By Dr. Bri­git­te Streich, for­mer head of the Wies­ba­den City Archive

In search of the lost names

The histo­ry of rese­arch and archi­ve work

Main sources in the Fede­ral Archi­ves: The initia­ti­ve came from Yad Vashem

In Sep­tem­ber 2001, on the basis of the exten­si­ve data alre­a­dy available, the City Archi­ve was now com­mis­sio­ned with a sys­te­ma­tic sur­vey of the names of Jews depor­ted from Wies­ba­den and mur­de­red. The archi­vist Ger­hard Klai­ber was ent­rus­ted with this task. Thus, in recent years, the rese­arch work, which in its ori­g­ins goes back to the post-war peri­od and had been dri­ven for­ward by insti­tu­ti­ons, indi­vi­du­als and asso­cia­ti­ons, could more or less be brought to a con­clu­si­on. In the cour­se of this work, the results of the eva­lua­ti­on of various groups of sources and preli­mi­na­ry work were brought tog­e­ther for the first time in an Access data­ba­se in the muni­ci­pal archi­ves and sup­ple­men­ted by the archi­ves’ own rese­arch, espe­ci­al­ly in archi­val records that had pre­vious­ly been blo­cked for use. The deter­mi­na­ti­on of the data in ques­ti­on was made dif­fi­cult abo­ve all by the fact that the most important source for such per­­son-rela­­ted rese­arch, name­ly the Wies­ba­den resi­dents’ regis­tra­ti­on card index, had been des­troy­ed when a bomb hit poli­ce head­quar­ters in 1945.

The main source for the pro­ject was the “Memo­ri­al Book. Vic­tims of the Per­se­cu­ti­on of the Jews under Natio­nal Socia­list Tyran­ny 1933 — 1945”. In 1960, on the initia­ti­ve of the Jeru­sa­lem memo­ri­al Yad Vas­hem, the Fede­ral Archi­ves had been com­mis­sio­ned by the Fede­ral Minis­ter of the Inte­ri­or to com­pi­le sources on the histo­ry of the Jewish popu­la­ti­on in Ger­ma­ny tog­e­ther with the Arol­­sen-based Inter­na­tio­nal Tra­cing Ser­vice (ITS), which were to be used for the pre­pa­ra­ti­on of a memo­ri­al book.

At that time, access to exten­si­ve records from the con­cen­tra­ti­on camps and places of detenti­on of the Natio­nal Socia­list regime—which were kept at the ITS—was still pos­si­ble,. Later on, the­se hol­dings were blo­cked for any kind of sci­en­ti­fic use and were only made acces­si­ble again about two years ago. It was not pos­si­ble to include the archi­ves of the GDR, which refu­sed to coope­ra­te. With the take­over of the hol­dings of the Cen­tral Sta­te Archi­ves of the GDR after 1990, a lar­ge num­ber of pre­vious­ly uneva­lua­ted docu­ments were the­r­e­fo­re trans­fer­red to the Fede­ral Archi­ves, whe­re pre­pa­ra­to­ry work for a con­sider­a­b­ly expan­ded new edi­ti­on of the Memo­ri­al Book began in 1992.

In Wies­ba­den its­elf, the regis­tra­ti­on office and the hol­dings of the muni­ci­pal archi­ves make it pos­si­ble to trace the preoc­cu­pa­ti­on with the vic­tims of the Holo­caust back to the late 1940s.

The first inqui­ries addres­sed to the Wies­ba­den Gar­den and Ceme­tery Ami­nis­tra­ti­on by the ITS, the French Gra­ves Com­mis­si­on, Bel­gi­an, Ita­li­an, Eng­lish, Ame­ri­can and other insti­tu­ti­ons with the aim of repa­tria­ting rela­ti­ves of the respec­ti­ve natio­na­li­ties buried in Wies­ba­den date back to 1948. A list of the deaths of for­eig­ners, which was pre­su­ma­b­ly alre­a­dy com­pi­led by the Gar­den and Ceme­tery Office during the war, also con­ta­ins the names of 180 Jewish per­sons who had died in Wies­ba­den by 1942, inclu­ding around 70 peo­p­le who com­mit­ted sui­ci­de due to the harass­ment or in view of the impen­ding depor­ta­ti­ons. Inci­den­tal­ly, the cor­re­spon­ding file did not reach the muni­ci­pal archi­ves until work on the data­ba­se had long sin­ce begun.

A new and quite dif­fe­rent impul­se for deal­ing with the vic­tims’ data came from the then SPD mem­ber of the Bun­des­tag and for­mer Lord Mayor Rudi Schmitt (SPD). After a visit to the Yad Vas­hem memo­ri­al in Jeru­sa­lem, he approa­ched his suc­ces­sor as Lord Mayor, Bernd Oschatz (CDU), in April 1982 and sug­gested that the names of Wiesbaden’s Holo­caust vic­tims be com­pi­led in an artis­ti­cal­ly desi­gned volu­me and given to Yad Vas­hem. The muni­ci­pal archi­ves were com­mis­sio­ned to find out the per­sons in ques­ti­on and their life data, and to this end they cont­ac­ted the Fede­ral Archi­ves, which in June sent a list of “tho­se Jews” “for whom the available sources indi­ca­ted Wies­ba­den, Bie­brich or Erben­heim as their place of birth or resi­dence”. On the other hand, the Fede­ral Archi­ves were unable to pro­vi­de any infor­ma­ti­on on the other sub­urbs that had been incor­po­ra­ted into Wies­ba­den at the time, nor on Jewish per­sons who had only resi­ded in Wies­ba­den for a short time. The direc­to­ry com­pri­sed almost 1,100 names and was han­ded over to the tea­cher and local his­to­ri­an Lothar Bem­be­nek, who was working on the topic of “Natio­nal Socia­lism in Wies­ba­den” as part of the pro­ject “Hes­se under Natio­nal Socia­lism” at the Hes­si­an Insti­tu­te for Edu­ca­tio­nal Plan­ning and School Deve­lo­p­ment. Bem­be­nek was able, through his research—including in Polish archives—to sup­ple­ment this, so that in the end 1147 peo­p­le were known. At the same time, he poin­ted out exis­ting gaps: For exam­p­le, the Wies­ba­den Jews with Polish citi­zen­ship were miss­ing from the list. On the other hand, the sub­urbs, except for Amö­ne­burg, Mainz-Kas­­tel and Mainz-Kos­t­heim, see­med to him to have been com­ple­te­ly recorded.

Han­do­ver in Isra­el: by the Lord Mayor and the Head of the City Council

In the fol­lo­wing months, the memo­ri­al book entit­led “The Jewish Vic­tims of Natio­nal Socia­lism 1933 — 1945 — Wies­ba­den” was pro­du­ced in tri­pli­ca­te by the cal­li­grapher and desi­gner Wer­ner Schnei­der, who taught com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on design as a pro­fes­sor at the Wies­ba­den Uni­ver­si­ty of Appli­ed Sci­en­ces. On Octo­ber 21, 1983, the city of Wies­ba­den pla­ced an adver­ti­se­ment in “Auf­bau,” “America’s lea­ding Ger­­man-lan­­guage news­pa­per,” announ­cing that the city, fol­lo­wing the exam­p­le of other Ger­man cities, would pre­sent the Yad Vas­hem memo­ri­al site with a volu­me con­tai­ning 1147 names com­pi­led from a direc­to­ry in the Fede­ral Archi­ves. In Sep­tem­ber 1984, this work was han­ded over to Yad Vas­hem by Mayor Dr. Hans-Joa­­chim Jentsch and City Coun­cil Chair­man Kurt Lon­quich. During a visit to Yad Vas­hem the fol­lo­wing year, Dr. Jacob Gut­mark of the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty had a copy of the book made. In 1988, Lothar Bem­be­nek was able to hand over a con­sider­a­b­ly expan­ded list of names to the Jewish Community.

The work in the city archi­ve, which began at the end of 2001, initi­al­ly con­cen­tra­ted on the names and data of Wies­ba­den Jews recor­ded in the first edi­ti­on of the memo­ri­al book of the Fede­ral Archi­ves. In 2002, the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty made available to the City Archi­ves the so-cal­­led Gesta­po card index, which had had to be kept by the com­mu­ni­ty from 1938 onwards. The City Archi­ves recei­ved per­mis­si­on to copy this card index. This source con­ta­ins valuable infor­ma­ti­on about the fami­ly affi­lia­ti­on of indi­vi­du­al per­sons, dates of mar­ria­ges, refe­ren­ces to chan­ges of resi­dence and emi­gra­ti­on. Most important­ly, it also con­ta­ins the depor­ta­ti­on data. Howe­ver, this card index is not com­ple­te, becau­se it names only about 1000 com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who were depor­ted to the con­cen­tra­ti­on camps.

The next step con­sis­ted in the regis­tra­ti­on of the so-cal­­led “Jewish Address Book” of the Wies­ba­den NSDAP from 1935, which was published for the pur­po­se of sys­te­ma­tic regis­tra­ti­on and exclu­si­on of the Jewish popu­la­ti­on and con­ta­ins about 3000 per­so­nal names, inclu­ding tho­se of children.

Ever­y­thing recor­ded: Gesta­po index card of Dr. Dani­el Kahn-Hut.
Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den
StadtA WI NL 210 Nr. 1

Other sources: Address book and com­pen­sa­ti­on file, regis­try office

On the basis of this “Jewish Address Book,” it was pos­si­ble to deter­mi­ne that the group of Jews with Polish citi­zen­ship not pre­vious­ly recor­ded by the memo­ri­al books of the Fede­ral Archi­ves com­pri­sed appro­xi­m­ate­ly 155 fami­lies, or about 470 per­sons. From the “Gesta­po card index” 130 names were alre­a­dy known who had fled to Wes­tern count­ries in 1938 and 1939. The­se per­sons were also not yet included in the memo­ri­al book of the Fede­ral Archi­ves. In the sum­mer of 2002, the rese­ar­cher began to check the fate of the­se per­sons on the basis of a card index of around 60,000 names, which at that time was still held by the Regio­nal Coun­cil in its func­tion as com­pen­sa­ti­on aut­ho­ri­ty for the for­mer admi­nis­tra­ti­ve dis­trict of Wies­ba­den. Accor­ding to the file num­bers noted in the card index, about 500 com­pen­sa­ti­on files were then suc­ces­si­ve­ly eva­lua­ted. This work was tem­po­r­a­ri­ly inter­rupt­ed by the fact that the hol­dings were han­ded over to the Hes­si­an Main Sta­te Archi­ves in Wies­ba­den and were not imme­dia­te­ly available for use here. In Octo­ber 2002, the data­ba­se of the muni­ci­pal archi­ve con­tai­ned 1225 names of Jewish vic­tims of the Nazi tyranny.

In 2004, after coor­di­na­ti­on dis­cus­sions with the poli­ti­cal com­mit­tees, the repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty and the Acti­ve Muse­um Spie­gel­gas­se (AMS), the Com­mit­tee for Schools and Cul­tu­re deci­ded on a chan­ge of plan: Now not only nati­ve Wies­ba­den resi­dents and tho­se who had been depor­ted from here were to be included in the data­ba­se of vic­tims, but also, if pos­si­ble, tho­se who had only stay­ed in Wies­ba­den tem­po­r­a­ri­ly and were sent to their deaths from other places.

A clo­se coope­ra­ti­on with a working group of the AMS having alre­a­dy been agreed upon sin­ce 2001, from 2007 three sci­en­ti­fic assistants were com­mis­sio­ned with fur­ther rese­arch in a joint­ly con­duc­ted pro­ject. Their task was to exami­ne fur­ther com­pen­sa­ti­on files as well as the so-cal­­led for­eign exch­an­ge files in the main sta­te archi­ve. A total of around 1100 indi­vi­du­al case files were exami­ned, which enab­led the fate of 50 addi­tio­nal per­sons to be cla­ri­fied. In the next step, the ent­ries in the expan­ded new edi­ti­on of the memo­ri­al book of the Fede­ral Archi­ves, which had sin­ce been published, were com­pared with the data­ba­se of the City Archi­ves. In this way, about 150 names could be added. In the cour­se of this work, it was deter­mi­ned that the civil regis­ters would have to be con­sul­ted to cla­ri­fy con­tra­dic­to­ry infor­ma­ti­on in the sources and files. Fur­ther­mo­re, until 2007, the docu­ments coll­ec­ted in the Acti­ve Muse­um Spie­gel­gas­se were eva­lua­ted, inclu­ding, for exam­p­le, let­ters of Jews form­er­ly living in Wiesbaden.

In the mean­ti­me, the pro­to­col depart­ment of the city admi­nis­tra­ti­on had also pro­vi­ded the archi­ve with seve­ral fol­ders con­tai­ning docu­ments on the visi­ta­ti­on pro­grams for for­mer Jewish Wies­ba­den resi­dents that had been con­duc­ted sin­ce the 1980s, which also included some reports on per­se­cu­ti­on and depor­ta­ti­on. The eva­lua­ti­on of the regis­try office regis­ters then yiel­ded a fur­ther signi­fi­cant advan­ce in know­ledge. In 2008, the City Archi­ves recei­ved per­mis­si­on from the Legal Depart­ment and the Civil Regis­try Office to ent­rust a stu­dent with the ana­ly­sis of birth, mar­ria­ge and death regis­ters from Wies­ba­den and the incor­po­ra­ted sub­urbs from the peri­od 1874 to 1945, which had been com­ple­te­ly blo­cked for sci­en­ti­fic use until Janu­ary 1, 2009. The focus was on the recor­ding of Jewish deaths up to 1945, which, tog­e­ther with the con­so­li­da­ti­on of the various source cate­go­ries, ulti­m­ate­ly resul­ted in the expan­si­on of the data­ba­se to a cur­rent total of 1507 names.

The rese­arch car­ri­ed out in recent years has reve­a­led that, in addi­ti­on, 37 fur­ther per­sons were mur­de­red by the Natio­nal Socia­list racists. The­se names must be suc­ces­si­ve­ly added to the frie­ze. It is neces­sa­ry, howe­ver, to await fur­ther findings.

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