From Old to New

The main focus of the Database of Jewish-Owned Businesses in Nazi Berlin project focuses on the redesign and enhancement of a current offline version to an international audience in education and research. One important aspect of this focus, aside from rescuing data from an outdated offline platform, is to ensure that the future database should be widely accessible by being hosted online.

As a tool to overcome the parlous state of the files, the database served to collate the scattered information and render it statistically manageable. Its design was based on the premise that all Jewish businesses underwent considerable changes against the backdrop of persecution after 1933. Hence, all kind of changes, not only their names, legal form, address, owners, shareholders, and managers, of more than 50,000 companies were stored in the current state of the database enhanced by informations regarding source materials and research literature. Of these, 8,000 companies were identified as having Jewish owners. In his study, “Final Sale in Berlin. The destruction of Jewish commercial activity 1930-1945” the project coordinator Christoph Kreutzmüller estimates that his team managed to identify 60 percent of all the businesses that were Jewish-owned.

Anticipating the growing public and research interests, the full offline version of the database was made available to many research departments and memorial organisations (e.g. the New Synagogue Berlin—Centrum Judaicum Foundation, the Berlin State Archive, Yad Vashem, the Leo Baeck Institute, New York and the Wiener Library). These offline copies are hardly ever used – and become more and more outdated as information cannot be easily transferred between the database and researchers and institutions interested in sharing their sources and materials. Furthermore, the offline technology is not suitable for disseminating and cross-linking the database contents with any kind of information in the World Wide Web.

Therefore, a small excerpt of the database with reduced information on the companies identified as Jewish was published online at http://www2.hu-berlin.de/djgb/www/find. This website continues to attract intense public attention. When this abridged online database was offline due to software maintenance in early December 2018 – the author of the study received up to three complaints a day. This confirmed the initial anticipation that the data contained within the old, offline database was widely sought after, and that the move to make this data accessible online was of real value and interest to both the research community and to the general public.

The project team will carry out the development of a research tool for source materials and literature for both traditional analogue research and the digital humanities in the area of Jewish history. Based on current technological and archival standards the current offline database solution (Microsoft access database, created in 2006 for a small research team) will be migrated into an accessible network version. The new database will be open for editor teams to inject new materials as well as to enhance and connect these materials with other online databases (sources, literature, encyclopedias etc.) through linked open data technologies.

An important element of the transformation and migration of the database includes the possibility to interlink with other factual references or collection of sources. Therefore, a complete rethink of function and design will be necessary. The idea behind a reorganized database structure with SQL- and NO-SQL-technologies (Not-Only-SQL) is to open the database for any kind of materials. The core structure of the new online database will contain relevant metadata based on SQL-technologies, but by using No-SQL-Technology it will be possible to enhance the database with any new kind of materials regardless of its structure. The planned data-sharing and linking of data (Linked open data) will be supported by the same technical processes and operations like the web-interface on the REST-API, and also for text- and data-mining tools.

The new database will be opened for new editors collecting their materials and will enable the raw data to be enhanced by other relevant materials, such as images or supplementary texts. At the same time, this data will be available to different research and memorial organizations through the new web-interface. It is our plan to invite all the institutions that already have a copy of our Database (Leo Baeck Institute, Berlin State Archive, New Synagogue Berlin—Centrum Judaicum Foundation, Wiener Library and Yad Vashem to add information they have found to our database. Preliminary talks with the Berlin State Archive and the Wiener Library have shown a great interest in the new database.

A new interdisciplinary team will therefore work together to ensure that the research conducted between 2006 and 2011 will not only be saved from the almost total oblivion that would have resulted in being locked in an outdated, offline, inaccessible database, but also that this research can be actively used and expanded. New information will be added and a new presentation of the database contents will attempt to further increase the accessibility and impact of the data. The interlinkage to related projects will not only improve our understanding of this incredibly important topic of disspossession and persecution, but will also actively participate in the development of a global and digital research community – working together to learn and inform.

Stefi Gollop – Artificial Flowers

Letterhead for Stefi Gollop’s artificial flower business dated 25.8.1936, LAB A Rep 342-02, Nr. 35322

‘Stefi Gollop, künstliche Blumen und andere Modeartikel’

We don not know a lot about Stefi Gollop. But what we do know is worth telling:

Stefi Gollop was born on the 25th of November 1911 in Charlottenburg – then a prosperous city near Berlin. Her father Theodor owned a clothing shop at number 2 on the Hausvogteiplatz in Berlin – a hotspot for the fashion industry. The family recognized the potential for danger of the Nazis and send the youngest son, Herbert, to Sweden in 1933. Stefi and her parents remained in Berlin. On the 15th of February 1936, despite resistance from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Stefi managed to open her own shop, selling artificial flowers and other fashion items, at Motzstr. 81. The shop soon moved location to Krausenstr. 15, less than a ten minute walk away from her father’s store.

However, Theodor Gollop was forced to give up his textile company he had set up in 1919 in 1937 and went to work for his daughter. Despite the increasingly harsh conditions imposed on Jewish businesses, Stefi’s business did well initially, making 18,500 Reichsmarks in the first three months of 1937. The business would survive until 1939 when, as a direct result of the Nazi anti-Semitic measures after the pogroms, Stefi’s business ground to a halt. Later that year, by the time of the popular census on the 17th of May, the family had moved to Grolmannstr. 51. On November 17 1941 the Gollop family were deported to the Kaunas ghetto in German occupied Lithuania along with more then 1003 other Jews from Berlin. Everybody was murdered three days after their arrival on November 25, 1941. The date of her death was Stefi’s 30th birthday.

Bethan Griffiths

Max Kann – Shoes

Photograph of Martin, Martha and Marion Kann near Alexanderplatz, undated – photograph in private ownership

BHR – A 18623 / A 92023

The ‘Max Kann’ shoe shop, founded by Max Kann in 1874, was located at Neue Friedrich Street 48 (today’s Anna-Louise-Karsch Street), Berlin. It was well situated in the heart of town and was close to both the Hackescher Market and the stock exchange.  In 1903, following nearly 30 years of successful business, the company was entered into the new founded commercial register. 

When Max Kann died twenty years later, on the 19th of September 1923, his wife, Ernestine Kann, née Brinitzer, became the sole heir. Soon after, their son Martin took over the business. The Berlin Commercial Register of 1930 names Martin Kann as the only owner of the company, a state of affairs that would officially remain until the 27th of March 1945, despite Martin Kann’s death years earlier in 1942!

Martin Kann died at the age of 54 on the 16th of October 1942. According to a distant relative the cause of death was “heart failure due to the Holocaust.” He had become blind and his health had deteriorated significantly after the Nazi seizure of power – constant threats and pressure. Martin Kann’s wife Martha, and daughter Marion, were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau one month later on 29th of November 1942. 

According to a file at the Brandenburg State Archive, both Martha and Marion Kann’s assets, which they had been forced to declare before their deportation, were seized by the state in an ordinance (Verfügung) dated 27th of November 1942. On the 14th of January 1943 the Dresdner Bank emptied Max and Martha Kann’s “special account” (Sonder-Konto “W”) containing 912.81 RM to the Oberfinanzpräsidenten (Chief Finance President) of Brandenburg. However, the state was told by the Dresdner Bank on the 20th of August 1943 that the transferal of the sum of 955 RM belonging to the ‘Max Kann’ company could only approved upon the Oberfinanzpräsident’s proof that Martha Kann had been the sole heir to the company’s assets. This confirmation was provided in a handwritten letter on the 10th of September 1943, stating that Marion was the next heir after her mother, Martha, but as they were deported (“abgeschoben“) at the same time there were no other inheritors. Shortly afterwards, on the 15th of October 1943, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Berlin began the proceedings to delete the ‘Max Kann’ company from the commercial register due to its ‘cessation of operation’. This was no easy task, as official bureaucratic procedure was complicated by the fact that Martha’s deportation had made any correspondence regarding the liquidation impossible. The district court and police spent seven months attempting to confirm the whereabouts of the owner of the business. A letter from the captain of the police (Schutzpolizei) dated 3rd of May 1944 that “Jew Martin Kann” had died in 1942, and that the heirs to the company been “transported to the East.” With this confirmation in writing the path was clear to delete the business. A letter dated 9th of August 1944 declared that the ‘Max Kann’ company should be removed from the commercial register. This occurred on the 27th of March 1945, as the Red Army was nearing the capital, making it one of the very last Jewish businesses to be liquidated in Nazi Germany.

Their eldest daughter, Ellen, had already left Berlin with her husband, Manfred Issermann, fleeing first to England and then to the USA. She remained there until her death in 2013, aged 94. Her kin gave us the photograph we show here. We woulkd like to thank them for the trust they put in us!

Sophie Eckenstaler and Bethan Griffiths

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