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Cäsar Wolf * 1874
Oberstraße 107 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
GEDEMÜTIGT / ENTRECHTET
FLUCHT IN DEN TOD
Im Mai 1933 nahm sich der Meister vom Stuhl und Großmeister der Hamburger Logen, Cäsar Wolf (geb. 1874), das Leben. Ivan Philip schrieb für dessen Beisetzung ein Gedicht, in dem er ein beklemmendes Bild für die Situation fand, in der sich bald unzählige Regime-Opfer und ihre Hinterbliebenen finden sollten:
Unserem Cäsar Wolf
Es war, als ob ein Glas zersprang,
Als ob ein Glas zu Boden klirrt, –
Es war, als ob ein weher Klang
Verloren durch die Lüfte irrt –
Es war, als ob sich Finsternis
Erkältend auf die Seele schlug,
Es war, als ob die Saite riss,
Die eben noch Accorde trug.
Dann war es wie ein wirrer Traum,
War wie ein Alpdruck, heiss und schwer:
Ein menschenvoller Riesenraum,
Und nur ein Platz, – ein Platz war leer.
Und alles hat auf ihn gestarrt,
Als ob’s unfasslich Wunder wär’ –
Und alles hat gehofft, geharrt:
Der Platz blieb leer, – der Platz blieb leer.
Es war, als würd’ ein Auge blind,
Das eben noch der Güte voll –
Das zu uns sprach, wie einem Kind,
Das trösten man und streicheln soll, –
Es war, als wär’ die warme Hand,
Die zärtlich unseren Scheitel strich,
Von jähem Blitz zu Nichts verbrannt, –
Ein Mensch verging, ein Freund verblich. –
Es war, als ob sekundenlang
Ein tiefes Schweigen um uns lag,
Da hier ein Herz um Frieden rang,
Das leise an der Welt zerbrach –
Es war, als ob ein Falter bang
Und müde an die Scheibe schwirrt, –
Es war, als ob ein Glas zersprang,
Als ob ein Glas zu Boden klirrt.
© Björn Eggert
Quelle: Biographie zu Ivan Philip von Björn Eggert
Siehe hierzu Ivan Philip auf unserer Internetseite
Cäsar Wolf, born on 18 May 1874 in Hamburg, flight to death on 13 May 1933
Kleiner Schäferkamp 43
On the night of 12 to 13 May 1933, the Jewish banker and longtime Worshipful Master (Meister vom Stuhl) of the Masonic lodge "Absalom zu den drei Nesseln,” shot himself in front of the then Freemason’s Hospital on Kleiner Schäferkamp. His lodge brother, Ivan Philip, wrote a poem for his funeral (text see German biography).
The hospital had been the life’s work of Caesar Wolf. After the National Socialists came to power, he was expelled, for "racial” reasons, from the Absalom Lodge and all social institutions in which he had worked on a voluntary basis. But the fact that he was no longer allowed even to set foot in the hospital because he was Jewish deprived him of his will to live.
Cäsar Wolf came from an old-established Hamburg merchant family. His parents, Abraham Wolf and Auguste, née Solomon, had married in Nov. 1861. At that time, Abraham Wolf was 31 years old, his wife two years younger. After his school education and an apprenticeship at the J. Goldschmidt banking house, Cäsar Wolf joined the family-owned A. Wolf private bank in 1899, which his father had founded as a fund company in 1871. After his death in Oct. 1894, Cäsar Wolf’s brother Max, nine years his senior, took over the management of the company. In 1899, he joined the company as co-owner, just 24 years old. At that time, the bank was located at Pelzerstrasse 11, very close to the stock exchange and city hall. In the same year, on 11 February, Cäsar Wolf and Elisabeth Meyer, also from Hamburg, celebrated their wedding. Elisabeth, born on 8 May 1877 as daughter of the lithographer Siegmund Samson Meyer and his wife Sophie, née Israel, was thus three years younger than her husband.
Almost exactly one year later, on 15 Jan. 1900, the couple took joy in the birth of their daughter Hildegard Adolfine. At this time, they lived at Grindelberg 9. Two years later, the family lived in the banking house on Pelzerstrasse for a short time and then for four years at Hallerstrasse 43. In 1907, they moved again, to Hallerstrasse 17, where they remained for the next eleven years. The bank also changed its address: From 1910, the business and office premises were located at Mönkedamm 13.
After his professional and family situation had consolidated, Cäsar Wolf turned to Freemasonry. This was in keeping with the spirit of the times, for between 1871 and 1914, the Masonic lodges registered a strong influx, especially from the urban elites. According to the historian and freemason researcher Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, "all persons belonging to a freemasons’ lodge … considered themselves at the forefront of intellectual development at the time, for the ideational pillars of the empire – the imperial house, the concept of the nation, and Protestantism as a legitimizing basis – were among the most important components of the body of thought cultivated here.” As early as 1871, the Hamburger Logenblatt wrote, "We are always Germans first, then Masons after that.”
On 14 Mar. 1901, Cäsar Wolf became a member of the Lodge "Absalom zu den drei Nesseln.” Three years later, he, being a qualified banker and bank owner, took over the duties of treasurer. Yet another five years later, in 1909, the Lodge brothers elected him Worshipful Master (Meister vom Stuhl), i.e., chairman. He was acknowledged to have a strong will, but also a sure instinct and diplomatic skills. Soon afterward, he made a special personal decision. His parents had given him the Jewish first name Sally. In 1905, he applied to the Senate of the City of Hamburg for permission to use Cäsar as his second name. The Senate granted the request, and since then he was only called Cäsar Wolf. Nevertheless, he did not leave the Jewish Community to which he had belonged since 1913.
Like many Freemasons of that time, Cäsar Wolf was a fervent patriot. But he could not join World War I with flags flying. Immediately after the outbreak of the war in 1914, he had volunteered as a soldier and wanted to fight on the front for his fatherland. Because he had a heart defect, however, he was rejected. As a result, at least he wished to support the German cause on the "home front.” In addition to his work at the bank and his voluntary activities in the Lodge, his special commitment was dedicated to the Masonic Hospital on Kleiner Schäferkamp – and even before the end of 1914, he ensured that a modern barracks hospital was built on the hospital grounds from the legacy of a deceased lodge brother. In addition, he equipped a hospital train with further funds from the inheritance as well as his own financial means. The Absalom Lodge made it available to the Red Cross to bring sick and wounded soldiers back to Germany from the front. Cäsar Wolf himself accompanied the 38 cars of this train several times.
However, his martial enthusiasm was not only his individual conviction. It was shared by most of the lodge brothers, by the Absalom Lodge as well as by other lodges in the German Reich. Typical of the patriotism associated with this was a speech given by Cäsar Wolf in 1915 on the occasion of Bismarck’s 100th birthday in the Hamburg Logenhaus. In it, he committed his listeners to the war effort: "After all, my brothers, it is Bismarck’s work that we defend today, (...) with the heroes of 1870/71, he laid the foundation for the very Germany that could develop in such a way that it aroused the envy and jealousy of the other peoples, which is why they are attacking us like ravenous dogs.”
Cäsar Wolf also continued to run the family bank together with his brother Max. At the same time, he became managing director of the Freemasons’ Hospital (Freimaurer-Krankenhaus) in 1921. Despite the economic difficulties with which the institution had to contend during inflation, he gradually had it rebuilt and modernized. He acquired new therapy equipment and hired renowned doctors, so that the clinic enjoyed a good reputation throughout all of the German Reich. He tirelessly raised funds from friends and patrons of the hospital and the Absalom Lodge, issued loans and organized collections and lotteries.
In addition to his professional and honorary activities, Cäsar Wolf was also a family man. The year he took over the hospital, his family moved to Klosterallee 24 and the following year, on 3 Nov. 1922, his daughter Hildegard, who worked as a nurse, married. Salomon Fürth was born in Hanau, almost 25 years older than his wife, and he worked as an authorized signatory at M. M. Warburg & Co. Henceforth, the couple lived at Rothenbaumchaussee 75. One year later, Cäsar and Elisabeth Wolf became grandparents: On 14 Dec. 1923, Hildegard Fürth gave birth to a daughter, who was named Elisabeth.
The family-owned bank relocated several times from 1922 onward: first from Mönkedamm to Rathausmarkt 5, two years later to Schopenstehl, and another two years later to Raboisen 84. Max Wolf died in 1925, and his brother Cäsar continued to operate the bank on his own.
Cäsar Wolf had dedicated his life to two guidelines: love for his fatherland and service to his fellow men. He followed both goals with inexhaustible energy. His work in the bank and his work in the Absalom Lodge and for the Freemasons’ Hospital did not constitute all of his activities by a long shot. He also held several executive board positions: in an association for the promotion of poor actors’ children, at the association for cripple care, which looked after the severely handicapped, and at the "Vaterstädtische Stiftung” [a local charitable foundation]. There he took care of the construction and administration of residential home apartments for elderly people.
Since 1918, parts of the public blamed not only the Jews but also the Freemasons for the lost war. There were also increasing anti-Semitic tendencies within the lodges, so that on 31 May 1923, Cäsar Wolf resigned his post as Worshipful Master of the Absalom Lodge. He thought that as a Jew he could no longer preside over it. Three years later, the Absalom brothers recalled him to the office. However, although the Freemasons were predominantly nationalistic, anti-democratic, partly also völkisch and anti-Semitic, the attacks on them continued to increase. In 1931, Wolf finally laid down the gavel and subsequently became even more committed to the Freemasons’ Hospital and the various charitable associations to which he belonged. However, he remained a member of the Absalom Lodge.
After Hitler was appointed Chancellor of the Reich on 30 Jan. 1933, it took only three months for the lodges to abandon all Masonic traditions and declare themselves "German orders” in the form of a "forcible self-coordination” ("Selbstgleichschaltung”) on 13 April. This was accompanied by the immediate expulsion of all "non-Aryan” lodge brothers, together with the order to all members to provide an "Aryan certificate” ("Ariernachweis”) – in accordance with Sec. 3 of the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” ("Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums”), the "Aryan paragraph” ("Arierparagraph”). The only exceptions were Jewish Freemasons who had joined a lodge before 1914 and front-fighters of the First World War.
Neither of these categories applied to Cäsar Wolf. However, the expulsion from the lodge was not the only blow for him. His bank was also "Aryanized,” and when he wished to set foot in the hospital on Kleiner Schäferkamp in early May 1933 as usual, a uniformed guard slammed the door in his face: "Jews are undesirable here.” This was a shock from which he would not recover. The then head nurse, Katharina Brandt, later recalled, "I still see him standing in front of me, calm in his posture, but very pale when he then told me: ‘The die is cast, my brothers want me gone! Some names I see among the signatures, which grieve me deeply and pierce my heart like a dagger thrust! How little loyalty is there among men!’” The hospital had to call itself the "Hospital of the Teutonic Order,” the former medical director of the hospital, Paul Bonheim, was also among those dismissed.
In the few days following, according to Katharina Brandt, one could see Cäsar Wolf walking up and down Kleiner Schäferkamp to look at the building at least from the outside. "I always thought I was a good German. Now I am merely a Jew,” he is reported to have said to his wife on the evening of 12 May. A few hours later, he put an end to his life.
Two days afterward, a funeral service attended by a very small circle was held at the grave of the deceased, and on 23 May, the Absalom Foundation held a funeral service in his honor in the Curio-Haus.
After the death of her husband, Cäsar Wolf’s wife Elisabeth moved to Hagedornstrasse 49. In 1939, she had to leave the apartment and lived for a short time with her daughter and her family at Innocentiastrasse 8. Due to "suspicion of capital flight” ("Kapitalfluchtverdacht”), the customs investigation department of the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) issue a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”) against her. After that, she had only 390 RM (reichsmark) per month left at her free disposal.
At that time, Hildegard and Salomon Fürth tried everything to be able to leave Germany in time. On 1 Dec. 1938, they had already sent their 14-year-old daughter Elisabeth to Britain with the first children transport (Kindertransport) from Hamburg. At the beginning of 1939, they themselves applied for their departure via Britain to the USA. Based on their declaration of assets, they had to pay a "Reich flight tax” ("Reichsfluchtsteuer”) of about 8,700 RM. However, when Hildegard and Salomon Fürth finally held in their hands the approved list of moving goods and the "tax clearance certificate” ("Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung”) of the Chief Finance Administrator six months later, they obviously had to change their plans. They fled to Sweden instead of the USA. On 13 Dec. 1939, they took the train via Warnemünde to Stocksund. Three days later, their German passports were invalidated. Just prior to this, they had been able to send foreign securities worth 35,000 RM abroad. To this end, Salomon Fürth referred to a promise by the Chief Finance Administrator in Berlin that he was to be exempted from the restrictions of German foreign currency legislation – above all from the obligation to make an offer. Since 1936, people wanting to leave Germany actually had to report all foreign securities, foreign exchange, and precious metals to the German National Bank for purchase.
Elisabeth Wolf did not escape together with her daughter and her daughter’s husband. Shortly before they left Hamburg, she moved into a guesthouse at Klosterallee 5 in Oct. 1939. She was unable to stay on Innocentiastrasse because the property was up for sale. Half a year later, she had the opportunity to live as a subtenant at Hansastrasse 35. A little later, when she slipped and was unable to move her right arm, the Chief Finance Administrator approved a nurse to help her in everyday life for three weeks. However, her landlady, Mrs. Feilmann, increased the rent by 20 percent to 250 RM "due to the considerable trouble that Mrs. Wolf is creating because of her ailment” and terminated the rental agreement at the end of Sept. 1941. Elisabeth Wolf then found a room with a family by the name of Meyer at Isestrasse 71, where she received the "evacuation order” to Riga some two months later. Two days before the deportation, on 4 Dec. 1941, her landlady discovered her lying unconscious on the bed. She had taken an overdose of the painkiller Optalidon. The doctor Hans Sommerfeld had her taken to the Israelite Hospital, but she did not regain consciousness. The police officer who recorded the case on Isestrasse laconically noted, "Evacuation can be assumed to be the cause of the poisoning.”
Hildegard and Salomon Fürth later moved from Stocksund to Stockholm. Salomon Fürth died on 31 Aug. 1949; his wife survived him for almost forty years. She returned to Hamburg, where she died on 30 Apr. 1988.
The former Freemasons’ Hospital, in front of which a Stolperstein for Cäsar Wolf has been located since 2007, is now called Elisabeth Alten- und Pflegeheim der Freimaurer von 1795 e. V. The home is run by the United Five Hamburg Lodges (Vereinigte fünf Hamburgische Logen).
Cäsar Wolf had been buried almost secretly in 1933 in the Ohlsdorf cemetery, with a simple white stele nearly 8 feet in height (2.40 meters) adorning his grave. At some point, it was said that the grave had been abandoned. In 2009, however, it was rediscovered – overgrown by rhododendrons, the inscription in the stele weathered. The Lodge "Absalom zu den drei Nesseln,” which had been re-established in the post-war period after its dissolution in 1935, had the tomb restored. On 13 May 2009, it was consecrated anew by the entire brotherhood. The stele also features an inscription for Elisabeth Wolf with the dates of her birth and death.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: May 2019
© Frauke Steinhäuser
Quellen 1; 2 (R 1939/454 u. F 647); 4; 5; 8; StaH 331-5 Polizeibehörde, unnatürliche Sterbefälle, 3 Akte 1942/514 Wolf, Elisabeth, Tgb. Nr. 3512/41 L; StaH 332-3 Zivilstandsamt A Nr. 177, 3467; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 7887u. 1681/1894; ebd., 8767 u. 608/1922; ebd., 13272 u. 173/1900; ebd., 8595 u. 47/1899; StaH 522-1, Jüdische Gemeinden, 390 Wählerverzeichnis 1930; Steffens, Freimaurer; Held, Juden und Freimaurer; Friedrich John Böttner, Aus der Geschichte der Großen Loge von Hamburg 1914– 1935. Cäsar Wolf zum Gedächtnis, in: Quatuor Coronati, Jahrbuch 25/1988, Sonderdruck, S. 107–127; Hoffmann, Politik der Geselligkeit; Köhler, "Arisierung"; Marcus Meyer, Volksgemeinschaft oder Weltbruderkette? Freimaurer in der Weimarer Republik und im "Dritten Reich", in: Keller (Hrsg.), Königliche Kunst, S. 126ff.; Vanessa Seifert, Cäsar Wolf – gedemütigt, geächtet und in den Tod getrieben, Hamburger Abendblatt v. 9.5.2009; Nina Gessner, Hier gedenken sie des Freimaurers Cäsar Wolf, Hamburger Morgenpost v. 14.5.2009.
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