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Norbert Arendt * 1916
Uhlandstraße 4 (Hamburg-Nord, Hohenfelde)
Louis Leo Arendt, born on 17 Apr. 1879 in Goral, West Prussia (today Gorale in Poland), deported on 11 July 1942 to the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp, murdered there
Dora Arendt, née Ostrower, born on 15 Feb. 1892 in Striegau/Silesia (today Strzegom in Poland), deported on 11 July 1942 to the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp, murdered there
Norbert Arendt, born on 15 May 1916 in Hamburg, perished on 15 Nov. 1940 during the explosion of the SS "Patria” in Haifa
"I had to tell the parents the horrible news that Norbert, who was on a transport to Palestine, died on 25 Nov. 1940 in the shipwreck with the ‘Patria’ in the port of Haifa.” The parents referred to were Dora and Leo Arendt. And the bearer of the news was Herta Finkenstein, née Blumenthal – one of their nieces, who was very close to them. However, his parents learned nothing about the circumstances under which Norbert Arendt had died. He was one of the approximately 1,700 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland who, coming from Romania in Nov. 1940, wanted to immigrate illegally (as viewed by the Mandatory Power of Great Britain) by sea to Palestine. At the end of November, they reached the port of Haifa on three run-down and completely overloaded ships. But they were not allowed to go ashore. Instead, the British transferred them to the former transport ship "Patria,” weighing 12,000 gross registered tons and measuring over 150 meters (some 164 yards), to bring them to Mauritius. However, the Jewish Haganah resistance group wanted to prevent this at all cost. Resistance fighters smuggled explosives aboard the "Patria” in order to render the ship unseaworthy by a small attack. The group had miscalculated the amount of explosives though. A massive explosion blew up the ship and sank it within 15 minutes. Approximately 270 people were killed. One of them was Norbert Arendt.
His parents Louis and Dora Arendt had moved to Hamburg around 1910. Louis came from Goral near Strasburg in West Prussia. He was the youngest of the eight children of Isidor Arendt and his wife Cäcilie, née Lewin or Levin. Isidor Arendt died in Graudenz (today Grudziadz in Poland) in 1915, Cäcilie four years later in Berlin. Five of Louis Arendt’s siblings also lived there: Berta, Nathan, Taubina (Thea), Jeanette, and Hanna. His second oldest sister, Grete, died in Freystadt/West Prussia (today Kisielice in Poland) in 1919. Besides Louis, his brother Simon (Siegfried) also settled in Hamburg.
Dora Arendt came from Striegau (Strzegom) in Lower Silesia. She was born there as the only daughter of the textile merchant Adolf Ostrower. She had five brothers, two of whom – Ismar and Leo – also moved to Hamburg.
Louis Arendt established a "women’s finery business” ("Damenputzgeschäft”) at Schulterblatt 156 in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel and had it entered in the commercial register under the company name of "Leo Arendt” on 1 Sept. 1910. As the company owner, however, he continued to go by the name of Louis.
Business developed well through all economic crises. In 1930, Louis Arendt expanded his company and began to produce women’s finery in his own workshop. For this reason, his company was registered in the register of qualified craftsmen. After the transfer of power to the National Socialists, the company initially grew further and Louis Arendt opened a branch at Hamburger Strasse 78/80 in 1935, where he limited himself to selling women’s hats, while also selling fashion goods in his main store. At both company locations, 25 to 30 technical and 10 to 15 commercial employees worked for him. Dora Arendt – as the daughter of a textile retailer – was probably also active in the company. Louis Arendt had acquired the property where the shop was located on Hamburger Strasse, as well as another one at Eimsbütteler Chaussee 95.
As well informed as we are about Louis Arendt’s economic successes, we know little about the family’s private life. When Norbert was born as the couple’s only child in 1916, the family lived in the Eppendorf quarter. In 1933, they moved to Hohenfelde, into the plastered building at Uhlandstrasse 4–6 featuring a representative staircase and spacious apartments, which was only built in 1930/31 on an open field. They furnished their five-and-a-half-room apartment on the third floor in an elegant style with valuable furniture.
Economically even more successful than Louis Arendt was his brother Simon. He set up a ready-to-wear women’s clothing store at Neuer Wall 35, where he employed more than 150 staff at times. In the course of the "Aryanization” of Jewish businesses starting on 1 Mar. 1938, however, he was expropriated and his company continued to do business under the name of "Modenhaus Horn K.G.,” then operated by non-Jewish owners. Until well into the post-war period, it was equated in Hamburg with exquisite women’s outerwear, eventually passing to the Unger Company. Simon Arendt, his wife Rosalie, née Kugnitzki, and the two children Edith and Edgar, born at the turn of the century, also lived in Eppendorf (see Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Eppendorf and www.stolpersteineham burg.de). Both families belonged to the German-Israelitic Community in Hamburg and contributed significantly to its budget with their taxes.
While his cousin Edgar, 14 years his senior, studied law and pursued his aesthetic interests, Norbert began a commercial apprenticeship. At the age of 18, he moved out of his parents’ home and lived at Eichenstrasse 50. His income as a commercial clerk was very low. In Feb. 1937, he returned to Uhlandstrasse 4 and worked in his father’s millinery shop at Hamburger Strasse 78/80.
On 2 Jan. 1938, Norbert Arendt was arrested for alleged "racial defilement” ("Rassenschande”) and committed to the Hamburg-Stadt pretrial detention facility. On 19 May 1938, he was transferred to the Fuhlsbüttel prison to serve his sentence, and a year later to the Glasmoor penitentiary. With the period of his pretrial detention calculated against the sentence, his prison term ended on 23 Oct. 1939, but he was then handed over to the police. The police authorities apparently imprisoned him first in its Hütten prison, before taking him to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp on 1 November. He was released from there on 18 Nov. 1939.
Dora Arendt’s brothers Leo (born in 1882) and Ismar Ostrower (born in 1886), a commercial agent and a merchant, respectively, arrived in Hamburg too late to gain a foothold in business. Leo Ostrower and his Boston/USA-born wife Dora Marynski both had only low incomes as salaried employees at the end of the 1920s. During the Great Depression, they suspended their membership of the German-Israelitic Community. Their only son, Erwin, born in Stettin (today Szczecin in Poland) in 1914, went to Berlin in 1933.
Ismar Ostrower moved to Hamburg in 1933. He had to close his textile business in Zwickau at the beginning of Apr. 1933 following the boycott of Jewish shops, department stores, banks, medical practices, law firms, and notary’s offices. He immediately opened a new store in Hamburg, but it did not last longer than one year. He then acted as a commercial representative until his license was revoked in 1938. He had been married to Elli Stein from Breslau (today Wroclaw in Poland) since 1920. They had two children, Beate and Stefan, who were born around 1925.
Louis Arendt and his brother-in-law Ismar Ostrower were transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp after the November Pogrom of 1938. The Hamburg Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) was not aware of this; he sent to Louis Arendt’s residential address a written summons concerning his financial affairs. Dora Arendt kept the appointment but could hardly give any information, as she had little insight into her husband’s financial circumstances. On 25 Nov. 1938, the Chief Finance Administrator imposed a "security order” ("Sicherungsanordnung”) on Louis Arendt’s entire assets. Only income from real estate was exempted from this measure.
The release from concentration camp custody was usually tied to the obligation to leave the German Reich within a short time. Leo, Dora, and Erwin Ostrower had already fled to Rio de Janeiro in 1937. Ismar Ostrower left with his family for Shanghai in Feb. 1939. The costs were borne by Louis Arendt, who had already supported the family financially earlier. Whether Louis Arendt himself was exempt from the emigration order or merely evaded it is not known. One reason for not emigrating was apparently that his son Norbert was still in custody.
Hardly released from detention in Sachsenhausen in mid-Dec. 1938, Louis Arendt arranged the apportionment and transfer of securities to settle the "atonement payment” ("Sühneleistung”) and the "Reich flight tax” ("Reichsfluchtsteuer”) imposed on Jews by the Reich Minister [of the Interior], in order to cover debts on his properties as well as other liabilities. The Arendt shop on Schulterblatt was forcibly placed under the control of a trustee who had to prepare the sale "into Aryan hands”; the branch on Hamburger Strasse was transferred to the Wilhelm Darboven Company, which then sold hats there as well. On 16 Jan. 1939, Louis Arendt’s trustee reported the execution of the "Aryanization” to the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident). In desperation over the lack of liquid funds, Louis Arendt approached the Chief Finance Administrator with a request to release interest income from securities. This led to transfers and mergers of accounts, so that Louis Arendt was able to dispose of a limited checking account, which brought a certain relief. But the next blow followed soon. The trustee demanded excessive fees from him. He justified these with a health breakdown and subsequent costly hospital stay. Before the Chief Finance Administrator had decided on the matter, Louis Arendt applied for the unblocking of funds for the emigration of Berlin relatives and that of his own son. Eventually, however, he had to meet the trustee’s excessive fee claim – which at that time the trustee justified by arguing that his activity was to be equated with that of a bankruptcy trustee classified in a higher payscale.
After the sale of the Eimsbüttel property and the balancing of the remaining assets, the monthly allowance for Dora and Louis Arendt was set at 600 RM. All one-off expenses, ranging from 8 RM for a doctor’s visit up to a 2,000-RM donation to the Jewish Youth Welfare section within the Jewish Palestine Relief Organization (Jüdische Jugendhilfe beim Jüdischen Palästinawerk), had to be applied for separately, but were approved.
At the same time, Louis and Dora Arendt prepared the emigration of their still imprisoned son Norbert to Shanghai. They provided him with a sufficient amount of moving goods that he would not have to sacrifice his usual standard of living. However, the departure failed due to the beginning of the Second World War and the closure of the borders. They then concentrated on Palestine as an emigration destination. They were able to reroute the foreign currency transactions already carried out to Sweden in order to finance the passage. After his release, Norbert drastically reduced his household effects in view of the simple living conditions in Palestine. However, he took his stamp collection with him, as well as the opera glasses and binoculars, both gifts to his bar mitzvah. For the used cutlery, crockery, bandages, a wristwatch, and shaving equipment as well as the newly acquired mosquito net, Louis Arendt paid a levy of 115 RM to the Gold Discount Bank ("Dego-Abgabe”). After approval by the Chief Finance Administrator, he withdrew this amount and the comparatively moderate shipping costs of 195.60 RM from his "security account.” On 30 Nov. 1939, Norbert Arendt pawned 15 RM worth of clothing to the public lending institution, thus creating a small degree of financial leeway for himself. Fourteen days later, he left Hamburg to travel to Palestine in stages. Louis and Dora Arendt accompanied him to Berlin, where they spent three more days together. From there, he travelled on alone to Vienna. There, he joined a collective transport of Palestinian emigrants, which initially ended in Pressburg (today Bratislava in Slovakia), in a transit camp where the emigrants worked in agriculture.
In Apr. and June 1940 – Norbert’s household effects were already in Palestine – his parents sent him medications, writing utensils and clothing with permission of the Chief Finance Administrator. Soap and candy had been crossed off the list. On 24 Nov. 1940, Norbert arrived in Haifa with thousands of other refugees. He finally thought he had reached his destination – but then he perished in the explosion of the "Patria.”
In Nov. 1940, Louis Arendt’s sister Taubina (Thea) Blumenthal died in Berlin. At her funeral, he and Dora travelled to their relatives still living in Berlin. With funds from the blocked account, they gave them Christmas and New Year’s presents, just as they had done before.
On 20 Mar. 1941, they left the Uhlenhorst quarter and moved to the ground floor of the single-family house at Jungfrauenthal 53, where they had three rooms and a kitchen in the basement – which meant that they had to give up most of their furnishings. The new apartment was in need of renovation and cold. Funds for the renovation were released by the Chief Finance Administrator. By contrast, he reacted to their application to increase the allowance accordingly because of the high heating costs by reducing the amount to 560 RM. In that year, Dora and Louis Arendt only applied for the release of 50 RM for Christmas presents. After almost 3,000 Hamburg Jews had already been transported to the East, Leo Arendt applied on 1 Dec. 1941 for the release of 720 RM for "evacuation purposes” – although for him and his wife, no order for "resettlement” ("Aussiedlung”) had been issued. In Jan. 1942, they moved again, to Parkallee 75.
Dora and Louis Arendt were at the top of the substitute list for the transport to Auschwitz on 11 July 1942. There was no sign of life from them afterward – nor of the other Hamburg deportees and seven of their relatives who had been taken to various ghettos and extermination camps. Rosalie Arendt was the only one who survived the deportation to Theresienstadt. From there she was taken to Switzerland in Feb. 1945. On 16 Nov. 1942, the Hamburgische Elektricitäts-Werke, the local utility company sent 13 unpaid electricity bills from "Jews who have recently been evacuated” to the asset management office with the Chief Finance Administrator, including two totaling 11.79 RM for Louis Arendt. The bills were paid.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: December 2019
© Hildgard Thevs
Quellen: 1, 2; 4, 5; StaH 213-8 Staatsanwaltschaft Oberlandesgericht – Verwaltung Ablieferung 2, 451 a E 1, 1 d; 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Abl. 16 und 13, ältere Kartei; StaH 314-15 Oberfinanzpräsident: FVg 7734, FVg 4504, R 1938/3100, R 1938/3184, R 1941/37; 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung: 4183 (Leo Arendt),15523 (Elli/Ismar Ostrower), 26642 (Edgar Arnet); 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden 999 e 2 Bd. 4; Hamburger Adressbücher; Eva Feld, The Story of the S/S Patria, online unter: www.jewishmag.com/46mag/patria/patria.htm (letzter Zugriff 14.8.2015); Theresienstädter Gedenkbuch; H. G. Adler, 1941–1945; Hamburgisches Architekturarchiv, Norbert Baues, E-Mail vom 2.7.2012; Christiane Kolbet, Sechzig Jahre zurück. Der Untergang der "Patria", haGalil.com, 14.11.2000, online unter: www.hagalil.com/archiv/2000/11/patria.htm (letzter Zugriff 24.2.2015); Tamara Wlodarczyk, "Strzegom", auf: Virtuelles Schtetl, Die jüdische Gemeinde vor 1989, Geschichte, übers. v. Polchi, online unter: www.sztetl.org.pl/de/article/strzegom/5,geschichte/?action=view&page=1 (letzter Zugriff 24.2.2015).
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