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Emmy Rothgiesser * 1900

Graumannsweg 48 (Hamburg-Nord, Hohenfelde)

JG. 1900

Emmy Clara Rothgiesser, born 5 May 1900 in Hamburg, deported 25 Oct. 1941 from Hamburg to Lodz Ghetto where she was killed 1 May 1942

Graumannsweg 48

She loved art and dance and was a follower of anthroposophy. Emmy Rothgiesser had studied painting and eurhythmy, according to the teachings developed by Rudolf Steiner, and earned her living by teaching painting classes. She was by far the youngest of the five children of the Jewish merchant Alfred Rothgiesser from Hanover and his Jewish wife Rosa, née Aronstein, from Elberfeld near Wuppertal. Alfred and Rosa had wed in Wuppertal in 1885. One year later they had their first child, a son whom they named Franz Hermann Salomon. He was followed by Otto, Bertha Luise, and Paul. When Emmy was born, Otto was already 14 years old and Paul 7. In 1881, before she married, her mother Rosa had established a store with her sister Henriette, who was also still single, at am Neuen Wall in Hamburg. The store was called H. & R. Aronstein and sold ladies’ undergarments, dressing gowns and French corsets.

In Feb. 1909, Emmy’s father Alfred died in Hamburg at the age of 54. A mere half year later, Rosa followed him in Aug. She was only 53. So at the age of 9, Emmy was an orphan. Her older sister Bertha most likely took care of her. At the time, Bertha was already 20 years old and nearly of age. She and Otto took over their mother’s store at am Neuen Wall. Their aunt Henriette had already left the company when she married in 1892.

After elementary school, Emmy attended the Higher Girls’ School at am Lerchenfeld. When she was 14 years old, World War I started. Just one year later her eldest brother Otto lost his life as a soldier on the battle field. He died in Vilnius (today belonging to Lithuania) at the age of 27. Two years later her brother Paul also died in war, at an unknown site on the eastern front. He was only 23 years old. Her brother Franz had immigrated to New York in Mar. 1914, a few months before the start of World War I. He had finished high school in Hamburg in 1906 and then studied chemistry at Berlin University. In 1910 he completed his doctorate there.

Around 1919 Emmy finished high school and went on to study at the Anthroposophic Seminar in Hamburg. To expand her knowledge, she also spent several weeks in Dornbach, Switzerland on a number of occasions. That was where the Goetheanum had been located since 1913, a building that held, among other things, the Free University for the Humanities, founded by Rudolf Steiner. According to the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, the anthroposophists regard themselves as a community of people who are convinced "that the work posed at present and in the future can only be solved by deepening our lives spiritually” and by probing the mind, the supernatural. The fields that continue to be influenced by anthroposophy until today include, among others, art and the "art of movement”. When dance theater and body awareness were revolutionized in the early part of the 20th century, anthroposophists used the insights to develop eurhythmy, an expressionist form in which art, language and music are translated into bodily movement.

The Anthroposophic Seminar in Hamburg where Emmy Rothgiesser had her training belonged to the Hamburg Anthroposophic Society, founded in 1912. Its members included business people and artists alike. In 1919 it moved into its first own building at am Holzdamm 34 in St. Georg. Courses on fundamental questions of the humanities took place every day. From 1929 on, Emmy also taught art there and gave talks on Rudolf Steiner’s theory of color. Besides teaching, she also wrote articles for the anthroposophic weekly newspaper The Goetheanum: in 1927 On Color Theory at the Goetheanum, two years later The Painter and His Colors and in 1935 On Painting Technique. Apart from that she was a writer, composing anthroposophic poems, novellas and even a novel. However they remained unpublished.

She did not earn much with her various activities, though. A former executive board member of the Hamburg Anthroposophic Society, Julius Solti, later remembered her precarious financial situation, "She eked out a right poor existence with her painting lessons” and lived in "fairly wretched circumstances”. Since she was never employed in a regular job, she was only paid an hourly wage. At an honorarium of 8 Reich Marks an hour for painting classes and 15 Reich Marks an hour for her lectures, she earned at most 250 Reich Marks each month before taxes. She could not afford her own apartment from those earnings and always lived in a sublet.

Since the number of members of the Hamburg Anthroposophic Society had grown to over 500 by 1921, the building at am Holzdamm quickly became too small. In spring of 1930, the Society purchased the lodge from the Jewish B’nai B’rith on Hartungstraße which was larger, today’s Kammerspiele Theater. Several smaller Jewish organizations remained in the building as tenants.

Yet the serious political changes in Germany following the transfer of power to the National Socialists in 1933 also affected the anthroposophists. On 1 Nov. 1935, the Anthroposophic Society was banned throughout the Reich. The accompanying decree issued by Reinhard Heydrich, at the time still head of the security service at Reichsführer SS, read, "After the historical development of the Anthroposophic Society, it is internationally oriented and today still maintains close relationships with foreign freemasons, Jews and pacifists. Their teaching methods based upon the educational theories of Rudolf Steiner and still implemented in anthroposophic schools today pursue an individualistic education, adapted to each person and have nothing in common with the fundaments of National-Socialist education. Owing to the differences between the ideas of the Anthroposophic Society and the nationalistic thought represented by National Socialism, there was a threat that the interests of the National-Socialist government could be harmed by the continued activities of the Anthroposophic Society. Therefore the organization must be dissolved because of its hostile attitude towards the government and the danger it represents.”

Emmy Rothgiesser’s living situation deteriorated dramatically as a result. Not only was the main content of her life taken from her, with it she also lost the basis for her livelihood. A few of her students stayed with her whom she taught from then on in their homes. But that soon came to an end. As of 1936 she was supported by her sister Bertha, about seven former students and by her friend the seamstress Molly Stark. Her friend also employed Emmy Rothgiesser from 1938 as domestic help for 80 Reich Marks a month plus meals. When Jews started to have to wear the "Jewish star” throughout the Reich from 1 Sept. 1941, Molly Stark stopped employing her. Shortly after the National Socialists came to power, Emmy joined Hamburg’s Jewish community. Four years later in 1937, however, she left it again. Evidently she did not feel at home there. In 1939 she was forced to become a member of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany. From 1939 she moved apartments at short intervals as a tenant: Early in 1939 she lived at Graumannsweg 48, in autumn she moved to Uhlenhorster Weg 28, in 1940 to Isekai 15, and then to Woldsenweg 5.

On 25 Oct. 1941 Emmy Rothgiesser was deported to Lodz Ghetto. She was housed at Rauchgasse 21. On 1 May 1942 she was taken from Lodz to Chelmno extermination camp and most likely killed with carbon monoxide upon her arrival. She was 41 years old when she died.

Her sister Bertha was deported to Theresienstadt on 5 May 1943 along with her son Paul, born in 1928, from her first marriage. She survived the Shoah and died in Hamburg in 1969.

Emmy Rothgiesser’s nephew Paul Dieroff was taken from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz concentration camp on 19 Oct. 1944 and eight days later deported on to Dachau concentration camp where he died on 15 Dec. 1944. He was only 16 years old (see

Emmy und Bertha’s brother Franz Rothgiesser married Julia D. Bartholomae after immigrating to New York in 1916. He died in Brooklyn, New York on 29 June 1995 at the age of 108.

Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: December 2019
© Frauke Steinhäuser

Quellen: 1; 4; 5; 8; 9; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 2129 u. 3375/1886; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 2173 u. 810/1888; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 2203 u. 4284/1889; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 6331 u. 1635/1893; StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung 23399; StaH 552-1 Jüd. Gemeinden Nr. 992 e 2 Bd. 1, Transport nach Litzmannstadt am 25. Oktober 1941; Ulrike Sparr, Paul Dieroff, in: Stolpersteine in Hamburg, Hamburg, 2011, S. 202ff. u.; Materialien eines Schülerprojekts der Gesamtschule Niendorf zu Paul Dieroff, mit Dank an Ulrike Sparr; Das Goetheanum, Wochenschrift für Anthroposophie, Onlinearchiv: (letzter Zugriff 24.3.2015); Emmy Clara Rothgiesser, Lodz Ghetto List, online:[lodzghetto]lodzghetto (letzter Zugriff 24.3.2015); Karl Hahn, Rede zum Gedächtnis der gefallenen Lehrer und Schüler der Oberrealschule auf der Uhlenhorst, gehalten am 23. September 1920 in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst anläßlich der Einweihung von Ehrentafeln für die Opfer des 1. Weltkrieges, Namensliste online auf: (letzter Zugriff 24.3.2015); Preußische Geheime Staatspolizei Berlin, 1. November 1935, Bundesarchiv Koblenz, StAM LR 17 134354, BAD Z/B 1 904, BAK R 43 II/822; Die Geschichte des Rudolf Steiner Hauses Hamburg, online: (letzter Zugriff 24.3.2015); Franz Rothgiesser, Social Security Administration, Death Master File, online: (letzter Zugriff 24.3.2015).
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