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Already layed Stumbling Stones
Henry Meier * 1915
Ernst-Mantius-Straße 5 (Bergedorf, Bergedorf)
further stumbling stones in Ernst-Mantius-Straße 5:
Inge Meier, Bela Meier, Hugo Rosendorff, Hertha Rosendorff
Hugo Rosendorff, born on 18 Apr. 1880 in Wronke/Province of Posen (today Wronki in Poland), deported to Theresienstadt on 15 July 1942, from there to Auschwitz-Birkenau on 26 May 1944
Inge Meier, née Rosendorff, born on 27 Sept. 1917 in Hamburg, deported to Minsk on 18 Nov. 1941
Bela Rosendorff/Meier, born on 21 Mar. 1940 in Hamburg, deported to Minsk on 18 Nov. 1941
Henry Meier, born on 15 May 1915 in Hamburg, deported to Minsk on 8 Nov. 1941
Ernst-Mantius-Strasse 5, Agathenstrasse 3
The following biographies serve to highlight the fate of three generations of a Jewish family. Ranging from grandfather Hugo Rosendorff aged 64 to the grandchild not even two years old, they became victims of the Nazi racial fanaticism. Only the children Herbert and Ellen managed to depart in time and achieve from abroad the emigration of three additional relatives. Their correspondence with the family members remaining behind in Germany was severed by the deportation of the relatives beginning in late 1941.
The pharmacist Hugo Rosendorff was living with his wife Hertha, née Hirschel, in Hamburg-Neustadt when he took over one of the eight drugstores in Bergedorf in 1912. Heinrich Schönfeld’s "Germania-Drogerie" was located at Sachsenstrasse 23, today Sachsentor 75, the main street of the small town belonging to Hamburg. The Rosendorffs were religious but not orthodox Jews.
Hugo Rosendorff came from Wronke (today Wronki in Poland) in what was then the Prussian Province of Posen. It was a small town, which in contrast to Bergedorf featured a synagogue. Hertha Rosendorff was from Hamburg and, like the majority of Hamburg Jews in the nineteenth century, she had lived in Hamburg-Neustadt. Their home was located near Grossneumarkt at Schlachterstrasse 54, not far from two Jewish residential homes and the Kohlhöfen Synagogue. This proximity was definitely of significance, since following the religious traditions, the faithful were allowed to reach the synagogues only by foot on the Sabbath.
Hermann Hirschel, the father of Hertha Rosendorff, was among the well-to-do Jews. He owned a three-story residential and business building and the building next door. For many years, he had operated there, on the ground floor of Schlachterstrasse 54, his business, entered in the Hamburg directory as "yard goods, linen, white goods, hosiery, and Dutch goods [i.e. fine linens, textiles, cloth], underwear manufacture and warehouse” ("Manufactur-, Leinen-, Weiss-, Strumpf- und Holl. Waaren, Wäschefabrik und Lager”). He resided with his family on the second floor; the two other apartments were rented out, as was the building next door. In about 1909, Hirschel transferred the business to his daughter who had married the pharmacist Hugo Rosendorff. Both lived on the second floor with the parents. As a man of independent means, Hermann Hirschel had become the district head of the General Poorhouse (Allgemeine Armenanstalt), holding regular office hours at the house for needy persons of his district in Hamburg-Neustadt.
Just having obtained his pharmacist’s license, it was hopeless for young Hugo Rosendorff to open his own pharmacy due to the restrictive state practice of assigning concessions. Waiting periods of up to 20 years and more were the rule in Hamburg, and anyone not inheriting a pharmacy from relatives was forced to look for something else. Therefore, in 1912, he acquired together with his wife, who initially continued to operate the yard goods business, the drugstore in Bergedorf, which enabled him to work in a related sector.
Apart from perfume departments and goods for patient care, the Germania-Drogerie featured a "special photo section.” As contemporary witnesses recall, it consisted of a darkroom for developing films and printing copies. Another workroom accommodated the hand-operated cutter used to crop each photo.
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, many things changed for the young family, which by then included a new arrival, son Herbert Simon. Like many others, Hugo Rosendorff hastened to join the colors. Due to the emperor’s slogan, "I no longer know parties, I know only Germans!” German Jews in particular felt called upon to go to war for their fatherland.
Rosendorff served as a staff pharmacist (Stabsapotheker) with an officer’s rank at the western front. He was deployed, among other places, around Metz, receiving the Iron Cross First Class in recognition of his services.
During the war, Hertha Rosendorff managed both the yard goods store in Hamburg-Neustadt and the Germania-Drogerie in Bergedorf, as well as taking care of her son. In 1917, when daughter Inge was born, the family first moved to what was then the Prussian town of Sande, today’s Lohbrügge. The Hamburg business was given up. The end of the war in 1918 saw the reunited family move to Bergedorf, into a solid middle-class four-bedroom apartment at Ernst-Mantius-Strasse 5. This was also home to Anni Hirschel, Hertha Rosendorff’s sister.
Located just around the corner, at Holstenstrasse 6, today Alte Holstenstrasse, was a pastry shop operated by Carl Kerff, a Jewish man from Denmark. The Jewish dentist Tichauer lived and practiced on Holstenstrasse (no. 9/11) as well. Moreover, the lawyer and notary public James Cohn, as a Liberal member of the Bergedorf city council, had his law office nearby (at Kampstrasse 4, today Weidenbaumsweg). Based on the amendment to name change legislation, implemented in Hamburg only in 1922 due to an intervention by the Reich Minister of the Interior, he had his name changed to "Kauffmann.”
Located at Bahnstrasse 1, today Reetweder 1, was the large Frank & Nielsen yard goods store managed by the Jewish owner Berthold Frank. Surely, it would be wrong to speak of a Jewish quarter but nevertheless one is struck by the spatial proximity in which Jewish families and business people settled there. Contemporary witnesses provide evidence that the families maintained contact among each other. For example, on the weekends there were joint outings of the Kerff and Rosendorff families with horse and carriage or occasional visits of the Rosendorffs with the Frank family.
Similar contact existed to non-Jewish families. For instance, Heinrich Kohnen, whose father was friends with Hugo Rosendorff, recalls childhood days spent together with the son, Herbert Rosendorff: "There was the smoking room for men with the large library of classics and the marvelous leather armchair. What impressed us children most of all, however, was Mr. Rosendorff’s uniform from the First World War. It hung in a closet, along with the helmet and the saber and the Iron Cross.”
In 1919, Hertha Rosendorff had given birth to another daughter, Ellen. A nanny was hired for the three children. In addition, a maid was also employed. Two employees and an errand boy worked at the drugstore. On top of that, two traveling salesman took care of selling veterinarian products to farmers in the environs. Actually, in his laboratory, the pharmacist Rosendorff not only manufactured his own beauty care products, such as the brand product called "Rosoderma,” but also developed remedies for combating animal diseases.
While son Herbert attended the Realgymnasium [a high school focused on science, math, and modern languages] of the Hansa School in Bergedorf, his sisters Inge and Ellen drove to Eimsbüttel to attend Erna Lütgen’s Secondary Girls’ School.
At home, all major Jewish holidays were observed. Like his friend, the merchant Christopher Kohnen, Hugo Rosendorff chose the German People’s Party (Deutsche Volkspartei – DVP) headed by the national liberal Gustav Stresemann, whose goal was the revision of the Versailles Treaty by way of political reconciliation.
No evidence is available to document instances of resentment against the Rosendorffs and other Jewish residents of Bergedorf for the 1920s and at the beginning of the 1930s. At school, the children were apparently classmates like all the others. This is how they viewed themselves, this is how they were accepted by other students, and this is how the surviving son Herbert Rosendorff experienced his childhood and youth in Bergedorf (interview on 11 Aug. 1993). Moreover, several interviews conducted by the author between 1993 and 1996 among former students of the Luisen School and the school on Birkenhain, covering the cohorts born from 1919 until 1922, as well as of former students of the Hansa School born in a variety of years from 1912 onward, whose classes included Jewish classmates, arrived at the same conclusion.
The nation-wide call by the Nazi party leadership to boycott Jewish businesses, doctors, and lawyers on 1 Apr. 1933, which the Bergedorfer Zeitung (bz) printed full-page, was not without consequences. It was the Bergedorf SS that according to the report about the "Boycott movement in Bergedorf” took on the "guarding” of the Jewish businesses, since the local SA had been called to the KPD (German Communist Party) bastion of Geesthacht, which at the time also belonged to the Bergedorf District Administration (Landherrenschaft). Reportedly, the crowds of "curious bystanders” had soon dispersed and at any rate, the operation in Bergedorf had unfolded "in complete peace and discipline,” as the bz wrote in its 1 April issue. The consequence of the boycott for the Rosendorffs, apparently connected with pressure from the Professional Association of Pharmacists, was the relocation of the successful drugstore from the main street to much smaller premises in a run-down side street in 1933/1934. There, at Neue Strasse 18 (Neuer Weg 18, torn down in 1956), business went worse for there were much fewer walk-in customers.
The deterioration of business circumstances resulted in the family giving up the four-bedroom apartment on Ernst-Mantius-Strasse. The Rosendorff family had to move into a smaller apartment on Reinbeker Weg. The beginning of 1936 then saw the move into what was probably an even smaller and more affordable apartment in Hamburg-Winterhude at Thielengasse 2 (Jarrestadt). In March of that year, the son, Herbert Rosendorff, succeeded in emigrating to Uruguay. Before the end of the year, in Dec. 1936, he managed to arrange the departure of his 19-year-old sister Ellen as well as of his aunt Anni, née Hirschel, with her husband Hans Bormann, also to Uruguay. The parents and their daughter, Inge Rosendorff, however, wished to stay in Germany because they were unable to imagine what the German Reich would be capable of within only a few years.
The repressive measures against Jews were escalated further. In Apr. 1938, an ordinance took effect that prepared the legal ground for expropriating the German Jews. The "Decree Concerning the Reporting of Jewish Assets” ("Verordnung über die Anmeldung des Vermögens von Juden”) stipulated not only the disclosure of all assets but in Sec. 7 also openly provided the reason for this measure: "The Commissioner for the Four-Year Plan is authorized to take measures necessary to ensure the use of assets subject to reporting in keeping with the requirements of the German economy.” The same month that this ordinance came into effect, the Rosendorffs were already forced to call on the support of the Jewish Community. Hertha Rosensdorff’s hospital stay, made necessary by a stroke, could not be covered. Starting in Oct. 1938, the passports of all Jews were called in. By then, the end of the Germania-Drogerie in Bergedorf was imminent.
The external cause for "Kristallnacht,” the November Pogrom of 1938, was the assassination of the legation secretary at the German Embassy in France, Ernst vom Rath, in Paris on 7 Nov. 1938. In its issue on 10 Nov. 1938, the Bergedorfer Zeitung reported about "demonstrations in which the justified outrage of the German population against Jews living in Hamburg was vented.”
In the aftermath, all Jews were banned from being independently active economically in any form as of 1 Jan. 1939. For Rosendorff’s Germania-Drogerie, as for all other Jewish businesses that had not folded yet, this meant the end. The last female sales assistant of Hugo Rosendorff, Mrs. de Lemos, reported in 1961, "I still remember that in 1938 someone showed up in the store and explained that he wished to speak to Mr. Rosendorff. He then showed an identification tag. So I called Mr. Rosendorff, and the gentleman told Mr. Rosendorff that the store had to be closed. I recall that about three to four days after the first officer had called on Mr. Rosendorff, other officers appeared and closed the store down. After the closure, Mr. Rosendorff did not transact any sales in the store anymore.”
Still in Dec. 1938, Hugo Rosendorff sold the furnishings and fittings and the goods, but the modest proceeds did not even suffice to cover the expenses incurred. In Jan. 1939, Hugo Rosendorff was forced to lend 700 RM (reichsmark) from his sister-in-law and to sell part of his furniture for 135 RM. "These funds are now used up in their entirety” and "R. is without any income,” read the report about a home visit by the welfare office on 10 Aug. 1939. If in the previous year, Rosendorff had still been in a position to pay off the deferred hospital costs for his wife in installments, at this time, following a repeated illness of Hertha Rosendorff in July 1939, the family became a complete welfare case for the Jewish Community.
Already at the beginning of the year, Hertha Rosendorff had been forced to surrender her jewelry. Authorizing itself by means of the decree on 21 Feb. 1939, the German Reich robbed precious metals and jewelry from the Jews. Since 1 Jan. 1939, all Jews not bearing a "markedly Jewish first name” were forcibly assigned the compulsory first name of Israel or, respectively, Sara. The Rosendorffs were then obligated to have themselves registered as Hugo Israel and Hertha Sara Rosendorff. Repeatedly, they found themselves compelled to change apartments. The so-called "Jews’ houses” (Judenhäuser) were the last stations in Hamburg for them, too.
The last addresses indicated in Eimsbüttel are Agathenstrasse 3 for Hugo Rosendorff and Schäferkampsallee 25 for his wife. Apparently, she was in need of constant care by then, for Schäferkampsallee 25/27 was the location of one of the nursing homes of the Jewish Religious Organization (Jüdischer Religionsverband).
Since 1940, Hugo Rosendorff was enlisted to perform forced labor. Due to a foot injury that he sustained in the winter, he had become unfit for work. As a result, his tax file indicated only "starting work on 2 Mar. 1941.” His average weekly pay was less than 32 RM. Because of his low earnings, he did not have to pay income tax. Until July 1941, he was classified as a "person liable for income tax with fluctuating earnings;” the last entry in his files occurred on 23 Aug. 1941.
Meanwhile the Rosendorffs had become grandparents. On 21 Mar. 1940, their daughter had given birth to a daughter Bela in Hamburg. On 20 Apr. 1941, she married the child’s father, Henry Meier. For the time being, Bela, far younger than the stipulated age of six, was exempt from the Jews’ obligation for visible identification. Her parents and grandparents, however, were forced to sew the yellow star with the inscription "Jew” ("Jude”) on to their clothing. Together with her mother Inge, née Rosendorff, Bela, who was barely one year and eight months old, was deported from Hamburg to the Minsk Ghetto on 18 Nov. 1941.
The father, Henry Meier, along with his younger brother Lothar, had already arrived there with the transport on 8 November. In the ghetto, living conditions were disastrous. It is uncertain whether the young family lived through the winter. We do not know whether they were among the more than 10,000 persons shot by the Security Police and SD (Security Service) on 28 and 29 July 1942 ("Operation Reinhard”) or whether they were not taken, along with the remaining survivors, from Minsk to Baranovichi before 14 Sept. 1943 and killed in gas vans. In the Memorial Book for the Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany of the German Federal Archives, they are all listed as "missing in Minsk.”
Hertha and Hugo Rosendorff had remained in Hamburg. Their names did not appear on the deportation lists for Riga and Auschwitz yet. However, they were scheduled for the first transport to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in July 1942. They were allowed to take along 50 kilograms (110 lbs) of luggage and 100 RM; on 4 Nov. 1941, the regime had already settled the further processing of their remaining belongings: "The assets of the Jews to be deported will be confiscated to the benefit of the German Reich.”
Along with 926 other Jewish persons, the Rosendorff couple was deported to Theresienstadt on 15 July 1942. Setting out on the journey with them as well was the retired associate judge at the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgerichtsrat a. D.) Walter Rudolphi from Bergedorf, who from 1939 onward had assumed, among other things, the direction of the Jewish social welfare organization, also acting as an executive committee member of the Hamburg Jewish Religious Organization reg. soc. (Jüdischer Religionsverband Hamburg e. V.).
On 7 Sept. 1942, the Rosendorffs’ household effects, remaining behind in Hamburg and seized by the German Reich, were auctioned off to the highest bidder in the house at Agathenstrasse 3. For 604.40 RM, a German "national comrade” ("Volksgenosse”) – others were banned from participating in the auctions – was thus able to furnish his or her home with the last belongings of a Jewish family relatively affluent until only a few years before.
Designated as nos. VI/I-743 and VI/I-744, the Rosendorffs reached Theresienstadt on 16 July 1942, their "take-along baggage” ("Mitgepäck”) was seized and put to use by the SS.
On 7 Oct. 1942, only a few weeks after her arrival, Hertha Rosendorff perished in Theresienstadt. Just on the day before, a new mass grave had been dug, and the four new ovens of the crematorium were used to cremate up to 180 corpses a day.
Hugo Rosendorff outlived his wife. His traces in Theresienstadt were destroyed. Only the handwritten entry on his arrival list, "2486 Dz,” reveals to us something about his last ordeal. "Dz” is the designation of the railway transport on 15 May 1944 from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz and "2486” is the number assigned to Rosendorff. As one among 2,500 Jews of this transport, he was sent by the SS on his last journey.
Hugo Rosendorff arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau as the largest killing operation in the camp’s history was just getting underway. The persons reaching the camp from Theresienstadt in freight cars were unloaded at a special ramp and were subsequently taken to the so-called family camp. The "family camp” differed significantly from the other camp sectors. Set up in Sept. 1943, it accommodated those Jews taken from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz.
A Slovakian Jew who fled in Apr. 1944 reports as follows: "It was completely incomprehensible to us that these transports enjoyed an unprecedented status. The families were not separated, and not one of them was taken to the gassings, so natural for us; in fact, they did not even have their heads shaved, and they were quartered, just as they had arrived, men, women, and children together in a camp section (II B) divided off, and they were even allowed to keep their luggage. The men did not have to go to work (!), for the children a school was … opened. They even had permission to send mail.”
The example of the "family camp” makes the perversion of the Nazi camp system particularly transparent. The SS had special plans for the Theresienstadt Jews: "SB with six months of quarantine.” The letters "SB” stood for Sonderbehandlung ("special treatment”) and meant nothing else but extermination by gassing. To be sure, gassing was the order of the day in Auschwitz, but the special feature in this case was the six months of "quarantine” for the persons arriving from Theresienstadt at the end of 1943.
The time spent in "quarantine” was filled with writing harmless cards to Theresienstadt; in these cards, they had to tell about their "wellbeing” and their "place of residence” Birkenau. These people sent their last cards on 5 Mar. 1944, post-dated to 25 until 27 March. In the night from 8 to 9 March, nearly all of the inmates of the "family camp” were murdered in the gas chambers. A few weeks after the mass murder, the cards reached their recipients. This gruesome staging served to deceive the public, particularly that abroad, which since the change in war fortunes had already received news about the mass exterminations.
When Hugo Rosendorff arrived there in mid-May 1944, too, this procedure was continued as proof that Germany’s Jewish policy was "harmless.” The difference was that the "quarantine” was not to last for six months anymore. The last written communication about Rosendorff is preserved in a "correction of lists” dated 26 May 1944 that was still carried out in Theresienstadt. In place of the crossed-out "Josef Israel Jettkowitz” with number 2486, "Hugo Israel Rosendorff” was put on the list. As one of 7,503 Jews arriving in Auschwitz on three transports from Theresienstadt in May, he probably lived in the "family camp” up to July 1944. Then the disbanding took place. Anyone not young and strong enough to work – and the fewest were capable of doing so – was murdered using gas on 7 July 1944 and cremated in one of the connected crematoria immediately afterward. The victims of this day will likely have included 64-year-old Hugo Rosendorff.
With the ashes, the camp’s own agricultural operations then fertilized their cultivated plots; and entire carts full of ashes were also dumped in rivers, fishponds, and bogs.
The lists containing Rosendorff’s date of death and that of his fellow sufferers were destroyed before the liberation of the camp. Therefore, Hugo Rosendorff, too, is considered "missing,” as is his daughter Inge, his son-in-law Henry Meier, and his granddaughter Bela in Minsk. "Missing in Auschwitz” reads the Memorial Book for the Jewish Victims of National Socialism.
One detail to add is that only after bringing legal action, were the two surviving children of Hertha and Hugo Rosendorff awarded a joint "restitution” based on the decision of the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht) dated 2 Oct. 1963 – almost 20 years after the first deportations. The Chief Finance Administration of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg had initially refused any payments on the grounds, among other things, that after all, the "testators” ("Erblasser”) – meaning the Rosendorffs – had "received welfare assistance payments,” and that it was therefore "very unlikely” that they had owned any valuables for which to pay restitution.
Bergedorf was the only district of Hamburg where, based on a majority decision of the district council, the laying of the Stolpersteine in early 2003 was to be prevented. Sixty years after the murder of members of three generations of this Bergedorf family, the stumbling stones were laid nonetheless. Today they commemorate the fate of the Rosendorffs in front of the house at Ernst-Mantius-Strasse 5.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: September 2019
© Geerd Dahms (Korrekturen Beate Meyer)
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