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Wilhelm Baron * 1891
Güstrower Weg 5 (Wandsbek, Rahlstedt)
1938-39 KZ FUHLSBÜTTEL
Wilhelm Baron, born on 28 Dec. 1891 in Berlin, from 1938 to 1939 imprisoned in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, death in pretrial detention on 24 Feb. 1939
Güstrower Weg 5 (Wandsbek, Rahlstedt)
What do we know about Wilhelm Baron? He hardly attracted attention, being a normal, Jewish German. He experienced the collapse of the Kaiserreich as a soldier and then tried to get himself and his families through the economic chaos of the 1920s and early 1930s. When the Nazis "seized” power, his life was ruined by the subsequent disenfranchisement of the Jews.
Werner Wilhelm Hans Baron was born into a Jewish family in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg, at Choriner Strasse 45, on 28 Dec. 1891. He had three older brothers: Hermann (born in 1884), Georg (born in 1886), and Max (born in 1888). At the time, Prenzlauer Berg was a working-class district with an active Jewish Community; the synagogue on Rykestrasse, dedicated in 1904, was one of the largest Jewish religious buildings in Europe. Wilhelm’s parents were the cigarette manufacturer Salomon Baron and his wife Regina, née Goldner. Wilhelm went to school in Berlin, took his high school graduation exam (Abitur), and began studying medicine.
He had to interrupt his studies, however, because at the beginning of World War I in Aug. 1914, he was drafted as a medic to the Berlin Guard Fusiliers, an infantry unit. On 26 Nov. 1916, his son Werner Wilhelm Hans, called Werner, was born in Spandau. The boy’s mother, Elisabeth Margarethe Henriette Rackow, a sales clerk baptized a Protestant, and he married half a year later in Spandau, on 7 June 1917. With the marriage, Wilhelm Baron legitimized his son as born in marriage. Elisabeth Rackow had been born in Spandau on 7 Dec. 1894, the daughter of the worker Gustav Rackow and his wife Auguste, née Arnold. Auguste Rackow did not live to see her daughter married; she had died in 1900 at the age of only 37. By then, Wilhelm Baron’s parents resided in the middle-class Charlottenburg district, next to Wilmersdorf in Berlin, where most Jews lived until the transfer of power to the Nazis. Wilhelm and Elisabeth provided Metzerstrasse 1 in Spandau as their joint address when they married.
In Nov. 1918, Wilhelm Baron received his discharge papers from the Imperial Army in the rank of a non-commissioned officer. Presumably, since he had to support a family henceforth, he did not continue his medical studies after the end of the war, but instead started a bookstore together with one of his brothers and later opened a radio store.
On 16 Oct. 1920, Wilhelm Baron’s wife Elisabeth died in the hospital of the Berlin Jewish Community at the age of 25. It is not known what happened to his son Werner, who was only four years old at the time; it is possible that Wilhelm Baron’s mother Regina took care of him.
According to his later wife testifying in the 1957 restitution proceedings, Wilhelm Baron apparently remarried in Berlin in 1926. His partner at the time was Helene Elsbeth Margarethe Saabel. Probably, however, the marriage did not involve a civil ceremony. It lasted two years.
At the beginning of Jan. 1930, Wilhelm Baron was sentenced to a fine of 10 RM (reichsmark) in Altona, a town near Hamburg still Prussian at the time, for a petty offense. At the end of Sept. 1930, he registered as residing in Altona; he had found a room as a subtenant with the widow Louise Friedrich at Holstenplatz 8. On 1 Oct. 1930, he also joined the Jewish Community; on his membership card, a note indicates "En route from London.” In August of the following year, he was convicted in Hamburg for another minor offense and was fined 20 RM.
Starting in 1933, he also lived in Hamburg – first, for a short time as a subtenant at St. Georgs Kirchhof 6, then in his own apartment nearby at Steindamm 23. In the meantime, he had revived his original wish to take up a healing profession: He practiced in his apartment as a "healer of the sick” ("Krankenbehandler”). Alternatively, he also called himself an alternative practitioner or homeopath. At that time, the term "Krankenbehandler” still referred to all those who practiced alternative healing methods. Only the Nazis used the term pejoratively for Jewish doctors, after they had withdrawn from them their license to practice medicine based the Fourth Ordinance to the Reich Citizenship Law (Vierte Verordnung zum Reichsbürgergesetz) dated 25 July 1938. Any physician still allowed to treat Jewish patients with a special permit by that time had to accept the designation of "healer of the sick.”
In 1932, Wilhelm Baron met the trained pediatric nurse Dorothea Katharina (also Dorothee Katherine) Gulau. Born on 11 July 1909 in Bremen, she was thus about 18 years his junior. Her parents were the master baker Johann Gulau and his wife Katherine, née Neher. Wilhelm and Dorothea moved in together in Hamburg and on 8 Jan. 1933, their daughter was born – still out of wedlock. Two years later, on 17 June 1935, the two married and shortly afterward, they moved from Hamburg to the rural community of Grossensee, northeast of the city, with their child, by then two years old. Since Dorothea was non-Jewish, three months later the marriage would no longer have been possible under the "Law for the Protection of German Blood” ("Gesetz zum Schutz des deutschen Blutes”); it banned marriages of " persons of German blood” and Jews, and made extramarital relations between them punishable as "racial defilement” ("Rassenschande”). The daughter they had together was henceforth considered – just as Wilhelm Baron’s son from his first marriage was – a "Jewish crossbreed of the first degree” ("Mischling ersten Grades”) according to Nazi racial theory.
Three years later, in early 1938, the family returned to Hamburg. In the northeastern Rahlstedt quarter, they moved into an apartment at Von-Bülow-Strasse 5 (today Güstrower Weg). In 2009, a former neighbor of the Baron family still remembered Wilhelm Baron’s wife Dorothea and their little daughter, so it can be assumed that Wilhelm’s son from his first marriage did not live with his father at that time either.
The anti-Jewish ordinances and laws issued by the Nazi regime since 1933 made it difficult for Wilhelm Baron to earn a living and for his family to lead their lives. To be sure, the Nazis wanted to combine orthodox medicine and naturopathy in a "New German Medicine.” However, this was to be based on the Nazis’ racist and anti-Semitic worldview and their Social-Darwinist eugenics. Accordingly, only non-Jewish persons benefitted from the initial promotion of naturopathy. When the Nazis withdrew the licenses to practice medicine from all Jewish doctors in the summer of 1938, Jewish naturopaths also lost the right to practice their profession. According to his wife Dorothea, this was also the reason why Wilhelm Baron, in his distress, attempted to escape abroad in Oct. 1938. He was no longer able to feed his family.
With the identity papers of a non-Jewish acquaintance, which the latter gave him out of pity, he took part in a pleasure cruise of the Hamburg-Süd shipping company aboard the steamer "Monte Pascal” to London. There he first wanted to call on the relatives that he had presumably already visited in 1930. He could not travel with his own passport, because it was stamped with a "J” (for "Jew”), and by that time, numerous regulations already made it difficult for Jews to leave the German Reich. After Wilhelm Baron reached London, he intended to legalize entry with the help of his relatives. However, the "theft” of the identity papers had been discovered in Germany in the meantime; he was handed over to the English police and had to return to Hamburg on the steamer "Portia.” Upon arrival in Hamburg harbor on 24 Oct. 1938, the Gestapo arrested him on board the ship; he had still tried in vain to hide under some ropes.
Because of theft and passport offenses, Wilhelm Baron was immediately taken to the Hamburg-Stadt pretrial detention facility on Holstenglacis. Four days later, in a letter to the District Court (Amtsgericht), he asked permission to buy newspapers and for writing materials to "keep himself mentally occupied.” He was granted both. His third request, to give his wife the money that had been taken from him when arrested, was denied.
On 21 Nov. 1938, the Hamburg District Court sentenced Wilhelm Baron to three weeks in prison for a violation of the passport ordinance. He had already served his sentence by being in pretrial detention, so he could leave prison immediately. Only two days later, however, the Gestapo took him into "protective custody” ("Schutzhaft”) and committed him to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp – officially, the Hamburg police prison, which under the abbreviation "Kolafu” gained notoriety as a brutal camp, not only in Hamburg. The reason given on the "protective custody order” dated 14 Dec. 1938 was as follows: "According to the findings of the State Police, he [Wilhelm Baron, note by the author] endangered the existence and security of the German people through his behavior by attempting to leave Germany in an illegal manner; thus, it is to be feared that he will continue to violate the German exit regulations.”
In the following two months, Wilhelm Baron’s situation became increasingly desperate. On 2 Feb. 1939, just 47 years old, he was taken from the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp to the central hospital of the pretrial detention facility on Holstenglacis "because of heart disease.” The next day, the Hamburg District Court issued a warrant for his arrest "on suspicion of racial defilement and pimping.” It is possible that he had been denounced for his marriage to his non-Jewish wife Dorothea. Immediately, he was released from "protective custody” and returned to pretrial detention. In the institutional hospital, he wrote in clumsy handwriting a request sounding almost pleadingly to the responsible investigating judge at the Hamburg District Court, asking for the release of the 15 RM (reichsmark) that had been taken from him during his transfer from "protective custody” to pretrial detention, "because I very much require the purchase of glasses, as I only have a little bit of vision left in one eye.”
Wilhelm Baron did not survive the imprisonment – in the last entry of his prison file, on which the word "JUDE” ("JEW”) features prominently, one can read, "found hanged on 24 Feb. 1939 (...)” A second file illuminates the further particulars of his death. Another patient found him at night in the communal toilet; with his neckerchief and suspenders knotted together, he had hanged himself from the water tank. In a concluding letter to the board of directors of the pretrial detention facility, Friedrich Wilhelm Callsen, the senior managing physician, noted laconically, "The cause of his suicide is probably to be found in the hopelessness of his situation.”
The 15 reichsmark, for which Wilhelm Baron wanted to buy glasses, actually seemed to have been returned to him. His estate included 14.91 RM.
After the death of her husband, Dorothea Baron moved with her daughter to Bremen to join her mother and from there to her mother-in-law Regina Baron in Berlin in 1940. The latter died a short while afterward.
Wilhelm Baron’s father Salomon was no longer alive at that time. After Dorothea Baron remarried at the end of 1944 and henceforth went by the name of Köhler, she moved back to Bremen with her new family. Wilhelm Baron’s son Werner later also resided in Bremen.
Wilhelm Baron’s brothers Max and Georg were deported from Berlin to Minsk on 14 Nov. 1941 and murdered in the Holocaust. His brother Hermann survived. His name is found in a "new, complete list of Jews in Berlin” in a November 1945 issue of the Jewish exile newspaper Aufbau.
We do not know whether Wilhelm Baron really killed himself or whether he was possibly hanged. However, it is undisputed that the Nazis drove him to his death by merciless persecution and deprivation of rights.
However, the Hamburg Office of Restitution (Amt für Wiedergutmachung) saw things differently in the postwar period. It rejected the applications for restitution by Wilhelm Baron’s widow Dorothea and his two children – with reasons based solely on speculation. To be sure, the reasoning went, the criminal files had been destroyed and all that was known was that he had been convicted of "racial defilement” and pimping, as the official in charge, Schmidt, admitted in the letter of rejection. Certainly, the Nazis had also made "racial defilement” a punishable offense for precisely this reason, "in order to target the racially persecuted.” In the case of Wilhelm Baron, however, the letter continued, it was "not likely” that he had been "imprisoned predominantly on racial grounds and driven to suicide.” For according to this, there were essential circumstances that would indicate that he had in fact made himself "guilty of pimping or even of aggravated procuring.” Thus, allegedly, his wife had previously lived at a second residential address in a street in the red light district of Lübeck. Moreover, since he had taken his own life not in the concentration camp but in the institutional hospital, and since his body showed no traces of mistreatment, his suicide also proved that he had "violated the penal provisions to a considerable extent” and "expected a severe punishment.” Under these circumstances, the letter went on, the attempt to emigrate illegally in late 1938 was also attributable to criminal reasons.
It was not until 1998 that the German Federal Supreme Court overturned all sentences for "racial defilement.”
A granddaughter of Wilhelm Baron lives in Israel today. She is the daughter of his son Werner and in 2012, she deposited a Page of Testimony at Yad Vashem for her grandfather and his brother Max. Another relative deposited Pages of Testimony for Wilhelm, Max, and Georg Baron.
The Stolperstein for Wilhelm Baron on former Bülowstrasse in Rahlstedt commemorates the desperate struggle of a Hamburg Jew and German for his happiness, dignity, and life.
Charlotte Föcking, comprehensively supplemented by Frauke Steinhäuser
(Charlotte Föcking belonged to the "Stolperstein” project group at Rahlstadt high school [Gymnasium Rahlstedt], which donated the Stolperstein for Wilhelm Baron in 2009 and drew up a biography of his life. That biography forms the basis of the text presented here).
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: December 2020
© Frauke Steinhäuser
Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 8; Biografie Wilhelm Baron, Stolperstein-Projekt des Gymnasiums Rahlstedt, 2009, PDF-Download: https://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiKxoqS8urdAhVFiiwKHbSvB6YQFjAAegQICRAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gymnasium-rahlstedt.de%2Fdesign2007%2Fartikel_pdf.php%3Fdatei%3Dartikel%26viewartikelid%3D207%26wahl%3D99&usg=AOvVaw26KPqNns0pyWrsm5i2D5SO (Zugriff 24.9.2018);
Staatsarchiv Hamburg: 213-8 Abl. 2, 451 a E 1, 1 d Schutzhaftkostenabrechnungen; 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht Strafsachen 7328/29; 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II 3707, Gefangenenakte Wilhelm Baron; 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II 10568 Untersuchungshaft-Karteikarte Wilhelm Baron; 331-5 Polizeibehörde – Unnatürliche Sterbefälle, 1939, Nr. 396; 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 13869, Baron, Wilhelm; 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 34556, Köhler, Dorothea Katharine; Landesarchiv Berlin: Geburtsregister 717 u. 1031/1884; 731 u. 1403/1886; 34 u. 1670/1888; 57 u. 3655/1891; Sterberegister 194 u. 1777/1920; Standesamt Spandau: Geburtsregister, 65 u. 2482/1894; Sterberegister, 505 u. 1076/1900; Heiratsregister, 288 u. 271/1917; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 1105 u. 144/1939; Aktives Museum Faschismus und Widerstand in Berlin e.V. et al. (Hrsg.), Stolpersteine in Berlin. 12 Kiezspaziergänge, 3. Aufl., Berlin, 2014; Berliner Adressbücher; Christian Faludi, Die "Juni-Aktion" 1938. Eine Dokumentation zur zur Radikalisierung der Judenverfolgung, Frankfurt/Main, 2013; Schreiben des Bürgervereins Rahlstedt e.V., Annemarie Lutz, vom 22.6.2009 an die Projektgruppe "Stolperstein" d. Gymn. Rahlstedt;
Aufbau, New York, Jg. 11, Ausg. 44 v. 2.11.1945, S. 27; Informationen aus Yad Vashem von Wilhelm Barons Enkel Yehudit Tzamir, Israel, 2009; Recherchen von Jürgen Sielemann, Vors. d. Hamburger Gesellschaft für jüdische Genealogie e. V. und seine Korrespondenz mit Frau Dr. G. Kellermann, Enkelin von Wilhelm Baron, 2019; weitere Informationen von Frau Dr. G. Kellermann, Israel, über Christian Krüger, Senatskanzlei – IV A 2, Berlin, 2018.
Nummerierung der für die Stolperstein-Biografien häufig genutzten Quellen
1 = Staatsarchiv Hamburg, 522-1, Jüdische Gemeinden, 992b, Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde Hamburg
4 = Hamburger jüdische Opfer des Nationalsozialismus. Gedenkbuch, Staatsarchiv Hamburg, bearbeitet von Jürgen Sielemann unter Mitarbeit von Paul Flamme, Hamburg 1995
5 = Gedenkbuch. Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der Nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland 1933 – 1945, Bundesarchiv Koblenz 2006 www.bundesarchiv.de/gedenkbuch
8 = Yad Vashem, The Central Data Base of Shoa Victims, https://yvng.yadvashem.org/
StaH = Staatsarchiv Hamburg