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Henny Ehrlich (née Bernhard) * 1883
Wexstraße 16 (Hamburg-Mitte, Neustadt)
Henny Ehrlich, née Bernhard, born on 10 Nov. 1883 in Frankfurt/Main, deported to Riga-Jungfernhof on 6 Dec. 1941
Wexstrasse 16 (Wextrasse 10)
Henny Ehrlich was born on 10 Nov. 1883 in Frankfurt/Main. Her parents had married there the same year. Her father, the accountant Martin Bernhard (born on 14 Mar. 1856), came from the port town of Randers in Jutland, and was a Danish citizen. Her mother Anna, née Goldschmidt (born on 15 Aug. 1856), was a native of Paris.
In 1920, Henny married the Hamburg-based merchant Isak Ehrlich (born on 4 Feb. 1867) in Cologne. Isak Ehrlich originally came from Grodek, near Lemberg in eastern Galicia (today Lviv in Ukraine) and was an Austrian citizen. From about 1888, he operated a yard goods store in Hamburg, which was expanded in the following years to a two-story department store at Wexstrasse 10.
His first wife Zielie/Cilli, née Heilbronn (born on 21 Apr. 1874 in Segeberg), had died at the age of only 43 years on 10 Jan. 1918. This marriage produced the children Rosa (born on 30 Nov. 1899), Gertrud (born on 5 Dec. 1900), and Alfred Leon (born on 11 Apr. 1903). The brothers and sisters grew up in an "atmosphere befitting their station,” had attended secondary schools, and were active in their father’s business. Rosa later testified that her family lived in secure conditions. They owned an "automobile” of the American Flint brand, an "absolute luxury” at the time.
Isak Ehrlich had big plans. In 1921, he bought the house at Wexstrasse 10 and the adjacent rear houses at Langergang 24/26 to build a modern department store on the site. As his application for naturalization had already been rejected in 1907, Isak’s brother-in-law Siegmund Wallach (born on 7 Sept. 1884 in Schiefbahn), who was married to Henry’s younger sister Elsa (born on 21 June 1888), took over the trusteeship.
On 22 Aug. 1924, Henny and Isak’s son Kurt was born. In the meantime, Henry’s parents, too, had moved to Gerhofstrasse 16 in Hamburg, where Martin Bernhard died on 2 Dec. 1925. Until her death on 12 Feb. 1932, his widow Anna Bernhard lived among the family of her daughter Henny, who resided in a large double apartment at the same address, at Wexstrasse 10. A domestic worker took care of the household and a nanny looked after Kurt.
Shortly after Kurt’s first birthday, on 28 Aug. 1925, a double wedding was celebrated in the family. His half-sister Rosa married the Berlin businessman Wilhelm Paul Blandowsky (born on 16 Sept. 1895); her sister Gertrud married the Hamburg resident Bruno Aron (born on 22 Feb. 1902, died in Berlin in 1990). The actor, dancer, and choreographer, known under the stage name of Bruno Arno, had already begun his artistic career as a child at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg. The sisters followed their husbands to Berlin. Bruno Arno was employed as ballet master at the theater on Kommandantenstrasse. In 1929, he took over the artistic direction of the "Haus Vaterland.” Rosa and her husband Paul Blandowsky lived in Berlin-Charlottenburg, at Bismarckstrasse 111.
Isak’s son Alfred joined his father’s business in 1926 after completing a commercial apprenticeship in the Friedmann department store in Bielefeld. Their staff included several employees. One of them was the non-Jewish woman Elise Fiencke (born on 3 Dec. 1912), Alfred’s subsequent wife. They were married on 25 Apr. 1934.
Living conditions deteriorated when the National Socialists came to power. Initially, the redevelopment plans for the "Gängeviertel,” implemented by the Nazi regime, led to a decline in business. As early as 1933, demolition work began on Rademachergang, Breiter Gang, and Kornträgergang. Around 10,000 residents, potential customers, were forced to leave their previous homes and relocate to the suburbs.
Isak’s daughter Gertrud decided to leave Germany in 1935; being Jewish, Bruno Arno was no longer able to work in Germany. The Arno couple emigrated to Switzerland and later to Argentina. Elise and Alfred Ehrlich emigrated to the USA in Mar. 1936. Alfred’s parents were able to employ only one female apprentice in the department store by that time. "The parents’ made it their mission in life to keep the three houses next to each other, the store, and the apartment.” Due increasing anti-Jewish decrees and campaigns, such as the call to boycott Jewish stores, the revenues of the Ehrlich department store continued to decline rapidly until it ran into arrears.
When an official receiver was appointed for tax arrears, Isak Ehrlich suffered a stroke on 13 Sept. 1937 as a result of the excitement and died while still in his apartment on Wexstrasse. Rosa Blandowsky, who came to Hamburg from Berlin for the funeral, reported on the death of her father that he had not only seen his life’s work destroyed, but that the personal threats and anti-Semitic graffiti on the window front had also caused him constant agitation.
On 28 Sept. 1937, the "Hamburger Sparkasse von 1827” (today Hamburger Sparkasse AG, Haspa) purchased by auction the property at Wexstrasse 10 with the attached business premises, the two-and-a-half bedroom apartment located on the ground floor and the large eight-and-a-half-room apartments located on the second to the fourth floor for a sum of 35,500 RM (reichsmark). The following year, the Sparkasse sold the property on to the Hanseatic City of Hamburg for 27,000 RM. Starting in Mar. 1939, the houses at Langergang 25/26 were administered by the "Hamburgische Grundstücksverwaltungs-Gesellschaft von 1938,” a property management company, which amounted to expropriation. Henny Ehrlich could no longer freely dispose of the rental income. After being forced to give up her home, she moved with her son Kurt to stay with her sister Elsa Wallach at Isestrasse 59, until the Wallachs emigrated to the USA on 2 Jan. 1939. Rosa Blandowsky, too, bid farewell to her stepmother at Hamburg Central Station on 12 Jan. 1939, following her brother Alfred, with her husband and daughter Ilse, to the USA, where she changed her surname to Bland.
Kurt, having attended the private Bertram School on Harvestehuder Weg until 1936, had been compelled to finish his schooling at the Talmud Tora School. Since he was unable to begin technical studies in Germany as a Jew, his mother sent him to stay with relatives in the Netherlands in 1938, enabling him at least to receive agricultural training before emigrating to Palestine. Kurt initially lived in Rotterdam until he was "sent” to Arnhem by the authorities after the German occupation of the Netherlands. In 1942, Kurt was committed to the Westerbork transit camp. From there he managed to escape one night. With the help of an underground movement, he illegally entered Spain via France and from there, he went on to Palestine in 1944, where he joined a kibbutz.
His mother Henny was left behind in Germany. She was taken in by her aunt Fides Bernhard, née Wolf (born on 7 July 1877 in Mainz), at Sierichstrasse 152. Fides Bernhard, the widow of Siegmund Bernhard (born on 12 June 1857, died on 15 Sept. 1925), the brother of Henny’s late father, had become a Danish citizen through her marriage and, as a foreign Jewess, was not forced to wear the "star of David.” She survived the subsequent end of the war in Denmark.
Henny Ehrlich received her "evacuation order,” as the terminology went, on Sierichstrasse, and she was to be "resettled” to the East for labor deployment. Fides Bernhard later reported that on 6 Dec. 1941, she accompanied her niece to the Hannoversche Bahnhof train station, the site of today’s Lohseplatz. There Henny Ehrlich, even before she could board the deportation train to Riga, according to Fides Bernhard, had her fur coat torn off her body, in harsh winter conditions. Apparently, she had not handed it in as instructed.
The Hamburg transport was diverted to the Jungfernhof estate, the sub-camp located near Riga. Whether Henny Ehrlich survived the first winter in the unheated livestock sheds and barracks is not known. Most of the deportees were shot during "Dünamünde operation” in Mar. 1942, and the survivors were sent to the Riga Ghetto in the spring of 1943. Henny Ehrlich was declared dead in early 1947.
At Wexstrasse 10, nothing commemorates the Ehrlich department store; the building was completely destroyed in an air raid. The street Langergang, which ran from Kornträgergang via Wexstrasse to Stadthausbrücke, was partly built over with office buildings after the war.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: July 2020
© Susanne Rosendahl
Quellen: 1; 6; 9; StaH 351-11 AfW 43404 (Tron, Lieselotte); StaH 351-11 AfW 27546 (Ehrlich, Alfred); StaH 351-11 AfW 37981 (Ehrlich, Alfred); StaH 351-11 AfW 46699 (Ehrlich, Kurt); StaH 213-13_5278; StaH 314-15 Abl. 1998, E 259; StaH 213-13 Landgericht Hamburg- Wiedergutmachungssachen 5278; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 13177 u 4083/1899; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 790 u 33/1918; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 3506 u 487/1925; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 3506 u 488/1925; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 897 u 647/1925; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 1069 u 280/1937; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 992 u 42/1932; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 1069 u 280/1937; StaH 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden 992 d Band 3; StaH 241-1I Justizverwaltung 943; 314-15 OFP, R 1938/2704; Lange: Architektur, S. 68; http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randers (Zugriff 5.6.2016).
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