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Erna Goldschmidt * 1902
Grottenstraße 9 (Altona, Othmarschen)
Erna Goldschmidt, born on 9 Sept. 1902, deported on 23 June 1943 to Theresienstadt, liberated on 8 May 1945, died on 8 May 1977 in Hamburg
Käthe Goldschmidt-Starke, born on 27 Sept. 1905, deported on 23 June 1943 to Theresienstadt, liberated on 8 May 1945, died on 10 Aug. 1990 in Hamburg
Erna and Käthe Goldschmidt grew up in Altona as the daughters of the banker Iska Goldschmidt and his wife Hulda, née Schönberg. The family belonged to the upper stratum of the Altona Jewish Community. They lived in Altona-Ottensen at Ohlendorffsallee 4, today’s Susettestrasse.
After the appropriate training, Erna Goldschmidt worked at her father’s bank, the "Firma Louis Goldschmidt” in Hamburg at Pelzerstrasse 9. The Jewish Community listed Erna Goldschmidt as a member since Apr. 1927. Starting in 1938, she worked as an employee of the Hamburg Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband) headed by Secretary Max Plaut.
Käthe Goldschmidt, later married name Goldschmidt-Starke, began studying German, philosophy, and art history at the University of Heidelberg in 1927, continuing her education at the University of Munich, extended by the subject of theater and literary studies. Intending to choose a career in theater, she worked as an actress and directress, especially with the Akademische Spielschar in Munich, an ensemble directed by Helmut Käutner. She counted on her engagement at the theater. However, the Nazis’ assumption of power destroyed her career plans. In 1934, the Spielschar was dissolved and all Jewish men and women excluded from the Reich Chamber of Culture (Reichskulturkammer) in 1935.
On 18 Nov. 1935, Käthe Goldschmidt had a son, Pit Goldschmidt, with her boyfriend Martin Starke. In order to save her and her illegitimate son from National Socialist persecution, a non-Jewish fellow student agreed to marry her. But the plan failed. The Nuremberg Laws [on race] dating from Sept. 1935 prohibited the marriage of Jewish and non-Jewish partners. In Nov. 1936, Käthe Goldschmidt was interrogated by the Political Police in Munich on charges of "racial defilement” ("Rassenschande”) and was given the condition to separate from the supposed father of the child.
She returned to Hamburg. She left her son, disguised as an "Aryan” orphan, back in Munich in the care of the Catholic Blaue Kreuz ("Blue Cross”). Until the ban on all Jewish cultural activities, she worked as a dramaturge at the theater of the Jewish Cultural Federation (Jüdischer Kulturbund) in Hamburg. Her son suspects that to her protection, she was listed like her sister as an employee of the Hamburg district branch of the Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband), but to his knowledge, she did not actually work there.
When Iska Goldschmidt died in 1938, the widowed Hulda Goldschmidt and her daughters Erna and Käthe continued the business as a community of joint heirs. However, the Nazi state plundered the prosperous Jews. First, the family was forced to pay a "levy on Jewish assets” ("Judenvermögensabgabe”) amounting to 4,750 RM (reichsmark). The liquidation of the Louis Goldschmidt banking house followed. Like all Jews, the Goldschmidts also had to hand in personal effects of value, such as fur goods, cameras, and electrical appliances; they were not allowed to keep pets anymore, and their accounts were put under "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung"), i.e. blocked.
At the beginning of Oct. 1940, the mother and daughters received the order to move into a "Jewish house,” as indicated in the files of the Restitution Office (Amt für Wiedergutmachung). Initially, the sisters occupied two rooms at Hindenburgstrasse 111, then they took in their mother, by then seriously ill, into an attic room there.
On 25 Oct. 1941, the first deportation of Hamburg Jews to Lodz took place. "To replace possible no-shows,” the Gestapo had prepared the additional list comprised of 200 names that also scheduled Käthe, Erna, and Hulda Goldschmidt for deportation. That did not happen. One month later, the mother died.
In Sept. 1942, in the course of the ghettoization of Jews, the sisters were forcibly quartered in the cramped "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”) on Beneckestrasse 2 that belonged to the Hamburg Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband). On the third floor, Käthe and Erna Goldschmidt shared a corner of the hallway separated by a folding screen. According to the Restitution Office, the occupants of the house were under particular pressure, for located in the lower part of the house was the Gestapo office.
Starting in the summer of 1942, all Jewish homes and institutions were evacuated and transports comprised of the frail and elderly were put together. When the number of Jewish Community employees required was no longer as large, an increasing number of staff working at the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland) also received the deportation order. Eventually, the Reich Association got the order to dissolve.
Käthe Goldschmidt was arrested on 10 June 1943 on the orders of the Gestapo, Hamburg Secret State Police headquarters. From 11 June 1943 onward, the occupants of the complex at Beneckestrasse 2–6 were under house arrest. The offices of the Community on the ground floor of house no. 2 were closed and put under seal. At that time, the last 30 salaried employees of the Hamburg district branch were scheduled to be taken to Theresienstadt along with 70 other Jews, who had previously been deferred. The "Jews’ houses” ("Judenhäuser”) at Beneckestrasse 2, 4, and 6 served as a collection point for the seven deportations taking place in 1943. On 23 June 1943, Erna Goldschmidt was picked up from house no. 4 and Käthe Goldschmidt from house no. 2 and they were deported to Theresienstadt.
In her memoirs published in 1975, Käthe Goldschmidt-Starke describes the deportation setting out from the Hannoversche Bahnhof: "No – on our transport to Theresienstadt, no one started screaming. And no one kicked us in the back as I had still seen eleven months before in the yard of the school at Sternschanze [...] The head of the "Jewish Affairs Department” ("Judendezernat”) of the Hamburg Secret State Police headquarters, ‘Herr’ Göttsche, who gave us the farewell escort along with his staff, showed himself several nuances less formal than usually. No movie cameras were whirring, no cameras strapped on [the necks of staff] took private pictures of pretty female helpers, of wretched figures on the platform, or of stretchers with dying old men. By comparison [to other deportation dates], nothing was happening today after all. A small transport comprised of 108 souls only. However, with this small transport, abducting the last employees of the Community and the last person cared for as well, the officers of the "Jewish Affairs Department” saw their field of work at home vanish and the front come dangerously close for themselves. And it was that fact that softened them up. […] During the registration process for the transport list, an unusually conciliatory tone prevailed. No blows, not even loud commands; no one had their head submerged under the water pipe just for fun. With fingertips, the secretaries of the Gestapo, two attractive young women, handed us back our Jewish identification cards, in which they had stamped that the holder of said card was evacuated as of the current day, thus checking us off their list. Struck in this way from the list of the living, we were permitted against all tradition to return once more to our room to spend the remaining wait there. We used this stay of execution to give emergency signals to friends in neutral countries, hurried lines whose tenor was: Today I am relocating my place of residence to Theresienstadt, in the Protectorate … On the remote freight station, the Hannoversche [Bahnhof], which had been the scene of many Jews’ transports already, began for us the adventure from which no one had returned yet. […] Merciless in the clear air, the procession of bearers presented itself, carrying our bedridden ill, our oldest, and those unfit for transport across the empty platform to the cars turned into couchettes in a makeshift manner. Tidily done up, as if by a washer of corpses, taken good care of one last time, they disappeared behind the sliding doors, vanished from the sights of their relatives ‘interrelated to Aryans’ [‘arisch versippt’] that accompanied them helplessly, and were subjected to a fate that would entail ‘starving to death’ … The doors were pushed shut. The transport had been processed. We noticed that we were in motion. – At that moment ended the time-honored tradition of the High German Israelite Community in Altona, and that of the highly respected and prosperous Hamburg German-Israelite Community.”
In Theresienstadt, Käthe Goldschmidt established, via the cleaning service, contact to the "prominent persons” ("Prominente”) of the camp. Later, she was employed at the central library.
Erna Goldschmidt worked in Theresienstadt on the Jewish Council (Judenrat) of the ghetto.
On 8 May 1945, the sisters were liberated by the Red Army. Due to the typhus quarantine, they were allowed to leave the camp only on 28 July 1945, when they embarked on their way home to Hamburg.
Back in Hamburg, Erna Goldschmidt got involved in the rebuilding of the Jewish Community. She also worked for the Jewish Trust Cooperation for Germany and, in a leading function, for the "Jewish Community Fund in Northwest Germany” (Jüdischer Gemeindefonds Nordwestdeutschland) that took over the remaining stocks of Jewish property in the British zone. She was active in various umbrella organizations and was involved in non-Jewish organizations in an honorary capacity.
In Sept. 1945, Käthe Goldschmidt and her sister moved to Grottenstrasse 9 in Othmarschen. In 1947, Käthe Goldschmidt took her son Pit from Munich back into her home. She managed to complete her doctorate in theater studies in Munich in 1948. At the end of the 1940s, she married Martin Starke, her son’s father, who had survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. In 1975, she published her memoirs concerning the Theresienstadt Ghetto under a title borrowed from a Nazi propaganda film: Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt ["The Führer Gives a City to the Jews”]. She had brought a collection of drawings and documents from Theresienstadt to Hamburg – an album of biographies and photos of prominent persons interned there, put together by the ghetto self-administration at the end of 1943; in addition, 62 watercolors and drawings by 20 professional and amateur artists as well as the statement of accounts of the central ghetto library up to Nov. 1943. This so-called "Theresienstadt bundle of documents” ("Theresienstadt-Konvolut”) was displayed at an exhibition of the Altona Museum in 2002.
Erna Goldschmidt passed away on 8 May 1977. Käthe Goldschmidt-Starke continued to live in Hamburg until 10 Aug 1990; her husband had already died in 1957.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Birgit Gewehr
Quellen: 1; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 2447 (Goldschmidt, Hulda), 25969 (Goldschmidt, Erna), 1258 (Goldschmidt, Emil) und 25970 (Goldschmidt, Erna); StaH 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden, 992 e 2 Band 1 (Deportationsliste Lodz 25.10.1941); Starke, Der Führer; Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden (Hrsg.), Das jüdische Hamburg, S. 238; Meyer (Hrsg.), Die Verfolgung, S. 71; Wamser/Weinke, Eine verschwundene Welt, S. 233; Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden, Hamburg (Hrsg.), Das Jüdische Hamburg; Gespräch mit Pit Goldschmidt, 7.10.2007.
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