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Gertrud Friedensohn (née Silberberg) * 1894
Hallerstraße 6 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)
Alfred Friedensohn, b. 5.21.1879 in Schwerin, deported to Minsk on 11.8.1941, and murdered
Gertrud Friedensohn, widow of Souza, née Silberberg, b. 29.8.1894 in Hamburg, deported to Minsk on 11.8.1941, and murdered
Alfred and Gertrud Friedensohn left Hamburg on 8 November 1941 with the first of two great transports of Jews to Minsk. They had to appear the day before with their luggage, subject to the regulations, at the "Masonic Lodge building” on Moorweidestrasse – today, "Place of the Jewish Deportees.” According to eyewitnesses, the lodge building was cordoned off from the surrounding square by barbed wire. In a painfully cramped space they spent their last night in Hamburg. From there they were transported across the city to the Hannover Railroad Station. Here, on the outskirts of the central city, the German Railroad organized the train for their transport to Minsk. It arrived at its destination four days later. Presumably, Alfred and Gertrud Friedensohn survived the ordeal of this transport. We do not know whether they fell victim to the extreme cold of the winter of 1941–1942, the hunger, infection in the camp, or the mass executions in Minsk on 8 May or 14 September 1943. It is certain that Alfred and Gertrud Friedensohn did not survive the Minsk ghetto.
They had married a brief three years before, on 19 January 1939. They lived together on Ostmarkstrasse – as Hallerstrasse was called since 1938 – at house no. 6, on the second floor. They, perhaps, had a room here to themselves. At this time in this apartment there also live Elsa Davidsohn, née Friedensohn (possibly a cousin of Alfred Friedensohn); she moved to Berlin in September 1940 and was deported from there to Lodz on 18 October 1941. Nanni and Elle Hattendorf also lived there. Ella was also deported to Minsk on 8 November 1941, her mother, Nina Hattendorf, to Theresienstadt on 15 July 1942. Another tenant of the dwelling was Ernst Stern. He died on 11 September 1940. A few weeks later, on 25 October 1940, Alfred and Gertrud Friedensohn had to leave Ostmarkstrasse to move to Frickestrasse 24, into the former Martin-Brunn-Foundation, which had been turned into a "Jew house.” They were assigned to foundation dwelling no. 8, in which Max Gottschalck was already living.
Max Gottschalck was a banker. Until 1937, he was a shareholder in the bank business of Alexander Levy in Hamburg. He was born on 7.9.1874 in Hamburg, his wife Katharina (Käte), née Landau, was born on 7.28.1874; they had no children. Two of Max Gottschalck’s brothers emigrated to the USA; his sister Fanny Auerbach to Brazil. Max and Katharina had to leave their home at Eppendorfer Landstrasse, no. 64 in 1939 and move into a one-room apartment with kitchen in the "Martin-Brunn-Foundation.” Katharina Gottschalck died on 3 September 1940. A few weeks after her death, Alfred and Gertrud Friedensohn were introduced into Max Gottschalck’s room. For a little more than a year they lived together, until the deportation of Alfred and Gertrud to Minsk. Max Gottschalck was spared deportation until the autumn of 1941, because Jews over 65 were supposedly at first "held back” from deportation. A few months later, on 15 July 1942, after the erection of the – according to Nazi Propaganda – "Old People’s Ghetto Theresienstadt,” Max Gottschalck was on the first transport from Hamburg to Theresienstadt. He remained their only briefly. On 21 September 1942, he was deported from Theresienstadt to Treblinka and murdered. (No commemorative stone has yet been placed for Max Gottschalck.)
In the year 1748, Rabbi Abraham Ben-Shalom of Prausnitz, Silesia took the name "Friedensohn.” One of his descendants was Alfred Friedensohn. Both of his parents, Hermann and Anna Friedensohn, née Rosenbaum, still lived in Silesia. Their oldest daughter, Ida, was born on 6.11.1871 in Hirschberg, Silesia. Later, they moved to Schwerin, where five more children were born: Gertrud on 1.7.1876, Käthe on 7.29.1877, Felix, Jenny, and Alfred. We do not know the birthdate of Felix. Jenny died in her seventh year on 18 January 1886. Apparently, she was the twin sister of Alfred Friedensohn. They were both born about seven years prior to her death on 5.21.1879. Alfred’s parents died early, his mother when he was four, his father when he was twelve years old. He grew up with an aunt.
Like his grandfather and his father, he became a merchant. When exactly he left Schwerin is not known. Since 1910, he lived in Altona, at Behnstrasse 5; in 1913, he lived in Hamburg in a building typical of the early years of the German Empire in the Grindel quarter at Hartungstrasse 14-1. From 1925, his widowed sister Gertrud Schlomann lived with him; in 1936, they both lived at Hartungstrasse 7a. Gertrud Schlomann died on 13 August 1939 in Hamburg. Alfred Friedensohn was an independent trade representative in textile goods. His office was in the "Merchant House,” at Grosse Bleichen 31, no. 229, later 230. At the end of 1938, "Aryanization” forced him to give up his business in textiles and his office. He was left with no assets. A "security order" was not issued for him. A new examination of his assets by the Foreign Exchange Office of the Chief Financial Governor on 9 August 1940 revealed that at this time he had only 1902.94 RM remaining.
Gertrud Friedensohn’s first husband, Fritz Souza, died on 8 March 1934 at 43 years of age. Born in Hamburg on 8.15.1891, he belonged to the Hamburg Portuguese Jewish Congregation. He, too, was a businessman. The marriage remained childless. They lived at Husumer Strasse 4. After his death, Gertrud Souza continued to live at Husumer Strasse, in house no. 10, until she married Alfred Friedensohn.
Gertrud Friedensohn’s parents, Hermann and Edelmira Silberberg, née Möller, lived in a Jewish-Christian "mixed marriage." Their four children – Fanny, Gertrud, Bernhard, and Lotti – were born in Hamburg. Despite his marriage to a non-Jew, Hermann Silberberg remained, along with his children, a member of the Jewish Congregation in Hamburg. When the Nuremberg Laws redefined their "confessional” into a "mixed-marriage,” according to National Socialist racial criteria, they had been married for 46 years.
Hermann Silberberg owned a "fashion accessories” shop at Eppendorfer Landstrasse 55, where Gertrud and her siblings grew up. The business and home of the Silberberg’s were finally at Baumtwiete 10. The shop was closed in 1937. Hermann and Edelmira Silberberg moved to the Martin-Brunn-Foundation, originally a residence of the Hamburg "Hometown Institute,” equally for both Christian and Jewish women. It is possible that at the point in time when they moved, Christian and Jewish women still lived in the house and the Martin-Brunn-Foundation was converted into a "Jew house” only after they arrived. They lived in the Foundation Home no. 10. From 25 October 1940, their daughter Gertrud and her husband Alfred Friedensohn lived in the immediate vicinity, at Home no. 8. Hermann Silberberg died on 24 August 1941, at 76 years of age. He did not live to experience the deportation of his daughter to Minsk.
Fanny Silberberg, Gertrud’s oldest sister, was born on 10.8.1890; she was a store clerk, twice married and twice divorced. Thereafter, she again used her maiden name "Silberberg.” Her daughter Margot Friedland was born in Hamburg on 10.28.1918. Until 1925, Fanny Silberberg was a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and afterwards, as she put it, "a functionary” of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). From the beginning, she was therefore subjected to Nazi persecution, on political rather than "racial” grounds. As early as 11 April 1933, she was sentenced to – preliminarily – four days in jail on account of "Resistance and Calumny.” She had, as she reported, "even before the Nazi Seizure of Power, worn the anti-Fascist badge.” She served the sentence from 26 to 30 July 1933, then was not released but rather remained in pretrial detention, until, on 14 September 1933, the Hanseatic Special Court, according to §3 of the Reich President’s Decree of 21 March 1933, sentenced her to 18 months in prison on account of "malicious attacks against the Government of National Renewal, which sentence she served until 20 February 1935. Under suspicion for "preparation to commit high treason,” she was again put in pretrial detention in January 1936. The Hanseatic Higher Regional Court acquitted her for "a lack of sufficient evidence”; her claim to compensation for wrongful imprisonment was not approved. On 15 October 1937, without charges and without a court sentence, she was put in "protective custody,” and taken to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, and from there she was handed over to the concentration camp at Leuchtenburg, in the Prettin Castle near Torgau. This was one of the first concentration camps in Nazi Germany, and at the time in which Fanny Silberberg was incarcerated, it was a camp for women. It was disbanded as a women’s camp in 1939; Fanny Silberberg, along with all the other prisoners, was remanded to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she remained until 6 February 1940. On 5 March 1940, scarcely a month after her release, she fled Germany. Via Genoa, she reached Shanghai. Under Japanese occupation, she lived in a ghetto there. An opportunity to work in the ghetto did not exist for her; permission to leave the ghetto was denied her. She lived by means of support from the Jewish Committee. In 1952, Fanny Silberberg returned to Hamburg, where she lived for the first few years in the Jewish Old People’s Home at Sedanstrasse 23. Fanny Silberberg died on 17 September 1986 in Hamburg.
Margot Friedland-Cohn, Fanny’s daughter, emigrated to Mexico in 1939. Previously she lived with her Silberberg grandparents at Baumtwiete 10 and worked in her grandfather’s shop as a salesperson. Before her emigration, the customs investigators inspected her "property for relocation.” The investigation report of 3 January 1939 affirmed: "the property for relocation consists of clothing and underwear, all of it previously worn … The few pieces of jewelry are worthless. The costs of her passage are paid by her father who has lived abroad for twenty years.” … This is the only documented reference to the divorced husband of Fanny Silberberg.
How different, on the other hand, was the story of Bernhard Silberberg, Gertrud’s younger brother, who was born on 6.20.1899. Though very young, he was still a soldier at the end of the First World War. He was the only one of his family to declare, in 1931, his withdrawal from the Jewish Congregation, becoming a Catholic. According to his communal religion tax record, he was listed as a "clerk,” thus an employee in his father’s shop, but also worked as a writer. His pen name was "Bernhard Berg.” This was, however, not just his pen name; the Hamburg directory of 1942 listed him under this name as a renter in the apartment on Ostmarkstrasse 6/1, which his sister Gertrud, as a "Jewess,” and her husband had to leave in October 1940. After the coerced departure, he remained as the renter of the apartment. He lived there for a long time, even after the end of Nazi rule, when "Ostmark” once again had become "Hallerstrasse.”
Since 1933, Bernhard Silberberg, called Berg, was a member of the "Reich Association of German Writers.” As a "non-Aryan,” a ban on writing was issued against him. As was not the case with others, the ban was lifted even before the end of Nazi rule. In 1943 – two years after the death of his father and one and a half years after the deportation of his sister – he "instigated,” as he later put it, proceedings with the object of "disavowing his legitimacy.”
On 28 May 1943, the chief state’s attorney in the Hamburg District court brought suit "against the writer Bernhard Kurt Silberberg challenging his legitimacy according to §1595a of the Civil Code.” The basis for the suit was a sworn statement of his mother’s that prior to his birth and because of a profound discord she had had no sexual relations with her husband. During the time in question, however, she had had a relationship with the now dead actor, Alex Otto, which had not been without consequences. According to the judgment of the chief state’s attorney, this statement by his mother – along with an affidavit from a friend – was confirmed by the results of a "race and hereditary biological” investigation conducted at the Anthropological Institute of the University of Kiel (Prof. Weinert). The First Civil Division of the Hamburg District Court pursued the suit and affirmed in its judgment of 23 June 1943 that the accused was not the son of Hermann Silberberg from his marriage to Francisca Edelmira, née Möller. As the presumed "illegitimate” son of his mother, he thenceforth would bear her maiden name, "Möller.” "Aryanized” by the judgment of the Hamburg District Court, Bernhard Möller applied for his re-admission to the "Reich Writers’ Chamber” on 13 November 1943. On 19 January 1944, the Chamber issued im a special authorization to practice his profession. In the same year, he married his "Aryan” fiancée and was called up for military service. During the time of the surrender, he spent mostly in the infirmary. After the war, Bernhard Möller repeatedly asserted that his "illegitimate” birth had been a "necessary lie” and his efforts to "Aryanize” himself had been justifiable as an "act of self-defense.” In his view, as he emphatically put it, this saved him at the "last possible second” from compulsory labor and deportation.
Gertrud’s youngest sister, Lotti Silberberg, born just two years after her brother Bernhard on 3.13.1901, was a photographer; she was, since 1931, married to the Jewish physician Dr. Jaques Neumann. With him and their Hamburg-born daughter Dorrit, Lotti emigrated to South Africa in 1936. While her husband had to once again study medicine before being permitted to practice as a physician, she supported the family as a photographer, but had to give up her work for health reasons. Lotti Neumann died on 24 September 1946 in Cape Town as a result of her asthma.
A brief look at Alfred Friedensohn’s sister, Käthe Bonheim, née Friedensohn, shall close this family portrait. She married the physician Dr. Paul Bonheim, who was born in Rostock on 7.19.1877. They lived in Hamburg, where were born their two sons, Hans Hermann (3.6.1907) and Erwin Alfred (12.19.1910). For 35 years, from 1903 to 1938, Paul Bonheim was a physician in Hamburg. For many years, he was the chief physicians for internal medicine at the Masonic Hospital on Kleinen Schäferkamp – today the Elisabeth Old People’s and Nursing Home. Simultaneously, he was director of this hospital, so rich in tradition. Paul Bonheim lost his position in the hospital in 1933. A hospital, supported by an association that had to be renamed "Hospital of the German Order” in 1933, released him as a "non-Aryan,” after the issuing of the National Socialist Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. He continued his private practice from his home at Hansastrasse 70 until 1938. (The house at no. 70 stood in a part of the street that no longer exists. Today it is the site of one of the Grindel high-rises.) Dr. Hans Hermann Bonheim, a physician in Hamburg, like his father, was hauled off to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp after the November Pogrom of 1938. He returned to Hamburg in December 1938 and fled in January 1939, with his wife and children, via Holland to the USA. They were the only members of the family to survive. Paul, Käthe, and their son Erwin Bonheim also planned to flee through Holland to the USA. They did not succeed. They got to Holland but could not, after the outbreak of the war, leave the country. In Holland, Paul and Käthe Bonheim lived in Velp, in the Province of Gelderland. In the fall of 1942, as the result of raids, many Jews were arrested and deported. In Velp, on 13 December 1942, a Sunday, Paul and Käthe took their own lives. Through suicide, they escaped incarceration and deportation. Before his flight to Eefde, Holland, Erwin Bonheim lived in Berlin. On 10 January 1944, he was arrested in a raid in Amsterdam and deported from there to Auschwitz. His date of death is considered to have been 31 July 1944.
Commemorative stones at the house on Brahmsallee, no. 19, remember Paul, Käthe, and Erwin Bonheim.
Translator: Richard Levy
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: September 2019
© Jost von Maydell
Quellen: StaH, 332 – 5, Sign. 49077, 49078, 49091; 351 – 11, Sign. 12147, 22485, 40770; 522-1, 992b; Archiv Landgericht Hamburg (ALGH) – Abstammungsverfahren 1937–1945, AZ: 1R 53/43; Gedenkbuch des Bundesarchivs; Gedenkbuch Hamburger Jüdische Opfer‘, Hamburger Adressbücher, versch. Jahrgänge; Heimat, hrsg. Jüdisches Museum Berlin, S. 98; Apel, Tod, S. 114ff.; Lisboa, Haifa, (o. J.) Stammbaum der Familie Friedensohn; Meyer, "Jüdische Mischlinge"; Rentrop, Tatorte; Schwarz, Wohnstiftung, in: Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel, Band 2, S. 557–562; dies., Jüdische Protagonisten, in: Ludwig/Schilde (Hrsg.), Jüdische Wohlfahrtsstiftungen, Bd. 4, S. 99–132; Vieth, 101 Jahre; Villies, Mit aller Kraft, S. 86/87, 231/232 und 371; Mosel, Wegweiser, Heft 3, bes. S. 161; wikipedia vom 18.5.2014, "KZ Lichtenberg"; yadvashem.org; Auskünfte: Ulf Bollmann, StaH, vom 27.1.2014; Bernd Kasten, Stadtarchiv Schwerin, vom 21.1.2014; Jose Martin von Joodse Monument vom 5.2.2014.