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Hildegard Popper * 1903
Horner Weg 270 (Hamburg-Mitte, Horn)
Hildegard Popper, b. 12.23.1903 in Hamburg, deported on 11.18.1941 to Minsk
Klara Popper, b. 1.20.1915 in Hamburg, deported on 11.18.1941 to Minsk
Oskar Popper, b. 9.3.1870 in Teplitz, deported on 11.18.1941 to Minsk
Rosalie Popper, née Aron, b. 4.26.1876 in Hamburg, deported on 11.18.1941 to Minsk
Horner Weg 270
"I have become convinced that the people are extremely diligent and that they will do their best to succeed with the business.” With this characterization of the Popper family, Rudolf Ascher, acting on behalf of the "Jewish Middle-Class Aid Society,” petitioned the welfare office on Mittelstrasse in the Hamm neighborhood to help them with a sum of 40 RM for the space of three months. Oskar Popper had a business idea but needed a bridge loan to start trading in Christmas articles. His plan convinced Rudolf Ascher and the "Jewish Middle-Class Aid Society” to support Oskar Popper.
As was then the practice, Oskar Popper came to Hamburg as a journeyman pastry cook. He originated from Teplitz-Schönau in Bohemia, where he was born on 3 September 1870. This is why, after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, his wife Rosalie and, later their children, were awarded Czech citizenship. His parents, the merchant Gottfried Popper and his wife Clara, née Cohn, were assimilated Jews. On 27 October 1894, Oskar Popper was accepted in the German Israelite Congregation of Hamburg and joined the Orthodox Synagogue Association. In 1901, the year of his marriage to Rosalie Aron, b. 26 April 1876 in Hamburg, he founded a pastry shop with a café.
Rosalie Aron, daughter of Adolf Aron and his wife Henriette, née Magnus, belonged to an old Hamburg commercial family. Her father operated a wholesale business in stockings and gloves from his home at Wexstrasse 39. The goods came from Saxony; his customers were mostly other Hamburg shopkeepers.
Between 1901 and 1909, the children Fred, Hildegard, Leopold, Kurt, and Berta were born; the late-comer Klara was born on 20 January 1915. Meanwhile, Oskar Popper lived with his family at Neumünster Strasse 40 in the Hoheluft district.
In 1908, Oskar Popper switched businesses, operating temporarily as sole owner of a firm with his brother-in-law Leopold Aron, dealing in grain, fodder, and foodstuffs. Leopold Aron, Rosalie’s younger brother, and Oskar Popper set themselves up as independent brokers in grain, fodder, and oil-bearing seeds with the firm name of Aron & Popper, English Planke 6. In 1913, Leopold Aron left the firm to go to Sydney with his brother. As co-director of the Australian firm, he took responsibility for the shipments of wheat and wool. With the outbreak of World War I, he was interned and in 1919 repatriated to Hamburg. He brought his firm back to life and simultaneously worked in Oskar Popper’s grain business.
In 1919, Oskar Popper was in arrears for his membership dues in the German Israelite Congregation of Hamburg. In 1920, he opened a foodstuff and animal feed business at Bohnenstrasse 7 in the vicinity of the Hopfenmarkt; but in the inflationary years he could not find his economic footing. The children were working and contributed from their earnings to support the family. They were all members of the German Israelite Congregation of Hamburg.
Fred, the oldest son, b. 20 July 1901, attended the Talmud Torah school and subsequently finished a commercial apprenticeship at the Robinsohn Brothers company. He also participated in the youth movement, where he got to know the later mayor Carl Petersen and the later chairman of the German Democratic Party (DDP), Curt Platen; Fred himself later joined the DDP. Professionally, he was an independent representative for textile firms in Berlin, Cologne, and the Rhineland.
Hildegard Popper, the oldest daughter, b. 23 December 1903, was trained as a stenographer-typist. She had periods of employment and unemployment, so that neither her labor nor her earnings contributed to the support of the family. Leopold, b. 4 December 1905, also went into business; he was initially a commercial employee and after his dismissal on racial grounds worked as a traveling salesman. Kurt, b. 5 March 1908, was a store clerk. Berta, b. 26 May 1909, apparently died before reaching adulthood.
The reasons for Oskar Popper’s move from Neumünster Strasse into a smaller, but more modern, heated 3-room apartment in the Horn district are not known. The dwelling at Horner Weg 270 also served as his place of business. From here Oskar Popper delivered dry goods to various shops in the vicinity.
By 1928, none of the children had a secure income, whether from employment or from unemployment insurance. Yet they remained active, occupied in their father’s business, while Hildegard helped her ill mother in the household. Klara was still in school. When Fred received a suspended sentence for minor offenses, he left Hamburg in 1930 and went to Teplitz-Schönau, the home city of his father, to establish an independent existence, founding a newspaper enterprise and a postage stamp business "on the German model." With the active help of his wife he succeeded.
The economic crisis and Oskar Popper’s lack of his own capital shrank his business to customers who could pay cash. For the Christmas season he planned to expand his business with marzipan goods, which he produced in his kitchen at home, confident that he could thereby secure the costs of rent and subsistence for the winter months. In October 1931, he received an eviction notice. The business idea lapsed as he was concerned with looking for a place to live and moving. He turned to the "Welfare Commission of the German Israelite Congregation,” asking for a one-time support grant of 720 RM, in order to pay his back-rent, which the landlord was ready to cut in half if he paid up immediately. At the same time, he sought a confidential handling of this request because otherwise he feared that his business would suffer further damage. The Commission acted as the advocate for his request, organized privately a part of the necessary means, and appealed to the welfare office at Mittelstrasse 78 (today Carl-Petersen-Strasse) in Hamm, which appointed a professional guardian to clarify the facts of the matter. Nevertheless, Oskar Popper’s application was rejected. The Commission intervened once again, arguing that the Christmas marzipan business promised to be successful but had to be postponed because the family lost its home. The welfare office then came to the decision that, because "the only correct form of help for the family was self-help,” especially since the children were "all frugal and savvy,” the requested 720 RM would be granted. All the participants were in agreement that the home was too expensive but that another would not be easy to find.
In light of the fact that there were two grown sons and daughters and that the business was conducted in the house, a dwelling of less than three rooms was not a consideration. The space became even more cramped on 1 October 1935 when Leopold Popper married Margot Käthe Lilienfeld (b. 11 April 1914 in Mühlhausen) and they had a son, Peter Julius, on 7 April 1936, all of them living in the parental house.
Until Easter, the marzipan business did well enough to feed the family. In the summer, however, sales collapsed and necessitated a renewed appeal to the welfare office. Oskar Popper could in fact pay the rent, but he needed assistance to meet the running costs, especially since Klara after finishing school had to go to the hospital because of appendicitis, which entailed unforeseen costs. After her recuperation, she found positions as a "nanny,” store clerk, and telephone operator.
Because of heart and circulatory problems, Rosalie Popper turned to Dr. Rudolf Elkan at Horner Weg 95, who committed her in March 1933 to the Israelite Hospital, where she spent several weeks. The costs were met by the welfare office.
Rudolf Elkan came from a prosperous Jewish Hamburg family and practiced intentionally in the worker’s quarter of Horn, specifically in order to treat weakened pregnant women and their children; this brought him into conflict with the Nazi Party. Soon after her release, Rosalie Popper had to find another physician because Rudolf Elkan had been arrested and seriously mistreated by the special police unit in June 1933; he used a recuperation furlough to flee to Scotland.
On 10 July 1933, Oskar Popper’s brother-in-law and former partner Leopold Aron left Hamburg with his family and moved to Paris, where his wife Claire came from. Kurt Popper temporarily escaped the narrow paternal household sub-letting a place from Helle at Wichernweg 28. Bertha Helle, née Roelen, (b. 26 May 1909 in Rockenhausen) was also Jewish, and lived with her three small children, Inge, Oskar, and Wolfgang, all of whom were born between 1932 and 1934. A fourth child, Raphael, was born in March 1936 and just six weeks old. Kurt Popper lost his clerking job in 1934 and moved back to his family. In September 1937, he made himself independent by making "express deliveries of stock exchange securities” on a three-wheel motorcycle. Leopold Popper, with his wife and their son, followed his brother Fred to Czechoslovakia on 20 September 1938. Also in 1938, Kurt Popper and Bertha Helle and their children moved to Fruchtallee 135. In 1939, the five-year old Wolfgang Helle made his way to Sweden via a child transport. In the same year, Kurt Popper and Bertha Helle married.
Until September 1938, Oskar Popper and his family got along without welfare assistance. Clara earned 95 RM a month as a store clerk. Hildegard got a position for a while and then received unemployment support. Oskar Popper lowered his rent to 70 RM by moving to Wrangelstrasse 17; he had paid 96 RM at Horner Weg. The Jewish Congregation contributed 20 RM monthly for necessities. A new application for welfare assistance required a house visit from an official representative. The representative verified that Oskar Popper was apparently seriously ill. The diagnosis indicated stomach cancer. Since he could not substantiate this formally, he received no aid.
Whether, like his children, Oskar Popper made efforts to obtain respectively Hamburg or German citizenship or to get to a safer foreign country is unknown.
In the wake of the November Pogrom, Oskar Popper’s work permit was withdrawn, and the Commission of the Public Welfare System stopped its assistance. The private physician of the welfare office supported a nursing allowance of 6 RM per month because of his serious illness. It was not granted, nor was the application for an allocation for heating fuel, "as long as your rent payment does not correspond to your income circumstances.”
In April 1939, Rosalie Popper fell ill again. In the summer, the welfare office granted her an elastic stocking because her right leg was "swollen with elephantiasis,” a consequence of her serious heart and kidney conditions. Possible curative treatments were withheld because she was penniless and as a Czechoslovak citizen eligible for only limited public welfare payments. In 1939, Klara Popper also lost her job "because of the restructuring of the firm.”
Her unemployment aid and that of her sister Hildegard amounted to exactly 21 RM. Although Rosalie and Oskar Popper did not give up the Wrangelstrasse apartment, they did rent out a furnished room for 22 RM monthly, "including morning coffee and light.” None of the sons was in a position to support them financially. Finally, there was nothing left for Oskar and Rosalie Popper and their daughters Hildegard and Klara than to move into the shelter run by the "Jewish Religion Association” at Breiten Strasse 46 in Altona.
Those with citizenship in the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” did not need to take the compulsory names of Sara or Israel; neither were they forced to become members of the Reich Association [of Jews in Germany]. When it came to deportation, however, these persons were treated as Germans. Hildegard and Klara Popper, 35 and 26 years old, respectively, were, along with their severely ill 71 and 65-year old parents, designated for "work assignments in the East" and deported to Minsk on 18 November 1941. On the same transport were Kurt Popper, his wife Bertha, née Helle, her daughter Elise Helle and her son Oskar Helle, who lived in the orphanage at Papendamm 3. While the brothers and their families survived persecution in the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia,” all the Popper family members deported to Minsk vanished.
Translator: Richard Levy
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: February 2018
© Hildegard Thevs
Quellen: 1; 4; 5; StaH, 376-3 Zentralgewerbekartei, VIII Cc1, K 3862; VIII Cc3, K 3913; 351-11 AfW, 291079, 7424; 552-1 Jüdische Gemeinden, 992 e 2, Bd 3; Fischer-Radizi, Rudolf Elkan, in: Hamburger Ärzteblatt 1, 2002; Osterloh, Verfolgung; von Villiez, Kraft.
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