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Irma Freundlich (née Beith) * 1896
Fruchtallee 27–29 / Ecke Vereinstraße (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)
further stumbling stones in Fruchtallee 27–29 / Ecke Vereinstraße:
Irma Freundlich, née Beith, born 20 June 1896 in Berlin, deported 11 July 1942 to Auschwitz
Paul Freundlich, born 6 Aug 1879 in Gnesen, deported 11 July 1942 to Auschwitz
Fruchtallee 27–29, corner of Vereinsstraße
In December 1909 the 30-year-old pharmacist Paul Freundlich, in the company of his future father-in-law Philipp Simon, signed the purchase contract for two pieces of property in Eimsbüttel. He was thus the new owner of the Hansa-Apotheke, which had stood at the corner of Fruchtallee and Vereinsstraße since 1879. In late March 1910 he was listed in the official register of pharmacists. The previous owners, the pharmacists Carstens and Hoth handed over the pharmacy and properties to the new owner on 10 April 1910. At this point he had no idea that he – the first Jewish owner - would face repression and attempts to force him out at the hands of neighbors, competitors, and the authorities.
Paul Freundlich was born on 6 August 1870 in Gnesen in the province of Posen. His parents were Dorothea Sara, née Lewinsohn, and Moritz Freundlich. He studied in Breslau (Wroclaw), did his internship in Frankfurt am Main, and moved to Hamburg in April 1909. On 18 February 1910 he married Erna Betty Simon (*1887), who was from a Jewish family in Hamburg. The had three daughters, Ingeborg (*1911), Hildegard (*1913), and Gerda (*1914).
In the First World War, Paul Freundlich served as an officer in a Belgian field hospital. He was wounded and decorated with the Iron Cross. In 1915 the family became citizens of Hamburg.
The family’s apartment was in the two upper floors of the building at Fruchtallee 27, and was reached through an entry next to the pharmacy. The ground floor housed the pharmacy with its laboratory, stockroom, and a few other rooms.
Paul and Erna divorced after ten years of marriage. She had left the family and converted to Catholicism. In 1921 Paul re-married. His second wife was Irma Beith, whose father, Benny Beith, was originally from Altona, but had lived and worked as a real estate agent in Wandsbek for many years. He was also the chairman of the Wandsbek Jewish Community. Her mother Selma, née Auerback, was a member of the Hirsch family, which had lived in Wandsbek since the early 19th century (see Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Wandsbek). Irma Freundlich, who had grown up in a strictly religious home, now kept a kosher household with her new family in Eimsbüttel. She had a cook, a housemaid, and a nanny. In 1922 Paul and Irma had a daughter, Erika, who grew up with the three daughters from his first marriage. Their mother was rarely spoken of in the family, so that Erika first learned of her existence later, possibly in 1931 when she died.
Paul Freundlich’s younger brother Heimann Freundlich and his wife Meta lived at Eimsbütteler Chaussee 15, and ran a plumbing service at Agathenstraße 7. He took care of any necessary repairs or renovations in Paul’s home and shop (see Heimann Freundlich).
From the beginning, customers in the neighborhood were skeptical of Paul Freundlich’s pharmacy. Could one trust medications made by a Jewish pharmacist? Didn’t one run the risk of being poisoned? Ignorance paired with anti-Semitic prejudice led to a decline in profits. It was only when the pastor at the Christuskirche, which was directly across the street from the pharmacy, addressed the issue in a sermon, describing Paul Freundlich as a good and responsible man and calling on his congregation to put aside their aversions, did the situation improve.
The first recorded allegations levelled against Paul Freundlich were dated November 1915. A customer named Buhlert complained about adhesive bandages that wouldn’t stick and wanted his money back. The bandages, manufactured by Beiersdorf, were marked with the stamp "war production,” so that defects were likely. Paul Freundlich was refused to take back the bandages at first, but finally refunded the customer’s money. That was apparently not enough for Buhlert, however, and he contacted the pharmacy commission, suspecting evil intrigues on the part of Jewish pharmacologists, as can be deduced from his letter: "These goings-on of Herr Freundlich and the Beiersdorf company, owned by Dr. Troplowitz and Dr. Mankeiwicz, must be stopped, which is why I am notifying you of this incident.”
The pharmacy commission requested a statement from Beiersdorf, which they provided in December 1915: "Soon after the outbreak of the war, there was a severe shortage of natural rubber, in spite of which we were able to continue to produce and deliver our adhesive bandages in their accustomed quality until mid-1915. Only after our stocks … were confiscated by the Imperial authorities and we were permitted ever smaller quantities per month were we forced to use substitute materials. … In order to emphasize the change in the composition, the bandages were clearly labeled as a war product. … Herr Buhlert may have received a bandage that, for whatever reason, was somewhat beyond the date by which it should have been sold, resulting a lessening of the adhesive quality. Herr Buhlert experienced no detriment, either directly or indirectly, since the price of the product was refunded to him in the pharmacy. Sincerely, P. Beiersdorf.”
In April 1921 the Hamburger Fremdenblatt published an anonymous letter to the editor entitled "Eimsbüttel’s Pharmacy Calamity.” A customer who lived on Margaretenstraße claimed to have needed the after-hours services of the Hansa-Apotheke, "but when I arrived, all of the lights were out. I rang several times, but no one answered.” He finally went to the Emilienstraße pharmacy and got his medication. "No comment is necessary. A citizen of Eimsbüttel.” In a second, likewise anonymous letter to the editor, the writer claimed to have even telephoned the Hansa-Apotheke before he went there.
The incident came to the attention of the Hamburg Public Health Authority, which demanded a statement from Paul Freundlich. He claimed it was an "imaginary, hateful accusation (…) and the writer is only interested in defaming me in the eyes of the medication-buying public. The after-hours service at my pharmacy is run according to the regulations.”
The Public Health Authority considered interviewing the anonymous writer, but the editors of the Hamburger Fremdenblatt gave them the name, Hans Lüllemann, only under the condition that it not be relayed further.
In the summer of that same year, Paul Freundlich was threatened with a 100 Reichsmark fine. He had allegedly taken a trip and left the pharmacy without a representative, only an apprentice and an unregistered pharmacist. Paul Freundlich denied being away for a longer period of time. He had visited his children in Segeberg, and returned home every three days. The regulatory authority rejected his explanation as implausible.
In July 1927 another customer complained about his medication. The Public Health Authority now threatened Paul Freundlich with criminal prosecution. The case file reads: "In connection with the complaint made by Herr Blumenthal, it has been determined that the prescription prepared was not produced with the proper or specified Sir. flor. Rhoeados.” The accused replied that the prescription was prepared by the pharmacist Wollenberg during the time that he was filling in.
In September Paul Freundlich reported a break-in at the pharmacy, in which one gram of heroin and approximately four grams of heroin substitute were stolen.
In 1931 he was accused of unfair business practices. The Hamburg Pharmacists’ Association, the professional association for pharmacists, contacted the Hamburg Welfare Agency and threatened to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Paul Freundlich. He had allegedly conspired with the physician Bachrach to be the exclusive supplier for welfare agency prescriptions by Dr. Bachrach. He had allegedly sent a selection of medications to the doctor to keep in storage in his apartment, and the doctor had given these directly to his patients. Dr. Bachrach had then sent the prescriptions to the pharmacist, thus excluding other pharmacies in the area.
Dr. Bachrach explained to the Welfare Agency that this procedure had only taken place during a four-month-long flu epidemic. Paul Freundlich ensured that he had had no intent to do wrong. He did admit that his actions were unwise and that they were in breach of legal regulations.
The head of the Welfare Agency, Senator Martini, considered cancelling the contract with Dr. Bachrach. Freundlich’s fellow pharmacists took advantage of the incident to harass him further. The chief pharmacist Menhorn requested that "Freundlich be reported to the police for violation of regulations, and be fined the maximum penalty of 150 Reichsmarks.” The Public Health Authority confirmed the request and informed the police department. But the Welfare Agency found the accused not guilty on all counts, with the explanation: "The prescriptions from the Hansa-Apotheke do not indicate that Dr. Freundlich and Dr. Bachrach conspired together.”
The Pharmacists’ Association did not agree with this verdict. It had Paul Freundlich interrogated by a commissioner and tried him before an internal regional court. On 7 August 1931 it pronounced its harshest condemnation of Paul Freundlich, for damage to the image of the profession and causing economic disadvantage to neighboring colleagues. Since Freundlich had made a profit of an estimated 400 Reichsmarks, he was levied a fine of 300 Reichsmarks.
Paul Freundlich spent the years from 1934 to 1936 defending himself against Nazi-inspired colleagues and authorities, who had made it their goal to shut down the Hansa-Apotheke. The basis for the harassment was a politically motivated effort to balance the limited number of concessions with the high number of licensed applicants. In addition, Hamburg was to give precedence to young "Aryan” pharmacists and party members. The Public Health and Welfare Authority targeted the 19 Jewish pharmacists in Hamburg and claimed that the pharmacy profession was "Jewified”, making it necessary to give precedence to Nazi Party members. (There were a total of 180 pharmacies in Hamburg in 1933, which means that the proportion of Jewish pharmacists was about 11 per cent. In Berlin it was more than 25 per cent.) The measures instigated against Paul Freundlich resembled a siege. It began with an inspection of his pharmacy on 5 March 1934. The inspectors were the chief pharmacist Max Burger, consultant for the pharmacists’ association, and the certified pharmacy inspector Hans Rehmke. They complained of disorder, uncleanliness, and general infractions, and demanded that an administrator be installed by 8 March 1934, three days later. The inspection record did not, however, list the specific objections.
Nevertheless the Public Health and Welfare Authority ordered Paul Freundlich to cease doing business immediately, otherwise his pharmacy would be closed. This was tantamount to revoking his concession.
Freundlich’s wife Irma called the Public Health and Welfare Authority and informed them that the pharmacist Adolf Luis Kuhlemann had been suggested as administrator. His contract would be sent in immediately. She asked that they inform her by telephone if, with the receipt of the contract, the closure of the pharmacy was averted. Kuhlemann had been present at the inspection.
With the suggestion of Kuhlemann as administrator, Paul Freundlich had acquiesced to the authorities. If he had hoped, however, that the situation would thus be smoothed over, he was wrong. His rivals continued to seek evidence to use against him. The authorities demanded that aspirin tablets be inspected, in the hopes that they were counterfeit. The contacted the IG Farben company in Hamburg, requesting that they inspect the tablets. They asked the same of the State Institute of Hygiene.
IG Farben answered with "Heil Hitler!” and the conclusion that "the tablets were in fact aspirin. … No definitive indication of counterfeiting can be found.”
Paul Freundlich’s lawyers, M. Eichholz and H. Ruscheweyh, had prepared a lawsuit, to be presented to the Hamburg Administrative Court, against the Hamburg Senate. It demanded that the closure of the pharmacy be rescinded. "With no proper record of inspection and no previous notification, such a drastic measure such as the withdrawal of the capacity to personally manage a pharmacy can hardly be taken.” It states further that Paul Freundlich "has practiced his profession for 24 years, without valid complaints against his business practices having been raised. In consideration of this fact, it is inacceptable that action be taken against him in the form of the closure of his pharmacy. The unlawful closure … makes the city of Hamburg liable for damages.” The actions taken against the pharmacist were a "clear abuse of power … without having given him the opportunity to defend himself against the accusations. He has to date still not been informed of the accusations. That an old, privately-owned pharmacy … is not as technically advanced as state-run pharmacies, or in exceptional cases as newly established privately-owned pharmacies is obvious. The doctor’s certificate shows how severely the defendant has suffered under the treatment of Herr Burger and the closure of the pharmacy.”
The certificate had been written on 19 March 1934 by Dr. Hellmuth Lorch: "As a result of a severe nervous breakdown, which can be ascribed to mental and physical exhaustion, the patient is at this time highly in need of rest and must avoid all agitation.” A second physician, Dr. Conitzer, certified on 12 March 1934: "Paul Freundlich, whom I have treated for more than 20 years, although never for a serious illness, is at this time, as a result of the closure of his pharmacy and the resultant agitation, in a desolate physical and mental condition.”
The lawyers demanded that the authorities make Herr Burger’s accusations known, "in order to disprove them.” On orders of the Public Health Authority the pharmacy was to remain closed. But Paul Freundlich opened it, "in accordance with the legal situation,” as his lawyers stated. Herr Burger sent a police sergeant to the pharmacy in the evening to ask Freundlich if he had permission from the Public Health Authority for the re-opening. Freundlich told the policeman that the closure had been rescinded because of the lawsuit. But Burger was not satisfied with the answer. He called Freundlich on the telephone and demanded that he close the pharmacy. He also allegedly claimed that he would notify every authority necessary to achieve the closure. The lawyers emphasized "that not one of the medications inspected had given cause for complaint. … One hears little good about the investigations that Herr Burger undertakes. He seems not even to be acquainted with the stipulated methods of investigation.”
A few days later the Public Health Authority informed the Hamburg Administrative Court that Freundlich had filed a lawsuit against the city of Hamburg, but that it was to be dismissed with costs. The lawyers now turned to Mayor Krogmann, since the closure could not be decreed by the administrative authorites, but only by the Senate. They claimed that Burger was unilaterally prejudiced. He repeatedly used phrases such as "pig sty” and "dump.” In all of the previous inspections, no objections had been raised.
Irma Freundlich also did her part in the struggle for justice and contacted the Reich Governor Kaufmann with a request for a personal meeting "about the closure of our pharmacy.” Whether she received an answer or not is not documented. The letter was received on the same date as the court’s ruling. The Hamburg Administrative Court dismissed Paul Freundlich’s case. The withdrawal of his concession was thus legally binding.
In the meantime Burger had found other witnesses who were willing to confirm his opinion about the conditions in the Hansa-Apotheke: Wilhelm Dörnemann, the AOK health insurance company’s pharmacy liaison, and two assistants who had worked for Paul Freundlich. In a Public Health Authority report, probably written by Burger, he emphasized his responsibility for the "people’s health.” "If the previous inspectors had not used the same standards that the National Socialist government now sees fit to do, it was because of their political views, since until now the inspectors were all pharmacy owners and they felt compelled to exercise special restraint with Jews.” This meant, in so many words, that the Nazi government should be especially severe with Jews, in order to correct the "political views” of the Weimar Republic.
Based on the ruling by the Administrative Court, the Senator for City Administration, Richter, decreed that "Paul Freundlich’s right to run a pharmacy is revoked. He is advised to name an administrator. The pharmacy shall remain closed until such an administrator is named.”
The situation seems to have calmed down by mid-May 1934. Paul Freundlich had installed Wilhelm Bendhack as administrator, and the subsequent inspection found that the pharmacy "was in a very good condition, compliant with regulations.” But Bendhack was not approved as an administrator.
Ten days later, a contract was made "for the administration of the pharmacy” between Freundlich and his employee Rudolf Rose, a "young Party member”. The pharmacy resumed business, but not for long. A few days later, as Freundlich’s lawyers stated, "the pharmacy was closed, in breach of the law, by Chief Watch Master Krefft from the 15th Precinct, by order of the Public Health Authority.”
When an appeal against the ruling was dismissed on 28 May 1934, the situation seemed hopeless. But Paul Freundlich did not give up.
In November 1934 he requested permission to build an annex. "The new annex will house the dispensary, and the old dispensary will be used as a storeroom.” He asked that the request be approved quickly, so as to be able to complete the construction before the first frost. Included in his request was the remark that the construction would create jobs at the value of 18,000 Reichsmarks. Freundlich hoped to regain his concession by building the new annex.
His request was approved, and the construction, under the direction of the architects Hans and Oskar Gerson, began. The pharmacy was closed for three months during the construction. At the end of February 1935, the new building was ready for the dispensary. Freundlich’s daughter Erika described the finished product as very modern and attractive, with a beautiful façade of light green tiles.
Paul Freundlich only had the pleasure of working in his new pharmacy for about a year, even though it was under the supervision of an administrator. He, the owner for so many years, was no longer allowed to run the business independently, but even this less-than-satisfactory situation would soon end. In March 1936, the Reich Home Ministry decreed that Jewish pharmacists were required to lease their businesses, which was tantamount to an occupational ban. Worn down by the hostile environment and in poor health, Paul Freundlich was forced to hand over his life’s work and means of existence to a competitor. On 6 August 1936, he sold the pharmacy, with all inventory and stock, and the property for 165,000 Reichsmarks to the pharmacist Carl Hattenkerl from Braunschweig. The purchase negotiations took place at the home of Paul Freundlich’s father-in-law. The pharmacy was to be handed over to the purchaser on 1 October 1936, and the apartment was to be vacated by 2 January 1937.
The new owner achieved amazing profits with the pharmacy. According to the St. Pauli tax office, his revenues in 1938 were around 85,000 RM, in 1939 around 98,600 RM, and in 1940 around 105,124 RM. Paul Freundlich’s revenues in 1933 were around 68,000 RM, in 1934 around 50,0000 RM, and in 1935 around 70,000 RM.
The pharmacy was sold again in 1941, and was moved to the corner of Fruchtallee and Belleallianceplatz in 1943 as a result of war damage. It never returned to its former location – nor did its previous owner.
Paul Freundlich, his wife, and his youngest daughter Erika had moved to an apartment at Oderfeldstraße 40 II in November 1936. Paul and Irma lived there until they were deported.
The three daughters from Freundlich’s first marriage attended the Loewenberg Elementary School and then, in the late 1920s, the Hansa Secondary School (today the Helene Lange School), from which they graduated.
Ingeborg went to study pharmacy in Frankfurt am Main. She passed her exams in 1934. As the university administration had strongly advised Jewish students to leave the university, she emigrated to Switzerland to finish her studies. She later emigrated to the USA, where she no longer practiced her profession. She lived with her husband in New York.
Hildegard began studying philology in 1932 at the university in Frankfurt am Main, but left Germany immediately after Hitler came to power. She moved to Paris, where she finished her studies at the Sorbonne. In 1940 she married the German author Ernest L. Rothschild, with whom she emigrated to the US in 1941. There she worked as a teacher.
The third daughter, Gerda, finished school in 1933, but was not allowed to study chemisty in order to become a pharmacist. Instead she attended the State School for Women’s Professions in Hamburg for two years, where she studied fashion illustration and graphic design. In 1935 she continued her education in Berlin and worked at the Robinstock & Wagner fashion atelier, where she could gain practical experience. The company offered her the position of head illustrator, but as she saw no future for herself in Germany, she emigrated to Switzerland in 1936.
The youngest daughter, Erika, was often ostracized or harassed by the neighborhood children, especially after the April Boycott in 1933, when the pharmacy was vandalized with "Jew” painted across its front. The children proudly showed her their Hitler Youth uniforms. Erika had attended the Israelitic Girls’ School on Karolinenstraße since April 1924, and in 1933 was promoted to middle school. She wanted to attend secondary school afterwards at the Talmud Tora school, but it never came to that. She was expelled in the middle of the school year in March 1938. She went back to the school on Karolinenstraße, where she remained until she emigrated that November.
The November Pogrom in 1938 had direct consequences for the Freundlich family. Erika began preparing to emigrate to England. A teacher had advised her to go on a pupil’s transport. But Erika wasn’t sure. "I can’t leave my parents, I’m their only child still living at home.” But her parents encouraged her. She only had ten days to prepare. On 12 December the family took Erika to the Altona Train Station. She recalls: "It was horrible at the train station, but I didn’t notice. My father wore his blue coat, and probably a hat. He cried, he cried so much, and I couldn’t bear it … I couldn’t look at my mother, I didn’t want to see her, she might cry and then I’d cry. I was such a good girl, I didn’t look at them, I didn’t cry, my father cried and then we went to the train. He blessed me … That was the last time I saw my parents.”
In a letter to his daughter Gerda on 19 December 1938, Paul Freundlich described how fast everything had happened and the atmosphere at the train station. "I still can’t quite believe that Erika isn’t here anymore. It was all so sudden. … You can’t imagine the farewells between parents and children. I saw three little children, the youngest was maybe five years old and holding the hands of her brothers and sisters, who were only one or two years older. The littlest one didn’t want to leave its mother. The whole scene with the emigrating children was wretched … (and) horrifying. And still, despite everything, it was the best thing for the children.” At this point no one knew that they would be separated for so long, or perhaps forever. Erika thought that her emigrating would urge her parents to do the same.
But aside from their worries about their youngest daughter’s emigration, the parents had troubles with the tax authorities. On 21 November 1938 the Chief Customs Inspector at the Customs Investigation Office in Hamburg, Werner, issued a "security order” against the Freundlichs. He informed the Foreign Exchange Office of his suspicions that they were smuggling money out of the country after their daughter Gerda had applied for a clearance certificate to leave the country. A provisional security order had already been issued, copies were on their way to the Gestapo, the tax fraud investigation office, and the main office of the Hamburg Reichsbank. It was sent as registered mail to the Freundlichs. All of the wealthy family’s accounts were frozen, their securities were placed "under protection,” and an inventory of all assets, property, mortgages, etc. was made. The couple only had free access to earnings on their securities. They could also be sold, but only if Paul Freundlich deposited the proceeds in the frozen accounts at the Warburg Bank.
The couple had to sell a piece of property they owned at Schillerstraße 10 in Wandsbek. They were only allowed free access to 1,000 RM per month. In February 1939 Paul Freundlich asked for 460 RM for the months of January and February for his daughter Hildegard, who was studying in Paris, and in March for 280.69 RM for tuition to be paid to the Central Committee for Aid & Development in Berlin-Charlottenburg. The Foreign Exchange Office turned down the request, since his daughter was studying "in enemy territory”, but then had to grant it, because the Reich Association was in possession of the appropriate permit.
For his daughter Gerda, who had lived and studied in Switzerland since 1936, a security deposit in the case of flight from the Reich of securities valued at 8,000 RM had already been lodged. The Foreign Exchange Office noted that Erika, who was living in London, had become ill and she would likely return to Germany. Fortunately this was not the case.
The Foreign Exchange Office remained busy investigating and decimating the Freundlich’s assets. The questionnaire that Paul Freundlich submitted showed that he still had a considerable fortune, enough that a "Reich Flight Tax” of 33,000 RM was levied. The installments for the "Jews’ Property Levy”, with which Jews were made to pay for the damages caused by the November Pogrom, came to 23,000 RM for Paul, Irma, and Gerda. A deposit of 8,000 RM was demanded for Erika on 18 December 1938, four days before she emigrated.
The amount allowed them for living expenses was reduced. Of the 1,505 RM requested for the five-member family (with three children abroad), including 175 RM for rent, only 450 RM for two persons, Paul and Irma, were approved.
The smallest expense that could not be paid with the 450 RM had to be requested. In the case of the Freundlichs their requests between May and November 1940 were, among other things, 30 RM for synagogue tithes, 22 RM for the repair of a fur collar, 25 RM for air raid bunker fees, and "30 RM as a gift for Hermann Wollenberg from Breslau, my cousin who is in need.” In December 1940 Paul Freundlich requested 100 RM for Christmas presents. The requests were generally granted.
At end of the year, he requested 30 RM as reimbursement for expenses incurred when his wife began working in Altona. Irma Freundlich was one of the 790 Jews in Hamburg who were conscripted as forced labor. Her husband informed the Foreign Exchange Office: "As of 16 Dec. 1940, my wife Irma Sara Freundlich is employed at the Teckentrop canning company at Feldstraße 19 in Altona. The Teckentrop company deposits her wages into my secured account, to which I have limited access. In consideration of the increased expenses in connection with this employment, I request that my allowance be increased by 50 RM per month.” The request was granted for six months.
The parents continued to be concerned about their daughter Gerda. As a refugee in Switzerland she was not allowed to work and supported herself with the tuition fees that her father paid until April 1940. She took pattern-cutting courses and improved her French to be able to work as a language teacher. In 1941 she received a small sum from her mother’s estate. After all support coming from Germany was cut off, she eked out a meager existence. On the brink of starvation, she received subsidies from a Jewish relief organization.
Although there is little documented about any plans the Freundlichs had to emigrate, it can be assumed that they intended to join relatives in the US and start a new life there. Besides their daughters Ingeborg and Hildegard, Irma Freundlich’s parents and her sister and brother-in-law lived there.
Irma Freundlich would have been able to get a visa under the quota for German immigrants, but since Paul Freundlich was born in Posen, which had belonged to Poland since 1919, he would have been subject to the smaller Polish quota. This was a tragic development, and the couple was now stuck in Germany, since Irma Freundlich was not willing to leave her husband behind. Since Europe was at war, only emigration overseas came into consideration. Documents in Erika’s possession prove that Paul Freundlich was denied a visa by the Brazilian consulate, since he could not prove that he had relatives in Brazil. The country had also placed an immigration ban on pharmacists, as their foreign degrees were no longer recognized and they would be unable to work in their professions.
In October and November 1941 Ingeborg and Gerda attempted to acquire Cuban visas for their parents. They were apparently successful, as a telegram from Ingeborg dated 7 November 1941 reads: "Visa 8876 cabled to Cuban legation. Acquiring ship tickets.” On the next day Paul Freundlich submitted an application to emigrate to Cuba. But by this time Jews had been banned from leaving the country.
The daughters’ concern about their parents, after they heard about the "evacuation” of their relatives Heimann and Meta Freundlich to Minsk and of Josef Beith’s five-member family to Lodz, is evident from a telegram dated November 1941: "Parents are in danger of the same.”
According to information received by the New York Red Cross, when the Cuban visa was finally granted in October 1943, it was sent back with the stamp "address unknown.”
In July 1941, Paul and Irma Freundlich had taken a short summer trip. That fall, rumors were spreading about so-called work details in the East. The rumors became fact in October 1941 when the first deportation lists were sent out.
Paul Freundlich tried to plan ahead, in the hope that good provisions would be of use, and made a special request of 400 RM for the up-coming "evacuation.” It was granted on 4 December 1941. Is this evidence that the Freundlichs were to be deported to Riga on 6 December, but that their deportation was postponed? The permit was extended to 10 February 1942, and then for another month.
In July the Freundlichs received notification of their deportation at their Oderfelderstraße address. They went to the collection point and boarded the train for Auschwitz on 11 July 1942. There all traces of them are lost. Paul Freundlich was 63 years old, Irma Freundlich was 46.
After the war Gerda Freundlich emigrated from Switzerland to the US, where she lived in New York. As a trained illustrator and painter, she tried to find work in her new home, but had difficulties establishing herself because of illness. When she became a US citizen, she took the name of Gordé. Her financial situation only improved in 1964 when she moved back to Switzerland and could live from her German pension. However, she broke off all contact with her family. She died in 1984.
In May 1945 Erika Freundlich was living in London. She was 23 years old. She had corresponded with her parents in Hamburg until the outbreak of the war. After that she received information about her parents from her sisters Ingeborg and Hildegard in the US until contact was broken in 1941 when the US entered the war.
Erika attended a private middle school in Islington from January 1939 until July 1940. She was forced to interrupt her schooling due to illness, but continued when she recovered. In July 1940 she finally had to leave school when it was closed due to the war, and she began working in the offices of the Jewish Agency for Palestine in the fall of 1940.
Erika knew nothing about her parents’ deportation to Auschwitz. "I always thought that when the war was over we’d see each other again.” Her older sisters, on the other hand, knew about what had happened in Hamburg.
Some time after the end of the war, one of Erika Freundlich’s work colleagues showed her a classified advertisement in the Aufbau, a German-language newspaper published in New York. At that time, countless ads were submitted by people searching for lost relatives. Erika’s sister Hildegard had submitted "I’m looking for my parents Paul Freundlich and Irma Freundlich, née Beith … Thankful for any information.” Erika was now forced to face the facts: "That’s how I found out. But no one answered the ad.” She visited the tracing service regularly and read the lists of names of concentration camp survivors, but never found her parents’ names. "I went every day and stood in front of the lists and cried, and I never found them. That was the end.” In 1946 Erika moved to the US, where she married in 1947 and started a family. She is thankful to England for taking her in, but questions why there was no possiblity of accepting the parents of the children they harbored. For a long time she retained the hope that her mother had survived. She wanted to provide her children with a carefree childhood. It was only in the 1980s that she first spoke about her own fate and that of her parents.
Erika Estis felt a strong connection to Hamburg and to Germany. She first visited Hamburg with her children in the 1990s, and then once again with her grandchildren. In an e-mail she wrote: "Please don’t forget to write about the bells of the Christuskirche. I still hear them ringing.”
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Astrid Louven
Quellen : 1; 2 (R 1938/3250; FVg 5153); StaH 214-1 Gerichtsvollzieherwesen, 271; StaH 352-3 Medizinalkollegium ID 2/3 Band 1+2; StaH 351-11 AfW, 200696; 141122; 060879; 260414; Frank Bajohr, Arisierung, S. 111–113; Esther Hell, Jüdische Apotheker im Fadenkreuz, S. 18, 85, 93, 126–129; Ina Lorenz/ Jörg Berkemann, Streitfall Jüdischer Friedhof Ottensen, S. 136, 153; Astrid Louven, Ohne Rückfahrkarte, S. 95–100; Astrid Louven/Ursula Pietsch, Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Wandsbek mit den Walddörfern, S. 27–32; Astrid Louven, Bespitzelt: Die Familie Beith, S. 208–211; Astrid Louven, Jüdische Geschäftsleute, S. 41–42; Ursula Randt, Talmud Tora Schule, S. 254; Festschrift 100 Jahre Helene-Lange-Gymnasium; Brief Paul Freundlich an Gerda Freundlich vom 19.12.38 und Dokumente über Kuba-Auswanderung, Privatbesitz Erika Estis, geb. Freundlich; E-Mails von Erika Estis vom 4.11.2003, 6.11.2003, 10.11.2003, 6.12. 2006, 16.12.2006, 15.8.2008; Gespräche mit Erika Estis 2006, 2008, 2009; Telefongespräch mit Erika Estis 19.12.2010.