For ten years longer than she lived my great-grandmother Hannchen has lain at the ‘youngest’ Jewish cemetery at De Knik in Denekamp. She died on 18 October 1930. For forty years she lived at the spot now occupied by the Blokhuis butcher’s shop – bearing six children – with her husband Isaak ten Brink, cattle dealer, butcher and pub landlord. Just a few months before her death they had celebrated their ruby (40 years) wedding anniversary at the combined Ten Brink pub/butcher’s shop on De Brink. Their two elder daughters, Julia and Rosalie, had come over from Dortmund with their husbands Adolf Löwenhardt and Josef Rosenbaum, plus three grandsons, of whom the eldest, Heinz, was my father. The two youngest, Zelma and Adela, with their husbands Bram and Iwan de Leeuw, and grandsons Maurits and Izaak came over to Denekamp from Enschede and Almelo. The two bachelor sons still lived in Denekamp. At a given moment on that day in 1930 a carefully composed family photo was taken in front of the pub/butcher’s shop.
It may be that Hannchen was already ill. She looks weak – even fragile – and leans slightly to the left on her chair. Hannchen and Isaak were married in 1890, three days after the birth of their daughter Julia – my grandmother. And so, obviously the ruby anniversary celebrations would have been held in May, or at any event in spring. A year later Hannchen would be 70 – she was born on 25 June or 4 July 1861 in Lütgeneder.
The village of Lütgeneder is situated on the southern border of Nordrhein-Westfalen between Borgentreich and Warburg – to the northeast of Kassel. The route planner puts it less than three hours or 255 kilometres away along the autobahn. But in the summer of 1889 when Isaak and Hannchen met it was a long, long way from Denekamp.
How and why did they meet? That is something I may never discover. Perhaps they were in contact via the cattle trade? Or possibly a shadchan (matchmaker) was involved – the forerunner of today’s dating sites. It wasn’t long since Isaak had suffered a great loss – his first wife Hinderine van de Walde had died in childbirth on 8 December 1888 along with their still- or newborn son Mozes. Mauritz, the only surviving son had died on 19 June 1889 aged two. On his 31st birthday on 10 July of that year, Isaak was alone again. Apparently he was in a hurry to make up for the loss. Two months later Hannchen was pregnant.
I know very little about her life in and after Lütgeneder. That could change – who knows – but in any event I can make a start with her roots in this agrarian, spotless, apparently prosperous village nestling among the hills – with the two or three Jewish families who once lived there. Hannchen’s surname was Kleeblatt. She was one of the children of Meijer Kleeblatt and Riekchen Sauer. In the early 20th century her brother Hermann settled in Dortmund-Lindenhorst. Louis, who was probably the youngest brother, carried on the family business in Lütgeneder.
Lütgeneder and Denekamp – a pair of villages each with a tiny Jewish community but differing in size. Denekamp had some six thousand inhabitants in 1925 and Lütgeneder no more than 482. In 1925 Jews made up one percent of the population of Landkreis Warburg. In Denekamp the figure was declining from just over 2 percent in 1860 (92 people) to around 0.8 percent (58 people) in 1941. So, rather than the relative size of the Jewish community the difference lay in differences of scale between the two villages. Indeed, in 1890 Denekamp was much, much larger than Lütgeneder. The Denekamp Jews had their own shul on Vledderstraat, those of Lütgeneder had to walk to the shul on the Rosenstraße in the village of Großeneder just a few kilometres away. With the steady departure of Jews from this village the Großeneder shul was closed in 1929.
I am also unable to say whether or not there was a chuppah (Jewish wedding) for Hannchen and Isaak in the Großeneder shul. What is certain is that the sources give us two wedding dates: 7 January 1890 in Lütgeneder and 23 May of the same year, three days after the birth of their daughter Julia, in Denekamp. Maybe there was no chuppah after all – and the couple simply had a civil ceremony in Hannchen’s village and the marriage was registered in Denekamp four months later.
Around the turn of the century – ten years after Hannchen’s departure – the village of Lütgeneder had no less than two pubs or cafés: Franz Nolte’s and the Gasthof – Louis Kleeblatt’s Gaststätte. There were two remarkable similarities with Lütgeneder and Denekamp both having small-scale home-pub operations (without draught beer) combined with cattle dealing. The story was that while the Kleeblatts were kosher slaughtermen, they were not particularly devout: like so many German Jews they were highly assimilated. The catholic village children came to the Kleeblatts en masse to listen to their special programmes on the radio. Apparently the family were the first people in the village to own a radio. In 1920 Louis Kleeblatt also secured the postal agency which had previously been run by landlord Nolte. Thanks to income from the cattle trade, the Gaststätte and the postal agency Louis and his second wife Johanna had a reasonably comfortable existence (his first wife Selma died in 1913 and is buried in Großeneder).
The postal agency had been linked to the telegraph network since 1904. From spring to autumn Polish seasonal workers in and around the village regularly sent happy or less happy telegrams home, via Louis. At a quarter past noon every day he – or possibly Johanna – put the incoming (by telegraph) weather forecast in a glass bulletin case next to the letter box outside. Sometimes a guest would stay overnight – travelling salesmen, the ‘packenträer’ or fabric peddler, or mechanics en route to the new milk factory (another similarity with Denekamp). The Seissenkerl who arrived every summer in the village from Siegenland with a bundle of scythe blades over his shoulder.
Did Hannchen ever return during the 40 Denekamp years? We don’t know. Apparently her brothers Hermann from Dortmund and Louis from Lütgeneder did not come to Denekamp for her and Isaak’s 40-year anniversary, there is no photographic evidence that they did. The telegram giving news of her death arrived at the Gaststätte Kleeblatt in October 1930.
The residents were taken away to be murdered on 10 December 1941. But the 1835 building that housed the Gaststätte and post office was still there in 2010, at 2 Kleeblattstraße. When house numbers were substituted for street names in the 1960s the father of the present resident suggested Kleeblattstraße. Google Maps will put the house on your screen in one mouseclick.
CBS, Volkstellingen/Censuses 1795-1971, and www.verwaltungsgeschichte.de
Information around the Kleeblatts in Lütgeneder was taken from two brochures in the author’s collection, written by the history teacher Franz Conze (Peckelsheim), published in 1984/85 as Juden in Lütgeneder’ and Das Postwesen in Lütgeneder. The village website also provides information.
Translated from the Dutch by Anthony Fudge, Amsterdam. Previously published in Dutch in ‘t Onderschoer 33:1, autumn 2011.
© John Löwenhardt, The Hague 2010