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.