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Elisabeth Nelki
Elisabeth Nelki
© Privatbesitz

Elisabeth Olga Nelki * 1861

Schellingstraße 12 (Wandsbek, Eilbek)

JG. 1861
ERMORDET 2.2.1943

further stumbling stones in Schellingstraße 12:
Alice Nelki

Elisabeth Olga Esther Nelki, b. 5.29.1861 in Berlin, deported on 7.19.1942 to Theresienstadt, dying there on 2.2.1943
Alice Nelki, b. 5.5.1886 in Hamburg, deported to Riga on 12.6.1941

Schellingstraße 12 (Ottostraße 12)

Elisabeth and Alice Nelki were two women of Jewish descent, representing different generations and belonging to a large family residing in Hamburg, Berlin, and England. Both became victims of the National Socialist persecution of Jews.

The earliest documentable trace of the Nelki family – at that time still Nelky – is to be found on an ancestral marriage certificate from the Old Mark (Saxony-Anhalt), dating from 1759. In the course of centuries the family scattered to various European lands, for example, Hungary and Great Britain. Individual branches of the family ended up in Mexico, Canada, and Australia. Especially the English and German branches of the family remain in close contact to the present day.

In 1825, Jacob Julius Nelky, who stayed in Germany and was the father of Elisabeth and grandfather of Alice Nelki, changed the spelling of the family name. Since then, references to the family tree use the "i" instead of the "y."

Jacob Julius Nelki began to earn his living by selling the patent medicine "Periostin," to be used against toothaches, which he made and sold in market places. He was also active as a chiropodist. Later he established a circus and traveled with it around Europe and North Africa. In this period, he signed himself as "Kavalarisso," perhaps meant to be "Cavalier." Jacob Julius Nelki was married twice and had twelve children, in addition to Elisabeth Nelki who died in Theresienstadt, he was also the father of Alice and Leopold Nelki. Jacob Julius Nelki died in 1908 in Rome.

Elisabeth Nelki was born in Berlin on 29 May 1861 and lived there until 1934, probably with her brother, the dentist Hermann Nelki, at Augsburger Strasse 25 (District W 50). She was unmarried. When Hermann Nelki, along with his daughter and his sons, emigrated to London, Elisabeth Nelki remained behind in Berlin. In previous years she had always maintained contact with her Hamburg relatives. So, it was only logical that she resettle in Hamburg. Hermann Nelki paid her fare. Upon her arrival in Hamburg, Elisabeth moved in with her nephew Conrad Nelki at Heitmannstrasse 19 in Barmbek-Süd.

At this address several other family members were already living, including Alice Nelki. Later Elisabeth moved to Papenstrasse 47 and another branch of the large Nelki family with the additional surname Kruse, probably in the illusory hope that this name would call less attention to itself and offer a degree of protection. A forebear of the Kruse family had already married into the Nelki family in 1857. Moreover, one of Elisabeth’s sisters was married to a member of the Kruse family.

A "simple woman," without professional training, like Elisabeth Nelki, did not have it easy in those days. She received hand-me-down clothes from relatives and other necessaries she could not get by herself. She had to make do with the most basic of means in order to groom herself. Elisabeth Nelki, always called just "Liese," was very much loved in her family. Whenever visiting relatives, she always had little candies in her pocket. The children waited expectantly at the window. When "Liese" came around the corner, they cried out "here comes our sugar auntie."

When the national census was taken in May 1939, Elisabeth was roomer in a sparely furnished room, with a hot plate, wooden stool, wash bowl, and bed.

At the beginning of November 1940, she moved to rent a room with Frieda Warnecke (see below) at Strasse Rutschbahn 115 in the Rotherbaum district – later a "Jew house." From May 1941, according to Elisabeth Nelki’s Jewish community membership card – the official Jewish Religion Association – her address was Isesstrasse 27. The last station on Elisabeth Nelki’s odyssey across Hamburg was Westerstrrasse 27 in the Hammerbrook quarter (formerly Klostertor) – also a so-called Jew house.

Elisabeth Nelki was at the age of 81 deported to Theresienstadt on 19 July 1942. She died there six months later on 2 February 1943. The cause of death was "severe malnutrition and general loss of strength." It is to be assumed that Elisabeth Nelki starved to death in Theresienstadt.

Alice Nelki, Elisabeth’s niece, was the ninth of fifteen children born to the traveling salesman and sales promoter, Leopold Nelki, and his wife Sara.

Leopold Nelki was born in Berlin to Jacob Julius Nelki on 27 March 1855. His wife Sara Nelki, née Behrend, came into the world in Hamburg on 12 May 1853. Sara Behrend and Leopold Nelki married on 19 April 1876 in Dewsbury, in the County of West Yorkshire, England. In April 1876, still in Dewsbury, a daughter Rosalie was born, the first of a total of fifteen children.

The Nelki family was completely assimilated. The Christian, rather than the Jewish, holidays were celebrated, for example, Christmas; the Sabbath was ignored. They put no value on keeping kosher. The important milestones of childhood and adolescence, such as circumcision and the bar mitzvah, were skipped over and lacked significance for the family. In the membership list of the Jewish community in 1935, the names of only three children of Leopold and Sara Nelki appeared, but not those of their parents. A son, not yet four, underwent Christian baptism. At least three sons took part as soldiers in the First World War.

With the exception of the oldest child, Rosalie, all the children of Leopold and Sara Nelki were born in Hamburg. Shortly before or after the birth of each child, the Nelki family moved into another dwelling, often just a few houses or streets away. The grounds for this lay not so much in finding more space for a growing family but rather, according to the stories told by descendants, the moves were necessitated by not being able to pay the rent. Rental rates for "dry dwellings" (just finished new buildings in which the plaster was still drying) were lower.

Nothing has been passed down concerning Alice Nelki’s childhood or schooling and professional training. As an adult she remained unmarried and lived the first few years with the family of her brother Conrad at Heitmannstrasse 19 in Barmbek-Süd. After the National Socialists took power, not only did she have to live through their mounting limitations and defamations, but she had also to watch her family scatter in all directions or suffer severely from persecution by the Nazis. It is not clear as to whether she herself considered fleeing Germany.

According to the official census of May 1939, Alice Nelki lived with her aunt Elisabeth at Ottostrasse 12. In fact, according to the religious community tax files, she moved there only on 10 November 1940.

Alice Nelki’s stay in the rented room taken by her aunt Elisabeth at Ottostrasse 12 in Eilbek was of only short duration. She lived finally at Sierichstrasse 92 with the Wulf(f) family. Thus was the address for her on the deportation list. Until she was deported, Alice Nelki worked as a domestic for Albert and Clara Wulff.

On 4 December 1941 Alice Nelki arrived at the building of the Provincial Lodge Lower Saxony on Moorweidenstrasse. After spending two nights in the Lodge building crammed together with many others in these undignified surroundings, she, along with 752 fellow-sufferers, was deported to Riga.

Also on this transport was Frieda Warnecke who had lived with Alice’s aunt Elisabeth at Rutschbahn 15. On December 9, the train arrived at Skirotava station in the outskirts of Riga. From there the unfortunates were driven into the Jungfernhof camp, an abandoned estate.

The fate of Alice Nelki after her arrival in Riga is not known. There were no further signs of life.

The fate of Alice Nelki’s siblings
Alice Nelki’s older brother Oswald (b. 1882) died in 1938 at the age of 55 in the hospital at Altona from tuberculosis and pulmonary edema, which he contracted as a result of forced heavy labor in Waltershof and other locations in Hamburg.

Before 1933 Oswald Nelki supported his family by selling advertising space for Hamburg newspapers. From the beginning of 1933, he found less and less work until he was no longer able to practice his profession. The family now had to live on welfare and exchange their spacious dwelling at Quickbornstrasse 50 in the Hoheluft-West district for a small one at Eduardstrasse 13, in Eimsbüttel. Tuition costs for the children’s private schooling could no longer be met. So-called public welfare amounted to 11 RM for the married couple and 2.60 RM for each child. Even this paltry support was in doubt. Since the family could not expect permanent help from the state in order to survive, Oswald Nelki looked for work. He suffered a nervous breakdown, the result of prolonged depression. His wife Ella said later: "Since my husband did not know where to begin to look for work, he was sent to Waltershof to do forced labor. Early every morning, in wind and heavy weather, he had to take the ‘Jew steamer‘ – a special steamer was laid on to take Jews to Waltershof to do excavation work." As of 1935, the officials of the Hamburg Department of Workers’ Welfare separated Jews from other so-called welfare recipients and established special worksites exclusively for Jews. They were assigned to the heaviest excavation work. In a muddy field in Waltershof, sport and playgrounds, as well as a little garden, were to be erected for a children’s daycare center. The men stood up to their hips in sludge.

Oswald Nelki – already physically weakened – caught a heavy cold at Waltershof, followed by tuberculosis. In the Geesthacht sanatorium he was discriminated against by patients who "did not want to sit or lie next to a Jew." His psychological state became ever more perilous. He isolated himself and then fled home. Because of the danger of infection Oswald Nelki was taken to the Barmbek infirmary. He suffered from obsessive ideas and feelings of inferiority. Added to this was his worry about his brother Max Nelki (see below), who was incarcerated in the Dachau concentration camp. Oswald Nelki refused food. He believed it would be better for the family if he died and the "status of the household became Aryan." He was referring to his non-Jewish wife Ella. Transferred to the Altona infirmary, he became totally bedridden. He did not recover and died on 17 March 1938. The persecution of the family continued. Oswald’s son Lothar, because he was "a half Jew," could not attend any higher school. Shortly before the war’s end, the two daughters, Oswalda and Ursula, lost their jobs. Ella Nelki and her three children survived the war. They were bombed out twice (1941 and 1943).

Two of the Nelki brothers, Walter and Hans, along with their families, as well as their sister Rosalie and her son Fritz, were able to emigrate to Belgium in timely fashion.

Walter Nelki, born on 13 September 1890, was the sales representative for several firms selling business supplies and household articles. In 1914 he was called up to service and suffered a wound in the left upper thigh. After World War I he lived with his family and that of Oswald Nelki at Eduardstrasse 13 in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel. Walter Nelki emigrated to Antwerp at the end of July 1938 together with his Protestant wife Johanna, née Lüttmann, born on 31 March 1893 in Lübeck, and his daughter Gisela, born on 9 June 1922 in Hamburg, as well as his above-mentioned sister Rosalie and younger brother Hans. On 31 October 1939, Walter Nelki, his wife Johanna, and their daughter Gisela had their German citizenship revoked.

Since Walter Nelki could not obtain a work permit in Belgium, he had no chance of making a living. On the day German troops marched into Belgium, 10 May 1940, he was arrested by Belgian officials and sent to the St. Cyprien internment camp in southern France.

The Saint-Cyprien concentration camp on the beach in southern France, near the Spanish border, functioned as an internment camp from 1939 to 1940. In the months of May and June 1940, it was filled with Germans and refugees from other nations, mostly of Jewish descent and mostly from Belgium.

At St. Cyprien Walter Nelki was at first reasonably well treated. That changed after the occupation of France by German troops in June 1940 and the SS guarded the camp. Then he received punches and lashes and was frequently knocked to the ground.

Fritz Nelki, the above-mentioned son of Rosalie Nelki, was also seized and sent to St. Cyprien.

Seven months later, Walter and Fritz Nelki were released from St. Cyprien. They returned to Antwerp. From there the family was sent to Brussels and from then on had to report to the German police twice daily.

After the arrival of allied troops in the fall of 1944, the members of the Nelki family were liberated. Walter Nelki returned with his family to Hamburg in September 1945. The family members who had fled to Belgium survived National Socialism. Several remained in Belgium.

Alice Nelki aided her younger brother Max’s involuntary emigration to Shanghai. Possibly, she thereby arranged her own emigration.

Max Nelki, born on 3 October 1894 in the Strasse Rutschbahn 24 in Eimsbüttel, had attended the Matthias-Claudius preparatory school in Wandsbek up to the eighth year. He also served in World War I. From his first marriage to Louise Jane, née Reynolds, of Hull in England, there were born two children, Ingeborg and Alexander. Like his father and his brother Oswald, Max Nelki sold newspaper advertising space. In the time before World War II he described himself as a salesman. After his divorce, he became attached to a non-Jewish woman. The Nuremberg Race Laws forbade and criminalized such relationships.

When, despite the prohibition, Max Nelki spent the night at his friend’s, he was probably denounced and at the end of 1935 summoned to the Gestapo office in the Hamburg City Hall. But the Gestapo was unable to prove anything and, after threatening him, let him go. However, he must have still been under surveillance. On 19 February 1936, when he along with other guests was celebrating his friend’s birthday, he was arrested. He spent the next 14 days in "protective custody" in the infamous Kola-Fu (the Fuhlsbüttel prison and concentration camp). He remained in the detention center at Holstenglacis 3 for over three months. His friend "confessed" to the "crime of racial defilement." The circumstances and methods by which the "confession" was brought about has not been recorded. From other "racial defilement" proceedings it is known that the interrogation methods were devious and brutal. Another prisoner in Gestapo custody, according to Max Nelki, had 20 teeth knocked out and his lips split. The wound in the mouth required stitches.

Max Nelki was sentenced on 10 June 1936 to 18 months in prison on the grounds of "racial defilement." He spent the first part of his term in a solitary cell, then with several other inmates in a much too small cell. To his relief, his fellow-prisoners were not criminals but revealed to be incarcerated Jews like himself.

During his imprisonment, Max Nelki’s divorced wife Louise Jane died (on 10.12.1936) as did his 16-year old daughter Ingeborg (on 6.7.1937). By circuitous ways, his still underage son Alexander made it to Antwerp, where is relatives Rosalie and Fritz Nelki were already living.

After the completion of his sentence, Max Nelki was not set free, but rather he was sent on 11 September 1937 to the Dachau concentration camp. There he got to know Hans Litten, today the highly regarded attorney and defense lawyer who had been taken into "protective custody" on account of his resolute actions against the National Socialists during the night of the Reichstag Fire. Hans Litten took his own life on 5 February 1938 in Dachau.

In the course of September 1938, approximately 2000 Austrian Jews were sent to Dachau; Max Nelki was transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp on 22 September 1938. As a so-called race-defiler, he was assigned to a penal company with heightened work demands. The prisoners were awakened at three o’clock. They often had to stand at roll call from morning until evening. There was nothing to eat; speaking was forbidden. Upon his release on 14 April 1939, the Gestapo commanded him to leave Germany immediately. Under this condition, a number of Jews were released from the concentration camps in 1938 and 1939. Max Nelki’s flight from Germany was aided by his brother Albrecht and sister Alice. Albrecht made intensive efforts with Hamburg officials to get a foreign travel permit to Shanghai. Alice obtained the necessary foreign exchange from Jewish welfare organizations. Outfitted with a few pieces of used clothing, Max Nelki left Germany on 22 August 1939.

He boarded the SS "Conte Biancamano" in Genoa and reached Shanghai on 12 September 1939. In 1940, Max Nelki, like all emigrants, was denaturalized. He had left Germany at the opportune moment and survived in the ghetto in Shanghai. There, on 14 July 1942, he married again. There is no official registration of the marriage, which ended a short time later. He earned his living by giving English lessons for emigrants. In 1949, Max Nelki returned to Hamburg.

Alice Nelki’s brother Albrecht, who had helped Max Nelki flee Germany, died in 1940 of a stroke while in the Jewish hospital at Johnsalle 68. His brother Conrad, born in 1879 and baptized in 1903, survived National Socialism, as did his brother Carl, born in Hamburg in 1883. It is not known how this was accomplished in the face of such massive persecution.

Five of the 14 siblings of Alice Nelki died in infancy or childhood, one brother died at 18.

Commemorative stones for Elisabeth and Alice Nelki lie in front of the dwelling at Schellingstrasse 12.

Translator: Richard Levy

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: November 2017
© Ingo Wille

Quellen: 1; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; AB; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 1931-2453/1878, 195-52/1937, 934-58/1928, 1070-236/1937, 1954-2338/1879, 1983-4739/1880, 2030-3061/1882, 2088-375/1885, 2435-4121/1897, 2942-245/1907, 3378-111/1920, 5412-415/1938, 6454-73/1907, 7175-30/1935, 8168-220/1940; 8168-2414/1883, 8980-3563/1883, 9010-2041/1886, 9044-61/1889, 9055-1152/1890, 9080-1110/1892, 9099-1768/1894, 9112-2237/1895, 13086-240/1899; 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 1657, 3515, 4199, 6111, 12489, 16157; 522-1 Jüdische Gemeinden 992 e Deportationslisten; Bästlein u. a., "Für Führer, Volk und Vaterland", S. 281ff.; Bettelheim, Erziehung zum Überleben, S. 26; Deutschland-Berichte (Sopade) 1936, S. 1660ff; Discher, Eine stumme Generation berichtet; Englard, Vom Waisenhaus zum Jungfernhof; Grabitz u. a., "Von Gewohnheitsverbrechern, Volksschädlingen und Asozialen ...", S. 105, 111f.; Lohalm, Uwe, Fürsorge und Verfolgung, S. 34f.; Nelki, Erna und Wolfgang, Geschichten aus dem Umbruch der deutschen Geschichte; Nelki, Max, Persönlicher Bericht über seine Haft im Kola-Fu, KZ Dachau, KZ Buchenwald sowie seine Emigrationszeit in Shanghai, 1952, unveröffentlicht; Robinsohn, Justiz als politische Verfolgung, Die Rechtsprechung in "Rassenschandefällen", S. 15, 23; Sielemann, Die Deportation aus Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein am 6. Dezember 1941 in Baltisches Gedenkbuch, S. 599; Bervoets, La liste de Sait-Cyprien, S. 389; Saint-Cyprien (Zugriff am 26.2.2013); Dank an Brigitte Kruse, Monika Martens, Sabine Rapaz, Mirjam Nelki und Greta Heinecke für mündliche und schriftliche Berichte sowie Fotos.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Link "Recherche und Quellen".

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