German Students Research Lives in Bottrop

Compiled by 8b Students
Bottrop, Germany

Imagine leaving school during the day and going to your town archives to find out about people who lived in your town years before. Well, in an effort to help the Holocaust/Genocide Project, eighth grade students of Willy-Brandt-Gesamtschule in Bottrop, Germany, actually searched their town archives and found out about the lives of Jewish citizens there before Hitler came to power and during the Third Reich up to 1939.

With the help of their teachers Susanne Bauer and Marion Werske, 8b students accomplished this project in their history and Roman Catholic religion class. They wrote most of the text in German and translated the text into English. Our friend, Siegfried Bojarra and student, Julia Fries, helped with the translations.

Jews in Bottrop

In 1808, the first Jews came to Bottrop. In 1847, there was a law that allowed Jews to erect synagogues, but at that time there were only 11 Jews in Bottrop.

The first mine, which was started in 1856, attracted people to the city. In 1856, there were 20 Jews in our town. When in 1914, the mine Prosper II was erected, there were already 146 Jews in Bottrop. They instituted a hall of prayer in a warehouse. The first Jewish cemetery was used for the first time in 1901.

By 1932, there were more than 200 Jews in Bottrop. About 80 of them were deported to Poland. In the so-called Reichskristallnacht of 9/10 November, 1938, nine Jewish shops were destroyed. The Jews were arrested and maltreated. On 21 January 1942, the last Jews were deported out of Bottrop. We could follow the life of some people up to their death.

  1. Jenny Kleinberger's Life: Jenny Kleinberger (married Braunthal) was born on 28 November 1923 in Bottrop. She was a member of the local, Jewish youth organization. Shortly after the pogrom of 9 November 1938, she lived in a camp near Berlin preparing for emigration. After she had emigrated to Palestine, she lived in a Jewish youth camp together with her parents until the middle of April 1939 waiting for her immigration papers. She worked on a Kibbutz for two years.

    Jobs after that: civil servant in Haifa, stenographer in the office of the British governor, secretary in the Oil Company, secretary in the press and information department of the Israel mission, secretary in an export company. Today she lives as a pensioner with her husband Baruch Braunthal.

  2. The Humbergs -- a Jewish Family in Bottrop: This is the story of Rolf and his family. Rolf was the youngest son. He had three elder brothers and two younger sisters. His parents married in 1913, and in 1939, his mother died. His father worked with the railway company; his grandfather was a butcher. The Humbergs were Jews. They celebrated the Jewish holidays, but even on these days prayers were read in German, not in Hebrew. Rolf even went to a Christian church sometimes. His father was well known. This was probably the reason why this family was treated better for a long time than other Jewish families, apart from the fact that Rolf's father lost his job. Rolf only recognized, as an adolescent, what happened to the Jews. He and his family lived in a house where Jews were not treated badly.

    When the regime of the Nazis began, the family fell apart. Two of Rolf's brothers fled to Palestine where one was murdered by terrorists. The third couldn't flee any more just as his father, who for reasons not known to us, wanted to stay in Germany. Rolf's oldest brother tried for a long time to do something for his father's emigration, but everything was in vain. In the end the children even didn't know about the second marriage of their father.

    "As a child, I did not feel a Jew," a member of the Humberg family reports. "We had a small house in a street called Eickholtshof next to the Protestant Pestalozzi-school. My father was a member in the bowling club, the marksmen's club and other clubs. At school I never realized that as a Jew I was different from the 'Germans.' My mother was very ill. Therefore, my brother Hans did the housework. My brother Kurt went to a school of economics. My brother Erich was very much discriminated against.

  3. Former Jewish Shops in Bottrop: All the shops belonging to Jews were destroyed in the so-called Reichskristallnacht. The party which caused all this was the NSDAP. In the night, the SS took photos of the shops they had destroyed, to have fun. Many Jews emigrated. Many Jews were taken to concentration camps, Auschwitz being one of these. There they were killed by gas. Children were taught at school that Jews were evil. Jews had to endure great harm during the war, and only a few Jews in Bottrop survived. Here are some examples of Jewish shops: Alexander Gladtke had a furniture shop, and today it is a clothing (mensing) store; Sofie Wagner had a shoe shop; Hermann Breuer had a department store that is currently a McDonald's; Wilhelm Wiesmann store is now a clothing (mensing) store; Sophia David had a lingerie shop that is now Goldfenster; Reichenstein and Reinharz had a furniture shop; today it is a butcher; Redisch had a second hand goods, clothing and furniture store; Kohn had a furniture shop, today Tiesmayer; and Krauthammer's grocery is now a sex shop.

  4. Jewish Businessmen in Bottrop -- Heyman, Walter: The businessman was born on 9 February 1879, and he was the managing director of the department store, Althoff. In 1911, he was elected deputy chairman of the Dorsten synagogue and from 1916 to 1918, he took part in the war. On 30 September, he went to Mannheim with his wife and daughter.

  5. Wagner, Moritz: He was a cobbler. Born on 24 February 1877, this Jew came to Bottrop from the USA on 11 May 1911. He went to Breslau on 1 February 1932.

    Gladtke, Alexander: Born on 13 May 1876, this Jew came from Gladbeck to Bottrop on 15 September 1913. He owned a furniture shop. Following the April boycott of 1933, he had to sell his shop. He died on 1 November 1934 in Essen.

Soon, students in class 10d, with their history teacher, Josef Ademmer, will start a project on Jews in Bottrop in the years between 1939 and 1945. They will also do research for the <iearn.hgp> teleconference in the town archives. According to Siegfried, "teachers and pupils (of 8b class) think that this project was successful and rewarding."

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