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John Rothenburg * 1876
Grindelallee 46 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)
John Rothenburg, born on 22 Dec. 1876 in Hamburg, deported on 18 Nov. 1941 to the Minsk Ghetto, date of death unknown
John Rothenburg was considered mentally disabled. A passage in his social welfare file stated that he was "incapacitated due to feeblemindedness and therefore legally competent only to a limited degree.” John Rothenburg’s great-nephew Michael (Mike) Rothenburg, who lives in Saldanha (West Cap Province, South Africa), has researched the family history; however, he could only find out little about his great-uncle. Much of this seems to be based on stories told by family members. The disabled John Rothenburg was practically "hushed up.”
Carl Rothenburg, John’s father, was born in Schwerin in 1840; his mother Theresa, née Rintel, was reportedly born in "Lichenstadt” in 1847. A city of that name no longer exists. The Mecklenburgische Landeshauptarchiv (Mecklenburg State Archive), however, mentions this city name in a letter dated 25 June 1992 in connection with the emigration of the Rothenburg family to the USA in 1872. Possibly, the town in question is Lichen Stary in Poland, Wielkopolska Voivodeship, which belonged to the Prussian Province of Posen in the nineteenth century.
Carl and Theresa Rothenburg had five children, of whom the second daughter died shortly after her birth in 1873 in Philadelphia/USA, where the Rothenburg couple had emigrated together with their daughter Frieda, born in Hamburg in 1870. After the early death of their daughter, the couple returned to Hamburg via Britain in 1875, where their first son Siegmund was born in the same year. In 1876, John was born as the second son in Hamburg. In 1885, Carl Rothenburg went to South Africa to meet up with his brother-in-law Bernhard Rintel in the Kimberley diamond mines. Soon thereafter, however, he moved to Cape Town, where his wife Theresa and their four children were staying. The family lived first in the southern suburb of Woodstock, then in the center of Cape Town, from the father’s modest income as an "artist/painter.”
According to Mike Rothenburg, in 1923 the father died in Bloemfontein.
John Rothenburg’s mother, Theresa, had apparently returned to Hamburg with him shortly after 1900 – probably because of the possibility of receiving state support in Germany. The welfare file covers the period from 1921 to 1939, but it is not known whether the mother already sought institutional care for John during the Imperial period. After her death, assumed in a medical report to have occurred in the year 1915, the banker Moritz Heimann from the Hertz-Nachf. (Hertz Succrs.) banking house initially took over the guardianship for John Rothenburg. After Heimann’s death, the nephew of Carl Rothenburg, Siegmund Jacobson, born on 3 Nov. 1861, was John Rothenburg’s legal guardian from about 1922 to the beginning of 1926.
The single, stateless, and mentally handicapped John Rothenburg was admitted to the Allgemeine Armenanstalt, an almshouse, on 14 May 1921. However, he was discharged on 31 Oct. 1921 at the request of his guardian Moritz Heimann, because he was trusted to live as a boarder again and to perform light work, for example as a messenger, but also as a "worker.” By this time, he lived with Bertha Köhler at Pilatuspool 15.
At the beginning of 1925, Siegmund Jacobson was concerned about the future of his ward and on 17 Jan. 1925, he submitted an application to the guardianship authority in which he supported his cousin John Rothenburg’s wish to visit his relatives in South Africa. By then, he argued, he had reached an age at which he had to reckon with death, and after his death, there was no relative left in Germany for John Rothenburg, so it would be better if he moved to stay with his relatives in Bloemfontein. Siegmund Jacobson asked the welfare authorities to cover the costs. However, the latter refused the request. A new accommodation for Rothenburg was found, with the Weinberg family at Bornstrasse 24.
Leon Heller was the new guardian as of 19 Mar. 1926. John Rothenburg worked at Lichtenhain, located at Bäckerbreitergang 27, for 10 RM (reichsmark) per week. In the internal considerations of the welfare authority as to whether it would be more favorable for Rothenburg to have nursing home or "guesthouse accommodation,” the latter was given preference for cost reasons. When the Weinberg family moved to Hoheluftchaussee 64 between 1926 and 1931, John Rothenburg joined them, but he was dismissed from his former employer, Lichtenhain, on 31 Apr. 1931 after a fracture of the forearm. The welfare file contained the following formulation: "Is no longer considered for any employment” (12 Jan. 1932).
After the Nazis had assumed power in 1933 and the Weinberg family changed apartments again, Rothenburg was admitted to the Farmsen care home (Versorgungsheim Farmsen) on 23 July 1934. However, Leon Heller, his guardian, supported his discharge on 19 Sept. 1934 and his re-admission to the Weinberg family, by then living at Grindelallee 168. Because of chronic and "contagious” prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate/prostate gland) – and because he slept in the same room as the Weinberg family’s children – John Rothenburg was admitted to Eppendorf University Hospital and "castrated” on 25 May 1935.
For 1 May 1935, the welfare file contained the following remark: "Institutional accommodation not required.” Since 4 Apr. 1936, John Rothenburg lived with Siegfried Hasenberg as a boarder, first at Beneckestrasse 20, then from 4 Dec. 1936 at Grindelstieg 4. Grindelstieg no longer exists today. It branched off from Grindelallee at about house no. 48 in the direction of the Bornplatz Synagogue. After the death of his guardian, Leon Heller, on 14 Dec. 1936, John Rothenburg was under the guardianship of Gustav Heinemann until his deportation. He also administered John’s savings account at the Hamburger Sparkasse von 1827, with a balance at the time of 145.60 RM, and a Reich debt register entry amounting to 1,000 RM at 4.5 percent interest annually, due for the first time on 15 Apr. 1941. John had inherited the Reich debt register claim from his mother. He also received a disability pension of 19.60 RM per month. In Feb. 1941, the Chief Finance Administration (Oberfinanzdirektion) issued a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”).
About ten months later, on 18 Nov. 1941, John Rothenburg was deported to Minsk at the age of 65. The assets of 1,150 RM overall existing in Feb. 1941 were confiscated.
Siegmund Jacobson and his wife Mary, née Rothenburg, were deported to Theresienstadt in 1942 and murdered in Treblinka at the ages of 71 and 61. At their last residential address, Rentzelstrasse 14, Stolpersteine are located to commemorate them.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Dieter Wolf
Quellen: 1; 2 R 1941/26; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 43594; 5; digitales Archiv IST Bad Arolsen, Teilbestand 126.96.36.199. Dok. ID 11197750 Transportlisten Gestapo; Michael (Mike) Rothenburg: Family History (119 Seiten) und Auskünfte per E–Mail (Korrespondenz vom 24.10.–28.11.2014).
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