Christoph Kreutzmüller is the author of Final Sale in Berlin: The Destruc­tion of Jew­ish Com­mer­cial Activ­i­ty 1930 – 1945, a his­to­ry of the Ger­man fore­clo­sure of Jew­ish busi­ness­es before and dur­ing the Third Reich. Christoph is blog­ging this week as part of the Vis­it­ing Scribe series on The ProsenPeo­ple.


Since 2005, I have been study­ing how the Ger­man Nation­al Social­ist régime sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly destroyed and loot­ed busi­ness­es owned by Jews in Berlin, as well as the ways that Jews respond­ed to this per­se­cu­tion. This research was not just to ana­lyze the Jew­ish owned busi­ness­es, but also to doc­u­ment them. After all, the fam­i­lies involved have a right, and Ger­man soci­ety has a respon­si­bil­i­ty, to know exact­ly where they were and what hap­pened to them. This is why a data­base of Jew­ish busi­ness­es in Berlin was set up and made avail­able to Berlin archives as well as Yad Vashem and the Leo Baeck Insti­tute, New York.

Among the enquiries I have received was one by Christi­na Craig, whose grand­fa­ther had run a sta­tion­ary whole­sale busi­ness S. Hilsen­rath in the Neue Grün­strasse 40 in Berlin — a street I pass every day on my way to work in the Jew­ish Museum. 

The online ver­sion of my data­base states only the address and that the pos­ses­sion (not prop­er­ty) was trans­ferred to a non-Jew in 1937. The unabridged data­base allows a deep­er look: Sig­mund Hilsen­rath start­ed a lim­it­ed com­pa­ny in 1923. Dur­ing the Great Depres­sion it seem­ing­ly ran into dire straits and was stroked off the reg­is­ter in March 2, 1933. How­ev­er, in sum­mer of 1935 — in the midst of anti­se­mit­ic tur­bu­lence lead­ing up to the Nurem­berg laws — he set up a new com­pa­ny under the name Szulem Hilsen­rath. This com­pa­ny was offi­cial­ly trans­ferred to a cer­tain Oscar Winther in Feb­ru­ary 1937. That the com­pa­ny was Jew­ish accord­ing to the stan­dards applied in my research was ascer­tained from the fact that it appeared as a mem­ber of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Mid-tiers in Sep­tem­ber 1936

Christi­na filled in many gaps to the busi­ness’ his­to­ry and told me that her grand­fa­ther was born in 1895 in Kolomy­ja in Gali­cia. Like so many oth­ers, he was dri­ven away from his home by pogroms and came to Berlin after the First World War. In the Ger­man cap­i­tal, he first worked for a print­er but set up his own com­pa­ny in Germany’s peri­od of hyper-infla­tion. A year lat­er he mar­ried Frie­da, whose fam­i­ly ran anoth­er paper com­pa­ny, which was incor­po­rat­ed into S. Hilsen­rath Ltd. in 1924. In 1932 Hilsen­rath had to declare bank­rupt­cy, and in Octo­ber 1938 he was deport­ed to the Pol­ish bor­der togeth­er with 17,500 oth­er Pol­ish Jews. Christina’s grand­fa­ther man­aged to return to Kolomy­ja, but was mur­dered while try­ing to escape a camp on June 51943

In Octo­ber 1936 Hilsen­rath sold the com­pa­ny to Winther, a Dan­ish busi­ness­man liv­ing in Berlin. This trans­ac­tion was only reg­is­tered five months lat­er. Winther bought the busi­ness for 15,200 RM, a very low price con­sid­er­ing the com­pa­nies turnover. The low price, in turn, most cer­tain­ly did not pro­vide the sell­er with enough funds to emi­grate. He was deport­ed almost exact­ly two years later.

Christoph Kreutzmüller is cura­tor at the Jew­ish Muse­um of Berlin. His exhi­bi­tion Final Sale: The End of Jew­ish-Owned Busi­ness­es in Nazi-Berlin has been shown in the Leo Baeck Insi­tute, New York, Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty in Jerusalem and at Boston University.

Relat­ed Content:

Christoph Kreutzmüller is cura­tor at the Jew­ish Muse­um of Berlin. After fin­ish­ing his dis­ser­ta­tion on Ger­man banks in the Nether­lands over 19191945 at Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty, he worked at as a senior his­to­ri­an for the House of the Wannsee Con­fer­ence. His exhi­bi­tion Final Sale: The End of Jew­ish Owned Busi­ness­es in Nazi-Berlin has been shown at the Leo Baeck Insi­tute, Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty (Jerusalem), and Boston University. 

Adding Dimen­sion to the Online Data­base of Jew­ish Busi­ness­es in Berlin

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