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Already layed Stumbling Stones

Hans Norbert Oettinger * 1900

Isestraße 113 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)

JG. 1900
ERMORDET 17.11.1944

further stumbling stones in Isestraße 113:
Ferdinand Hertz, Esther Luria de Lemos, Clara "Claire" Oettinger

Clara (Claire) Oettinger, geb. Seckel, geb. 22.11.1872 in Walsrode, von Holland am 1.2.1944 deportiert nach Bergen-Belsen, Todesdatum dort 13.3.1945

Hans Norbert Oettinger, geb. 2.10.1900 in Hamburg, von Holland am 1.2.1944 deportiert nach Bergen-Belsen, Todesdatum dort 17.11.1944

Claire Oettinger and her son Hans were among the numerous descendants of Heimann Noa Oettinger who came to Hamburg in 1849 as a young man from Posen (todays’ Poznan) in Prussian Poland. Only a year later he founded the firm H.J. Oettinger. His business was the tobacco trade with Russia and Turkey. The firm was successful and guaranteed his income.

In 1855 he acquired the Hamburg citizenship. The same year he married Clara Jaffé in Posen. Two daughters were born. But three years after their marriage Clara died. In yet another three years Heimann Noa Oettinger re-married, this time Clara’s younger sister Emma. By 1880 four sons and two daughters were of this marriage.

In 2005, Juergen Sielemann published letters written in 1941/42 by their youngest daughter, Regina to her nephews in Holland. He gives an impressive introduction to the family and the historic background, as well as detailed annotations about the family members mentioned in the letters.

Martin Oettinger, born 1864 as the second son of Heimann Noa’s second marriage, married Claire Seckel of Walsrode, who was six years younger than he was. On October 2nd, 1900 their son Hans Norbert was born. Almost six years later his brother Fritz saw the light of the day.

The boys grew up in Isestraße 127. After his graduation ("Abitur”) Hans first studied medicine in Freiburg. But he quit his studies before graduating, probably because he wanted to devote himself to the family business. For the same reason his brother Fritz, doctor- of- law, didn’t pursue a career in his own field.

After Heimann Noa’s death in 1888 his sons Joseph, Ernst and Martin had become partners in ownership of the company. Martin died in 1925 and his son Hans inherited his father’s position.

Probably after her husband’s death Claire Oettinger moved from Isestrasse 127 to Isestrasse 113.

In 1928 Hans married Anita Mainz daughter or Ludwig and Helene Mainz; her considerable dowry was partly put into the Oettinger business. After their marriage they left Hans’ parent’s home in Isestraße and established their own home in Andreasstrasse 27. It was there that their son Martin Arnold Paul was born on October 9th, 1929.

In 1930, Hans left the family business and founded a firm of his own, also in the tobacco trade, "Hans N. Oettinger & Co.” His mother was his associate.

When the Oettingers emigrated to the Netherlands, a former "Arian” employee continued the business by mutual consent.

In 1933, Claire Oettinger went to Amsterdam with her son, Fritz, who had already gained a foothold there in 1932. For the move, the family’s belongings were carefully documented: the contents of two rooms with plenty of extra equipment for Claire, as well as furniture for a two to three room apartment, including a medium-sized library for Fritz. In July 1933, Elisabeth Oettinger, daughter of Ernst Oettinger, also came to Amsterdam. She married her cousin Fritz.

The next year Hans and his family followed his mother, brother and sister-in-law. They moved into an apartment at 50 Schuberstraat.

In 1934, the sons together with their mother founded a new business, "N.V.Orientaalse Tabakshandel”. Hans as head of the company, held 60% of the shares. The firm was prosperous, It specialized in the import of oriental tobacco which was sold in the Netherlands as well as other countries. In 1936 it gained its highest profits, but even during the first eight months of 1942 it made more than 5,000 guilders.
More of the family lived in Holland, among them the cousins Herbert Oettinger, son of Joseph Oettinger, with his widowed mother Recha, his wife and his daughter. Herbert Kruskal, son of Leo Kruskal and Ernestine, née. Oettinger (sister of Regina, Martin and Joseph) lived in Scheveningen with his wife Edda and his parents. His mother died there in December 1940. In 1939, Elisabeth’s brother Walter reached the safe destination of Amsterdam.

Also Anita’s parents Helene und Ludwig Mainz, as well as her brother Hellmuth and his wife with their two daughters lived near Amsterdam. Her father died in Amsterdam in the summer of 1941.

Even though we only know the letters Regina van Son sent her family in the Netherlands in 1941/42 we can assume that she had been in contact with them in the previous years. Thus the family in Holland knew about the progressing persecution and increasing humiliation and restrictions of daily life in Germany. On the other hand, Regina van Son knew that her family in Holland was well, at least until 1940.

On May 10th 1940, the day of the Germans occupation of the Netherlands Nazi terror reached that country and fear spread among the Jews. The firm "N.V.Oettinger Orientaalske Tabakhandel” stayed unmolested for the time being- But the first big tragedy struck the family. On May 16th, the day the Netherlands had to sign the capitulation, in panic Fritz and Elisabeth Oettinger killed themselves and took their two children with them, three- year- old Thomas Martin and his brother Ernst Philip Robert, a baby, less than a year old. ("Stolpersteine” Winterhude, Maria-Louisen-Strasse 104).

At the latest after this blow Claire Oettinger moved in with her son Hans and his family in Schubertstraat.

The first reprisals hit the family of Hans. Martin, who from 1936 to 1941 had attended a Dutch private school could continue his studies at a public high school only for two months before Jewish pupils were excluded. Martin had to go to a Jewish school. Since May 2nd, 1942 also in the Netherlands Jews were forced to wear the "Judenstern”.
We "wore the Judenstern outside visibly attached to our clothes from the day when the order was issued”, Anita Oettinger wrote in 1957.

At the same time you can read in Regina van Son’s correspondence, how the three cousins, Herbert Kruskal and Hans and Herbert Oettinger tried in vain to help their aunt to emigrate either to Holland or to Cuba. Encoded, but very precisely she had reported about the deportations from Hamburg in October and November 1941.

By the summer of 1942 Hans and Anita Oettinger with their son Martin in Amsterdam were also threatened by detention and deportation. On August 9th, they went into hiding. The first night they spent in their greengrocer’s apartment who had given them his key. From there and with faked documents, they fled into the province of Gelderland, first to the town of Lochum. There they had to stay in separate places, because their documents ran on different names. From mid-September to mid-October they found a hiding place in Lunteren. The family was separated once more, but after that all together were given refuge by the van Heuvelen family in Velp.

In March 1943 their last illegal address was Hotel”Rijnsicht" in Heelsum. "Our identity was completely obliterated while we lived in illegality. We had no contact whatsoever with our former friends and our family, but exclusively with Dutch people, who took it upon themselves, to provide ration cards for us und who we owe thanks for the shelter they provided in different illegal lodgings. In their and our own interest we only stepped into the street in a case of emergency and also avoided to be seen inside the house.”

Still, the pursuer discovered the family, and, on April 23rd,Anita, Hans und Martin Oettinger were arrested. They were interned in prisons in Oosterbeek and Amsterdam, until they were taken to the concentration camp Westerbork on May 1st, 1943.

Both their mothers, Claire Oettinger and Helene Mainz, were already there when they arrived. Helene Mainz was in very poor condition health wise and stayed in the hospital.

While Hans and his family were imprisoned there, in Amsterdam another tragedy occurred. Walter Oettinger, the cousin who had only arrived in 1939, went into hiding in town. But his supposed rescuer murdered him on May 24th, 1943 ("Stolperstein”: Winterhude, Bei der Matthäuskirche 5).

After nine months in Westerbork, on February 1st,1944, Claire, Anita, Hans and Martin Oettinger were deported to Bergen-Belsen, unlike 78,663 Jews from the Netherlands (among them Anita’s brother’s parents in law) who had been the taken directly from Westerbork to Auschwitz and Sobibor. Anita’s mother and her brother’s family had arrived in Bergen-Belsen three weeks earlier. There, in 1943 the SS had designated part of an already existing POW camp as a so called Aufenthaltslager for Jews who were to be exchanged for Germans who had been interned in other countries. Suitable for this kind of exchange ("austauschfähig”), in terms of the SS, were Jews who held a foreign nationality or had "family, friendship, political or business ties with citizens of enemy countries or the Netherlands who are staying in enemy countries or are politically involved there”. Which of these conditions applied to the Oettingers, we don’t know. They were not granted the Dutch citizenship after they had been expatriated from Germany, They were considered stateless.

The deportees were accommodated in the "Sternlager” one of several sub camps of the Aufenthaltslager , so called because the inmates were allowed to keep their civilian clothes, but they had to wear the "Judenstern” being visible. Even though this was not a concentration camp in the usual sense or an extermination camp, but a "hostage camp” (Geisellager), the conditions of life were hard. Women and children were kept separated from the men. They had to sleep in three story bunk beds. Hunger and cold took their toll. Men had to do extremely hard labour. Hans Oettinger did not survive these strains. He died on November 17th1944. The Jewish camp doctor testified that an "abscess of the lung” was the cause of his death. Anita’s mother had already died in February of that year.

The number of those who were in fact exchanged was low, neither Hans Oettinger’s wife Anita and his son Martin, nor his mother were among them, but Anita’s brother Hellmuth with his family as well as Hans’ cousin Herbert Kruskal and his wife. During the last months of the war, conditions in Bergen-Belsen deteriorated dramatically. In the whole year of 1944 307 people had died in the hostage camp, whereas 183 deaths were reported just for the month of March 1945. In the same month, in the adjoining large main concentration camp which was overfilled with prisoners who had been "evacuated” from other camps because of the approaching allied troops,11,235 people died. They could not even be cremated let alone buried.

In March 1945 rumors spread, saying that the hostages from the "Sternlager” should be taken to Switzerland or Sweden. But the SS decided otherwise. In three railway trains they were to be transported to Theresienstadt, together with the inmates of three other sub camps of Bergen-Belsen. Obviously, the German authorities still considered them valuable "bartering objects”. The first train was liberated by American troops near Magdeburg on April 13th, 1945. The second reached its destination on April 21st, twelve days after it had left Bergen-Belsen. Anita and Martin Oettinger were on the third train. It left Bergen-Belsen on April 11th packed with 2,400 passengers, after it had been kept at the loading ramp for two days. The odyssey through Germany took two weeks, 198 people died on the train. Finally, on April 23rd, Red Army units stopped the train in the town of Tröbitz in the province of Brandenburg. The survivers were freed. The Sovjet military administration temporarily put them up in Tröbitz. Here more than 300 of them died after their liberation and were buried there.

Anita and her son returned to Amsterdam. Martin could finish his education with the "Abitur”. In 1948, mother and son emigrated to the United States. Anita worked as a nurse, and Martin made a successful academic career from studies at the Ivy-League” universities Brown and Havard, to a professorship of political economy at the University of California. He died in 1986. His mother survived him by five years.

We are not so well informed about Claire Oettinger’s fate. She was already interned in Westerbork on September 3rd 1942, only three weeks after her children had gone into hiding. How might she have spent the time without her children? On the same day as her children were deported to Bergen-Belsen, February 1st, 1944, she too was sent there. Here she died on March 15th, 1945. "Old-age infirmity” was given as cause of death in the death records. Perhaps her daughter- in- law could be with her during her last hours of life.

Anita Oettinger lost her mother, her husband and his mother in the Shoah. Claire Oettinger’s brother Joseph’s widow, Recha Oettinger, survived in Theresienstadt. Recha’s son Herbert, his wife and two children were murdered in Auschwitz ("Stolpersteine”: Haynstrasse 2, Eppendorf). Her daughter Grethe and her family survived.

© Christa Fladhammer

Quellen:1; www.joodsmonument nl/listpublish.php?q_mm=Oettinger;, eingesehen am 28.6.2009; AfW 010408 und 151029; Jürgen Sielemann, Aber seid alle beruhigt, Briefe von Regina van Son an ihre Familie 1941–1942, Hamburg 2005;; Alexandra-Eileen Wenck, Zwischen Menschenhandel und "Endlösung", Das Konzentrationslager Bergen-Belsen, Paderborn 2000, S.12, S.55, S.200ff, S.368ff; telefonische Auskunft von Herrn Horstmann, Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen am 12.2.2010; Stadtarchiv Bad Arolsen, Sonderstandesamt, Abteilung Bergen-Belsen, Sterbeeinträge Nr. IX/26/1944 und Nr. 1112/1951; Stiftung niedersächsischer Gedenkstätten, Bergen-Belsen, Kriegsgegangenenlager 1940 -1945, Konzentrationslager 1943 – 1945, Displaced Persons Camp 1945 – 1950, Katalog der Dauerausstellung, S.148 ff, zur Freilassung von Helmuth Mainz, S.177; Information per e-mail von Frank Meir Loewenberg, Enkel von Recha Oettinger, am 24.6.2010; Stammbaum der Familie Oettinger, erstellt von Frank Meir Loewenberg.
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