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Irma Schragenheim (née Löwenberg) * 1897
Brahmsallee 13 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
Bruno Schragenheim, born 16 Mar. 1899 in Hamburg, deported 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Irma Schragenheim, née Löwenberg, born 14 June 1897 in Hanover, deported 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
The Jewish couple Irma and Bruno Schragenheim lived in Hamburg in the first half of the last century. We know where they lived, and the important dates in their short lives: birth, marriage, deportation, a fictitious date of death. Facets of their work. There are no photos, no letters, no personal records. They had no children. An inquiry with a nephew living in England remained unanswered. What we were able to find out was that both came from large Jewish families who had long resided in northern Germany; that many relatives were deported and murdered, others managed to leave the country; and that their descendants live today in the US and England. In our attempt to keep the memory of Bruno and Irma Schragenheim alive, we will also report what we have learned about their families. From this network of relationships, we may gain an idea of the values, traditions and self-understanding of the Schragenheims, and lift the veil on their lives.
The accountant and auditor Bruno Schragenheim was 42 years old when, on 7 Nov. 1941, he received the news that he and his wife were being "evacuated” to a labor camp in Minsk. They were to report the next morning to the Masonic Lodge on Moorweidenstraße. On the morning of November 8, they left their apartment at Hansastrasse 55 in the middle-class neighborhood of Grindelviertel, into which they had moved only a short time previously. They had had to give up their larger, better-furnished apartment at Brahmsallee 13 for financial reasons. On that November morning they left all of their belongings behind. Each of them carried only a fully-packed suitcase, as the evacuation order required. 420 Jewish citizens shared the same fate. 20 defied the order by committing suicide. In their place 20 "volunteers" who did not want to leave their relatives alone were accepted.
Another deportee, Heinz Rosenberg, described the situation that awaited the Schragenheims and the others at the Masonic Lodge as follows:
"When they arrived at the lodge on Moorweidenstraße, their suitcases were first examined by members of the Community [the Jewish Religious Organization] and the Gestapo and then put into a storage room. Then they had to line up according to the first letters of their names - either right or left. Four tables stood on each side and behind each was a member of the Community and a Gestapo agent or SS man.
At the first table you had to give your name, date of birth and address. Then a card was taken out of the file and the Gestapo agent or SS man crossed out the name on a list. At the next table you had to hand in your identity card and sign a document relinquishing your right to any property left behind. The document was attached to the identity card, and you were sent to the next table where you had to empty your pockets, throw your wallets or money into a large wastebasket, and tear up any kind of letters you had with you. The fourth table was for the collection of gold, silver or jewels, things that Jews were supposed to have surrendered in 1939.
Finally we went into the large room where hundreds of people who shared the same fate were waiting. We met many friends. Erika came in last. She had had to wait outside until the Gestapo had made sure the numbers were correct. Twenty Jews had committed suicide, so 20 other Jews were allowed to volunteer. Now we were all together.
The Community had furnished the empty rooms with beds and straw. Hot bean soup, tea, and rolls were distributed. The chairman of the Community, Dr. Max Plaut, said, among other things, that the transport was destined to rebuild the cities in the East (!), that our suitcases would be put into a baggage car, and that there were also three freight cars with food, bedding, medicine and tools for our work (!). In two weeks, another transport would follow with old people, women and children.
(...) There was despair and hope, weeping and laughing, praying and cursing. That my family, that Erika and I were together, was our greatest strength and hope."
Bruno Schragenheim was born on 16 Mar. 1899 in Hamburg. His parents had long lived at Bornstraße 10III, but at the time of his birth they were registered at Rutschbahn 22. From 1905 to 1908 he attended a boys’ preschool, then a regular public school until the age of 15 (1914). He then did a commercial apprenticeship at his father's company. After completing it, he remained there, first as an accountant, later as an auditor. In 1924 he became an independent auditor. He met Irma Löwenberg and married her in 1928. His business suffered under the general boycott, but he held out until 1938. He then worked as an accountant for the Jewish Community until his deportation.
Bruno’s family: His father Elias Schragenheim (*25 Mar. 1864), grew up in Verden (Aller), where the family had lived since the early 19th century. Samuel Selig Schragenheim, Bruno’s great-grandfather, was granted citizenship there in 1811. His sons Isaak and Samuel were wealthy merchants. The Verden city archives show large property deals, including the sale of a lot for construction at a prominent location, where the "Prinzessenhaus” was later built. Samuel was Bruno’s grandfather.
Bruno's great-uncle Isaak, Samuel's only brother, was married to Auguste Feuchtwanger, an aunt of the famous author Lion Feuchtwanger. Their son, Dr. Albert Schragenheim (*1887), a prominent Berlin dentist, was the father of Felice Schragenheim ("Jaguar"), whose story was told in the book and the film Aimee and Jaguar. She was born in Berlin in 1922, escaped deportation by fleeing, was discovered by the Gestapo in 1944 and deported to Theresienstadt. In 1945 she died in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. Lion Feuchtwanger maintained the family ties to the Schragenheims and Felice called him "uncle".
Bruno’s father, Elias, moved to Hamburg in the 1890s and married the 25-year-old Clara Enoch in 1893. In 1895 he was granted Hamburg citizenship. He worked as an accountant at the E. Calmann bank, then opened his own business.
Bruno hat an older brother, Hellmuth (*15 Aug. 1894). Like Bruno, he attended the preschool for boys, then public school in Eppendorf. When he finished his schooling in 1910, he volunteered for one year of military service, then did a commercial apprenticeship at A. Auerbach & Co Hamburg, an import and export company. He served in the military from 1914 to 1918 in France and Russia. His application for restitution still showed his lingering pride in his military service:
"…When the war broke out on 1 Aug. 1914, I volunteered immediately to serve in the German Army. I served the entire campaign from 1914 to the end of 1918 in the 5th Army on the front in France and Russia under the command of the former Crown Prince Wilhelm. I was promoted and awarded the Iron Cross, the Hanseatic Cross, etc. I was honorably discharged in 1918.”
After the war he married Selma Böning. They had two daughters, Vera and Margot, both of whom emigrated to the US. In 1919 he began working as a sales representative in the tobacco industry, and in 1922 he became a branch manager for the company Emil Wolsdorff A.G. in Hamburg. In 1927 he became general representative for Hamburg and north-west Germany for a department of the Reemtsma cigarette factory. In 1932 he founded his own tobacco goods wholesale business, but the general boycott of Jewish businesses forced him to close it in 1935. A friend, Carl G. A. Hoffmann, who was also a tobacco wholesaler, employed him until his emigration to the US in 1939. In Toledo (Ohio) he was able to establish himself as a businessman after considerable starting difficulties. He lived there under the name of Henry Schrag.
Irma Schragenheim, Bruno’s wife, was the daughter of Michael Löwenberg and Rosa Rebekka Seewald. After she married Bruno in 1928 she continued to work until 1938 in the offices of Wienke & Co. in Altona.
The Löwenberg family lived in Hanover until 1904, then moved to Hamburg. Irma's father was a partner in a bank and lottery business, which he ran together with his brother Markus. Irma was the youngest of four sisters: Henny (*1892), Else van der Walde (*1893) and Flora Singer (*1895). Else was deported to Minsk on 8 Nov. 1941 on the same transport as Bruno and Irma, where she too died. She had worked as a housekeeper in the home for Jewish girls on Innocentiastraße. Flora and her husband Erwin Sänger were deported to Theresienstadt in 1942, where she died on 20 Jan. 1944. Erwin also did not survive his stay in the concentration camp. Their eldest son Jakob (*1932), who later called himself Jack Black, arrived in England on a children's transport in 1938. He grew up there in a foster family whose name he later assumed, and became a solicitor in London. Their second son, Erwin (*1935), was disabled (probably Down's syndrome) and was murdered on 10 Apr. 1943 at the Ochsenzoll General Hospital, where he had been committed by the Gestapo.
The road to Minsk: Heinz Rosenberg wrote about the transport to Minsk and their arrival there:
"At five o'clock the next morning (...) large closed police vans came, we were loaded in under police guard and driven to the freight yard. There was a train with 20 passenger cars and five freight cars. The passenger cars were old, but they had windows and doors, although they couldn’t be opened from the inside. 50 persons went into each car, every seat had to be occupied. The procedure took many hours. ...
At five o'clock in the morning they were finally able to get off the train. An SS officer gave orders. Everyone had to take their hand luggage and stand next to the cars. They were counted and had to wait. ...
The next order was to march into the Minsk Ghetto under guard. If anyone tried to escape or disobey orders, they would be shot. They would shoot one hundred of us for any one person who tried to escape. They said there was enough room in the ghetto for all of us. We were to start the cleanup work immediately. And no one was allowed on the streets between 8 o'clock in the evening till 6 o'clock in the morning."
In July 1941, all Jews in Minsk had been crowded into a ghetto consisting of a residential area evacuated by all residents. Further from Rosenberg's report:
"This (ghetto) was fenced all around with barbed wire. They (the deportees) were led to a schoolhouse, built of red bricks, which was still unfinished. Opposite was a white building, apparently also a school.
They were ordered to clean out the red building: ... Hundreds of corpses covered the floor ... there was blood everywhere, and there was still fool in the ovens and on the tables. All the rooms were in complete chaos. There was not a single living soul to be found. Gradually, the others came from the station. The older ones had been loaded on trucks.
At last everyone stood in the big yard in front of the school building, exhausted, nervous, cold and hungry. Many wanted to know what was in the big house, went in and came back horrified. They began to cry and scream, and there was great confusion. ...
The dead were carried into the yard. The furniture was simply thrown out of the windows and later burned. ... The people from the transport were distributed between about 30 large rooms. They had to sit on the floor. ...
The year 1941 ended badly: hunger, cold, lice, bedbugs, illness and death were everywhere. The year 1942 began even worse: on New Year's Eve drunken SS men showed up and shot about 5,000 Jewish people indiscriminately. In January, the cold really set in. ... The death rate rose."
There are no traces of Irma and Bruno in Minsk. They did not return. No one knows if they froze or starved, if they succumbed to an illness, or were shot. In the reparations files, their dates of death were declared as 8 May 1945.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: September 2019
© Jürgen Kühling
Quellen: Stadtarchiv Hannover, Geburtenregister der Synagogengemeinde Hannover; Hausmeldebücher (Fachbereich Recht und Ordnung) der Stadt Hannover; StaH 332-5 Sterberegister Sterbeurkunden Clara Schragenheim 8168 453/1940 und Elias S. 332-5 1104/1939 (Nr. 7396), (Nr. 17410); StaH 332-7 Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht Einbürgerungsurkunde Elias S. (B III 46269); StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 50096 Jack Black; Adressbücher Hamburg 1932–1938, Hannover 1928; 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinde Hamburg 992b, Kultussteuerkarteikarten zu Margot S. Nr. 20686), Rosa S. (Nr. 19900), Hellmuth S. (Henry Schrag Nr. 5347), Ellen S. (Nr. 16086), Rosa S. (Nr. 19900), Elias S. (Nr. 3361), Clara S. (Nr. 3361); Korrespondenz mit Jack Black, solicitor, London; Fischer, Felice Schragenheim.