"Jewish Houses" and "Jewish Flats" in Berlin

A Participatory Excavation in Urban Space


Introduction

Between 1939 and 1945, there was a hitherto unknown number of so-called "Judenhäuser" (Jewish houses) and "Juden­woh­nung­en" (Jewish flats) in Berlin, where Jews were forcibly housed before their deportation. Although the forced relocation to a "Judenhaus" or "Judenwohnungen" was a far-reaching experience for the Jewish population of Berlin, the topic remains largely unexplored to this day.

The history of these places is now to be investigated in a participatory process. The project of the Aktives Museum and the Coordination Office Stolpersteine Berlin is funded by the Alfred Landecker Foundation. The foundation creates networks, spaces and knowledge by supporting interdisciplinary projects that work against anti-Semitism and for an active approach to the past.

The goal of the project is a topographical overview of "Judenhäuser" and "Judenwohnungen" throughout the city. Selected examples will be used to shed light on how exactly the incarceration in these houses and flats functioned, under what conditions those affected lived in them and how the houses were dissolved in connection with the deportations.

Participate!

We invite history initiatives, individual private persons and current residents of the "Jewish houses" of the time to contribute their own local historical research. You will be supported by the Aktives Museum and the Coordination Office Stolpersteine Berlin, which are jointly responsible for the project.

Please feel free to contact us: info@judenhaeuser.berlin

House Histories

With the "Law on Tenancies with Jews" of April 30, 1939, Jewish tenants in the German Reich lost their tenant protection. At the same time, the law regulated the forced acceptance of Jewish tenants as subtenants of other Jews. Thus, people unknown to each other lived together in one apartment, usually under very cramped conditions. Many of the tenants were deported from there.

Often there were several "Judenwohnungen" in one house, from which the term "Judenhaus" was derived in contemporary times. A "Judenhaus" could also contain apartments that were not occupied by Jews.

Agricolastraße 21, Berlin-Moabit

In the period between 1939 and 1945, 44 Jewish people lived at Agricolastraße 21 in Berlin-Moabit. 26 Jews were deported from this address. If one adds the Jews with Polish citizenship, who were already deported to Poland at the end of 1938 and beginning of 1939, the number of deported people increases to 28. Only one person is known to have survived the deportations.

Twelve residents managed to emigrate: to Palestine, the Dominican Republic, the USA or Great Britain.

Alte Schönhauser Straße 4, Berlin-Mitte

Between 1939 and 1943, at least 73 Jewish residents lived at Alte Schönhauser Straße 4 in Berlin-Mitte. The building once belonged to a Leo Blatt, who was forced to sell his property around 1939. This sale demonstrates the practice of the National Socialist authorities to expropriate Jewish owners and to “aryanize” living quarters.

Leo Blatt and his wife Cysal, née Pilpel, were among the 56 Jews deported from this address to ghettos, concentration and extermination camps. Nine of them had not yet reached their 17th birthday at the time of deportation.

Käthe-Niederkirchner-Straße 35, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg

At the house Käthe-Niederkirchner-Straße 35 (until 1974 Lippehner Straße) a silent bell plaque commemorates since 2019 83 Jewish residents who lived there between 1939 and 1943. 65 were deported and murdered, eight were able to escape abroad, five committed suicide and four died in Berlin, one fate remained unknown. While the owner Lina Lewy was murdered in Theresienstadt in 1942 and her daughters Charlotte and Hildegard in Auschwitz in 1943, Charlotte's sons Peter and Werner Gossels reached the USA via France in 1939-41. Both came to Berlin for the dedication of the memorial plaque with ten relatives, as did Martin Schott from Sydney, whose family had lived in the house since 1912.

Klopstockstraße 30, Berlin-Tiergarten

Between 1939 and 1943, around 69 Jewish people lived in the house at Klopstockstraße 30 in Berlin-Tiergarten. For 61 of them this would be the address from which they would be deported.

The Jewish merchant Emil Scharlinsky was forced to sell the house in 1938. After the introduction of the “Law on Tenancies with Jews” of 1939, 43 Jews from various Berlin districts were made to move here as subtenants. During the war, the building was completely destroyed. At the end of the 1950s, the new model buildings of the Hansa Quarter were built in Klopstockstraße.

Zehdenicker Straße 24/25, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg

Between 1939 and the beginning of 1943, more than 30 Jewish people lived in the house at Zehdenicker Strasse 24/25. Among them was the Weinberg family of three, who had been expelled from East Frisia in 1940 and had come to Berlin. There were five residential units in the house, which functioned as "Judenwohnungen". Several families and individuals lived there together, partly as main tenants and partly as subtenants. The other apartments in the house were occupied by non-Jews. At least one Jewish family was deported to Poland in 1938 resp. 1939. The other Jewish residents were deported from 1942, most of them at the beginning of 1943.

Contexts

The Housing Counseling Centre of the Jewish Community Berlin

The housing counseling centre of the Jewish Community of Berlin was established in the spring of 1939. It helped Jews who became homeless to find new accommodation. However, as early as July 1939, the counselling centre was placed under the supervision of the Gestapo. From then on it had to participate in the process of concentrating the Jewish population in “Judenhäuser”.

Dr. Martha Mosse headed the housing counselling centre with a growing number of employees. Exactly how this centre worked is still unknown. It is certain, however, that from 1941 the employees also had to help with preparations for deportation. In December 1942 it was renamed „Wohnungsstelle und Abwanderungsvorbereitung“ (Housing Centre and Emigration Preparation).

General building inspector for the capital of the Reich

Albert Speer, who later became Minister of Armaments, had been appointed General Building Inspector for the Reich Capital (GBI) in 1937. In this position, he and his eponymous authority were responsible for the redesign of Berlin. Particularly in the inner city, streets were to be completely redesigned and rebuilt, in some cases with huge representative buildings. For this purpose, numerous residential areas had to be demolished, which led to an increased demand for housing on the already tight Berlin housing market. Against this background, apartments occupied by Jews were to be freed up as replacement apartments and these were to be relocated to "Judenwohnungen." The Jewish Community's housing counseling office was responsible for organizing these transfers.

The historian Susanne Willems has comprehensively described the planning and activities of the GBI in her book Der entsiedelte Jude (The Resettled Jew), which can be linked to the project.

Deportations

Many of the residents of "Judenwohnungen" were deported from October 1941. In some cases, Jewish subtenants were re-admitted after deportation; in others, however, the "Judenwohnungen" were dissolved and made available to the General Building Inspector (GBI). With the deportation of the Jews still doing forced labor in the armaments industry until the end of 1942/ beginning of 1943, a large part of the "Judenwohnungen" were vacated. According to current knowledge, the residents of the Judenwohnungen were not deported systematically, but rather gradually, although the criteria for their selection are not yet clear.

Research

What sources can be used to research the "Judenhäuser" and "Judenwohnungen" and the biographies of the residents?

In the Brandenburg State Archives, files of the Property Realization Office of the Chief Finance President (OFP) contain information on the valuation and confiscation of Jewish property after the deportation. In cooperation with the project for the digitization and indexing of the OFP files , we have already been able to view many files there. They give us clues about the composition of the "Judenhäuser" and "Judenwohnungen" and their spatial situation. In addition, they provide insights into the lives and persecution stories of the residents.

Correspondence between the Chief Finance President, the General Building Inspector (GBI), individual house administrators and the Jewish Religious Association and also provide information about the interactions between a state system that suppressed Jewish life and a Jewish welfare system that attempted to respond to it.

Other sources preserved in the Berlin State Archives document the activities of the GBI in connection with former "Judenwohnungen" that had become vacant due to deportations, among other things. Files of the Jewish community as well as statements by survivors provide information on the forced assistance of the Jewish community's "housing counseling office" in the allocation of housing.

For biographical research, the project draws on the existing entries on the website of the Stolpersteine Berlin Coordination Office.