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Uri Nathan * 1939
Hallerstraße 24 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)
Max Nathan, born 24 Sept. 1911 in Lohra, deported 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, deported 27 Sept. 1944 onward to Auschwitz where he was killed
Ruth Nathan, née Lübschütz, born 7 Jan. 1922 in Magdeburg, deported 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, deported 6 Oct. 1944 onward to Auschwitz where she was killed
Uri Nathan, born 4 Dec. 1939 in Hamburg, deported 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, deported 6 Oct. 1944 onward to Auschwitz where he was killed
Judis Nathan, born 29 Mar. 1941 in Hamburg, deported 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, deported 6 Oct. 1944 onward to Auschwitz and killed
Gideon Nathan, born 13 Sept. 1942 in Theresienstadt, deported 6 Oct. 1944 to Auschwitz where he was killed
Five Stumbling Stones in front of the building at Hallerstraße 24 bear witness to two Jewish parents and their three small children. An historical witness reported on the fate of the young family. She is Judy Urman now living in the USA, the younger sister of Ruth Nathan, the mother of the three children. Since 1987, Mrs. Urman (formerly Jutta Lübschütz) and her husband Ernest Urman have visited the sites of her childhood several times: Schönebeck, Salzelmen, Magdeburg. Both endeavor to keep alive the memory of the victims of National Socialism, especially among young people in Germany. They have spoken at universities, churches and schools and have sponsored an annual award for student essays on this topic.
Family members from the grandchildren’s generation have also visited the home town of Ruth’s husband Max Nathan, Lohra near Marburg. Max’s brother Theo-David Nathan and his family were able to escape to Palestine. Now his children were asking about their family’s origins. In Lohra and Marburg, they were given information by people who had researched the fate of the Jews there, and thus a friendship came into being. The children and grandchildren of the Urman Family from the USA and the Nathan Family from Israel also developed a good relationship.
Stumbling Stones were laid in Lohra for the parents of Max Nathan and his sister Betty. Stumbling Stones have been placed in Mainzlar, Staufenberg in the district Gießen for Max’s brother Arthur, his wife and three children who were killed in Treblinka.
Max Nathan came from the small Hessian town of Lohra where at least four Jewish families had live since the 18th century, two by the name of Nathan. Along with Fronhausen and Roth, the Lohra Community belonged to the Upper Hessian Chief Rabbinate based in Marburg. Worship services and religious instruction took place in a former courthouse rented for that purpose. In 1933, the town had 1,225 residents, 34 of whom were Jewish. By 1939 there were only eight. Max Nathan’s father Hermann, born in 1876, lived with his wife Bertha, née Hess, from Oberasphe who was the same age as Hermann. Their house at Lindenstraße 24 was called "Bules”, according to old village tradition. Hermann Nathan was a self-employed fabric merchant, primarily ready-to-wear products and other articles for daily use. He ran a store at Lindenstraße 24 and also made deliveries. The couple had eight children from 1903 to 1918. The National Socialist regime destroyed the family bonds. The parents Hermann and Bertha Nathan along with one daughter and two sons were deported to Theresienstadt at different times and later killed at an extermination camp. Two children fled to the USA, one daughter to Switzerland, one son to Palestine and another to Buenos Aires.
We know little about Max Nathan’s education and training, the second-youngest son of Hermann and Bertha Nathan, born in 1911. He probably went to school in Lohra and then learned tailoring. His exposure to textiles and clothing in his father’s shop may have inspired him to take that path. He was trained as a tailor for men’s and ladies’ clothing. In Lohra he did not find enough customers and so he, like many young people, moved to the big city to find work. He spent the summer of 1933 in Paris. In 1936/37 he worked for a Jewish tailor in Magdeburg where he made the acquaintance of Ruth Lübschütz.
We have a clear picture of Ruth Lübschütz’s life. Ruth was born on 7 Jan. 1922 in Magdeburg, the first daughter of the couple Julius and Else Lübschütz, née Marcus. Else Marcus’ father had founded his company for burlap and jute around 1900. Else’s brother Georg Marcus and Else’s husband Julius Lübschütz both managed the successful sack wholesale business "Säckegroßhandlung Marcus & Co.” at Breitestraße 11/12. The two families related by marriage were known in the town and respected. In 1929 Julius Lübschütz and his family moved into a spacious apartment on the second floor at Salzerstraße 22. Thus they were present on Schönebeck’s main shopping street, appropriate for their standing in local society. Their girls Ruth, nicknamed Ruthie, and her sister Jutta, five years younger, born in 1927 attended the local elementary school. The fact that they had religion classes at the synagogue did not make them significantly different from their Christian classmates. They developed close childhood friendships, like that between Ruth Lübschütz and Günter Kuntze who came from a family with social-democratic leanings. Through him, Ruth learned even before 1933 something about the political conflicts between the Social Democrats and National Socialists. From him she learned to fear the name Adolf Hitler. Günter explained the meaning of the Iron Front poster hung up by the Social Democrats on which three arrows were aimed at a swastika.
Soon the new rulers targeted the Jews with their aggression. The boycott of 1 Apr. 1933 also affected the business of the Marcus and Lübschütz Families. SA men stood outside all Jewish shops, also in front of the office of the sack wholesale company, with a large banner stating "Don’t buy from Jews”. The "spirit of the new age” took over their school in the form of the Hitler salute, celebrations of heroes, and flag rituals. Nor was the Lübschütz Family safe from the hatred of Jews at home. On the evening of 10 May 1933, SA men searched their apartment for weapons and threw everything around. The next morning little Jutta’s knife and fork were missing from her cutlery, and she cried out in disgust, her fork was not a weapon! Much of what was dear and trusted for the two girls was spoiled for them. At the outdoor pool where Ruth and Jutta met Günter Kuntze for a swim, mud was thrown at them, and he was chased away, called a "red fat cat with your two Jewish cows”. At the lyceum that Ruth had attended since 1934, the custodian, dressed in an SA uniform, demanded that the Jewish girls open up their schoolbags for him to check. Their fellow students, the majority of whom were enthusiastic "young girls” in the National-Socialist League of German Girls, kept their distance from their "non-Aryan” classmates, thereby isolating them.
The race and blood protection laws had resulted in painful restrictions since 1935. The family’s housekeeper of many years Anna Liebe, who the girls loved like a second mother, was no longer allowed to work for a Jewish family. Yet she still secretly helped the Lübschütz Family with their move, for in 1936 Julius Lübschütz had to leave their home at Salzerstraße 22. The main street of Schönbeck was to become "free of Jews”. The Lübschütz Family moved into a smaller apartment on Madgeburgerstraße in Salzelmen. While pebbles were thrown at their windows there and trash dumped onto their balcony, at least the landlord Gehre defended his tenants, explaining that he had himself been awarded the Iron Cross, First Class during the World War and had suffered a combat injury so he could well demand that his building not be damaged.
In Mar. 1936, Ruth’s grades were so good that she was transferred to the 8th grade. That ended her school career. The school principal informed her parents with regret that Ruth would have to leave the school in spite of her good grades. Now the lyceum was "free of Jews”. Ruth made one more attempt to associate with her fellow students by signing up, as they did, for dance lessons. But the dance teacher was not allowed to accept Jewish girls either. However he recommended she join a private dance class in nearby Magdeburg. It was in Magdeburg that she began training as a receptionist and medical-technical assistant in the practice of the Jewish physician Dr. Gross. Ruth, attractive and communicative, enjoyed her early independence. She joined a group of young people in training or at the university who liked to meet at "Frau Strohbach’s” restaurant "Zur Deutschen Flotte” (Of the German Fleet) where they felt relatively safe from spying by Nazis or their informers. Günter Kuntze reported that Ruth was close friends with an "Aryan” druggist at the time. When Dr. Gross was no longer allowed to practice in 1938, Ruth lived with an elderly lady as her housekeeper. The woman enjoyed cultural activities and took Ruth to performances at the Jewish Cultural Association. It was there, according to Judy Urman today, that Ruth likely met her future husband Max Nathan. Yet that is only speculation since Ruth confided few personal things to her sister who was five years younger. Her father also cautioned her to keep quiet about such things because any word could reach the wrong ears.
The pogrom against Jews across the Reich on 9 Nov. 1938 was the prelude to further radicalization of policies against Jews. Günter Kuntze later researched details of the incidents of that night, Kristallnacht, in Schönebeck. Judy Urman still remembers today what she as the eleven-year-old Jutta Lübschütz experienced that day. The day before her father had learned from the radio that the German diplomat von Rath had died in Paris after being shot by a Jew. "Now it’s all over”, her father said. The next morning, Julius Lübschütz went to his office like always. His employees called him there and told him to run away as fast as he could, but instead he went to the police station where his brother-in-law and other men were already being detained. Two men rang the bell at their home and asked for Mr. Lübschütz, as Jutta remembers. Not knowing that their father had been arrested, Jutta went to school like always. That day a substitute teacher took over the class. Mrs. Urman writes, "The school day started like it always did by singing the national anthem ‘Deutschland über Alles’. I sang along. Then we sang a song with the lyrics ‘When Jewish blood spurts from a knife’. I did not sing that. Then we recited the Lord’s Prayer. The teacher said we should remain standing in memory of Mr. von Rath who was murdered by Jewish killers. When we sat down, she pointed a finger at me and said, ‘You are the killer.’”
Those who were publically harassed tried to stand by each another. Ruth had come from Magdeburg where she had helped her boyfriend flee to Hamburg to escape arrest. Ruth and her mother went to see the wife of their Uncle Georg who had also been arrested. Jutta stayed with her friend Ruth Margoniner and her sisters. Since she was the only blonde and looked "Aryan”, she was sent to the synagogue to see what was going on there. A crowd thronged around the spectacle that unfolded amongst cries and jeering: Through the broken window she saw a figure dressed like a rabbi in a gown and prayer shawl swinging back and forth, hanging from a chandelier. Only later did Jutta find out that it was a dead black pig.
Julius Lübschütz and the other Jewish men were deported to Buchenwald concentration camp where they were forced to exercise ceaselessly and were subjected to degrading acts. In the meantime, Else Lübschütz endeavored to find a way to emigrate. By presenting the honor cross that Julius Lübschütz had received in the name of Adolf Hitler in 1934 as a frontline fighter in the World War, she managed to obtain five tickets for passage on a ship to Shanghai and clearance to leave the country. Julius Lübschütz was released from the concentration camp late in Dec. 1938 on condition that he leave the country by mid Feb. and that he spoke with no one about Buchenwald.
On 7 Jan. 1939, her 17th birthday, Ruth Lübschütz became engaged to Max Nathan. Neither of them wanted to travel with her family to Shanghai but wanted to immigrate to the USA instead. Max had already procured emigration papers with the help of relatives in the USA. He was now living in Hamburg from where he wanted to emigrate with Ruth. Her parents sent Ruth and Jutta to Hamburg since they could no longer attend school in Schönebeck. A cousin of Max worked in the administration of the Daniel Wormser Haus at Westerstraße 27 where he found them an attic apartment. The building belonged to the Jewish Religious Association. Its founder, Daniel Wormser, had taken in Jews there in the late 19th century, Jews who had been driven out of Russia, and supported them until they were able to immigrate to the USA. Now the foundation sheltered fugitive Jews until they were able to emigrate. Max found work at the Jewish community in his trade as a tailor. He made clothing for Jews who were being forced into deportation or repaired their clothes. Ruth found a job as a nursing assistant. Jutta was able to attend school in a building on Johnsallee.
Their father Julius had to "Aryanize” his business in Schönebeck. A former competitor purchased the sack wholesale business on Breitestraße at favorable conditions. Julius Lübschütz’s assets were pillaged through the Reich flight tax, the levy on Jewish assets and "preventative holdings”. Only a small fixed sum could be withdrawn from his account. Else and Julius Lübschütz began selling their furniture and moved into two small attic rooms at their Jewish friends the Margoniners who had decided to stay there. Everything that the Lübschützs wanted to take with them had to be precisely listed and left with customs. Else took care of the preparations for the long journey. But customs clearance dragged on, their documents did not come back from customs. Mrs. Lübschütz sold the tickets for passage on the ship so they would not expire. She managed to get her husband’s deadline for leaving the country extended until their departure actually worked out. But that did not apply to the deadline for his wife and daughter. In Mar. 1939, the family said goodbye to their father. He gave Ruth and Max his blessing for their wedding that he would no longer be able to celebrate with them. He rode to Leipzig, then on to Genoa and boarded the ship Conte Biancamano which was headed to Shanghai. Else Lübschütz, now alone in Salzelmen, wanted to be close to her children. She found a room for herself and Jutta in Hamburg. Otherwise she continued to try and find a way for her and her daughter Jutta to follow her husband to China. Since the outbreak of war, her chances were slim. It was only possible to reach China over land. In Shanghai, Julius Lübschütz also had enormous difficulties in procuring the necessary certificates for his family’s entry. The waiting dragged on.
On 13 June 1939 Max and Ruth were betrothed at the undamaged Dammtor Synagogue in Hamburg. The wedding was conducted by Chief Rabbi Joseph Carlebach. Only a few guests were present. A small reception was held in the apartment of one of Max’ colleagues. Ruth remained in touch with his daughter. It is that friendship we have to thank for the only family picture of Ruth and Max with their two children which was taken in 1942. On 4 Dec. 1939 their first son Uri was born. For a whole year the young parents hoped they would soon depart for the New World.
By now, Jutta had been taken in by the Guttmann Foundation in Leipzig at Jakobistraße 7. Originally an orphanage, the building offered 80 Jewish children from all parts of Germany shelter. At the nearby school, the boys and girls took classes together. Finally, in Oct. 1940, with the aid of her brother Georg now living in Berlin, Else Lübschütz purchased the train tickets to Shanghai via Moscow and Vladivostok. Happy about this turn of events, Jutta left Leipzig to join her mother in Schönebeck. Prior to their departure, they again lived with the Margoniner Family and said goodbye to many friends and acquaintances. Jutta remembers an "Aryan” businessman asking about Mr. Lübschütz. When he learned he was in China, he whispered in her mother’s ear that he would like to go there himself.
Else Lübschütz and Jutta were very sad to say goodbye to Ruth, Max and their little Uri in Hamburg. Ruth kept it a secret that she was pregnant again because she did not want that to be a reason for her mother to stay in Germany. Following a hazardous journey through a wintery Russia and on a coaster vessel through the East China Sea, they reached Shanghai on 9 Nov. 1940 where Julius Lübschütz greeted them.
At the same time, in Dec. 1940, Ruth and Max’s hopes were shattered for good. All of their papers were in order, everything lawfully stamped, their goal nearly within their grasp. Then the trap suddenly snapped shut. Citing no reason, Max Nathan was informed by the Gestapo that people were no longer allowed to leave the country. The situation of the small family in Hamburg became more difficult. In Feb. 1941, they had to move out of the Daniel Wormser House. It had been requisitioned by the Wehrmacht to be used as a reserve military hospital. Ruth and Max were sent to live on the third floor of the building at Klosterallee 9 which belonged to a Jewish owner and where several Jews with children were already living. Their daughter Judis was born on 29 Mar. 1941. Ruth was able to notify her parents about the birth. Max found new work at the fishing port. Their children thrived in spite of the oppressively close living quarters and lack of sufficient, fresh food. In July 1941, Ruth and her two children moved to Max’s parents in Marburg. His father Hermann Nathan had been taken to Buchenwald concentration camp after the night of the pogrom. When he returned, the couple left Lohra and moved into a small apartment in Marburg, one not suitable for small children. In just under a month, Ruth moved back to Max in Hamburg. Two or three letters were exchanged between Hamburg and Shanghai. In Jan. 1942, Max and Ruth had to move once again with their children, now to "Ostmarkstraße”, the renamed Hallerstraße 24. The building belonged to the Jewish Religious Association and sheltered only Jews. Ruth’s final letter from Hamburg with a photo was dated July 1942. It brought the news that Max and she and their children had to move to Theresienstadt and that Ruth was 7-months pregnant.
The transport with the number VI/2 departed the morning of 19 July from Hannoverschen Train Station in Hamburg. The 801 individuals included, apart from those from Hamburg, people from Lübeck, Kiel, Uelzen and Rendsburg. The travelers had widely varying ideas of their destination. The majority were elderly people who had been led to believe they would find comfortable old-age care in Theresienstadt. Many of them had been forced to sign a "home purchase contract” and had paid all of their money into it. It was a reasonable conclusion that if the elderly would be so well cared for, then the opportunities for their children might be better there than at home. The travelers arrived fatigued and exhausted the evening of the next day at Bohusovice Train Station. Loaded up with their hand luggage and their children in their arms, Max and Ruth had to stand in rows of four and traverse the three-kilometer, dusty path on foot. Instead of a friendly reception, they were lined up to register amongst shouting and verbal abuse. Their transport number became part of their name as it were for the duration of their stay. Through several copies, that number was passed on to the "Central Commission” and the "Central Registry” of the Jewish self-administration. The transit area for the new arrivals, that no camp resident was allowed to enter, was called "the lock”. It was there that their luggage was checked and piled up. At night there was no other place to sleep than on the dirty stone floor of a casemate or a barrack. It was a terrible blow for Ruth to have her husband separated from her and their children and assigned to another "ubication” – as the living quarters were called – because he was a man "fit to work”. In the summer of 1942, when the ghetto was barely able to take in the transports from the "Reich”, men and women were kept strictly separate. Later that rule was relaxed. It was helpful for Ruth that Max’s parents, his sister Betty and other acquaintances also arrived at Theresienstadt. The town had recently been cleared of all "Aryans” so that Jews from "the Protectorates of Bohemia and Moravia” held prisoner there had more space for themselves and as a consequence better living conditions, albeit only for a short time since the mass transports from Germany and Austria were now intensifying. The new arrivals were perceived by the residents as undesirable competitors, even as enemies. Moreover, they were confronted with language barriers and difficulties communicating as well as the enormous disappointment about the bleakness of the town and the squalid accommodations.
Ruth was about to give birth to her third child. We do not know the exact circumstances. Little Gideon was born a healthy boy on 13 Sept. The newborn was immediately given a transport number. The three children lived very close to their mother. They were not handed over to the collective school until they were four years old, where they were cared for and raised under poor conditions. From 1942 to 1945, about 230 children were born in Theresienstadt. Far larger was the number of forced abortions, for only children conceived before arriving at the ghetto were allowed to live. Such instructions were not issued by the Jewish self-administration but came directly from the headquarters of the Reich Main Security Office of the SS.
Theresienstadt was nowhere near the much vaunted retirement home for wealthy German Jews. They also shared a bunk bed with others, stood in line outside the communal kitchen for a bad lunch, never finding a quiet moment in the "ubications” overflowing with up to a thousand residents. No doctor could ease their suffering, thus many of them soon died of starvation and frailty. We are interested in how Ruth and Max lived there with their little children over the course of the two years they still had to live. We can only rely on assumptions. The residents’ dismal living conditions became so alarming over the course of 1943 that the SS, under pressure from the Foreign Office and the German Red Cross, ordered "city beautification”. Obersturmführer Rahm took over the organization. He ran the "beautification” with great energy and drove all available workers to high performance. The constant fear of being deported onward, which made life there toxic, temporarily abated. The residents focused all their efforts on making living in the town more bearable.
An opportunity presented itself for Heydrich and the SS headquarters in Berlin to disprove rumors about National-Socialist extermination camps when a commission from the International Red Cross inspected Theresienstadt on 23 June 1944. One Swiss and two Danish representatives wanted to see what sort of accommodation a group of Danes who had been deported there were living in. The visitors were accompanied by high-ranking SS officials and a delegation from the International Red Cross and from the Foreign Office in Berlin. Indeed Thersienstadt presented itself as a "model ghetto”. The visitors should convince themselves how considerable production flourished under free self-administration in an exemplary manner. All necessary social institutions, a hospital, school, home for children, an artists’ café were showcased. Ruth’s children were permitted to enjoy the brightly painted "children’s pavilion” for a day. The fact that they were mostly for show purposes barely registered with the visitors. The commission’s report spoke favorably about the exemplary form of internment. At least the improvements carried enough reality that they kindled hopes of survival among the prisoners. In Aug. and Sept. camp inmates were forced to make a propaganda film intended to underscore and spread the visitors’ positive impressions. It was called The Führer Gifts the Jews a Town.
Meanwhile, new transports of men fit to work were being drawn up. The so-called autumn transports comprised approximately 18,400 people in total. The alleged goal of creating a work camp with very favorable living conditions never became a reality for anyone. Wives and families, so they said, would also be allowed to follow and live there.
On 27 Sept. 1944 Max Nathan received the order for "work duty at a new camp”. On 28 Sept. 1944, 2,499 men deported from Theresienstadt reached Auschwitz, among them Max Nathan. They were killed in a gas chamber on one of the following days. Ruth and their three children Uri, Judis and Gideon followed for "family reunification” on 6 Oct. 1944 along with 1,550 other people. They too died in a gas chamber.
Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: September 2019
© Inge Grolle
Quellen: 1; 2; 4; 5; 7; 8; StaH 351-11 AfW 11200, 45119; Kuntze, Juden in Schönebeck; Ders., Unter aufgehobenen Rechten; "Volksstimme" v. 20.11.2013 "Schönebecker Gymnasiasten werden im März Judy Urman in den USA treffen"; E-Mail Briefe von Judy Urman, USA v. 14.1.2014; 15.1.2014; 24.1.2014 u.a.; Tel. Gespräch mit Wolfgang Kühnel, Geschichtsverein Lohra betr. Familie Nathan v. 4.12.2013; E-Mail von Erika Gerhardt, Lohra v. 15.1.2014; 24.1.2014; Mails von Barbara Wagner, Geschichtswerkstatt Marburg, v. Febr. 2014; Meldekartei aus Marburg für Ruth Nathan über den Aufenthalt v. 14.7. bis 9.8.1941; Central Data Base of Shoa Victim’s Names, Yad Vashem, Gedenkblatt, eingereicht von Theodor Nathan (Bruder) für Max Nathan; Adler, Theresienstadt; Starke, Führer.
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