominious role. After the war, criminal proceedings were brought against this couple. From this context, testimony by witnesses has come down that is cited in a brochure compiled by students of the Niendorf comprehensive school (Gesamtschule):
"One day, I ran into Mrs. H. on Garstedter Weg. She stopped and reproached me for my contact with Mrs. Freudenthal. Literally, she said, ‘How can you talk to a Jewess? Obviously, you don’t know your place, do you? Be careful!’ In saying so, she wagged her finger at me. I retorted, ‘That’s none of your business. Besides, I do not care about that at all. Jews are human beings, too.’ – After that, she threatened me: ‘Just watch out!’ And I responded: ‘I have difficulty comprehending at all how you can be so nasty.’ I remember very well how frightened I was of Mrs. H. after these threats. Every time a car stopped in front of our door or even when I merely heard a car door slam, I thought I would be picked up and taken away.” "I heard that Mrs. Freudenthal and Paul were denounced by Mrs. H. Mr. and Mrs. H. had quarrels with all neighbors. He had a lot of skeletons in the closet. The plates would fly about in that home. He also beat up his wife.”
In the spring of 1943, probably at the end of March, things came to a head. Together with her son, Bertha Freudenthal had committed an "offense” for which both would have to pay dearly. The two not only had gone to the movies (something prohibited for Jews), but also had returned home only after 8 p.m., even though a curfew for Jews was in effect from 8 p.m. onward. This had not escaped the attention of the H. couple, and they denounced Bertha Freudenthal to the Gestapo. On 1 Apr. 1943, she was summoned to Gestapo headquarters at Rothenbaumchaussee 38. There she was arrested and taken to the Fuhlsbüttel Gestapo prison. While in custody, she was threatened with deportation to an extermination camp unless she divorced her husband.
The divorce came into effect on 30 Apr. 1943. Wilhelm Freudenthal later gave an account to the Restitution Office (Amt für Wiedergutmachung) about the time during which his wife was in custody: "I was hounded by Mrs. H., Niendorf, our neighbor. She had reported to the Gestapo that I was Jewish. I had to prove I was Aryan by procuring a genealogical table. Since my wife was under detention and I by myself, I had hired a domestic help for support. Dutifully, I went to the police to register the domestic help. No need for you to do that, I was told there. Mrs. H. has already taken care of it, and you only need to pay the fine for the delayed registration. H. and his wife still live in their house today and continue to play their nasty game.”
On 5 May 1943, Bertha Freudenthal, along with her son, was sent on the transport to Theresienstadt, where they arrived on 7 May.
Paul, who was 15 years of age at the time and who, as a "Jewish half-breed of the 1st degree” ("jüdischer Mischling ersten Grades”), actually should not have been allowed to be deported, had attended the middle school school [Mittelschule – a practice-oriented secondary school up to grade 10] on Sootbörn until then. Why he did have to embark on the transport is unclear. There are contradictory statements by contemporary witnesses on this score: Paul refused to leave his mother alone or, alternatively, his mother had not wished to separate from him.
The brochure prepared by the students of the Niendorf comprehensive school rightly pointed out that the SS would hardly have been inclined to permit such "wishes to travel along.” Another open question relates to the role Paul’s homeroom teacher W., who was the local deputy group leader of the NSDAP, played in this drama. In the recollection of some of Paul’s fellow students, vis-à-vis his class W. showed himself dismayed about the arrest of Bertha Freudenthal, while according to other testimony he told the class that Paul had been "resettled,” and another voice held the view that the teacher himself had also denounced Bertha Freudenthal. Evidence has also survived that Paul Dieroff called on his homeroom teacher at home for unknown reasons on the day before the deportation, 4 May. In addition, a student record of Paul Dieroff is still extant which the teacher W. had already closed on 2 May with the comment, "on 1 May 1943 dismissed as a half-Jew from the local school with destination Protectorate [of Bohemia and Moravia].”
In Theresienstadt, Bertha Freudenthal performed forced labor in a plant producing fountain pen nibs until Dec. 1943, subsequently working in the camp cleaning service.
In the course of the so-called fall transports in 1944, thousands of Jews were deported to Auschwitz. On 19 Oct. 1944, Paul Dieroff, just under 16 years of age, had to board the transport train to Auschwitz. Two days before, his mother had turned 55 years of age. She escaped the death transports and was freed by Soviet troops in May 1945.
Paul Dieroff did not stay in Auschwitz for long, but was deported further to the Dachau concentration camp on 27 Oct. There he was transferred to the Kaufering external camp, where particularly inhumane conditions prevailed. Hardly any food was available and not even shacks existed for the prisoners. At the end of 1944, a typhoid epidemic broke out there. Paul Dieroff, weakened by the concentration camp detention, succumbed to the disease. His death is documented by the records office for 15 Dec. 1944.
Near the residential address of his parents, a cul-de-sac was named Paul-Dieroff-Weg to preserve his memory.
Bertha Freudenthal’s sister Emmy Clara Rothgiesser (born on 15 May 1900 in Hamburg, last address Woldsenweg 5) also became a victim of Nazi racial fanaticism. She attended the secondary school for girls (höhere Mädchenschule) on Lerchenfeld and then devoted herself to anthroposophy. To this end, she lived for study purposes at the headquarters of the Anthroposophical Society in the Swiss town of Dornach during the 1920s. From 1929 to 1935, she worked as a teacher in Hamburg. Her then superior, Hermann Poppelbaum, wrote about this period to Bertha Freudenthal on 19 July 1958, "In the years 1929 to 1935, Ms. Emmy Rothgiesser worked as a teacher of theoretical and practical courses in painting for the Hamburg Anthroposophical Society, whose director I was at the time. In those days, she earned a living with this work. In addition, she occasionally published essays about her subject, in, among others, the weekly magazine Das Goetheanum appearing here in Dornach. I am certain that her literary estate would have revealed many a valuable essay, had it not been destroyed as well.”
The income Emmy Rothgiesser earned through her work was meager. One can assume that her dismissal and the ban of the Anthroposophical Society on 1 Nov. 1935 were related. After her layoff, she was supported by her sister and by friends. Emmy Rothgiesser was deported to Lodz on 25 Oct. 1941. From there, the only record preserved is the address at Rauchgasse no. 21. On 1 May 1942, she was deported further, and she was probably murdered in Chelmno using carbon monoxide.
Bertha Freudenthal left Theresienstadt on 26 May 1945 and returned to her husband. The couple obtained an annulment of the divorce and was again entered as married at the records office on 30 Oct. 1945. Bertha Freudenthal attached a placard at the garden gate to draw attention to her son’s fate: "Here lived until May 1943 Paul Dieroff Freudenthal, born on 30 Nov. 1928. Owing to a denunciation to the Gestapo, he was deported to Theresienstadt and perished in the Dachau concentration camp in Dec. 1944.” She succeeded in bringing legal action against the H. couple. It ended in acquittal of the husband and a sentence of four months in prison for his wife.
The time in Theresienstadt had seriously impaired Bertha Freudenthal’s health. After the war, she suffered from fits of fainting, rheumatism, tooth loss, and hardness of hearing. The living conditions of the Freudenthal couple were precarious during the initial post-war years: They had already voluntarily taken in a homeless couple; in Apr. 1947, another room was requisitioned; in 1948, they were even supposed to give up their porch on top of that.
Bertha Freudenthal became active in the Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime (Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes – VVN) and undertook efforts to file restitution claims for the injustice she had suffered, for the loss of her son and her sister, and for the material losses caused by the persecution. This dragged on well into the 1960s and was successful only in part. On 13 Mar. 1969, Bertha Freudenthal died in Hamburg.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Ulrike Sparr
Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 8; StaH 351-11 (AfW), 11872; StaH 351-11 (AfW), 23399; StaH 351-11 (AfW), 11447; VVN-Akte Bertha Freudenthal; Materialordner eines Schülerprojekts der Gesamtschule Niendorf zu Paul Dieroff; AB 1909, 1943; Roland Hunger/Johannes Paustenbach (Hrsg.), Paul Dieroff (1928–1944), Hamburg, 1986; Taufbuch der Gemeinde Bruchhausen (Dank an U. Meyer!); www.holocaust.cz/cz2/eng/victims/person/331241 (eingesehen 20.6.2011); http://data. jewishgen.org/wconnect/wc.dll?jg~jgsearch~model2~[lodzghetto] lodzghetto (eingesehen am 22.6.11); Wikipedia-Artikel "Anthroposophie" (eingesehen am 21.6.2011).
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