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Helen and Sol Krawitz Holocaust Memorial Education Center

Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center

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Survivor Profile










FEBRUARY 21, 1923







  • BRIEF BIOGRAPHY BY Nancy Gorrell

    Howard (Hans) Behrend was born February 21, 1923 in Hamburg, Germany to Edvard and Berta Behrend. His father was self-employed in a business selling handbags and leather goods. Howard was an only child. He grew up with Jewish and non-Jewish friends in one of Germany’s largest cities. He went to a Jewish school until he was a teenager and then when he was 15, he went to friends of his father’s to learn a trade. He lived across the street from his Jewish school and synagogue, the Bornstrasse synagogue. He remembers going there for all the Jewish holidays. His father came from an observant family. On Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, he wasn’t allowed to go to school. He witnessed the destruction of his school and synagogue. He was 15 years old and the Nazis came to his home and arrested his father. His mother talked them out of taking him. In his interview, Howard says, “I don’t know how she did it. But she did. Only in a large city could you do that.” His father was taken to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. In February 1939, his father was released. He was so frostbitten, from head to toe; it took him a year to recover.

    Howard had an uncle who went to New York in 1937 by way of Marseille, France. This uncle sent affidavits for Howard, his mother and father. They arrived in New York in April 1939 and settled in Washington Heights on 160th Street and Broadway. Howard was 16 years old and got a job right away for 25 cents an hour to support the family. Later, he went to school for accounting and went into business in the leather line selling many leather products. He met Ursula Betty Mildenberg in a park one night near the Brooklyn Museum and they had a long engagement and then married, living with her parents until their move to New Jersey. Howard and Ursula are both in their early 90s and have two daughters, two granddaughters, a grandson and two great granddaughters.



    November 7, 2016 and April 21, 2017

    Location: Berhend Residence, Somerset, New Jersey

    Interviewer: Nancy Gorrell


    Q: Describe your early childhood and family background.
    I was born in Hamburg, Germany on February 21, 1923. I was the only child of my parents. My early childhood memories were alright, ok. I had Jewish and non-Jewish friends. My father, Edvard, was in his own business selling handbags and leather goods. My mother, Berta, she helped my father but she was mostly a housewife. My mother had two brothers; one lived in Brussels, and he was deported by the Nazis and killed in a year, and the other came to New York City before the war. He was involved in bringing us over.


    Q: What was your schooling like?
    I went to Jewish school until I was 14 or 15 and then I went to friends of my father’s to learn a trade. Languages I didn’t like, but in Jewish school we had Hebrew three hours a day. English one hour a day, and German the rest of the time. I had lots of friends but don’t ask.


    Q: Did you experience or witness any anti-Semitism in your early years?
    None in my Jewish school, we were all Jews. I lived across the street from the school. Later, my parents moved to a different street, an elevator building. November 1938, my father was arrested, and he was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. My father was released in February 1939. He was frostbitten from head to toe. It took him about a year to recuperate, but we left at the end of March or beginning of April, myself, my mother, father and grandmother on a boat to America–either the Washington or the Manhattan.


    Q: Did you witness Kristallnacht?
    Yes. I wanted to go to school that morning but I couldn’t go. My synagogue, Bornstrasse Synagogue, was destroyed. It was right next to the school and it was completely destroyed. I was 15 and they were going to take me and my mother talked them out of taking me. Only in a large city could you do that. I don’t know how she did it. But she did. Only in a large city could you do that. They took my father.


    Q: How did you and your family emigrate to the United States?
    My uncle went to Marseille in 1935, and then he went to New York in 1937. As far as I know, he sent an affidavit for all of us. We came in April 1939. He got us an apartment. We all lived together on 160th Street and Broadway, Washington Heights. When I came to the United States, I was 16 and got a job right away for 25 cents an hour and I supported the family. I worked in a conversion factory that took new shoes from fancy stores and resold them.


    Q: What was life like for you post war in the New York City?
    I worked hard. After shoes, I worked on Wall Street as a runner. Then I went to school to learn accounting. Then I went into business in leather line. I sold many products–anything in the line of leather—pocket books, eyeglass cases. You name it.

    Editor’s Notes:

    .Refer to Ursula’s Survivor Registry for further information.

    Refer to Historical Notes below for Hamburg and Kristallnacht


    The Jewish Community in Hamburg, began with the establishment of Sephardic Jews from Spain and Antwerp. Before the destruction of the Jewish community by the Nazis, Eimsbüttel was the center of Jewish life in Hamburg. There were several synagogues, the most famous were the “Neue Dammtor-Synagoge” (1895), the “Bornplatzsynagoge” (1906) and the Temple on Oberstrasse (1931).

    Also known as The Night of the Broken Glass. On this night, November 9, 1938, almost 200 synagogues were destroyed, over 8,000 Jewish shops were sacked and looted, and tens of thousands of Jews were removed to concentration camps. This pogrom received its name because of the great value of glass that was smashed during this anti-Jewish riot. Riots took place throughout Germany and Austria on that night.


    Sachsenhausen or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg
    Sachsenhausen or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. On Pogrom Night, at least seven Hamburg synagogues were destroyed; Jewish stores were looted and vandalized, and more than 1,000 Jews were arrested and taken to Fuhlsbuettel prison, from which some were sent to Sachsenhausen.

  • Sources and Credits:


    SSBJCC Holocaust Memorial and Education Center Survivor Registry Interview, November 7, 2016 and April 21, 2017; Biography by Nancy Gorrell, photographs by Nancy Gorrell