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Else Behr (née Cohen) * 1880

Grindelallee 79 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)

JG. 1880

further stumbling stones in Grindelallee 79:
Max Behr

Else Behr, née Cohen, born 31 Aug. 1880 in Scharmbeck near Hanover, deported 18 Nov. 1941 to Minsk, died there in Dec. 1942
Max Behr, born 19 Sep. 1879 in Harburg, deported 18 Nov. 1941 to Minsk, died there in Dec. 1942

Grindelallee 79

Else Behr was born on 31 Aug, 1880 in Scharmbeck at Koppelstraße 12 (formerly 202). Her parents were Adolf Cohen (born 1850 in Scharmbeck, died 1916 in Eberswalde), a butcher, and his wife Minna, née Behr. The Cohens were a large, extended Jewish family, which had lived in the Osterholz-Scharmbeck area in Lower Saxony for more than 100 years. In 1886, when Else was six years old, the family moved to Lüneburg, where Rosa was born, and from there to Eberswalde, where Adolf Cohen opened a shop (probably a butcher shop).

Max Behr was born on 19 Sep. 1879 in Harburg, at Lüneburgerstraße 12. He was the second of the five children of Philipp Behr and his wife Jeanette, née Marcus. Philipp Behr was born on 23 May 1850 in Wanna in the Otterndorf administrative district. It was there that he met his future wife Jeanette, who was also born there, on 27 Oct. 1851. Philipp Behr operated a "shop for finished garments, footwear and boots" in Harburg at Lüneburger Straße 26. In the mid-1880s the family moved to Lüneburg, where son Bernhard was born in 1887. They then lived for a short time in Bergedorf and in Altona, until Philipp Behr and his wife settled in Hamburg on Hammerbrookstraße in November 1895.

All we know about Max Behr's youth in Harburg is that he attended middle school. He may have met his future wife, Else, as a child when the family was living in Lüneburg. Since her mother’s maiden name was also Behr, the Cohens and the Behrs may have been distant relatives. Max’s parents moved to Hamburg as early as 1895, and he returned to Harburg and probably did an apprenticeship at the J. Weinthal factory for men's and boys’ clothing, workwear, and footwear at Lüneburgerstraße 4. He worked at this company as a shop assistant until 1904, then he left Harburg and moved to Schwerin. He married Else Cohen in Eberswalde on 15 Feb. 1907. The newlyweds moved to Königstraße 50 in Elmshorn, where their daughter Erika was born on 25 Jan. 1908. Around 1910, the family settled in Hamburg at Bismarckstraße 97. In 1918 Max joined the Hamburg Jewish Community. In the same year, on 16 July, he and his wife Else were granted Hamburg citizenship.

In Hamburg, Max Behr worked as a sales agent in the shoe industry. Until he was forced to end his career, his business and private address were identical: in 1913 he moved from Bismarckstrasse 97 to Blücherstraße 17, and two years later to Gneisenaustraße 33. He remained there until 1933. In 1934 he moved to Grindelallee 79. A company called Philipp Behr & Sons at Mönkedamm 7 existed from 1920 to 1924. Apparently Philipp Behr had founded a company together with his sons Max and Martin.

Max Behr’s agency was part of the Behr shoe dynasty, which was extensive in Hamburg. He represented several important shoe companies, including the well-known company Emil Benedum from Pirmasens, which became part of the Salamander shoe company after the Second World War. Behr’s business grew steadily, as evidenced by his religious tax payments to the Jewish Community, and according to his daughter, who survived the Shoah. From 1931 to 1933 his monthly income was between 800 and 1000 Reichsmarks (RM). The Benedum company also confirmed that as a sales representative he had earned 1000 RM a month until 1934. But in 1934, he became a victim of the National Socialist reprisals against Jews. Benedum dismissed him as a sales representative. He was able to keep his agency afloat until April 1938, but finally had to give it up altogether. He was conscripted to forced labor until he was deported in 1941, so the deportation list identifies him as a laborer.

In 1934, with his income reduced and his business prospects severely limited, Max Behr and his family moved into a four-room apartment at Grindelallee 79. Erika Behr's memories of the dining room, study, and bedroom furnishings reflect the family’s former well-to-do living situation: the study in dark oak with a large bookcase, filled with "good books, among them Meyers Lexikon," a mahogany piano from the Zimmermann piano factory in Leipzig, a desk with a chair, a sofa with two matching lounge chairs, a valuable carpet and various etchings on the walls; the dining room with a large buffet with a glassed cabinet where a Rosenthal coffee service and a Rosenthal dining service for 12 was kept, as well as various crystal bowls and platters, a large extending table with eight chairs, a valuable carpet and a Persian rug; the master bedroom with a light oak bedroom set with two beds, a large wardrobe, a dressing table with mirror, a chest of drawers, bedside tables and three throw rugs; and her own room painted white with a wardrobe, dressing table with mirror, bed, bedside table, table and four chairs.

The family was forced to vacate this apartment in 1940, and most of the furniture was sold off at prices well below market value. In Erika Behr’s reparations claim, she listed the proceeds her parents received from the sale of their property, 500 RM, as having a real value of 5000 to 7000 RM. Else and Max Behr moved with only a few pieces - two beds, a table, several chairs and kitchen utensils - into a one-room apartment at Dillstraße 16. After they were deported, the few remaining pieces were auctioned off by the Carl F. Schlüter auction house: 2 smoking tables, 1 armchair, 1 sewing machine, 1 wardrobe, 1 armoire, 1 kitchen cupboard, 2 small cupboards, 1 table, 1 German carpet, various dishes and clothing. The proceeds amounted to 329.20 RM. In addition, the social services administration bought a lot of unnamed items for 400 RM.

Erika Behr had trained as an office clerk, according to her reparations claim. In her tax records with the Jewish Community she was listed as a kindergarten teacher. Her workplace for the period from Nov. 1937 to May 1938 was listed as Arthur Braun, Bogenstraße 16. Presumably after being forced out of her job, she earned some money caring for the Braun family children. She lived with her parents at Grindelallee 79 until 1938, when she emigrated to Shanghai on Nov. 20. That same year, she married Arthur Rosenbaum. According to the lawyer representing them in the 1950s, the Rosenbaums lived in "poor conditions" in New York, and were both seriously ill.

A crossed-out entry in Max Behr’s tax records with the Jewish Community, "Shanghai, Sept. 39,” suggests that he intended to follow his daughter to Shanghai, but was unable to do so.

A letter to Erika Rosenbaum written in 1946 by a survivor of the Minsk ghetto offered some information about the circumstances of the deaths of Max and Else Behr. Max Sommerfeld was interned with them in Minsk and reported that only those in the ghetto who could work received food. Since the Behrs were among the elderly who were not able to do physical labor, they lived by selling what few belongings they had. Max Sommerfeld's sister, who worked in the SS kitchen, was able to get some food to them to stave off utter starvation. They survived more than a year of these disastrous living conditions, but both died of typhus in December 1942 - first Else, and shortly afterwards her husband Max. According to Max Sommerfeld, he buried them both himself in a mass grave in the Jewish cemetery in Minsk.

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Ute Harms

Quellen: 1; StaH 552-1 Jüdische Gemeinden Nr. 992 e 2 Bd. 3; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 33738; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 12862 u. 508/1879; Meldeamt, Alt–Hamburg Kartei, 1892–1895, K 4217; Hausmeldedatei Harburg; StaH A III 12, Erwerb der hamb. Staatsangehörigkeit 1916–20, Bd. 4; Hamburger Adressbücher 1910–1941; Harburger Adressbücher 1882 u. 1904; Einwohnermeldeamt Elmshorn (telefon. Auskunft); E-Mail Kreisarchiv Landkreis Osterholz, 21.8.2013; Klaus Beer, Ein Denkmal für Familie Cohen, die in Osterholz-Scharmbeck in Niedersachsen gelebt hat, Osterholz-Scharmbeck 2001; Lohmeyer: Stolpersteine, S. 72–76.
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