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Dr. Joseph Carlebach
© Yad Vashem Photo Archiv 4981/66

Dr. Joseph Zwi Carlebach * 1883

Hallerstraße 76 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)

1941 Riga
ermordet 26.3.1942 Riga-Bikernieki


further stumbling stones in Hallerstraße 76:
Alice Baruch, Sara Carlebach, Charlotte Carlebach, Noemi Carlebach, Ruth Carlebach, Margarethe Dammann, Gertrud Dammann, Charlotte Dammann, Dina Dessau, Felix Halberstadt, Josabeth Halberstadt, Elsa Meyer, Margarethe Meyer, Alice Rosenbaum, Julius Rothschild, Jente Schlüter

Dr. Joseph Zwi Carlebach, born 1/30/1883 in Lübeck, deported to Riga-Jungfernhof on 12/6/1941, killed there on 3/26/1942
Charlotte Helene (Lotte) Carlebach, née Preuss, born 12/16/1900 in Berlin, deported to Riga-Jungfernhof on 12/6/1941, killed there on 3/26/1942
Ruth Rosa Cilly (Ruthi) Carlebach, born 8/11/1926 in Altona, deported to Riga-Jungfernhof on 12/6/1941, killed there on 3/26/1942
Noemi Carlebach, born 10/24/1927 in Altona, deported to Riga-Jungfernhof on 12/6/1941, killed there on 3/26/1942
Sara Stella Baby Carlebach, born 12/24/1928 in Altona, deported to Riga-Jungfernhof on 12/6/1941, killed there on 3/26/1942

Hallerstrasse 76

Joseph Hirsch (Zwi) Carlebach was born January 30, 1883 in Lübeck. The family name Carlebach is probably derived from the names of the villages Gross- and Kleinkarlebach, two small wine-growing communities near Grünstadt in the Palatinate. In the official records of the state of Baden, "Carlebach” as a Jewish family name occurs as early as the beginning of the 18th century. Two branches of the Carlebachs who settled in Mannheim and Heidelberg are on record. Joseph’s grandfather Hirsch Joseph Carlebach (1802–1881), who was a cattle and goods trader in the former Reich City of Heidelsheim, was the progenitor of the rabbinical dynasty.

Hirsch Carlebach’s marriage to Cilly, née Stern, who came from Michelbach in Wuerttemberg, brought forth nine children. Joseph’s father Salomon was born in 1845 as the second youngest of six sons.

His educational path that began with local Jewish public school and continued at the highschool in Bruchsal exemplifies the increasing endeavor of the community of German Jews to gain access to the European culture of the general environment. In 1865, Salomon Carlebach graduated from highschool at the Lyceum in Karlsruhe with distinction. After studying in Würzburg and Berlin, he received his doctorate in philosophy in Tübingen in 1868. A year later, he was ordinated as a rabbi and shortly after appointed as such in Lübeck.

There, be became engaged to Esther Adler (1853–1920) in 1871, the daughter of his late predecessor. Esther and Salomon Carlebach’s marriage was blessed: four girls and eight boys were born until 1891; Joseph Zwi on January 30, 1883, who was the eighth after Alexander (1872–1925, Emanuel (1874–1827), Simson (1975–1941), Bertha (Bella) (1876–1960), Ephraim (1879–1936), Sara (1880–1928) and Moses (1881–1939). After Joseph Zwi came the siblings Cilly (1884–1968), David (1885–1913), Miriam (1888–1962), and finally Hartwig Naphtali (1889–1967), who completed the dozen.

Joseph first attended the Katharineum in Lübeck, and after graduating in 1901 enrolled at the Alma Mater in Berlin, where he mainly studied mathematics and natural sciences. In 1905, he passed his exams as senior teacher (Oberlehrer). Shortly after, he accepted a call to the Jewish Teachers’ Seminar in Jerusalem, an institution founded by the Aid Society of the German Jews. After returning from Eretz Israel in 1907, he began working on his doctor’s thesis about the Jewish mathematician Gersonides, earning his degree in Heidelberg in 1909. Only then did he enroll at the orthodox Berlin Rabbinical College, where he was ordinated in 1914.

Joseph Carlebach volunteered in world War I, serving away from the battlefields of the eastern front. Assigned to educational tasks by the German army, he devoted himself to founding a Jewish highschool in Kowno.

In 1919, Carlebach married his former pupil Charlotte Helene Preuss (1900–1942) in Berlin, the daughter of his close friend Julius (1861–1913). In the year following their marriage, the Carlebachs with their first daughter Eva Sulamith moved to Lübeck, where he temporarily took the position of his late father as Rabbi of the Jewish Community. But already in 1921, the Jewish Community of Hamburg appointed him as Principal of the Talmud Thora School in the Grindel quarter.

Together with Lotte, Eva Sulamith and their second daughter Esther Helen, born 1920, he moved into an apartment in Bieberstrasse, quite near his new place of work. The Carlebachs ran an open house where many guests came and went, and the rapidly increasing number of children made for a lively and occasionally turbulent daily life. In 1922, Miriam and Julius Isaak (who soon was only called Buli) were born, Judith Jeanette, the fourth daughter, in 1924, with the sixth child Peter Salomon following only a year later.

In his years in Hamburg, Joseph Carlebach campaigned for a complete restructuring of the Jewish boys’ school, with his ideas not only focused on the curriculum, but also including the teaching methods and the school’s furnishings and equipment. Simultaneously, he conceived a master plan for a progressive educational concept for traditional Judaism, which he recorded in series of essays. When he passed on the management of the Talmud Thora High School to his successor, it ranked among the outstanding establishments of Jewish higher education in the whole German language area.

Joseph Carlebach followed a call to become the new chief rabbi of the high German Israelitic Community of Altona, an office that included the supervision of the Jewish communities of Schleswig-Holstein. However, the family showed no hurry in leaving their home in Bieberstrasse. The "Jewish” Grindel quarter with its religious-cultural infrastructure, kosher grocery stores and Hebrew bookshops offering the amenities of an organically evolved neighborhood that had become home to Lotte and the Carlebach kids. But in the end, they had to part – the family moved to a new residence in Palmaille, the grand street above the Elbe river. The following years brought further relocations: first to Behnstrasse, then back to Palmaille, finally to Klopstockstrasse, the short street connecting Palmaille with Elbchaussee.

Three further daughters were born in Altona: Ruth Rosa Cilly in 1929, Noemi in 1927 and Sara Stella in 1928. At the age of 28, Lotte Carlebach was the proud mother of seven girls and two boys. With this flock of kids, she urgently needed help in the house. Finding suitable, trustworthy and reliable personnel, however, became increasingly difficult. Several times, the Carlebachs ran ads in Jewish orthodox papers, because many nannies were soon overburdened and quit after short time. This led to shorter or longer periods when Lotte Carlebach had to make do without any help.

Suffering from severe bouts of migraine, she had to remain in bed time and again and once or twice even go to the Israelitic hospital. The rare vacation trips to Travemünde, where Lotte was able to enjoy unburdened leisure, were her sole relief from the exertions of daily routine. The Jewish kindergarten that Agudas Jisroel ran in Wohlers Allee provided some relief. From the age of six, the Carlebach kids went to the Jewish elementary school, where they encountered their father as religion teacher. After fourth grade, they switched to other Jewish schools in Hamburg – the girls to the Israelitic girls’ school on Karolinenstrasse, where Alberto Jonas was principal. Their brothers Julius Isaak and Peter Salomon attended the Talmud Tora highschool in Grindelberg, where Arthur Spier now was principal.

The Nazis’ accession to power in 1933 constituted a threat to the continuity of Jewish life that Joseph Carlebach opposed with all his energy. In 1936, the family returned to Hamburg, where he became Chief Rabbi of the orthodox Synagogue Association. At the beginning of July, the family moved into their new domicile at Hallerstrasse 76 (then renamed Ostmarkstrasse by the Nazis). Now, however, Rabbi Carlebach only rarely had time to enjoy family life. The household as well as the education of the children weighed on the shoulders of his wife Lotte, who also took care of the many guests and did paperwork for her husband.

In addition to the huge amount of work she absolved day in, day out, Lotte Carlebach lived in constant worry about her husband, who suffered from a weak heart. In concern for Joseph’s frail health, the couple spent the turn of the year 1936/1937 in Krummhübel, a spa town with a healthy climate in the Silesian Giant Mountains (Riesengebirge). In the following years, however, there was hardly time for recreation trips – and hardly money. Increasing deprivations and mounting challenges dictated the daily life of Rabbi Carlebach’s family in the "Third Reich.”

Emigration became a serious issue for the family council after the pogrom night of November 1938. By summer of 1939, Joseph and Lotte Carlebach succeeded in getting five of their nine still minor children to safety. Judith Jeanette and Julius Isaak already reached England in December 1938 on one of the children’s transports tolerated by the Nazi authorities. In the spring of 1939, the two eldest girls, Esther and Eva Sulamith, reached Britain with individual permits. Miriam, a very early and ardent follower of spiritual Zionism, had spent the summer of 1938 at the Jewish youth camp at Wilhelminenhöhe in Hamburg-Blankenese taking courses in agriculture preparing for a settler’s life in Palestine. She left her home town one day before the November pogrom. Within a few months, five of the ‘Carlebach’s children had turned into far-away pen pals. In June 1939, Lotte Carlebach was able to embrace her "English” children Eva, Esther, Julius and Judith: she accompanied a further children’s transport to London as a guardian and stayed for several weeks before returning to Hamburg by plane. After the beginning of the war, Lotte and Joseph Carlebach were almost completely cut off from their daughters and sons living abroad. Only sparse Messages from England and Palestine reached the worried parents by detours.

In October 1941, when Jewish emigration from Germany was forbidden by secret decree, about 7,500 Jews remained in the greater Hamburg area, among them the six Carlebachs, who had never completely abandoned the idea of emigrating, but who up to the end never succeeded in making concrete plans to leave the country.

The family could consider themselves fortunate that they were allowed to remain in their rented apartment in Ostmarkstrasse. In fact, a law of April 1939 had abolished protection of tenants and free choice of residence for Jews, paving the way for concentrating them in certain quarters, the so-called Jews’ houses. Furthermore, Joseph Carlebach, who still worked in his profession, was exempt from the duty to do forced labor as all other Jews fit to work were since 1940.

Lotte and Joseph Carlebach and their four children were, however, forced to wear the "Jew’s star” whenever they left home: since September 19, 1941, all Jews over six years of age had to display a clearly visible yellow star of David on their clothing. Joseph Carlebach himself proclaimed the new ordinance during the Sabbath service, with an appeal to all German Jews to wear the "yellow spot” with pride.

By order of the Gestapo, the deportations of German Jews from Hamburg started in October 1941. On November 25, Joseph Carlebach was served the order that he and his family, too, were to report to the assembly point in Grindel, from where the "resettlement” to the east was to depart. On December 6, the six Carlebachs boarded the deportation train at Hannover station. All the people on the transport were led to believe that they were bound for Riga, where a ghetto had been established following the occupation of the city by the German Wehrmacht. Actually, however, their journey ended in Skirotava, a small freight station about twelve kilometers from the capital of Latvia. From there, the deportees had to march to the already overcrowded Jungfernhof (Jumpravmuiža) labor camp.

Reading the reports of Jungfernhof survivors gives an impression not only of the organizational achievements Carlebach accomplished during the winter, but also of the solace and consolation he gave. Many inmates saw the rabbi as "the light in the dark” because he and his wife dedicated themselves to mitigate "the fate of the feeble, to give advice and support. As important Carlebach’s presence and consolation were for the support and the solidarity of the Jewish community in the concentration camp, so little appreciation did he gain for his self-sacrificing work from the camp commandant, who judged the Jewish people mainly by their "usefulness” as slaves. Carlebach with his 59 years belonged to the older prisoners who could not be profitably exploited and for whom therefore, in the eyes of the SS guards, there was no place on the farm. Children and their mothers were also considered as unfit for farm work.

Already in February 1942, ill and infirm prisoners had been removed from Jungfernhof and murdered shortly after. The "operation Dunamünde” in the following month, however, marked a real break in the camp’s history. In this perfidious deceptive maneuver, the Jewish prisoners were made to believe that those unfit for hard physical labor were to be transferred to the small port town of Dünamünde in Riga Bay. Allegedly, they were supposed to work in a fish processing factory. The names of Joseph and Lotte Carlebach and their daughters Cilly (aged 15), Noemi (14) and Sara Stella (13) were on the transport list. Only 16-year-old Salomon Peter, assigned to a work command, was to remain in Jungfernhof.

The doomed were bundled into buses and trucks, taken to a forest near Riga and driven into prepared trenches, where a Latvian firing squad massacred them with machine guns. Members of the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) were in command of the operation and also drew their personal weapons to shoot innocent victims. A total of 1,800 prisoners from Jungfernhof were murdered in cold blood on a single day. The girls Sara, Noemi and Ruth and their parents Lotte and Joseph Carlebach were among those who perished in the forest near Riga.

Salomon Carlebach was the only one of the family who survived Jungfernhof. Half-starved after an odyssey through ghettos and concentration camps, he was liberated in March 1945 by the Red Army near Danzig. He was twenty years old when he returned to Hamburg, where he was able to make contact with his siblings in England and Palestine. In 1947, he went to the USA via Frankfurt. Eva Sulamith, Esther Helen, Miriam, Julius Isaak and Judith Jeanette Carlebach, all grown up, had also become alienated to the country responsible for the millionfold murder of Jews. The multi-faceted life of German Jewry, to whose religious character their father Joseph Carlebach had devoted his life’s work, had been exterminated with the people and was lost forever.

Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: September 2019
© Andreas Brämer

Quellen: Brämer, Joseph Carlebach; Kaufmann, Historisches Umfeld, in: Liss (Hrsg.), Yagdil Tora we-Ya’adir, S. 61–67; Schreiber, Salomon Carlebach, in: Die Carlebachs (hrsg. Ephraim Carlebach Stiftung), S. 16–27, 79; Gillis-Carlebach, Jedes Kind, S. 55–63, S. 173ff.; Walk (Hrsg.), Sonderrecht, S. 347; Gillis-Carlebach (Hrsg.), Jüdischer Alltag, S. 42; dies., Readiness for Death, in: dies./Grünberg (Hrsg.), "… der den Erniedrigten aufrichtet, S. 24–26; Gillis-Carlebach, "Licht in der Finsternis", in: dies./Paul (Hrsg.), Menora, S. 551f.; Angrick/Klein, "Endlösung", S. 342–344; Scheffler/Schulle (Bearb.), Buch der Erinnerung, S. 11, 13.

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