Category Archives: English

Replacing a live front-end legacy code – The bottom to top migration strategy

This article is written about work done in 2016 – and the technoloigies mentioned match the time:

Here’s the deal – A company has an existing product with outdated technology, an old legacy code which is unmaintainable and unextendable, essentially, written with old technology. The company in question understands that it’s time to move forward, catching up with the present day and time.

Unlike the usual method of rewriting an entire product from scratch (top to bottom), there is a better way. This includes building a new front-end feature and immediately using it within the old legacy product. This methodology works even when the technologies are light years away from each other.

I used to work for a company like that. Before I started working there, their initial starting point included an old product which was an auto-generated HTML code out of a java backend, also known as “Automagically generated JS, CSS, and HTML”. This happens to be a front-end developer’s true horror.

This company decided to rewrite its product from scratch, with all new technology (Javascript and a Python API). They recruited developers, product specialists, used the best resources, and meeting hours. This was the first time that this company had a big front-end project ahead of them.

During the following year, they had an old legacy product that was live. It was making money but had minimum resources for maintenance, and no new features whatsoever.

On the other side of the development department, a new pile of fresh code and architecture was just beginning to be written. Unfortunately, it piled up and laid there without anyone knowing about the product or its users. The feature set wasn’t that big, but because this product was supposed to replace an already live product, no one could cut the scope of its features.

After more than a year, the freshly written code and architecture failed to reach its deadline, and there was no end in the horizon.

The project was canceled.

So there we were, with a year’s worth of development time and fresh code, but none that was usable. We had a product that was not maintainable and a business that needed to keep working and growing.

We all wondered, how could we all solve this horrible problem? What would have been the best way to make up for this lost project before us? How could we revive our motivation and bring back trust to the front-end department in the company?

I was called on to find a solution – and thankfully, did. The solution focused on the business. For a developer that always wanted the cutting-edge technology to be written from scratch – it was a difficult solution to understand, at the beginning.

The idea  was to reach goals in a better way:

The solution included giving the company the possibility to maintain and add features to its old applications. And, in such a way that also took the company forward in the direction of having a full new front-end application as needed. The solution enabled us to transparently transition from an old product to a new and cutting-edge front-end product.

Unlike the original method that was used which included rewriting the whole product from scratch (i.e. from top to bottom), the new method  was from bottom to top. I determined that we could build a new front-end feature and immediately use it, and we could make a profit and learn from it.

This also enabled us to stop at any point, and to shift resources at any time, without any loss. This was because every new feature was already in production, and embedded in the old application, but separated and detached from it.

This solution undertook important calculations and measurements:  

  1. Time / Resources
  2. Risks
  3. Scope
  4. Technical limitations

Technical Problem:

In all actuality, the legacy product was very limited from a UI perspective. We were bounded only by the UI elements and functionality that it provides. And, it is not a front-end friendly framework at all – it is a closed product.

Even worst –  it was mixed in with badly implemented JS code, on top of old product, which “helped” overcome the above problem in the past, this layer can be called: the hacks layer.

It was unscalable for code/feature extension, and since each update is global, it can easily break style and functionality.

We must keep developing the money-maker products, and we cannot merely rewrite it.

When addressing a migration from an old technology to another, we developers always think about a total new re-write. But if you are able, technically, to isolate your new code, components, and UI elements – you can do the re-write in a much more efficient way.

Infrastructure preparation:

On top of all feature requests, we must implement a few front-end infrastructure features:

The idea of this preparation job is to offer a set of front-end tools for easier maintenance, deployment, and development:

  • E2E tests (wooha, Selenium)
  • SASS compiling
  • Minifier / Concatenator
  • Angular
  • Bower

Now to the real work:

JS

We chose Angular.

Most importantly, the new code must be encapsulated, and most importantly, we must not rely on the DOM.

We found Angular the most encapsulated framework, allowing us to separate our JS code and HTML from the old container.

Each component must contain an angular view and have the ng-application root. We don’t want Angular to waste resources on listening to the whole DOM (and conflicts with the legacy lib). We encapsulated the page too small Angular apps.

CSS

Style separation: The Style lib

The style we came up with was the most complicated part.

CSS is inherited. There is no easy way to encapsulate an element from a CSS rule that applies to this selector (There is one way, but it is not supported by any IE, and we could use other tricks, that looked hacky).

So, we have an old framework, with a big pile of CSS, and with various rules that select tags, classes, states, and most importantly – deep rules, such as:

body form label input [type-text]{}

There is no way to write generic rules that can predict and override them.

Also – When we write a new feature, we cannot determine what overrides what. There is an option to check in the development tools, but this is a very long process, especially for each rule.

The solution was a separate UI lib. We generated two CSS files: The old Lib.css and the newLib.css.*
On our portal, we included both files.
On a separate static HTML page, we included only the newLib.css file.

When a new feature is being built, or an existing feature is being rebuilt, we must first build it inside the static HTML. Thus, creating it’s CSS rules in a clean, isolated environment.

At this stage, we know that the independent style we included on the page will work when we remove the oldLib.css file.

As for the rules from oldLib.css that are overriding the newly created rules (some !important or deep nesting rules from the legacy code that we cannot remove), they were minimal in numbers and got their special overridden section at the end of newLib.css

Once the oldLib.css file is removed, we can then remove the sections. We will then have an immediate working product, with minimum need to adjust and fix.

Results:

As for the time spent writing these lines, many of its features were overridden, and many new features were built, all with a new front-end code. They are all live, which immediately allows the company to earn money from the invested time they spent.

In this case, the old legacy product is maintained again, it is also extendable, and one day, it will get rid of the old code easily because of this separation.

What we created allows us to change resources without any problem whatsoever. No waiting on code that will never see the light of day or make any money.

And, on the developer side, we are able to do cutting-edge technology, using the tools that we would have used in a complete rewrite project. But, now we have an even better, harder, and more complicated task. This challenges us more and helps us to find solutions that other developers who use frameworks out of the box don’t need to deal with. It forces us to need a better developer, better learning processes, and a great backup and belief from the company management that this is achievable.

The above solution gives us the possibility to maintain and add features in such a way that will also take us forward in the direction of having a full new front-end product, in its old automagically generated front-end. It also enables us to have a transparent transition of the old product, to a new cutting-edge front-end product, which is miraculous.

* not the real names of the files

Saint Petersburg and the Siege of Leningrad

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, a German army surrounded the city of Leningrad (today’s Saint Petersburg) in an extended siege.

The siege lasted nearly 900 days and resulted in the deaths of more than 1 million civilians.

During the siege, the city established supply lines from the Soviet interior and evacuated many citizens, often using a hazardous “ice and water road” across Lake Ladoga. In January 1943, the Red Army finally managed to break that siege.

I arrived in Saint Petersburg for a vacation and took one day to see the battle areas, and the most important “road of life” – a path that kept the city alive during these almost three horrible years.

My tour guide was Alexander from Histours. Alexander drove me in his car, and for almost 9 hours, we visited the main locations that formed the story of the siege and its breaking.

Armed with maps, photos and deep knowledge of the area and the people, Alexander took me through the road of life, to the battle that broke the siege through Neva River that starts at Lake Ladoga and ends in the Gulf of Finland, in Saint Petersburg.

The road of life:

The road of life was used to evacuate people from the city and bring supplies in. In the map, the gray color is the control area of the Nazis.

Road of Life. November-December 1941
Germash19 – the crossing marks with red.

This memorial is for kids. A young girl gives her sister a phone book, so she will be able to write a diary (normal notebooks were hard to get).

On these stones are the pages where she writes the death dates of her family. Each page indicates the dead (mother, dad, grandmother…) the time and date of death.

Pages from a little girls diary, describing the death of her family.

With these stones, we follow a young girl’s life during the siege, while all her family is fading away, one by one.

Following the road of life, we climb a hill that was used as a hospital. Here, mass graves of the wounded that died later, the women of war and all other forgotten brave ones, who did not die on the battlefield.

Original road of life
Original road of life
For the women of war

The main part of the road of life was the crossing of Lake Ladoga, which is frozen most of the year.

The crossing was done with trucks, with ice in any condition – many did not finish the journey.

Here is the memorial in the exact point where the trucks went down to the ice and started crossing the lake.

The memorial symbolizes the breaking of the siege.

After crossing the lake, a train was used to transfer the supply into the city.

Without the Chinese people.

Later, a bridge was built. The Germans kept bombing it, and the Russians fixed it. The Germans did not try to fight hard against the road of life since they were sure it was a waste of resources for the Red Army and the city wouldn’t survive with this small means of transportation.

Finally, the Red Army was able to break the siege in crossing the frozen Neva River; the battle began with an orchestra playing the “International.”

Diorama of the battle of Leningrad
Diorama of the battle of Leningrad

This point held the hardest battles.

And then the shock came.

This land saw the hardest battle. It was here where they broke the siege. Every piece of land saw so much blood and gunpowder.

It is still full of remains, and it is being dug. Everywhere you go, you see war items, such as gas masks, shoes, etc. At one point, we saw human bones that were discovered.

German shoe (with nails) and Russian (glue)
German shoe (with nails) and Russian (glue)
Human remains
Human remains
Human remains
Human remains
Nazi shoe.

Not far away from there, Russian soldiers buried the remains that were found.

 

It is amazing to see, that until today, we still haven’t covered out everything from that war.

The tour was given by Alexander, a private tour guide. I highly recommend him. It was a fascinating day, with stories that are not told enough in the west.

For the bravery of the people of Saint Petersburg, and the brave people that defended them.

Save Neuendorf – Future for the History of the Hachshara Movement in Germany

I came to know Neuendorf as a part of the family history research.  Neuendorf was the last Zionist Hachshara camp where Rulf, the brother of my grandmother stayed, before he was deported to Auschwitz. The importance of this camp is huge. Very little is known about the role of the Hachshara camps in the Zionist movement in Germany, and now we have a chance to save it, with the help of dear friends, Stella and Benno:

Neuendorf Estate, near Fürstenwalde (Spree), 60 km East of central Berlin

© Written by Stella Hindemith & Benno Plassmann 

Historic considerations

Set in the East-German countryside half-way between Berlin and the Polish border is Neuendorf. From the late 1920s Neuendorf was an important center of Jewish self-organisation, mutual support, and resistance at first in times of economic hardship, and then of persecution by the German authorities.

Before the onset of Nazi dictatorship in 1933 there were about 30 Jewish youth education centers throughout Germany. There is hardly any research into their history, however, it is clear that not all of them served as places to prepare young people for emigration or Aliyah. They also served as places where young unemployed Jews had a chance to learn useful skills in economically difficult times, be it after World War I or during the Great Depression. They were run not only by either religious or overtly Zionist organisations, but also by the Jewish boy scout movement or philanthropic foundations such as the Jewish gardening school in Ahlem near Hanover founded by Moritz Simon in 1893. After 1933 these education centers were transferred to the responsibility of the so-called Palestine office in the Reichsvereinigung der Juden (the federation of all Jewish organisations in the Reich enforced by the Nazi Government). From then on, in the spirit of the Zionist Hachsharah movement, all these Jewish youth education centers worked to teach young people skills important for emigration; many of them were able to reach Palestine, England, Sweden, or South America. In 1936 there were 139 Hachsharah centers in Germany with more than 5.000 people working and learning there. By 1938 these numbers had fallen to 32 centers with about 1.300 people. In 1941 also the last available forms of training for Jews were forbidden by the Nazi authorities, and the centers had to close down.

Neuendorf is a typical example for these developments and central for the history of Zionist youth movements in Germany. After its philanthropic Jewish owner Hermann Müller had passed management of the Estate to the Berlin-based Jewish workers support association in the early 1930s, mainly unemployed young men could live, work and learn there. In 1937 Neuendorf also officially became a Hachshara center. Neuendorf continued as a place of Jewish self-organisation even after 1941, however, the situation transformed into that of a forced labor camp. Neuendorf remained under the directorship of Martin Gerson, and it turned into the central location where young people from other Hachshara centers were sent to when theirs were closed. By then entire families lived in Neuendorf whose children were looked after, others, by the famous educationalist and Montessori-pioneer Clara Grunwald. In 1943 the last inhabitants/inmates were deported from Neuendorf to Auschwitz.

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015

Despite the important role the Zionist youth movements (and people from Neuendorf, in particular) played in the organisation of resistance to and survival of Nazi-persecution, as well as in the period directly after the Shoah, and then during the establishment of the State of Israel, there is very little research and hardly any literature about the Hachshara in Germany, nor is there any memorial place in Germany. Indeed, outside Jewish museums in Germany there is nothing much that can be found about the history of Zionism in Germany. Neuendorf is important because of its historically central role for the Zionist youth movements in Germany, and on top of that today it is the only Hachshara place in Germany the buildings of which remain in their entirety.

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015

The situation today: Neuendorf Estate for sale

Today Neuendorf is owned by BIMA (federal agency for real estate) as trustees of the German Federal Government. According to the competent German authorities there are no compensation claims pending. However, it has not been possible to verify independently whether possible claims by the descendants of Hermann Mueller, (Jewish) owner of Neuendorf in the 1920s and 1930s, were indeed settled, or not. Fundraising is ongoing to pay for the necessary historic research in archives in Germany, Israel and the USA.

BIMA has put up Neuendorf for sale on 17 May 2017. BIMA is an independent agency of the Federal Government with the primary task of creating value for money for the federal ministry of finance. However, BIMA’s structure does allow for political influence to affect decisions of sale.

Binding offers have to be made by 31 August 2017, starting with a minimum of 290.000 EUR. The estate has a size of 365.000 m². The sale comprises 8 buildings with living quarters (split into 26 apartments, 9 of which are currently empty) and 9 other buildings (outhouses, garages, agricultural working spaces, etc.). The rentals currently generate a yearly income of 35.000 EUR; however, the yearly minimum running costs stand at about 45.000 EUR. In addition, it is clear that the estate requires serious infrastructural investment in the near future including roofing, heating systems and electrical systems (latest renovations seem to date back to the 1960s, East German standards). From a historical and heritage-protection perspective this lack of investment over the past six decades constitutes a grave danger to the historic fabric of the estate. In case of particularly difficult business situations German heritage protection law can allow for the demolition even of listed buildings. Thus, even though a protection order has been placed on the estate because of its historic importance it depends on future owners if the buildings’ fabric itself will survive, or not.

A future for Neuendorf?

In this situation it is clear that action is required to ensure a future for Neuendorf as a place of practical commemoration, translating the inspirations and actions of the 1930s to meet the challenges of today’s world. If you have advice and see possibilities of helping to fund raise for this goal (including potentially a purchase, or the renovation of parts of the location, as well as the development of activities in or around Neuendorf / the history of Hachshara in Germany) please be in touch.

Stella Hindemith, Benno Plassmann

info@neue-soziale-plastik.org

In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015
In Neuendorf, 2015

The story of the Altona mall, built on a Jewish cemetery

Mercado shopping mall - Plate with the names of the buried
Mercado shopping mall – Plate with the names of the buried

I love this picture, taken in the Mercado mall in Altona, Hamburg.
The three layers that you see here are: one floor with an “Arab belly-dance”.
One “floor” is a Jewish cemetery.
One floor is a shopping mall.

This picture is a great symbol, of the present, in Germany, diversity, people might call it.

So why is there a mall on top of an old Jewish cemetery?
It is complicated, here is the (short) story:

Hamburg was a home of thriving Jewish community before the Nazi era.
Many of the Jews of Hamburg moved over the years to its neighbor town Altona, that was more open and acceptable to Jews.
Altona is a town near Hamburg, From 1640 to 1864 Altona was under the administration of the Danish monarchy, then, as a part of Germany, and in 1937 became a part of Hamburg.
The Jewish cemetery of Ottensen, Altona, was opened in 1663 and was active until 1934.

Altona Jewish Cemetery
Altona Jewish Cemetery

Soon after, Nazi authorities confiscated it and destroyed it.

At the end of ww2, the site, known as belonging to the Jewish community, was returned to the only two Jews who lived in Hamburg. Nobody knew or could tell that it was a cemetery. The Nazis dug two bunkers inside the cemetery, mixed the ground through, with, the bodies and gravestones. The two Jews sold the property to a real-estate company.

1988

In 1988 the land was bought by a company that planned to build a mall on the ground.
When construction started, a group of left activists, began series of protests. The reason was that the area was poor, and they protested against a “temple of capitalism” that will raise the rent.

They did not succeed in their protest but after some research, they discovered that the land was once a Jewish cemetery. That came handy – The German authorities and people will not dare to deal with a Jewish cemetery.
They tipped an ultra-orthodox Jewish group from Jerusalem, and that was enough to ignite the fire they needed.

A group named “Athra Kadisha” came to Hamburg and started to demonstrate and protest. They stopped the work. Blocked the tractors. Blocked the streets of Altona near the construction site, made noise and spread guilt.

The city of Hamburg did not agree to buy the land from the private company. 50 million marks worth, was too much.
Hamburg’s Jewish community was pissed, they did not want these people here, the visitors from Jerusalem, talking on their behalf. Other solutions could be found.

Demonstrations in Altona, against the Mercado mall, to be built on top of an old Jewish cemetery. Hamburger Abentblatt 2.5.1992
Demonstrations in Altona, against the Mercado mall, to be built on top of an old Jewish cemetery.
Hamburger Abentblatt 2.5.1992

Eventually, with the intervention of the chief Rabbi of Israel, they acted by the main Jewish rule in this case – do not disturb the deads (who laid near a noisy train station). Do not move them.
The mall will be built on top of the cemetery.

הפגנות נגד הבניה בהמבורג
Demonstrations in Altona, against the Mercado mall, to be built on top of an old Jewish cemetery

And this is how the big shopping mall of Altona, the Mercado is a bit high at some points, and this plate with the names of the buried Jewish residents of Altona in placed.

Mercado shopping mall - Plate with the names of the buried
Mercado shopping mall – Plate with the names of the buried

Tokyo in 10 Days

Presenting our plan for 10 days in Tokyo (and around) minus two days of the flights.

About the bars – Those are metal bars only.

Tokyo

One should pay attention to the hotel rooms. Even with an expensive hotel, the rooms are ridiculously small, so if this is an issue for you, try to search for “American hotels”, they should provide a human size room.

Note that I do not extend about each location, please google it, enough information is on the internet, the purpose of this list is to help with planning and give ideas.

The “sleep” pauses are because I like to split the day into two, and have a one hour sleep at the hotel, wake up fresh for the rest of the day. Really recommended, it makes your trip feels twice longer.

Following the daily list, a list ordered by areas, this list helped us to prepare the day list, so we will not run across the city. It is a huge city.

Check out my album from Tokyo here.

Enjoy!

Day 1 – Shinjuku

  • Skyscraper District Restaurants: Hours vary but are typically from 11:00 to 23:00. The area west of Shinjuku Station is home to a large number of skyscrapers including the
  • Tokyo Metropolitan + Government Building – Best view on the city, great to understand on the first day what you are standing against. Several of the skyscrapers have shops and restaurants on their ground floors and additional restaurants with great views of the city on their top floors.
  • Shinjuku Gyoen – Also visit the largest and most popular park
  • 100 yen shops

Sleep

  • Omoide Yokocho Restaurants: Typically from 17:00 to 24:00 (some are open for lunch) (lit. memory lane), also known under its more colorful nickname Piss Alley.
  • robot restaurant
  • Kabukicho Restaurants
  • Red lights district – Golden gay – Bars:
    • ANTIKNOCK – live music
    • GODZ
    • FROM DUSK TILL DAWN
    • BAR PSY  – Best metal bar.
    • TAKADANOBABA CLUB PHASE (NORTHER)

Day 2 – Harajuku

  • Yoyogi Park
    • meiji (明治神宮, Meiji Jingū)
  • Shops
    • Daiso Harajuku – 100 Yen Shop Hours: 10:00 to 21:00
    • Oriental Bazaar Hours: 10:00 to 19:00 Closed: Thursdays
    • Kiddy Land Hours: 11:00 to 21:00
    • Takeshita Dori

Sleep

  • North
    • Nakano Broadway
    • New Rock corner Suginami
    • The Terrace
    • Drink

Day 3 – Shibuya

  • kaway monster cafe
  • Big famous cross – watch from Starbucks
  • Pokemon cafe
  • Shopping
    • Center Gai
    • Spain Slope
    • Shibuya 109
    • Shibuya Mark City
    • Koen Dori

Sleep

  • Yebisu garden – Lights
  • bars
    • ROCKNOCOCORO – BAR
    • Rock Bar CHACK

Day 4 – China Town!

  • Yokohama – see the end of the area where the harbor is.

Sleep

  • Ginza
    • Sony building
    • Drink Roppongi

Day 5 – Center

  • Imperial palace – Check opening months
  • jimbocho
  • yasukuni shrine
  • akihabra
    • Don Quijote
    • Yamada Denki
    • Otaku Goods

Sleep

  • Dom lights

Day 6 – North

  • Ueno park
    • National museum
    • National science museum
  • Ameyoko street
  • Sugamo (?)

Sleep

  • Free time

Day 7 – North / Odaiba

  • Asakusa
    • Senso ji
    • Nakamise street
  • Water bus to odaiba
  • Odaiba:
    • The port area
    • Venus Fort is a shopping mall in the style of a 18th century South European town – Really recommended!
    • Telecom Center Observation Deck:
    • Oedo Onsen Monogatari – is a hot spring theme park
    • science emerging museum
    • Rainbow bridge – Only after dark!

Day 8 – Mt. Fugi all transport tour

By Area:

Central

Akihabara:

Electronic shops
100 yen shops
Don Quijote
Yamada Denki
Otaku Goods

Tokyo Imperial Palace
Jimbocho Book Town
Yasukuni Shrine- war memorial
Tsukishima (月島, lit. moon island)
Koishikawa Botanical Garden (小石川植物園, Koishikawa Shokubutsuen)
Ginza
Yurakucho Gado-shita 
Ginza Wako Shops
Koishikawa Korakuen 

Night: Tokyo Dome City Winter Illumination

South

Roppongi – Also night life
Tokyo Midtown is a city within the city in the center of Tokyo‘s Roppongi district
Zojoji Temple (増上寺, Zōjōji)
Senso Ji next to Tokyo Tower

Odaiba お台場
The port area
Venus Fort – Very recommended!
Telecom Center Observation Deck
Oedo Onsen Monogatari is a hot spring theme park
Science emerging museum – A bit childish. 

west

Shibuya: Great and fascinating shopping / viewing area.
Pokemon cafe
Center Gai
Koen Dori
Spain Slope
Shibuya 109
Shibuya Mark City

Love Hotel Hill
kaway monster cafe- shibuya-

Shops:
JAMSHOPPING
GEKIROCK CLOTHING
GU, Shibuya

harajuku 原宿
Daiso Harajuku
Oriental Bazaar
Kiddy Land

Takeshita Dori
Yoyogi Park
meiji (明治神宮, Meiji Jingū)
Treasure House
Inner Garden

Shibuya (Night)
ROCKNOCOCORO-
Rock Bar CHACK
Jingumae
Nakano Broadway (中野ブロードウェイ)

Shinjuku:
Shinjuku Gyoen 新宿御苑
Omoide Yokocho
Kabukicho Restaurants:
Shinjuku Skyscraper District Restaurants:
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Robot restaurant

Night:
Kabukicho, Japan’s largest red light district,

Metal bars:
GODZ
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN
BAR PSY
TAKADANOBABA CLUB PHASE (NORTHER)
Rock bar mother

North

Asakusa (浅草)
Sensō-ji 浅草寺
Nakamise Shopping Street
Shin-Nakamise Shopping Street
Ameyoko (アメ横)Ueno Park (上野公園, Ueno Kōen)

Tokyo National Museum
National Museum for Western Art
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
National Science Museum
Ueno Zoo

Sugamo (巣鴨)Jizo Dori shopping street

East

The Center of the Tokyo Raid and War Damages

 

The Story of Max Plaut- Head of the Jewish Community of Hamburg During WW2

Max Plaut

“German by culture, Jewish by religion and origin”.

Max Plaut became the chairman of the Hamburg Jewish community, North Germany’s free Hanseatic city, in 1938. During these years the count of the Jews in Hamburg was approx 17,000, and few thousand more in the cities around.

Max was born in 1901, son of a school teacher. He was seriously injured in WW1, was a banker in his education and member of the freemasonry.

He was an anti-Zionist, the Founder of the anti-Zionist Jewish Youth in Germany. A German nationalist, as he defined: “German by culture, Jewish by religion and origin”.

The essence of Max’s role, in these impossible times, was to ensure the safety and well-being of the Jews (including financial management of the community, raising money outside of Germany to help Jews with emigration) and at the same time to fulfill, transfer and execute the orders of the Nazi government, through the Gestapo.

He wasn’t the only leader of the Hamburg community. With him managed and led the community’s life: Leo Lippmann, Joseph Carlebach and Max Warburg who owned theWarburg bank.

Each did whatever they can do and hoped, that with careful planning and navigation of the ship, they could help take the community through the storm of those days.

Max had an excellent diplomatic talent and an even better sense of humor. With the help of those qualities, he stayed in a positive though not an equal relationship with the Gestapo officers, and mainly with the Hamburg police chief in charge of Jewish affairs, Klaus Gottche. They respected each other. He often used manipulations, without fear, with great courage, with black humor and great audacity.
It didn’t always help him and Plaut was arrested and even beaten a few times by Gottche’s subordinates:

For example, in 1938, many Jews from the community were arrested. Plaut was among them. He was held in a cell for a day and a half with no food and water.

Since he didn’t want to die like that, he called the guard. The guard asked him why does he dare to call him, and noted that 1200 Jews were sent to camps from that same prison. Max rudely asked: “so what happens now?”

-“I will go to check” answered the guard.

Not long after Max was released from his cell and transferred to his “friend” Gottche’s office. Gottche scolds him “where have you been? We’ve been looking for you.”

-“You’re supposed to know, you picked me up from the cell”, said Plaut.

-“I don’t know what to do with you”, said Gottche.

-“you better think about it while I’m waiting at my house” Plaut answered him rudely, and so it was. He was sent to his house and was obligated to report to the police station twice a day.

Max’s connections with the Gestapo created serious unjust allegations towards Plaut after the war, of collaborating with the Nazis – It is now possible to understand that Max didn’t actually “collaborated”, he did follow orders. Made lists, but not agreeing to do that wouldn’t have stopped the Nazi plan, at least by acting, he softened the blow until the last moment and sometimes he even saved Jews, as will be described later.


The Jewish brothel

On his role and his special management ways, in those times, we can learn from these few examples:

Because of the Nuremberg Laws, Jews were forbidden to have sex with Germans. The Gestapo and Plaut had to question what will happen when a prostitute reports a Jewish customer.

The solution was to open a Jewish brothel, with Jewish women, for Jews. It indeed opened, outside the red light district of Hamburg.

After a few months, the brothel was closed since no customers arrived.


Brilliant banker 

Usually, as the head of the community and the one in charge of its assets, Plaut had to deal with the situation with brilliant ways:
The synagogue in Grindel neighborhood was burned following the Kristallnacht. The Nazis wanted to build a college for teachers there, and Jews weren’t allowed to rebuild the synagogue anyway.

Against their will, the Jewish community had to negotiate about selling the place. The negotiations were forced but the talks themselves handled as between equals and it took place between Lipman and the municipality.

Since the Jews were obligated to remove the ruins of the synagogue, Lipman suggested to receive a fifth of the property’s value, and with that money, the eviction will be done. That was the agreement – So the community stayed with nothing from the property. That was Max’s plan.

He sold many assets of the community in ridicules prices, intentionally, knowing he had no other choice, but he also lowered the price even more. He did that because of the knowledge he gathered in banking and law. He stated that in any case, with the ridiculous prices, it could have only been sold to the regime by force, he could prove that these assets were taking from the community by force and he could get them back once the Nazis were gone.


 

The immigration of the Jews – organization

After the Pogrom Night (Kristallnacht) while many Jews were arrested and shipped to camps all over the Reich, Max was able to free and rescue most of Hamburg’s Jews with negotiations, and got them visas and money to emigrate, mostly to south American states.

After the visas to south America started to end Max started, with the help of the Gestapo to fake forging visas to those countries.

The Nazis used the forced escape of the Jews to bring in foreign money in the country: a Jew could only leave if he paid in foreign money, which helped the economy greatly, and imprisoned those who had money but couldn’t get foreign money (the family of the person writing these lines, was a wealthy family from Hamburg, and couldn’t leave the country because the money needed for it was asked from my grandmother in Palestina, she didn’t have it as an emigrant, and that’s how they found their death at the camps).

The Nazis did everything to make the Jews leave. The law didn’t interest them and they mostly ignored border rules when someone without a visa left.

Adolf Eichmann’s travel agency

Adolf Eichmann went even further and established the “Travel Agency” of the Reich to coordinate and hold the cruise line from Germany to Palestina, even during the war when the borders were closed.

After a while and after saving many Jews, the German shipping company accused him of its entanglements overseas due to illegal passengers. He was tried in Germany, but the main Gestapo headquarters in Berlin asked for the charges against him to be dropped. As a result, he was asked by the headquarters in Berlin to stop forging visas and Plaut told them that this is the only way to save Jews from the camps and everything was done with the approval of the Gestapo headquarters in Hamburg.


The war

The beginning of the war was confusing for Plaut and the Jews. A number of months earlier, in a speech he gave, Hitler promised that the Jews will suffer if a war will be “forced” on Germany. Also, his ties inside the SS told him “If there will be a war, the Jews will be the first to lose” and “initially, the older Jews will be taken to forced labor camps”.

Max Plaut in a testimonial from the Eichmann trial:

“June 1939 I came back to Germany from London. I was in the main office of the Gestapo in Hamburg. I was questioned by the Jewish department because I came from abroad. There was a war psychosis and the topic came up immediately and the man said that if there would be a war the Jews would be the first to lose. “you’ll see miracles and wonders” he said.

…and what happened in November 1938 is a dress rehearsal only.” The Gestapo officials and the Nazi party every time they had good news they said their thinking about making detention and concentration camp for all the Jews.”

But when the war started everything stayed as it always was, at least in Hamburg. At the beginning, though, mostly in small villages, activists from the Nazi party took the law into their own hands but were ordered to stop very quickly by the Gestapo.
Jews received the same food stamps, gas masks and stayed in the same bonkers as the rest of the Reich. The promises seemed like idle threats.

Later, as we know, things developed int he worst matter possible, Max describes:

“…(They) specifying the new rules every time, mostly on the rules to hand over the radios delivered on Yom Kippur. Later he said it became unsurprising very quickly that holidays and Saturdays were elected by the Nazis for anti-Jews actions. In a diabolical and vicious way, they looked at the Jewish calendar. We expected that something will happen on the Jewish holidays. We were always afraid before every holiday and could breathe again as they passed with only short whims. I remember that on Sukot evening the Gestapo demanded from me that within two days I’ll create a referendum stamped by all the Jews. And when I mentioned the holiday and if it can be postponed and I was denied. I was always told “sorry, orders from above” and then he came to me personally and said “ya, those in Berlin think about everything, so you don’t have to think too much.”


Deportations:

In 1940, the first event of mass deportation happened an area close to Plaut.

Plaut was in Berlin when 1200 of the Stettin Jews were banished to Lublin, Poland. The ones that could work of course.
In the city remained the old and the ill without anyone to take care of them. All of their “strong” relatives were banished.
Plaut knew that something had to be done. The Berlin rabbi, Ravi Black, asked Plaut to go there.

-“why me?” asked Plaut.

“Stettin is in the Baltic sea, that’s not my area”, said the rabbi and added: “and you’re the only one without family.”

When he arrived in Stettin managed Plaut to convince the Gestapo that the Jewish community will buy back the property that was confiscated from them in the deportation, and so, he could get back meds, beds and more equipment that was needed for relief of the helpless community.


Clues for mass murder:

In September 1940, the German’s second attempt at gas killing was made. 100 of the Jews in the hospital in Langhorne were transferred to “another hospital”.

Max who was responsible for one of the girls in the institution, suddenly received a letter saying she will be transferred tomorrow to the “other” hospital. He arrived there and understood that all the patients are being transferred. With great effort he managed to arrange for some of the patients to be released to their homes, the others were allowed a visit from their families to say goodbye.

At the train station, doctors and nurses from the Red Cross stood there, allegedly financed by the railway company “Columbus” where it was written that the patients will be taken to a modern facility in Poland. It’s unclear what was the purpose of bringing the doctors to the train station, and who they were trying to convince that being transferred was good – the patient’s families or the Germans who witnessed the first deportation of Jewish Germans in Hamburg.

The full understanding of the fate of these Jews, at the beginning of the extermination program of the European Judaism finally seeped into Plaut’s head after this event.

The Gestapo encouraged him to write to the older people that were sent to Lublin to visit the patients that were just sent there. But answers that he received from there indicated that this sort of institute did not exist there, and the people he noted never arrived there.

When a death certificate of one of the patients arrived, that only one day before the deportation was released to his home alive and well, Plaut realized that none of the patients even made it to the Poland boarded. He writes:

“Ever since that moment, we realized that the purpose of the concentration camps is the death of the worst kind. We now understand the most important point in Hitler’s and his party’s plan, the solution to the Jewish problem, which is the extermination of all Jews within the Reich’s territory. We now understand. Our reaction can not be despair; it should be to stand tall.”

Only when hidden messages started to arrive from Minsk camp, Plaut learned about the conditions in the camps, about the fact that even if they don’t kill Jews there, surviving in those conditions for a few more years was unreasonable.


Joseph Carlebach

In 1941 the same happened to the heads of the Jewish community, Joseph Carlebach who was well respected by the Gestapo officers, was sent with his family to a concentration camp.

Carlebach sent a letter of encouragement to heads of communities in concentration camps and said that someday they will be released and the sun will rise again. this spread with the Germans as a premonition that the Nazi state will collapse soon. At the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin, they were furious and instructed the Hamburg headquarters to send Carlebach to the worst of the camps, Auschwitz, that at the time was not used to house Jews outside of Poland and Russia, but Jews of special interest were sent there individually from Germany.

Plaut arrived at the Gestapo headquarters and begged for his release. “why did that idiot have to write that letter?” asked the head of the Gestapo in Hamburg. “I can’t do anything about the orders from Berlin,” he said.

Plaut asked that Carlebach will be brought to the headquarters to beg for his life. Eventually, he was able to convince them to send him on the train that was supposed to departure the next day with the town Jews to Riga camp.

He went on the train with his family, and when he arrived at the camp he was murdered in the forest. Only one member of the Carlebach family survived the camp.

The “Hamburg Today” newspaper reported Carlibach’s death as natural causes. It was a rear occasion that a newspaper was interested in a Jew who died.


Beginning of the deportation in Hamburg

After the war, Max insisted that his office had no control or ability to change the deportation manifest. He would get a list of Jews that need to be prepared for deportation – and so he did. He did everything in his power to help those people towards their journey and rarely he could delay sending them for a short while. We can learn from the lists that those who received a decoration from World War I was sent later on, but nothing else. The community office that Plaut was the head of was obligated to give the Gestapo every information that they asked – marriage, profession, the number of children and so on.

What he could have done, he probably did. Every shipment was escorted before boarding the trains by voluntaries from the community that provided warm food and beddings for those who were sent to the unknown. Something to make the journey a little bit better. Rarely, depending on which camp they were deported to, you could communicate with them by mail after they arrived at the camp, for a short while, and ensure their well-being and give them letters from those left behind.

Differently from other cities, shipments were not accompanied by violence by the Gestapo. Plaut’s good relations (and obedience of the community) had a lot to do with that.

Most of the Jews who were sent from Hamburg in 1942 were sent to Theresienstadt camp.  From Theresienstadt eventually, the Jews were sent to Auschwitz.

Every family was allowed to receive one package per month. Plaut arranged huge shipments from Hamburg to the families. Once he even shipped a piano. He filled it with meds and groceries. The mail that arrived from Theresienstadt provided a false picture. No one dared to write about the real situation in the camp, the Gestapo would open the letters.

Plaut’s office was also known as the center for information on the deported ones, information that their relatives demanded. The letters that arrived from the camps, when they arrived, arrived at Plaut’s office, and he was in charge of delivering the information to the recipients.

Max also had to answer to the “Aryan” relatives of the deported people, that just like the Jews, knew nothing about the fate of those.

In one case, Max correspondent with an “Aryan” resident that his Jewish wife was sent to a camp. That man tried to contact the Gestapo and they always gave him the answer that she will soon be released. He asked Plaut what he thought of that and he responded that he hopes they are right. After that Plaut re-writes to that same person, that he received word that his wife is at Birkenau camp. He asked what type of camp is that and if he could send her packages.

Plaut responded that it’s a work camp, and he will help with the packages, and he hopes again that his wife will be released as the Gestapo promised him.

In the last letter, that same person announced he received his wife’s death certificate. He asked for Plaut’s opinion, and if he should notify the Hamburg authorities of course.

In that time Plaut already knew much more, and he also knew what Gestapo promises about the residents of the camps were worth. But what would help besides comforting or raising hope for that person? Maybe if “Aryans” like him knew more about the fate of their loved ones they would have stood up against the regime? after all, even those who opposed were sent to camps. It was hopeless and it was an impossible task and so hard for Plaut.


After he was deported. A Jew’s property would be sold in a public auction. The public could make an offer, but such an offer was officially prioritized lower than Gestapo and Government Office offers. Plaut had an interesting trick. Plaut didn’t know or imagined what will happen after the war, that Germany will take responsibility and compensate anyone whose property was looted, but that was his plan. He tried to make sure that the property of Jews would be sold at ridicules prices and sometimes even without cost (once a piece of furniture was sold for a song) that was in order to have legal basis to sue and claim the property after the war, and the ridicules prices will be proof that the property was sold under duress and not willingly.

The Gestapo in Hamburg managed to seize property worth 58 million from Lion Reichsmark, the money was transferred to a bank account in Berlin.


 

The end

Eventually, on the first of August 1942, 500 Jews remained in Hamburg, that were not protected due to Intermarriage. Plaut’s mission to fill all the shipments was completed.

A year later, on June 10, 1943, the Gestapo announced on the closer of the Jewish Community Offices. The shipments were over. There were almost no Jews left in Hamburg to take care of. For the benefit of the employees of the institution, they were sent to Theresienstadt, a camp that wasn’t a death camp and that there was a connection with.

Plaut himself wasn’t sent to a camp but was placed under house arrest. He lived there with his mother. In that house, he still had an Aryan housekeeper. He would get groceries beyond what he was allowed to keep from Aryan friends he had. It was a weird time, life went on, but outside everything was collapsing. He helped 22 other Jews that stayed in the city and their houses were ruined from the bombings. During the bombings, they would sit in the same bunker.

On January 24th, 1944 managed Dr. Max Plaut to leave. Paritz Warburg managed to arrange his “release” from Germany in exchange for Germans (the Templars) that were staying in Palestina under the British Regime. Such exchange of citizens saved several Jews with contacts.

He was placed in Bergen-Belsen, where he was transferred to Bavaria and from there to France, where, together with a number of Jews who were fortunate, passed through the Balkans and from there to the Middle East until he reached the boat, along with his mother, to the port of Haifa.

Max could have emigrated during the whole war and before that. His connections and his status allowed it. He decided to stay and help the community, even if it was by working with the Gestapo.

When arrived in Israel, there were few who blamed him with cooperating with the Nazis. But Max knew what will happen if he will resist – It won’t help anyone. The terror regime of the Nazis would use this to arrest, torture and kill more of his family and community, and will find a way to complete the mission he refused to carry.

A lot of the German Jews in Israel knew that he helped, and they thanked him for that. He spent many months in updating and answering to people who asked about the faith of their loved ones.

maxplautcollecti01plau_0964

People in Israel knew very little about what is going on in Europe, and lots of rumors were around. He brought with him his lists, and answer to each person about that last place he knows about his relatives, usually, confirming that the person was deported to a camp, and no news since.

The German Jews community in Haifa even collected money for him to stay there and tell about the fate of the Jews of Hamburg.

Plaut lived in Israel for a few years but returned to Germany in 1950, he has a family and he died in the year 1974.

Sources:
The Eichman trial testimonies
The book: The Jews and Germans of Hamburg: The Destruction of a Civilization
The profile of Max Plaut: Moshe Ilon
Leo Beck Institute Archive

For my family, not everything is fixed, here in my beautiful Hamburg.

I would like to share a personal problem, a part of history that me and my family are waiting to be fixed. It’s about our history in Hamburg, and our status, because of cold bureaucracy.

[Explenation of the bureaucratic situation in German added to the end of this post**]

My father’s parents, Helga and Bernard, fled Hamburg and went to Palestine because of the Nazi government in 1936.
My Grandmother Helga was born in 17.1.1915 in Hamburg. Her father Georg was a wealthy man, also her mother. The family lived in Hamburg for several generations. Not Quiddjes at all.

The story is long and interesting. A book was written on Helga’s brother this year (sommer in Brandenburg by Urs Faes), and we are about to publish a book about her sister (The story of the book in my blog https://baruchfamily.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/it-all-began-with-a-picture/ ), and we have many documents and evidence about their life in Hamburg. I will be happy to expand.

Today 7 Stolpersteine for members of the family are embedded in the asphalt here in Hamburg.

My grandmother married my grandfather at 1936 to get a certificate to go to Palestine, escaping from the Nazis.
Her father Georg, sister Marion and brother Rolf, were murdered in Auschwitz and Minsk.
My grandmother gave birth to six children (One for each million, she used to say). One of them is my father.

Bernard and Helga married

Her husband, Bernhard came as a child from Poland to Hamburg and lived here for more than 10 years.
Both – Helga and Bernard came back to Hamburg:

After the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany, they came back to live in Hamburg. As an active community member, Helga she wrote in Stern Magazine and participated in many projects.

In 1967, Helga tried to get back her German citizenship based on Article 116 II GG.

She found out that she was not entitled to get back her citizenship because of law § 17 Nr. 6 of the Reichs- und Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz (RuStAG) of 22.07.1913.

This old law states in § 4, that a child that is born in a marriage,
gets the German citizenship, only if its father is a German citizen.
And § 17 states, that a German woman looses her citizenship, if she marries an alien

Karl-Heinz Karch.

This discriminatory law claims that a woman who married a non-German cannot get back her citizenship.

The authorities claim that she does not deserve to get back her citizenship according to Article 116 II GG. as they claim that the Nazi regime in Germany was not the reason for revoking her citizenship.

Finally, the authorities agreed to give her citizenship on a special term that she was not able to pass this citizenship to her offspring. (12 of Erstes Gesetz zur Regelung von Fragen der Staatsangehörigkeit (1. StARegG) from 22.02.1955).

My father’s request for a German passport, as given to all sons of German citizens after taken from them by the Nazis, was declined by the German embassy.
This is, as I understand, because of a racist and women discriminating law, that was abolished after the Nazi-Era, declaring that if the mother married a non-German, her children are not eligible for German citizenship.

 

My grandfather lived in Germany for years and ran away, like my grandmother, from the Nazis.
When the war was over and the Nazis were gone – they both got back their German citizenship.

We applied for German citizenship as allowed by law to families that lost theirs because of the Nazi-Era.
at the German embassy in Tel Aviv the request was approved, and then suddenly after few weeks, they send us a detailed answer about canceling the given approval, documents are attached. (The request was for one of my grandmother’s sons, and they are replying to him).

As I see it, this answer does not go hand in hand with the need to fix the wrongdoings of the past. German citizenship was taken from the descendants of a family with very long roots in this city.
It was taken from us because of an antisemitic Nazi-law.

From what I see in their answer, three points are problematic:

“since your mother got married to a Polish man in 1936, she automatically lost her German citizenship.“
So her citizenship was taken from her, during the Nazi-Era. The fact that a German citizen is losing her citizenship because she is marrying a non-German is a discriminating law that was already canceled, but for some reason, the law allows to discriminate you by the old law, if you were born or married a non-German in the wrong year.

She lost her citizenship because of a Nazi, “Arian blood” law.
She married before going to Palestina, and that was the only way to go to Palestina (As a couple) – Partially, they were married because of the Nazi anti-Jewish laws. They had to. To flee the genocide.
My grandfather lived in Germany for 13 years (before the war). Enough time to get a citizenship. He never got one (this is what they say) and it pretty much makes sense, as a Jew, he would never get one from the Nazis.

But last, is the overall point:

My family lived in Hamburg for hundreds of years. They were respectable people. One escaped, and everything he had including his nationality was taken from him. All the others were killed in the camps.

How, an erasing of a family, cannot entitle their direct descendants to get back what was taken from them – their right to be a citizen in their original Heimat.

I currently live in Hamburg. Working and in love with this city, their city, my city. But there is something missing, and I believe that its need to be corrected. I believe that this is a fight worth taking, to convince the Hamburg Senate to change their decision and give back what was taken from the family.

The Israeli lawyer that is handling German citizenships didn’t want to take this case because he “Needs my good relations with the German authorities”.
So, I am looking for a person who is not afraid, who see’s the justice in this case, and is willing to give it a good fight.

I will be thankful for any help and will be happy to add any more information.

Adding a small video that was broadcasted on NDR a few weeks ago with me, telling a small part of the family story.
http://www.ndr.de/fernsehen/sendungen/das/Ein-Israeli-auf-Spurensuche-in-Hamburg,israeli100.html

Until then, me and my dog, in Hamburg, waiting.

Der junge Israeli Lior Oren im "Park Fiction" - Hamburg .

Der junge Israeli Lior Oren im "Park Fiction" - Hamburg .

Der junge Israeli Lior Oren im "Park Fiction" - Hamburg .
Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Lior Oren.

* After posting, I learned from Karl-Heinz Karch that the law is actually older than the Nazi era, and it is even more problematic:

“The problem you and your father are very probably dealing with,
concerning getting German citizenship, is not a racist Nazi-law, but
twenty years older, the “Reichs- und Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz” of
the German Empire, of July 22, 1913, which is in clear contradiction
of the legal equality of women and men.

This old law states in § 4, that a child that is born in a marriage,
gets the German citizenship, only if its father is a German citizen.
And § 17 states, that a German woman looses her citizenship, if she
marries an alien” 


** Some context for those proficient in German by Matthias Grimm: 

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/staatsangehoerigkeitsposse-wie-die-bundesrepublik-mit-artikel-117-eine-juedin-abwimmelt-a-549981.html

“Butterfields Antrag auf Einbürgerung wurde abgelehnt. Der Grund: Ihre Großmutter hatte im falschen Jahr geheiratet und im falschen Jahr eine Tochter, Caseys Mutter, bekommen: 1947. Auch das steht im Grundgesetz: Frauen, die bis 1953 einen Nichtdeutschen heirateten und mit ihm Kinder bekamen, können ihre deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit nicht vererben.

Artikel 117, der auch auf von den Nationalsozialisten ausgebürgerte Jüdinnen angewandt wird, schreibt ein antiquiertes Recht fort: Väter durften ihre deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit an ehelich geborene binationale Kinder vererben. Deutsche Mütter durften das nicht. Das geht auf das Reichsstaatsangehörigkeitsgesetz von 1913 zurück, das Frauen als bloße Anhängsel ihrer Männer sah.

Mit anderen Worten: Wäre Caseys Großvater deutscher Jude gewesen, könnten die Kinder und Enkel Deutsche werden. Da ihre Großmutter deutsche Jüdin ist und im falschen Jahr heiratete, wird der Enkelin, die sich als Deutsche fühlt, der deutsche Pass verwehrt.”


 

Photos copyrights:

HAMBURG / 30.04.2015

Der junge Israeli Lior Oren an seinem Lieblingsplatz im “Park Fiction” oberhalb der Landungsbrücken – 30.04.2015 – Hamburg . Er arbeitet in Hamburg und kam mit seinem Hund “Schwitzi” aus Tel Aviv nach Hamburg . Teile seiner Familie wurden in Hamburg deportiert .

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