From Database to exhibition into the Berlin History App

In 2008 the as yet unfinished database served as a starting point for an exhibition presented in the foyer of the Humboldt University. Made in cooperation with the Aktive Museum Faschismus und Widerstand, Berlin, “Final Sale. The End of Jewish owned businesses in Nazi Berlin” presented the fate 16 all but forgotten enterprises. As the participants of the working group – members of the research team as well as volunteers of the Aktive Museum – all could choose “their” business freely, the scope of businesses was wide; an art school was presented next to garlic product specialist and a Turkish carpet trader. By way of example not only the stages and processes by which Jewish business people had their rights withdrawn and livelihoods destroyed but also the counter-strategies they developed in response were shown.

Foyer of the Humboldt University, Photo by C. Kreutzmüller, 2008

The exhibition was a real success. After the presentation in the Humboldt University, it a was shown in the State Archive (2010) and Chamber of Commerce of Berlin (2013). When presenting the exhibition, both the district museum of Steglitz and of Pankow added more local businesses.

Leo Baeck Insitute, New York, Photo by B. Kubanek, 2010

In 2010 the exhibition was translated and subsequently shown in the Leo Baeck Institut in New York (2010); the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (2012) and in Boston University (2014)

In due time all these businesses were added to the Active Museum’s layer in the Berlin History App. Thus, today, any flaneur or tourist, who has this app installed on his mobile, can stumble across the fate of the Jewish owned businesses and find out more about their fate.

Christoph Kreutzmüller & Marion Neumann

The Sevilla Dance Palace – Arthur Lefebre

Logo of The Sevilla Dance Palace

At Christmas time in 1927 the “most elegant amusement establishment of the South” opened its doors at Oranienstraße 68, near the Moritzplatz. Arthur Lefebre, born in 1899, was the owner of the Sevilla, while his father, Wilhelm, owned the building.[1] Initially, the dance hall was booming, with up to 400 guests at a time being catered for by bar staff and cooks and being entertained by the house band. As a result of the economic crisis, however, revenue began to sink. What’s more, the business was attacked by brown-shirted Nazi “Storm Troopers” (SA).

In April 1932, Lefebre felt forced, for the time being, to shelve the business. He hoped that “the excesses of the SA and the discrimination of the Nazi regime would prove to be temporary.”[2] When the situation did not improve, Lefebre initially leased out the dance palace and then, in October 1935, tried to continue the business as a purely Jewish amusement venue – hiring 22 Jewish employees. Lefebre approached the Police President for permission to offer “public dances for Jewish guests only.”[3] Despite the worsening conditions, Lefebre managed to continue this way until the November Pogrom. After being forced to adopt a “Jewish-sounding” name, Lefebre was then forced to liquidate the business in February of 1939.

Lefebre was not able to flee Germany. At the beginning of March 1943, he was rounded up as part of the so-called “Factory Action” and deported to Auschwitz where he was murdered.


(Christoph Kreutzmüller)


[1] Berliner Adressbuch, 1929, part IV, p. 745.

[2]  Letter from Klaus Kuntzmann to the regional court of Berlin, 2nd of September 1959, Compensation Authority of Berlin, 15757 Arthur Lefebre.

[3] Letter from Arthur Lefebre to the Police President, 22nd of February 1936, Compensation Authority of Berlin, 15757 Arthur Lefebre.

Odenheimer & Fink Wine Wholesaler and Distillery

The Odenheimer & Fink Wine Wholesaler and Distillery was entered into the Berlin commercial register in 1921 and could be found in the Schöneberg district of Berlin, at Eisenacherstraße 103. Initially, the company had been called the Fränkische Weinkellerei B. & D. Silbermann but the name was changed on the 19th of October 1922 once Siegfried Fink and Hugo Odenheimer had taken over the business.[1] Despite the company keeping this name up until its liquidation in 1938, Siegfried Fink would become the sole proprietor of the business on the 26th of August 1924.[2] Fink likely lived nearby at Mühlenstraße 8, with his wife Selma, née Süsskind.[3]

Berliner Adressbuch 1933, Part I, p. 1933.

In March 1938, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry was asked by the District Court to confirm that Odenheimer & Fink was still a registered trader and that the details of the business were up to date. The reply came on the 10th of May 1938 that the business had actually been a small trade enterprise for many years (most likely due to ever harsher anti-Semitic measures) and an application for the business to be struck from the commercial register was made. This termination would occur on the 8th of August 1938. By 1939, the couple was living in Reppichstraße 22.[4]

Tragically, on the 25th of October 1941, both Siegfried and Selma took their own lives. Considering the first deportations of Jews from Berlin began a few days before, on the 18th of October, it is likely that this decision was influenced by a sense of fear and desperation directly caused by Nazi antisemitism. It is known that two neighbours from the same house, Charlotte and Paula Rogozinski, would be deported to Riga on the 31st of August 1942 and murdered on the 8th of September.[5] By taking their own lives Siegfried and Selma used the only means at their disposal to prevent their lives from being taken from them. For this reason, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre Yad Vashem quite rightly classifies their deaths as murder.[6]

Bethan Griffiths


[1] Erste Zentral-Handelsregister-Beilage zum Deutschen Reichsanzeiger und Preußischen Staatsanzeiger, Nr. 246, 31st of October 1922, p. 1.

[2] Erste Zentral-Handelsregister-Beilage zum Deutschen Reichsanzeiger und Preußischen Staatsanzeiger, Nr. 209, 4th of September 1924, p. 1.

[3] Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin, Jüdisches Adressbuch für Groß-Berlin Ausgabe 1931/1932, p. 94, URL: https://digital.zlb.de/viewer/image/34039536_1931_1932/212/ [Accessed: 15.5.2022].

[4] Tracing the Past e.V (Ed.), Mapping the Lives, “Selma Fink, geb. Süsskind”, URL: https://www.mappingthelives.org/bio/4b1639c5-5c5e-4f75-a313-61aa347d3773 [Accessed: 15.5.2022].

[5] Tracing the Past e.V. (Ed.), Mapping the Lives, “Paula and Charlotte Rogozinski” (date given here: 5.9.1942); Statistik-des-Holocaust.de notes that although the date 5th of September 1942 is often cited this is, in fact, the date given on the letter from the Berlin Police to the Chief Finance President of Berlin Brandenburg. The actual date of the 19th “Osttransport” was in fact 31st of August 1942: statistic-des-holocaust.de, Statistik und Deportation der jüdischen Bevölkerung aus dem Deutschen Reich, “19. Osttransport”, URL: https://www.statistik-des-holocaust.de/list_ger_ber_ot19.html [Accessed: 15.5.2022].

[6] World Holocaust Remembrance Centre Yad Vashem (Ed.), The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, “Siegfried Fink”, https://yvng.yadvashem.org/index.html?language=en&s_lastName=fink&s_firstName=siegfried&s_place=&s_dateOfBirth=&cluster=true [Accessed: 15.5.2022).

Exiner & Ehrenfried – Ladies’ Clothing

The Exiner & Ehrenfried ladies’ clothing company was established on the 1st of October 1905 and was named after the company’s owners, Hugo Exiner and Leo Ehrenfried. By 1926, the clothing store could be found on the Hausvogteiplatz, known as a hot spot for the fashion industry. It would move just before Hitler was named chancellor, but only a few minutes away, to the corner of Kronenstraße/Charlottenstraße.

Letterhead for Exiner & Ehrenfried, 26th of October 1935, LArch: A Rep. 342-02, Nr. 40350

It is highly unlikely that the Jewish-owned business would be able to go unscathed during the anti-Semitic blockade which took place two months after Hitler became the German chancellor. This blockade on the 1st of April 1933 would be one of the first of many policies introduced to force Jews out of business and out of German society as a whole. Soon after the company was transformed into an open trading company in January 1938, Ehrenfried would leave the partnership on the 4th of April and Exiner continued to manage the company alone.

A letter dated 13th of January 1940 from the district court informed Hugo Exiner that his partner’s exit from the company would warrant an audit, the result of which arrived on the 15th of August the same year, declaring that the business had ceased operation since January 1939.[1] The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, therefore, decided to remove the company from the commercial register. On the 5th of December 1940, the company was liquidated. In the meantime, the district court had been attempting to find Exiner’s current address and was informed in September 1940 that he was registered at Sächsischestraße 72.

Although their son, Herbert, was able to flee to Haifa and their daughter Gerda was able to escape the country and go to London (thanks to the help of a close relative working at the Palestine and Orient Lloyd GmbH travel company), Hugo and his wife Erna were unable to leave the country in time.[2] A total of 44 people, Hugo and Erna among them, were deported from this address, making it likely that this final address was a “Judenwohnung” – a forced accommodation closely connected to the Nazi plans to permanently remove the Jewish population from Germany.[3]  They were both deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on the 26th of February 1943 where they were murdered. There is a “Stolperstein” (stumbling stone) to them at their former non-forced apartment in Jenaerstraße 18.

Bethan Griffiths


[1] Letter from Chamber of Commerce and Industry to the district court, 15th of August 1940, LArch, A Rep. 342/02, Nr. 40350.

[2] Rosemarie Jacobsohn, “Erna Exiner (born Wolff)”, in: Stolpersteine in Berlin, URL: https://www.stolpersteine-berlin.de/en/biografie/8152 [Accessed: 15.5.2022].

[3] Transportliste v. Hugo und Erna Exiner, 1.2.1.1 / Doc ID, ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives.


 [FJ1]This reference is missing in German version

Oscar Winter – Departement Store

Oscar Winter’s textile department store was entered into the commercial register in 1927 after Winter bought an already established company, E. David & Co., to save it from bankruptcy. After a little trouble with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s initial resistance to Winter’s use of the label “Kaufhaus” (department store), the Oscar Winter Kaufhaus was established. This store “sold everything that was sold in such general textile stores, namely, ready-to-wear ladies’ clothing, underwear, gentlemen’s items, clothing material, linen, haberdashery, woollens and all similar goods.”[1] The company was initially located in the Friedrichshain district of Berlin, at Grünbergerstraße 11, but would later move down the road to number 71.[2]

Signature of Oscar Winter, 25th of July 1925, Landesarchiv Berlin, A Rep. 342-02, 43644

Despite Oscar Winter’s hopes of expanding the company, the business began to struggle after Hitler was named chancellor and anti-Semitic policies were brought into place as a consequence. Winter was eventually forced to change his name to Oscar “Israel” Winter, due to the Nazi anti-Semitic law introduced in August 1938, and then sell his business to Siegfried Tembrock in December 1938. By the time of the popular census in May 1939, Oscar was living in the building next to his former business, at Gabriel-Max-Straße 6, before managing to emigrate to Santiago.[3] The company was liquidated on the 9th of January 1939.

After his death, Winter’s family would claim compensation for the damages done by the Nazi regime, including the forced sale of the business.

(Bethan Griffiths)


[1] Letter from Dr. jur. Leonard Holz to the district court, 25th of July 1927, LArch: A Rep. 342-02; Nr. 43644, p. 8, [tranl. BG].

[2] Letter from Chamber of Commerce and Industry to the district court, 19th of October 1938, LArch: A Rep. 342-02; Nr. 43644, p. 25.

[3] Tracing the Past e.V. (Ed.), Mapping the Lives, “Oscar Winter”, URL: https://www.mappingthelives.org/bio/9e4d3bba-b840-4790-a0db-3d6ad4c05492 [Accessed: 15.5.2022]; Landesarchiv Berlin, database for the Berlin Restitution Offices (WGA), 64 WGA 233-235/57 and 64 WGA 1034/60.

Arthur Wasservogel – Soap

Unknown Photographer, ca. 1916, private collection

 

At the beginning there is a old photo: It shows the 36th branch of Arthur Wasservogel’s soap shop – at Wörther Straße 35 in Prenzlauer Berg. [1] Sent as a war postcard on 22 March 1916, it was later pasted into a family album. The sender of the card was Karoline Fietz, who presumably worked as a saleswoman in the shop pictured. To her left, her daughter Helene. The recipient Franz Fietz died a little later at the Western Front. Helene later married a Nazi. The family was bombed out twice and even lived in the flat of a deported Jewish family, but managed to save the album.

The soap shop emerged from a soap factory that Arthur Wasservogel had built up at Schönhauser Allee 3. In 1908 he converted the business into the relatively newly introduced legal form of a limited liability company.[2]  This GmbH was located at Waldstr. 23/24 in Moabit, expanded rapidly and opened numerous branches. In the 1916 address book, it advertised that it had “about 120 branches” in Berlin and its own mail order department.[3]  In the course of the 1920s, Arthur Wasservogel withdrew from the operational business. Margarete and Julius Hirschfeld as well as Margarete Simonis and Max Brat took over the management.

At least the branch in Spandau was also blocked by SA on 1 April 1933. [4] Certainly other branches were also victims of blockades and assaults. In August 1937, the Stürmer report the “truth about the Wasservogel company” in the column Berliner Brief (Letter from Berlin). The ghastly Antisemitic weekly claimed that the founder of the company was falsely stated to be non-Jewish and that the new owners were now hiding behind his good name.[5]  Even though this was not true at all, it increased the pressure on the company. In December 1937, the Stürmer announced that the “Wasservogel company is becoming German”.[6]  On 31 December 1937, the current business was transferred to Heimchen KG Spielhagen und Benmann and the company was deleted from the commercial register.

The founder of the company was already deported from Vienna to Opole in the so-called Generalgouvernement on 15 February 1941 together with a total of 2,003 men, women and children. Of the Viennese Jews from the February 1941 trains, 28 survived the Holocaust. Alas, Arthur Wasservogel was not among them. [7]

 

Benjamin Hahn & Christoph Kreutzmüller

[1] Berliner Adressbuch, 1916

[2] Handelsregister, Berliner Börsen Zeitung, 7.11.1908.

[3] Berliner Adressbuch, 1916

[4] “Boykottliste”, Heimatmuseum Falkensee, 15/15.

[5] Berliner Brief, Der Stürmer 32/1937 (August 1937).

[6] Berliner Brief, Der Stürmer 50/1937 (Dezember 1937).

[7] Dokumentationsarchiv Österreichischer Widerstand, Eintrag Arthur Wasservogel

Jacob Gesang / C. Boas Nachfolger Publishing House

Jacob Gesang (1887–1960) was the owner of a bookstore and publishing house which had been founded in 1863 and entered into the commercial register in 1911. As his wife Erna (1893-1977), Gesang was not Berlin-born. He originated from Kalisz, a city that had an old and flourishing Jewish minority. It is possible that his family was expelled by the Russian authorities as German Jews. Whatever the case, Gesang came to Berlin at the turn of the century.

“Die Weltanschauung des Judentums” (“The Jewish Worldview”) by Ludwig Pick

Jacob Gesang’s bookshop was located in the old city centre at Neue Friedrich-straße 69, a street which was parallel to the urban railway viaduct that ran between Museumsinsel (Museum Island) and the Waisenbrücke (Waisen Bridge). The business, near the old Synagogue in Heiderreutergasse and facing the central market hall, shared the building with Carl Engel’s Knabenkleidungshandlung (boys’ clothing store), also listed in our database.

In the catalogue of the German National Library, there are eight entries for books printed by Gesang’s publishing house C. Boas Nachf. The titles of these works were exclusively aimed at Jewish readers, such as Ludwig Pick’s “Die Weltanschauung des Judentums” (“The Jewish Worldview”). The last book in the index was Frieda Mehle’s “Unser Lichtefest” (“Our Festival of Light”) which appeared in 1930. Evidently, Gesang’s Jewish identity was an important element of his professional life.

Address Book of German Booksellers 1935 (97th ed.), in: Memorial and Educational Site of the House of the Wannsee-Conference, Berlin

Even before the time when it was compulsory for Jewish businesses to declare themselves as such, an unknown bookseller neatly marked those merchants known by them to be Jewish with a red “J” – and Gesang’s bookshop was among them. Shortly after this hasty branding, most of these Jewish book traders were excluded from the Reich’s chamber for literature (Reichsschrifttumskammer) and were, therefore, de facto banned from their profession. Only in exceptional cases, and only for businesses operating under an explicitly Jewish company name, could a handful of publishing houses and booksellers continue their trade for a while longer.[1] Gesang’s book shop was included in this group. At the beginning of December 1936, the periodical Jüdische Rundschau wrote that the business would be celebrating its 25th anniversary.[2]

On the 30th of May 1938, the bookshop was deleted from the commercial register. However, Jacob Gesang continued business on a small scale until November 1938, when his shop was vandalized in the pogrom. A short time later Gesang was ordered to hand in what remained of his store’s collection to the Jüdischen Kulturbund. Sixteen books that were sold by Gesang can be found among the records of the Looted Cultural Assets” database.

Foreigners’ Residence Certificate, 6th of December 1943, in: Entschädigungsbehörde Berlin 56702

A short while later, Mr and Mrs Gesang fled the country to one of the last open safe havens – Shanghai, a city that would become a place of refuge for around 15,000 European Jews. Initially Erna and Jacob Gesang ran a Jewish bookshop at Nr. 50–26 Ward Road[3] and took an active part in the Jewish community.[4] Of the eight years Erna and Jacob Gesang lived in Shanghai, they were forced to spend at least two in the Ghetto controlled by Japanese forces.

After the end of the Second World War, and once news of the scale of the Holocaust reached Shanghai, the couple decided not to return to Germany. Instead, they emigrated to Australia. Jacob and Erna Gesang arrived in Sidney on the 31st of January 1947; their finances were so limited at the time that the United Jewish Overseas Relief Fund had to advance the money for the ship journey from Shanghai to Sidney, as well as for the train tickets to Melbourne. The couple lived in this city until Jacob Gesang’s death in 1960, struggling with money and health issues. Having applied in 1952, the widow only received compensation from Germany in 1965.

In the last years of his life, the Jewish book merchant had worked as the head of the Kashrut Department of the Melbourne Beth Din.[5]

He never practised his trade again.

 

By Flavia Citrigno & Christoph Kreutzmüller

Translated by Bethan Griffiths

 


[1] Volker Dahm, Das jüdische Buch im Dritten Reich, Bd. 1, Die Ausschaltung der jüdischen Autoren, Verleger und Buchhändler, Frankfurt am Main 1979, pp. 99–108.

[2] “Firmenjubiläum“, in: Jüdische Rundschau, 4.12.1936.

[3] Shanghai Echo, 17.5.1946, p. 4.

[4] The Australian Jewish News, 1.3.1957, p. 15.

[5] “Obituary Mr. Jacob Gesang”, in: The Australian Jewish News, 9.12.1960.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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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