National Socialist propaganda made use of the symbolic meaning street names carry. As early as 1933, Hamburg’s Rathausmarkt was renamed Adolf Hitler-Platz and Bebel-Allee became Adolf-Hitler-Straße. Street signs bearing the names of political enemies were replaced with ones honoring the heroes of the National Socialist movement. Streets named after Jews were to be renamed as well. These included the street, square, and subway stop bearing the name “Haller.” They were named for Nicolaus Ferdinand Haller . In 1844 Haller, who stemmed from a Jewish family but was later baptized, became the first Jewish citizen of Hamburg to be elected to the city’s senate, and he subsequently was elected mayor. Although he had been acculturated to bourgeois Christian society, Ferdinand Haller remained conscious of his Jewish roots throughout his life. When a new, major street in Hamburg was named for him in 1868, he understood it as a gesture of personal recognition by the city as well as the high point of his life’s work.
During the so-called Gründerzeit [Wilhelmine period] of the late 19th century, the city of Hamburg gained valuable new building terrain due to the conversion of land formerly owned by the Harvestehude monastery. Many of the villas and multi-story houses built there became the homes of Jews who had been guaranteed freedom of movement by Hamburg’s 1860 constitution and thus were now able to leave the narrow Jewish quarters in the city center. Hallerstraße marked the southern border between the upscale neighborhood of Harvestehude and the more traditionally Jewish Grindel quarter. The roughly 15 houses forming Hallerplatz branched off from Hallerstraße 72, the building shown on this photo, and on its western side, Hallerstraße intersected with Rothenbaumchaussee, which led to Dammtor. This intersection was where a new subway stop on the Linie 1 was built in 1926, and it was called U-Bahnhof Hallerstraße. Thus the name “Haller” came to stand for an intersection of traffic and communication within the city. The name gained further significance through Ferdinand’s son, the architect Martin Haller, who had a major part in the building of the new city hall, the Musikhalle, and many elegant villas. In 1929, the ring road Martin-Haller-Ring at the edge of the Jarrestadt neighborhood was named for him. The removal of the name “Haller” and its replacement with “Ostmark,” which was what Austria was named since the “Anschluss” of March 1938, was deemed so spectacular that the press reported on it with a photo-illustrated article.
During the early years of the National Socialist regime, political interests were prioritized when it came to street names. The names of many “old soldiers” [“alte Kämpfer”] were honored on street signs until Reich Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick urged “modest restraint” in a document dated April 4, 1934, the year of the Röhm-Putsch. That year, a nationwide ban against naming streets after living individuals was issued. The Hamburg senate decided not to establish a general rule on the matter at that time, which also applied to Jewish street names. However, the Reich Citizenship Law [Reichsbürgergesetz] passed in 1935, which included a meticulous definition of who was considered a Jew, a “first-degree mixed-blood” [Mischling ersten Grades] or “second-degree mixed-blood” [Mischling zweiten Grades] or legally Jewish [Geltungsjude], stimulated the “racial awareness” among the German “national compatriots” [“Volksgenossen”]. Particularly vigilant NSDAP party members complained that there were still too many Jewish names present in Hamburg’s public space. In May of 1936, the Hamburg state office compiled a detailed report on the number of Jewish street names. In a few cases, streets had already been renamed, for example, Börnestraße became Josef-Klein-Straße and Wolffsonsweg became Lützowstraße. Yet many streets named for Jews still bore their original name. Among the more than twenty names listed were Felix Mendelssohn, Gabriel Rießer, Heinrich Hertz and Heinrich Heine as well as Ferdinand and Martin Haller. During the debate on renaming, the question was raised whether those names listed which were not immediately recognizable as Jewish, such as Juliusweg, Hinrichsenstraße Hinrichsen was a Jewish member of the senate; in 1938, the street was renamed Brucknerstraße. Since 1945, it has been named Hinrichsenstraße again. or Hallerstraße, had to be changed as well.
The question of street names became more pressing when the Reich government passed the “Groß-Hamburg-Gesetz” on April 1, 1937, a law incorporating the towns of Altona, Wandsbek, and Harburg-Wilhelmsburg as well as large rural areas into the city of Hamburg. Duplicate street names had to be removed and their spelling unified. It was also decided that “this opportunity should be used to remove Jewish and politically objectionable street names.” StaHH 131-4/1934 A77 Bd.II, meeting on Monday, December 6, 1937 at city hall. On December 6, 1937, a meeting of all responsible government offices took place at Hamburg’s city hall. The city’s building authority, the statistical office, the state archives, the provincial district administration Landherrenschaft, the district of Harburg, and the Hamburg state office were all represented. While the land surveying office presented a list of duplicate street names, the archives had compiled a list of “Jewish and Marxist street names.” StaHH 131-4/1934 A77 Bd.II, meeting on Monday, December 6, 1937 at city hall. According to this list, at least 1613 names in the newly created Groß-Hamburg had to be changed. The new names were to refer to towns in the incorporated areas, pioneers in the former colonies, citizens of the Reich living abroad, and especially Low-German names. The building authority produced a comprehensive report on the renaming of streets in the “Hanseatic City of Hamburg” formerly the “Free and Hanseatic City” in June of 1938. A laborious enumeration is followed by this remark: “If the creation of a Hermann-Göring-Straße is also desired at this point, the opportunity might arise during the potential renaming of Hallerstraße and the respective subway stop.” StaHH 131-4/1934 A 77 Bd II, Gemeindeverwaltung, Bauverwaltung Bericht btr. Umbenennung von Straßennamen vom 29.6. 1938. [report dated 6/29/1938 on the renaming of streets] An earlier suggestion for a street name submitted to Reichsstatthalter Karl Kaufmann by the engineering department nominated Wilhelm Gustloff, the “most senior national head of the NSDAP’s foreign branch, who fell at the hands of a cowardly murderer.” StaHH 131-1II 2677 Hamburgisches Staatsamt Abt. 1 A 1, 26.11.1936. The new name recommended for Martin-Haller-Ring was that of Hans Schemm, founder and head of the “Bayrische Ostmark” district Gau. Schemm’s death in a plane crash in 1935 was romanticized by the National Socialists, and schools and streets were subsequently named for him.
The National Socialist principle of separating their national territory into districts Gaue was also applied to Austria after its “Anschluss” in March 1938. The name “Österreich” disappeared from National Socialist maps altogether and was replaced by “Ostmark.” The name implies the National Socialists’ claim of “Schutz und Trutz” Protection and Defense invoked at Germany’s eastern border. When Hamburg’s chief archivist and historian Heinrich Reincke advocated for “Wien” as the new name for Hallerstraße, he was overruled by the argument that the name “Ostmark” better reflected the current euphoria about Germany’s “reunification” with Austria. Meanwhile the name “Haller” was eradicated from Hamburg’s public space. Reich Governor Kaufmann was less happy to remove the name of world famous physicist Heinrich Hertz, however. He sought permission from Reich Minister of the Interior Frick to retain the street name honoring this “half-Jew.” Frick’s reply consisted in a strict order to “change all Jewish street names immediately and report the confirmed renaming to me no later than November 1, 1938.” StaHH 131-4/1934 A77 Bd.II., Decree by the Reich Minister of the Interior of 7/ 27/1938; letter by Frick to Kaufmann of 9/18/1938. On October 13, 1938, Obersenatsrat Senior Counselor Dr. Lindemann reported that the mandatory renaming of all Jewish street names in Hamburg had been scheduled for November 1st in a meeting of all the administrative offices involved. All of the new names were officially announced in the supplement to the official government publication, Öffentlicher Anzeiger, Beiblatt zum Hamburgischen Verordnungsblatt on October 15, 1938. The montage of street signs shown in this photo can therefore be dated to late October 1938. It was published by the Hamburger Anzeiger on November 1st. Both Hallerstraße and the eponymous subway stop were now renamed Ostmarkstraße, while Hallerplatz became part of Grindelhof and Martin-Haller-Ring was now called Hans-Schlemm-Platz. However, the updated Hamburg address book was not published until more than a year later. In 1939, it still lists Hallerstraße while the 1940 edition lists Ostmarkstraße instead.
On May 3, 1945, Hamburg was surrendered to the British troops without battle. The immediately installed military government dismissed most high-ranking officials and on May 15 appointed Rudolf Petersen, a merchant with a clean political record, as mayor. The next day, Petersen ordered the removal of all street signs bearing the names of NSDAP members and their replacement with the original street names. Street signs had to be installed during the following days “in those streets still inhabited.” StaHH 131-1 II/2673, order dated 5/16/1945. On June 18, based on the suggestion of senate lawyer Dr. Lindemann, several streets were given back their old names, including Leipzigerstraße, which became Heinrich-Hertz-Straße again, Ostmarkstraße, which became Hallerstraße again, and Schlieffenstraße, which returned to its old name, Henry-Budge-Straße. After some debate, both Hallerplatz and Martin-Haller-Ring were given back their old names as well. The street names used during the National Socialist period were no longer mentioned anywhere.
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Ingeborg Grolle, Dr. phil., born 1931, worked for the Southwest German Radio Station and has written several publications on the social history of Hamburg. Her focus of research: biographies, history of women and social history.
Ingeborg Grolle, Renaming of Hamburg Streets under National Socialism: Hallerstraße (translated by Insa Kummer), in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, September 22, 2016. <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:article-150.en.v1> [September 23, 2023].