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Already layed Stumbling Stones

Willi Wolff * 1888

Heinrich-Barth-Straße 8 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)

1941 Riga

further stumbling stones in Heinrich-Barth-Straße 8:
Rolf Arno Baruch, Marion Baruch, Georg Baruch, Bernhard Baruch, Dan Baruch, Gertrud Baruch, Moritz Meyers, Martha Meyers, Berthold Walter, Elinor Wolff, Georg Wolff, Leo Wolff, Lilly Wolff, Toni Wolff, Machla Wolff

Willy / Willi Wolff, born on 5 Apr. 1888 in Rendsburg, deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941
Machla Minna Wolff, née Spatz, born on 21 May 1904 in Kalusz/Kalusch (former Galicia, today Ukraine), deported on 6 Dec. 1941 from Hamburg to Riga, from there on 9 Aug. 1944 to the Stutthof concentration camp
Georg Wolff, born on 29 Sept. 1894 in Celle, deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941
Lilly / Lilli Wolff, née Engers, born on 22 May 1900 in Hamburg, deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941
Elinor/ Ellinor Esther Wolff, born 9 Sept. 1935 in Hamburg, deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941

Heinrich-Barth-Strasse 8

The brothers Willy and Georg Wolff were born in Rendsburg and Celle as the third and sixth sons of the married couple Michael Max, called Max, and Anna Wolff, née Cussel. Her parents, Max (born on 11 Mar. 1854 in Friedrichstadt) and Anna (born on 14 Feb. 1856 in Schleswig), who were Jewish, had six other children. After the oldest four, Bella on 10 Apr. 1885, Julius on 8 Aug. 1886, and Willy on 5 Apr. 1888 were born in Rendsburg, and Adolf on 22 Sept. 1891 in Burgdorf, Max and Anna settled in Celle at the end of 1891, where Max worked as a self-employed butcher. There, the children Paula were born on 26 Jan. 1893, Georg on 29 Sept. 1894, Johanna on 3 Apr. 1896, and finally, Elsa on 21 Jan. 1899.

After several moves within Celle, the family moved to Hannover in June 1911, although by this time, not all of the children were living in their parents’ household anymore. For example, Julius, who had taken up his father’s profession, settled in Stettin (today Szczecin in Poland) after several moves, where he married Erika Stahl, born on 17 Jan. 1884, with whom he had the children Ruth and Manfred.

While Willy completed an apprenticeship as a businessman, his younger brother Georg strove to become a teacher. Until the age of 14, Georg attended "elementary” school ("Elementar”-Schule), then secondary school, and finally, the Jewish teacher training college (Lehrerseminar) in Hannover, where he also took his exam. This teacher training college was founded in 1848 as one among few of its kind in Germany at that time to provide a profound education for prospective Jewish teachers. After his exam, Georg first worked at an orphanage school in Königsberg in East Prussia (today Kaliningrad in Russia), then at the Israelitische Taubstummen-Anstalt in Berlin, an institute for the deaf-mute founded in 1873 that was regarded as the most modern and well-equipped institution of its kind.

There is no reliable information about when Georg moved to Hamburg. However, he met Lilly Engers, a photographer trained in arts and crafts, who was born there on 22 May 1900. The two married on 4 May 1928 at the Records Office No. 3 in Hamburg and had three daughters. The oldest, Bertha Anneliese, was born on 10 Feb. 1929, followed by Renate Auguste on 19 Oct. 1933, and almost two years later, on 9 Sept. 1935, by Ellinor Esther.

From the time he settled in Hamburg until 1928, Georg worked at the Talmud-Tora-Realschule on Grindel, where he received an annual salary of 2,400 RM (reichsmark) for teaching 28 periods a week. From 1928 to 1938, he worked at the Israelite Temple, first on Poolstrasse, then in the new building on Oberstrasse, where he was able to move into an official residence with his family. This apartment was rent-free and included light and heating. The place consisted of four rooms – two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room – and a kitchen on top of that, and it was well furnished, among other things with a piano and an oil painting from the eighteenth century. Georg also received a salary of about 400 RM per month. The Israelite Temple Association (Tempelverband) was a religious-liberal community within the Hamburg Jewish Community. In the course of the Enlightenment, the Temple Association was formed in 1817/18 to take up the ideas of a life guided by reason. With its innovations in the liturgy of the religious services and the proclaimed guidelines, the Temple Association allowed its members – most of whom were well-to-do and whose donations made it possible to finance some of the services independently of the Community – to identify with both their Judaism and the city of Hamburg as their home.

Georg’s duties as chief sexton (Oberküster) might have included not only the administration and preparation of services but also the teaching of religion. As the wife of the chief sexton, Lilly worked in the Gabriel-Riesser-Saal, a hall belonging to the temple, by taking over the catering for guests, for example, at youth events.

Georg’s brother, the merchant Willy Wolff, settled in Hamburg on 4 Apr.1917 as a grocer. At this time, he was married to Emilie, née Levisohn, born on 15 July 1877. Their son Ludwig was born on 12 Dec. 1913. In the first winter in Hamburg, the family received assistance in the form of fuel from the Jewish Community. After this difficult start, Willy ran his "Krämerladen” (general store) in Hamburg until 1936.

Besides Willy and Georg, other members of the Wolff family had moved from Celle to Hamburg: the parents, the brother Adolf, and the sisters Paula and Elsa. Adolf served as an infantryman during World War I from 1914 to 1918, as did two of his three brothers, including Willy, who was already discharged from the army in 1917, however. In 1918, Adolf arrived in Hamburg, where he married Martha, née Stiefel, born on 9 Apr. 1887, on 2 Sept. 1923. This marriage remained childless. Adolf was self-employed until 1938 with a bakery operation at Rappstrasse 7.

Due to continuing unemployment, his father, Max Wolff, had also decided to turn his back on Hannover in order to build up a new life in Hamburg. In Apr. 1915, Max and Anna as well as Paula and Elsa probably arrived in Hamburg. The two daughters, who were still unmarried, lived in their father’s household. However, Max was not able to find another job in Hamburg either. Anna Wolff died in Hamburg at the age of 72 on 3 June 1928. From 18 Feb. 1918 to 30 Sept. 1933, the family – on 13 Apr. 1930 Elsa, married name Dessau by then, had given birth to her son Heinz – lived in a four-room apartment at Grindelhof 89, which cost them a monthly rent of 53.30 RM. With her salary as a sales clerk at the Karstadt Department Store, Paula supported the four-person household. In addition, the sons also assisted, as far as possible, with money or in kind.

Until 1933, the members of the Wolff family lived in regular circumstances. After the Nazis came to power, sister Paula, who was employed at Karstadt, soon felt the discrimination of the Nazi regime: She lost her job and thus her salary, which had supported the entire household. The self-employed business owners Willy and Adolf also ran into financial difficulties, so that they not only suffered everyday discrimination, but also had to fear for their economic existence.

Willy’s business apparently did worse even before Jan. 1933, as he did not pay any Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) to the Jewish Community and was allegedly in debt. However, in the summer of 1933, he still generated sales of around 1,100–1,200 RM, which was used to pay all running costs and the rent of 130–150 RM for a five-and-a-half-room apartment on the ground floor of Klosterallee 39. In the store, Willy got a helping hand from his son Ludwig, who had married in the meantime, was the father of a child (probably a daughter named Karin), and lived at Brahmsallee 12. Due to the boycotts and actions against Jewish business owners and the displacement of Jewish employees and employers from working life and increasing emigration of the Jewish population, Willy’s sales continued to decline. As a consequence, he had to give up his business on 1 Jan. 1936 and from then on, he had to make a living from renting rooms in his apartment and selling furnishings. However, these revenues were not sufficient to maintain the previous standard of living. The welfare office staff who visited Elsa Dessau reported that the furnishings were poor and the apartment was dirty overall.

On 1 Oct. 1938, Willy and Emilie moved into a three-room apartment in the house at Heinrich-Barth-Strasse 8. A rent of only 60 RM per month was due for this place. There, too, the couple lived mainly from renting out rooms. As opposed to before, since 1933 Willy was no longer able to support his father with 20 RM per month.

Georg remained chief sexton at the Temple Association on Oberstrasse until 1938. However, the November Pogroms, which reached Hamburg on the tenth of the month, put a violent end to this. Although the exterior of the temple building remained intact, the interior design and the apartment of the Wolff family fell prey to the incited mob of the staged "people’s wrath.” Georg, Lilly, and the children were expelled from the apartment; Georg and Willy were arrested and detained in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp until 17 December. They shared this fate with 20,000–30,000 other Jewish men from all over Germany who were held and mistreated in concentration camps for weeks or months in order to squeeze their assets and force them to emigrate.

After his release, Georg was employed as secretary at the Jewish Community Relief Society (Hilfsverein der Jüdischen Gemeinde) until his deportation in Dec. 1941. Since the Temple on Oberstrasse was no longer available, the services of the Association were held in a Jewish Community Center at Hartungstrasse 9–11, where the Hamburg Kammerspiele are located today.

Starting at the end of 1938, life for the Wolff families changed drastically once again. Georg’s two older daughters, Anneliese and Renate, were placed on a children transport (Kindertransport) to England. After the November Pogrom of 1938, the country, like many others, had to some extent opened its borders to unaccompanied children of Jewish descent. By the beginning of the war, Britain had taken in about 10,000 German, Austrian, and Czech children. Renate and Anneliese left Hamburg on 16 Jan. 1939, after their mother had completed all formalities at the responsible office. Georg had to follow a summons to the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident), before Anneliese was issued with the tax clearance certificate (Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung) required for emigration. According to the information available, she left without relatives and without any assets. As for many parent-child couples, it was a farewell forever for Georg and Lilly, Anneliese and Renate. The girls were ten and six years old at the time. Little sister Ellinor, just shy of four years old, stayed with her parents, perhaps because they considered her too young to get into uncertain circumstances in England.

Shortly after the children had left Hamburg, the family had to sustain another blow of fate, the death of Willy’s wife, Emilie. She died on 2 Apr. 1939. On 20 Sept. 1940, Willy married a second time, the 36-year-old Machla Minna Spatz, born in Kalusz/Kalusch (Galicia/Ukraine) and resident of Bremerhaven. Like her husband, Machla was Jewish and she worked as a domestic servant.

Little is known about how the families of Georg and Willy Wolff fared between 1939 and the deportation to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941. As can be seen from the welfare files for the household of the common father, it was only with difficulty that everyone managed to stay afloat. Only Georg had a more or less secure job with the Jewish Community, although he, too, apparently did not receive a salary in Jan. 1939. From March onward, however, he seemed to have had an income again, from which he gave his father 10 RM as support.

From 19 Sept. 1941 onward, both Georg and Willy and their wives had to wear the so-called "Jews’ star” ("Judenstern”). After they had already been isolated from the non-Jewish population in a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”), such as was Heinrich-Barth-Strasse 8, and were thus easier for the Gestapo to monitor, this measure marked a further step towards the complete deprivation of rights and marginalization of all those affected.

Shortly afterward, deportations from Hamburg to the east of the German sphere of influence began. Willy and his wife Machla, Georg, Lilly, and Ellinor were deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941, which they reached on 9 December.

Only a few days after the deportation, the remaining belongings of Georg’s family were auctioned off publicly. According to the Eleventh Ordinance to the Reich Citizens Law (11. Verordnung zum Reichsbürgergesetz) dated 25 Oct. 1941, the assets of Jews of former German citizenship fell to the state if they went abroad permanently – which was also applied to the forced deportation. On 17 Dec. 1941, the furnishings of the family were auctioned off for 250 RM overall. Among them were various small and larger objects and pieces of furniture from the two-room apartment. The form was marked with "all sold.”

Meanwhile, the deportees to Riga had been taken to Jungfernhof, a run-down farming estate about six kilometers (some 3.7 miles) from the city. There were only barns and cattle stables available for accommodation, in which the people had to settle down in the most degrading conditions. Already in the first winter, 800 of the up to 4,000 people from four cities who lived there crammed together fell victim to hunger, the inhuman living conditions, and the lack of medical care. Only 148 of them were to survive Jungfernhof.

During the winter and spring months, camp commander Rudolf Seck repeatedly selected strong camp inmates for forced labor toward the construction of nearby Salaspils, planned as a police detention camp. In addition, 200 mostly young women were sent to the Riga Ghetto. Among them may have been Machla Wolff, who was deported from Riga to the Stutthof concentration camp on 9 Aug. 1944.

In Mar. 1942, 1,700–1,800 people were selected as part of "Operation Dünamünde” ("Aktion Dünamünde”) and murdered in a forest. Before this killing operation, efforts had been made among the deportees to give structure to everyday life in Jungfernhof. Under the direction of the Hamburg Chief Rabbi Joseph Carlebach, a kind of school education was set up for the children. Six-year-old Ellinor, who was deported along with her parents, might also have participated in this.

The exact dates of death for Willy, Machla, Georg, Lilly, and Ellinor are not known. After the war, the adults were declared dead as of the year 1945 as part of the restitution proceedings initiated by Paula, Johanna, Anneliese, Renate, and Hermann. From the large family Wolff presented here, only the siblings Paula and Johanna, as well as Anneliese and Renate survived in Britain, as did Hermann Raphael Wolff, the grandson of Julius Wolff from Szczecin.

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: May 2019
© Anne Lena Meyer

Quellen: StaHH Bestand 241-1 Oberfinanzpräsident Nr. 722; ebd. Bestand 314-15 Nr. FVg 4581; ebd. Bestand 332-5 Generalregister Hochzeiten Nr. 47042; ebd. Bestand 332-7 Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht A III 21 Bd. 27; ebd. Bestand 351-11 Wiedergutmachungsamt Nr. 639, Nr. 13693, Nr. 10245, Nr. 16886, Nr. 23838; ebd. Bestand 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinde Nr. 477; ebd. Bestand 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinde, 992b Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburg, Kultussteuerkarten für Willy Wolff, Georg Wolff; ebd. Nr. 477; ebd. Bestand 741-4 Talmud-Tora-Schule Nr. Sa 1255; Meldekarten aus dem Stadtarchiv Celle für Familie Michael Max Wolff, Julius Wolff, Georg Wolff, Geburtsurkunde des Georg Wolff (In Kopie versendet von Frau Sperac aus dem Stadtarchiv Celle an Frau Meyer ans Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden, 28.11.2013); Berth, Christiane: Die Kindertransporte nach Großbritannien 1938/39. Exilerfahrungen im Spiegel lebensgeschichtlicher Interviews. Hamburg 2005; Brämer, Andreas: Judentum und religiöse Reform. Der Hamburger Israelitische Tempel 1817–1938. (Studien zur Jüdischen Geschichte, Bd. 8) Hamburg 2000; Veröffentlichung des Bundesarchives: Gedenkbuch Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland 1933–1945. Koblenz 2006. Hier wurde die Onlineversion verwendet: (zu Willy, Georg, Lilly, Machla und Ellinor Wolff); Eliav, Mordechai: Jüdische Erziehung in Deutschland im Zeitalter der Aufklärung und Emanzipation. (Jüdische Bildungsgeschichte in Deutschland, Bd. 2) Erstausgabe Jerusalem 1960, aus dem Hebräischen von Maike Strobel, Berlin, Münster, München, New York 2001. S. 382 f.; Meyer, Beate: Die Verfolgung der Hamburger Juden (1933–1938). In: dies. (Hrsg.): Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden 1933–1945. Geschichte. Zeugnis. Erinnerung. 2., überarbeitete Auflage, Hamburg 2007. S. 15–24.; Meyer, Beate: Das "Schicksalsjahr 1938" und die Folgen. In: dies. (Hrsg): Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden 1933–1945. Geschichte. Zeugnis. Erinnerung. 2., überarbeitete Auflage, Hamburg 2007. S. 25–32.; Meyer, Beate: Die Deportation der Hamburger Juden 1941–1945. In: dies. (Hrsg.): Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden 1933–1945. Geschichte. Zeugnis. Erinnerung. 2., überarbeitete Auflage, Hamburg 2007. S. 42–78.; Meyer, Beate: Rundgang: Stolpersteine im Grindelgebiet. In: dies. (Hrsg.): Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden 1933–1945. Geschichte. Zeugnis. Erinnerung. 2., überarbeitete Auflage, Hamburg 2007. S. 172–206.; Vortrag von Ruth Scholz (Öffentlichkeitsdienst der Stephanus-Stiftung) anlässlich der Enthüllung einer Gedenktafel für die Israelitische Taubstummen-Anstalt am 31.5.2001. (Online verfügbar); Schwarz, Angela: Von den Wohnstiften zu den "Judenhäusern". In: Ebbinghaus, Angelika; Linne, Karsten (Hrsg.): Kein abgeschlossenes Kapitel: Hamburg im "Dritten Reich". Hamburg 1997. S. 232–247.; "Volksbund deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V."; "Riga-Komitee der deutschen Städte" u.a. (Hrsg): Buch der Erinnerung. Die ins Baltikum deportierten deutschen, österreichischen und tschechischen Juden. Bearbeitet von Wolfgang Scheffler und Diana Schulle. München 2003. Bd. II.; Zu Ludwig Wolff:

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