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Leon Beckmann * 1873

Büschstraße 7 (Hamburg-Mitte, Neustadt)

JG. 1873
"VERLEGT" 23.9.1940
ERMORDET 23.9.1940

Leon Beckmann, b. 1.5.1873 in Krakow (Wegrzce), murdered on 9.23.1940 in the Brandenburg on the Havel River killing facility

Commemorative stone in the Hamburg New City, at Büschstraße 7

Leon Beckmann was born on 5 January 1873 in Wegrzce near Krakow (the son of Dawid Beckmann, who was, according to the birth register, a "speculator from Krakow,” that is, a sort of deal-maker, trader), and Gusta, née Keiner, from Kudowa. His parents practiced Judaism. From 9 September 1897, Leon Beckmann directed the Hamburg enterprise, "Beckmann & Jörgenson,” along with Niels Martin Jörgenson, the business manager. Leon Beckmann must have already been resident in Hamburg before taking up his entrepreneurial career, because he first worked as an office clerk for the predecessor firm, "Alexander Beckmann.” There is no evidence of the bachelor and Polish citizen having obtained Hamburg citizenship. "Beckmann & Jörgenson” was the product of the individual enterprises of Alexander Beckmann, which now belonged to Niels Martin Jörgensen, Alexander, and Leon Beckmann. The purpose of the business was "provision of services to the port of Hamburg.” The tradition of providing logistical services under the auspices of Beckmann & Jörgensen, L. L. C. continues to the present day.

When Leon Beckmann became a partner and director, he was only 24 years old. Even in present-day circumstances this would have been a dynamic career but might have had something to do with the fact that the previous owner, Alexander Beckmann, was a relative, perhaps an uncle. A later director, David Beckmann, could also have been a relative.

After the founding of the Beckmann & Jörgensen enterprise in 1897, Alexander Beckmann resided in Hamburg, while Leon Beckmann and Niels Martin Jörgensen’s headquarters were in Copenhagen. The new business got another director in October 1900, the merchant David Beckmann. According to the commercial registry, there were branch offices in Bremen and Emden. In the Hamburg directory, the purpose of the business was described as: "Expediting and Consignment” (1900) and "Control of Grain Loading, Expediting, and Consignment” (1905).

From the address directory entry it is apparent that the owners were very active outside Hamburg, Leon Beckmann in Copenhagen and Antwerp, Alexander Beckmann and Niels Martin Jörgensen in Copenhagen. This explains why for Leon Beckmann a private address entry in the Hamburg New City, Büschstrasse 7, can only be found from 1900. He never married. The three partners, Alexander and Leon Beckmann, as well as Niels Martin Jörgensen, were still the legal owners in the spring of 1933, when the enterprise was placed in non-Jewish hands.

Already in 1911, Leon Beckmann had left the concern for health reasons. After a brief stay in the "Friedrichsberg asylum for the mentally ill,” he was sent to the "Langenhorn asylum.” The reason for both committals is not recorded.

Leon Beckmann must have been released from Langenhorn at least once, because he was at a later, unknown point in time readmitted to Friedrichsberg. Apparently, there followed a permanent stay in Langenhorn starting in 1912. From his patient record, the only surviving document from Friedrichsberg, no precise information can be deduced.

In the spring and summer of 1940, the "Euthanasia” Center in Berlin, at Tiergartenstrasse 4, planned a special action against Jews held in public and private mental institutions. The plan called for Jews living in those institutions to be collected in holding centers. The Langenhorn psychiatric hospital in Hamburg was the designated such place for northern Germany. All the establishments in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, and Mecklenburg received the directive to transfer the Jews in their institutions to Langenhorn by 18 September 1940. After all the Jewish patients in north German institutions arrived in Langenhorn, among them Leon Beckmann, 136 people were transported to Brandenburg on the Havel River. On that very day they were killed by carbon monoxide gas in a repurposed room of the former prison. Only Ilse Herta Zachmann initially escaped this fate (see her biographical entry).

It is not known when, if applicable, family members received knowledge of Leon Beckmann’s death. In all the documented notices, it was maintained that he or the others had died in Chelm (Polish) or Cholm (German), east of Lublin. The murdered, however, had never been in that place. The Polish mental hospital, that existed there formerly, no longer existed after SS units on 12 January 1940 had murdered almost all its patients. Moreover, there was no German registry office there. The invention of these offices was later used to concoct dates of death, which disguised the murder action and also justified the claims for the costs of care for extended periods, that is, after the patients were already dead.

On 14 February 1941, the foreign currency office of the Chief Financial Authority of Hamburg directed a form letter to Beckmann & Jörgensen. It contained the false assertion that Leon Beckmann had shifted his residence "to a foreign country (the General Gouvernment of Poland).” He was therefore, according to the currency laws, to be regarded as a "foreigner.” The value of his assets was thus subject to the currency limitations for "emigrants.” In light of this, on 31 March, the firm was requested "to approve a credit of RM 500 per month to Mr. Leon Beckmann’s current account,” which was received beginning in April. Added to the pay out from Beckmann & Jörgensen to Leon Beckmann’s account was RM 455 to the "Chelm Asylum.” At this point, Leon Beckmann had been dead for more than six months.

Beckmann & Jörgensen were not only deceived about the true destination of the 23 September 1940 transport, they were in addition swindled into paying the costs of care for Leon Beckmann, who was already long dead.

Translator: Richard Levy
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Ingo Wille

Quellen: 1; 2; 4; 5; 9; AB; StaH 133-1 III Staatsarchiv III, 3171-2/4 U.A. 4, Liste psychisch kranker jüdischer Patientinnen und Patienten der psychiatrischen Anstalt Langenhorn, die aufgrund nationalsozialistischer "Euthanasie"-Maßnahmen ermordet wurden, zusammengestellt von Peter von Rönn, Hamburg (Projektgruppe zur Erforschung des Schicksals psychisch Kranker in Langenhorn); 231-3 Handelsregister A 13 Bd 20, A 12 Bd 31; 314-15 Oberfinanzpräsident R 1940_510 (Leon Beckmann), FVg 8497; 352-8/7 Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn Abl. 1/1995 Aufnahme-/Abgangsbuch Langenhorn 26.1.1939–27.1.1940; UKE/IGEM, Archiv, Patienten-Karteikarte Leon Beckmann der Staatskrankenanstalt Friedrichsberg; Archiwum Narodowe w Krakowie, Geburtseintrag Leon Beckmann; (Zugriff 24.8.2015); Mitteilung Handelskammer Hamburg vom 20.8.2014 betr. Beckmann & Jörgensen.
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