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Willi Honig
© Yad Vashem

Willi Honig * 1924

Schnellstraße 22 (Altona, Altona-Nord)

1941 Minsk

further stumbling stones in Schnellstraße 22:
Chana Lea Deutel, Isaac Deutel, Bella Deutel, Josef Deutel, Osias Leib Honig, Jenta Honig

Osias Leib Honig, born on 15 May 1890, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk, date of death unknown
Jenta Honig, née Salik, born on 3 May 1892, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk, date of death unknown
Willi Honig, born on 15 June 1924, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk, date of death unknown

The Jewish merchant Osias Leib Honig was born as the son of Moshe Honig and his wife Channah or Hanna, née Frankel. He was a native of the Polish town of Kolomyja (between 1772 and 1918 Austrian: Kolomea; today Kolomyia, Western Ukraine). His wife Jenta or Jente Honig, née Salik (Salitz) was also Jewish in origin, the daughter of Moshe Jossef Salik in Lancut in Polish Subcarpathia (at the time of the Polish Partition under Austrian rule).

Osias and Jenta Honig lived as Austrian citizens in Vienna. Osias Honig traded in textiles. From 1921 until 1925 and from 1930 until 1935, he operated a trading agency, the "Representation of domestic and foreign textiles industries,” as the letterhead of his covering letters read.

The Honig couple had four children: On 20 Jan. 1922, son Josef was born, and on 27 Dec. of that year, daughter Bertha, and sons Willi and Maximilian followed on 15 June 1924 and 30 Apr. 1927, respectively – all of them natives of Vienna. The children first attended the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule), the three oldest ones then attended the Chajes Realgymnasium [a high school focused on the sciences, math, and modern languages] of the Vienna Jewish Community.

However, at a certain point, business apparently did not go well any more, and Osias Honig went into debt. In Hamburg, the family owned three developed properties: Grosse Brunnenstrasse 105, Friedenstrasse 62 (today: Lippmannstrasse), and Geibelstrasse 22 (today: Schnellstrasse). By way of selling them, he hoped to be able to pay off his obligations and build a new life. Possibly, the family, rooted in the Jewish faith, already made plans to emigrate to Palestine via Hamburg, meaning that the Hanseatic city was supposed to be an intermediate stop, as the surviving son Josef implied to the Restitution Office (Amt für Wiedergutmachung) after the war. In any case, Osias Honig moved to Hamburg in 1934. Soon afterward his wife and the children followed him. In Apr. 1935, Osias Honig was indicated as a member of the Hamburg Jewish Community. He received the settlement permit only on condition that he completely liquidate his company in Vienna and not operate any trade in Hamburg. Accordingly, his trading agency in Vienna was deleted [from the company register] in May 1935. Officially immigrated to Germany from Vienna on 4 June 1935, Osias Honig possibly received German citizenship in Oct. of that same year, though it may be that – according to the records of the Restitution Office – the Honigs obtained German citizenship after the annexation of Austria by the German Reich in Mar. 1938.

Since 5 June 1935, the family lived in their own house at Geibelstrasse 22 in Altona, in the apartment on the second floor to the left. During Nazi rule, Geibelstrasse was renamed Graf Bose-Strasse. Osias Honig had been given the assurance that he would be able to sell his landed property after half a year of residence in Hamburg. However, after passage of the Nuremberg Laws [on race] in Sept. 1935, this assurance was rescinded. An application for permission to practice his former trade of textiles merchant was rejected. The family lived on rental income.

The oldest son, Josef, attended the Jewish Talmud Tora Realschule in the Grindel quarter. Afternoons, he participated in a course preparing for the Yeshiva, the post-secondary institution for Rabbis, for he was to obtain the rabbinical diploma by way of academic training. Like his siblings, he also received private music and language lessons in addition to his regular school classes.

The childhood and youth of Josef, Bertha, Willi, and Maximilian was clouded by the tense atmosphere in their home, caused by mounting losses in assets and worries how to make a living. The children also had to experience how in their immediate environment anti-Semitism and hatred and violence against Jews increased. Several times, Josef was beaten up by classmates wearing uniforms of the Hitler Youth, and once a group of Hitler youths lay in wait for him on his way to school. They pushed him off his bike, then beating him with their fists and the bicycle pump.

During the November Pogrom of 1938 and in the days following, teachers and students of the Talmud Tora School were arrested. Classes were interrupted until their release from prison. When it became known that Jewish children older than 14 years were supposed to be banned from attending public middle and secondary schools in the future and it became increasingly clearer that the German state intended to render schools "free of Jews” ("judenrein”), the Jewish persons in charge also feared the dissolution of the Talmud Tora School.

Like many Jewish adolescents, Josef wanted to emigrate to Palestine, something his parents supported. He applied for the youth hachshara, beginning preparations for emigration at the Jewish Landwerk Neuendorf, a rural estate near Fürstenwalde not far from Berlin. Apparently, this training site was – like many hachshara centers after 1939 – converted into a forced labor camp, supervised by the SA. SA men mistreated Josef Honig, he was beaten up, kicked, and deliberately pushed in front of a hay cart, causing him to sustain injuries to the back. After a dispute with one of his guards, he was arrested and spent three weeks detained in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. There, too, he suffered mistreatment; even during the usual "reception ritual,” he had to run the gauntlet of SS men striking blows with clubs. Despite his back injuries, he was forced to perform very heavy labor, having to unload, for instance, cement bags.

Eventually, an uncle in Manchester succeeded in obtaining an emigration permit to Britain. After his release from Sachsenhausen, the 17-year-old was able to flee to Britain in the summer of 1939. In Ireland, he prepared in a training camp for further emigration to Palestine. However, the outbreak of war dashed these plans, and it was not until 1947 that Josef Honig managed to emigrate to Palestine.

The youngest son Maximilian still attended the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule) in Hamburg for another two years, and then the Talmud Tora School as well. In Nov. 1939, the 12-year-old boy was beaten up and pelted with rocks by a Hitler youth. He suffered particularly from the growing nervousness and fear in his home. After the news about the imminent dissolution of the Jewish school, the parents registered Maximilian for a children transport (Kindertransport) abroad and managed to arrange for his departure via Italy to Palestine on the so-called Youth Aliyah in August 1939 (according to the Jewish religious tax [Kultussteuer] file card) or November 1939 (according to the Restitution Office).

Bertha Honig, too, who had earlier attended the Israelite Girls’ Secondary School on Karolinenstrasse, managed to flee to Palestine on the Youth Aliyah in Mar. 1939 – just before her seventeenth birthday.

Willi Honig, who after elementary school had attended the Chajes Realgymnasium in Vienna until May 1935, in Hamburg also went to school at the Talmud Tora School, also receiving private lessons in Talmudic studies and other Jewish subjects. After the Pogrom of Nov. 1938 and the following closure of the school, he began a traineeship as a horticultural intern, which was supposed to prepare him for emigration and agricultural work in Palestine – probably in the Jewish "Ein Chajim” ("source of life”) occupational restructuring home (Berufsumschichtungsheim), a "kibbutz” in the rural environs of Hamburg-Rissen, since this was the place for which he was registered with the authorities at Tinsdaler Kirchenweg until 30 Aug. 1940.

Since Aug. 1938, Osias Honig was allowed to dispose of his properties only by authority of the foreign currency and asset management office of the Chief Finance Administrator. In Jan. 1939, his properties had been confiscated and were administrated since then by a Hamburg real estate company, the real estate and mortgage agent Otto Scheelhase. The properties were encumbered with mortgages. By then, Osias Honig received only smaller sums of the rental income – according to the administrator, they were low – and these were the family’s only revenues. Like all well-off Jews, he was systematically robbed by the Nazi state, and in addition, he had been forced to pay a high levy on assets after the Pogrom of Nov. 1938.

Since 1939, when the persecution measures against Jews in the German Reich escalated, the Honig couple made efforts to find ways to emigrate. As early as 21 Mar. 1939, the Altona Tax Office had informed the Gestapo that Osias Honig had applied for a tax clearance certificate (Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung) and that the family intended to emigrate to Haifa in Palestine. As a result of this, the tax office checked the financial circumstances (the assets of emigrated Jews were subsequently confiscated).

Assisted by Jewish organizations and the uncle in Britain, Bertha and Maximilian had fled to Palestine and Josef initially to Britain, and his further travel to Palestine was still expected. However, the emigration plans for the couple and son Willi were impeded; correspondence with the authorities is testimony to futile and increasingly desperate attempts to escape from Germany. In Mar. 1940, Osias Honig repeated his application for emigration, indicating that three of his children were already in Palestine, where he wished to emigrate as well along with his wife and son Willi. He was, he went on, in possession of all required documentation and the "committee for Jewish overseas transports in Vienna had held out the prospect of emigration,” though that organization asked for 1,500 RM (reichsmark) a person, so that he needed 4,500 reichsmark overall. Osias Honig assured the authorities that a merchant was granting him a loan amounting to 3,000 reichsmark and that he would raise the balance by selling movables. The emigration was not approved though, and since the outbreak of war, flight was illegal and possible only under extremely difficult circumstances.

In the case of son Willi, the Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) file card contains an entry indicating "England Juli 39", which was subsequently crossed out, however, as the efforts at emigration had failed for him as well.

Osias Honig’s accounts were blocked, and on 22 Sept. 1941, the monthly allowance toward the livelihood of the family of three was set at 240 reichsmark.

On 8 Nov. 1941, Osias and Jenta Honig along with their 17-year-old son Willi were deported to Minsk, the capital of occupied Belarus. There, the German occupying forces had set up a ghetto for 100,000 Belarusian Jews. Beforehand, the SS murdered 12,000 inmates of the ghetto on 7 Nov. in order to "make room” for the German new arrivals. On 10 November, the train from Hamburg arrived at the Minsk Ghetto. On this third major transport, 407 Hamburg residents were transported to the East, and 403 of them did not survive. Nearly all of those Hamburg residents who had survived the hard labor, the inhospitable living conditions, and the frequent shooting operations were shot in a massacre on 8 May 1943 or suffocated in gas vans.

Osias, Jenta, and Willi Honig also perished in Minsk.

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2016
© Birgit Gewehr

Quellen: 1; 2 (R1938/1133, (Osias Leib Honig), 4; 5; 8; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 15990 (Honig, Leib-Osias), 45688 (Diamant, Bertha, geb. Honig), 47091 (Honig, Josef), 47104 (Honig, Jenta, geb. Salik); AB Altona 1937.
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