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Moriz Appermann * 1883
Emilienstraße 67 (vor Park) (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)
Moriz Appermann, born 15 Apr. 1883 in Vienna, incarcerated at Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp 1942, murdered there 30 Mar. 1942
Moriz Appermann was of Jewish heritage, but in 1939 he listed his religion in an interrogation record as "deistic,” indicating that he had distanced himself from Judaism. He never became a member of the Hamburg Jewish Community.
His life touched the histories of two families: that from his first marriage with Elka Appermann, née Verschleisser, who was also born in Vienna and moved to Hamburg with her husband, probably around 1909; and that from his second marriage with Martha Appermann, née Kröger. According to Elka Appermann, she and Moriz divorced in 1922. In fact, the date must have been earlier, since the marriage of Moriz and Martha Kröger took place in December 1921. Their story will be told here.
The biographies of Elka Appermann and her four children can be found in the Eilbek district collection of Jewish Stolperstein biographies. The reason for treating the biographies of the two Appermann families separately lies in the fact that the Stolpersteine are located in separate districts, and also that the families evidently had little to no contact with each other. Surviving documents give no indication of personal encounters or memories of interaction, nor of legal obligations between the families.
Moriz Appermann’s parents had come to Vienna from Poland. His father Samuel was a haberdasher; his mother Ernestine was a housewife. They likely wanted their son to have a "better” life, and ensured that he received extensive schooling with the goal of studying medicine. His wife Martha later said that he felt no inclination to follow this path. She was not sure if he had finished school with a general certificate or with a college-preparatory diploma.
His interests actually lay in the sales profession, which is why he entered an apprenticeship at an Austrian textile mill, as Martha Appermann explained. Whether it was because of his desire to travel or his longing for independence, after his period of training he decided to earn his living as an export agent. Journeys for different companies took him to Switzerland, and, as an independent export agent, he came to Hamburg, where he eventually settled.
On 20 October 1909, he and a partner, Gerhard Christian Römer, founded "Appermann & Römer, Postkarten-Großhandel OHG” (the Appermann & Römer Postcard Wholesaler General Partnership) in Hamburg. The partnership was dissolved two years later, on 9 November 1911. Römer left the company and Moriz Appermann became the sole owner.
The First World War began on 1 August 1914. Moriz Appermann was a member of the Deutschmeister Regiment No. 4, stationed in Vienna, and was recalled to Austria to serve in the war. On 6 February 1915 he transferred his business to the trusted hands of Elsa Brinckmann (née Kröger). She was the sister of Martha Kröger, a close friend and his future wife. Martha also worked in the branch, and had done her commercial training at the Graphic Arts Institute (Graphischen Kunstanstalt) in Hamburg from 1904-1905. She worked there as an office and warehouse clerk until it was closed in 1909. Many years later in 1939, when she was questioned by the Gestapo on another matter, she stated: "Then Herr Appermann, my future husband, hired me.”
Moriz Appermann served as an infantryman in the war, and was awarded the Medal of Bravery. He remained uninjured, and returned to Hamburg after the war. He resumed control of his business on 25 September 1919.
When he started his wholesale business he lived at Mühlenkamp 1, and his business was located at Brandsende 27. He later moved the business to Lange Reihe 47/49. This lease for the shop also included residential space, so his family could live in the same building. As is mentioned above, he divorced his first wife and married Martha Kröger, an employee in his postcard shop. She was born on 6 March 1889 in Trittau, in the Stormarn district in Schleswig-Holstein, and was thus a few years younger than Moriz. She was non-Jewish and a German citizen (as was Moriz Appermann, although his citizenship was revoked in 1935. In that year he was expatriated and declared stateless).
The couple had one son, Fritz Appermann, who was born on 24 December 1923. In his application for restitution from 1945, he describes how the Nazis had initiated calls for a boycott of his father’s company, before and especially after 1933. The local Nazi Party organization "Hachmannplatz” was especially virulent, but the Hamburg Tourism Association (Fremdenverkehrsverein) also played a part, as did mandatory business associations like the "Specialty Group for Itinerant Trades” (Fachgruppe Ambulantes Gewerbe) and the "Retail Business Economic Association” (Wirtschaftsgruppe Einzelhandel). The result was that revenues from his father’s business decreased to a level that threatened his livelihood.
The accounts that Fritz Appermann, his father’s successor in the company, presented in 1945 during the restitution proceedings clearly illustrate this regression. According to these accounts, the company’s annual sales in the 1920s had at times reached more than eighty thousand Reichmarks (RM) (1925: 85,600 RM; 1930: 83,400 RM). After 1930 the postcard wholesale company was subject to the effects of the Great Depression and the Nazi boycott: in 1933 the revenues were only 22,100 RM and in 1934 25,500 RM. They increased again in 1938 to 30,200 RM. After the company was transferred to Appermann’s cousin E. Römer in 1938, revenues increased again to 40,100 RM in 1939. A few years later revenues were again nearly as high as in the 1920s – 76,000 RM in 1941. Then came the catastrophic year of 1943, with the devastating air raids over Hamburg from which none of the city’s retail businesses recovered until the end of the war.
These revenues had made the Moriz Appermann Company one of the leading sellers of postcards and wholesalers of greeting cards before 1933 – as the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce confirmed in 1955. A former business partner wrote: "The business was boycotted after 1933, which caused a strong drop in revenues. In order to receive the proof of exemption (Befreiungsnachweis, permission to trade in cultural commodities), the company had to be transferred to Herr Appermann’s niece, and even then it barely remained viable. The number of employees probably averaged 2-3 persons [during the period that she ran the business, Appermann’s niece E. Römer listed, aside from Martha Apperman as the general manager, two office workers, two salesmen, and two delivery boys]. Frau Appermann and her son had always worked there before.”
The postcard wholesaler’s customers included tour guides, who accompanied visitors to Hamburg on sightseeing tours. They illustrated their stories with photos and picture postcards of the city, which they then sold to supplement their earnings. Reinhold B. from Finkenwerder was one of these tour guides. He described Moriz Appermann as "an exceptionally respectable and courteous supplier,” from whom he bought "postcards and photos, like many other colleagues.” In 1935, the Tourism Association had demanded that he and other tour guides stop buying goods from Jewish companies, but not all of them complied with this demand. "I and a few other colleagues paid no attention to this prohibition and when (Nazi) party members from the Association lectured us, we explained that it was verifiable that the products came from Germans and German printers. We were denounced and received written notification that we would be excluded from the Association, and that our un-German attitude could lead to dangerous consequences […] We unfortunately had to let Herr Appermann know. He was already a broken man, because of similar incidents and difficulties with his sales. He hardly dared even be near us. Herr Appermann had to withdraw from selling his products himself. I saw the fate that this respectable man was facing – the decline of what had until then been a substantial business into ruin and to his own emotional breakdown.”
This racially-based measure taken by the economic authorities had several negative effects on Appermann’s business besides forcing his customers to abandon him. Goods ordered from him were returned, which not only meant additional work, but also reduced the company’s available capital, since the credit extended to these customers had to be paid back.
Fritz Appermann later said that his parents had hoped to sidestep the boycott by transferring the business into his mother’s name. As of 8 January 1937 the company was listed in the commercial register as "Postkarten-Großhandlung Hansa, Martha Appermann” (Hansa Postcard Wholesaler, Martha Appermann) with Martha Appermann as director. But this step did not lead to an improvement in their business situation. "At the end of 1938 two officials from the [Reich] Chamber of Culture showed up and banned my mother from selling cultural commodities, which included all embossed calling cards and greeting cards.” This seemed to be the last straw for the company.
After the pogrom on 9-10 November 1938 (Kristallnacht), all Jewish business owners were banned from pursuing their trade. This prohibition went into effect at the end of the year. Under these circumstances, Moriz and Martha Appermann decided to transfer the business to Moriz’ niece Elsa Römer, with the agreement that it would be returned to Moriz and Martha as soon as the political situation allowed. The company was now called "Postkarten-Großhandlung Hansa Elsa Römer.” Elsa became managing director, with Martha Appermann as an authorized signatory. Her salary of 350 RM a week had to support the entire family. Moriz Appermann, as a Jew, was forbidden to have any influence on the business. (Martha and Fritz Appermann were reinstated as owners of the company on 1 August 1945. The transfer was finalized on 11 June 1946 when the company was listed in the commercial register as "Hansa Verlag und Großhandel M. Appermann & Sohn.”
In November 1938, the Hamburg Chamber of Local Business agreed to the transfer of the company from Martha Appermann to Elsa Römer only on the condition that "the Appermann family vacate the apartment attached to the business premises, so that Herr Moriz Apperman has no Jewish influence on the business.” The family began a difficult search for a place to live, which temporarily ended in 1939 when they found an apartment on the third floor of the building at Emilienstraße 67.
This building was destroyed in 1943, during Operation Gomorrah, the allied bombing of Hamburg. The Appermann family lost everything, but were able to return to the apartment on Lange Reihe 47/49 (it had taken only moderate damage during the bombing). Moriz Appermann was no longer alive at this point.
He had been arrested by the Gestapo on 27 March 1942. "After three days under political arrest in Fuhlsbüttel,” Martha Appermann recalled in 1946, he "supposedly suffered a heart attack.” His date of death was given as 30 March 1942. There was no explanatory statement about the "heart failure.” In later letters written to the authorities, she called the arrest of her husband on "political” grounds an arrest on grounds of "racial policy” – it is not clear from her letters or from a letter written by her son what the Gestapo’s motive was for arresting her husband.
Three years earlier he had come into conflict with the Gestapo over a misdemeanor. Among Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish regulations and decrees was one from 1938 that required all Jewish citizens to add the name Israel or Sara to their given names. Moriz Appermann thought that it was sufficient to notify the civil registry office in his native city of Vienna. That was a mistake. He should have also notified the police department in Hamburg, where he was registered. He notified them on 19 April 1939, but that was too late, as the deadline had been set at 31 December 1938.
He was not the only person who had to justify this sort of lapse. But in his case it not only led to a Gestapo interrogation on 27 May 1939 by Criminal Investigation Assistant Döhlemann, after which the case was turned over to the district court, which fined Appermann 20 RM plus fees of 2.50 RM, a hefty sum for the financially threatened family. Based on what he learned about Appermann’s family and business situation, Döhlemann also suspected that Moriz and Martha Appermann may have committed an "infringement of the decree from 22 Apr. 1938 against the camouflage of Jewish firms,” as the wife was working as a general manager in a company that had formerly belonged to her husband. He passed the case on to the District Attorney’s Office.
They investigated. On 1 June 1939 Martha Appermann was questioned by the Gestapo about the operating conditions at the "Postkarten-Großhandlung Hansa, Elsa Römer,” and about why she was employed as a general manager. She explained: the business had not done well in the past few years, but now a relative had taken it over and she, Martha Appermann, was released from obligations that she would have had to pay. She would not have been able to settle the debts. The relative had employed her as general manager so that she could support her family. The case was closed with a memorandum to the file by the District Attorney at the Hamburg District Court on 5 Juni 1939.
Fritz Appermann had worked at his father’s company – of necessity, since he actually wanted to study law, political science or economics. But because his father was a Jew, he was prohibited from doing so. He had to give up his job at the family company in 1944 when he was conscripted to forced labor as a "half-breed.” After the war he described the forced labor:
"Type of work:
Work for which I was not trained, i.e.: clearing debris at the Hamburg Electricity plant in Neuhof; unloading sand and bricks from barges; hauling, loading and unloading scaffolding; general manual labor; cleaning the units at the Hamburg Electricity plant in Neuhof; overseeing Russian forced laborers at Neuhof a few times, sometimes Italian forced laborers, who I accompanied on their way from Wandsbek to Neuhof; assistant for a truck driver who drove for the Hamburg Electricity plant; shoveling snow; clearing debris in various districts in Hamburg; building air raid shelters at St. Mary’s Hospital; night shifts in Harburg to remove debris from the train tracks; digging trenches in Hamburg; digging graves at the Ohlsdorf Cemetary and filling them in; two nightshifts at the Wandsbek building authority to answer the telephone.”
In the fall of 1945, after the liberation of Germany, he was finally able to begin his studies at Hamburg University. His mother returned to managing the company. He received a degree in economics and then took over the management of the family business. He died in Hamburg, aged only 28, on 25 August 1952.
Martha Appermann, née Kröger, died on 10 October 1955.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Peter Offenborn
Quellen: 1; 2 (Wera Appermann); StAH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht - Strafakten 4929/39; StAH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafakten 5608/43; StAH 351-11 AfW 11118. Ab.; Ingo Wille überließ mir die Information des ‚Auschwitz Museum Archives’ (L.dz.I-Arch-i/6057-63/11) und den Hinweis auf die Heiratsurkunde von Moriz und Martha Appermann, geb. Kröger.