(No) return? Return and (Re-)migration to Hamburg

An introduction to the source dossier

Most Jewish refugees did not return; the share of those who did was less than four percent. The statistics of the Jewish Congregation in Hamburg record a total of just under 200 remigrants for the period from 1945 to 1959, i.e., persons who settled temporarily or permanently in Hamburg, a numerically larger group being the Shanghai returnees. In 1959, the group of returnees made up about 14 percent of the Congregation members, composed in the early years primarily of persons who had survived in so-called mixed marriages (Mischehen). [1] In this context, during the first years, from 1945 to 1948, merely 25 persons returned and only in 1950, the number of returnees exceeded the number of emigrants.[2] The topic of remigration, however, cannot be limited to the question of return migration; rather, it involves complex networks of relationships between exile and the former homeland, between emigrants, remigrants and the majority societies; it is about the significance of places, about questions of survival, of new beginnings, of dealing with the past, about the relationship between Jewish and non-Jewish communities, about questions of belonging.

All of these questions are deeply individual and can initially be considered only on a micro level.[3] A synopsis of different sources, as this dossier aims to achieve, nevertheless points to general structures, sociopolitical parameters, legal hurdles, and emotional ambivalences that can be abstracted from the individual horizon of experience. Thus, our goal is to shed light on the topic of remigration by means of concrete reports of experiences and selected documents, using the example of individual biographies and focusing geographically on the city of Hamburg, to illuminate different groups and perspectives, to raise more questions than provide answers. What were the factors that influenced remigration decisions (family, profession, health, and climate); what were the living conditions in Hamburg for Jewish remigrants; what was the significance that the former hometown had in exile or in the new homeland; and what was the significance the emigrants had for Hamburg?

The dossier and its sources

The thematic dossier aims to make extensive source material available as digital facsimiles and transcripts. Through the online presentation, sources are brought together virtually and made accessible to the interested public. Each source or source bundle is introduced by a short text: In addition to information on provenance and the history of transmission, the introductions explain the content and significance of the sources presented. They also include notes on access to the original sources as well as possible further sources.

The focus of this dossier is on the sources, some of which are being made accessible to the public for the first time. The sources presented are of different provenance, representing various actors and thus at the same time diverse perspectives on the thematic complex of remigration and return. In addition to the personal moments, political, legal, or administrative questions are also addressed. The contemporary documents are supplemented by retrospectives and memories that evaluate decisions in hindsight. In order to depict decision-making processes and developments in their complexity and make them comprehensible, we have decided to present the sources largely unabridged or to reproduce entire sets of sources. Without the cooperation with various archives, this dossier would not have been feasible. We would like to thank the archives of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, the Hamburg State Archives, the Hamburg University Archives, and the Workshop of Memory (Werkstatt der Erinnerung) at the Research Centre for Contemporary History in Hamburg.

The material provided, which has been specially edited and tagged for this dossier, is supplemented by links to existing contributions in the Key Documents Edition. Martha Glass’ travel diaries are accompanied by a map that traces the stages of her travels and visits to Hamburg.

Notes on the editorial guidelines can be found here: https://keydocuments.net/about/edition

Travel diary 1947
Report by Martha Glass on her crossing from Bremerhaven to New York in February / March 1947
Travel diary 1953
Report by Martha Glass on her stay in Germany and Austria and in particular on her visit to Hamburg
Übersicht Wiedergutmachungsfälle
Undatierte vierseitige Liste mit Wiedergutmachungsfällen an der Universität Hamburg
(German. English version coming soon)
The case of Walter A. Berendsohn
Letter by Walter A. Berendsohn to Karl Ludwig Schneider, September 1, 1965
Occupational Questions of the Returnees from Shanghai
Undated overview of the professional experiences and wishes of returnees from Shanghai
Rückkehrer aus China in Bremerhaven
Artikel in der Nordsee-Zeitung, 17.11.1950
(German. English version coming soon)
Henry Cohen to the Hamburg Jewish Congregation
Henry Cohen to the Hamburg Jewish Congregation, Tientsin, December 29, 1946
Reply letter from the Hamburg Jewish Congregation to Henry Cohen
Reply letter from the Jewish Congregation in Hamburg to Henry Cohen, February 10, 1947
Rückwanderung nach Deutschland
Rundschreiben, Hendrik George Van Dam, Eilshausen bei Herford, 30. Mai 1947
(German. English version coming soon)
Statistics of Returnees
Undated Statistics of Returnees from the Year 1945 - April 1952
Report on the Status of the Jewish Congregation in Hamburg
Report on the Status of the Jewish Congregation in Hamburg, November 17, 1952
Interview with Elsa Davidsohn
“and so we decided [...] to go to Hamburg in 1958”. Elsa Davidsohn on her return to Germany in the 1950s.
Interview mit Roberto Kahn-Heymann
„Ich hätte gerne nochmal hier gewohnt“. Pendeln zwischen Spanien und Deutschland, 1952-1969.
(German. English version coming soon)
Interview mit Franziska Mayer
„Und wir haben gedacht, wir würden immer da bleiben”. Elsa Mayer über ihre Remigration aus Peru. Bald verfügbar.
(German. English version coming soon)
Interview mit Ruth Dräger
„Das war erst, zuerst ganz komisch”. Ruth Dräger über die Anfangszeit in Hamburg nach ihrer Befreiung in Theresienstadt. Bald verfügbar.
(German. English version coming soon)
Interview mit Esther Bejerano
„Also, das ist schon, eine [...] unheimliche Umstellung gewesen”. Esther Bejerano über den Umzug ihrer Familie von Israel nach Hamburg. Bald verfügbar.
(German. English version coming soon)
Interview mit Kurt van der Walde
„Wenn ich schon überlebt hab' [...] gemeinsam so arbeiten, daß die nie wieder 'ne Chance haben”. Kurt van der Walde über sein antifaschistisches Engagement. Bald verfügbar.
(German. English version coming soon)
Interview mit Menachem Uzai
„Meine Füße wer'n nie mehr den deutschen Boden [be]treten”. Menachem Uzai über seinen ersten Besuch in Hamburg. Bald verfügbar.
(German. English version coming soon)
Interview mit Rudolf Heymann
„Nun begann ein [...] traumwandlerisches Wiedererleben meiner Geburtsstadt”. Rudolf Heymann erinnert sich an der Neuanfang in Hamburg. Bald verfügbar.
(German. English version coming soon)
Arie Goral to Erich Lüth
”The undertaking involves great risk for me personally“. Letter from Arie Goral to Erich Lüth, Munich, January 17, 1953
Arie Goral an Erich Lüth
„Meine Idee war, mit dieser Ausstellung hier in Deutschland einen Anfang zu machen“. Brief von Arie Goral an Erich Lüth, 12.2.1953
Erich Lüth an Arie Goral
„Und ich weiß, daß wir zu dieser Arbeit verpflichtet sind“. Brief von Erich Lüth an Arie Goral, 26.2.1953
Erich Lüth an Arie Goral
„Diese Ausstellung hilft […] neue Brücken schlagen“. Telegramm von Erich Lüth an Arie Goral, 7.4.1953
Erich Lüth an Arie Goral
„Das darf uns aber nicht beirren“. Brief von Erich Lüth an Arie Goral, 5.5.1953
Arie Goral an Erich Lüth
„nachdem ich jetzt wieder in Hamburg weile“. Brief von Arie Goral an Erich Lüth, 18.10.1953
Erich Lüth an Arie Goral
„für einen alten Hamburger wie mich […] doch auch eine kleine Genugtuung“. Brief von Erich Lüth an Arie Goral, 20.10.1953
Arie Goral an Erich Lüth
Brief vom 26.10.1953

Notes

[1] Cf.: Ursula Büttner, “Schwierige Rückwanderung nach Hamburg. Wie Briten und Deutsche den jüdischen Flüchtlingen im Wege standen,” in: Irmela von der Lühe / Axel Schildt / Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (eds.), ‘Auch in Deutschland waren wir nicht wirklich zu Hause.’ Jüdische Remigration nach 1945, Göttingen 2008, Hamburger Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Juden 34, pp. 40–68, here: p. 66f. In Hamburg, those surviving in so-called mixed marriages made up almost 98 percent, cf.: Ina Lorenz, Gehen oder Bleiben. Neuanfang der Jüdischen Gemeinde in Hamburg nach 1945, Hamburg 2002, p. 19.

[2] Cf.: Ina Lorenz, Gehen oder Bleiben. Neuanfang der Jüdischen Gemeinde in Hamburg nach 1945, Hamburg 2002, p. 37.

[3] Cf. also Kirsten Heinsohn, “‘Aber es kommt auch darauf an, wie einen die anderen sehen.’ Jüdische Identifikation und Remigration,” in: Irmela von der Lühe / Axel Schildt / Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (eds.), ‘Auch in Deutschland waren wir nicht wirklich zu Hause.’ Jüdische Remigration nach 1945, Göttingen 2008, Hamburger Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Juden 34, pp. 69–85, here: p. 71.