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Already layed Stumbling Stones

Porträt Kurt Schwab
Kurt Schwab
© Privat

Kurt Schwab * 1892

Mundsburger Damm 1 (Hamburg-Nord, Hohenfelde)

JG. 1892

further stumbling stones in Mundsburger Damm 1:
Camilla Gembicki, Toni Kemlinski, Heinrich Kemlinski, Gerd Hermann Schwab, Herma Schwab

Camilla Gembicki, née Kemlinski, born on 21 June 1878 in Strasbourg, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to the Riga Ghetto, perished there
Toni Kemlinski, born on 2 May 1876 in Strasbourg, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to the Riga Ghetto, perished there
Heinrich Max Kemlinski, born on 8 Aug. 1904 in Hamburg, deported on 1 Sept. 1941 to the Flossenbürg concentration camp, perished there on 9 Apr. 1942
Gerd Hermann Schwab, born on 22 Feb. 1929 in Hamburg, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to the Riga Ghetto, perished there
Herma Schwab, born on 30 Jan. 1927 in Hamburg, deported on 6 Dec. 1941 to the Riga Ghetto, perished there
Kurt Schwab, born on 8 Mar. 1892 in Meiningen, in 1939 flight to Switzerland, from there to Belgium, interned in Mechelen (Malines), deported on 18 Aug. 1942 to the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp, murdered there

Mundsburger Damm 1

Camilla and Toni Kemlinski were two of seven daughters of Maier Kemlinski and his wife Hermine. Maier Kemlinski (born in 1843), from a small village near Lodz, was the son of a Jewish religion teacher and orphaned early. He had settled as a merchant in Strasbourg in Alsace and helped found the Orthodox synagogue there. His bride, Hermine Kemlinski, née Strauss (born in 1854) came from the Grand Duchy of Baden and was 19 years old at the time of the wedding. In the same year, Jenny was born (in 1873), probably the following year, Leonore (c. 1874). Toni (in 1876) and Camilla (in 1878) followed, succeeded by Mindel Meta (in 1882), Hilda (in 1886), and Berthe (in 1889).

Camilla was 20 years old when she married Ludwig Gembicki in Strasbourg on 24 Nov. 1898. Ludwig Gembicki was born on 9 Nov. 1877 in Strelno (today Strzelno in Poland), administrative district of Bromberg (today Bydgoszcz in Poland), the son of banker Simon Gembicki and Henriette, née Ries. He had three younger brothers, Wilhelm (born in 1879), Martin, who died as an infant, and Erich (born in 1886). Shortly after Erich’s birth, his mother passed away. Simon Gembicki was a board member of the Strelno Jewish Community. After attending high school in Dresden from 1888 to 1894, Ludwig Gembicki studied natural sciences in Breslau (today Wroclaw in Poland), Lausanne, and Strasbourg, receiving his doctorate from the Chemical Institute of the University of Lausanne. Probably, he and Camilla met in Strasbourg. He found his first job in Halle/Saale, but soon moved to Halberstadt as co-owner of HBS-Farbwerke C. H. Faaß & Dr. Ludwig Gembicki, a dye plant. As a result, he and Camilla moved there. Through her marriage, she held the Prussian citizenship of her husband by that time.

Meanwhile Camilla’s sister Toni also resided in Halberstadt. Four weeks after her sister, she had also married in Strasbourg – the banker Lewin/Leo Feinberg, who was born in Memel (today Klaipeda in Lithuania) and worked as a bank employee in Halberstadt. The two sisters lived in the Saxon city with their husbands until 1902 and remained practically inseparable even afterward.

On 14 Sept. 1899, Camilla Gembicki gave birth to her first child, the son Siegfried in Halberstadt. In 1902, the family moved to Hamburg, more precisely to Abendrothsweg 75 in Eppendorf. In the Hanseatic city, Ludwig Gembicki and his brothers Wilhelm and Erich intended to build an independent living.

Camilla and Ludwig Gembicki’s second child, Lizzi Harriet Hildegard, was born in Hamburg on 19 Aug. 1903. Ludwig Gembicki had completed technical and surgical training with a dentist at the time and worked with a dentist for six months. However, his wish to study dentistry at a German university and to get credit for his chemistry studies was initially not fulfilled. Parallel to his practical training, he had also established a trade in medications for doctors and dentists. As a chemist, he developed dental preparations and produced dental instruments to sell them together with brand-name products. On 1 Oct. 1903, he registered a trade as a dental health care worker. The business premises, known as the "Dental Depot,” were located at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Strasse 3 and decorated with signs such as "Dr. Ludwig Gembicki, artificial teeth. Dentures without plate,” "fillings, dental operations painless,” "policlinic for dental patients,” and "P. Vorpahl. American dentist.” The sole owner of the business entered in the company register under the name Ludwig Gembicki was Wilhelm Gembicki. He did not participate in business processes, unlike his third brother, Emil Gembicki.

As early as Dec. 1903, the police became aware of Ludwig Gembicki’s company. His doctorate in connection with "dental practice” was misleading, the argument went, since patients expected a dentist actually licensed to practice. In addition, there had been indications that he carried out treatments himself. This earned him a fine of 50 RM (reichsmark) in May 1904 for violation of trade regulations, or five days in prison in lieu of the fine.

Probably also in 1902, Camilla’s sister Toni had arrived in Hamburg. Her husband Leo Feinberg and she had separated after almost four years of marriage. In 1903, Leo Feinberg was sentenced to five years in a penitentiary in Halberstadt with the period of six months in pretrial detention calculated against his sentence, a fine of 3,000 marks, and ten years’ loss of civic rights. The charges included, among other things, "inducement to gamble at the stock exchange by exploiting the inexperience of people (farmers) for whom stock exchange transactions were not part of the business” and for "fraudulent bankruptcies.” Toni Kemlinski had first completed practical dental training in Hamburg and in the meantime worked as an assistant in her sister-in-law’s company. On1 Apr. 1904, she moved in with Camilla, who by this time lived with her family in the St. Georg quarter at Steintorweg 6. Leo Feinberg later moved to Stuttgart, where he worked as a bank representative even after the First World War. On 8 Aug. 1904, Toni Feinberg gave birth to her only son, Heinrich Max, in the apartment of a midwife by the name of Feustel on Hammerbrookstrasse. After ten days, she returned to Camilla and her family on Steintorweg. Heinrich was an illegitimate child and Toni placed him with foster parents, a family of painters. He himself assumed that his uncle Ludwig Gembicki was his father – later court records show that this assumption was correct. Camilla and Toni’s father, Maier Kemlinski, died the following year in Strasbourg.

Ludwig Gembicki was constantly under observation for possible violations of the industrial code and finally gave up his treatment activity on 11 Apr. 1906. He moved with Camilla, the two children, and his sister-in-law Toni into a ground-floor apartment at Mundsburger Damm 23 in Uhlenhorst, where he registered a business again on 1 Oct. 1907. Together with his sister-in-law Toni Feinberg, he built up a joint practice. While she took over the dental treatments, he was in charge of the commercial side.

Toni’s marriage was divorced on 9 Apr. 1909 in Naumburg/Saale, and in 1914, she resumed her maiden name. The divorce was linked to the discovery of Henry’s illegitimate birth. In Apr. 1911, he started school and in 1915 he changed to Realschule [a practice-oriented secondary school up to grade 10], which he successfully completed five years later. He then began a three-year apprenticeship as a tailor in Hannover.

Ludwig Gembicki was finally able to study dentistry. On 2 Aug. 1910, he received the certificate licensing him to practice dentistry from the University of Rostock, and one week later, he was admitted to the register of dentists licensed in Hamburg. This marked the beginning of his career as a recognized dentist, and health insurance companies offered him contracts.

Around this time, Ludwig and Camilla Gembicki moved with their children, to Graumannsweg 21 in Hohenfelde. Ludwig Gembicki continued to practice in the apartment, and again Toni moved with them. The same was true for the next move around 1912, back to the Uhlenhorst quarter, to Birkenau 2, where Ludwig Gembicki rented a room to a licensed dentist for practicing. The inspections by the trade inspectorate were repeated, but he was never encountered in person, as he was always on a business trip. Camilla Gembicki’s statements indicating that her husband limited himself to trading in instruments and dental cement satisfied the inspectors.

Meanwhile Camilla Gembicki devoted herself to talking care of her family and the household. Siegfried attended Oberrealschule [a secondary school without Latin] on Holstentor, but was a rebellious student who, according to a cousin, preferred attending horse races to taking classes. Impervious to his father’s admonitions, he was thrown out of the house by Ludwig Gembicki, but Camilla kept in touch with him. The beginning of the First World War in July 1914 made considerable demands on her. Although Siegfried had only just turned 16, he was drafted in the fall of 1915 as a musketeer to the Replacement Battalion of the Hessen-Hamburg Infantry Regiment (Ersatzbataillon Infanterieregiment Hessen-Hamburg). At about the same time, on 25 Nov. 1915, she gave birth to her third child, the late arrival Werner. She received support from her mother Hermine, who arrived from Strasbourg before the end of 1915 and stayed until Apr. 1918. Her sister Toni Kemlinski had meanwhile moved into an apartment at Neuer Wall 5, where she opened a second joint practice with Ludwig Gembicki. He relocated his first practice again in 1916: to Mundsburger Damm 42. In addition, he and his family had been naturalized in Hamburg on 12 Feb. 1916.

However, Ludwig Gembicki was unable to practice on Mundsburger Damm for long. He was also drafted and deployed as a military dentist to Merseburg. Moreover, when the dental technicians employed by him had to do their military duty, the problem arose as to who would meet the contractual obligations with the six health insurance companies. Camilla Gembicki, until then hardly active in the business, filed applications for leave of absence, transfers, and exemptions of potential new employees, also for her son Siegfried. Without success, though. Toni Kemlinski, an assistant, and two apprentices kept the company going for as long as possible. In July 1918, both Toni and the assistant fell ill. Ludwig Gembicki continued the practice during his three-week vacation and tried to find a substitute. While all requests for suitable staff were approved by the military, the Hamburg Medical Office saw no need. The practice was saved only because the war ended.

Siegfried Gembicki had passed an expedited high-school leaving exam for conscripted youths (Notabitur) during the war. After a stay in a sanatorium due to a serious wound and tuberculosis, he returned to Hamburg, studied for two semesters, and gained practical experience in banking. He left Hamburg without maintaining close contact with his family. His life was unstable.

In 1920, Toni Kemlinski was approved for all health insurance companies, and the dental practice on Neuer Wall was operated under her name henceforth. Compared to her brother-in-law’s income, she earned little. In terms of retirement provisions, she acquired foreign securities, granted mortgages, and a private loan.

After the end of the First World War in 1918, the region of Alsace-Lorraine, which had been part of the German Empire since 1871, was briefly independent and was then ceded to France in 1919. France immediately expelled all Germans who had immigrated after 1870, as well as their descendants. Hermine Strauss was one of them. Thereupon she moved in with her daughters in Hamburg. At that time, Ludwig and Camilla Gembicki had just moved with their children to the villa at the intersection of Mundsburger Damm 1 and Schwanenwik. The property was first developed in 1904 and the building was later raised, and from 1926, the third floor was rented out.

The villa was appointed in upper-class style, of which the entrance area and the staircase still give an impression today. The salon featuring a Bechstein grand piano, the smoking room in Florentine style with a library and art objects, manufactured in the mid-1920s by the Berlin-based Hess & Rom Company, the dining room in dark oak, the living room in light oak with another library and the cloakroom, all occupied the ground floor. Located in the basement were the kitchen with a fridge and washing machine as well as the "girls’ [maids’] room”; on the second floor, the Rococo bedroom and the bathroom, and in addition a living/bedroom; on the third floor, finally, there additional living quarters. Seating areas, desks for writing, playing, and other tables lent the spacious rooms structure. Heavy net curtains and curtains hung in front of the windows, heavy portieres in front of the doors, and oriental rugs covered the floors. Domestic staff relieved the homemaker. One of the women who lived in the "maids’ room” was the cook Henriette Voss. She later became the housekeeping manager of the Israelitische Krankenhaus and Siechenheim, the Jewish Hospital and Infirmary, at Johnsallee 68, where a Stolperstein commemorated her (see In keeping with their standard of living, the Gembicki couple also traveled.

In the inflation years, 1922 and 1923, Ludwig Gembicki acquired a number of properties, especially in Hamburg-Neustadt. The youngest son Werner went to school by then. In 1922, Camilla and Toni’s mother Hermine Kemlinski left Hamburg and moved to Frankfurt. She spent the last years of her life with her three younger daughters Mindel Meta, Hilda, and Berthe in Lausanne. Passing away in 1930, she was buried with her husband in Strasbourg.

Although the Gembicki brothers and Toni Kemlinski regarded themselves as "dissidents” who did not belong to any religious denomination, they nevertheless joined the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community in the 1920s: Toni Kemlinski in 1924, Ludwig Gembicki with his family in 1927.

On 7 Mar. 1926, Camilla and Ludwig Gembicki’s daughter Lizzi married the commercial employee Kurt Schwab, who was also Jewish. The wedding was celebrated at the Tannenhof Hotel in Baden-Baden, enabling relatives from Switzerland to participate.

Kurt Schwab, born on 8 Mar. 1892, came from a family of livestock traders in Berkach/Thuringia. The second son of Hermann Schwab and his wife Emma, née Holländer, he was born in Meiningen, like his older brother Fritz (born in 1891). In the year after Kurt was born, the Schwab family moved to Halle/Saale, where Ilse-Bella was born in 1897. Hermann Schwab founded Gebrüder Schwab OHG (Schwab Bros. general partnership) in Halle together with his brother Max and brother-in-law Adolf Holländer. They mainly traded horses and oxen and, among other things, they supplied the imperial army with horses during the First World War. The income from this business allowed them to acquire agricultural land in Halle, Berlin, and Hartenholm near Bad Segeberg. Kurt and Fritz Schwab attended the municipal high school (Stadtgymnasium) in Halle until obtaining the intermediate school-leaving certificate (Mittlere Reife). They participated as officers in the First World War and served in the 12th Thuringian Hussars Regiment. Later, Kurt was assigned to the 36th Field Artillery Regiment 36 and was awarded the Honor Cross 2nd class for Front-Line Veterans and the Meiningen Cross of Merit. He suffered life-long hearing damage during an artillery mission. He enjoyed appearing at family celebrations in the Hussars’ dress uniform.

In 1919, Kurt Schwab participated in a demonstration against Communists in Halle, during which one of his cousins was shot. As a member of a regiment of temporary volunteers (Zeitfreiwillige), he took part in the Kapp Putsch against the Weimar Republic in the Eisleben soft coal area the following year. He then managed the land holdings of Gebrüder Schwab OHG in Berlin and Hartenholm. In 1922, he moved in with his parents who had relocated their residence to Hamburg. They lived in the former Ballin villa at Heilwigstrasse 45 in Eppendorf. Marianne Ballin, the widow of the ship owner Albert Ballin, had sold them the imposing building. She stayed on the second floor, while the new owners lived on the ground floor using the furniture of the former owners. In Hamburg, Kurt Schwab probably also met his future wife Lizzi. After the wedding, both lived with Lizzi’s parents Camilla and Ludwig Gembicki on Mundsburger Damm 1, and on 30 Jan. 1927, their daughter Herma Schwab was born, named after Kurt’s father Hermann. Three days later, he died at the age of 64. He was buried in a double grave in the Ohlsdorf Jewish Cemetery.

Hermann Schwab left a large estate under the administration of an executor. In this way, he wanted to secure the statutory share of his oldest son Fritz, who had run into substantial debts. Kurt and Fritz’s mother Emma was free to dispose of her share of the inheritance. She stayed at the Esplanade Hotel on Stephansplatz in Hamburg in 1930 and kept residing there for the next few years. Lizzi and Kurt Schwab’s second child, Gerd Hermann Schwab, was born on 22 Feb. 1929. Thus, Camilla and Ludwig Gembicki had another grandchild. Professionally, Kurt first joined the List & Co. banking house as a customer canvasser, then as an authorized signatory. The bank was a two-man business with Ernst List serving as the managing director.

In the year Lizzi Schwab gave birth to her second child, her half-brother Heinrich Kemlinski set up his own business as a tailor. He had completed his apprenticeship in Hannover, worked as a journeyman, and attended the cutters’ school in Hellenthal in the Eifel in 1925. There, he deregistered with the authorities on 17 July 1926 and returned to Hannover as a journeyman. Two years later, on 3 Aug. 1928, he moved to Ludweiler in Saarland, where he established himself professionally the following year.

On 12 July 1929, the Gembicki, Kemlinski, and Schwab families experienced the biggest change in their lives to date. Ludwig Gembicki died of a heart attack in his apartment at Mundsburger Damm 1 at the age of 52. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Hamburg-Ohlsdorf. His family chose an imposing tomb for him. He left his wife Camilla securities and land of whose encumbrances she was not aware. Son Werner, who was only 13 years old when his father died, was given a guardian. Toni Kemlinski gave up her apartment on Neuer Wall and returned to her sister on Mundsburger Damm.

Toni’s own son, Heinrich Kemlinski, had moved from Ludweiler to Geislautern, today’s Völklingen, in Nov. 1932 and married there on 25 Mar. 1933. His wife, seven years his junior, was non-Jewish Anna Katharina Hecktor, born on 14 June 1912 in Geislautern. As Heinrich’s tailoring business was doing worse and worse and he ran into debt, he committed several minor offenses. In view of the threat of police prosecution, he considered crossing the border into France. Instead, though, he went to his mother in Hamburg to ask her for 200 to 300 RM to pay his debts. She turned him down, but gave him the money for the return journey and pretended ignorance as to his whereabouts vis-à-vis the police who were on his trail. Instead of traveling back, Heinrich went to see his foster parents in Hamburg, who took him in and cared for him. In 1937, he was sentenced to four years and eight weeks in prison for fraud, theft, and embezzlement, which he served first in Saarbrücken and from Aug. 1937 onward in Frankfurt-Preungesheim. On 4 May 1938, his conduct was described as good in his prisoner file.

His cousin, Camilla’s youngest son Werner, still attended the Johanneum [a renowned Hamburg high school] when his father Ludwig Gembicki died. He also graduated from high school at that institution. He wanted to become a lawyer, but after the transfer of power to the Nazis in Jan. 1933, the restrictions to which Jewish students were exposed made the realization of this project increasingly difficult. Instead, he decided to become a merchant and joined a leather wholesaler as an employee. On 14 June 1935, he registered as an independent member of the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community. The time of his joining coincided approximately with his marriage to Vera Cohn, born on 15 June 1915 in Frankfurt/Main. They had met at the Jewish tennis club in Hamburg. They also resided temporarily in the villa at Mundsburger Damm 1, where their son Peter Ludwig was born on 8 Aug. 1937.

Kurt and Lizzi Schwab had moved to Berlin with their children, but returned to Mundsburger Damm 1 in 1931. Herma, her daughter, attended the girls’ school on Averhoffstrasse in the Uhlenhorst quarter in 1934/35, and her son Gerd was enrolled in the private Bertram School in 1935.

Kurt Schwab and his business partner Ernst List had suffered losses during the world economic crisis and were looking for new business opportunities. Together with an employee of M. van Embden, a major Dutch bank, they hit upon the idea of engaging in illegal securities transactions. As soon as their losses and obligations from previous stock market activities would have been covered, they planned to withdraw from these transactions. Five weeks later, a summary court sentenced them to three years in a penitentiary plus a fine of 300,000 RM each, or, as an alternative, five additional months in prison, for foreign currency offenses. They were also banned from practicing in the banking sector for five years. The date of release was set for 9 Nov. 1938, 4:55 p.m., taking into account the period of pretrial detention.

Kurt Schwab began serving his sentence on 6 Mar. 1936 in the Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel prison and he was transferred to the Bremen-Oslebshausen penitentiary on 9 July 1937. Before the year 1936 ended, Lizzi Schwab rented a one-bedroom apartment on Pferdemarkt for 45 RM per month. In the same year, the two children Herma and Gerd were moved to Jewish schools. Herma came to the girls’ school of the German-Israelitic Community on Karolinenstrasse; Gerd to the Talmud Tora School on Grindelhof.

On 16 Oct. 1937, Kurt Schwab’s mother Emma turned to the prison management with the request to grant him leave to attend his wife’s funeral. Lizzi Schwab had died of pulmonary embolism the day before, at the age of 34. The request was turned down. Lizzi Schwab was buried alongside her father-in-law Hermann in the Ohlsdorf Jewish Cemetery.

Lizzi and Kurt Schwab’s children Herma and Gerd remained in the care of their grandmother Camilla Gembicki and received an official guardian. In Apr. 1939, the Jewish girls’ school was merged with the Talmud Tora School. The latter had already been moved to Karolinenstrasse 35 in Nov. 1939, after the buildings on Grindelhof had to be vacated on the orders of Reich Governor (Reichsstatthalter) Karl Kaufmann. Herma and Gerd no longer had a chance to obtain a secondary school-leaving certificate – by this time, their school was allowed to operate only as an eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule).

After more than three years, the children saw their father again in Nov. 1938; they were now nine and eleven years old. However, the reunion did not last for long. Since Kurt Schwab was unable to pay the fine, he had to begin serving the substitute prison term. He applied for non-execution, but this was rejected. On 19 Dec. 1938, the following was proposed to him: The alternative prison sentence would be suspended on condition that he left the Reich territory within three months and paid 7,000 Dutch guilders. This constitutes today’s equivalent of approx. 60,000 USD (as of 2015).

Kurt Schwab received this sum from his brother-in-law, the Dutch livestock dealer Eliazar Pinto. He had continued Kurt’s former livestock trading company, Gebrüder Schwab OHG, in Halle together with Kurt’s nephew Julius, and he was married to Kurt’s sister Ilse-Bella. The Pinto couple had given in to the persecution pressure of the Nazi regime and planned to emigrate to the Netherlands. Shortly before Kurt’s release, they took up residence in Hamburg and lived there together with Kurt and Ilse Bella’s mother Emma Schwab in a guesthouse at Schulterblatt 26. Eliazar Pinto not only provided his brother-in-law with the necessary sum of money. Together with Emma Schwab, he organized the emigration of Kurt and his children Herma and Gerd. The list of household effects shows that Kurt Schwab expected to be able to continue his solid middle-class life abroad – with tennis and horseback riding, the daughter’s accordion playing, and the son’s Trix metal construction set. Assigned waiting numbers for visas to the USA, they sought emigration to Panama and Cuba at the same time. Panama was willing to accept Kurt Schwab because he had once qualified as a farmer managing the estate in Hartenholm. He received the tax clearance certificate (Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung) for his emigration via the Netherlands to Panama on 30 Dec. 1938 and he was released from prison to the address of Schulterblatt 26. The visa for Panama was also valid for "Mrs. Schwab.” However, as a "criminal,” he was not allowed to take the children along with him. They remained in the care of their grandmother Emma Schwab.

After his sister Ilse-Bella and her husband Eliazar had left for the Netherlands in Jan. 1939, Kurt Schwab moved to Haynstrasse 8 as a subtenant with Rosenstein and received a three-month residence permit for Switzerland based on the tax clearance certificate and subject to a deposit of 5,000 Swiss francs. At the end of Mar. 1939, he was therefore able to meet up with his brother Fritz, who had fled Prague, and his family in Geneva. Two of Fritz’ three children were able to leave for the Netherlands due to arrangements made by Eliazar Pinto. On 26 Apr. 1939, the two brothers left Geneva – Kurt bound for Lyon, Fritz and his family bound for Paris. In Sept. 1939, however, they all reunited, but this time in Brussels.

Kurt Schwab tried to bring his children to Belgium, but he did not succeed, even though was able to prove that neither he nor they would be a burden to the Belgian State due to the support of the Amsterdam relatives. In May 1940, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg were occupied by the German Wehrmacht. The Gestapo arrested Kurt Schwab and took him to the Dossin barracks in Mechelen (Malines), which served as an assembly camp. From there, he was deported to Auschwitz on 18 Aug. 1942 on one of the first transports. At that point, all traces of his life disappear.

In Hamburg, Camilla Gembicki had to give up the villa at Mundsburger Damm 1. Along with his wife Vera and little Peter, her son Werner Gembicki had moved in with the in-laws Raphael and Erna Cohn, who resided at Eppendorfer Landstrasse 48. After the November Pogrom in 1938, he was imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and released on condition that he emigrate within a short time. The Jewish Community arranged for him to be admitted to Kitchener Camp in Kent/Southern England in July 1939.

Werner’s last letter to reach his mother dates from the day before the outbreak of World War II, i.e., 31 Aug. 1939. In Dec. 1939, his parents-in-law, his wife Vera, and his son Peter arrived, via Rotterdam, in New York, where he joined them in May 1940. Completely destitute, they shared the arduous fate of many emigrants. Following the end of the war, they changed their name to Gamby.

After moving out of the villa, Camilla and Toni first lived in Toni’s practice at Neuer Wall 101, from where they moved to Oderfelder Strasse 25 in Hamburg-Eppendorf in Apr. 1938, and on 11 Oct. 1938, Toni Kemlinski was deleted from the Dentists’ Register. Her material situation deteriorated only slightly at first, as she remained "licensed for the treatment of Jewish dental patients.” Just like her sister, she paid considerable Jewish religious taxes (Kultussteuer) until 1939. In addition to the proceeds from her inheritance, Camilla received a widow’s pension of 72 RM per month from the dentists’ pension fund. However, when Toni Kemlinski and her sister presented their financial circumstances to the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) in 1938, it became clear that the "levy on Jewish assets [Judenvermögensabgabe] owed to the Reich” exceeded Toni’s assets. As a result, the Chief Finance Administrator refrained from issuing a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”). The Chief Finance Administrator did issue a "security order” on Camilla’s assets, which had dwindled sharply as a result of the compulsory levies, and granted a monthly allowance of 190 RM.

On 14 Mar. 1939, Camilla Gembicki applied for an identity card, a kind of passport within German borders. This initiated a yearlong search for documents of her ancestors because their German citizenship was questioned. Born in Strasbourg, she could have been expatriated from the German Reich despite her earlier naturalization. The procurement of her parents’ birth, marriage, and death certificates lasted until the ban on emigration for Jews took effect in Oct. 1941.

In May 1939, Camilla Gembicki and Toni Kemlinski moved within Oderfelder Strasse, and after only three months, they rented accommodation with Levy at Isestrasse 96. With each move, their household effects shrank, and in the end, they comprised mainly works of art and carpets that filled their two rooms. Silver and jewelry had long since been surrendered; part of the former apartment furnishings had been sold; the living, dining, and bedroom furniture had been put in storage in Apr. 1939 (it was consumed by fire during an air raid in July 1943).

After Kurt Schwab’s efforts to have his children Herma and Gerd leave for Belgium in 1939 had failed, they remained in the care of his mother Emma until she entrusted them to the merchant Josef Grossmann at Andreasstrasse 16 in Winterhude for boarding. At the same time, he was also a facilitator for Jewish emigration. From her assets, which were also subject to a "security order,” Emma Schwab covered the school fees and maintenance costs for the two grandchildren. She herself strove to emigrate to join her daughter Ilse-Bella in the Netherlands, departing Hamburg on 14 Apr. 1940. Her last sign of life dates from Oct. 1941.

Herma and Gerd Schwab were apparently placed in the care of the Fritz Rosenberg family at Hansastrasse 40 after their grandmother emigrated. From there, Herma attended the school on Karolinenstrasse, by then called the "elementary and secondary school for Jews” ("Volksschule und Höhere Schule für Juden”). She had been promoted from the seventh to the eighth grade in 1941 and, according to her testimony, she had improved both in "attitude” ("Haltung”) and performance. On 8 Nov. 1941, Fritz Rosenberg was deported to Minsk. By that time at the latest, Gesine and Elsa Feilmann assumed responsibility for the children. Gesine Feilmann was the "Aryan” wife of Elsa’s brother Julius and ran a guesthouse at 35 Hansastrasse. Her sister-in-law Elsa helped her. Gesine and Julius Feilmann had a daughter in Herma’s age, Giesela.

After Camilla Gembicki’s efforts to obtain recognition of her German citizenship had proved futile, in autumn 1941 – after the deportations had begun – she took care of establishing proof of her French citizenship. This would have allowed her to depart for Switzerland, where her sisters had already provided the necessary financial security. On 11 Nov. 1941, Toni Kemlinski joined her sister Camilla’s application.

However, while both were still waiting for news as positive as possible in this matter, the Gestapo had them "deported” to the east "with the last transport upcoming within a short time” – even though they had exceeded the designated age limit of 60 years. Camilla Gembicki was 63 years old, Toni Kemlinski 65 years. The destination of the transport was to be the Minsk Ghetto, but it was changed to Riga. Leaving their furniture behind, Camilla Gembicki and Toni Kemlinski had to report to the former Masonic Lodge on Moorweide for the "evacuation” on 6 Dec. 1941.

Also assigned to this transport were Elsa Feilmann and Camilla and Toni’s grandchildren, Herma, by then 14 years old, and her brother Gerd, two years younger. Both were classified in the category of "volunteers.” The deportation took place on a passenger train with attached luggage cars. Since Latvian Jews were still interned in the Riga Ghetto, the 753 deportees were marched from the Skirotava railway station to a dilapidated farming estate, the Jungfernhof. Within a few weeks, about 4,000 persons from the German Reich arrived there, several hundred of whom did not survive the winter. Those who were able to work had to make the uninhabitable buildings habitable and participate in the construction of the Salaspils camp. The circumstances and dates of Camilla Gembicki’s, Toni Kemlinski’s, Herma and Gerd Hermann Schwab’s and Elsa Feilmann’s deaths are not known.

On 2 Jan. 1942, the Hamburg Chief of Police summarized the result of the investigation into nationality to the effect that Camilla Gembicki’s German citizenship was beyond doubt. As far as Toni Kemlinski was concerned, she had been "evacuated to Minsk on 4 Dec. 1941. Therefore, dealing with her application dated 11 Nov. 1941 does not seem called for.”

Toni’s son Heinrich Kemlinski had been imprisoned in the Frankfurt-Preungesheim prison since 1937. After serving his four-year sentence, he was transferred to police custody and taken into "preventive detention” ("Vorbeugehaft”). He himself attributed his further imprisonment to his being Jewish and on 6 Apr. 1941, he wrote the following to his foster parents in Hamburg and their children: That he was not released into freedom had made him feel for the first time what it meant to be a "non-Aryan.” The work in prison had made him forget his fate and made the years pass by as never before, the cell imprisonment had made him consider his life, which he experienced as a power struggle with his relatives, in which he always remained the victim on whom "the disgrace, shame, and sin of a (his) parent(s) rests.” For years, he continued, they had disowned and slandered him, allowing him to call on his father and mother only under a different name and with advance notice, although they never should have been ashamed of him, not even of his poverty, because after all, he and his wife, whom he "married out of true affection” and not for material gain, had been working throughout. He regretted that she now had to continue waiting for him, but she, too, had to acquiesce [in the situation]. He closed the letter with the request for forgiveness, wishes for pleasant holidays, and the hope of a prompt reply that would do him good. However, the letter was never delivered.

On 1 Sept. 1941, Heinrich Kemlinski was committed to the Flossenbürg concentration camp at the orders of the Frankfurt Criminal Investigation Department. On 17 September, the personal effects administrator, SS-Oberscharführer ["senior squad leader,” an SS-rank equivalent to technical sergeant)] S., sent a parcel to Heinrich’s mother Toni Kemlinski. At that time, she lived at Isestrasse 96. The parcel contained all of Heinrich’s clothes, underwear, and the like, with the exception of a sweater. The shipment did not go to his wife Anna, because when he had been asked who would support him after his release, he had named his mother. The circumstances of Heinrich Kemlinski’s death are also not certain, although there is a death certificate from the chief SS doctor (SS-Standortarzt) in the Flossenbürg concentration camp. It reads: "On 9 Apr. 1942, at 7.28 a.m., the Aso ["asocial”] prisoner-Jew no. 3020 – K e m l i n s k i Heinrich, born on 8 Aug. 1904 in H a m b u r g, recognized by the 1st Protective Prisoner Camp Commandant of the Flossenbürg concentration camp, was shot during an escape attempt in his ‘quarry’ labor detachment.” The cause of death indicated was rupture of the right lung and of the heart, internal bleeding. The remaining estate – sweater and shaving kit – had already been sent to the headquarters of the criminal investigation department in Frankfurt/M. as of the previous day, 8 Apr. 1942. Heinrich Kemlinski’s wife Anna survived the war and died on 14 June 1962, her fiftieth birthday, in Walpershofen/Riegelsberg.

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: December 2019
© Hildegard Thevs mit Sabine Schwab und Gabriele Winter, geb. Gembicki

Quellen: 1; 2; 4; 5; 6; 9; Hamburger Adressbücher; StaH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 7798/37; StaH 314-15 OFP F 668, F 669, R 1940/627, R 1941/18; StaH 351-11 AfW 2886, 3959, 28269, 40975; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 7096 u. 750/1929; 9607 u. 88/1926; StaH 332-7 Staatsangehörigkeitsaufsicht B III 131269; StaH 332-8 Meldewesen, A 24, Passprotokolle, Band 170; StaH Meldekartei 1892-1925, K 6061, 7113; StaH 352-3 Medizinalkollegium, IV D 20; StaH 352-5 Todesbescheinigungen StA 21/750/1929; StaH 362-6/10 Talmud Tora Schule; StaH 741-4 Sa 1245, Sa 1246, Sa 1247; StaH 552-1 Jüdische Gemeinden 992 e Bd. 3; Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Strafgefängnis Frankfurt-Preungesheim, Abt. 409/4 Nr. 3165; Stadtarchiv Völklingen, Heirats- und Sterberegister 1933 bzw. 1962; KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg, Schreiben vom 16.12.2008 mit Zugangsliste, Effektenkarte und Sterbebescheinigung; Janina Hochland, The Kem(b)linski Saga, o. O., o. D.; Auszug aus: Sabine Schwab, Lebenslinien. Erinnerungen an die Familien Gembicki/Kemlinski und Schwab, Dezember 2011 ff., online unter: (letzter Zugriff 15.3.2015); Ursula Randt, Carolinenstrasse 35, Hamburg, 1996; dies., Die Talmud Tora Schule in Hamburg, 1805 bis 1942, München, Hamburg 2005; Heinz Rosenberg, Jahre des Schreckens, Göttingen, 1985, S. 12; Mitteilungen von Werner Gamby, 2010 bis 2012; Neue Hamburger Zeitung, 29.11.1902 u. 15.12.1902; Altonaer Nachrichten, 11.12.1902 u. 13.12.1902.
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