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Adolf Greif * 1887

Rieckhoffstraße 5 (Harburg, Harburg)

JG. 1887

further stumbling stones in Rieckhoffstraße 5:
Rachel Rosa Abosch, Klara Ruth Abosch, Richard David Abosch, Benjamin Findling, Alfred Findling, Fanny Greif

Adolf Greif, born on 8 Nov. 1887 in Vinnycia, expelled on 28 Oct. 1938 to Zbaszyn (Poland), flight to Belgium, interned in Drancy (France), deported on 2 Sept. 1942 to Auschwitz
Fanny Greif, née Münz, born on 21 Mar. 1893 in Rozniatow, expelled on 28 Oct. 1938 to Zbaszyn (Poland), flight to Belgium, interned in Drancy (France), deported on 2 Sept. 1942 to Auschwitz

District of Harburg-Altstadt, Rieckhoffstrasse 5

When Abraham Chaim Adolf Greif was born in Vinnycia (Winniza) on the Bug River as the child of Jewish parents, this town belonged to the "Danube Monarchy,” i.e., the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the First World War, the place was under Polish sovereignty, and today the people living in this part of Eastern Europe have Ukrainian passports. Fanny Greif also came from a Jewish family. In her birthplace, today in Poland, near the major city of Lodz, the governors of the Russian tsar reigned in her childhood.

In pursuit of a better future, the two young people came to the Prussian industrial city of Harburg, where in 1918, at the age of 31, Adolf Greif initially opened a store selling working clothes at Mühlenstrasse 8 (today: Schlossmühlendamm), relocating the business premises to (Harburg’s) Rathausstrasse 3 a few years later. Together with their two daughters Lucy (born on 12 Apr. 1914) and Senta (born on 20 Sept. 1920), Adolf and Fanny Greif at first moved into an apartment at Konradstrasse 5 (today: Rieckhoffstrasse). Later, family life took place in a spacious, exquisitely furnished five-bedroom apartment located not far from Harburg City Hall. The new business and residential addresses reflected the quick professional success, which also may have contributed to noticeably reducing the social discrepancy to the old-established Harburg co-religionists.

The appointment of Hitler to Reich Chancellor meant far-reaching changes for Adolf Greif. Based on the decision by the Harburg city council, his business for working clothes was excluded from public bids as of 30 Mar. 1933, and two days later, the NSDAP district leadership included the enterprise in a "defensive boycott” (Abwehrboykott), for which the party leadership had called.

Although the public boycott was stopped again quickly, the negative effects persisted. Due to the constant anti-Jewish hate campaign, Adolf Greif lost many customers. Business sales dropped from 11,450 RM (reichsmark) in 1932 to 8,433 RM in 1933, and even afterward sales always remained permanently below the level of previous years.

After 1933, in the face of the increasing deprivation of rights and marginalization, many Jews from Harburg left the city where they had previously spent many happy years next to their Christian neighbors. A considerable number of them relocated their residence to a larger German city – in many cases, Hamburg – while others sought refuge outside of Germany.

We do not know just whether and how intensively Adolf and Fanny Greif looked into these alternatives. In fact, they would have had to leave behind practically everything they had build up with hard work over many years. In light of the acute danger and the bleak future perspectives, many young Jewish men and women were much more inclined to dare take this step, as the example of Lucy Greif shows, who shortly after her wedding emigrated to the USA along with her husband.

Her parents continued in their efforts to hold on to the business for working clothes on Harburg’s Rathausstrasse. With her modest income as a stenographer, Senta Greif contributed her share to the livelihood of the remaining family. All three of them were among the Jewish men and women from Hamburg who were arrested by police at their homes or workplaces on 28 Oct. 1938 and hurriedly expelled to Poland.

Following this expulsion, Adolf Greif, too, realized with dismay that his property was lost. Apparently, he did not hope for much from a future in Poland. At the beginning of 1939, he returned legally to Harburg one more time in order to apply for emigration to the USA at last. After he had filled out and submitted the obligatory questionnaire for emigrants, the foreign currency office with the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) issued a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”) against him. The authorization procedure for the emigration took an endlessly long time and it was prolonged additionally by further obstacles. For instance, when checking the moving goods, the customs investigation department found fault with the fact that Adolf Greif had provided an incorrect date of purchase for a sewing machine he wished to export. As a result, the authority demanded from him payment of a Gold Discount Bank duty (Dego-Abgabe) amounting to 223 RM.

His daughter Senta had better luck; she returned to Harburg for a short time in June 1939 and managed very quickly to meet all requirements for her departure to Newcastle on Tyne (Great Britain). There, a family took her in as a maid.

Her mother, too, received permission in Aug. 1939 for one more temporary stay in Germany. With prospects for a speedy departure diminishing all the time and the foreign political crisis escalating in the last days of August, Adolf und Fanny Greif sought their salvation in fleeing to Belgium. The documents of the Hamburg Jewish Community contain a note that they left the Community on 26 Oct. 1939 due to flight to Belgium.

However, their escape was not a lasting one. When the German Wehrmacht occupied Belgium in May 1940, the couple fled from Antwerp to France. There it seems they were able to escape to the initially unoccupied part of the country. However, hopes for a safe future did not materialize because at the beginning, the Vichy government willingly supported the anti-Jewish policies of the German occupational authorities, closely collaborating with them. As early as Sept. 1940, a law was passed in unoccupied France that legitimized the internment of stateless Jews, thus ultimately creating the prerequisites for the implementation of their subsequent deportation. After Adolf and Fanny Greif had been detained in an internment camp near Toulouse at first, they were transferred to the Agde camp in the Herault départment on the French Mediterranean coast at the end of Oct. 1940. In two distressing letters, Lucy Greif learned about the dreadful conditions prevailing in this camp and how much the parents hoped for help from their children. The letter by her father dated 24 Dec. 1940 was the last sign of life Adolf and Fanny Greif left to their children.

On 1 Apr. 1942, the couple was interned in the large Drancy transit camp in Paris and sent from there to their deaths on the 27th French deportation transport to Auschwitz. In the "selection” on the ramp, ten men and 113 women were committed to the camp; afterward, the other 877 persons on the transport, including Adolf and Fanny Greif, were led into the gas chambers.

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Klaus Möller

Quellen: 1; 2 (F 796, R 39/2904, R 1939/722, FVg 6031); 4; 5; 8; StaH, 351-11, AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 181187, 210393, 120414, 140920; StaH, 430-5 Dienststelle Harburg, Ausschaltung jüdischer Geschäfte und Konsumvereine, 1810-08, Bl. 89ff.; Heyl (Hrsg.), Harburger Opfer; Heyl, Synagoge; Czech, Kalendarium, 2. Auflage, S. 294f.; Klarsfeld, Vichy – Auschwitz, S. 31ff.; /?keyRubrique (eingesehen am 5.1.2010).
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