HUMILIATED AND STRIPPED OF HIS RIGHTS
CENTRAL PRISON RIGA
MARRIED NAME: KRONENBERG
Stumbling Stones installed at: Schalker Straße 75 (In November 2017)
Ill. 1: Siegfried Block and his wife Hedwig, approx 1919
The merchant Siegfried Block, who was born in Gelsenkirchen on 7 July 1881, was married to Hedwig Heinemann who was born in Altena on 16 August 1885. The couple had three children, all born in Gelsenkirchen: Kurt born on 27 January 1911, Ruth-Berta, born on 7 July 1912 and Hans- Helmut, born on 9 February 1914.
The three children managed to escape from Nazi Germany. Siegfried Block died on 3 July 1938 at his home at 75 Schalker Strasse. His death certificate also states: “Entered after verbal notification by nurse Isidor Süssenwein, 1 Bulmker Strasse, Gelsenkirchen who used his employment record book to show his identity.”  Siegfried Block’s wife Hedwig was deported from Gelsenkirchent to the Riga ghetto on 27 January 194 and was murdered at the Riga central prison.
Escape from Gelsenkirchen
Siegfried and Hedwig Block’s three children were able to leave Gelsenkirchen in 1936. Kurt and Ruth-Berta, who had married Norbert Ronenberg in Gelsenkirchen, were able to flee to South Africa. Though its international information network, the Aid Association of Jews in Germany (Hilfsverein der Juden in Deutschland) heard that the South Africans were threatening to tighten their entry requirements and in 1936 they chartered the steamship “Stuttgart” .
Ill. 2: From left: Kurt, Ruth-Berta and Hans-Helmut Block, 1936
Ill. 3: Ruth-Berta Kronenberg, nee Block, approx 1919
In October 1936 some 540 refugees arrived at the port in Cape Town, just five days before the new entry regulation were to be enacted. Among them were Kurt Block and his sister Ruth-Berta. But the "Stuttgart" did not receive permission to dock. In the end the people on board were allowed to leave the boat. But in Cape Town the refugees, who had just managed to flee from the Nazi regime in Germany, had a nasty experience: The refugees were received by a mob of South African Nazis and the sights and sounds of Nazi Germany, with protesters waving swastikas and shouting anti-Semitic slogans. Kurt Block got married in South Africa and had four daughters who today live in Johannesburg. Kurt Block lived in Johannesburg until his death on 23 January 1992. It is there that he found his last resting place.
Ruth-Berta Kronenberg, née Block, later became a fashion designer. She died in South Africa in 1980 leaving one daughter who now lives in Great Britain and a son who now lives in Canada.
27 January 1942: Hedwig Block is deported to Riga Ghetto
The widow was alone in Gelsenkirchen. Until she was deported, Hedwig Block “was allowed” to stay on at her home at Schalker Strasse 75. On 27 January 1942 she was deported to the Riga Ghetto on the first deportation train together with around 350 Jews from Gelsenkirchen . The Memorial Book of the Federal Archives for the Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany (1933 – 1945) states that Hedwig Block perished at the Riga central prison. In his 1989 testimony in Yad Vashem, based on documents from the Red Cross, her son Kurt states that his mother was murdered after being caught trying to smuggle bread into the Ghetto.
Ill. 4 u. 5: Hedwig Block, Page of Testimony Hedwig Block, Yad Vashem, submitted in 1989 by her son Kurt.
Ill. 6: A photo from happy times, Hedwig Block with her children Kurt, Ruth-Berta and Hans-Helmut. 1921, on holiday on the island of Norderney.
Ill. 7: First Furniture Store of Gumpel Block (Siegfried Block's father) in Gelsenkirchen, Schalker Strasse 75, approx 1900
The Block family lived at Schalker Strasse 75 right by the crossroads with Liborius Strasse. They were a well-known, respected Jewish family and in the same building they ran a furniture store which had been founded by Gumpel Block in 1868 at Liborius Strasse 37. In 1905 after the death of Gumpel Block the family business was extended in a new building at Schalker Strasse 75.
After the Nazis came to power in 1933, life became extremely difficult for the Block family. The family were subject to increasing pressure of persecution by the Nazis. Their business was boycotted and as a result there was a great fall in the number of customers. Thus the family lost their livelihood.
Then their business and property were “aryanised” – the term used by the Nazis to refer to the expropriation of Jewish property and in 1937 ownership was transferred to so-called “Aryan hands”.
Ill. 8: The new Block furniture store building erected in 1905 at 75 Schalker Strasse, corner of Liborius Strasse in Gelsenkirchen, ca. 1927 (click to enlarge)
The "Aryan" couple Theodor and Christine Ernsting, née Rosing, became the new owners of the Block furniture store, now called “Rosing”, which continued at the same location.
"Aryanisation" meant that companies such as Rosing were able to greatly increase their profits and financials status. The publication on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the company makes absolutely no mention of this dark chapter in the company history. A prime example of the unscrupulousness with which the big and small "beneficiaries of Aryanisation" in Gelsenkirchen and other places largely still shamelessly falsify their company histories or just do not mention these dark chapters.
Ill. 9: The Block family’s furniture store after so-called "aryanization", 1937
Even in 1960 on the occasion of the company’s fiftieth anniversary, the "Chronicle of the Rosing Company" refers to the “Aryanisation”, i.e. the government sanctioned expropriation of Jewish property, as follows:
"(...) It was in 1937 that the prudent company owners purchased a large commercial building on Schalker Strasse. This was the decisive step in their efforts to become the leading furniture store in Gelsenkirchen. (...)"
And the chronicle also says: "The company developed very well, as had been expected, until 1939 when World War 2 started and on 5 Novem- ber 1943 and 6 November 1944 the life’s work of two generations that had been developed with so much effort and also with great success, became a victim of the fury of war. (...)". It sound like scorn: the very people who benefited from “Aryanisation” actually regarded themselves as victims and conveniently happened to overlook the fact that the small empire of the Ernsting/Rosing family was in fact based on the hard work of a Jewish family. Siegfried Block, who was also active in the Jewish community, died in the second half of the 1930s. The increasing persecution, the loss of his property, the insults and humiliation may well have contributed to his death.
Hans-Helmut Block flees to Jerusalem
Hans-Helmut Block was a very gifted musician and since his early childhood he had played the violin, piano and also bassoon. There are still two photos from around 1920 which show young Hans-Helmut Block on the balcony with his violin and at the piano in his parents’ home at Schalker Strasse 75.
Ill. 10 u. 11: Hans-Helmut Block, aprox. 1920/21 in Gelsenkirchen
Hans-Helmut Block stayed in Berlin from 18 February 1935 to 6 July 1935 where he auditioned in front of the famous Jewish musicologist Georg Betram at the Stern’sche Conservatory. Bertram was also persecuted by the Nazis because he was a Jew. . In Berlin the Nazis wanted to break young Hans-Helmut’s hands to end his career. Fortunately this did not happen. He returned to Gelsenkirchen and on 5 September 1936 was able to flee from Gelsenkirchen to Jerusalem. The Nazis destroyed his piano during the Pogrom Night in November 1938 and threw the pieces out of the window of his home at Schalker Strasse 75.
Ill. 12: Certificate for Hans-Helmut Block, signed by Georg Bertram pianist and lecturer at the Stern’sche Music Conservatory in Berlin
16. January 1935
I auditioned Mr Hans Block of Gelsenkirchen who expressed the wish to study under me. I consider him to be extremely gifted but he will have to study for at least 1 to 2 years. Unfortunately he lacks the financial resources he would require. It would be most desirable if the relevant organisations could show their interest for the young man by making small payments (if possible regular payments) to allow him to study.
I will be happy to supply any information you may require.
In the end Hans-Helmut Block received a grant to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London and was thus able to continue his career. He got married in London to Ruth; they had three daughters and one son who were all born in London.
Piano Concert at the Hans-Sachs-Haus
In 1951 Hans-Helmut Block came back to Gelsenkirchen, the town of his birth, from which he had had to flee from the Nazis just because he was Jewish. On 14 October 1951 Hans Helmut Block played the piano as a soloist at the Hans-Sachs-Haus.
Abb. 13: Concert program, city of Gelsenkirchen 1951/52.
Ill. 14: Article from the Gelsenkirchen local newspaper
Famous Pianist to play in Gelsenkirchen
Hans Helmut Block
At the first matinée with new music which the Gelsenkirchen Orchestra is performing at 11 a.m. next Sunday, Hans Helmut Block will be playing the Piano Sonata op. 1 by Alband Berg and Piano Concerto No. 1 by Allan Rawsthorne. Hans-Helmut Block was born in Gelsenkirchen. He attended school here and at the same time was a pupil at the municipal conservatory in the master class for piano of Heinz Eccarius. His music theory teacher was Paul Wibral. At that time he already gave a number of public performances including one performance at the Hans-Sachs-House under music director Paul Belker. After his final school exams, until his emigration in 1936, Hans-Helmut Block studied under Professor Eduard Erdmann in Cologne.
During his extensive travels through many countries all over the world, he found the way to modern music with full conviction. In Jerusalem he was offered a grant to study at the Royal School of Music in London. Since the end of the war, Hans-Helmut Block has performed as a soloist in London also at the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden) with the Philharmonic Orchestra. He was very successful on the radio with his own piano trio. We are delighted that after such a long time we are once again able to listen to the Gelsenkirchen pianist in the town of his birth. He will be playing the Piano Sonata of the Schönberg pupil Alban Berg (1885-1936) so that we have the opportunity to hear this music in Gelsenkirchen. Allan Rawsthorne was born in Haslingden (Lancashire) in 1905. In 1926 he started studying at the Royal Manchester College of Music and gave his fist public performance in 1934 in a string quartet. His Variations for Two Violins and his “Symphonic Studies” for Orchestra led to great success in London in 1938 and in Warsaw in 1939.
On 6 January 1963 Hans Helmut Block and his family emigrated from London to Israel. Shortly afterwards, on 24 July 1963, Hans Helmut Block died suddenly of a heart attack. He was on a boat travelling to South Africa to see his sister. Hans-Helmut Block was buried in Southern Rhodesia (later Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe).
Stumbling stone sponsors
The stumbling stones for Hedwig and Hans-Helmuth Block have been sponsored by Jesse Krauss, the stumbling stones for Kurt and Ruth-Berta Block have been sponsored by Helen Shifron and the stumbling stone for Siegfried Block has been sponsored by Marion Block.. According to current planning, the stumbling stones will be implanted in August 2017.
 Einwohnerkartei und Sterbeurkunde Siegfried Block, Stadtarchiv Gelsenkirchen/Institut für Stadtgeschichte
 Shalom Adler-Rudel, Jüdische Selbsthilfe unter dem Naziregime 1933-1939. S. 92; Leo Baeck Institut Jerusalem; J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) Tübingen 1974
 ITS Arolsen, Dokument ID: 12852521 und Dokument ID: 12852520 – Gemeindelisten über jüdische Residenten)
 Bertram, Georg in: Bundesarchiv Berlin; Namensliste "nichtarischer" Musiker mit Mitgliedsnummern in der RMK 1935 (Sign.: R 56 II/15), Reichskulturkammerakte von Georg Bertram (Sign.: ehem. BDC, RK R 2, Bild-Nr. 2832-2842).
Unless otherwise stated, the photos and documents are the property of the Block family/Helen Shifron who have given their kind permission for use here..
Ill. 4 u. 5: Yad Vashem
Ill. 8: Monographien deutscher Städte - Band XX: Gelsenkirchen, 1927
Ill. 9: Jubiläumsschrift zum "50. Firmenjubiläum" der Firma Rosing, 1960
Stolpersteine for Siegfried, Hedwig, Ruth-Berta, Kurt u. Hans-Helmuth Block, layed down November, 24th 2017
Gelsenkirchen: The story behind the stumbling blocks
There are already 161 stumbling blocks in Gelsenkirchen. On 24th November 2017, 25 more have been added. They are reminiscent of people who were persecuted and murdered during National Socialism. They also remind of the people who were able to save their lives by fleeing. In remembrance families are symbolically reunited. Just like the Jewish family Block. Their descendants came today from all over the world and for the first time in Germany.
Speech by Helen Shifron in Gelsenkirchen, Schalker Straße 75, November 24th, 2017:
"Our Family Block. Grandmother Hedwig, Grandfather Siegfried. Little do we know about them. We have a saying: "Man is formed by his childhood landscape". So here we are in Gelsenkirchen, where our parents were born and raised, attended school, played with friends, planned their futures.
Our Grandparents never met us, and no-one knows where they are buried. This is the first time that a ceremony is held in their memory, that Kaddish is said for their souls. Our parents, whose lives were shattered and they themselves scattered over the globe, could not find the words to tell us about their beloved fatherland, their childhood and their parents.
We, the ten Block cousins, gathered bits and pieces of information, shreds of stories, old photos and short notes, and with the help of Andreas Jordan have become slightly acquainted with our family roots. It is appropriate that we mark the place in which our Grandparents lived, rather than their graves, for they live on in us, in our children and grandchildren, through the humor, the talents and the love of life which are typical of the Block family.
Projektgruppe STOLPERSTEINE Gelsenkirchen. Andreas Jordan, December 2016. Update November 2017