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Margarethe Wolfsohn (née Cohn) * 1885
Brahmsallee 12 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
Max Wolfsohn, born on 13 June 1872 in Graudenz/West Prussia (today Grudziadz in Poland), deported on 15 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, deported further on 23 Sept. 1942 to the Treblinka extermination camp and murdered there
Margarethe Wolfsohn, née Cohn, born on 15 July 1885 in Ratibor/Silesia (today Raciborz in Poland), deported on 15 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, deported further on 23 Sept. 1942 to the Treblinka extermination camp and murdered there
In memory of Max Wolfsohn and his wife Margarete, née Cohn, born on 15 July 1885 in Ratibor, there are two Stolpersteine in front of the "Zum Ritter St. Georg” pharmacy at Lange Reihe 39, the workplace of Max Wolfsohn. The volume entitled Stolpersteine in Hamburg-St. Georg already contains a biography of the couple. In 2003, in front of the last voluntary residential address of both persons, a second Stolperstein was laid for Max Wolfsohn and in 2013 another memorial stone for his wife.
Max Wolfsohn was born in Graudenz in West Prussia on 13 June 1872 as the son of Leo and Rosalie Wolfsohn, née Stein. There he spent his childhood and school time, but even as a young man he felt drawn toward the big city. In Hamburg, he worked at the Rathausapotheke (the pharmacy near city hall) until he was able to set up his own business. On 2 Apr. 1907, he acquired the pharmacy "Zum Ritter St. Georg” from the pharmacist Justus Friedrich Otto Freudenstein, who had run it since 1894. This pharmacy had a Realkonzession, which meant a license that entitled the owner to sell or inherit the pharmacy. The value of the property was stated at 200,000 marks (Land Registry St. Georg Nord Vol. XIV, p. 684). Wolfsohn was able to make the purchase because his bride, Margarete Cohn from Danzig (today Gdansk in Poland), the daughter and heiress of a chocolate manufacturer, brought in a large dowry. Max Wolfsohn used the substantial sum of 75,000 marks as a loan of Margarete Cohn, who was still unmarried, at an interest rate of 5 percent payable in semi-annual installments. He also took out other mortgages. The couple Max and Margarete Wolfsohn, who were married shortly afterward, was able to move into and operate the pharmacy at Lange Reihe 39. On 21 Mar. 1908, the only child, daughter Annemarie Charlotte, was born.
The pharmacy "Zum Ritter St.Georg” was a company with four employees, two of whom were semi-skilled assistants. With an annual profit of 10,000 RM (reichsmark), the business went quite well. The family moved from the St. Georg quarter to the area considered more upscale at Mundsburger Damm 48 and later yet to Brahmsallee 12. A cousin of Max Wolfsohn, Walter Jacoby from London, estimated the tasteful furnishings at a value of 30,000 RM. Max Wolfsohn had the furniture produced by the Danzig-based Kuttner Company according to his own designs. The rooms were carpeted with Persian rugs. The household featured valuable china and silverware. Max Wolfsohn was an outstanding pianist and cellist. There was a Steinway grand piano in the music room. He liked to invite friends to his own chamber music evenings in his salon. Subsequently, when he was no longer allowed to work in his profession, he devoted himself to his hobby, ambitious photography.
Margarete and Max Wolfsohn’s most important purpose in life was their daughter Annemarie. The parents paid great attention to her good upbringing and education, sending her to the "Mittell” girls’ secondary school and the private "Predoehl” girls’ high school (Lyzeum). After she had finished school, Max Wolfsohn employed his daughter in the pharmacy, where she was to become thoroughly familiarized with the operation, as she was intended to be the future owner. But the girl had other things in mind. She wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. According to her parents, she should first acquire languages and social skills at a Swiss boarding school. Maybe after that, she would decide to train as a pharmacist eventually. However, Annemarie stuck to her life plan. In 1928/29, she obtained a diploma as a kindergarten teacher at a vocational school in Hamburg, which she then wanted to try out as a family kindergarten teacher in Switzerland. In 1933, she returned to Hamburg to realize her dream of founding her own kindergarten. However, political circumstances had developed in such a way that she had to give up her aspiration quickly. At this point, she thought of emigration; her parents also wanted her daughter to be safe and supported her when she went to Vienna in 1934. The following odyssey of Annemarie Wolfsohn is an example of how things were looking at the time when it came to the freedom and self-realization of Jewish girls. To be sure, Wolfsohn’s pharmacy did not yet experience any serious material losses, so he was able to send his daughter monthly sums abroad. But she did not find a firm foothold in Vienna, although she made efforts to complete different trainings in succession and tried herself in different fields, as a shop window decorator, masseur, lady’s companion, and nurse. When her father could no longer support her, she went to her grandmother in Danzig and from there travelled via Britain to the USA. Her claim that she had been back to her parents in Hamburg in 1938/39 to forward her trousseau worth 6,000 RM cannot be proven. That undertaking was thwarted by the obligation to pay the "levy on Jewish assets” ("jüdische Vermögensabgabe”). Emigration plans that Max and Margarete Wolfsohn considered at this time could not be realized either for unknown reasons.
Since 1935, the situation for pharmacists had been getting worse. In Hamburg, there had always been a problem for them specific to this professional field: For one thing, the number of licensed pharmacists was larger than the available state-licensed pharmacies. In addition, the quality of the health system suffered due to the fact that pharmacists’ widows were able to entrust an administrator with the management of the business and consequently many pharmacies were run by insufficiently qualified employees. Directed against this mismanagement, the law passed on 13 Dec. 1935 was aimed against the leasing and management of public pharmacies by "nationally and morally unreliable persons.” This peculiar passage in the law was not yet clearly anti-Semitic. But the first associated ordinance dated 26 Mar. 1936 clearly stated: "Jews are not admitted as leaseholders. Any public pharmacy owned by a Jew is subject to compulsory leasing.” The "liberation” of Jewish pharmacies thus brought about by the Nazi regime, which was in fact tantamount to a professional ban, opened up new opportunities for "Aryan” pharmacists. Like all Jewish pharmacists, Wolfsohn was henceforth subject to compulsory leasing. (Reich Law Gazette [Reichsgesetzblatt – RGBl.] 1936 Part I, p. 317, Art. 3)
Rudolf Rincker, born on 9 Mar. 1885 in Baden, presented himself as a leaseholder of the pharmacy "Zum Ritter St. Georg.” He had been licensed since 1912, was the administrator of the Feldmannsche Apotheke (today Moltke Apotheke), a pharmacy in Altona. Due to the new Nazi legislation, he had the chance to improve his business situation, namely to become a real leaseholder instead of just a pharmacy administrator. On 28 June 1936, Rincker concluded a lease agreement with Max Wolfsohn, who had been known to him for some time. The latter seems to have been satisfied with the deal. The relationship between the two pharmacists was described by employees and customers as extremely friendly. The fixed amount of 8,600 RM per year for the lease and 3,400 RM in rent for the pharmacy secured the Wolfsohn couple a living for the time being.
However, repression against Jewish companies increased, Jewish pharmacists were deprived of their license to practice as pharmacists, and Wolfsohn could no longer avoid selling his pharmacy. As the previous leaseholder, Rincker presented himself as the suitable buyer. He had meanwhile joined the Nazi party (NSDAP) effective 1 May 1937, so that he also met with approval from the Nazi leadership of the "Deutsche Apothekerschaft Bezirk Nordmark” ("German Pharmacists of the Nordmark District”). Rincker negotiated a purchase contract with Wolfsohn for the property and pharmacy in Aug. 1938, based on the expert opinion of Haus- und Hypotheken Verwaltung Woerle & Heinike, appointed since 1935. The real estate and mortgage appraisal company determined that the property was encumbered to its full value by mortgages. In addition to 80,000 RM for the pharmacy, the buyer was asked to pay 72,000 RM for the property, amounting to 152,000 RM overall. Of this sum, the seller received almost 37,000 RM in cash, while the remainder of 115,250 RM had to be used to redeem the mortgages. This contract had already been notarized, but the German Pharmacists raised concerns that were taken up by the health authorities. The argument went that the price was set too high and that when it came to "Aryanizations,” the value of a "Jewish pharmacy” was to be estimated lower from the outset. In the case of Jewish pharmacists, the Nazis had prohibited that a customer value relating to the customer base and the reputation of the pharmacy (goodwill) be credited toward the sale price. The concession value of pharmacies operated by Jews was generally reduced to 80 percent and the redemption of mortgages made as easy as possible, so that even in the case of the pharmacy "Zum Ritter St. Georg,” the contract had to end up being less favorable for the seller. A trustee, the lawyer Heinrich Voss, was then appointed to handle the transaction.
On 27 Mar. 1939, the new notarial contract was drawn up and entered in the land register (Land Register St. Georg Nord, p. 684, now p. 1587). The text explains: "The pharmacy (Realkonzession) and the property, which represent an economically inseparable unit, have already been sold once by the pharmacist Wolfsohn to the signed pharmacist Rincker, who has leased the pharmacy since 1 Oct. 1936, by notarial agreement dated 23 Aug. 1938. Accordingly, the purchase price for the land had been set at RM 72,000, which is also said to have already been approved by the auditing agency. Recently, the purchase price for the property has been set 700 RM lower, because the roof truss of the house was previously infested with the wood-boring beetle and it was suggested by an expert to fight the house borer at a cost of 700 RM.” The following data is recorded in the contract: Unit value of the property 68,800 RM; average annual turnover approx. 73,350 RM; value of the concession 80,700 RM; stock estimated at 3,200 RM.
"In accordance with the general contract, the purchaser assumes the total purchase price of RM 155,200.00; mortgages of RM 115,260.80; remaining purchase price of RM 39,939.20” [(Z 657-1- restitution case dated 23 Aug. 1950)].
Even according to the second contract, it was clear that due to mortgage assumption and offsetting only a balance of RM 35,377.93 was payable to Wolfsohn. The other half as well as the amount for the pharmacy and stock had been received by the testator. After billing by the trustee Voss, the latter received amounts exceeding 44,000 RM from the notary Voigt and the buyer. In spite of meticulous research, it could no longer be clearly established where the amounts were entered and paid out in detail.
Max and Margarete Wolfsohn were no longer involved in these disputes. There is no evidence that they had contact with their daughter in the USA between 1940 and 1942 and whether they hoped for help from their daughter to emigrate. Rincker supported the old couple with food and preferential deliveries and even identified a way in which they could have come into money abroad. Apart from this, little is known about how their last years unfolded. Max and Margarete Wolfsohn moved into a smaller apartment at Brahmsallee 12. On 13 June 1942, Max Wolfsohn celebrated his seventieth birthday and received visits from friends and former employees. Shortly afterward, the Wolfsohn couple was forced to move into the former retirement home of the Jewish Community at Beneckestrasse 6, which had been designated a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”). From there, they had to report for deportation on 15 July 1942, the fifty-seventh birthday of Margarete Wolfsohn. They had previously signed a "home purchase contract” ("Heimeinkaufsvertrag”) for the "ghetto for the elderly” ("Altersgetto”) in Theresienstadt, which was supposed to provide for their retirement. For two months, they were in limbo there between fear and hope until the dreaded event took place: further transport to the Treblinka extermination camp northwest of Warsaw. The gas chambers there were built as part of "Operation Reinhard” (Aktion Reinhard) to murder Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto and the "General Government” (Generalgouvernement Polen). In addition, almost 20,000 Jewish people deported from Theresienstadt, including Max and Margarete Wolfsohn from Hamburg, suffered violent death there.
The daughter registered after 1945 under her new name, Jacqueline Beck, née Annemarie Wolfsohn, as the sole heir of her parents at the Hamburg Restitution Office, documented by the inheritance certificate issued on 30 May 1949. In a tough dispute with Rudolf Rincker’s lawyer, her attorney Pardo fought for and obtained substantial restitution payments on her behalf. What else did her parents still manage to find out about their daughter? She left Danzig aboard the "Nova Scotia” (Passenger List 5, no. 11), on a visa issued in London on 29 Nov. 1939, for Boston, USA. In terms of her American contact address, she had indicated Gunter Berent from Danzig as her "fiancé.” She appeared in New York on several occasions under the name of Jacqueline Berent. It may have been a marriage on paper that enabled her to emigrate to the USA. In any case, she married John Beck "in her first marriage” on 8 Jan. 1949, from whom she divorced on 26 May 1953, to marry Silvan Russ on 2 July 1953. She had no children. We have no information whether she ever went to Hamburg again.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: September 2019
© Inge Grolle
Quellen: StaH, 314-15 OFP Oberfinanzpräsident FVg 7701; 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 3387 (Jacqueline Russ, gesch. Beck, geb. Wolfsohn); Grundbuch St. Georg Nord; Benedikt Behrens, Stolpersteine in Hamburg-St. Georg, S. 191f.; Bajohr, "Arisierung", S. 112–114; Geschichte der Hamburgischen Apotheken, 1913 (wg. Foto, ohne Seitenangabe); Auskunft des Bundesarchivs, Document Center Berlin; Schriftliche Mitteilungen von Danielle Angress, Nachfahrin der Familie Wolfsohn, an Benedikt Behrens; Freundliche Auskünfte durch Dr. Rudolf Rincker, Hamburg.