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Rosa Abeles (née Merzbach) * 1870

Heimhuder Straße 74 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)

1942 Theresienstadt
ermordet 30.10.1942


Speech of Margot Löhr on February 25th 2010 at Heimhuder Straße 74

Rosa Abeles, nee Merzbach, saw the light of the day on 23rd of July 1870 in Offenbach, in the Frankfurter Strasse No. 33. This was the home of her parents, Jeanette Merzbach, nee Meyer, and Heinrich Merzbach, a banker and businessman. In this very street, her grandfather Sigmund Merzbach, founded one of the first private banks of Germany in 1832. Rosa spent her childhood and youth in Offenbach. On the 19th of June 1891 she was married to Heinrich Abeles, who was a member of the Israelite community as well.

Heinrich Abeles was born on March 30, 1860 in Chodau, Bohemia, at that time a part of Austria. He was son to Theresa, nee Raumann, and the surgeon Marcus Abeles. Heinrich left his homeland at an age of 16 and then lived in different cities in Germany.

After their wedding in Offenbach, Rosa and Heinrich Abeles moved to Hamburg. In 1893 Heinrich became a citizen of the city. At that time they lived with their one year-old son, Walter Moritz, in the Kirchenallee 26 on the second floor. 1896 their second son, Herbert, was born.

A deep cut in Rosa and Heinrich Abeles’ life meant the loss of their two sons in the same year. Walter died in April at the age of 3 years and 10 months, and Herbert in October at only 3 months and 21 days. They were buried at the Jewish cemetery in Ohlsdorf, where their graves are still can be found today.

On the 10th of June 1900, Rosa Abeles gave birth to their first daughter Hertha Rosa. One and a half years later, their second daughter, Erica, was born. In October 30th of 1908, the Famlie moved into a villa in the Heimhuder Straße 74.

It was a time of ascension. Heinrich Abeles had founded a beer distribution company in the Kleiner Kielort 3-5. The Geheimer Kommerzienrat Heinrich Abeles and kinship related Diplom-master brewer Wilhelm Guggenheim brought the famous Czech Pilsner Urquell beer to the north. They owned the general distribution rights for North West Germany.

The eldest daughter Hertha was married at 19 years to Wilhelm Michael Guggenheim. He was born on April 23rd, 1887 in Worms. His parents were Bertha Guggenheim, nee Merzbach, and Samuel Guggenheim, who was the president of the Jewish community in Worms. Hertha and Wilhelm knew each other since their childhood. Rosa Abeles’ father Heinrich and Wilhelm’s mother Bertha were siblings.

After their marriage, Wilhelm and Hertha obtained a villa in the Rothenbaumchaussee 121, where their three children, Daniel Fritz Walter Yechiel, Heinrich Zwi and Marianne Bluemel Berta were raised.

Two years later, on December 30, 1921, Heinrich Abeles died at the age of 61 years. He was laid to rest in the Jewish cemetery in Ohlsdorf.

Wilhelm Guggenheim took over the management of Heinrich Abeles beer distribution company. He acquired real estate in the Alsterkrugchaussee 459 in Hamburg Fuhlsbüttel, where a garden restaurant was located. Wilhelm added a beer hall with breakfast area and bowling alley to the existing structure.

When the National Socialists in 1933 rose to power, Jewish fellow citizens were more and more segregated and browbeaten.

By decision of the Reich governor a "Sicherungsanordnung" was issued. All passports and the entire assets of the Abeles family were confiscated. The "Judensvermögensabgabe", an additional chicane of the Nazis, ordered all Jewish citizens to pay approximately 1/6 of their assets to the Nazi government. Only a small amount of the money was released per month for living expenses.

On the 30th of November 1937 the company Abeles ceased to exist. As a part of the so-called "Arisierung", Jewish companies were transferred to so-called "arische” companies. During the formalities of the transition, Wilhelm Guggenheim had been given a passport to travel to Pilsen. There the distribution rights for the Czech Pilsner Urquell were assigned to the so-called "arische" company Strelow, which annexed the former Abeles beer-distribution company.

During the company’s transfer Wilhelm Guggenheim managed to negotiate an agreement that Rosa Abeles would get a lifetime monthly payment of 600 Reichsmark. Later though, this agreement was changed arbitrarily to a term of 3 years and shamelessly reduced down to 300 Reichsmark per month. The Jewish citizens were disenfranchised. The garden restaurant in the Alsterkrugchaussee 459 near the airport was closed as well and the land was seized on 8 March 1939 by the Reichsgtreidestelle. The Abeles’ villa in the Rothenbaumchaussee 121 had to be sold far below value.

The Guggenheims moved in May 1938 into an apartment at the first floor in the Hallerstraße 83 (formerly Ostmarkstraße). There, they were denounced by a neighbor and had to endure subsequent visits by a detective, who was looking for signs of emigration intentions. They moved into the Hallerstraße 76.

Their two youngest children, Heinrich, who was nearly 16 years old, and Marianne, who was almost 12 years of age, were sent with the Kindertransport to England on August 10, 1939. This happened on behalf of their security. It must have be a very difficult choice for the family to seperate themselves from the children, who were facing troublesome times themselves as they were seen as "enemy foreigners" in Britain.

On this very day, 70 years ago, Rosa Abeles had to sell this house, her house, far below value for 28,500 marks to Friedrich Dahl. Her daughter Erika, who lived here until this day, emigrated 1938 with her husband Karl Wolff to America.

Rosa had moved on the 8th November 1938, the day before the Novemberpogrom, in the Eppendorf Landstraße 62 into an apartment on the first floor. During this time, Wilhelm Guggenheim was arrested by the Gestapo. A short time later, he was fortunately released again, because he had received five awards in World War I, while fighting on the Western Front.

From March to November 1940 Rosa lived in the little inn of the sisters Lehmann in the Heilwigstraße 46. There Clare Lehmann had once led a small prestigious private school, which Marianne Guggenheim had attended. The sisters Anna and Clare Lehmann eventually committed suicide, unable to withstand the increasing pressure of Nazi persecution.

Wilhelm and Hertha Guggenheim stayed hidden in the period prior to their emigration. They officially resided in the Klosterallee 76 at Dr. Edgar Fels*. Their son Fritz went into hiding on his own.

Wilhelm and Hertha’s hiding place was here in the garden shed in the Heimhuderstraße 74. The parents of Dr.Eva Maria Rühl, Gertrud and Engelhard Rühl and another friends, Elfriede Fromm and her husband, were with the Guggenheim family in these difficult times, supplying them with meals during night-time. This was very courageous.

Wilhelm Guggenheim made a series of futile attempts to escape abroad to Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, North America or Shanghai. Finally, he managed to get visas for Hertha, Fritz and himself that allowed them to escape to Brazil. At that time it was practically impossible to do this. On April 27th 1941 the three of them went luckily off to Rio de Janeiro via Berlin and Lisbon.

38 crates of goods were scheduled to come along with them. They included a valuable collection of old bibles: Three volumes of the first Low German bible with the original binding of the Stadtkämmerei Wismar, and a facsimile printing of the Inseldruck publishing house of the 42-line Gutenberg bible with supplement and an old and valuable illustrated bible from Holland. Highly valued Jewish pictures, prints and manuscripts were among the goods, too. The crates never reached their destination. Delayed for months, they remained in Lisbon. Eventually, Wilhelm Guggenheim was not able to afford a shipping of the goods to Brazil anymore. The accrued storage costs had gotten too high.

Rosa Abeles was left alone in Hamburg. An escape for her was no longer possible. Like all Jews in Hamburg, she was forced to move into so-called "Jews' Houses". She was sent to the "Jews’ House” in the Sonninstraße 12 in Hamburg-Altona.

Disenfranchised, stripped and humiliated, she now had to embark the difficult passage to so-called "resettlement”. On July 19 1942 she was brought to the rallying point at the Volksschule in the Schanzenstraße 120 and then had to embark a train at the Hannoversche Bahnhof train station in Hamburg-Hammerbrook. From there, she was deported along with 802 mostly elderly people to Theresienstadt. Rosa Abeles was forced by Nazi law to fund the deportation through a so-called life-long "Heimkaufvertrag", which had to be acquired by own means. In this summer, Rosa Abeles had bought a cape made from rabbit’s skin from Hans Schöneberndt. To be allowed this purchase, she had to make a special application. She could not even take this cape with her as the maximum weight of the luggage was limited to 50 kilograms. All Jews were ordered to give their woollens and furs in January 1942.

Three months after the deportation, on October 30th 1942, Rosa Abeles died at the age of 72 years in the infirmary of the Theresienstadt ghetto. The cause of death on the record reads: pleurisy - pulmonary oedema. Rosa Abeles had succumbed to the inhuman, degrading conditions, the hunger and the cold of the ghetto. She was murdered by the Nazis - because she was Jewish.

We do not want to forget the crimes of the Nazis against Rosa Abeles and her family.
We will now pause for Rosa and her family Heinrich Abeles, Wilhelm Michael Guggenheim, Hertha Rosa, Fritz Walter Daniel Yechiel, Heinrich Zwi and Marianne Bertha Blümel, remember them in silence and keep them in high esteem.

For the pause and rememberance - against denial and oblivion

* The lawyer and consultant, Dr. Edgar Fels, was deported on October 25, 1941 to the Lodz ghetto and murdered in May 22, 1942.

© Margot Löhr

Staatsarchiv Hamburg
Nationalarchiv Prag / Institut Theresienstädter Initiativ

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