IV. Buildings Integral to the Former Life and/or Persecution of Jews in Altona.
21. Ottenser Hauptstraße/Große Rainstraße.
In 1995 the "Mercado" shopping centre was erected where the cemetery once stood, after consultation with a rabbi from Israel. A plaque has been erected on the stairway to the basement.
The old cemetery in Ottensen was once situated where the Mercado shopping centre stands today, between Ottenser Hauptstraße (formerly Bismarckstraße) and Große Rainstraße.
In 1663, the land, in the
Ottenser Feldmark was acquired by the Hamburg Jews from the Cölln family. The Hamburg Jews were not
permitted their own cemetery within Hamburg. The cemetery was repeatedly enlarged, and later the
Altona Jewish community obtained a section where, from 1824 onward, they buried foreign Jews,
and later, until 1875, community members. The main section of the cemetery was used until 1934.
Within Judaism resurrection takes place on Judgement Day from the place of burial. Jewish cemeteries are therefore acquired, when possible, "in perpetuity".
However, the Nazis by-passed all legal and religious considerations in expropriating Jewish property. The "3rd regulation regarding the restructuring of the Reich capital Berlin" ("3. Verordnung über die Neugestaltung der Reichshauptstadt Berlin") and its application to Hamburg in paragraph 12 of the "regulation regarding the restructuring of the Hansa city of Hamburg" ("Verordnung über die Neugestaltung der Hansestadt Hamburg") made it legally possible to expropriate cemetery land which was required as part of the urban planning for the new structuring of Hamburg, or to revoke the status of cemetery and thereby make the land available. Altona had become an administrative district of Hamburg under the Greater Hamburg Act (Großhamburg-Gesetz) that came into force on 1.1.1938. The reasoning behind this was the plan to develop the bank of the Elbe within the framework of converting Hamburg into a "Führer city" ("Führerstadt")- a colossal development project within which Altona, among other areas, was to be completely restructured. The planner-architect was the later Hamburg city planner Konstanty Gutschow.
It was not until 1941 that this regulation was utilized, in an announcement by the local government of Hamburg, with reference to its universal application, in revoking the use of the land on which the Jewish cemeteries in Bismarckstraße and Königstraße stood. This was the first step to a possible expropriation of the land. The cemetery in the Bismarckstraße was the first to be expropriated and cleared. Burials were to take place solely in the Ohlsdorf cemetery.
The planned destruction of the Jewish cemeteries in Hamburg had been foreseen by Dr Leo Lippmann
(councillor of state for Hamburg before his dismissal by the Nazis) and Dr Max Plaut as members
of the board of the "Jewish Religious Association" ("Jüdische Relionsverband e.V.") as early as 1938/39.
Together with notary public Hans W. Hertz they proceeded
to document the epitaphs of all the Jewish cemeteries in Hamburg following the example of the
photographic documentation of the 1937 exhumed Grindel cemetery. This work was carried out by Hertz who,
although not being Jewish, had committed himself to the preservation of the cultural and archival
heritage of the Jewish community. The project was financed from donations from both
Jewish and non-Jewish firms. Dr Lippmann justified the project to the authorities by emphasizing the
"valuable genealogical material that would also be continually required by the authorities for
verification of Jewish extraction", supplementary to a register of Jews and the register of births,
marriages and deaths. Planning officer Heymann and other senior officials in the Altona surveyor's
office "were very reasonable and helpful" in prolonging the period in which the project had to be
completed. It was thereby possible to protract the dissolving of several cemeteries.
At the beginning of the Second World War a circular air-raid tower was built on a strip of cemetery land adjoining Bismarckstraße. In 1941 the rest of the cemetery was cleared for the construction of a large, rectangular air-raid shelter. However, several rows of gravestones remained adjoining Große Rainstraße.
Around 175 gravestones of artistic and historic value were removed and re-erected in four or five rows in Ohlsdorf cemetery. In addition, the remains of Salomon Heine and his wife Betty, nee Goldschmidt and of several other dignities were transferred to Ohlsdorf. Other discovered remains were also transferred and reburied.
After the war, in 1952, the Hermann Tietz Group (Hertie) bought the land from the Jewish Trust Corporation for 500,000 DM. The Trust was appointed by the occupying forces as trustees of the ownerless Jewish property. The land had to be cleared of the various street stalls, refreshment bars and war invalid street musicians that had in the meantime settled there. The circular air-raid tower was dismantled and blown up.
The excavation work took place under the continuous observation of a member of the Jewish community so as to secure any eventual remains. Those remains that were exhumed were carefully reburied in Ohlsdorf.
The Mercado shopping centre was opened on the 5th October 1995 after protest from orthodox Jews worldwide and the requisit demands had been fulfilled.
Jens-Peter Finkhäuser and Evelyn Iwersen: "The Juden in Altona sind längst vergessen ..." in