9 December 1933
Letter from Hugo Heymann to Julius Sternberg requesting information about his ancestors
The lawyer Dr. Hugo Heymann wrote this letter after receiving a “strictly confidential” tip that a new law concerning Jews was being drafted. According to Heymann, the law would place him in a “favored” category on the condition that he could prove his ancestors had settled in Germany prior to 1800. Since Heymann himself was unable to trace his family tree back that far, he asked Julius Sternberg (1879–1971) for advice and assistance.
Sternberg managed the respected M. K. Sternberg department store in the old center of the Spandau section of Berlin and was the head of the local Jewish community there. But this was not the sole reason Heymann wrote to him. Sternberg was a lover of history who had commissioned a genealogist to research his own family background. The “refreshment hall” in his department store was decorated with historical paintings recounting the history of Spandau. In addition, Heymann’s grandmother was a Sternberg by birth and the two men had roots in the former Prussian city of Czarnikau, now in Poland. As a result, Heymann was justified in hoping that Sternberg would be able to provide him with information about his ancestors.
What is less understandable is Heymann’s belief that he would be able to escape the Nazis’ racist policies if he proved that his family history had unfolded on “German soil” as early as the eighteenth century. In fact, although he had heard rumors about the law from “reliable sources,” such legislation was never adopted. In the Nazis’ eyes, affiliation with Judaism was based on descent—“on blood.” Even if Heymann had been able to show that his ancestors had had roots in Germany going back for generations, this information would not have protected him from persecution.
Hugo Heymann died on 24 November 1939 at the age of sixty-eight and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Weissensee. His wife, Susette, born in 1874, did not survive the Nazi period. She was deported to Theresienstadt in March 1943 and from there to Auschwitz in May 1944.
Monika Flores Martinez
Dr. Hugo Heymann
M. Neufeld & Co.
Tel: A 2 Flora group no. 6251
Berlin NW 7
Dear Herr Sternberg,
I am writing to you today with an important request. I have learned from sources that so far have proved reliable that a new law concerning Jews is in preparation, aimed at standardizing the different classes. The favored class will comprise Jews whose families have been in Germany since 1800 .**
** This information is strictly confidential
Since I know that you are have a great respect for tradition, I am certain you will be able to help me find out whether my paternal family has been in Germany for that long and provide the necessary proof.
My grandparents Victor and Caecilie Heymann both died in May 1894 and are buried in the Spandau cemetery.
However, I do not know if my grandfather was born in Czarnikau, the precise date of his birth or even who his parents were and where they were born. Nor do I have any idea where I might obtain this information should you happen not to be in possession of it yourself.
My grandmother was probably a native of Spandau—a Sternberg by birth, if I’m not mistaken. That would make her a close relative of yours, wouldn’t it? Who were her mother and father and when and where were they born?
I would be very grateful to you if you could answer the above questions or have someone take on this work. Of course, I will gladly cover all the related expenses. At the same time, please excuse the demands I am placing on your time.
I hope you have a successful Christmas season and I wish you and all your loved ones Happy Holidays and, notwithstanding all, a blessed 1934.
Best regards to you and your entire family.