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Max Sommerfeld * 1909
Gertigstraße 9 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)
(befreit 5. Mai 1945)
Bertha Sommerfeld, born on 24 Dec. 1896 in Schleswig, committed on 11 Sept. 1941 to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, murdered there on 12 June 1942
Hertha Sommerfeld, born on 15 Oct. 1910 in Hamburg, deported on 18 Nov. 1941 to Minsk
The spouses Willy Sommerfeld (born on 14 Dec. 1870 in Berlin) and Helene, née Marcus (born on 16 Apr. 1875 Lüneburg) probably got married in 1894. They frequently changed their place of residence within Northern Germany. In Sept. 1895, they moved from Flensburg to Schleswig, where Willy Sommerfeld managed a branch of the Husum-based "Samuel Goetz & Robert Eichwald Herren- und Knabengarderoben” at Kornmarkt 12, a men’s and boys’ clothing company. A sister of Helene Sommerfeld was married to the company owner, Robert Eichwald.
Robert, the first son of Willy and Helene Sommerfeld, was born on 17 July 1895, still in Flensburg, daughter Bertha was born on 24 Dec. 1896 in Schleswig. The next change of place and residence occurred in May 1897, to Geestemünde. In about 1900, the family lived in Brunsbüttel, where son Siegfried was born on 10 Mar. 1900. Sometime around 1905, the family eventually moved to Hamburg. In the Hanseatic city, the children Max (in 1909) and Hertha (in 1910) were born.
Moving around ended at this point and the Sommerfelds settled down – with the exception of the oldest son, Robert, who went to sea in 1913. Since 1914/15, the family of six resided on the second floor of the house at Gertigstrasse 9.
Max Sommerfeld attended the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule) on Barmbeker Strasse from 1915 until 1923 and then did one additional year in the senior grade of the school on Schillerstrasse. From 1924/25 onward, he learned the trade of a commercial clerk at the Adolf Gabriel Company, a wholesaler of woolen goods and knitwear (at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Strasse 70).
The father, Willy Sommerfeld, pursued different lines of work: from 1915 until 1920, he was a dispatch clerk, in 1922 a porter, and in 1928, a messenger. In 1929, Willy Sommerfeld joined the Jewish Community.
In 1928, Siegfried Sommerfeld started his own business, a transport company. He used the family’s apartment on Gertigstrasse as an office. In the official phone directories, he went by "S. Sommerfeld, Auto-Eil-, Stadt- u. Ferntransp.” ("S. Sommerfeld, automobile, express, city, and long-distance transports”) until 1938. According to the Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) card file, Max Sommerfeld was unemployed since 1931. The youngest daughter Hertha worked as a sales assistant for the renowned Gebrüder Robinsohn (Robinsohn Bros.) ready-to-wear clothing store on Neuer Wall. In the meantime, the older sister, Bertha, had moved into a subtenancy at Barmbeker Strasse 173 on the corner of Dorotheenstrasse. In 1933, she lost her position as an employee and was unable to find another job. Dec. 1934 saw the death of the father, who had served as a domestic servant in the very end.
Four years later, in the course of the Pogrom of November 1938, Max Sommerfeld was arrested. In his own works, he later described his arrest to the Restitution Office (Amt für Wiedergutmachung) as follows: "As I had gotten out of the streetcar on 10 Nov. 1938 at about eight in the evening, I (was) asked by two men in civilian clothes at the intersection of Rothenbaumchaussee and Hallerstrasse whether I was Jewish. When I answered in the affirmative, I was told I had to follow them to the police station. I was taken to the police station on Bundesstrasse, where about 100 Jews were assembled already. After my cash, valuables, etc. had been taken from me, I was taken to the basement. That same night I was, accompanied by the applause of the German population waiting outside and harassed by kicks, taken with many other Jews in a ‘Grüner August’ [paddy wagon] guarded by SS men to the Fuhlsbüttel penitentiary. There, prominent personalities already occupying my cell included the lawyer Dr. Siegfried Urias as well as Dr. Max Warburg from the Warburg banking house. After three or four days in the Fuhlsbüttel penitentiary, we were shipped in several transports from the Hannoversche Bahnhof train station to Sachsenhausen.”
On 15 Feb. 1939, Max Sommerfeld was released. His brother Siegfried had already emigrated to Amsterdam on 7 Jan. 1939. The mother managed in June 1939 to obtain a visa for Australia and to emigrate there. In Aug. 1939, her youngest daughter Hertha tried in vain to arrange for emigration to Britain. Hertha Sommerfeld was assigned a quarter in the house at Hochallee 66 (Harvestehude), the former residential address of the merchant Leo Robinsohn. By this time, the building was used as collective quarters for deportations. On 18 Nov. 1941, her deportation to Minsk took place. Her whereabouts and date of death are not known.
Probably in May or June 1941, Bertha Sommerfeld was picked up from her apartment at Gertigstrasse 9, without any exact reasons known. The following period saw several transfers between police and Gestapo prisons within the Hanseatic city. On 24 June 1941, she was noted as a "departure” from the Hütten police prison, and on 17 July 1941, she was listed as an "admission” there again, being handed over to the Gestapo on the following day. The Secret State Police committed her to the Ravensbrück concentration camp on 11 Sept. 1941. Ravensbrück was the site where in 1942 systematic mass killings took place under the code designation of "14 f 13” in connection with the "euthanasia operations.” In Feb. and Mar. 1942, some 1,600 Ravensbrück prisoners were transported to the "sanatorium and nursing home” ("Heil- und Pflegeanstalt”) in Bernburg near Dessau. Officially, these were ambulance services but actually, in Bernburg the prisoners were murdered using gas. According to a death list of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, Bertha Sommerfeld was also among the victims. For this purpose, a special commission of the Ravensbrück SS commandant’s office issued death certificates with forged dates and causes of death. For Bertha Sommerfeld, the official date of death indicated was 12 June 1942. On the file card of the Hamburg Jewish Community, however, 18 Mar. 1942 is entered as the day of death, a date confirmed by the most recent research. In Apr. 1945, the SS destroyed the camp registry of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, rendering any accurate conclusions impossible.
In 1939, Max Sommerfeld was compelled by the Hamburg employment office to perform forced labor in area of road construction and civil engineering. In the very end, he resided as a subtenant at Hoheluftchaussee 91. On 8 Nov. 1941, he was deported to the Minsk Ghetto and in Sept. 1943 further to the Lublin concentration camp. Afterward, the Mielce, Willice, Flossenbürg, and Leitmeritz (today Litomerice in the Czech Republic) concentration camps followed, and from Sept. 1944 onward, the Mauthausen-Gusen II concentration camp. There, he was liberated by US soldiers on 5 May 1945. After he had started a company of his own, a "Kraftfuhrwesen” (motorized transport operation) in Hamburg for a short time in 1948, he emigrated to the USA with the help of Jewish relief organizations in Aug. 1949. He passed away in the state of North Carolina in 1985.
[P.S. The data base of the Yad Vashem memorial site and the Memorial Book of the German Federal Archives (2006) list Max Sommerfeld as a victim of the Shoah. Prior to the composition of the above biography, therefore, a Stolperstein for Max Sommerfeld, too, was laid at Gertigstrasse 9 in Aug. 2006.]
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: January 2019
© Björn Eggert
Quellen: 1; 4; 8; AfW 090909; Stadtarchiv Schleswig, An- und Abmeldeunterlagen ca. 1867 bis 1919, Auskunft Stadtarchiv Schleswig v. 15.3.2007; Erich Koch, Kartei schleswig-holsteinischer Juden, E-Mail vom 17.7.2007; Mahn- u. Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück, Totenliste; Archiv der Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg (FZH), 35363 Fuhlsbüttel, Zu- und Abgangslisten; Standesamt Lüneburg, 1875 Geburtseintrag; Generalregister der hamburgischen Standesämter, Auskunft vom 13.9.2007 zur Sterbeurkunde von Willy Sommerfeld (1934); Bezirksamt Hamburg-Nord, Bauamt/Bauprüfabteilung, Akte Gertigstr.9; AB 1915, 1920, 1922, 1928, 1939; Amtliches Fernsprechbuch Hamburg 1931–1938; Gedenkbuch für die Opfer des Konzentrationslagers Ravensbrück 1939–1945, Berlin 2005, S. 39–42.
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