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from Gestapo records from films found in the
National Archives and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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All of us, who have tried for years to determine the fate of Berlin Jews, relatives or friends, have faced many frustrations. First of all, the records of those who emigrated safely, or who survived somehow inside Germany or Germany-occupied Europe, are incomplete, though there are many more sources of information than are generally known. Moreover, determining who was murdered in the Holocaust poses many problems. The German Government and Berlin Gedenkbücher are useful, but incomplete. Many names are missing and, even when a name appears, and the place of deportation, e.g. Riga or Lodz, is noted, there is often no information on that person’s final fate, i.e. the books simply state Verschollen.
Recent discoveries of filmed material make this search somewhat easier. As part of a much larger collection of concentration camp records, it has been possible to identify three reels of film which appear to contain lists of all Jews deported from Berlin. These lists were attached to memoranda from the Gestapo to the Oberfinanzpräsident Berlin. Each letter states that the Jews listed in the attached were deported, or committed suicide or died of natural causes, and directs the Oberfinanzpräsident to seize their property under the Reichsbürgergesetz. Many of the names have already appeared in the Gedenkbücher cited above, but the books’ editors appear to have been working from more difficult to read copies. These films, while they also contain lists which are not easy to read, should help to fill in gaps in information (Given the magnitude of the task, over 50,000 names, it is impossible for me to make a name by name comparison of the books with the film).
This article focuses on a tiny segment of the collection, the names of 483 Jews, primarily from Berlin, whose names do not appear in any Gedenkbuch, and who also were not survivors. For those readers who like riddles, let them guess who these persons might be. The answer is they consist of Jews who died of natural causes, if anything in the life of a Jew in Berlin in the 1940s might be considered natural. They are not listed in the major memorial books since their editors had decided that only persons who had been murdered or had committed suicide should be included.
Sophisticated researchers looking for names, which do not appear in printed material, have often looked for these persons in the records of the Weissensee cemetery, but there is no guarantee, that all Jews were buried there. Civil records exist, but, in accordance with Datenschutz, information on deaths is generally limited to direct ancestors, i.e. information on uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. is refused.
The small collection I have come across and computerized covers the period from July 1943 through March 1945. (Presumably there is similar information on earlier deaths as well as deaths in other cities, but I have been unable to locate this up to now). The collection is not easy to read but I was able to identify 480 or the 483 names. In addition to name, including maiden name for women, and date of death, the material often includes date and place of birth. In a few cases where the individual apparently died outside Berlin, this is noted as well. Street address was also included, but I have not computerized this information. (If street address is of special interest to individual readers, they may contact me and I shall furnish it.).
Some readers may be surprised that so many Jews were not deported and, in fact, many more were not deported and survived. Some of this was due to distinctions under the Nüremberg laws for persons with parents/grandparents who were not Jews. In other cases, a Jew might be married to a non-Jew, while in other cases an individual might occupy a position, which was considered so important that he/she was not deported. Of course, all these distinctions were administered in a highly arbitrary manner and there was no guarantee that a person spared from deportation at one point would not be deported later.
The list of 480 names has been sent to the Bundesarchiv, Landesarchiv Berlin, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Leo Baeck Institute in New York. Copies will also be sent to any other institution requesting it. More conveniently for individual researchers and institutions, the list will appear on JewishGen, (http://www.jewishgen.org), and can be examined and downloaded there.
With respect to the overall Berlin filmed collection, as noted above, the vast majority of names which appeared on the Gestapo lists are included in the current edition of the Berlin Gedenkbuch. Given the number of names in this filmed collection, it is far too difficult to look through the entire collection for individual names which are not in the Gedenkbuch. However, since the collection is arranged by transport, if an inquirer can identify a transport I would be prepared to search for a name. Otherwise, one will have to wait for a new Gedenkbuch or be prepared to take the time personally to review the filmed material at the National Archives or the Holocaust Museum.
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