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Benjamin Findling * 1916
Rieckhoffstraße 5 (Harburg, Harburg)
Alfred Findling, born 23 Jan. 1913 in Harburg, exiled to Zbaszyn 28 Oct. 1938, 1939-40 in the Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp, murdered 11 June 1942 at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Benjamin (Benno) Findling, born 23 Feb. 1916 in Harburg, exiled to Zbaszyn 28 Oct. 1938, died in Poland, date of death unknown
Rieckhoffstraße 5, Harburg-Altstadt
Alfred and Benjamin (Benno) Findling were the two eldest sons of the Jewish merchant Hersch (Hermann) Findling (8 Feb. 1887-1 Mar. 1924) and his wife Berta (5 Aug. 1888-6 Sep. 1938). Both parents had come to Harburg (one in 1907, the other in 1912) from Galicia, which was at that time Austro-Hungarian territory and later Polish, and started a family. Their youngest son Jacob was born on 23 April 1919. All three children attended the public boys’ school at the Harburg Rathausmarkt, which was just a few blocks from their home on Konradstraße (today Rieckhoffstraße). Jacob Findling was later forced to transfer to the Talmud Tora School in Hamburg because of increased anti-Jewish sentiment.
Hermann Findling had a housewares store on the ground floor of a large building on Konradstraße that belonged to him. The family’s apartment was in the same building. The parents and three sons were happy in Harburg. They considered themselves to be "good Germans” like everyone else who lived there, as Jacob Findling wrote in his memoir: "Born in Germany, played with German Christians, spoke German, had German neighbors – as a German Jew I felt just as German as my Christian friends.”
After the unexpected death of her husband, who was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Harburg, Berta Findling tried to continue to run the shop. At the same time she faced the difficult task of raising her three children alone. When Alfred finished his period of apprenticeship, he found a job at the Deutsch-Hannoverschen Bank. Benjamin became a salesman in a clothing store and Jacob apprenticed as a retail sales clerk at the M. M. Friedmann department store on Lüneburger Straße in Harburg. The store was owned by Jews and was well-known throughout the city.
The family’s life changed dramatically when Hitler came to power. Alfred Findling was fired from his job at the Deutsch-Hannoverschen Bank and found work at a Jewish-owned import and export company in Hamburg. Benno Findling also lost his job. He was able to find work with a relative in Wilhelmshaven for a few months. Jacob Findling became unemployed when the M. M. Friedman department store was "Aryanized” in 1935. Bertha Findling was unable to cope with running the store and finally had to give it up, after it was discovered that an employee had been embezzling money for years. The financial losses and the disappointment were a heavy emotional burden. She died at the age of 50, a broken woman, on 6 September 1938 of arterial thrombosis. She was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Hamburg-Ohlsdorf.
Soon thereafter the three brothers moved to Rappstraße 15 in the Grindelviertel in Hamburg. They had barely settled in when they were arrested on 28 October 1938 during "Operation Poland,” and expelled that same night, along with more than 1000 other Jewish men, women, and children from Hamburg, on a mass transport from the Altona Train Staion to Neu-Bentschen, and on the next morning from there over the Polish border to Zbaszyn.
Like numerous other exiles who were not willing to accept this fate without resistance, Alfred and Benjamin Findling returned to Germany in the spring of 1939. The German authorities had an interest in allowing a temporary return for those who had business dealings to settle or for those who had definitive plans to leave Germany for another country via a German port or train station. These circumstances forced Alfred and Benjamin Findling to sell the building on Konradstraße for a price drastically lower than the market value. The new owner was a Harburg businessman. The money from the sale went into a secured account, to which the brothers only had access if approved by the Chief Tax Authority. At the same time they applied for permission to emigrate. One time they named the US as their destination, another time they named Poland.
While Benjamin Findling had returned to Poland before 1 September 1939, his brother Alfred, whose residency permit had been extended, was in Hamburg at the outbreak of the Second World War, when the Gestapo arrested "enemy aliens” and sent them to the prison at Fuhlsbüttel. Alfred was transferred from there to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp on 24 February 1940, where he was registered with the prisoner number 20392. He was in the hospital ward there for several months in the winter of 1941, before he was assigned to the "Kommando S” on 4 June 1941. "Kommando S” was the code name for the transport to the Pirna/Sonnenstein Euthanasia Center under the auspices of "Operation 14 f 13.” In the summer of 1941 more than 1000 concentration camp inmates, most of them "unfit for work,” were murdered in the gas chambers at Pirna/Sonnenstein. Alfred Findling’s life ended on 11 June 1941. The official cause of death was given as heart failure as a result of the flu. The urn with his ashes was buried on 3 November 1941 in the Jewish cemetery in Ohlsdorf.
The refugee camp in Zbaszyn where Benjamin Findling had been sent was closed down by the Polish government in August 1939. Those refugees who had not already left the camp to live with friends or relatives in Poland were moved away from the border due to the danger of the looming war. After the German invasion, the persecution began anew. The refugees had to identify themselves as Jews and were conscripted to forced labor. They were settled in prescribed districts, ghettos, and were finally deported to the extermination camps at Belzec, Sobibor, Majdanek, Treblina, Chelmo, and Auschwitz.
Benjamin Findling apparently was able to live with relatives of his mother. Nothing more is known about his fate. He is considered missing – as are ten thousands of other Jews in Poland who did not survive the Holocaust.
His younger brother Jacob was able to flee Zbaszyn for Tarnow, which was occupied by German troops three weeks later. After he had heard of his brother Alfred’s arrest in Hamburg and could not find any information about his brother Benjamin, he fled over the line of demarcation into Soviet-occupied Poland. After an odyssey through countless Soviet prison camps, he returned to Hamburg in the fall of 1946. Two years later he emigrated to Israel.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Klaus Möller
Quellen: 1; 2 (R 39/2835, F 516); 4; 5; 8; StaH, 351-11, AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 230113, Findling, Alfred, 230216, Findling, Benjamin, 230419 Findling, Jakob; Schriftliche Mitteilung der Gedenkstätte und des Museums Sachsenhausen vom 15.12.2010; Heyl (Hrsg.), Harburger Opfer; Heyl, Synagoge; Kändler/Hüttenmeister, Friedhof; Findling, Hánitzol; Ellermeyer u.a., Schalom; Ley/Morsch, Medizin, S. 310ff.; Gespräch des Verfassers mit Jakob Findling vom 9.9.1990.
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