Mittlere Karlstraße 79
An Immigrant Family
When the restitution proceedings started in the 1950’s and 60’s, a court had to determine what had actually been the property of Ester Kuttner, a murdered woman from Göppingen. The only Jewish eye witness who was still alive and lived in Göppingen was Lina Munz. But she was unable to be of much help to the court: her family had only known the Kuttner family by name. Was this a coincidence? Probably not, because the life story of Ester Kuttner, née Zitter, differed in one fact from that of the majority of other Jewish people living in Göppingen: Ester was ‘not from there’, that is not even from Germany. She was born on March 14, 1882, in Lodz which belonged to Russia at that time. Jews were not even permitted to settle in Lodz until 1848, but after that the Jewish population living in the rapidly growing industrial city (textile industry) increased rapidly. It is no wonder that after 1892 Lodz had the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe.
Nothing has been handed down about the childhood and youth of Ester Zitter. But it is clear she had not planned on spending the rest of her life in Lodz because as a young woman she lived in London after 1903. Was England going to be the final destination of her emigration or just a stopover on her way to the USA? In London Ester married her husband, Joel Kuttner, who was two years older than she, was a weaver and also came from Lodz. Their first son Michael (Max) was born in 1905 in England’s capital. Was the young family not able not get permission to stay permanently in England, or did they get into some financial difficulties? Their second child, son Julius (Israel), was in fact born back in Lodz in 1907.
‘Stranded’ in Göppingen?
Their next attempt to leave their home town and go westward brought the young family to Göppingen. The reason for this move might have been the events of World War I because Lodz was heavily fought over by Russia and the German Empire. Presumably Ester, Joel, Michael and Julius Kuttner arrived in Göppingen in 1914, in the same year in which Ester’s two brothers (Pinkus and Samuel Zitter - see Stumbling Stones biographies) settled down in Göppingen with their families. On September 8, 1918, David (Chaim) Kuttner was born, the first child of the family who was born in Göppingen. The address of their residence was Mittlere Karlstrasse 79, where the family of five lived in the attic in tight quarters: 43 square meters [463 square feet], not even taking into consideration the slanting roof. How prosperous (nor not) were the Kuttners? Hildegard Ege, David Kuttner’s classmate, remembered: “They were very poor Jews, rag pickers.”
Auguste Mϋhlhäuser, who lived in the same house and often was a guest in the Kuttners’ apartment, wrote during the 1960’s: “The apartment was furnished modestly but made a nice impression.”
Mrs. Mϋhlhäuser was able to contribute some details about Mr. Kuttner’s job: “As far as I know, the husband had a rag and scrap iron business (…). As long as the husband was alive, the family lived comfortably, i.e. they did not suffer financial hardship. Even after the husband’s death I never heard anything about them being dire need.”
On August 19, 1934, Joel Kuttner died in Göppingen after a prolonged illness. Ester received a small widow’s pension for a short time period; after that she was able to earn a living through the sale of her husband’s business inventory and by working as a seamstress.
It can be assumed from the testimonies of Mrs. Mϋhlhäuser as well as that of another witness that despite their limited resources music played a big part in the lives of the Kuttner family. Son Julius played the violin, and according to several statements the family even owned a piano.
Mrs. Ege remembered that in 1934 Ester Kuttner proved to be a courageous woman: David Kuttner, her youngest son, attended the business college in Göppingen, where a Nazi teacher constantly discriminated against him. When she learned of this, Mrs. Kuttner went to the school, confronted the teacher and in public ‘gave him a tongue-lashing.’ However, Mrs. Ege thought she remembered that David Kuttner withdrew from the school after this incident.
David was the sportsman in the family. A photo shows him standing next to a goal on the athletic field that belonged to the ‘Reichs Federation of Jewish Frontline Soldiers’ which was located on the premises of the feltcloth factory Veith. David’s sports friend Hugo Lang from Sϋssen remembered the soccer games against Jewish teams from the surrounding towns.
The Sons Can Flee
Ester’s sons quickly drew their own conclusions about the discrimination by the Nazis:
Michael Kuttner, Ester’s oldest son, held British citizenship because he was born there, so Great Britain offered a refuge for him. He left Germany in October 1936 and settled down in London where he died in 1976. His daughter Frances, his only child, lives in the USA.
Julius (Israel), the second son of Joel and Esther, had already started working as a youth at Märklin Company in Göppingen. Shortly after his wedding to Cyporia Rozenberg, which was celebrated in Göppingen, the young couple fled to Palestine in 1935 and settled down in Haifa. Unfortunately Julius was affected permanently from the consequences of a serious accident, and he died in about 1976. Julius and Paula had a daughter and a son in Israel. We were able to get in contact with their granddaughter Ayala Sicron, the child of daughter Sarah. Mrs. Sicron continues to carry on the musical traditions of the family as a singer and musician.
David, Esther’s youngest son, also left Nazi Germany. In 1939, his escape route first took him to Italy, later to France where he was interned at the beginning of the war. He volunteered for the French Foreign Legion and ended up in Morocco. There he met Lily Assidon, a young Moroccan Sephardic Jewish woman who was active in the Gaullist movement. However, he had to go to war on European soil because his military unit fought in the liberation of Strasbourg. After the war, David first lived in France, but his love for Lily took him back to Morocco where they were married in January 1947. In 1957 the couple left Morocco and found a new home in France near Strasbourg. The couple had three daughters and a son. David, who went by the name of ‘Henri Kutner’ in France, worked as an independent truck driver. He visited Göppingen several times, and the ‘Maientag’ [May Day celebration] was a good occasion to meet up with old acquaintances. David/Henri died in 2000. His son Jean-Marie Kutner, a pharmacist by profession, is a dedicated community politician and several years ago was elected mayor of the Alsatian community Schiltigheim.
Evicted from the Apartment, Deported
According to the only official document in Göppingen that has survived, Ester and David Kuttner were considered Polish citizens. In 1938 this could easily have led to their deportation to Poland as was the case with other Göppingen families like Cilly and Julius Cyter (see Stumbling Stones biography Zitter), who were related to the Kuttners.
However, Mrs. Kuttner became the victim of another form of discrimination, namely that she was evicted from her apartment in Karlstrasse where she had felt at home. On April 29, 1939,the ‘Law regulating rental agreements with Jews’, according to which Jews could not live with ‘Aryans’, must have been the reason for her eviction. But her new address was Bergstrasse 8, which raises other questions because this house was not owned by Jews nor were other Jewish renters living there.
What is certain is the fact that Mrs. Kuttner was taken from her new apartment on November 28, 1941. Together with 38 other Göppingen citizens she was deported to Riga where she had to live under the most difficult, inhumane conditions imaginable at Camp Jungfernhof until her murder on March 27, 1942. On that day thousands of camp inmates were transported of the Bikernieki forest where they were shot by German soldiers, SS units or their Latvian auxiliary troops.
Close relatives of Ester who also were murdered were her sister-in-law Paula Zitter along with Paula’s daughters Sara and Rosa (see Stumbling Stones biographies). Many members of Ester’s daughter-in-law Pola, née Rozenberg, who had lived in the Polish city of Kola, were also murdered by the Nazis.
In November 2011 Gunter Demnig laid a Stumbling Stone in memory of Ester Kuttner in front of her former residence in Middle Karlstrasse. Ester’s grandson Jean-Marie Kutner and his mother Lily Kutner-Assidon, as well as her grand-nephews Peter Liebermann, Michael Cyter and Reuven Shachaf-Cyter were present at the ceremony.