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Else Blumann * 1892
Rothenbaumchaussee 101-103 (Passage, vormals Schlüterweg) (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)
Else Blumann, born on 26 Dec. 1892 in Tostedt, deported on 18 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Rothenbaumchaussee 101–103 (Passage, formerly Schlüterweg 8)
Else Blumann, a housekeeper and merchant, was born on 26 Dec. 1892 in Tostedt in the Nordheide (the northernmost part of the Lüneburg Heath). Her father, Carl Blumann, was a livestock dealer. Her mother Henriette, née Goldmann, came from a wealthy Harburg family. Else grew up in a solid middle-class milieu with three older sisters, Helene, Ida, and Rosette, who was the only one to marry. Else Blumann supposedly went to Rendsburg because of a love interest. She first worked in the household of Julius Michael Benjamin at Löwenstrasse 1 ("Turmhaus,” as it was called) as a housekeeper and cared for him after his wife Frieda passed away in 1925. When Benjamin died of serious illness in 1931, Else Blumann took over his dry goods wholesale business, which he had operated in the courtyard of Löwenstrasse 16. She relocated it to Kronprinzenstrasse 3, but initially still resided at Löwenstrasse 1. Her clientele comprised mainly mobile traders who traveled with a "vendor’s tray.”
Else Blumann belonged to a regular kaffeeklatsch of Jewish and non-Jewish neighbors and friends in Neuwerk, including Mrs. Wingold. "That was always a lot of fun.” Else Blumann added to the fun at these social gatherings with her cheerful temperament. Already in her family in Tostedt, a cheerful tone had always prevailed. The Büddig family, who lived on Kronprinzenstrasse at that time, also belonged to her circle of acquaintances. Else Blumann continued to maintain contact with her family in Tostedt and had a room in her parents’ house until the very end. With the boycott, the decline of her business began. After the November Pogrom, the auditor Georg Sibbert was appointed as "trustee” on 16 Dec. 1938, assigned to carry out the liquidation of the dry goods and woolen goods wholesale business of the "Jewess Else Blumann” by 10 Jan. 1939.
On 28 Oct. 1939, she moved to Schlüterweg 8 in Hamburg, where she lived for rent with her sisters Helene and Ida, who had lost their jobs as fashion managers. Her nephew also lived there. The Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) card file of the Hamburg Jewish Community listed Ida as a sales representative and Helene as an accountant. Both women paid small amounts of tax contributions, while Else Blumann was not assessed at all because she had no income. On 18 Nov. 1941, the three sisters were deported on the second transport from Hamburg to Minsk in Belarus.
Belarus, like the other occupied territories of the Soviet Union, belonged to the "Bloodlands.” Millions of people had become victims of violent crimes there, first under Stalin due to the famines caused by the brutal forced collectivization and the Great Terror, before the German occupiers continued the bloodshed starting in June 1941. What Else Blumann and her sisters suffered in Minsk until their deaths can be guessed at when reading the memoirs of the few people from Western Europe who were able to leave the Minsk Ghetto alive. Already the arrival in Minsk after a long agonizing train ride via Warsaw was full of horror for the exhausted prisoners, who were brutally beaten out of the wagons by the German SS or Lithuanian auxiliary troops. Then followed the long march to the suburbs featuring small wooden houses and a few stone buildings, and the horror at seeing the rooms in the school building where they were to be housed. To make space for the German Jews, the local Jews who had lived there until then had been murdered.
At first, there was no lighting, no water, no windows, no heating, and no furniture. Everything that the Jewish Community in Hamburg had given to the deportees on the train – mattresses, food, even bicycles – was confiscated by the SS, and only a small amount of food was allowed into the camp. Personal luggage had also been partially looted. In the next few days, the rooms were furnished as best they could with the still usable furniture of the previous inhabitants, windows, doors and stoves were repaired, a kitchen was set up.
Work crews had to bury the bodies of thousands of local Jews, victims of a mass shooting by the SS on 9 Nov. 1941, in the Belarusian part of the ghetto. "Many of us had never seen a dead body. We had never lived under such a constant threat of death. However, somehow we also got used to it, to death, disease, hunger, and cold. We still had hope.” Further transports from the Reich area worsened conditions in the ghetto.
In 1942 and 1943, the ghetto was "liquidated.” In July 1942, people from Berlin, Bremen, the Rhineland, Vienna, and Brno became victims of mass shootings; in May 1943, the SS and police exterminated the Hamburg and other Rhineland Jews. Only a few survived the "Hell of Minsk.” Else Blumann and her sisters were not among them. In Belarus, part of the Reich Kommissariat Ostland, headed by the Schleswig-Holstein Gauleiter Hinrich Lohse, 500,000 Jews were murdered. The main protagonists responsible for carrying out the mass murders were primarily the Einsatzgruppen ("task forces,” death squads) of the SD and the police battalions; but local collaborators and units of the German Wehrmacht were also involved – in cooperation with the German administrative echelons. Sister Rosette Dörnbrack, née Blumann, was initially exempt from the deportations owing to her Aryan spouse. Between Jan. and Mar. 1945, the Gestapo ordered the deportation of Jewish spouses in "mixed marriages” ("Mischehen”) to Theresienstadt. Similar to the threatened deportation of Mrs. X. in Rendsburg, an acquaintance of the family saved Rosette Dörnbrack from this fate. The Tostedt physician Dr. Pieper certified that she was unfit for transport. At this point, the end of the war, including the German defeat, was in sight – the Auschwitz concentration camp had been liberated by the Red Army by the end of January and Allied troops had occupied parts of Germany. Under these circumstances, by this time there were more people willing to become active as helpers, partly also to build a safeguard for themselves for the time after the war. For example, the physician Martin Heinrich Corten, the last head of the Hamburg Reich Association of Jews (Reichsvereinigung der Juden), had been able to get the Gestapo to accept medical certificates for the deferment of affected persons. In Tostedt, a memorial plaque in the municipal library, initiated by a grandniece, has been commemorating the three Blumann sisters since 1999. At Rothenbaumchaussee 101–103 (Passage, formerly Schlüterweg 8), Stolpersteine were laid for the sisters and in Rendsburg, a Stolperstein for Else Blumann is located in front of the house at Kronprinzenstrasse 3.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: May 2021
© Frauke Dettmer
Quellen: Lit.: Frauke Dettmer: "Bei uns war der Jude ebenso ein Mensch wie jeder andere." Lebenswege Rendsburger Juden 1933 bis 1945. Kiel, Hamburg: Wachholtz Verlag 2016.