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Gertrud Breslauer (née Goldschmidt) * 1890
Loogestieg 17 (Hamburg-Nord, Eppendorf)
Gertrud Breslauer, née Goldschmidt, born 11 Mar. 1890 in Nordhausen in the Harz region, deported 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga
After the First World War, there were countless widows who had to raise their children alone. Gertrud Breslauer was one of them. Her husband Fritz (*21 Feb. 1883 in Bauerwitz, Upper Silesia), whom she had married in 1914, was killed in France in 1916. Fritz Breslauer’s name is on the Memorial for Fallen Soldiers of the First World War in the Ihlandkoppel Jewish cemetery in Hamburg-Ohlsdorf. According to an interview given by their son, the couple only lived together for a total of four months, twice for two months. His father was on the front for the rest of their marriage. The two children were conceived during these two leaves: Ilse was born on 15 February 1915, and Fritz Ernst Joseph on 22 October 1916. Gertrud was thus heavily pregnant with Fritz when she was widowed at the age of 26.
She grew up in Erfurt, where her family had lived since 1897. Her father, Josef Julius Goldschmidt, had a shoe store and shoemaker’s workshop. Her mother Henriette, née Plaut, was from Witzenhausen. Gertrud was the youngest of six children that Henriette had born within 10 years: Hans in 1880, Paul in 1882, Martha in 1884, Ernst in 1886, Fritz in 1888 and Gertrud in 1890. Hans was deported from Hamburg to Riga on 8 November 1941, Paul emigrated, Martha went missing in Riga, and Ernst died in 1904. The fate of Gertrud’s brother Fritz is unknown. Her father Julius died in Erfurt in 1905, and her mother Henriette in Hamburg in 1928.
Gertrud met her future husband, who already lived in Hamburg, at a friend’s wedding. After his death she tried to continue running his business in order to earn a living to support her small family. Fritz Breslauer had a small company that traded in leather remnants, the Jacob Schönhof GmbH, located at Cremon 2. He bought leftover pieces from leather-working companies like furniture makers, sorted them and then resold them to artisans who used them to make wallets or other small items. Gertrud was able to keep the company running for about ten years, but the financial strain during the Great Depression and the physical stress eventually became too great. The company was liquidated in 1927 or 1928.
Gertrud Breslauer and her children first lived at Isestraße 69. Her son remembers that it was "comfortable, but not luxurious.” The family’s address was listed as Hansastraße 23 in the 1933 Hamburg telephone book, and from there they moved to Parkallee 3. In 1934 they moved to the building next door at Parkallee 4. Both of the Parkallee apartments were large – the one at Parkallee 4 had six rooms – and Gertrud rented three or four of the rooms to boarders. She was able to earn enough to support the family from the rental income. "We were poor, but we didn’t know it. Our life seemed normal to us,” says her son Fritz. He attended the Lichtwark School, but was forced to leave because he was Jewish. In March 1933 he went to live with his uncle, Paul Goldschmidt, in Offenbach am Main. Paul had married into a wealthy family that owned a large shoe factory, Hassia Bros. Fritz lived with them and apprenticed at the factory, which manufactured high-quality footwear, some of which was patented and for which the company had received awards. After he moved to Offenbach, Fritz only visited his mother once a year during his holidays. "We didn’t do much, because we didn’t have much money. We spent time together, took walks, …, and then a week later I took the train back to Offenbach,” he remembers.
Fritz couldn’t say if his mother experienced particular difficulties between 1933 and 1938. His sister Ilse, whom he located after the war and who had lived with her mother in Hamburg until she emigrated, couldn’t tell him anything because she had repressed her memories of that time.
Fritz led a protected life in Offenbach. The shoe factory was successful, his relatives were important for the city. His social contacts were limited to other Jews – as he said himself, he didn’t have any "horrific experiences.” In his eyes there was no need to emigrate.
That changed on Kristallnacht in November 1938. Together with other Jewish men from Offenbach, the 22-year-old was arrested and taken to the Dachau concentration camp, where suffered through five weeks of imprisonment. His mother knew that prisoners who had emigration papers would be released from the concentration camps, so she contacted her son’s friends from a Jewish youth organization of which he had been a member. Several of them had emigrated to the US, and she hoped that they could help find a sponsor for her son. One of his friend’s mothers worked as a waitress in New York, and whenever she waited on someone who she thought looked "Jewish,” she asked if he would sponsor "a boy in a concentration camp.” And she actually found someone who said he’d do it. Gertrud Breslauer took this affidavit to the Gestapo, but because of the US quotas on immigration, he wasn’t even put onto the waiting list.
Fritz described his mother as a highly competent woman. Like countless Jewish parents, she did everything in her power to save her children. At the same time that she was fighting to get Fritz out of Dachau, she was trying to find her daughter Ilse a place as a housemaid in England. She was finally successful. A family whose daughter had lived with the Breslauers when she had come to Hamburg to learn German hired Ilse. She married her boyfriend Max Conu, and in May 1939 they both emigrated to England, where Max also worked for the family as a chauffeur. The Red Cross forwarded letters between Gertrud and her children, so that she learned of the birth of her granddaughter.
Fritz was also finally able to flee to England, with the help of his mother. Through a distant relative, she managed to contact a British shoe factory that was interested in manufacturing high-quality ladies’ orthopedic shoes like those produced by Hassia in Offenbach. They hired Fritz’s former boss, and he put in a good word for Fritz. The company was happy to have an employee who had apprenticed at Hassia. Again Gertrud went to the Gestapo, this time with the immigration clearance certificate from the UK. Fritz was released from the concentration camp and returned to Offenbach. On the next day he left for England. He never saw his mother again.
Gertrud Breslauer lived in modest circumstances. She received a monthly war widows’ pension of 88 RM and had the income from the rooms she let out. A Red Cross letter indicates that Fritz had to send her money at least once from England. When she was evicted from her apartment on Parkallee in June 1941 and was no longer able to rent out the rooms, she lost a large part of her income. She now rented a room herself from Fritz and Rosa Kahn (see Biographies: Fritz Kahn, Rosa Kahn) on the fifth floor of the building at Loogestieg 17. Dauntless as she was, she sued the Parkallee apartment’s new tenant for reimbursement for the furniture that remained in the apartment and won. The regional tax office confiscated the money, however.
On 25 October 1941, Fritz and Rosa Kahn were deported to Lodz, where they both died. Six weeks later Gertrud Breslauer was deported to Riga and murdered.
Her daughter Ilse remained in England with her family. Her son Fritz later emigrated to the US.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Sabine Brunotte
Quellen: 1; 4; StaH 351-11 AfW Abl. 2008/1, 100390 Breslauer, Gertrud; StaH 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden, 992e2 Band 4; StaH 332-8 Meldewesen, A 51/1 (Gertrud Breslauer); FZH/WdE 957, Interview vom 24.6.2004; Hamburger Telefonbuch von 1933; wikipedia.org/wiki/Schuhfabrik_Hassia_Gebr._Liebman, 13.5.2010; schriftliche Auskunft Stadtarchiv Erfurt vom 20.5.2010; www.bundesarchiv.de/gedenkbuch/ directory, Zugriff 27.5.2010.
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