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Hedwig Klein * 1911
Parkallee 26 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
DR. HEDWIG KLEIN
Gretchen Meyer, née Hellmann, born on 11 Mar. 1850 in Ebelsbach, Bavaria, deported to Theresienstadt on 23 June 1943, died there on 9 Nov. 1943
Recha Klein, née Meyer, born on 6 Sept. 1880 in Hamburg, deported to Theresienstadt on 15 July 1942, further deported to Auschwitz on 15 May 1944
Therese Klein, born on 19 Jan. 1910 in Antwerp, Belgium, deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941
Hedwig Klein, born on 12 Sept. 1911 in Antwerp, Belgium, deported to Auschwitz on 11 July 1942
Gretchen Meyer, née Hellmann, first witnessed the deportation of her granddaughter Therese Klein, then her second granddaughter Hedwig Klein, then that of her daughter Recha Klein, a few days later that of her daughter-in-law Hanna Meyer with her husband Nathan Offenburg, and that of her youngest son Emanuel Meyer with his wife Bele from Berlin. She herself was 93 years old when she was taken to Theresienstadt on a transport on 23 June 1943.
Gretchen’s Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) file card of the Jewish Community did indeed use "deported” and not – as was the case with her relatives and usual terminology in general – the euphemistic term "emigration.” In the Theresienstadt Ghetto, where arbitrariness, oppressive confinement, and malnutrition prevailed, and hardly any medical care was possible, Gretchen Meyer already died a few months later, on 4 Nov. 1943.
Gretchen Hellmann was born on 11 Mar. 1850 in Ebelsbach, Bavaria. A small Jewish Community had existed there since the sixteenth/seventeenth century; according to the 1817 census, some of her ancestors had been engaged in livestock trading there. We know nothing about Gretchen Hellmann’s childhood, school days, and possible training.
Around 1870, she married the merchant Meyer Israel Meyer in Mainz. The family moved to Hamburg and on 2 Apr. 1874, son Israel was born. In this city, the children Nathan (born in 1875?), Benjamin (born on 15 June 1876), Baruch (born on 21 June 1877), Emanuel (born on 21 Sept. 1878), and Recha (born on 6 Sept. 1880) were born. At first, the family lived at Alter Steinweg 49, then at Wexstrasse 14.
M. I. Meyer was quite successful in his profession. In the Hamburg directory for the year 1880, he was listed as a partner in the Haarburger & Meyer Company. In 1913, with the family having moved meanwhile to Heinrich-Barth-Strasse 11, Meyer and Gretchen bought the house Parkallee 26 and subsequently resided there on the ground floor.
In 1883, he took over the role of a "guardian’s assistant” for Helene Flörsheim (see www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de), who, due to the death of her husband Carl, had to look after two minor children on her own.
On 29 Aug. 1914, Gretchen’s husband Meyer I. Meyer died of liver cancer. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Langenfelde.
After the Nazis came to power in 1933, numerous anti-Jewish laws and ordinances were passed, increasingly restricting or suspending their rights. Due to the "Law on Tenancies with Jews” ("Gesetz über die Mietverhältnisse mit Juden”) dated 30 Apr. 1939, which abolished statutory tenant protection, Gretchen Meyer had to move to a so-called "Jews’ house” (Judenhaus) at Beneckestrasse 6 before her deportation.
In Hamburg, Gretchen Meyer’s daughter Recha had met the export merchant Abraham Wolf Klein (born on 10 Jan. 1876), also Jewish, from Satoraljaujhely in northeastern Hungary and married him in 1909. His main residence was in Antwerp, where the young couple moved. There the two daughters were born, Therese on 19 Jan. 1910 and Hedwig on 12 Sept. 1911.
The Klein family left Belgium. In Oct. 1914, during World War I, Antwerp was overrun by German troops. Abraham Klein was drafted in Hamburg and during the fighting on the eastern front, he was reported missing in June 1916. He did not return to his family and he was officially declared dead.
The widowed Recha moved with her two children to live her mother at Parkallee 26 in Hamburg. Like all Jews, she was affected by the anti-Jewish measures: From 2 Dec. 1938 onward, she had to assume the additional first name of "Sara” and from Sept. 1941, she was compelled to wear a "Jews’ star” ("Judenstern”). On 15 July 1942, she was taken from Dillstrasse 15, a so-called "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”), where she had been forced to move according to Nazi regulations, to the Hannoversche Bahnhof train station and deported to Theresienstadt together with 925 Hamburg residents. Despite the inhumane conditions there, she survived for almost two years, but then had to board another transport from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz on 15 May 1944, where she was probably gassed immediately after arrival.
Therese Klein, the oldest daughter of Recha Klein, went to school in Hamburg and learned the trade of shorthand typist after her graduation. However, in the years 1934/35, she earned so little that she did not even have to pay taxes to the Jewish Community. From 1 Mar. 1936 onward, that income was stated in a note in the Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) card file at 15 RM (reichsmark) per week, which meant she continued to be exempt from taxes.
She, too, was affected by the permanently tightening restrictions on the Jewish population. She was the first member of the family to receive a deportation order and was deported from Hamburg on 6 Dec. 1941 together with 775 other persons to Riga, where the Hamburg residents were quartered in the Jungfernhof. This was a former farming estate with a manor house, barns, small barracks, and cattle sheds. The buildings, mostly dilapidated, had no heating. Many deportees died of hunger, cold, and untreated diseases in the first winter. This is probably what happened to Therese Klein, who was just 33 years old.
The second daughter of Recha, Hedwig Klein, attended the Orthodox Israelite secondary school for girls on Bieberstrasse in Hamburg, where she obtained her high school graduation diploma (Abitur). She decided to take Islamic Studies, Semitic Studies, and English Philology, completing her dissertation in 1937, which dealt with a historical topic on the history of Oman. She passed the prescribed oral examination with the grade of "excellent.” Although she had already received permission to print the dissertation, the certificate was not handed over to her in 1938 due to the intervention of the dean of the "Hansische Universität” with reference to the Nazi decrees. She realized that she would not find employment in Germany and asked Rudolph Strothmann, one of her doctoral supervisors, in London in Mar. 1938, for advice. He recommended that she go to the Netherlands. She learned, however, that officially only people who had relatives there and could present a job offer could find refuge. Starting in Nov. 1938, she tried in vain to obtain a visa for Great Britain.
In July 1939, she received a visa for India and the promise to be able to continue her Arabic studies work there. In Aug. 1939, she had already boarded a ship there, but in September, immediately before the war began, it was ordered back to Germany, like all German ships. With this, her emigration had failed. On 23 Oct. 1941, emigration was completely forbidden for Jews.
On the one hand, the Nazis had largely prevented the work of Jewish Hedwig Klein in research and teaching, but on the other hand, they were interested in publishing Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Arabic and needed experts for this undertaking. On recommendation, the German Arabic studies scholar Hans Wehr therefore requested Hedwig Klein in 1941 for "collaboration important to the war effort” on a German-Arabic dictionary. The German Foreign Office agreed to the request and made funding possible, which provisionally exempted Hedwig Klein from the first deportations from Hamburg, which began on 25 Oct. 1941. However, apart from this, she was subject to all anti-Jewish laws and regulations and had to move from Parkallee 26 to a so-called "Jews’ house” at Kielortallee 13.
On 6 Dec. 1941, her sister Therese received a deportation order. Hedwig and her relatives were not yet affected. However, on 11 July 1942, she too received the summons. She had to bid farewell to her mother and her 92-year-old grandmother, abandon her scientific work, and she was deported from Hamburg to Auschwitz on the only direct transport. There Hedwig Klein was probably murdered immediately after her arrival.
In 1947, she was awarded a posthumous doctorate (still in the status of a missing person) based on the printed copies of her dissertation.
In 1951, she was officially declared dead, with the date of death set at the end of 1945.
Gretchen Meyer’s son, Benjamin Meyer, married Hanna Levy, eight years his junior, on 11 Feb. 1910. The couple lived at Heinrich-Barth-Strasse 11 and had seven children together, all of whom were later able to emigrate. Benjamin worked as a broker at the Hamburg stock exchange from at least 1914 until the end of June 1938. In 1961, the board of directors of the Hanseatische Wertpapierbörse (Hanseatic Stock Exchange) certified to the lawyers of Gretchen Meyer’s heirs: "Mr. Benjamin Meyer was a highly respectable and reputable man. He worked as a broker in the foreign pension market, which offered little opportunity to earn money. Mr. Meyer was already dependent on the support by his relatives before 1933.” He did not have to pay any taxes in 1930 and promised to pay the Chamber of Commerce contribution, reduced to 10 RM, in installments for 1932. Based on the ordinance of the Reich Minister of Economics dated 20 June 1938, the Jewish company was no longer licensed by that time.
Benjamin and Hanna were forced to move to Dillstrasse 15, the "Jews’ house,” where his sister Recha Klein had to live as well. Benjamin died in the Jewish Hospital on 17 Aug. 1939. Sometime later, his widow Hanna married Nathan Hirsch Offenburg, who was born on 8 June 1866 in Copenhagen, and moved to live with him at Rappstrasse 13. On 19 July 1942, both were deported to Theresienstadt. Nathan Offenburg died there on 11 May 1943; Hanna was deported further to Auschwitz on 9 Oct. 1944 and officially declared dead as of 8 May 1945.
Gretchen Meyer, Recha Klein, Therese Klein, and Hedwig Klein have been commemorated by Stolpersteine at Parkallee 26.
For Dr. Hedwig Klein, a Stolperstein is also located in front of the main building of the University of Hamburg.
Stolpersteine at Rappstrasse 13 commemorate Hanna and Nathan Offenburg.
Emanuel Meyer (born on 21 Sept. 1878) and Bele Meyer (born on 12 Jan. 1878) were deported from Berlin to Auschwitz on 29 Jan. 1943.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: July 2020
© Susan Johannsen
Quellen: StaH: 351-11_51997 (Gretchen Meyer); 351-11_3015 (Benjamin Meyer); 351-11_2590 (Henriette Meyer); Akte 232-1_SerieIII2341 (Carl Flörsheim); historische Adressbücher; StaH 522-1, 992b, Kultussteuerkartei; Gedenkbuch des Bundesarchivs; Hamburger Gedenkbuch; Deportationslisten Hamburg und Berlin: http://www.statistik-des-holocaust.de/; www.alemannia-judaica.de/ebelsbach_synagoge.htm; wikipedia: Hans Wehr, ungar.Chassiden; Emilie Said-Ruete: An Arabian Princess between two worlds; https://esf.uni-osnabrück.de/index.php/module-styles/k/282-klein-hedwig; http://recherchenundarchiv.com/recherchen; J. Walk: Das Sonderrecht für die Juden im NS-Staat, Heidelberg 1981; www.ancestry.com.