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Frieda Silberstein (née Mehlhausen) * 1888
Paulinenstraße 16 (Hamburg-Mitte, St. Pauli)
Frieda Silberstein, née Mehlhausen, born on 1 Dec. 1888 in Hamburg, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Leo Silberstein, born on 9 Mar. 1878 in Berlin, detained in June 1938 in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, until Jan. 1939 in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, deported on 8 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
Frieda Mehlhausen had six or seven siblings and half-siblings. She was the second oldest daughter of Hertha Mehlhausen. Between Jan. 1931 and Apr. 1933, she lived on Reeperbahn with her sister Rosa Quast and her husband, Johann Hinrich. In Oct. 1932, her husband Leo joined them. The merchant Leo Silberstein had moved to Hamburg from Berlin in 1931. Leo’s mother Marianne lived in Berlin-Charlottenburg, his sister Hedwig resided with her mother. In May 1933, the Silberstein couple moved into an apartment of their own on Paulinenstrasse.
Frieda was an office worker and an actress. She worked as a sales assistant for her brother-in-law Johann from Jan. until July 1931, subsequently at the "Kaffee Rheinterrassen” as a receipt clerk. Initially, Leo was also employed by [Johann] Quast – as a warehouse keeper from Apr. 1931 until May 1932. From Nov. 1932 onward, he also worked at the "Kaffee Rheinterrassen,” as a general manager and "Billardmarquer” (probably he kept the billiard players’ scores). The simultaneous dismissal of the spouses at the end of Mar. 1933 took place – according to a note of the welfare authority – because they were of Jewish descent. In Apr. 1933, Frieda applied for the first time in her life for assistance from the welfare authority. Her husband, who also filed an application, had already received unemployment benefits once in Berlin in July 1929.
In the course of the following years, each of the spouses was granted the maximum rate of emergency assistance. However, this did not suffice to cover the running costs. The married couple had to pawn valuables in order to pay the rent and buy coal.
In connection with the "operation ‘work-shy Reich’” ("Aktion Arbeitsscheu-Reich”), June 1938 saw the arrest in Hamburg of about 700 men – including approx. 200 Jews, who had been convicted of petty offenses sometime in the past – by the criminal investigation department and their transport to concentration camps. Leo Silberstein ranked among those arrested. On 18 June, he was taken into "protective custody” ("Schutzhaft”) in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp – designated as Fuhlsbüttel police prison at the time – and then handed over to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he remained in detention until Jan. 1939.
After his release, he no longer dared to apply for assistance, despite renewed unemployment. This is documented by the minutes of a female employee of the "Sonderdienststelle B” ("Special Section B”) for Jews. The Sonderdienststelle was set up by the Hamburg Social Administration in Feb. 1939, because the anti-Jewish legislation gave cause to expect a rise in the number of Jewish poor, who were meant to be processed separate from the "Aryan” beneficiaries.
The official in charge of the case was familiar with the Silbersteins’ financial circumstances and wrote after the home visit on 8 June 1939, "Today only the wife was encountered at home, as the husband had gone to the foreign currency office, since the couple wishes to or, respectively, has to emigrate on 13 July 1939. Her husband is to leave Germany as of 1 July 1939; their ship, which they intend to use for sailing from Genoa to Shanghai, puts to sea on 13 July. It is now only a question of them receiving the money in Italian currency for their visa. After the husband had been in a concentration camp for seven months (until the spring), he did not report to the AA [Arbeitsamt, i.e., employment office] anymore since he was afraid of being taken to a camp again. Thus, these people have lived only on Alu [Arbeitslosenunterstützung, i.e., unemployment benefits] and on Kru [Krankenunterstützung, i.e., sickness benefits] as well as from subtenant revenues […] Approval of Alu must continue.”
The Hamburg Employment Office immediately reacted to the caseworker’s report, favoring continued support, by sending a letter to the Social Administration: "With reference to the decree dated 1 Mar. 1939 and the ordinance dated 19 Nov. 1938 concerning support for Jews, I request a re-examination of neediness.”
Shortly afterward, the tone and attitude of the "Sonderdienststelle B” also changed markedly. In Oct. 1939, an official dealing with the case wrote, "S. himself is to blame for his unfavorable economic situation. After his release from the concentration camp, he neither looked for a job from the employment office nor asserted his claim to unemployment assistance. He may report to the employment office now and file an application for unemployment benefits. If he is willing to work, he will either get work or unemployment benefits.”
Meanwhile – in Apr. 1939 – Leo had submitted a questionnaire to the currency office of the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) for the planned emigration, stating that he expected "to get the funds toward emigration from the Relief Organization of Jews (Hilfsverein der Juden).” On 2 May 1939, the foreign currency office sent the Silbersteins a tax clearance certificate (Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung). Thus, one of the hurdles standing in the way of the planned emigration was overcome. Nevertheless, the Silbersteins did not leave the country. What prevented them is not known. Frieda and Leo resided at Paulinenstrasse 16 until the fall of 1941. For an extended period – from Apr. 1940 until Oct. 1941 – Frieda’s mother Hertha lived with them.
The Silbersteins had to report to the assembly camp, located at the Masonic Lodge on Moorweidenstrasse, to be transported to Minsk on the first deportation train. It departed from the Hannoversche Bahnhof train station and arrived in the ghetto on 11 Nov. 1941, after a three-day journey. With the two transports in Nov. 1941 from Hamburg, about 2,000 people came to Minsk. By the time the ghetto was dismantled in Sept. 1943, almost all of the deportees from Hamburg had perished. Those who did not succumb to the inhumane living conditions were murdered during one of the two massacres that the Nazis committed on 8 May and 14 Sept. 1943. Frieda and Leo Silberstein did not survive the ghetto.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: January 2019
© Christiane Jungblut
Quellen: 1; 2; 4; 5; 8; AB 1938, T. 1; StaH 314-15 OFP, Abl. 1998/1, S 832; StaH 314-15 OFP, FVg 5804; StaH 332-8 Meldewesen A51/1, K 2514; StaH 351-11 AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 011289 Silberstein, Frieda; StaH 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden, 992 e 1 Band 2; 1995; Bajohr, "Arisierung", 1997, S. 267; Gottwaldt / Schulle, "Judendeportationen", 2005, S. 91; Gruner, Öffentliche Wohlfahrt, 2002, S. 172; Meyer (Hrsg.), Verfolgung, 2007, S. 175.
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(2) Bundesarchiv Berlin, R 1509 Reichssippenamt, Ergänzungskarten der Volkszählung vom 17. Mai 1939