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Already layed Stumbling Stones
Gottfried Wolff * 1870
Isestraße 69 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
Freitod 18.07.1942 Hamburg
further stumbling stones in Isestraße 69:
Liesel Abrahamsohn, Johanna Adelheim, Henry Blum, Rosalie Blum, Louis Böhm, Gertrud Böhm, Bertha Brach, Hillel Chassel, Irma Chassel, Michael Frankenthal, Erna Gottlieb, Ella Hattendorf, Frieda Holländer, Gertrud Holländer, Henriette Leuschner, Elfriede Löpert, Helene Löpert, Walter Löpert, Ella Marcus, Ernst Maren, Josephine Rosenbaum, Günther Satz, Selma Satz, Else Schattschneider, Lydia Wolff
Lydia Wolff, neé Lychenheim, born 5 Oct in Richtenberg, suicide 14 July 1942
Dr. Gottfried Wolff, born 18 Oct 1870 in Lübtheen, suicide 14 July 1942
Gottfried Wolff came from an old Mecklenburg merchant family. He was born in Lübtheen and had nine brothers and one sister. He broke with the Jewish tradition and joined the Protestant Church. His children were baptized and confirmed. It turned out that this step didn’t save the family later from being treated as Jews by the National Socialists.
Gottfried Wolff studied law, settled as a lawyer and notary in Parchim. Since 1901, he was licensed at the Schwerin Reginal Court (Landgericht). In 1913 he purchased the plot of land and the house Blutstraße 8 where he set up the living quarters for the family and his office.
The Wolffs had three children. Annemarie, born in 1905 (she later commited suicide), and Käthe, later married Freise, born in 1909 (she was murdered in Auschwitz). The son Hans, born in 1907, was the first of the family affected by National Socialist persecution. In February 1933 he was arrested in Hamburg. He was charged with activities in the socialistic student union and the Social Democratic Party.
First he came into the KZ Fuhlsbüttel, and was transferred to the KZ Oranienburg. On September 15, 1934, one day before his 26th birthday, he was released. Later he emigrated to South America (Venezuela).
Initially, after the National Socialists came to power, Gottfried Wolff was able to continue his flourishing practice. In 1935 though, he was deprived of the office of notary. Until 1938 he could still work as a lawyer, in the end only as a "consultant” for Jewish clients.
During the night of the November Pogrom on 9/10, 1938, his office was smashed, and books and files were burned at a bonfire. Also the flat was demolished. All 15 Jewish inhabitants of Parchim were taken into "protective custody” (Schutzhaft). Helmut Wolff, the then almost five- years- old grandson, remembers in 2020: ”After our house was destroyed…my grandparents, my mother and I ended up in some building in a room with a pass-through flap for food and a small barred window.” Presumably they were locked in a cell of the town police office or the district court prison. The women and children were released no later than the next morning. On November 11, the five imprisoned men were transported to the prison in Altstrelitz. Gottfried Wolff was kept there until November 17.
In December 1938 Gottfried Wolff had to sell his house and land property, but he was allowed to live there until December 1939. He went to Hamburg where a brother of Lydia lived. (Also her ancestors had been respected merchants in Mecklenburg. Her father was a senator in Richtenberg near Rostock). In Hamburg Gottfried Wolff negotiated without success with the British and the Irish consulates whether the couple could immigrate to either of the countries.
The Wolffs hoped to be less exposed to persecution in the anonymity of the big city rather than in Parchim. The wish to be able to emigrate from Hamburg to Great Britain or the USA, where one of Lydia’s brothers lived, was not fulfilled.
An important connection with Hamburg was obviously made by daughter Annemarie. Her best friend was actress Ilse Alexander, neè Brach. In Mecklenburg the two sometimes had performed together. Ilse’s mother, Bertha Brach, lived at her sister’s, Selma Satz, in Hamburg, Isestraße 69. Their uncle Michael Frankenthal also stayed with them after his wife had died.
Selma Satz (www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de) was a widow. In 1939 her two sons didn’t live with her in the apartment. Werner had emigrated to the USA. His younger brother, Günther, (www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de) attended the Jewish Gartenbauschule in Ahlem near Hannover. So Selma Satz had the opportunity to sublet part of the large apartment in order to improve her income. Like for all well- off Jews, the access to her assets was blocked and she was only allowed to withdraw a certain amount of money per month for her daily need.
In 1939 Lydia and Gottfried Wolff three times came to stay with Selma Satz as her house guests, and a friendly relationship developed. For Whitsun 1939 the Wolffs even invited Selma to spend the holidays with them in Parchim. But she declined. On July 26, 1939 she wrote her son: "The Wolff family is here again for a visit, I am always glad to be together again with these people…”.
As of December 31, 1939, Gottfried Wolff cancelled his residency in Parchim and finally came to Hamburg with his wife, and in January 1940 they officially moved in as subtenants of Selma Satz in Isestraße 69. On January 25, 1940, Annemarie followed with her son Helmut who was born in 1933. His father a non- Jewish attorney, and corvette commander whom Annemarie Wolff had met in the early 1930s, at the beginning of the National Socialist rule, refused to get married to a Jewish woman.
The Wolffs could move into the two large front rooms and the maid’s room. In 1940 the other daughter, Käthe Freise, stayed with them for a short time. She lived in Thuringia with her son Eberhard.
Annemarie’s friend Ilse Alexander is fequently mentioned in Selma Satzes letters to her son Wolfgang in the USA. She sent presents for Helmut and visited the family in Isestraße. For Helmut she was like an aunt. She was married to the well known actor Georg Alexander, who belonged to the National Socialist elite of the film world in Berlin. Thus she was protected by a Mischehe.
On September 11, 1940, Selma’s son, Günther, came back. He had to leave the school in Ahlem. The large apartment was getting crowded. But the relationship between the two families remained stable, even though the Wolffs now more often retired to their living quarters. Already on October 18, 1939 Gottfried Wolff had invited the Satz family for a comfortable teaparty on his birthday. A year later on his 70th birthday he asked for a sociable drink of wine.
He often spent his time with Michael Frankenthal and the brothers Hermann and Moritz Dugowski (www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de) from Isestraße 61. Them playing cards together, is frequently mentioned in the Satz letters. Hermann Dugowski, already widowed since 1919, had been married to a sister of Selma Satz and Bertha Brach.
The Wolffs were also invited to the celebration of Michael Frankenthal’s 75th birthday on September 1, 1939. There they met Rabbi Carlebach (www.stolpersteine.hamburg.de) and the neighbour Henry Chassel (www.stolpersteine.hamburg.de), who among numerous positions in the Jewish community until 1939 was chairman of the Neue Dammtor Synagogue.
On November 8, 1941, the dwelling fellowship had to cope with the first heavy stroke of fate. Günther Satz was deported to Minsk. His mother’s name was also on the list of deportees, but she was deferred.
In February 1942 the apartment had to be evacuated and all inhabitants had to move into the Martin-Brunn-Stift in Frickestraße 24, a "Jew’s House”. Directly from there on July 11, 1942, the sisters Selma Satz and Bertha Brach were deported to Auschwitz. On July 15, 1942, Michael Frankenthal was deported to Theresienstadt. He died there on November 4th, 1942.
In the evening of July 18, 1942, at 6:30 Gottfried Wolff was spotted in the Elbe River off the Altona Waterworks in Blankenese. An hour later the water police recovered Lydia Wolff not far away, off the Falkenstein shoreline. Four days earlier, both together, fully dressed, had gone into the Elbe near Rissen. A postal truck driver had found both their papers with the deportation order on the beach. With this, they had sent out a signal. They left life of their own will so as not to be sent into uncertain suffering in Theresienstadt.
Lydia and Gottfried Wolff were brought to the Hafenkrankenhaus, their bodies thoroughly examined and everything they had with them was carefully listed. The custodian of the Martin-Brunn-Stiftes had to identify them. He reported to the police that they had left the stift early on Juli 14. They had been depressed because they had received the deportation order for the next day. From the Hafenkrankenhaus they were taken to the Jewish Cemetory in Hamburg- Ohlsdorf and buried there. To the National Socialist authorities it didn’t matter that they were Christians.
Their daughter Annemarie, last called Anna Maria, on June 10, 1942, got married to Robert Donald Kugelmann and moved into his mansion at Alsterkamp, where she had been registered as a domestic servant already before their marriage. On July 19, 1942, Anna Maria and Robert Kugelmann (www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de) were found dead in their home. They also had a deportation order for Theresientadt and killed themselves.
A few days before, Anna Marie Kugelmann’s friend Ilse Alexander had brought Anna Maria’s son Helmut to safety. She took him to Berlin and then conveyed him to Hamburg, where he grew up in several foster families, without knowing about his Jewish origin.
Ilse Alexander could not save her own mother, Bertha Brach. Obviously the protection she had through her prominent husband didn’t go so far.
Daughter Käthe Freise also didn’t survive the Shoah (See the contribution by her son Eberhard Freise)
In the family it is passed down that she with her son Eberhard was ordered to an office in Weimar. Because she suspected that arrest threatened, she left her son on a bench in the railroad station and told him to wait for her there. After some time he was found and saved by relatives of his father. An odyssee through several homes began, which he survived, but had to cope with mental difficulties.
Gottfried and Lydia’s three grandsons, Eberhard Freise, Helmut Wolff and Jorge Wolff, Hans’ son in Venezuela, survived their parents and their grandparents. After 1945 they had no contact with one another. After the German re-unification in 1990 they inherited together their grandparents’ house in Parchim. Helmut then lived in Hamburg, Eberhard in Weimar, temporarily in Portugal, and Jorge in Uruguay. The lawyers in charge established the contact. Jorge, whose father had died in 1953, wrote:” Hopefully this exchange of letters [because of the inheritance] will be the beginning of a continuous exchange of news, which is not only dealing with material necessities, but is carried by the wish to get to know each other better.”
In Lübhteen, the birthplace of his grandfather, Helmut Wolff had set a second Stolperstein for Gottfried Wolff in front of his parents’ house.
Apart from him, three of his siblings had perished in the Shoah. One of his brothers was the grandfather of the former First Mayor of Hamburg, Ole von Beust.
Four of Lydia’s brothers did not survive either. Her brother, who emigrated, passed away in the USA in 1959.
In Parchim another Stolperstein was set for Gottfried Wolff in front of Blutstraße 8.
The Stolpersteine for Lydia and Gottfried Wolff were erroneously laid in front of Isestraße 65. They have been transferred to Isestraße 69.
Translator: Erwin Fink/Changes Christa Fladhammer/Beate Meyer
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: May 2021
© Christa Fladhammer
Quellen: 4; AfW 051078; StaH 331-5 Polizeibehörde - Unnatürliche Todesfälle 1942/1309 und 1942/1405; ITS, Arolsen, TD 457 878; FZH/WdE 632, Original Interview Helmut Wolff durchgeführt von Jens Michelsen; RA Dietrich Schümann, Text für Ausstellung in Schwerin; Benjamin Herzberg, Lichter im Dunkeln – Hilfe für Juden in Hamburg 1933-1945, Hamburg 1997. Ein Beitrag zum Schülerwettbewerb um den Preis des Bundespräsidenten 1996/97, S. 6ff; Stammbäume der Familien Wolff und Lychenheim im Besitz von Helmut Wolff; Informationen in einem persönlichen Gespräch mit Helmut Wolff am 8.2.2008, telefonische Auskunft der Verwaltung des Jüdischen Friedhofs Ilandkoppel am 13.12.2008; Gespräch mit Helmut Wolff im Dezember 2019 und E-mail 16.1.2020; Doreen Frank, Jüdische Familien in Parchim, o.D.; Schweriner Volkszeitung, 12./13. 7.2008: Bericht von Ilse Simonsohn , geb. Elkan, Jüdische Familien in Parchim, o.D.; Ebd., 12./13. 7.2008: Bericht von Ilse Simonsohn, geb. Elkan, über die Verhaftung der Parchimer jüdischen Familien am 10.11.1938; Brief von Jorge Wolff, Montevideo,17.4.1993, Privatbesitz, Helmut Wolff; Briefe von Selma Satz an ihren Sohn Wolfgang in den USA, 1938 bis 1941, Privatbesitz; Schr. Eberhard B. Freise v. 21.4.2021.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Link "Recherche und Quellen".
We thank Eberhard B. Freise for his contribution from a relative’s viewpoint.
The grandson's commentary - a contemporary witness.
Many generations after us will learn and marvel at the endearing and hair-raising stories hidden under the Stolpersteine or behind memorial plaques for our ancestors. In this case, there are very few people left today who remember these events from their own experience and can tell them authentically and credibly.
I am one of three still living male grandsons of the Jewish couple Gottfried and Lydia Wolff from Parchim, who was born at the time of Hitler's seizure of power and was immediately classified as a "Mischling of first degree". Yet my grandparents were particularly good Germans: as a lawyer and licensed notary public, to whom the German state had entrusted sovereign duties at an early age, my grandfather could be considered as such. Yes, and in the First World War he went to the Western Front for the German fatherland and received an Order of Bravery.
According to the National Socialist racial legislation, my parents, the proud Aryan and son of an East Elbian landowner Werner Freise and the beautiful Jewess Käthe Wolff, enjoyed the status of a so-called "privileged mixed marriage," but under moral pressure from his father's family, they evaded this deceptive privilege by simply having their marriage annulled by declaration in court. Thus my mother and I were outlawed and defencelessly exposed to Nazi persecution.
Mother and I hid as summer visitors in the small Thuringian village of Meura, because my father believed that there, we would be safe. Because we did not follow the stereotype of Jewish appearance, I went to school there as a blond boy and made friends. From Meura, Mutti corresponded intensively with her older sister Annemarie in Hamburg, who observed the signs of the persecution of the Jews there and who, in negotiations with consulates, was offered the prospect of a position as housekeeper to a protestant pastor in Belfast for my mother. She got a waiting number for Mutti to leave the country soon, initially for England.
Like thousands of Jews, my grandparents were waiting in Hamburg for the chance to emigrate to Great Britain, but they had a very high waiting number because the country only released small contingents of German Jews ready to flee for the ship journey across the Channel. And then, on September 1, 1939, World War II broke out with the Nazi invasion of Poland. The declaration of war by England and France on Germany, two days later, meant the end of hope for the persecuted: the escape route to "enemy" countries was henceforth cut off for them.
In Germany, the noose of persecution tightened more and more over the next three years. The Jewish citizens, who were now stuck, were picked up in the farthest corners, rounded up, herded into assembly camps and ultimately deported to extermination camps where they were killed. In 1942, the Nazi leadership called for the infamous "Final Solution of the Jewish Question"; German Jews were to be systematically and completely exterminated. The grandparents Wolff and mother were directly affected by this. For their better identification, my mother Käthe was given the additional Jewish first names Tana and Sara. She could no longer go out without the yellow "Jewish star" on her clothing.
Because Father Freise could be seen less and less often in Meura, my young mother, who was only 33 years old at the time, had become closer with my tutor Walter Langenhagen. The three of us went for walks. He stayed after I had already gone to bed. They met in the forest at the Meuraberg or in neighboring places, where probably hardly anyone recognized them. And he took me to his home, when mother sometimes went to Hamburg to the grandparents.
The neighbors in Meura did not like this at all. In the meantime, hatred of Jews had crept up the mountains from the big cities into the countryside. As a warning, peasant denunciators scattered blueberry herb from our logis to his. And suddenly the assistant teacher was missing from school. The Gestapo had arrested him. A Commissar Eissfeld was on duty for a whole year to prove that the "Volksgenosse Langenhagen” had dared to exchange affections and "have sexual intercourse" with a "full Jewess".
In Hamburg, the persecution of the grandparents took its course. According to an elaborate timetable, one by one hundreds of Jewish citizens received a written summons to deportation to Theresienstadt or Auschwitz; they had to present themselves early in the morning with their belongings at a collection point near the train station. The grandparents had made a plan and chosen a spot on the Elbe River to escape this undignified procedure: They would both take a lethal dose of sleeping pills at the same time and lie down on the river above the water's edge at low tide. Then the tide would take hold of them and once again carry them away with deadly certainty. That way it happened and it was proved a little later by autopsy of Grandmama Lydia's corpse.
Also my aunt Annemarie, cousin Helmut’s mother, and her only recently married husband Robert Donald Kugelmann chose the suicide, in order to forestall the announced deportation. They turned on the gas tap in the bathroom of their beautiful villa on Harvestehuder Weg. As a precaution, they had taken their premarital son, then nine years old, to safety with acquaintances - and thus left him all alone. How they could reconcile this with the salvation of their souls and with the ethics of parental love and care, we have asked ourselves again and again, generations later, without grasping but without result. In addition, a whole generation of respected Hanseatic citizens died out with them; Robert was, after all, the last descendant of Ferdinand Kugelmann, the wealthy patron and generous co-founder of the Hamburg University.
Around the same time in the summer of 1942, a similar fate struck my mother and me. She had been summoned to an office in the Weimar Fürstenhof one day - we didn't know why at first; did it have something to do with my enrollment in the Gymnasium? Cousin Adelheid (Heidi), who lived in Weimar, accompanied us. I wasn't supposed to follow my mother to the office, but I should take one of the brand-new, fascinating electric trolleybuses to the train station, where Mother would meet me later for the return trip. Heidi had seen Mother getting into a Gestapo van at the back of the Fürstenhaus and be taken away. To spare me, this was only brought to my attention many years later. In short, Mother never met me. She never came back. Heidi's father Willi Freise, my father's younger brother, hid me in Weimar until the bitter end of the war. I was a blond rascal; no one suspected anything. It was an advantage that I myself had not the faintest idea of my Jewishness.
In the meantime, in mid-1942, the Gestapo had even chased my mother all the way to the Watenstedt assembly camp in order to nail her down on her relationship with the teacher during her ordeal in Auschwitz. A senior public prosecutor, Seesemann, in Weimar charged the teacher with "violating the prohibition of § 2 of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor," and the overzealous district court judge, Reinhard, sentenced Langenhagen to eight years in prison and five years forfeiture of honor - for racial defilement. This happened shortly after Christmas 1942, when Mother Käthe was already in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Nazi Ministry of Justice gave its blessing. It has been handed down to me that the pure German teacher was summarily shot in jail "because of Wehrkraftzersetzung" (decomposition of the armed forces) shortly before the Americans marched into Thuringia. I also learned about this only recently. I was able to look at the files of the Reich Ministry of Justice, which the Holocaust Documentation Center at the Fritz Bauer Institute of the University of Frankfurt keeps on this case.
I describe how my own game of hide-and-seek continued and what role my seriously diseased dad played in it in my contemporary historical novel "Der Mischling", which was published in 2007 by Verlag Neue Literatur in Jena and Quedlinburg and from which I was allowed to read aloud on a tour to about fifty German high schools. The story is characterized by the deep sadness of my father and his speechlessness and shame at the recurring attempt to honestly enlighten me about the fate of my mother and my status as a "Mischling". A low point of my book is the episode when, during our joint summer vacation in 1944, I found in my father’s papers the death certificate from the Auschwitz registry office, which told me that "Käthe Tana Sara Freise, née Wolff, Protestant and ‘formerly Mosaic’”, had "died" in Auschwitz, Kasernenstraße, on 03 February 1943.
Thus my father's intensive attempt to save my mother from persecution and certain death had finally failed. Father could write wonderful and convincing letters. And soon after the annulment of the marriage, as director of the Hermann Göring steelworks in Salzgitter, he had written a heartbreaking petition to Hitler's deputy: he praised Mother's noble character, her "pure-Aryan" attitude, and brazenly claimed that she hated her Jewish race and therefore deserved to be given a German work book and spared persecution. How naive and desperate one had to be to believe that this chief Nazi would loyally take note of this and decide favorably.
When mother had been murdered in spite of everything, father Werner once again hoped that he could derive something positive from it - for me: He applied to the public prosecutor's office in Braunschweig still in 1944 to cancel mother's marital status – he claimed that she herself had not been a legitimate child of her two Jewish parents, but the offspring of her Jewish mother from the liaison with an Aryan pharmacist. Thus she was a "Mischling of the first degree" - and I consequently of the second degree. The meaning of the matter was: if he would succeed, I would have been able to go to a higher school without further delay, according to the race rules, which had been denied me so far. Father offered witnesses, but unfortunately they were all dead. The public prosecutor rejected the request. Months later, the race spook was over anyway and nothing stood in the way of me entering a high school.
My protestant mother does not get a stumbling block, because she had no permanent residence, no house and no apartment anymore, and I could not determine today where she would have seen her self-chosen center of life in retrospect. I assume she would not want a stumbling block either. I share this attitude. I have become very similar to her in this respect.
Stand: May 2021
© Eberhard B. Freise, Weimar