L Jewish Entrepreneurs in Frankfurt (Oder)
Between the Wars Hirsch Department Store
Opposite the cinema and next to the Oderturm is Brunnenplatz - a rather bleak car park between Oderturm, Lenné Passagen and rows of other buildings. Where there is now just a stretch of concrete, there were, between the wars, several streets. At this location, numerous shops and some department stores made up the busy city centre. Jewish citizens, too, took a very active part in Frankfurt's business life. The so-called "Register of non-Aryan businesses and persons of independent professions in Frankfurt (Oder)" of 1935 lists numerous types of profession. Six doctors, 5 lawyers, many traders, 3 factory owners, 13 clothes shops and several others are mentioned.
Here, as everywhere in the German Reich, the Jewish populace had experienced a strong social advancement during the 19th century. They had assimilated into German culture, largely belonged to the middle classes, and were active in the social life of the city. Most were members of the liberal Jewish community, or were already estranged from Judaism.
One very well known shop in Frankfurt between the wars was the department store of the Jewish family Hirsch. It was located in the former Regierungsstraße, which ran along the southern side of what is today Brunnenplatz. Now the Oderturm shopping mall is located there.
One already finds "Manufakturwaren M. Hirsch, Regierungsstraße" registered in the Frankfurt books of the second half of the 19th century. From 1891 Emil Hirsch, brother of the first owner, runs the business with his wife Emma and sons Alfred and Bruno. Later his son-in-law Walter Bendit becomes one of the proprietors.
In the 1920s the Hirsch department store is the biggest shop in Frankfurt. Women's and men's fashion, above all, is sold there. Soon the rooms of business at Regierungsstraße 2-3a can be extended over three buildings. The facades are modernised and a row of shop windows made fully of glass is installed. The Hirsch family buys the property "Mettelmühle", near Neuzelle, as a holiday home for its staff of 300. At the same time, the family moves into a stately house at Gubenerstraße 16, that is known from then on as "Villa Hirsch".
However, the economic crisis does not leave the Hirsch department store untouched. In combination with the boycott of Jewish businesses, the 1930s bring the company serious reductions in turnover. But Emil Hirsch refuses to sell his shop when it is still possible. In the end a Mayor's report of 1935 registers the company as "Aryanised". At first leased to the Hähnel brothers, the department is forcibly sold after the Pogrom Night of 1938. Emil Hirsch and Walter Bendit are deported to Sachsenhausen. The Regierungsstraße and with it the Hirsch department store are completely destroyed at the end of the war.
Besides the Hirsch department store we would like to introduce you to another Jewish entrepreneur from between the wars. For this we will go to the suburb Gubener Vorstadt.
from Dorothee Ahlers