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Hugo Gerechter
© Privatbesitz

Hugo Gerechter * 1891

Karolinenstraße 5 (Hamburg-Mitte, St. Pauli)

1941 Minsk

further stumbling stones in Karolinenstraße 5:
Edith Gerechter, Erich Joseph Littmann, Sora Sonja Littmann, Lotte Littmann

Edith Gerechter, née Fliess, born on 4 Jan. 1893 in Stolp, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Hugo Gerechter, born on 25 Apr. 1891 in Hamburg, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk

Karolinenstrasse 5 (Carolinenstrasse 5, house no. 6)

Edith Gerechter, née Fliess, came from a prosperous Jewish family in the Pomeranian town of Stolp – today Slupsk in Poland. She had two brothers and several sisters. Her mother operated a large linen goods and textiles store and employed several domestic workers. Later, she moved to a retirement home in Berlin, where she died at the end of 1933. Edith completed an occupational apprenticeship and came to Hamburg as a trained hat maker to find a job. This is where she met her future husband, Hugo Gerechter, and gave up her work activities.

Hugo came from a Jewish working-class family – his parents were Hartwig and Bieske Gerechter. He had three siblings: Berthold, Röschen, and Beate. In the First World War, he fought as a soldier for the German Empire. After the war, in Mar. 1919, he registered a business as a metalworker at Dehnheide 141. The residential quarters of the Gerechters were also located there.

On 4 Feb. 1921, Edith gave birth to their first child, son Heinz. Hugo started his own business as a craft metalworker and building fitter initially on Stückenstrasse, later at Herrengraben in Hamburg-Neustadt working also as a machine dealer. On 14 May 1925, daughter Ruth was born. Until about 1931, the family resided – as Hugo Gerechter’s forebears had done already – at Marienthaler Strasse 113 in Wandsbek. Then they moved to a larger apartment with a balcony on Schellingstrasse. Ruth attended the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule) on Rossberg [street].

In the early 1930s, the world economic crisis put a strain on Gerechter’s workshop, which he operated together with his partner, Jacob Neugarten. After 1933, business also suffered losses due to the increasing anti-Semitic discriminations – in some cases, business contacts broke off abruptly. From daughter Ruth’s perspective, things revolved around "economic survival every day.”

In Apr. 1935, the Gerechter family moved to a home close to the company. They now lived in a more affordable two-bedroom apartment in house no. 6 at Karolinenstrasse 5 in order to save money toward emigrating to Palestine – thus Hugo’s intention. Edith, on the other hand, had objections to an emigration. Her health was not stable enough and Ruth later wrote, "She was afraid of Arabs … who repeatedly carried out raids on Jewish settlers in Palestine.”

Located a few blocks of houses away was the Israelite Girls’ School that Ruth attended from May 1935 onward for the next three years. While her brother Heinz completed his schooldays only a few months after the move and helped his father in the business, Ruth learned something about the contents of the Jewish faith for the first time. She experienced her school as a place protecting from discrimination and violence, a place where no one would break off contact just because she was Jewish.

However, in Oct. 1938 quite a few Polish schoolmates were expelled to Zbaszyn [on the frontier to Poland]. Shortly afterward, on the night of 9 to 10 Nov., she witnessed how Jewish stores on Carolinenstrasse were plundered and destroyed. She warned her father when she saw two men in leather coats make their way through the front entrance. As a result, he was able to flee and found refuge with acquaintances in Billstedt.

Edith and Hugo Gerechter knew now – as Ruth suspects in her book, Langer Weg zur Freiheit ["Long Road to Freedom”] – that they would not manage their own departure from Germany and subsequently, they did everything in their power to get their children to safety. The Lord Baldwin Fund financed Heinz’ and Ruth’s departure to Britain on 14 Dec. 1938.

Shortly afterward, in Jan. 1939, Hugo Gerechter was forced to give up his company. For another two years or so, he continued to perform paid employment, finding, "however, no sustainable and sufficient basis for livelihood” – as government inspector (Regierungsinspektor) Fischer puts it in his comments on the "restitution matter of the community of joint heirs to Hugo Gerechter.” This must have been hard to bear for the energetic tradesman and usually cheerful, sociable man.

Hugo Gerechter was friends with Heinz Severin. The latter’s son Günther fondly recalls that after work, Gerechter would come by his father’s cigarette store at Karolinenstrasse 4 to have a chat. One day, after the boy had tried in vain to loosen a nut with a pair of combination pliers, his father explained to him, "The pliers have power when Hugo or I have them in our hands.” Thus, Hugo Gerechter became to the child a nearly unattainable model of a technically skilled and strong man.

Edith was crushed in her pain at the separation from Ruth. In quite a few letters to the daughter, she expressed her longing and her worry. Later, Ruth wrote in her book that her mother regretted "not having kept her child with her.” In the meantime, for her part, she had to find her way around in England and wanted "nothing to do any more … with the bad past and current conditions in Germany.” Consequently, she answered only rarely.

Until shortly before their deportation in 1941, a neighbor and friend supported the married couple. She brought Edith, who had collapsed on the street, despite "the ban on care to the hospital” – Ruth Gerechter wrote in her biography. Jewish people were not allowed to be treated in public hospitals anymore. In the aftermath, the neighbor had to justify herself to the Gestapo for her relations with Jews. From then on, she no longer dared to speak to her neighbors, though placing food on the windowsill of the Gerechters at nightfall.

Günther Severin reports that Hugo Gerechter thought of his friend Heinz even after receiving the deportation order, giving him a present: "They want to resettle us somewhere in the east. We have bed linens, you can take them.”

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Christiane Jungblut

Quellen: 1; 2; 4; 5; 8; AB 1936, T. 1, 1938, T. 1; StaH 314-15 OFP, Abl. 1998/1, G 644; StaH 332-8 Meldewesen A51/1, K 2463; K 2514; StaH 351-11 AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 250491 Gerechter, Hugo; StaH 362-6/10 Talmud-Tora-Schule, TT 22; StaH 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden, 992 e 1 Band 2; Ackermann/Gerechter, Langer Weg, 1991; Telefonat mit Günther Severin am 11.3.2008.

Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Link "Recherche und Quellen".

Hier abweichend: (2) Bundesarchiv Berlin, R 1509 Reichssippenamt, Ergänzungskarten der Volkszählung vom 17. Mai 1939

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