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Already layed Stumbling Stones

Johanna Horwitz (née Bachenheimer) * 1869

Harburger Rathausstraße 45 (Harburg, Harburg)

JG. 1869
ERMORDET 9.4.1944

further stumbling stones in Harburger Rathausstraße 45:
Gertrude Grünfeld, Kurt Horwitz, Elfriede Horwitz

Johanna Horwitz, née Bachenheimer, born on 30.9.1869 in Rauischholzhausen, deported from Mainz to Theresienstadt on 27.9.1942, murdered on 9.4.1944.

Harburger Rathausstraße 45 (formerly: Rathausstraße 22), Harburg.

Johanna Bachenheimer was born as the daughter of the Jewish cattle dealer Heinemann Bachenheimer and his wife Hindel shortly after the Prussian annexation of Kurhessen. In her birthplace of Rauischholzhausen, a total of 78 (11.9%) of the 645 inhabitants of this village were of the Jewish faith in 1861. They were a relatively closed group within the village population.

From 1869, as in the other parts of Prussia, civic equality applied to them for all people living in the kingdom, but for the time being little changed in the social fabric of the village. Differences in occupational structure continued to persist into the early 20th century. While the Christian population was mainly engaged in handicrafts and as temporary workers on the few independent farms, the Jewish population lived mainly from independent trade.

A very special role was played by the cattle trade, which was predominantly practiced by Jewish traders not only in Rauischholzhausen, but also in the surrounding district of Kirchhain. Yiddish was still partly spoken here in the 20th century. Cattle trading was also a preferred trade for Jews in other areas of the German Reich. Due to their strict ritual slaughtering regulations, they often had specialized knowledge in the quality inspection and appraisal of livestock, and because of their traditional and family connections, they had a particularly good overview of the supra-regional trade in slaughter and livestock. They not infrequently granted credit to farmers and usually paid cash on the nail, which many customers certainly appreciated. Rauischholzhausen's cattle and horse traders had their regular clientele in many surrounding villages, which they visited regularly, usually with small horse-drawn wagons. Marburg and Giessen were the nearest horse markets, Kirchhain the nearest cattle market.

The Jewish community in the village was strictly Orthodox, which not least made their integration into the majority society difficult. The religious dietary rules had absolute validity for the Jewish families, and the religious holidays were sacred to them in every respect. Jewish children did not go to school on Saturdays, for example. The different religious rites and customs certainly posed a certain hurdle and could be an explanation for the fact that relations with the non-Jewish population were largely limited to neighborly contacts and commercial transactions; marriages with Christians did not occur, and deep friendships remained rather the exception.

In the 1880s, the province of Hesse-Nassau, and here primarily the district of Kirchhain, became the stronghold of the radical anti-Semitic peasant movement around the Marburg assistant librarian, publicist and folk song researcher Otto Böckel. In these years of upheaval in the world of small-scale farming, Böckel claimed to be the guardian of "German folk culture," which was threatened by "Jewish parasites”. As an anti-Semitic agitator, he roamed the villages of Hesse and found enthusiastic supporters, especially among small farmers. In 1887 Böckel was elected to the Reichstag in the electoral district of Marburg-Kirchhain-Frankenberg-Vöhl with 56.6% of the vote, where he served for over 15 years. In 1890, he founded the Anti-Semitic People's Party, which changed its name to the German Reform Party three years later. This led to the establishment of "Jew-free" livestock markets, agricultural cooperatives, and anti-Semitic legal advice and legal defense offices. The rural peasantry, organized in the Mitteldeutscher Bauernverein (Farmer’s Club), celebrated Böckel as a "second Martin Luther."

The Böckel movement resulted in severe economic consequences for most Jewish merchants operating in the Kirchhain district and caused a significant rural exodus of Jewish residents. In Rauischholzhausen, too, the Jewish population decreased by 26 persons between 1861 and 1905, i.e. by 33%.

Among the people who left the village was Johanna Bachenheimer. In search of a better home, she and her husband, Adolf Horwitz (*Dec 2, 1868), found a new home in the Prussian district town of Harburg on the Elbe. Her spouse also came from a Jewish family in neighboring Lüneburg and was apparently hopeful that he had found favorable conditions in the Harburg area for establishing and expanding a professional existence as a cattle trader in the tradition of his family. Around the turn of the century, the young couple initially lived in the (Harburg) Rathausstraße. There the children Gertrud (*Dec 10, 1898), Kurt (*June 28, 1900) and Elfriede Horwitz (*Aug 29, 1904) were born.

When Adolf Horwitz died in April 1915 at the age of 47 and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Harburg, his widow continued to run the business. In doing so, she apparently demonstrated great skill in dealing with her husband's customer base. For years after World War I, she was able to hold her own against her male, Jewish and non-Jewish competitors in a market that was also fiercely competitive in this industry. Only after 1933 did she run into economic problems. The National Socialists fought the Jewish cattle trade from the beginning with particular severity and finally banned it altogether by a decree of January 25, 1937.

Johanna Horwitz then moved to Flacht in Hesse. On September 27, 1942, she was one of the 1288 mainly elderly people deported in a large transport from Mainz to the Theresienstadt ghetto.

The camp was hopelessly overcrowded during this time. In September 1942, more than 58,000 people were living in this former garrison town, where only 7,000 inhabitants had been counted before World War II. This overcrowding had disastrous consequences for the housing, food, and medical care of all camp residents. They had to be happy if they could find a place to sleep at all and at least get hold of a warm bowl of water soup once a day. The sickness rate increased from day to day, and in view of the inadequate medical equipment, the doctors were not in a position to do anything about it, despite all their good intentions. The old people were the least able to cope with the inhuman living conditions. They were the most frequently afflicted with permanent diarrhea, tuberculosis and abdominal typhus, and they made up the largest proportion of the people who died of these diseases in the Theresienstadt ghetto.

Of the many people who had left Mainz on September 27, 1942, only 89 were still alive at the end of World War II. Johanna Horwitz was not among them. She died on April 9, 1944, at the age of 75.

Translation by Beate Meyer
Stand: January 2022
© Klaus Möller

Quellen: Gedenkbuch. Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland 1933–1945, Bundesarchiv (Hrsg.), Koblenz 2006; Theresienstädter Gedenkbuch. Die Opfer der Judentransporte aus Deutschland nach Theresienstadt 1942–1945, Prag 2000; Yad Vashem. The Central Database of Shoa Victims´ Names:; Alfred Gottwald, Diana Schulle, Die "Judentransporte aus dem Deutschen Reich 1941–1945, Wiesbaden 2005, Harburger Adressbücher, Annamaria Junge, "Niemand mehr da" – Antisemitische Ausgrenzung und Verfolgung in Rauischholzhausen 1933 1942, Marburg 2012; Eberhard Kändler, Gil Hüttenmeister, Der jüdische Friedhof in Harburg, Hamburg 2004.

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