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Ruth Neuhaus * 1918
Woldsenweg 5 (Hamburg-Nord, Eppendorf)
Ruth Neuhaus, b. 10.25.1918 in Bebra, deported to Lodz on 10.25.1941, then on to Chelmno on 7.12.1944
Ruth Neuhaus was the daughter of Jewish parents. Her father, Isaak Neuhaus, was a well-respected cattle dealer in and around Bebra. Her mother, Selma Neuhaus, née Lindau, was also from there. Bebra, located in what was then Hesse-Nassau, was a village of about 2500 inhabitants at the beginning of the 1920s; with more than 130 members, its Jewish congregation was both of appreciable size and active. For example, Ruth’s eventual teacher, Männy Rosenbusch, was able to establish a literary club with 70 members and a synagogue singing club with 28.
Selma Neuhaus died when Ruth was seven years old. There were now four children and an adolescent without a mother: Gerda (b. 6.3.1906), Hugo (b. 12.6.1912), the twins Frieda and Max (b. 7.28.1914), and Ruth, the youngest. Later the father remarried.
The cattle trade afforded the large family a good standard of living. According to the tax declarations from 1930 to 1932 (the height of the economic crisis), income stood at 13,000 RM, 15,000 RM, and then 12,000 RM. In 1933, the business collapsed. Antisemitic propaganda and threats from clients led to a plunge in income to 3,000 RM. The Neuhaus parents had put the prosperous years to good use: all the children, with the exception of Ruth, had attended secondary schools. Ruth was 15 years old when the National Socialists took power in January 1933; the Nazi dictatorship made that impossible for her, a severe blow. For, according to her siblings, fellow students, and teachers, she must have been a brilliant person. At an early age, she was passionately interested in medical matters and had only one professional goal in mind. She absolutely wanted to study to be a physician. All her efforts in this direction were thwarted.
By 1933, Ruth had completed eight years in the Jewish school, but there was no further progress to make. There was no secondary school in Bebra. The schools in Rotenburg/Fulda and Hersfeld did not take Jews. This was in accordance with the rigorous policy of the Nazi Gauleiter’s office in Electoral Hesse. The Kassel lawyer, Roland Freisler, later the President of the People’s Court, had been deputy Gauleiter since 1925 and was already a relentless antisemitic agitator. In spite of these hardships, Ruth did not give up trying to further educate herself in the fundamentals in order to make a career in medicine. From 1933 to1935, she took private lessons in Hebraic religion. She applied to train as a nurse – all in vain. She wanted to be an assistant in an x-ray laboratory – rejected. The end of all her hopes to realize her heart’s desire became obvious when her brother Hugo, who had studied dentistry at Marburg since 1933 was forbidden to attend the university in 1934.
Ruth wanted to go to business school in order at least to qualify for office work. Not a single private school accepted Jews. Her recommendations, her intelligence, her diligence did not interest them. All her remaining efforts to find even a modest apprenticeship were for naught. So she filled in with office work in her father’s business which continued to shrink until it came to an end in 1938.
There followed one more painful experience: Kassel and Bebra were the first German cities to witness the November 1938 pogroms, on 7 November, even before the signal for widespread anti-Jewish violence was given from Munich. Under the direction of the Storm Troopers, the synagogue and school in Bebra were completely demolished, but not set afire because the neighboring houses belonged to "Aryan" residents of Bebra. Many private homes were stormed and laid waste. After Goebbels expressly praised the violence in Electoral Hesse over the radio, the hordes returned on the next day. This time they fetched books and furnishings from the houses they had already vandalized and threw them into a fire on the village green, then called Adolf-Hitler-Platz. Freisler’s seed bore splendid fruit.
By 1938–1939 at the latest, the regulations against Jews working in the health services extinguished the last little spark of hope that Ruth might have been harboring. We do not know for certain why Ruth, just 21 years old, left her home and moved to Hamburg. An aunt seems to have been living there. Perhaps, she convinced herself that in this cosmopolitan city it was possible to find a way to move forward, perhaps even in her preferred field of interest, medicine. This consideration cannot be completely excluded. In any case, she at first lived in the Grindel quarter, at Grindelstieg 4, a street that no longer exists. Toward the end of the year, she moved in with the Alberto and Marie Anna Jonas Family at Woldsenweg 5 on the second floor.
Alberto was the school director at the Israelite Girls‘ School on Karolinenstrasse; Marie Anna was intermittently a physician at her husband’s school. The Jonas couple had a daughter, b. in March 1924, who was six years younger than the 15-year old Ruth. Esther, who survived deportations to Theresienstadt and then to Auschwitz, had warm memories of Ruth as a very friendly and lively person. Ruth was engaged as the lady of the house’s helper. In addition to free room and board, she received 20 RM a month. That might seem to be little pay. However, as far as such employment went, it was often thought of as filling a mutual need. Ruth had to do incidental household tasks but also had convivial social contact with the family, and certainly there were always opportunities to ask the experienced Dr. Jonas about medically related matters. Ruth’s eagerness in this area was later repeatedly emphasized by her dentist brother Hugo.
According to Alberto Jonas’ communal religion tax record, the family had to leave the dwelling on Woldsenweg and move into a so-called Jew house at Laufgraben 39. For Ruth there are no particulars. On her communal religion tax record there is a notation from 25 October 1941, her 23rd birthday, "withdrawal because of resettlement." This harmless sounding formula meant: deportation to the Lodz ghetto, for most, a way-station on the road to death. On the transport list from the Gestapo control center in Hamburg she was classified as a substitute person, "to be held in reserve in case of a shortfall.”
Ruth Neuhaus managed to survive in Lodz for two years and almost nine months. Of essential importance here was the fact that she had work first in agriculture, then in gardening, and then in various tailoring functions, the main branch of production in Lodz. In 1943, her legitimation card in the ghetto labor office listed her as a machinist in factory 85, a tailoring shop at Goldschmiedegasse 18. She was apparently able to avoid an "exit order" (2 May 1942), that is deportation to the Chelmno extermination camp, by petitioning the "department of relocation" with reference to her "vital agricultural work."
The report register of the ghetto records her "notice of departure" under the date 12 July 1944. She supposedly left Lodz for work outside the ghetto. However, on 12 July, transport no. 84, comprising 700 people, went to Chelmno where they were immediately murdered.
Officially Ruth Neuhaus is considered missing. The district court established her date of death as 8 May 1945.
Her siblings left Germany in timely fashion and survived in South Africa.
Translator: Richard Levy
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: November 2017
© Johannes Grossmann
Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 8; StaH 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden, 992e2 Band 5; AFW 251018 Neuhaus, Ruth; Kropat, Reichskristallnacht, 1997; www.alemannia-judaica.de/bebra_synagoge.htm; www.hassia-judaica, Jüdisches Kleinstadt- und Landleben in Hessen/Orte/Bebra (eingesehen am 1.2.2009); persönliche Auskünfte von Esther Bauer-Jonas; persönliche Auskünfte von Dr. Heinrich Nuhn, Geschichtsverein Rotenburg/Fulda, Februar 2009; USHMM, RG 15.083, M300/358-360, Fritz Neubauer, Universität Bielefeld, E-Mail vom 11.6.2010.
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