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Already layed Stumbling Stones

James Lewie * 1884

Brahmsallee 24 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)

1941 Riga ermordet
Haft 1939 - 1941

further stumbling stones in Brahmsallee 24:
Jeanette Baer, Anna Pulvermacher

James Lewie, born 08/03/1884 in Hamburg, deported to Riga on 12/06/1941

James Lewie lived in Isestrasse from January, 1941 up to his Deportation, as a sub-tenant with Wiener. He was born in Hamburg, his father Isidor Lewie was a merchant by trade. After finishing the Talmud Thora School, he absolved a commercial apprenticeship at a grocery and drug store. In 1906/07 he volunteered for one-year military service. Thereafter, he set up his own business as an advertising agent, with an office in the inner city; he specialized in acquiring ads for women’s magazines, especially for the "Hamburger Hausfrau” ("The Hamburg Housewife”) and the Bayer Verlag in Leipzig, where the advertising sales manager still remembered him in 1962.

In World War I James Lewie served as a soldier in various garrisons. His first wife, from whom he was divorced in 1923, gave birth to a son in 1915 and to a daughter in 1916.

In 1925, James Lewie married a second time, the non-Jewish divorcee Elisabeth Christiansen, née Hess, who brought two children into the marriage. His second marriage remained childless.

James Lewie’s business seems to have done well up to the thirties. Then, presumably due to the harassment by the Nazi authorities, he lost his secure income and, in distress, went astray. With forged papers, he a whole year long claimed commissions for deals that actually did not exist. When the damnified operator of a readers’ circle noticed the scam in summer of 1937, he did not press charges against him, because he pitied Lewie, who vowed to make up for the damage. Lewie had spent a part of the money for a trip to Switzerland, where he hoped to find help for his emigration.

Lewie’s children from his first marriage emigrated, his son to Palestine in 1935, his daughter to China in 1938. His second, non-Jewish, wife divorced him on July 7th, 1938, and James Lewie had to move out of their common home in Brahmsallee. His divorced wife reverted to the name of her first husband and in April, 1939 emigrated to Argentina, where her son lived. In 1958, she testified that she had sold everything from the apartment in Brahmsallee and all valuables to pay tax debts for James Lewie, and that her former husband was supposed to have followed her to Argentina.

After the 1938 November pogrom, James Lewie was obviously caught in the general roundup und taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. A certificate of discharge of December 15th is preserved.

In February, 1939, however, the son of the boss of the magazine readers’ circle did press charges against Lewie. The evidence was so overwhelming that James Lewie immediately confessed everything, was full of remorse and pleaded for a mild sentence, explaining that he had been in distress and agreed to a summary trial. He was arrested on February 13th. In the justification for the arrest warrant, it says: "Lewie is a full Jew.” This amounted to a sentence prior to the trial. In addition, danger of flight was implied; it was said that he had applied for a visa from the Chinese consulate. It seems that he had intended to follow his daughter.

On February 23rd, 1939, he was sentenced to one year and six months at hard labor, a penalty that certainly would have been slighter for a non-Jew. The fact that he had no criminal record was considered as a "mitigating” circumstance. However, the court wrote, "especially he as a Jew had every reason to behave decently” and "the duty to resort to the state and Jewish welfare institutions.” Instead, he had "blatantly spent money to look for a job abroad.”

The investigative custody was considered. Thus, February 15th, 1939, 2:15 p.m. was set as the beginning of his imprisonment, and August 15th, 1940, was set as the end of his imprisonment.

When he was in prison, James Lewie das indicted for tax evasion, and was sentenced to pay 5,000 RM, presumably the "levy on Jewish assets” imposed on all Jews. He was unable to raise this amount, as he had no money and no objects that could have been seized. He lived in a furnished room. After his complete lack of means had been officially established, the fine was converted into a further sentence of 200 days in prison, to start when his previous sentence had been served, i.e. at 2:15 p.m. on August 15th, 1940. The new term was to end at 2:15 p.m. on March 3rd, 1941.

From jail, James Lewie, with the aid of a "consulent” desperately tried to raise the necessary money via friends and acquaintances. To this end, he even got permission to write. On August 20th, 1939, he wrote to the district court: "… by all means, I will make the maximum efforts to raise the money in Germany and abroad so that I can quickly leave the country when I have served my current sentence + do not have to serve another sentence.”

He did not succeed. Pernicketily, the begin of the sentence was earmarked 2:25 p.m. on August 15th, 1940. The attorney succeed in obtaining a leave from prison for James Lewie from October 1st to November 14th, 1940, which was later extended by a further two weeks. But even in liberty, Lewie failed in his quest for help. Jewish friends and acquaintances, even if they still had money, could not freely dispose of it and were unable to help him.

On November 22nd, 1940, the attorney submitted an appeal for clemency. On November 30th, the criminal cases desk of the Tax Office "Hamburg-Rechtes Alsterufer”: "Pursuant to the amnesty of the Führer and Reich Chancellor for the civilian population of 09/09/1939, I have waived James Israel Lewie the penalty of RM 3,075.- not yet atoned by imprisonment from 08/15 1940 to 10/31/1940.”

James Lewie thus did not have to go back to prison. But there was no longer hope for emigration. In Isestrasse he found a modest lodging, from where he was deported to Riga on December 6th, 1941. A second stumbling stone for James Lewie was laid at Brahmsallee 24.

Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: March 2017
© Christa Fladhammer

Quellen: 1; 4; StaH, 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht Strafakten, 1450/1939; StaH, 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 472/41; AfW 030884 ; Landgericht Hamburg, Scheidungsurteil 6R 194/38.
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