Archive for the 'From Time to Time' Category

Apr 13 2024

From Time to Time: Turning a curse into blessings. The Bernheims after Passau in Cape Town and San Francisco (Part 2 of 2)

Published by under From Time to Time

by Anna Rosmus

Anna Rosmus uses archival material and interviews to follow the paths of former Passau residents. Quotes not cited are from her conversations and correspondence.

This piece is the second of two on the Bernheim family of Passau. Read the first stage of their story in Passau here


Temporary exile in and from the Saar Basin

Felix Bernheim, who had fled to his sister Helene in Saarbrücken in 1933, barely managed to hang on to life. His son, Anthony Bernheim, recalls that he made a living “by providing character descriptions based on handwriting, and fortune telling based on tea leaves on the bottom of [a] tea cup.”

After January 13, 1935, when more than 90% of the Saarland electorate voted for reunification with National Socialist (NS) Germany, thousands of German expatriates and other political targets fled to France. Among them were Helene Wertheimer and her family. At first, they moved to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, in the northeast. After World War I, France had been relatively open for Jewish immigrants. The passports of Alfred and Bertha Bernheim were confiscated, however. On December 10, 1935, the couple returned to Buchau.

On June, 28, 1939, they joined Helene and her family. At that time, after a significant increase of refugees from NS-Germany and the Spanish Civil War, immigration was strictly limited, and internment and detention camps for refugees spread terror.

In the spring of 1940, when Germans invaded the Third Republic, less than half of its approximately 350,000 Jews were French citizens. According to an armistice agreement, signed on June 22, Germany occupied northern France and the entire Atlantic coastline, down to the border with Spain. The newly established Vichy government in the South cooperated with Germany. The so-called “Statut des Juifs” (Jewish Statute), passed in October 1940 resp. June 1941, excluded Jews not only from public life, but it removed them from civil service and the military as well as from commerce and professions such as medicine, law, and education.

Life for Helene Wertheimer and her family was rough. After she managed to have both parents released from an internment camp, all five moved to southwestern France. As foreign nationals, they were assigned to live in the village of Castelmaurou, near Toulouse, where they arrived on December 20, 1940.[1] Marie Clauzolles, née Laurens, widow of Joseph Clauzolles, owned a rural estate and a vineyard. She recalled leasing one room and a very small kitchen to them.[2] Leaving the village was not permitted. In 1942, persecution and arrests began. When Lutz did not report for forced labor on September 1943, he went “underground” in a different province. Helene and her daughter hid in a very small building on the remote vineyard, that lacked even basics such as electricity and a toilet.[3] From May, 9 until July 31, 1944, SS and other German forces occupied the village. Three weeks later, Toulouse was liberated.[4]

Starting Over in South Africa

South Africa, then a British Colony, differed somewhat. While some Jews may have been among its early settlers, a steady flow of Jewish immigrants from Europe did not arrive until the British occupied the Cape in 1806. For many years, Cape Town remained the main center of Jewish life in South Africa. From 1933 until 1935, Louis Gradner, a Jew from Poland, was actually mayor of Cape Town.[5]

At that time, South Africa’s immigration policy towards Jews from Western Europe was  relatively lenient. Once a passport and an affidavit, signed by a South African citizen, were submitted to the immigration authorities, Jews were free to enter the country.

Its society, however, was not only colonial and racially deeply divided, but many Afrikaners sympathized with the Third Reich, and organizations such as the “Grayshirts” and the “Ossewabrandwag” were openly anti-Semitic. The Quota Act of 1930 intended to curb the arrival of Jews.

In May 1933, the country’s Jewish community created the South Africa Fund for German Jewry. It helped refugees find jobs as well as accommodations. Assistance like that was essential, especially after September 1934, when Jews were no longer permitted to take more than RM 10 out of Germany.[6] In April 1935, Felix Bernheim boarded a refugee ship, possibly in Marseilles. On the 17th, he arrived in Cape Town, and before long, he started a business, selling ground coffee.

In September 1936, when South Africa announced that starting in November, each immigrant would have to deposit £100 pounds, instead of an affidavit, various organizations rushed to charter a boat. On October 8, the SS Stuttgart set sail, with 537 passengers on board. At the end of October, just before they docked, dramatic protests erupted.[7] Among the protestors were Professor Hendrik Verwoerd, the apartheid architect, and Daniel Malan, who would become the first prime minister of that regime in 1948. The latter boldly claimed to act in the best interests of Jews, because the potential for conflict would rise, when their population would increase too much.

In 1937, the so-called Aliens Act further restricted German-Jewish immigration. Else Kirstein and her daughter Margot, Bernheim’s Deggendorf cousins, were among the lucky ones. Tim Rudnick, a son of accountant Maurice Rudnick, wrote on March 8, 2021:

My mother, Margot, and Elsie reached Cape Town on a Union-Castle Liner in 1937, and were sent to Southern Rhodesia. I am not sure when the remainder of the family arrived, but it included Max and Martha Stern, Herbert, their son in law, and his mother. As Germans, they were treated well, but had to obey a parole order, report to the police station on a regular basis until the end of the war.

As soon as World War II started, the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation (SAHGF) pledged that the “Jewish community would do everything in its power to assist the Union and its allies in the fight for victory.”[8] It raised funds, and it encouraged Jews to join the Union Defense Forces. By January 1943 8,366 Jewish men and 542 Jewish women had enlisted.[9]

Felix Bernheim was one of them. When he and his business partner could no longer obtain fresh coffee beans, they substituted chicory. On January 6, 1943, in accordance with the British Nationality in the Union and Naturalization and Status of Aliens Act from 1926, Felix was naturalized as a South African citizen.[10]

young man in uniform

Corporal Felix Bernheim in 1943


When Felix began his service in a South African unit of the British Air Force, his business partner took control of their coffee business. According to his son, Anthony Bernheim, however, Felix recalled that his partner seized “all the assets, leaving Felix nothing when he returned from his military service.” That meant, Felix had to start all over again. This time, as a citizen, at least he could utilize his Passau experience by opening “Felicity Stores”, a clothing enterprise.


Two men, two women and two girls

Wedding of Felix and Miriam Bernheim


On Friday, March 23, 1951, Felix Bernheim celebrated his 45th birthday. At 10:15 AM, at the Claremont Synagogue of Cape Town, he married Natalie Miriam Greene from Birmingham in the United Kingdom. After the ceremony, Dorothy and Maurice Blair, Miriam’s sister and brother-in-law, hosted an 11:00 AM reception at their home on “L’Avenir,” Avenue De Mist, Rondebosch, Cape Town.

Anthony Nicholas Bernheim was born in 1952. He grew up in Cape Town, and recalled on March 14, 2021:

Until I was about 11 or 12 years old, I have no memory of my parents ever setting foot in a synagogue or discussing religion. However, they brought in a tree every year at Christmas time. I did know that I was Jewish but did not know much more than that. We lived in a working class neighborhood, where only one other family was Jewish. I first experienced discrimination, from the neighborhood children because of being Jewish. Occasionally, my parents were invited to a Seder at Passover, and I have vague memories of attending two Seders (most likely Orthodox) at homes of family friends. When I turned 11, my parents decided that I needed to have a Bar Mitzvah. The only synagogue close by at that time was the Rondebosch Orthodox Synagogue, so that is where it was held on September 18, 1965. My parents hired an Orthodox Israeli teacher to prepare me for the Bar Mitzvah services.

Thereafter, an American Rabbi arrived in South Africa and founded the Reform congregation in Cape Town, where my mother started to attend the services (with me) for the High Holy Days. My parents did not get actively involved in the Jewish Community, and we did not have any religious symbols in our home. It seemed to me that my father was more focused on the survival of his business than on religion or the cultural traditions that are practiced by secular Jews.

old photo of a man leaning against a car

Felix Bernheim, Member of a Cape Town Fencing Club

Tim Rudnick recalled on March 8, 2021:

My dad worked for a group of accountants, and one of the clients he was assigned to was Felix Bernheim. They did get to know each other well. Felix liked old cars, and my dad recalls a photo of him in a rare car, called a Spider, together with a member of the Moos family in the Netherlands, while on holiday there.

In 1952, my dad moved to Bulawayo, in what was then Southern Rhodesia, to progress his career, as the economy there was strong. Although he briefly returned to Cape Town, he emigrated to Bulawayo permanently in 1957.

And there, Maurice Rudnick met Margot Kirstein. The couple married on November 11, 1959, in the progressive Bulawayo Synagogue. Anthony Bernheim remembers a trip to Southern Rhodesia, in 1960. It was a family visit. Photos show the former Deggendorf cousins together.

On March 14, 2021 Anthony stated:

Growing up in Cape Town was hard for me. There was not only discrimination because we were Jewish, but also because we lived in a working class community.

When I was quite young (8-11 years old), my father attempted to tell me war stories from his time in the military. My mother shut that down quite quickly. No real or meaningful discussion about the war or Holocaust was allowed, although I did know that I was Jewish, and that my father had fled Germany because he was Jewish. Nor did they have many friends in Cape Town. The parents of some of my friends became their friends.

My immigrant parents did not have many friends in Cape Town. The parents of some of my friends became their friends.

My mother’s sister lived in Johannesburg. She had two daughters and one son. That family came to my Bar Mitzvah, but one daughter did not attend. In fact, she had fled South Africa. (That story is in a book The Song Remembers When by Hilary Claire). No one spoke about why my cousin Hilary had fled the country (at least in my presence). However, I found out later that she and her husband were working in a cell for the African National Congress. In a very simple way at that time, I began to connect my understanding of the Holocaust with my understanding of apartheid. So began my questioning of apartheid, and at 13 years old, I decided that I needed to leave South Africa.

Whereas others may have caved in, acceded to local demands, Anthony Bernheim doggedly pursued his path. He admitted,

Going to school and to university in Cape Town were not the best years of my life. I did not receive much support from my school teachers, nor at the university. Two professors connected with me in particular ways. One, possibly at a risk, spent some time during our private meetings helping me to better understand the political situation in South Africa, and another occasionally invited me to his home, where I got to know his family. (There was always a concern at the university that someone in each class might be an informer for the South African security police, so I was quite careful with friendships.)

Starting in December 1972, the end of my second year at Architecture School at the University of Cape Town, and during summer break in the southern hemisphere, I decided to take a three-month trip to Europe with a friend. My goal was to start in England, travel through Europe, and end up in Israel, meet with family members (many of whom I had not previously met), and to research countries/cities that could become my future home. We met Janis[[11]] in Florence, Italy, and spent some time together in Athens, Greece.

Architecture School requirements included working in an architect’s office and traveling to see buildings. In 1974, I obtained a position in an architect’s office in London for most of the year, and visited Janis in the San Francisco Bay area for about three months, returning to Cape Town in February 1975. That was when I decided to make the San Francisco Bay Area in the U.S. my future home. During that visit I also started to make contacts in my own field of Architecture and Planning.

I had always been interested in the social aspects of architecture. As an architecture student in South Africa, I noticed that the most unhealthy materials (e.g., asbestos) were used for housing the Black population (government housing provided in the segregated townships). My self-chosen projects in my fifth year of study were schools, as I could see that education was a key component of change in South Africa, and my final project, my thesis project, was the design of a self-help preschool in a Black township near Cape Town.

I was very naïve at the time! The project was never built; by the time I left the country in July 1977, weeks after I had graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Cape Town. However, I did work closely with the community to select the site and to understand their needs for the school. During one of my site visits, I was “entertained” by the Black security police, wanting to know what I was doing in a Black township, and also wanting to meet my Black friends with “similar ideas.” They never got to meet anyone.


Person working with handwriting

Felix Bernheim in Cape Town, 1970s


In the meantime, Anthony’s father, Felix, ran Felicity Stores to make an income, but his passion was the work he did as a handwriting expert. Anthony remembers that

he maintained he was self-taught. He was an expert witness in court cases, where he [even] testified about the author of forged documents. He also prided himself on being able to describe people’s character from their hand writing.

When Felix died, on November 5, 1982, he was 76 years old. His widow, Miriam, returned to  Birmingham, England, where she passed away on April 3, 2004. She was 88.

In relentless adaptation, Alfred, Bertha, Helene, Siegbert and Felix, all five Passau Bernheims, had managed not only to survive the Shoah, but to enable all their respective descendants to gain new footing in fields of their own choosing.

Going “Green” in San Francisco

In 1969, Cape Town had a total population of 750,000. Approximately 25,000 were Jews. After Johannesburg, it was the second largest Jewish center in South Africa. In addition to 12 orthodox congregations, Cape Town had two reform congregations. From 1970 until 1992, approximately 10,000 Israelis immigrated. During the same period, however, some 39,000 Jews left South Africa.[12] Among those was Felix Bernheim’s only son, Anthony.

He recalled on March 14, 2021:

On arrival in the San Francisco Bay Area, I set about getting work in various architects’ offices, getting licensed in California as an architect. During this formative period, I thought that I should go back to university and get a Master of Architecture degree so that I could learn what other U.S. architects knew and become more competitive at finding work. While working part time for an architectural firm designing affordable housing projects, I was also attending the University of California, Berkeley, School of Architecture. My employer, who was also the chair of the School of Architecture at the time, suggested that I take one class in Building Ecology. For that class I wrote a paper on why vinyl asbestos tile flooring was a human health hazard. Through some additional efforts that I made, that product was withdrawn from the market six months later.

On June 2, 1981, Bernheim became a U.S.-citizen. Three years later, he received his Master of Architecture degree from the University of Berkeley, California. In 1985, when Bernheim was 32, his son, Micah Bernheim Burger, was born.

For over 30 years, Anthony has pioneered integrated, sustainable building practices. His expertise promoted not only a significantly healthier indoor air quality, but the FAIA, LEED Fellow made a name for himself as an architect addressing a wide range of building types and master plans.[13] Looking back, he summarized on March 14, 2021:

During my many years working at SMWM, opportunities arose for me to help projects become healthier and more sustainable. In many cases, the client asked some questions or SMWM thought I might know something. Each opportunity presented another step in my professional and personal development of sustainability practice.

However, the key to my development was writing and presenting peer reviewed papers for international and local research and scientific publications on my work I. I also took on speaking at architectural and building conferences. The big obstacle I had to overcome was my shyness. I had to learn to speak in public. By the 1990s, I had met the founder of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and helped him develop the first sustainability manual for green buildings. Then I helped to form the Northern California Chapter of the USGBC, and have served on the local USGBC Board and committees, and for five years on the national USGBC Board of Directors.

The work I started to do in the late 1970s involves healthier built environments for all building types. It includes reducing or eliminating the sources of pollutants; designing the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems; testing the systems and training the building engineers prior to occupancy; and setting the buildings up for environmentally preferable green cleaning during the life of the building.

Improved health of people and of the planet includes energy and water efficiency (with related carbon emission reductions). Long-term sustainability is based on providing triple bottom line solutions.[14]

In South Africa I learned about social justice. In the U.S. I learned about environmental responsibility. I have combined both of these principles, along with financial responsibility, in my professional practice as an architect.

Bernheim’s projects have led to healthier environments.

In the 1990s, he was the architect’s project manager and the sustainable building practices leader for the new San Francisco Main Library, one of the first major public projects in the U.S. to have the indoor materials tested for chemical emissions. For the State of California Capitol Area East End Complex office building he collaborated as an architect with other indoor air quality professionals on the development of project specifications, for testing to improve building products for chemical emissions to reduce indoor air chemical concentrations to building occupant health. This work has led to improving building product emissions, and the way third-party certifiers evaluate products, and has provided the basis for the indoor air quality requirements of the new California and national green building codes and standards.[15]



Anthony Bernheim


Today, the architect lives in San Francisco, California. He is married to Sara Tung from Southern California, whose parents fled China at the end of the Communist Revolution in 1949.[16] Anthony’s son, Micah, is a design strategist.

Anthony Bernheim is the past chair of the U.S. Green Building Council Northern California Chapter (USGBC-NCC) Board of Directors. He was a member of the USGBC National Board of Directors, Treasurer, Vice-chair of the USGBC Green Buildings and Human Health Working Group, and Co-chair of the USGBC Classroom to Boardroom Diversity Mentoring Initiative.

Currently, Bernheim is the Healthy & Resilient Buildings Program Manager for the San Francisco International Airport. Recently, he wrote “Clean Air: Good Health” and “Ambient Outdoor Air Quality,” two chapters for [the] Wiley Publications books “Sustainable Healthcare Architecture” and “Sustainable and Resilient Communities” respectively.

“In recognition of a lifetime of service, commitment, and advocacy for the principles of sustainable design and preserving the earth’s natural resources,” Bernheim was honored with the AIA California Council’s 2004 Nathaniel A. Owings Award. Five years later, the USGBC Northern California Chapter handed him the David Gottfried Special Achievement Award for being “an individual whose career and contributions to the industry demonstrate exceptional passion, leadership, and commitment to green building”. In 2012, Bernheim received the “Breathe California Clean Air Award” for his work on “green” buildings, and in 2020 the “Airports Going Green Award”, recognizing “Leadership in Development Practices for High Performance Buildings, Representing Outstanding Achievement in Pursuit of Sustainability within the Aviation Industry.“[17]

In spite of such laurels, the trailblazing architect remained as humble as determined. On March 14, 2021, he wrote:

In many ways, I was very lucky professionally. Opportunities presented themselves, and I was able to build on them. Working on large public projects, being published, speaking at conferences, writing chapters for books, developing relationships through my continuing contribution to the US Green Building Council and support from their founders – all contributed to the work that I am doing now at the San Francisco International Airport. In a way, I was preparing for this opportunity.

While my work on human health in the built environment was just part of my work previously, it became front and center last year as the COVID-19 pandemic started, and I was asked to help develop ways to make the indoor environment at the Airport healthier and safer. So, while working on health in the built environment at this airport, my goal is to help improve its environment campus wide, to become more sustainable and resilient for the long-term, and thereby to improve health for passengers and employees as well as to improve global health.

In Memoriam

By the end of 1939, more than 117,000 Jews had left Austria, and more than 300,000 fled Germany. Most of them were young, vocationally trained or college-educated. Many, if not most of those who fled to neighboring countries, were captured, and many of the 100,000 who initially found refuge, were killed after May 1940, when Germans invaded.[18]

Mathilde Bernheim, Alfred’s mother, died on May 21, 1941. She is buried in the Rusthof cemetery[19] of Leusden near Amersfoort.

When Albert and Rosa Loose, the older sister of Alfred Bernheim, received a summons of Joodse Raad,[20] Hedwig Loose and their oldest grandson, Peter, accompanied the elderly couple to the train station.[21] They were sent to Westerbork.[22] On May 4, 1943, both arrived at SS-Sonderkommando Sobibor, an extermination camp in the Lublin province of Poland, where they were officially declared dead three days later.[23]

Julie Loose, the widow of Albert’s brother, Max, was imprisoned in the Munich barracks camp at Knorrstraße 148 from January 2, 1942, and deported to Theresienstadt on July 29, where she perished on April 7, 1944.[24]

Gerda Moos, née Stern, the younger daughter of Martha Bernheim, and aunt of Margot Rudnick, and her husband, Kurt, emigrated to the Netherlands on February 6, 1939. They lived in the Hillegersberg suburb. Most likely to rescue their very young daughter, Yvonic, Max traveled to Paris with her.[25] Gerda was declared dead in Auschwitz, Poland, on September 21, 1942.[26] Her husband, Kurt, was deported from Drancy,[27] France, on September 18, 1942 and declared dead in Auschwitz, on December 31, 1941.

Tim Rudnick added on March 8, 2021:

My brother Nicholas has some pictures of my mom and her parents. Elsie died 2006 in Bulawayo, at the age of 98, and Herbert Kirstein died there at the age of 65. My Oma, Martha Stern, was a lovely woman, she was a milner, and also did some beautiful embroidery work, some of which still exists, I think. She passed away in Bulawayo in the early 70s, approximately 95 years old. Her husband, Max Stern, whom I never met, was quite instrumental in keeping in contact with Elsie’s sister [and her husband]. They were captured in France, en route to Switzerland from the Netherlands. Both passed away in the camp from disease.

My sister said Yvonic fell ill, so her parents had to stop their journey, and take her for medical treatment. While there, her parents either had to flee or were captured. Yvonic, was taken [in] by a French farming family, and brought up Catholic. She bears a striking resemblance to Elsie, and now lives in Dijon, where she is married to François Duriez.[[28]]

Max was in touch with someone in Buenos Aires, who had a network to trace Jews to find out their fate. He also wrote to Albert Einstein, a distant relative, for the US government to assist in the evacuation of Jews – I think from the Netherlands. The reply was that they felt the support was more urgent in other areas.


Four people in front of a store

Anthony Bernheim, Charlotte Fassin, Uri and Amos Barneah at the location of their grandparents’ former department store


In 2008, various members of the extended Bernheim family traveled to Germany from England, France, Israel, the Netherlands and the Unites States, to get better acquainted with one another, and to learn about the past of their mutual ancestors. After visiting Bad Buchau, some accompanied all four living Bernheim cousins to Passau, where Georg Höltl welcomed them at two of his hotels as Guests of Honor. The city administration treated them to a luncheon in a traditional restaurant, where in all likelihood, Alfred and Bertha Bernheim used to dine with friends and family. During a walk through the pedestrian zone, they realized that the prison, where Felix was held in 1933, was on the same street where Hitler and Himmler had once lived. And just around the corner, in front of   the former Merkur department store, reporters briefly interviewed them.

In 2012, Anthony obtained a German passport for himself and his son.

On March 14, 2021, he wrote:

My parents did not discuss their lives prior to or during World War II, or even how they met (although we have since found out some information from my cousins). Discussing the Holocaust was not done in the 1960s through 1980s in South Africa. It became more acceptable in the late 1980s in the US. So thanks to you – by reading your books, spending some time with you in Baltimore, and participating in the trip that you arranged for my family in Passau in 2008 – I was able to put my parents’ lives into context. I am now better able to understand and appreciate my parents and what they did for me. The gifts they gave me included a safe home, an appreciation of right and wrong, and a sense of social justice. So while I value their efforts, I thank you for what you have done to help me appreciate my parents.



[1] On November 27, 1956 the village mayor testified that Alfred and Bertha Bernheim, Helene’s parents, came with them.

[2] Shoshana Barneah, Siegbert’s daughter-in-law, learned about that time from Helene in 1972. She recalled on March 5, 2021: “Helene lived below her parents, and she mentioned that she used to knock on the ceiling with a broom, when her parents were speaking German loudly. It was a reminder to stop. She also told me that their neighbors were very kind towards them, and used to warn them, every time when Germans arrived.”

[3] Marie Clauzolle testimony from March 25, 1958. Courtesy of Margaux Fassin, Helene’s great-granddaughter.

[4] In December 1946, Alfred and Bertha joined heir son Siegbert Bernheim in Palestine. For details about that period see: Rosmus, Anna: Exodus – Im Schatten der Gnade. Aspekte zur Geschichte der Juden im Raum Passau. Dorfmeister, Tittling 1988, pp. 69-71


[6] Kenkmann, Alfons, Rusinek, Bernd-A.: Verfolgung und Verwaltung – Die Wirtschaftliche Ausplünderung der Juden und die Westfälischen Finanzbehörden. Münster 1999, p. 19

[7] For details see: Mendelsohn, Richard and Shane, Milton: The Jews in South Africa, an Illustrated History, Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg & Cape Town, 2008, pp. 110 and 111.

[8] For details see: Sichel, Frieda H.: From Refugee to Citizen: A sociological study of the immigrants from Hitler-Europe who settled in South Africa, A.A. Balkema, Cape Town, 1966

[9] Dmitri Abrahams, archivist at the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation (SAHGF), “Finding traces of German Jewish refugees in South African archives” in the Cape Jewish Chronicle from October 4, 2019;

[10] The Department of the Interior published Certificate of Naturalization number 22370 in the Government Gazette from January 28, 1944.

[11] Janis Rochelle Burger from South Euclid, Ohio, had a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Boston University and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of California, in Berkeley.

[12] Retrieved on March 3, 2021

[13] He “was the Sustainability Manager for The Allen Group, and the Director of Sustainability, AECOM Architecture, where he collaborated on the development of the AECOM ecoSystem, a dashboard toolkit used to guide integrated building practices from project inception through post occupancy of high-performance buildings that are energy-efficient, provide comfortable, safe, and healthy environments, utilize resource-efficient products, have reduced environmental footprints, and strive to be ‘living’ and ‘regenerative’ buildings.” See:

[14] The triple bottom line concept, developed by the UN Brundtland Commission, formerly known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), states that to solve for sustainability we need to solve for environment responsibility, social equity, and financial responsibility (Planet, people, profit).

[15] See:

[16] Sara holds an MA in History and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business, at Stanford University. “In addition to being refugees,” Sara wrote on March 14, 2021, “both sets of parents had also lost family members left behind and had emigrated to other countries (in my parents’ case, the U.S.). We also have shared experiences living under the authoritarian governments of apartheid South Africa and China.”


[18] “Refugees” in: Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington, DC.

[19] Amersfoort General Cemetery, as it is occasionally called, is a civilian and military cemetery for victims of WWI and WWII. Included are 238 soldiers killed in action from the British Commonwealth, Belgium, France, and Poland, military victims from Italy, Hungary, Romania, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Czechoslovakia, as well as 865 soldiers from the Soviet Union.

[20] The Joodse Raad, a Jewish council, had to mediate the occupation government’s orders to the Dutch Jews and, beginning in July 1942, to help with the selection of Jewish deportees from the Netherlands to work camps. In September 1943, most staff of the Joodse Raad was deported as well.

[21] On July 4, 2013, Anjes Brooijmans wrote that Peter’s widow, Marianne, told her how often her traumatized husband talked about that event, even during the final days of his own life.

[22] Established by the Dutch government in October 1939 to intern Jewish refugees who had entered the Netherlands illegally, the camp continued to function after the German invasion in 1940. From July 1942 until September 3, 1944, 97,776 inmates were deported from Westerbork.

[23] This information is based on Anfragekarte (inquiry card), ITS Object id: 27778712, which directs researchers to Tracing and Documentation File number 625 299 at the International Tracing Service archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The dates are also reflected on a list of victims from the Netherlands, “In Memoriam – Nederlandse Oorlogsslachtoffers”, Nederlandse Oorlogsgravenstichting (Dutch War Victims Authority), `s-Gravenhage.

[24] See: Gedenkbuch – Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland 1933-1945. For May 18, 1945, Dr. Franz Loose and his wife in New York City and Walter Frank with his wife, Fanny, née Loose, in Newark, NJ, placed an obituary for their mother in the Aufbau.

[25] According to Anjes Brooijmans, Yvonic was born in Rotterdam on May 22, 1939, and sent to a Jewish orphanage in Paris, France. During an attempt to escape to Switzerland, a nurse took Yvonic out of the train, and passed her on to the Catholic Pointier family in Ennemain, within the Somme department of northern France.

[26] The information is based on a list of Jews from Hillegersberg and Schiebroek who perished during the Holocaust. According to Item 1066775, a “Page of Testimony” in the “Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names” of Yad Vashem, Carla Weiss in Tivon erroneously declared on April 28, 1999 that her cousin, Gerda, died in France, “Shot trying to escape to Switzerland.” Another error on that page lists Gerda as born in 1906.

[27] Located in a Paris suburb, the Drancy internment camp confined Jews. Between June 22, 1942 and July 31, 1944, 64 trains deported 64,759 French, Polish, and German Jews to extermination camps. See:

[28] Yvonic and her husband adopted two children. Anne was born in 1969, Remi in 1971. Both were nearly two years old.

Comments Off on From Time to Time: Turning a curse into blessings. The Bernheims after Passau in Cape Town and San Francisco (Part 2 of 2)

Mar 13 2024

From Time to Time: Turning a curse into blessings. The Bernheims in Passau (Part 1 of 2)

Published by under From Time to Time

by Anna Rosmus

Anna Rosmus uses archival material and interviews to follow the paths of former Passau residents. Quotes not cited are from her conversations and correspondence.

This piece is the first of two on the Bernheim family of Passau. After fleeing Passau they headed to Cape Town and San Franscisco. Those stages of their story will be posted next month. 

While Napoleon spread the concepts of liberty, fraternity, and equality into Central Europe, it was not until April 22, 1871, when the Constitution of the German Reich was extended to Bavaria, that Jews in all of Germany reached their emancipation.[1] At that time, more than half of them lived in Prussia, and one fifth in Bavaria.”[2]

Among the 4,000 Jews who lived in Königsberg,[3] were Jakob[4] and Therese[5] Loose. They had five children.[6] Their eldest son, Max,[7] married Julie Kronenberger,[8] daughter of a textile merchant for whom he worked in the Rhineland.[9]  Their third son, Albert,[10] left school at the age of 14 to become rich. In 1893, he became manager of the Max Knopf Ravensburg branch, and before long, Warenhaus Geschwister Knopf hired Albert Loose to manage its Karlsruhe store.

When Gabriel A.[11] and Mathilde[12] Bernheim from Buchau,[13] a small town in the Biberach district, near Lake Federsee, relocated to Ravensburg, their son Alfred[14] finished a merchant’s apprenticeship before he worked as a traveling salesman for various companies in Southern Germany. Their daughter Martha[15] became an apprentice in Bruchsal,[16] approximately 13 miles northeast of Karlsruhe, and their daughter Rosa[17] was trained as a fashion stylist.[18] Albert Loose met Rosa in a Ravensburg cafe. On February 7, 1898 the couple married, and settled in Karlsruhe. When their son, Walter, was born,[19] Gabriel and Mathilde Bernheim closed their Ravensburg store, and moved back to Buchau to take care of their grandson.

Heading for Passau

At the turn of the 19th century, commerce in the tristate area around Passau[20] picked up. For textile merchants from major Jewish centers, this city near the Austrian and Czech border was a potentially lucrative start-up location. While it had a long history of anti-Semitism,[21] it could attract a wide range of customers.[22]

In 1892, Adolf Hitler’s father transferred from Braunau, Upper Austria, to the larger customs office in Passau.[23] Five years later, when Prince Ludwig[24] visited merchant Salomon Forchheimer,[25] even the Donau-Zeitung,[26] a staunchly Catholic regional newspaper, reported extensively and with deference.

Shortly thereafter, all three Bernheim siblings and their spouses seized the opportunity to branch out there as well. Alfred was the first. In 1897, he and Julius Pick,[27] traveling salesmen from Weiden, Upper Palatinate, opened Pick und Bernheim, a Passau textile store at Neumarkt 291.[28] The business went well. On November 10th, Bernheim’s younger sister, Martha, joined the staff as a sales woman.[29]

In December 1900, Alfred Bernheim sent his brother-in-law, Albert Loose in Karlsruhe, a letter that Julius Tietz[30] was closing his Passau store. It was located on Neumarkt 315,[31] at the main shopping street, and owned by Anna Pöllmann.[32] Sensing an opportunity to open his own shop, the next Saturday, after closing time, Loose took a train to Passau, where he talked with Bernheim, Tietz and the landlady.

On March 1, 1901, Albert and Rosa Loose, née Bernheim, moved to Passau with their son, Walter. The family shared their 3-room apartment above the store with Martha.[33] It was cramped, because they also needed one of these rooms for business purposes.

Albert Loose recalled:

The Donau-Zeitung, the organ of vicar Pichler,[34] had a large circulation. As this vicar was one of the few Zentrum[35] delegates who agitated with anti-Semitism, so [was] his newspaper, but at least the advertisements it liked to accept. The anti-Semitism of the front page reinforced the effect of the advertisement. Among the public one could not notice any anti-Semitism, only among the competition which was largely protestant. There also existed a protestant newspaper, the Passauer Zeitung.[36] This one had a small circulation, was eager to obtain advertisements which were of little value, however.

For March 9, 1901 Loose placed one advertisement in the Passauer Zeitung, and for March 12, 1901 another in the Donau-Zeitung. On March 16th, ads on four pages of the Donau-Zeitung announced, “Albert Loose, store-opening, Sunday, March 17th, 10:15 AM.” The first customer who purchased for five Marks on that day was promised “a real golden watch free.”

“After the usual difficulties,” Albert recalled, “advertisement caused the desired sensation.” A smarty came in, grabbed the first thing she saw, and claimed the watch. Loose recalled so many people inside and outside of the shop, however, that repeatedly he had to close the front door. Some people had to leave through a side door before others could enter. Promptly, a competitor sued, alleging Loose’s bidding for an unpermitted lottery. The court refuted that, deeming the award to have been shrewdly won instead.

1902: Founding Merkur Ltd.

After one year, the Loose store was already getting cramped, and the couple was eying Neumarkt No. 384, a large property across the street. Anna Pöllmann, their current landlady, owned it, too. When she planned to close down her own store with manufactured goods,[37] Loose seized the opportunity to upgrade. He recalled:

She had such trust in my business accomplishments that she offered me this house without any down payment. I could move into the larger house, and the smaller premises she could rent out to a book store.

The new premises I had to restructure. First floor and second floor for the business.

On August 25, 1902 Alfred Bernheim returned to Passau.[38] To better position themselves on the regional market, Bernheim and Loose created Kaufhaus Merkur LtD.[39] In combining both stores, the brothers-in-law became business partners. Loose explained in his memoirs:

In order to not depend on a bank, I reached an agreement with my brother-in-law, that he made his funds available to me, and both of us would split our business profits.

The opening of these premises occurred on September 28, (also a Sunday), after church. The public crowd before the opening was documented in a picture. This photo and the opening advertisements my son still has in his possession.

Promptly, Albert Loose landed in court, again. He recalled:

Into the “law against unfair competition” regulations about [a] sale were newly added. I also asked the Munich lawyer, with whom we negotiated the business transformation, whether according to the regulations, I was allowed to hold a sale due to business change. The lawyer did not have the least concerns. And yet, I was served an indictment, and had to appear before the jury in Straubing.

Loose wrote about being fined merely symbolic three Marks.

On October 1, 1902 Julius and Henriette Pick, née Lederer, purchased an imposing building[40] on the same block. On the first and second floor, they opened their own department store. Loose recalled that the Jewish couple added “many of our products to their manufactured goods store.”

In the meantime, Heinrich Himmler and his family moved to Passau as well.[41] His father, the Roman Catholic Gymnasialprofessor Gebhard Himmler, was promoted to deputy principal of Königlich humanistisches Gymnasium, the humanistic secondary school.

Branching out in Deggendorf

Deggendorf, nicknamed Gate to the Bavarian Forest, is situated where the Isar River meets the Danube. Like Passau, the town had a long history of anti-Semitism,[42] but also the potential to attract a wide range of customers.[43]

Loose reminisced:

My brother-in-law, Alfred, could not get along with Mrs. Hansi Pick, the wife of his associate, … and came to agree with Pick on a separation, by taking over premises in Deggendorf that the Pick and Bernheim company had rented.

I furbished the store and ordered the merchandise.

On August 1, 1901 Alfred Bernheim left for Deggendorf. On August 13th, Firma Alfred Bernheim registered a department store.[44] The four story-building was located in House No. 175, on Luitpold Plaza 4, and one of the largest business buildings in town.[45] The store received telephone number 51, one of the first local connections. Bernheim hired ten female employees, and within a few weeks another four.[46] Among them was his younger sister, Martha.[47]

When the Kaufhaus für Manufaktur-, Kurz- & Weißwaren, Kolonialwaren (department store for manufactured-, sewing- & white wares, colonial goods) opened in September, it was the first Jewish business in the district.[48] Multiple, large advertisements in the Deggendorfer Donaubote announced the new endeavor.

In October 1902, Max Stern,[49] a trained window decorator for retail stores, became its manager. Alfred Bernheim began to commute between Passau and Deggendorf, and Loose recalled purchasing new items in Berlin, Vienna and Paris. To obtain bulk rates in Leipzig and Nürnberg, he ordered together with former colleagues in Karlsruhe.

On January 11, 1903, in Regensburg, Alfred Bernheim married Bertha Lederer,[50] a younger sister of Julius Pick’s wife, Henriette. On June 25, 1903 Alfred Bernheim returned to Deggendorf, where the couple moved to House No. 77,[51] and had three children. Helene, privately called Lene, was born on November 16, 1903, Siegbert Joseph on February 20, 1905, and Felix on March 23, 1906.

Busy Time for Jewish Entrepreneurs

The total Passau population was approximately 18,000. In 1904, the Regensburg district rabbi supervised 34 Jews in Passau.[52] At that time, most Jewish residents were either recorded as “Israelites” or without religion. All were assimilated. Looking at Passau newspapers, it is obvious that neither their daily life nor special activities were of much interest to the vast majority. Hardly anything is ever reported.

During August 1903, Martha Bernheim worked for Loose. On June 26, 1905, he registered the Passau Merkur as a textile business, and he advertised it as “biggest warehouse of Passau”, with a “large selection, cheapest but firm prices.”[53]

After the death of Gabriel Bernheim on April 26, 1906, his widow, Mathilde, was severely depressed. In the summer, she joined her daughter, Rosa Loose, for three months in Passau.[54] At that time, plans for a Passau synagogue failed to materialize,[55] and Anjes Brooijmans noted on May 15, 2013, that “Albert Loose liked Passau very much, but he didn’t like the people!” In September 1906, Loose informed the city registrar about his return to Königsberg.

Beginning on September 18, Alfred Bernheim managed the Passau Merkur. His sister Martha helped with the transition.[56] Merkur now had telephone number 45, one of the first connections in the city.

Extended Mishpocha

On January 10, 1907 Martha Bernheim and Max Stern married in Deggendorf.[57] The couple had two daughters.[58] On January 1, 1908 Max Stern acquired the Deggendorf Merkur[59] from Alfred Bernheim, his new brother-in-law. With that money, Bernheim updated the Passau Merkur.[60]

When Albert Kürzl in Deggendorf sold his building to fellow merchant Karl Vanoni on February 15, 1909, however, the Sterns had to relocate. On April 24, 1909 they purchased House No. 173[61] from Xaver Friedl. Before moving there in 1910, Stern began to remodel.[62] For the store opening in April 1910, he was looking for “4 capable 1st sales women who already were active in vivacious, better stores.”

In 1910, 73 Jews lived in Passau. In December, Alfred and Bertha Bernheim purchased Loose’s share of the Passau Merkur,[63] and the couple continued to expand its estate in a prime business location.[64]

The Sterns in Deggendorf expanded as well. In order to add toys to its assortment during November and December, Merkur requested annual permits from 1908 until 1911. According to the Deggendorf Adressbuch 1911, Stern also sold umbrellas and canes.

Among their employees were Regina Stern[65] and Luise Bernheim.[66] According to the city archives, in 1913 Max Stern maintained a staff of 25 to 30 people. On July 23, 1913 he  became a citizen. After attending the local elementary school, his daughter Else was among the first girls to be accepted at the local Ludwigs-Realschule.

On October 16, 1919 Herta Souhami[67] joined Stern’s staff. She was the granddaughter of Ida Moos,[68] a sister of Mathilde Bernheim, and thus a cousin of Martha Stern.

The Stab-in-the-Back Myth

After World War I, the notion was spread that German Jews, in solidarity with the enemy, had caused Germans to lose the war, and that their peace activities resulted in unjustified reparations. Kurt Eisner,[69] Bavaria’s first Minister President, happened to be Jewish. In February 1919, he was assassinated. His murderer had graduated from Königlich humanistisches Gymnasium[70] in Passau.

In April 1919, Franz Schrönghamer-Heimdal proclaimed, ”Bavaria for the Bavarians! … We now want to be a free people on free soil and not slaves of the Jew. … We must get rid of the Jews ourselves.”[71]

In a letter from December 2, 1919 to Feldmarschall (Field Marshal) August von Mackensen,[72] Wilhelm II deemed his abdication the deepest, most disgusting shame ever perpetrated by a person in history, the Germans have done to themselves”, “egged on and misled by the tribe of Judah. … Let no German ever forget this, nor rest until these parasites have been destroyed and exterminated from German soil![73]

Trouble at the Height of Their Career

Undeterred, Felix, Siegbert and Helene Bernheim attended a liberal secondary school and excelled in sports. All three were at the center of the city’s social life. In their leisure time, both sons donned ethnic outfits.

In 1922, the Sterns in Deggendorf added novelty items such as bed feathers to their assortment.

Lower Bavaria was a problematic spot, however. Passau teacher Richard Kufner had already set up local storm troopers (SA), a primitive and extremely violent group.[74] After Hitler spoke in the Schmerold Celler on August 7, 1922, locals formed their own SS group. Known as “the mobile Passau squad,” it violently suppressed political opponents in Lower Bavaria, Upper Palatinate, Upper Bavaria, and Upper Austria.

On June 17, 1923, a few hundred guests, including delegations from Stettin, marched behind Hitler, Himmler, Göring and a Swastika banner into the Passau cathedral, where it was blessed.[75] On February 14, 1925, the future Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler revisited Passau, and shortly thereafter, the first formal boycott of Jewish businesses took place.

Doggedly, both Bernheim sons continued their business training,[76] and in 1926, a plan for the construction of a new Merkur department store was drawn up. One year later, the installation of two apartments on the third floor with a total of 10 rooms was approved. At that time, the Bernheims owned a spectacularly modern department store with approximately 100 employees. It was the largest and most popular business of its kind in the tristate region.[77]

Five people sitting around a table with drinks.

Left to right: Felix, Alfred, Bertha, Siegbert and Helene Bernheim

Internally, the relationship between the elder Picks and Bernheims had reached an all-time low. The five children of both families, however, had always been friends, and as grown-ups, they opted to become business partners as well. Before Alfred and Bertha Bernheim celebrated their silver wedding anniversary, in January 1928, they passed on Merkur to their sons, and Henriette Pick passed her store to daughter Paula.[78] After these heirs combined their stores into one company, Felix, an extraordinarily innovative man, and his brother advanced the family business into one of Lower Bavaria’s most modern endeavors. Albert Loose described his nephew Siegbert as prudent, managing with deliberation, whereas he called Felix a “Draufgänger” (risk-taker). He also was one of the city’s most eligible bachelors.

When Trudl Burian, a college-bound Passau socialite,[79] won 1st place for best carnival costume,[80] the Stürmer magazine launched another, lengthy wave of attacks against Jewish-owned businesses.[81] For the Passau region, this was the beginning of their end.

On July 15, 1929, Helene Bernheim married Lutz Wertheimer[82] and followed the merchant to Saarbrücken,[83] where the couple opened a tie business. Her brother Siegbert headed for Osterode[84] near Königsberg.[85]

Bailing out Merkur LtD

As soon as the Niederbayerische Rundschau, a regional weekly National Socialist newspaper, was founded,[86] its editor-in-chief, Otto Erbersdobler,[87] demanded, “Don’t buy from Jews!” On January 9, 1931, the Niederbayerische Rundschau wrote about its fictional reporter “Florini” visiting a fortune teller. Answering the question what will happen to the Jews in the Third Reich, she prophesied:

I see a freight car standing at the platform of the heart of your city, there stands an infants’ home instead of a department store. A fat Socialist city counselor is nabbed while escaping from the crematorium; he is stuffed and added to the collection of rarities in the Oberhaus [Castle]. … In the city on the Ilz a new ghetto is being established for the so-called decent Jews.

On June 5, 1931 Else Stern married Herbert Kirstein[88] in Deggendorf. The couple had one daughter.[89]

After the Donauzeitung reported about the so-called Deggendorfer Gnad[90] in October 1931, Felix Bernheim complained publicly that such “mendacious tales should not be told” to people of the 20th century.[91]

Felix Bernheim at the Passau “MERKUR” office

When the bank cancelled their credit, however, the Bernheim sons and Paula Pick grew desperate. To stay afloat, they contacted Paula Reichenberg and Albert Loose.[92] Recalling a market of merely “18,000 residents whose Austrian customers went lost due to the peace treaties at that”, Loose balked. Paula Reichenberg lent her sister Henriette 20,000 Marks to purchase the large property that “separated” her daughter’s department store from the Bernheims,[93] and all agreed that Alfred and Berta Bernheim will buy back their businesses in Passau and Osterode. To do so, the Bernheims needed money. In the end, Loose did lend his brother-in-law 20,000 Marks as well – with the life insurance that Alfred and Berta had in Switzerland as security.[94]

Shattered Dreams

In 1932, Albert Loose’s older brother, Max, was President of the Jewish Community in Lower Bavaria.[95] It was an uphill battle. From November 1, 1932, until January 28, 1933, a new daily, the Passauer Wacht,[96] was published. In December, the Passauer Zeitung wrote:

In the department stores, all is a glitter and a twinkle. Giant zeppelins float back and forth in the display windows, the most incredible children’s toys – ones that normal people cannot afford – make the children dissatisfied with their own meager Christmas table, unaffordable outfits, in short, there is scarcely anything that is not offered for sale. In contrast, the display window of the small businessman is frequently empty, often without even the crudest lighting. Thousands of small businessmen are compelled to torment themselves with the terrifying thought, “will the noose finally be tightened tomorrow, or will the department store Jew allow us to twitch a while longer?” Everyone has to believe this will happen sooner or later in one way or another. … But the department stores will continue to expand and flourish. How long still? Until that day?

The Passauer Woche added, ”There is no doubt about this, always when a Jew does business, the Christian generally ends up empty-handed.”

The vast majority of Passau residents remained mute,[97] and with all assets invested in real estate and merchandise, most merchants tried hard to hold on. In Passau, Felix Bernheim managed the department store and the family’s significant estate.

When Hitler seized power in 1933, Germany had approximately 523,000 Jews, less than 1% of the population.[98] In Passau, only 40 were still registered.[99]

On March 14th, Passau named Adolf Hitler a citizen of honor.[100] The Innstadt house where he used to live, was “cleansed” of Jews.[101] A Führer cult became more and more visible,[102] and Passau’s right-wing reputation[103] attracted more NS-leaders.[104]

Felix Bernheim continued to be popular, however. After he was arrested on March 31, 1933, and placed in “protective custody” for “grinning” at Max Moosbauer, the newly appointed National Socialist mayor, his “Aryan” staff signed a daring petition, successfully requesting his release.[105] Like thousands of other victims of political, racial or religious persecution, Felix fled to the Territory of the Saar Basin.

The new Passau administration began to restrict Jews. On April 13, 1933, the official bulletin of the city council announced that Jewish entrepreneurs and tradesmen would no longer be permitted to take part in either one of the two traditional fairs or any other exhibitions in order not to endanger public peace and order. One week later, the politically appointed Special Commissary forbade “the playing of Jewish popular songs and Jazz music in any restaurant or cafe within the city limits of Passau.” On May 5, 1933, the Passauer Zeitung reported, ”It might further interest the public that in the future, non-Aryan companies are to be excluded from contracts to make deliveries to municipal welfare agencies.” And on June 2, 1933, the notorious Otto Erbersdobler became president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

On August 7th, Gerda Stern left Deggendorf for Brighton, England.[106] In July, 1934, Max Stern handed the Deggendorf Merkur over to his son-in-law, and left for Munich.[107]

In the meantime, Passau leaders already dreamed of a Reichsautobahn from Passau to Königsberg,[108] cutting through the Polish Corridor. To celebrate the Battle of Tannenberg from 1914, Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen visited Passau,[109] and two years after its triumphant Passau rally from 1933, the Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland flocked to Königsberg.

In the Passau city council minutes from August 13, 1935, we read:

a, The civil servants and employees are to be made aware that they are not to make purchases from Jews, otherwise they will have to bear the consequences. The civil servants and employees are to prevail upon members of their families to this effect. Whoever receives his salary or wage from the state or municipality may not stab the state in the back, rather they must support the state. b, Welfare recipients are likewise to be made aware that they are not to buy from Jews. Signs to this effect are therefore to be posted in the welfare offices. Violations will result in loss of support. c, Business people and entrepreneurs who make purchases from Jews cannot expect orders from the state. d, The administrative offices of institutions and foundations are instructed once again not to make purchases from Jews. If there is uncertainty whether a firm is a Jewish company or not, then an inquiry is to be made at the district administration of the NSDAP. e, The inmates of institutions and foundations are likewise to be instructed not to buy from Jews.

On August 31, 1935 the new city hall was dedicated with a huge demonstration “Against Jewry and political Catholicism.”

By October 31, 1935, Passau National Socialists were happy to announce that the Merkur department store was finally in “Aryan” hands,[110] and on November 22, 1935, the city was proudly declared to be free of Jews – even if it was not yet so.[111]

In September 1936, after selling the Deggendorf Merkur to Franz Falter, a non-Jew, Herbert Kirstein and his family left for Essen, where his mother lived.[112]

During the night of November 9/10, 1938 the interior of the Straubing synagogue was destroyed.  Jewish men and some women were arrested. On November 11, the Passau newspaper reported, “Yesterday night, spontaneous demonstrations were in Passau, and to some extent in the surrounding area against those Jews still present; in the course of which the Jews were taken into protective custody.”[113]

Life for the remaining Jews was miserable.[114]



[1] For the first time, Jews were entitled to serve in the military, in schools and in the legal system.

[2] Rürup, Miriam: Demographics and Social Structure (translated by Insa Kummer), in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, 22.09.2016. <>

[3] That equaled 3.5% of the city’s residents. With many migrants escaping pogroms in the Russian empire, the number of Jewish Königsberg inhabitants temporarily peaked at about 5,000 in 1880. After Berlin and Breslau, this was Germany’s largest Jewish community.

[4] Produkten Händler Jakob Loose was born 1839 in Polzin, East Pomerania. In 1905, the 5,046 predominantly Protestant inhabitants of Polzin included 110 Jews and 36 Catholics. After WWII, Polzin became Połczyn-Zdrój, Poland.

[5] Therese Meyer was born in 1845 in Stettin, East Pomerania. Because there were so many Meyer Jacobys in this city, her father or grandfather had changed his name from Meyer Jacoby to Jacob Meyer. After WWII, Stettin was renamed Szczecin, and a part of Poland.

[6] Siegfried was born in 1871, and died in 1872. Paul was born in 1882, and died in 1888, after falling into a cow skin cleaning tub with very hot water.

[7] Max Loose was born in 1870.

[8] Julie Kronenberger was born on March 13, 1873 in Saarlautern (Saarlouis). She was a resident of Stuttgart.

[9] The couple had two children, Franz and Fanny. Both were born in Stuttgart. Dr. Franz Loose became an eye specialist, married Lisl Midas, and had one daughter, Eva. Fanny Loose married Walter Frank, and had also one daughter, Greta, who was born in Straubing on January 12, 1925.

[10] Albert Loose was born on June 16, 1873. In 1940, at the age of 67, he began to write his memoirs “for my grandchildren and their descendants, perhaps they are interested in it.” Because Loose lost all papers in 1936, in Barcelona, Spain, he cautioned about possible inaccuracies. Unless noted otherwise, all personal information about Albert Loose and his immediate relatives is taken from those memoirs, as shared by Anjes Brooijmans, widow of his youngest grandson. Born on July 18, 1933, Anjes joined the Loose family in 1962.

[11] Gabriel A. Bernheim was born on September 12, 1840 in Buchau, and died there on April 26, 1906. He was one of Veronika and Abraham Simon Bernheim’s ten children.

[12] Born on June 24, 1849 Mathilde Moos was one of eleven children of Hermann Moos (May 7, 1816 – March 12, 1889) and Sofie Neuburger (September 17, 1819 – March 2, 1904) in Kappel near Buchau. Hermann Einstein, father of the physicist Albert Einstein, was Mathilde’s first cousin.

[13] Jews in this region were first mentioned in 1382. By 1577, a Jewish community had gained prominence. In 1650, a Jewish cemetery was established. Throughout the 19th century, Jews contributed significantly to the local economic development. By 1807, Jews obtained the right to acquire goods. Beginning in 1822, they could live anywhere in town. Six years later, when they were granted civil liberties, Jewish stores and houses shaped Buchau. In 1837, a 2nd synagogue was built. Textile manufacturing provided most jobs. In 1839, 736 Jews lived in Buchau, amounting to approximately one third of its total population. Two years later, a rabbinate was built next to the synagogue, and in 1847 Hermann Einstein was born.

[14] Alfred Bernheim was born in Buchau on October 19, 1871.

[15] Martha Bernheim was born on August 12, 1880 in Ravensburg.

[16] Bruchsal has had a synagogue since 1881.

[17] Rosa Bernheim was born in Buchau on July 27, 1874.

[18] See: Residentenliste: Die Liste der jüdischen Einwohner im Deutschen Reich 1933-1945, 6th edition (2012), Ossenberg & Schneider in Remagen. Bundesarchiv, Germany, “Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft” Foundation.

[19] Walter Loose was born in Karlsruhe on December 23, 1898. He died on December 18, 1964 in Leiden, Netherlands.

[20] Unless mentioned otherwise, all registrations and related formal data about Passau residents were provided by Herta Nitsche and Claudia Veit at the Passau city archives.

[21] Jews in this area were first mentioned in the Raffelstetten Customs Regulations from approximately 903 CE. A Passau Judenstras (Jew Street) was first mentioned in 1328 CE, a synagogue in 1314 CE, and a cemetery in 1418 CE. Hostilities, however, were never far. In 1210, the Passau bishop ordered Jews to be compensated after they were robbed. Black Death persecutions of 1349 caused considerable loss, but Jews lived there again in 1390. In 1478, ten tortured Jews confessed to having stabbed a communion wafer, and were sentenced to death. While approximately 40 Jews accepted Christianity, the others were expelled. Their synagogue and homes were demolished, and a church erected on that site became the center of a lucrative pilgrimages. See: Germania Judaica, 1 (1963), pp. 266–7; 2 (1968), pp. 647–8.

[22] Even the closest cities with better shopping opportunities such as Linz in Upper Austria, Budweis (České Budějovice) in Bohemia, Salzburg, and Regensburg in Upper Palatinate, were more than 50 miles away.

[23] Alois Hitler (1837–1903), a Roman Catholic, was married to his cousin, Klara Pölzl (1860-1907). His eldest son, Alois, went to Königlich humanistisches Gymnasium, Angela attended kindergarden, Adolf stayed at home, and Edmund was born in Passau.

[24] Throughout his life, Ludwig Luitpold Josef Maria Aloys Alfried of Bavaria showed interest in agriculture. From 1868, he was Honorary President of the Central Committee of the Bavarian Agricultural Society. The prince was also interested in technology, particularly water power. In 1891, at his initiation, the Bavarian Canal Society was established. In 1913, legislature recognized him as King Ludwig III of Bavaria.

[25] Born in Wallhausen in 1848, Salomon Forchheimer employed hundreds of workers whose benefits included the company’s own health insurance. He died on February 15, 1904 in Nuremberg, before Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria could personally honor him as a main donor for the Nuremberg Künstlerhaus (artists’ house). When his brother, Hugo Forchheimer (December 6, 1846 in Welbhausen – January 7, 1907) died in Passau, nephews Arthur (November 15, 1874 in Nuremberg – January 19, 1960 in Brussels, Belgium), Karl Israel and Hans Simon (June 25, 1884 in Frankfurt – December 3, 1969 in California) continued the business. See: In Tausend Passauer (Neue Presse Verlags-GmbH, 1995) Franz Mader falsely lists the nephews as sons of Salomon Forchheimer.

[26] In 1888, Franz Seraph Pichler, PhD, (1852-1927), a vicar at the Passau cathedral, and other conservative Catholics founded Passavia Corporation. A year later, they purchased Donau-Zeitung, the most influential newspaper in the region. Its daily copies increased from 3,000 in 1874 to 6,800 in 1888. At the turn of the century, nearly 100 correspondents at 58 locations contributed to propagate political Catholicism. During WWI, up to 15,000 copies were sold.

[27] Julius Pick was born on April 17, 1871 in Falken-Lhoda in the Kolin (Kolín) district of Central Bohemia. His parents were Ignatz and Theres, née Bondy from Dobrickov.

[28] Arriving on August 15, 1897 both men lived at Klingergasse 310 (currently Große Klingergasse 5). Herta Nitsche from the Passau city archives explained on July 2, 2013, that the address of Mr. Bernheim was falsely listed as Altstadt 310 instead of Neumarkt 310. Today’s store address is Große Klingergasse 8.

[29] Martha Bernheim worked there until January 30, 1899. Her address was listed as Neu[markt] 450, which currently is Theresienstraße 21.

[30] In 1900, Julius Tietz, brother of Hermann Tietz, built Bavaria’s first department store in Fürth, am Kohlenmarkt 4. In 1912, he opened another one in Plauen, Saxony.

[31] Today’s address is Ludwigstraße 16.

[32] Catholic Anna Pöllmann was born on October 16, 1838, in Troschelhammer, Upper Palatinate. An advertisement from March 9, 1901 in the Passauer Zeitung indicates that for the past 31 years, she owned a Schnitt- und Modewarengeschäft (store for patterns and fashion) in that house. With the new tenant, Pöllmann could afford to relocate to her previous premises at Neumarkt 384, which currently is Ludwigstraße 16.

[33] Martha Bernheim worked for Albert Loose from March 7, 1901 until August 14, 1901.

[34] From 1878 until 1880, Franz Seraph Pichler, PhD, was a vicar in Rome. Relatively late, in 1899, he was appointed to the Passau cathedral chapter. From 1893 until 1911, Pichler was a Reichstag delegate, and until 1918 also a member of the Bavarian parliament. In 1922, Passau made him an honorary citizen, and named a plaza after him.

[35] Founded in 1870, the conservative Deutsche Zentrumspartei (German Center Party) was the nation’s strongest parliamentary group from 1881 until 1912.

[36] Passauer Zeitung was a relatively liberal newspaper. On September 1, 1898, Ablaßmayer & Penninger took it over.

[37] Anna Pöllmann intended to buy a hotel instead. On September 29, 1902, she left for Prien at Lake Chiemsee.

[38] Until October 15, 1902 Bernheim lived at Neumarkt 244, (currently Rindermarkt 2). Then, he purchased  Neumarkt 384, and the Looses moved in as well. Anna Pöllmann asked for payment after she found a hotel.

[39] Advertisements on four pages of the Donau-Zeitung from August 26, 1902 announced the opening.

[40] The couple left Weiden, Upper Palatinate, and registered in Passau on January 17, 1902. According to Adressbuch 1902/1903, they lived at Ludwigstraße 466 (currently Ludwigstraße 11). On October 1, 1902 they moved to House No. 382, currently Ludwigstraße 19.

[41] The Himmler family arrived from Munich on November 3, 1902. They lived at Theresienstraße 394 (currently Theresienstraße 22) until September 2, 1904, when they moved to Munich, Amalienstraße 86/III.

[42] In 1337 or 1338, a pogrom erupted in Deggendorf. From the 15th century, the church of the Holy Sepulchre, Saints Peter and Paul contained a communion wafer which allegedly was saved from desecration by Jews. It became the site of the annual Deggendorfer Gnad (Deggendorf Grace), a lucrative Catholic pilgrimage that continued until 1992, when the Regensburg bishop erected a plaque decrying the legend.

[43] Passau, Landshut, Regensburg, Straubing, the Bavarian Forest, Regen, Zwiesel, Viechtach, Pfarrkirchen, Landau, Dingolfing, and Cham were located within a radius of 50 miles; as were communities in Upper Austria and in Czechoslovakia, where many locals had relatives.

[44] Unless mentioned otherwise, all registrations of Deggendorf residents and stores were either provided or confirmed by Lutz-Dieter Behrendt, PhD, at the Deggendorf city archives.

[45] Built in 1895 by merchant Albert Kürzl, Bernheim did not utilize the third and fourth floor as sales room.

[46] Lutz-Dieter Behrendt, PhD, added on July 1, 2013 that during the following years, the number of staff members varied between 15 and 20. “Especially the decorators, who worked for him only a few months each, apparently did not exist in Deggendorf. They came from Vienna, Munich, Dresden, Schweinfurt, Marsberg, Bad Ems, St. Ulrich and Łabiszyn” (German: Lüderitz), a small town in Prussia.

[47] Martha Bernheim was registered working there as head sales woman from August 15, 1901 until August 5, 1903, from September 7, 1903 until August 5, 1904, and from February 1905 until February 1907.

[48] Lutz-Dieter Behrendt, PhD, stated on May 8, 2013, “In the years to come, he was the biggest employer among the merchants.“

[49] Max Stern was born on December 21, 1882 in Gissigheim near Tauberbischofsheim, Baden-Württemberg. The son of merchant Leopold (Löb) Stern and his wife Nani, née Selig, was a soldier when he arrived in Deggendorf in February 1902.

[50] Bertha Lederer was born on December 17, 1875, in Bamberg.

[51] Today’s address is Luitpold Plaza 13. By February 1905, the Bernheims had relocated to Angermühle 464 ⅓ (currently Westlicher Stadtgraben 4).

[52] See:

[53] The Passau Adressbuch 1905/1906 lists Alfred Bernheim as owner of Ludwigstraße 384.

[54] She stayed in bed for a very long time, and then lived with her brother, Franz Moos, in Buchau.

[55] In 1907, a synagogue was built on Wittelsbacherstraße 2 in Straubing. Due to the efforts of Ludwig Lauchheimer, Adolf Bergmann, Leopold Grünebaum and Julius Pick, Passau’s Jews joined the Jewish community in Straubing, whose statutes, to this day, provide this possibility for Jews in Lower Bavaria without a community of their own.

[56] From July 10, 1906 until August 8, 1906, Martha Bernheim worked at the Passau Merkur.

[57] It was the first local Jewish wedding. Catholic Joseph Deiler, a musician and Albert Kürzl, owner of the business building, served as witnesses. At that time, Stern lived at House No. 31 (currently Metzgergasse 2), and his wife at House No. 464 (currently Westlicher Stadtgraben 6).

[58] Else Stern was born on January 4, 1908, in Deggendorf. Gerda Stern was born on February 13, 1913 in Deggendorf.

[59] Stern registered it as Gemischtwarenhaus für Manufaktur-, Kurz-, Wollwaren, Putz u. Konfektion (house of mixed goods for manufactured, sewing, woolen goods, finery and fashion).

[60] In 1908, the display windows were significantly enlarged. In April 1909, the sketch for a planned renovation was submitted.

[61] The current address is Luitpold Plaza 8.

[62] Because the new building was smaller than the previous one, and sales room existed only on the 1st floor, the 2nd floor was integrated. Lutz-Dieter Behrendt, PhD, added on May 8, 2013, that Stern also gave up the shoe business, and “focused on selling clothes for men and women, for boys and girls”.

[63] Alfred Bernheim registered the Merkur company in Passau on December 29, 1915.

[64] In 1911, living quarters were built in. From January 1913-1915, Alfred lived in Ansbach. In 1914/15, the house at Ludwigstraße 7 belonged to Alfred Bernheim. Four families were living there.

[65] Regina Stern was born on July 18, 1886 in Tauberbischofsheim. The sales woman was a sister of Max Stern, and worked at the Deggendorf Merkur from February 1908 until October 1911.

[66] Luise Bernheim was born on November 19, 1875 in Buchau. The cashier worked at the Deggendorf Merkur from May until June of 1912.

[67] Herta Souhami was born on May 6, 1900 in Konstanz, Baden-Württemberg, and registered in Deggendorf as “evangelical.” On February 18, 1922, she reported leaving for Heidelberg.

[68] Ida Moos, born on February 7, 1842 was married to India importer Nathan Hirsch from Konstanz. The couple had four children, Rudolf, Mathilde, Fritz, and Lili. Mathilde (January 25, 1868 until October 1926) married Bekir Souhami from Smyrna, a French Schutzbürger (literally: “protected citizen”) in the Ottoman Empire.

[69] Kurt Eisner (1867–1919), a socialist journalist, was the son of Emanuel Eisner and Hedwig Levenstein. After organizing the revolution that overthrew the Wittelsbach monarchy in Bavaria, he declared Bavaria to be a free state and a republic on November 8, 1918.

[70] In 1916, Anton von Padua Alfred Emil Hubert Georg Count von Arco auf Valley (1897–1945), the younger son of Emily Baroness von Oppenheim, made the so-called Kriegsabitur, a significant short-cut enabling future soldiers to quickly enlist with the army.

[71] Schrönghamer-Heimdal also had graduated from Königlich humanistisches Gymnasium in Passau. When he joined the Nazi party on February 4, 1920, he was one of the most visible figures of Völkischer Beobachter. In 1933, Schrönghamer-Heimdal became editor-in-chief of the weekly bishopric journal, Altöttinger Liebfrauenbote. After World War II, Passau named a street after him, and made him a citizen of honor.

[72] On November 27, 1914, Anton Ludwig August von Mackensen (1849–1945) was awarded Prussia’s highest military order for actions around Łódź and Warsaw. In April 1915, he took command of Heeresgruppe Kiew (Army Group Kiev) in Galicia, and he assisted in the temporary capture of Przemyśl (German: Premissel) and Lwów (German: Lemberg). Captured in Hungary, von Mackensen was held prisoner until November 1919. Although retired from the army since 1920, Hermann Göring appointed von Mackensen as a Prussian state councillor in 1933. He frequently appeared at National Socialist functions donning his imperial cavalry uniform.

[73] As quoted by John Röhl, The Kaiser and His Court: Wilhelm II and the Government of Germany, Cambridge University, 1994, p. 210.

[74] Max Moosbauer (1892-1968), Lord Mayor of Passau from 1933 until 1945, proudly noted that when NSDAP in Germany reached approximately 6,000 members in 1922, 167 of them lived in Passau.

[75] The NSDAP registered 70 new members.

[76] Siegbert Bernheim moved to Munich in August 1920, and returned in January 1923. Felix Bernheim left for Nuremberg in May 1921, to work at a bank and in different department stores. In August 1925, he returned, but in February 1926, he gave notice of departure for another 13 months. Thereafter, Felix returned to Passau with big plans.

[77] During the Weimar period, approximately 800,000 RM were turned over every year. In order to be insured for 100,000 Reichsmark since 1925, Alfred Bernheim paid Basler Life Insurance annually 8,000 Reichsmark.

[78] Her sister, Lilly, was paid off. On March 20, 1928, she married Sepp Kundmüller, a non-Jew, who worked at the local customs office.

[79] When the senior prom was near for Trudl Burian, the (gentile) class president was to preside with her as the best student. He was asked, however, not to appear with the Jewess, and she was instructed to relinquish her role.

[80] On January 21, 1928 in the Schmerold Cellar, the Passau chapter of the ADAC automobile club hosted a fancy-dress ball under the motto “masked drivers’-weekend.”

[81] On October 27, 1928 Adolf Hitler spoke twice in Passau.

[82] Ludwig “Lutz” Wertheimer, a Jewish relative of Helene, was born on July 11, 1898 in Straßburg. His parents lived in Luxembourg. For her wedding, Helene received a pay-out of 50,000 Marks. The couple’s only child, Charlotte Wertheimer, was born in Saarbrücken on December 8, 1931.

[83] In 1920, after the Treaty of Versailles, the Territory of the Saar Basin was placed under a League of Nations mandate. Saarbrücken, with its population of over 100,000, became capital of the newly established Territory.

[84] Until 1905, Osterode was part of the Königsberg province. Then, it became part of Allenstein. The city listed Bernheim as a merchant living at Friedrichstraße 5 c. (See: Klaus Bürger: Adreßbuch der Stadt Osterode/Ostpreußen 1928-1939, Osterode 1980, p. 17) Albert Loose recalled that the Bernheims later bought that business.

[85] For a few months, until mid-1931, Siegbert Bernheim returned to Passau, where both brothers ran their business. In June 1937, Siegbert married Elsbeth Steinacher from Nuremberg in Buchau, and at the end of July, a French ship took them to Palestine. Along with a few dozen other German Jews, they settled in rural Kfar Schmaryahu, where they began to raise chickens. Today, the former village is an affluent suburb of Tel Aviv, where immigrants from South Africa and America live as well.

[86] The Niederbayerische Rundschau was published from October 17, 1930 until December 31, 1931.

[87] Otto Erbersdobler (1895-1981) from Fürstenzell, in the outskirts of Passau, was executive director of the Bavarian Cobblestone Industry Syndicate LtD in Passau. He led the NSDAP in Fürstenzell and in Bayreuth. In 1928, Erbersdobler became a member of the Lower Bavaria district government. From March 1929 until April 1932, Erbersdobler was Gauleiter of Lower Bavaria. In July 1932, he was elected into the Reich parliament.

[88]The merchant Herbert Kirstein came from Menden in the Iserlohn district, and moved into the house of his in-laws. He was born on June 16, 1904 in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia.

[89] Their daughter, Margot, was born on April 19, 1932 in Deggendorf.

[90] That annual Catholic pilgrimage commemorated the alleged crime of Jews stabbing the holy host during the Middle Ages.

[91] The Niederbayern Rundschau mocked: “Never again did they injure the tender feelings of the sons of Zion. Instead of ‘Jews’ they write ‘malefactors,’ and instead of ‘Jewish quarter,’ it is ‘section of town’ … we can only add our observation that Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver, but the Donauzeitung does it for less. It betrays Him for an advertisement.”

[92] Paula Reichenberg, née Lederer, was an aunt of Paula Pick and the Bernheim brothers.

[93] Adreßbuch 1933/1934 lists Henriette Pick as owner of Ludwigstraße 17 (House No. 383).

[94] In 1935, when Bernheim sold the business, it was very difficult to pay back Loose. Because he and his wife had left the country in 1933, the banks in Berlin and Stuttgart disputed Devisenvergehen (breach of exchange control regulations). Not until Albert cancelled the life insurance, did Loose receive his money – in December of 1936.

[95] 115 Jews were registered in Straubing, 45 in Landshut, 48 in Passau, 21 in Vilshofen, 15 in Deggendorf, und 13 in Plattling. All were members of the Straubing community.

[96] Editor-in-chief Otto Erbersdobler was now also a representative in the Reich parliament.

[97] On a national level, Chancellor Heinrich Brüning (1885–1970) refused to support the request of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith to condemn the massive anti-Jewish slander.

[98] “German Jewish Refugees” in: Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington, DC.

[99], retrieved on March 2, 2021

[100] The document is still preserved at the city archives.

[101] After the election of 1933, Sophie Hartl (née Einstein) and her family had to leave their apartment. Pressured to leave the Jewish faith, she converted to the Catholic faith. As the only adult she had to walk down the aisle of Passau cathedral, trading after a few hundred little girls and boys. Her daughters were baptized as Protestants. For details see Rosmus, Anna Elisabeth: Exodus – Im Schatten der Gnade. Aspekte zur Geschichte der Juden im Raum Passau Dorfmeister, Tittling, 1988, p.??-??.

[102] Ludwigsplatz, named after Bavaria’s former King Ludwig I, was renamed Adolf Hitler Platz. Pictures and busts of Hitler were placed throughout the city. Passau named a street after his mother, Klara, and at the confluence of its three rivers, an oak-tree was planted in his honor. After dogs were seen peeing on this tree, local SA stood guard day and night to protect it. Love letters to Hitler can still be found at the city archives. On April 20, Adolf Hitler’s birthday, the league of German Girls and Hitler Youth marched to the house at the Inn River where Hitler had lived, raising a Swastika flag. In 1937, Passau built a fancy suite for Hitler at Oberhaus Castle. For more details see: Rosmus, Anna: Hitlers Nibelungen, Samples, Grafenau 2015

[103] Nationalistic mass events such as the annual spring convention of Verein für das Deutschtum im Ausland were hosted. On May 9, 1933, the Donauzeitung reported about plans to build a “Thing” site, and Mayor Moosbauer wrote, “The establishment of this ceremonial place at the Oberhaus [Castle], the first of its kind in Bavaria, creates the prerequisite for holding new kinds of open air plays which in this connection will unquestionably put Passau in the lead of the Reich.” The plan to erect a Gateway to the East, almost 220 ft high, atop of another hill was to symbolize German claims to Eastern territories.

[104] Otto Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962), for example, moved there in 1933, and married there in 1935. NS-poet Hans Baumann (1914–1988), heralded as Passau resident by choice, preferred Oberhaus over a church for his “German” wedding.

[105] Bernheim was released on May 29, 1933. The strong letter that he sent to the Passau chief of police during his imprisonment is published on p. 69 of Widerstand und Verfolgung: Am Beispiel Passaus 1933-1939 by Anja Rosmus-Wenninger; Andreas Haller, Passau, 1983.

[106] According to Lutz-Dieter Behrendt, PhD, the German embassy in London prolonged her passport from 1929 until March 18, 1939.

[107] According to Lutz-Dieter Behrendt, PhD, the family moved to a 2nd floor apartment at Elisabeth Straße 48, where they still lived at the end of 1936. In 1937, when Martha Stern requested that the Zurich Consulate General prolongs her passport, Deggendorf did not object.

[108] The first 70 miles long segment near Stettin was opened in 1936, the segment from Königsberg to Elbing in 1937. By October 1939, when Poland was defeated, work on the “Berlinka” segment resumed.

[109] Rosmus, Anna: Hitlers Nibelungen, Samples, Grafenau 2015, p. 111f.

[110] For details see: Rosmus-Wenninger, Anja: Widerstand und Verfolgung am Beispiel Passau 1933 – 1945, Andreas Haller, Passau 1983, p. 65

[111] Henriette Pick and her daughters, for example, left for Munich in 1938, and from there to Switzerland. For details see: Rosmus, Anna: Exodus – Im Schatten der Gnade. Aspekte zur Geschichte der Juden im Raum Passau. Dorfmeister, Tittling 1988, p. 79ff

[112] The family fled to Bulawayo, then Southern Rhodesia. In 1939, Max and Martha Stern joined them. Max died on January 27, 1948.

[113] Three days later, the following cynical comment was printed, ”It may be that a few windows were shattered during these days. That may be regrettable. But it is not to be regretted that the Jews are being eradicated from our Volk.” Shortly after that, the Donauzeitung reported under the headline, “In Passau, too, the Jews are Played Out.” “Besides the fact that a number of these Jewish firms … have died a natural death or, through Aryanization, have been placed on a German, hence more reliable footing, now the last remnant of Passau’s Jewish businesses will soon disappear, and thus Passau’s economic life will finally be liberated from Jewish influence. No one here is shedding a single tear for the Jews.”

[114] The Hartl fabric store was fully “Aryanized” in 1942. Both parents and their daughters survived as slave laborers. For details see: Rosmus, Anna: Exodus – Im Schatten der Gnade. Aspekte zur Geschichte der Juden im Raum Passau. Dorfmeister, Tittling 1988, pp. 200-203

Comments Off on From Time to Time: Turning a curse into blessings. The Bernheims in Passau (Part 1 of 2)

Jul 10 2022

From Time to Time – Tritonen. Die Universalität der Menschenrechte

Published by under From Time to Time


From Time to Time


History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.





Die Universalität der Menschenrechte –


Wie werden sie in Diktaturen verletzt?


von Axel Reitel


Vortrag, gehalten am 22. März 2022 an der Friedensschule in Münster (überarbeitet, Stand 23.05.2022)


Ost-West-Treffen in Böhmen 1983
v. l. n. r  Jürgen Ertel, Lennon, Simone, 
der Autor, Gudrun Ertel, Heike Hering.
Foto: Helmut Möckel   


Ich ging auch auf die Friedensschule, auf die in Plauen, im Vogtland, in einer Zeit, die in den Geschichtsbüchern als Kalter Krieg eingeordnet ist, ein breiter Konfliktherd, in dem auch geschossen wurde. Irre Kugeln verrückt gemachter Grenzsoldaten an der innerdeutschen Grenze, an der Berliner Mauer, in den sogenannten „Grenzgebieten“ oder im Abschnitt „Buchenwaldschlucht“, im Harz, da waren es einundfünfzig Schüsse aus einer Kalaschnikow auf einen Fünfzehnjährigen[1], wofür es irre Prämien und Sonderurlaub gab. Im irren Grenzabschnitt in Bulgarien zu Griechenland, erhöhte sich die irre Prämie auf irre eintausend Mark, abzuholen in der schandvollen Botschaft der DDR in Sofia. Selbstredend ohne Einspruch vom Ostberliner Komitee zum Schutze der Menschenrechte gegen militaristische Willkür und Klassenjustiz in Westdeutschland.

Ja, es musste alles demokratisch aussehen, aber sie mussten alles in der Hand haben, wie Wolfgang Leonard in seinem Buch, „Die Revolution frisst ihre Kinder“, bezeugt. Die Gesellschaft wurde in keine Entscheidung des SED-Staates einbezogen. Ist das nicht irre? Und so fragte ich mich, all dies wissend, als Jugendlicher, wie ist es aber vielleicht doch noch möglich, auch in einer Diktatur schön zu leben – und für eine angenehme Zukunft zu sorgen. Wenn das doch nur geht, „wenn ich mit andren auf der derselben Stufe agieren kann“[2]. Und auf wessen Kosten? Und wie oft frage ich mich noch heute: Was hilft jetzt? Was hilft dir jetzt genau? „Kopf einschalten“, lautete der Standardspruch meines ältesten Bruders Hans-Jörgen. Schwer zu glauben, denke ich, angesichts der rasenden Massen gegen die sogenannte „Brühe“, aber wie sauwohl müssen die sich doch wenigstens in ihrer irren Wut fühlen? Und ich bin wieder der Blöde und fühle mich bei diesen Bildern ganz und gar unwohl. Ok, denke ich, bin ich eben nicht so geprägt. Dabei prägt uns, was uns umgibt. Zur Mauer in Berlin sagte man Schutzwall und der Schutzwall schützte die Welt vor dem 3. Weltkrieg. Da haben wir‘s. Die Welt! Es ging, wie für Putin heute, immer um die ganze Welt! Und damit es in den Köpfen sitzt, wurde pausenlos geschmäht, was nicht in den Kram passte, angestimmt wurde ein Lob des Hasses auf den Westen! Und was vielleicht kaum einer weiß: die Schule in der DDR gehörte zu den militärischen Kampfeinheiten der Nationalen Volksarmee (kurz NVA). Wer all das lobte, war nicht doof und hatte seine Karriere sicher. „Die irre Sch**e macht doch keiner mit, sagte Drähte, auch ein Schüler der Friedensschule, malte ein paar dünne Hakenkreuze und verpflichtete sich zu fünfundzwanzig Jahren NVA-Dienst an der blutigen innerdeutschen Grenze.

Der Schießbefehl sagte zwar, auf Diplomaten schießt man nicht, aber wie unterscheiden sich Menschen im Dunkel? Zu wissen, was seit Menschengedenken verachtet wird und es der Karriere zuliebe doch zu tun, daran sollte man nach den jahrelangen Agitation-und-Propaganda-Shows, jeden Montag vor der ersten Stunde, nichts mehr merkwürdig finden. Dass der Staat genau dann fördert, war typisches DDR-Glück. Heute ermorden zehntausende russische Soldaten und Söldner die Menschen in der Ukraine. Das ist unser aktuelles Thema, dass uns seit dem Überfall auf die Ukraine mehr als irre beschäftigt.

Als ich Drähte Jahre später in der „Klause“ des Plauener „Ratskellers“ wieder traf, saß mir ein adretter Offizier gegenüber, an dessen Uniformjacke Ordensspangen und die Affenschaukel prangten, die Mütze akkurat neben sich auf dem Tisch, und der jetzt voller irrer Wut war auf diesen jungen Typen am Tisch, im feindlichen US-Shell-Parka, in den 501-Bluejeans und den Bergen von Locken. Und so musste er es sagen, wie irre wütend ihn alle mit ihren Fluchtversuchen machten. Und seine irre Wut packte er in ein irres Bekenntnis, falls ich das auch vorhabe: „Dann rotz ich dich ab! Du weiß, dass ich dort stehe und bei Nichterfüllung des Schießbefehls mir selber schade!“[3]

Müsste ich darüber nicht auch irre wütend sein? Und wie rechtfertige ich mein Nicht-Wütend-Sein? Drähtes Worte lösten nicht das Geringste in meinem persönlichen Alarmsystem aus, auch die persönliche Offstimme schwieg. Ich erhob mich, wartete mit meinem Bruder weiter auf die Platzierung, sagte ihm, was war, und musste mich irgendwie verhört haben, denn er antwortete mit gekränkter Stimme, er wolle nichts mehr mit mir zu tun haben.

Acht Jahre später wird er seine Läuterung von der Diktatur erfahren. Sie rückte das Bild des älteren Bruders und Vorbildes wieder zurecht. Der Anlass gebende Schmerzpunkt erfasste jedoch die ganze Familie. An Pfingsten 1987 erlitt der mittlerer Bruder Ralf auf dem Weg zur ausgehenden Spielzeit in Regensburg einen vermeintlichen Unfall. Zwei Stunden rangen die Ärzte des Uniklinikums Nürnberg um den eingeflogenen Schwerverletzten mit dem Tod. Bis zu seiner Verhaftung, Haft und Freikauf, spielte Ralf von 1979 bis 1984 am Theater Rudolstadt durchweg positiv besprochene Hauptrollen. Die Antworten der von mir 2007 befragten Stasimajore Karl-Heinz Schrodetzki und Alexander Rohrbach (Kreisdienststellen Rudolstadt/Saalfeld) brachte der Rezensent Udo Scheer in der Zeitschrift Bundesarchiv (Ausgabe 2/2008) auf den Schmelzpunkt: „Für sein Rundfunkfeature ‚Der Tod meines Bruders. Rekonstruktion eines vermeintlichen Unfalls‘ sprach der Autor auch mit früheren Schauspielkollegen des Bruders und Stasi-Offizieren. Ein vom MfS gedeckter Mord scheint nicht mehr ausgeschlossen.“ Als Hans-Jörgens Teilnahme an Ralfs Beerdigung von der Bezirksverwaltung der Staatssicherheit Dessau dem zuständigen Amt für Reiseangelegenheiten nicht empfohlen wurde, stellte er Stunden später einen Antrag auf Familienzusammenführung nach Berlin-West. Die Antragsgenehmigung im Herbst 1989 umwehte zweifellos derselbe geheime Schleier einer morbiden Ironie, die schon Pfingsten 1987 ihre „Lichter“ aufsetzte und auch Putins Gebrauch des Buchstabens „Z“ a la Räuber und Gendarm co-kreiert haben dürfte.

Sicher, das sage ich mir des Weiteren heute und weiß es besser: für Jahrgang 1947, und selbst auf der Karriereleiter, waren die Bandagen härter. Ich ahnte die unterschiedlichsten Prämissen seiner Wut. Versteckte diese Wut nicht eine ganz andere Sache eine ganz bestimmte Wahrheit, eine unveräußerliche Wahrheit, vor einen selbst? Sehr sorgfältig, sehr geschickt, verbergend, was mit den Gewitterstimmen des Gewissens über mich herfallen könnte, und zwar umso erbarmungsloser, umso mehr ich aus Selbstsucht der allgemeinen Vernunft zuwiderhandle?

Wenn ja, nenne ich es den enthaupteten Dialog. Und so stand mein Bruder für mich, der seinen Kopf gern in die Arbeit der französischen Aufklärung steckte, plötzlich – Heiliger Voltaire! –, in jenem Augenblick von dem Kopf enthauptet da, den man doch „einschalten“ sollte.


Und ich schaute auf eine blutige Spur

Für mich also an dieser Stelle passend, bemerkte im Jahr 1878 der Journalist und Redakteur Albert Fränkel in der damals berühmten Zeitschrift „Die Gartenlaube“ zur wütenden wie kopflosen Schändung Voltaires:

In einer Mainacht des Jahres 1814, kurz nach der Rückkehr des bourbonischen Ludwig des Achtzehnten, fuhr an der schönen und geschichtlich denkwürdigen Genoveva-Kirche in Paris ein geschlossener Wagen vor, aus dem zwei Männer stiegen. Bei ihrer Ankunft öffnete sich leise eine Thür der Kirche; sie traten ein, kehrten aber schon nach kurzer Zeit mit einem gefüllten Leinwandsack zurück, den sie vor sich in den Wagen legten, welcher hierauf eilig mit ihnen davonjagte. Die Straßen waren um diese Stunde schon ziemlich verödet, Paris lag bereits im Schlummer, oder hing im Innern der Häuser seinen nächtlichen Zerstreuungen nach, die stumm und in scheuer Hast sich abspielende Scene auf dem Genoveva-Platze war unbemerkt geblieben. Der Wagen fuhr nach einem wüsten Abladeplatz bei Berey, wo fünf Männer seiner harrten, die schweigend eine mit ungelöschtem Kalk gefüllte Grube umstanden. In diese wurde sofort der unheimlich durcheinander klappernde Inhalt des Sackes ausgeschüttet und hier schnell von der Zerstörungskraft des Kalks verschlungen, während der eine von den zwei aus Paris gekommenen Männern die Ceremonie mit einem herzhaften Fluche beschloß. Dann schaufelte man sorgfältig die Erde wieder zu, und nur ein Eingeweihter hätte am nächsten Morgen die Stelle des Bodens bezeichnen können, auf welcher eine schnöde Unthat sich vollzogen hatte. Die Geschichte der Menschheit aber hat alle Ursache, den Vorgang dieser Frühlingsnacht mit unauslöschlichen Zügen in ihr Erinnerungsbuch zu schreiben. Denn es handelte sich dabei nicht um einen Exceß gewöhnlicher Privatleidenschaft, sondern um einen berechneten Handstreich roher Feindseligkeit gegen pietätsvolle Empfindungen der gesammten civilisirten Menschheit, es war an stolz gehüteten Heiligthümern des französischen Nationalgeistes eine verbrecherische Schändung verübt, es waren die Spuren denkwürdiger Geisteshelden, die Gebeine eines Voltaire, [eines der größten Lehrer der Freiheit und der Menschrecht] aus ihrer Ruhe gerissen und in dieser beschimpfenden Weise vernichtet worden. (…) Aber die Rettung [jedenfalls für die Gesellschaft] kam, und sie kam aus dem erwachenden Denken, als schon in den letzten Tagen des vierzehnten Ludwig das künstliche Gebäude des Despotismus in sich selber zu wanken begann. Seine schwächer gestellten Nachfolger mußten die Zügel lockern und auch durch Förderung des Gewerbefleißes die versagenden Erpressungsquellen für ihren ungeheuren Geldbedarf zu stärken suchen. Dadurch kamen die arbeitenden Leute zu Wohlstand und Selbstgefühl. Noch ein kurzes Weilchen, und inmitten der Gesellschaft hatte sich ein neuer, der sogenannte dritte Stand herausgebildet, das erstarkte Bürgerthum, in dem sich eine reinere, von der oberen Fäulniß noch nicht angefressene Sittlichkeit mit tieferer Intelligenz, mit einem leidenschaftlichen Durste nach Wahrheit und nach ihrer muthigen Bezeugung verband.[4]

Gesetzt dem Fall nämlich, Menschenrechte sind Vernunft, zum Beispiel eine andere Meinung vielleicht nicht zu teilen, aber zuzulassen, offenbarte sich uns gerade dadurch die Möglichkeit eines profitablen Dialogs, von dem wir Menschen also von Anfang Nutznießer waren? So heißt es im dreitausend Jahre alten Psalm 54: „Gott, mach deinem Namen Ehre und hilf mir! / Verschaffe mir Recht durch deine Kraft! (…) Menschen, die ich nicht kenne, fallen über mich her. / Sie schrecken vor keiner Gewalttat! zurück, / ja, sie trachten mir nach dem Leben.“

Ein Schlüsselwort, das für die heutige Zeit wie geschaffen scheint und wir wie Zeitreisende uns die Augen reiben. Denn ein Blick auf die Entwicklung der irren Wut des heutigen Kriegstreibers Putin, auf die omnipotente Wut eines veritablen Dämons, ist nun ebenso notwendig wie die unveräußerlichen Menschenrechte dagegen zu Felde zu führen (sind sie doch wesentlich zukunftsorientierter als Krieg).

Und von diesem Gesichtspunkt aus mahnt uns der langjährige Leiter des ZDF-Büros in Moskau, Dirk Sager, in seinem Buch „Pulverfass Russland. Wohin treibt die Großmacht“, aus dem Jahr 2008, auch völlig zurecht: „Wer in die Zukunft sehen will, muss auf die Vorgeschichte zurückblieben.“ Vielleicht müssen es wir nicht, aber wir tun es.

Im Prolog der gekürzten einbändigen Ausgabe seines Welterfolges „Der Archipel Gulag“ schreibt Alexander Solschenizyn:

Im Jahre 1949 etwa fiel uns, einigen Freunden, eine bemerkenswerte Notiz aus der Zeitschrift „Die Natur“, herausgegeben von der Akademie der Wissenschaften, in die Hände. Da stand in kleinen Lettern geschrieben, man habe bei Ausgrabungen am Fluß Kolyma eine unterirdische Eislinse freigelegt, einen gefrorenen Urstrom, und darin ebenfalls eingefrorene Exemplare einer urzeitlichen (einige Jahrzehntausende zurückliegenden) Fauna. Ob’s Fische waren oder Tritonen: der gelehrte Korrespondent bezeugte, sie seien so frisch gewesen, daß die Anwesenden, sobald das Eis entfernt war, die Tiere MIT GENUSS verspeisten. Die keineswegs zahlreichen Leser der Zeitschrift waren wohl nicht wenig verwundert zu erfahren, wie lange Fischfleisch im Eis seine Frische zu bewahren imstande ist. Doch nur einzelne vermochten den wahren, den monumentalen Sinn der unbesonnenen Notiz zu erfassen. Wir begriffen ihn sofort. Wir sahen das Bild klar und in allen Details vor uns: Wie die Anwesenden mit verbissener Eile auf das Eis einhackten; wie sie, alle hehren Interessen der Ichthyologie mit Füßen tretend, einander anstoßend und vorwärtsdrängend, das tausend Jahre alte Fleisch in Stücke schlugen, diese zum Feuer schleppten, auftauen ließen und sich daran sättigten.

Wir begriffen es, weil wir selbst zu jenen Anwesenden gehörten, zu jenem auf Erden einzigartigen mächtigen Stamm der Seki, der Strafgefangenen, der Lagerhäftlinge, die allein es zustande brachten, einen Triton „MIT GENUSS zu verspeisen“. Am 12. Dezember 2016 hielt ich aus Anlass der Verleihung der „Solidarność-Dankbarkeitsmedaille“ im Europäischen Solidarność-Zentrum (ECS) in Gdansk folgende Dankesrede[5]:

[…] die ‚Ausrufung‘ der Protestaktion gegen das Kriegsrecht und für die uneingeschränkte Zulassung der Solidarność, geschah in einem Gefängnis, das vom Ministerium für Staatssicherheit indirekt verwaltet und fest in den Transaktionen der für die Staatsdevisen der DDR verantwortlichen Kommerziellen Koordinierung, kurz: KoKo, verankert war. Sie begann mit handgeschriebenen Aufrufen am 14. Dezember – und erreichte ihren Höhepunkt am 17. Dezember 1981. Das Gefängnisregime war durch Zellenspitzel vom ersten Tag an vorbereitet. Am 17. Dezember erwartete die Arbeitskommandos in der Speisebaracke eine Hundestaffel. Essen! wurde befohlen. Die Listen aller Verweigerer gibt es: sie werden der Forschung durch die Behörde für die Unterlagen der Staatssicherheit nur geschwärzt zur Verfügung gestellt.

Während jener vier Tage war das Haftpersonal bewaffnet und lungerte in Scharfschützenmanier auf den Dächern. Wir blickten einander an, und die Frage lautete, ob sie schießen. Die Antwort überrascht am Ende vielleicht nicht einmal, aber ich muss gestehen, dass mich die Möglichkeit, einer von dreihundertfünfzig niedergeschossenen politischen Häftlingen zu sein, auch heute noch etwas nervös macht.

Doch es hat sich alles gelohnt.

Der beeindruckende Kampf der Solidarność um Freiheit, Unabhängigkeit und Wohlstand mündete nicht nur im Untergang des hermetischen Ostblocks, sondern es erneuerte grundlegend die Europäische Union. Den klugen Köpfen der Solidarność war es aus staatstheoretischer Sicht klar, dass Polen an seiner Westgrenze ein wieder vereintes Deutschland und keine stalinistische DDR braucht. So steht es in den Sonderberichten der Verwaltung Aufklärung des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit der DDR vom 12. Dezember 1981. Und weiter dort „Fernziel des [„Komitees zum Schutz der Arbeiter“ für inhaftierte Dissidenten, kurz]: KOR ist die Eingliederung der Volksrepublik Polen in ein vereintes Europa mit einem wieder vereinten Deutschland.“ Das ist nun alles so geschehen. Die ebenfalls notierte „Überzeugung (…) dass die Entwicklung in Polen auch auf die DDR übergreifen wird“, hat sich dagegen nicht bestätigt. Gewiss lagen vielen Menschen in der DDR die August-Ereignisse 1980 am Herzen, am Ende traten zu wenige dafür ein. Auch die friedliche Revolution 1989 in der DDR bekannte sich kaum zu ihrem Vorbild Polen. Deshalb ist es auch kaum verwunderlich, dass der von seiner Anzahl größte Protest in der DDR gegen das Kriegsrecht in Polen ausgerechnet in einer DDR- Strafvollzugseinrichtung stattfand. Nirgends im Land war das Wort so frei als im politischen Gefängnis.

Und auch die Antwort auf unsere Frage ist moderner denn je: Die KoKo, die von Honecker 1966 gegründete Kommerzielle Koordinierung, war unermüdlich damit beschäftigt, harte Weltmarktwährung, Devisen genannt, in die ewig klammen Kassen der DDR zu spülen. Dazu gehörte auch der frei verkaufbare unbekannte politische Häftling (offiziell durfte es den ja nicht geben).

Aktenkundig sind zwar Gespräche zwischen der Gefängnisleitung und dem zentralen Operativstab der Stasi über den praktischen Einsatz einer bewaffneten Truppe. Doch welcher praktische, vernunftbegabte Mensch schießt eine Ware im Geld-Wert von 95.847 mal 350, das sind 33.546.450 Valuta, über den Haufen? Der Chef der Kommerziellen Koordinierung, Schalck-Golodkowski, dessen Vater bereits ein guter Rechner beim russischen Zaren gewesen ist, dürfte sich, hoch oben, im Sitz der KoKo, im 23. Flur des Internationalen Handelszentrums an der Friedrichstraße, die Haare gerauft haben – und da wurde eben nicht geschossen!

Schon für Marx war „in Wirklichkeit die treibende Kraft die Beziehung des Menschen zur Materie und das wichtigste daran seine Produktionsweise. Dadurch [wurde] der Marxsche Materialismus in der Praxis [ja] zur Wirtschaftslehre.“[6]

Aber auch aus anderen Gründen wird weiter nach Marx gegriffen, in Opportunitätserwägungen einbezogen, um unablässig zu schmähen, was nicht den Beschreibungen des eingeübten Standpunktes entspricht. Bis heute ist „die Rechte nicht eben ein leuchtendes Vorbild. Aber die Linke ist schizophren“[7] geblieben. Ihr fehlt weiterhin die „Festigkeit der Überlegung und auch ein wenig Bescheidenheit“, stattdessen ergeht sie sich in „eingebildeten Gewändern“.[8] Man muss seine Zeit wie einen Erwachsenen betrachten, das heißt ohne voreingenommene Sympathie oder Antipathie. Das heißt nach den Maßstäben der Kritik und der Vernunft.

Möge diese Medaille also auch Gruß und Zuspruch für alle sein, die verstehen wollen und nicht richten, die für eine gerechte Gemeinschaft kämpfen und für Wahrheit und Freiheit gewaltlos im Einsatz sind.

Wir verweilen noch etwas in unserem hübschen Gefängnis. Bernd „Egon“ Möller traf ich das erste Mal in der Speisebaracke unseres Gefängnisses. Von Beruf und in Sträflingskleidung als Elektriker eingesetzt, erhielt er vom 1. Strafsenat des Bezirks Karl-Marx-Stadt eine Gefängnisstrafe von drei Jahren wegen Besitz und Verleih der dreibändigen Ausgabe des „Archipel Gulag“. Zum Zeitpunkt der Gerichtsverhandlung lag die monatelange Tortur der Untersuchungshaft der Staatssicherheit auf dem Kassberg bereits hinter ihm. Einst in ganz Europa berühmter Gründerzeitbezirk, war der Kassberg zu einem berüchtigten Unterdrückungsort der SED-Diktatur geworden. Zur selben Zeit wie Egon befand auch ich mich auf dem Kassberg, Zelle 29. Gab es kein Verhör, las ich oder spielte Schach, und zwar via Klopfzeichen gegen die Wand mit dem unsichtbaren Zellennachbarn in Nr. 30. Wir bekamen uns zwar nie zu Gesicht, aber wir klopften uns ja unsere Namen, biografischen Details und so manches unvergessene Alltagserlebnis in der DDR oder was die DDR in Atem hielt.

Das waren damals, vor dem europäischen Erdbeben des Sommers 1980 in Polen, die Abendstunden des 09. März 1980 gewesen. Zwar verursachte der Sprengstoffanschlag auf das sowjetische Panzerdenkmal in Karl-Marx-Stadt nur geringfügige Schäden, und der Attentäter Kneifel war längst in Haft, doch der symbolische Schaden, überhaupt angreifbar zu sein, sorgte für eine längerfristige Unruhe in den ersten politischen Reihen. Dies war so vor allem, weil ständig Nachahmungstäter gefürchtet wurden, wie ihnen täglich eine Rückkehr des 17. Juni 1953 vor Augen stand. (Nicht umsonst fragte Erich Mielke seine Genossen angesichts der von der demonstrierenden Bevölkerung in Besitz genommenen Straße: „Haben wir jetzt den 17. Juni?“)

Nun, so kam es, dass „Egon“ an einem dieser Tage, für ihn ein Arbeitstag, mit einer eingewickelten Batterie samt batteriebetriebenen Drähten den Platz des Panzerdenkmals querte und von hinter Zeitungen hervorspringenden Männern niedergerissen auf die Nase fiel. Da sich das MfS schwerlich die Blöße eines Fehlers gab, behielten sie ihn im Auge, schnüffelten in seinem Freundeskreis und entdeckten den verbrecherischen Büchertausch; und wir tauschten nun über Klopfzeichen unsere Lebensdaten aus und fanden sogar eine gemeinsame Bekannte, die kosmisch schöne Mareile, aber hauptsächlich spielten wir Schach.

Selbstverständlich glaubte ich nicht, dass ich „Egon“ einmal wirklich gegenüberstehe. Als es dann in der Speisebaracke im Gefängnis in Cottbus doch genau zustande kam, schweißte uns das wie in einer Familie zusammen. Neben ihm, auf dem Ablagetisch, lag die Tagesausgabe der „Jungen Welt“. Der Schwerpunkt eine Schmähtirade gegen die im Westen gebliebene „Verräterin“ Veronika Fischer. Die göttliche Vroni genoss die Freiheit! Wir witzelten herum. Warum nannte sich die Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Deutschlands eigentlich nicht Sozialistische Einheitspartei der DDR? Natürlich wusste jeder genau, dass dies dem deutsch-deutschen Alleinvertretungsanspruch Ostberlins DDR zuwiderlaufen würde. Es ging ja ständig um die Kassierung West-Berlins, und Westdeutschland sollte mit NVA-Panzern niedergehalten werden. Ein Anspruch, den wohl auch Putin im Sinne der Wiederherstellung der mächtigen alten Sowjetunion umtreibt.



Der befreundete Autor, Dipl.-Physiker und Jude Gabriel Berger, schreibt am 19.03.2002 auf Facebook:

In seinen Reden vor dem Überfall auf die Ukraine am 21.02.2022 und am 23.02.2022 hat sich Putin deutlich von Lenin distanziert, dem er nachsagte, durch seine Nationalitätenpolitik einen Sprengsatz an die Sowjetunion angelegt zu haben. In die Verfassung der Sowjetunion hat Lenin nämlich 1922 gegen den Widerstand von Stalin den Passus aufnehmen lassen, jede nationale Republik der Sowjetunion habe das Recht, den Verband der Sowjetunion zu verlassen. Unter Berufung auf diesen Verfassungsartikel seien die Republiken 1991 aus der Sowjetunion ausgetreten, was zu deren Zerfall geführt habe, was laut Putin „die größte Katastrophe des 20. Jahrhunderts“ gewesen sei. Stalin dagegen habe von vornherein die Möglichkeit des Ausscheidens der Republiken ausschließen wollen, sich aber gegenüber Lenin nicht durchsetzen können. Aus genannten Gründen gibt es im heutigen Russland keinen Lenin-Kult mehr, während Stalin immer stärker rehabilitiert und verehrt wird. Die Verehrung Stalins hat aber heute nichts mit egal welcher Variante des Bolschewismus oder Marxismus zu tun. Stalin wird verehrt, weil unter seiner Herrschaft die Sowjetunion, also das russische Imperium, zur Weltmacht aufgestiegen ist. Das Ziel Putins ist, zumindest in dieser Beziehung, Stalin nachzueifern und Russland wieder zu einem Imperium mit Weltgeltung und Welteinfluss zu machen. Weil dieses Ziel von Russland nicht wie von China durch die Wirtschaft zu erreichen ist, versucht das Russland durch eine überdimensionale Militärmacht.

Am 02.06.2018 meldet das „Handelsblatt“: „Die Russen nähern sich der ‚Glückssträhne‘ – meint Wladimir Putin. Der russische Präsident sieht in seinem TV-Marathon Russland im Aufwärtstrend, von dem aber noch nicht alle profitieren. Und er droht der Ukraine.“

So wie Putin seinen Landsleuten, die nicht so wollen, wie er will, mit „Säuberungen“ droht. Soweit von Stalinschen Säuberungen bekannt ist, jene dabei hochkommende Periode der sowjetischen Geschichte, in der politisch „unzuverlässige“ und oppositionelle Personen massiv verfolgt und ermordet wurden. Die Gesamtzahl der Opfer reichen nach Schätzungen von Historikern von mindestens 3 Millionen Toten bis weit über 20 Millionen. Der Zustand Glücks erfährt dabei eine völlig neue Dimension.

In seinen berühmt gewordenen „Erzählungen aus Kolyma“ schreibt der verurteilte Jurist und König der Gulag-Literatur, Warlam Schalamow:

Krist traf Miroljubow auf dem Dampfer ‚Kulu‘ – der fünften Fahrt der Schiffahrtssaison von 1937. Der Überfahrt ‚Wladiwostok – Magadan‘. Der Leibarzt des Fürsten Gagarin und Vitautas Putnas grüßte Krist kühl – Krist war ja Zeuge seiner inneren Schwäche, einer gefahrvollen Stunde in seinem Leben gewesen und hatte ihm, so empfand es Miroljubow, in einem schweren, todgefährlichen Moment nicht geholfen. Krist und Miroljubow drückten einander die Hand. „Ich bin froh, Sie lebend zu sehen“, sagte Krist. „Wieviel?“ „Fünf Jahre. Aber Sie verhöhnen mich. Ich bin ja vollkommen unschuldig. Und dann fünf Jahre Lager. Die Kolyma.“ „Ihre Situation war sehr gefährlich. Lebensgefährlich. Das Glück hat Sie nicht verlassen“, sagte Krist. „Gehen Sie zum Teufel mit solchem Glück.“ Und Krist dachte: Miroljubow hat recht. Das ist ein allzu russisches Glück – froh zu sein, wenn ein Unschuldiger fünf Jahre bekommt. Denn er hätte ja zehn bekommen können, sogar den Tod.

Und aus der Ukraine werden aktuell tausende, zehntausende Menschen auf russisches Gebiet verschleppt und womöglich der alten Welt des Archipel Gulag und ihrer Hungerpeitsche überlassen.

Im Wintersemester 2011/12, las ich, gab es an der Uni Saarland die Übung: „Die größte geopolitische Katastrophe des Jahrhunderts? Glasnost, Perestrojka und der Zerfall der Sowjetunion (1991)“. In der Ankündigung heißt es: „Am 25. April 2005 bezeichnete der russische Präsident Vladimir Putin den Zerfall der Sowjetunion [die Großmacht-Diktatur ihrer Zeit] in seiner Rede vor den Mitgliedern der Föderationsversammlung als ‚die größte geopolitische Katastrophe‘ des 20. Jahrhunderts. Der russische Staatschef ließ somit seiner Sehnsucht nach dem untergegangenen kommunistischen Imperium freien Lauf und äußerte eine Meinung, die sowohl in Russland als auch im postsowjetischen Raum noch 20 Jahre nach diesem historischen Ereignis weit verbreitet ist.“

Im dem im Jahr 2008 veröffentlichten Buch „Pulverfass Russland. Wohin steuert die Großmacht?“ heißt es im Klappentext:

Der Kreml hat die Demokratie ausgehöhlt und im Land eine Atmosphäre geschaffen, in der die jüngsten Morde an Regimegegnern wie [der Journalistin] Anna Politkovskaja überhaupt erst möglich wurden. Während der Geheimdienst FSB nach innen für Ordnung sorgt, verkörpert der Gasprom-Konzern, der die Kontrolle über die globalen Rohstoffmärkte anstrebt, nach außen den russischen Anspruch auf Weltgeltung. Um jeden Preis trachtet das Land danach, auf die Bühne der Supermächte zurückzukehren.“

Des Weiteren wird das Versprechen gegeben, dass Sagers Buch zeigt, was hinter Moskaus Machtspielen steckt. Das erste Kapitel des Buches heißt (und stellt wohl die gerade heute, auch an diesem 22. März 2022, in dieser modernen Aula in der Studentenstadt Stadt Münster, die uns aus den gegebenen Gründen beherrschende Frage) „Was treibt Putin an?“ Dazu schreibt Dirk Sager:

Aufstieg und Niedergang, Hoffnung und Desillusionierung – wie in einem Malstrom wirbelt Rußland zwischen den Polen der Extreme: Moskau als ‚Drittes Rom‘ oder eine Hölle auf Erden (…). Es war [aber] keineswegs von der Geschichte determiniert, dass aus den Ruinen der Sowjetunion keine Demokratie erwuchs. Schließlich wird in Moskau, aber auch im Westen, im Disput über gegenwärtige Verhältnisse eine Haltung vertreten, der zufolge die Kritik am System als unangemessenen Einmischung in die inneren Angelegenheiten des Landes gilt. Doch falsche Zurückhaltung würde ein Reinfall in die Zeit vor den siebziger Jahren bedeuten, als sich das östliche und westliche Lager im Kalten Krieg zaghaft um „Wandel durch Annäherung“ bemühten.

Auf der Konferenz von Helsinki 1975, wo sich die Regierungschefs und Staatspräsidenten Europas versammelt hatten, wurde eben nicht nur über ein System der gemeinsamen Sicherheit und die Verbesserung des Handels diskutiert, sondern auch über Menschenrechte. Teile der russischen Zivilgesellschaft fanden sich schon damals zusammen und beriefen sich auf die Beschlüsse dieser großen Ost-West-Konferenz. (…) Im Jahre 2000 erläuterte der noch junge Präsident Putin auf der Pressekonferenz in einem nach den Maßen der Bescheidenheit gestalteten Raum im Kreml, „geduldig, weshalb es zwingend sei … um die zentrifugalen Kräfte im Riesenreich zu bändigen, die ‚Vertikale der Macht‘ zu stärken. Vertikale der Macht – das wurde das Schlüsselwort für die Ausrichtung aller politischer Macht-Strukturen im Land auf den Kreml. (…)“ Dabei „hat Putin selbst demonstriert, wie sich mit festem Blick aufs Ziel und wohlüberlegter Taktik“ (zum Beispiel zur Zeit des Vernichtungskrieg gegen Tschetschenien gleichzeitig auf internationalen Konferenzen als Friedensengel mit verblüffenden Erklärungen trotz alle berechtigter Vorwürfe zu brillieren) „auch in kürzester Amtszeit die demokratischen Grundstrukturen eines Staates demonstrieren lassen.“

Am 06.03.2022 schreibt Christoph Kunkel im SPIEGEL, was Putin wohl antreibt: „Pinochets Militärdiktatur nannte Wladimir Putin 1993 als Leitbild. Und Zar Iwan der Schreckliche? Halb so wild. Offen pries der Kremlchef Monarchie und Autokraten – was auch deutsche Wirtschaftsvertreter beklatschten.“

Am 24. Februar 2022 überfiel die Putin die Ukraine und begann seinen lange vorbereiteten Krieg, der bereits Tausende von Ukrainern getötet und fast drei Millionen aus dem Land vertrieben hat.


Die Vertikale der Macht

Als wir im Gefängnis unsere Protestaktion vorbereiteten, war diese gerade gegen die „Vertikale der Macht“ gerichtet. Es ging uns, so indianerhaft es klingt, um den Sieg der fehlerhaften Demokratie über die bleierne Diktatur. An einem beispielhaften Nachmittag zuvor, in den Sommermonaten, diskutierten wir im staubigen Freihof, dessen Grashalme jeden Morgen von einem speziellen Häftlingskommando ausgerissen wurden, dass der iranische Rundfunk mit der Begründung die Bevölkerung ermutigte, Regimegegner zu denunzieren, weil niemand geschont werden dürfe und, falls nötig, müssten auch die nächsten Angehörigen von denen, die abgekommen sind, an die Revolutionsgerichte übergeben werden.

Auf unserer Agenda ganz oben stand die Freiheitsbewegung in Polen, wobei immer wieder die Frage aufblitzte, ob von Seiten des Staates am Ende wieder zu den Maßnahmen der „Säuberungen“ gegriffen würde.

Ob Griechenland, Chile oder Argentinien, alle Nachkriegsdiktaturen schickten diesen Schrecken um die Welt. So standen wir im Freihof, im Gefängnis. Wind kam auf, wir schluckten Staubwolken, und spuckten Sand aus.

Da erhob sich die Stimme des feisten Schließers „Panzerplatte“ (wie er sich nur an uns herangeschlichen hatte?). „Nicht, dass wir das Mullah-Regime überaus gut finden, aber das ist eben Führung und Disziplin gegen Entartung und Grenzenlosigkeit!“

Wir sahen uns an, und ich überlege heute, ob es auch „Panzerplatte“ war oder eher „Petrograd“ oder „Berija“ oder doch eher „Salonbolschewist“, oder „Roter Terror“, oder „Arafat“, „Zitteraal“, „Tellermine“ „Texaner“, „Onane“, „Urian“, „Würger“, „Kjelt“, „Pfeffernase“, „der kleine Beckenbauer“, „Stalin“ selbst oder „Lachtaube“ am Ende gewesen ist, der über die Flure der Zellenbereiche, die Erziehungsbereiche hießen, vielleicht sogar betrunken, was vorkam, brüllte, vielleicht, um etwas Besonderes zu sagen: „Wenn ich Menschenrechte höre, zieh ich die Atombombe!“

Kannte er Goebbels Erregungsschwall: „Wenn ich das Wort Kultur höre, entsichere ich meinen Revolver“? Der war auch schon nicht eigener Art, sondern stammte aus dem Stück „Schlageter“ („….entsichere ich meinen Browning“/1933), freilich ein Märtyrerschauspiel des Nationalsozialismus.

Aber die Verantwortung der Kunst (jener großen Freundin der gewährten Grundrechte), nicht zu blenden, leuchtet in der Diktatur mit ihren ausweglosen Vorschriften weder Raum, Zeit, noch Erziehungsbereiche aus.

„Aber“, wandte sich Lennon, 18 Monate für „Biermann“ mit Kreide an eine Hauswand, „Kopf tragend“ wie Kojak, fähig zum Hahnenruf wie Professor Unrat, und eben Sand im Mund, an „Panzerplatte“:

Während wir schon nächsten Montag oder an einem Montag in einem Monat oder erst an einem Montag in einem Jahr von hier auf Transport in die grenzenlose Freiheit gehen, werden sie niemals in ihrem Leben reisen können, wohin sie wollen. Sicher gibt es das Bolschoi-Theater, die Ermitage, den Friedrichstadtpalast, die Olympischen Erfolge. Diese wunderschönen Sachen gibt es in ihrer Diktatur, aber sie erlaubt es ihren Menschen nicht, mit allen Menschen darüber frei zu reden. Sie werden ständig auf die Strategien von Erich Honecker, Erich Mielke, Friedrich Dickel [dem Minister des Inneren, dem die Schließer unterstanden] und der Kontrollmacht im Kreml abhängig sein, die keinen frei atmen lässt, ohne an sie zu denken, und notfalls den Chinesischen machen müssen. So zu leben ist für mich grenzenlose Unvernunft, wogegen in der Freiheit zu leben für mich das Vernünftigste auf Erden ist.

v.l.n.r. Lennon, Simone, der Autor, Gudrun Ertel, Heike Hering. Foto: H.M.

Zur aktuell aufkeimenden Hoffnung, Peking könne im Ukraine-Krieg Moskau zur Vernunft bringen, das mit der Kaperung des Atomkraftwerkes Tschernobyl längst die Welt atomar bedroht, konstatierten die Stuttgarter Nachrichten bereits am 25. 02. 2022: „Peking hat ein Problem mit Putins Angriffskrieg. Xi Jinping und Wladimir Putin haben sich ‚grenzenlose Freundschaft‘ versprochen. Doch China wird sich nur so lange daran halten, wie es strategisch nützlich ist.“

Didi Kirsten Tatlow vom German Council on Foreign Relations hält laut Deutsche Welle vom 14.03. 2022 die aufkeimenden Hoffnungen, China könne sich als aktiver Vermittler einbringen, für „ziemlich unangebracht“: „Selbst wenn Peking kurzfristig vermitteln kann, lädt man es damit im Grunde ein, über etwas Kontrolle zu übernehmen, das extrem wichtig für demokratische Länder ist. Damit versetzen sich demokratische Länder in eine sehr schwache Position.“

Zu den Positionen, die für Demokratien „extrem wichtig“ sind, und zur Maßhaltung der Strategien, die Diktaturen innewohnen, gehört die Handhabe der „unveräußerlichen Menschenrechte“, wie sie von der UNO zu Papier gebracht wurden und die unser Gefängnis in der DDR, mit dem Glück des Freikaufs durch die von ihren alliierten Kontrollmächten demokratisch erzogene Bundesrepublik, zu einem magischen Ort der Befreiung machte.

Insofern war die Zeit im Gefängnis eine gute, lehrreiche Zeit. Kriege aber verändern alles, das Gefühl für die Zeit wie einen selbst. Davon spricht das Gedicht des in Moskau lebenden Poeten Dov-Ber Kerler (alias Boris Karloff) vom 05.03.2022[9], entnommen dem Essay „Wir bewundern sie und sie verschwinden“ unserer P.E.N.-Kollegin und Suhrkamp-Autorin Esther Dischereit:

Reime, sie sind am Ende / die klassischen, die biegsamen / die romantischen oder auch die unbeholfenen / Der Atem selbst, so sieht es aus, verlor seinen Rhythmus / Die Worte wie sturzbesoffene ungehobelte Leute / erklimmen gerade Wände / Hört sich an wie Kleinkindgeschrei / Unter den Bomben die fallen und fallen und fallen / Ist selbst die Stille abgelaufen / Sogar die dünne Stimme Seiner Stille ist weg / Und der großartige Friedenskämpfer, / Wischi-waschi und mit einer Seele so rein / Will gerade nur eine einzige Sache/die grausige Aufgabe direkt und ohne Diskussion vollenden / die brutale Bestie Putin erwürgen mit seinen eigenen Händen

„Von Anbeginn an hat dieser Krieg bei mir eine komplizierte Reihe von Emotionen (Wut und Bestürzung hauptsächlich) ausgelöst. Ich finde es schwer, an etwas anderes zu denken. Ich reagiere zurzeit in erster Linie auf die bloßen Tatsachen vor Ort – darauf, was der gewalttätige Irre Putin macht, auf das Massenelend, das hier geschieht“, schreibt in Esther Dischereits Essay ihr C., eine ukrainische Freundin aus den USA, nach Berlin.

Tritonen nun sind mythische Mischwesen, halb Fisch, halb Fleisch, im Gefolge Neptuns, mit dem Muschelhorn in der Hand. Wolf Biermann dichte im Januar 1963 „Gegen die Angst: Wie lange, sag, kannst du, / im Lügenmeer leben, ohne daß du /ein Fisch wirst?“ Man könnte abschließend es also so sagen: Diktaturen blasen, nach innen oder nach außen, immer zum Krieg, während Demokratien ihre Zeit dafür ausgeben, auf „freiem Grund“ die Menschenrechte zu pflegen, um mit allen Menschen frei zu reden, frei zu denken, frei zu fühlen, frei zu handeln, und das Leben frei und lebbar gestalten zu können.

Ich danke Ihnen für Ihre Aufmerksamkeit!


Axel Reitel Berlin-Mierendorff Insel, 19.03.2022, 09:39 Uhr.




[1] Vgl. Axel Reitel, Der Jugendstrafvollzug in der DDR am Beispiel Halle, S. 268f., Dr. Köster-Verlag Berlin, 2006. (Dieselbe Seitenzahl in der Erstveröffentlichung durch die Landesbeauftragte Sachsen-Anhalt 2002)

[2] Philip Pettit, „was bedeutet Freiheit?“ Sternstunde Philosophie, SRF Kultur, 2011. Dieser Gedanke Pettits ermöglicht einen feinen Trick, ein persönliches Theorem, sich in er SED-Diktatur so zu verhalten, als wäre man im vollen Besitz aller bürgerlichen Freiheiten. So haben nicht wenige gelebt und denen, die selbst ein begehrtes Exportgut darstellten, wurden sie sogar gewährt.

[3] Vgl. Freie Presse, Lokale Ausgabe Plauen, Artikel „Ich rotz dich ab!“ 1993[?].

[4] (Aufruf 30.03.2022)

[5] Quelle: (Aufruf 17.03. 2022)

[6] Vgl. Bertrand Russell, Philosophie des Abendlandes, Europa Verlag Zürich 2007, S. 791.

[7] Vgl. Albert Camus, Verteidigung der Freiheit, Rowohlt 1997, S. 119.

[8] Ebd.

[9] (Aufruf 19.03.2022)

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May 10 2021

Deep Beneath the Baltic Sea

Published by under From Time to Time

From Time to Time

History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.


Deep Beneath the Baltic Sea:


From Zhukov’s Friendship with Eisenhower


to Illegal American Extraterritoriality



by Anna Rosmus


Unable to reach a security agreement with Britain and France against National Socialist Germany after the Munich Conference from September 1938, Soviets faced the likelihood of German military expansion in Eastern Europe by themselves. Hoping to gain time to increase the Soviet military, on August 23, 1939, Molotov and Ribbentrop signed a non-aggression pact. During the subsequent invasion of Poland, Germans stunned the world with their Blitzkrieg. On June 22, 1941, Germans invaded of the Soviet Union.

On January 12, 1945, Marshal Ivan Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front started an offensive toward Berlin. Two days later, the 1st Belorussian Front under Marshal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov followed. Within days, the Eastern front fell apart, and Americans held their breath when Zhukov maneuvered his forces across the Odra River, some 40 miles from Berlin. After German top brass in Berlin surrendered to him on May 8, 1945, Zhukov became the first commander of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany.

Within hours of the Allied victory, American and Soviet soldiers of every rank began to party, cordially celebrating and ceremonially decorating each other.[1] Kenneth W. Moeller from 11th Armored Division Headquarters, for example, wrote in Memories: The European Theater of Operations 1944-45:

The 7th Parachute Guards Division was an elite unit — that is what the Guards means. It is the equivalent of our Presidential Unit Citation. It means the Unit has been to hell and back. They were Ukrainians. […] We sat down for lunch. We toasted Stalin, we toasted President Truman, we toasted Marshal Zhukov, we toasted General Eisenhower. Things got pretty merry. General Dager presented General Drechkin and each of his staff with a Colt .45 pistol.

Whether it was the Soviet Order “For Merit to the Fatherland” or a Medal for Valor, “by command of General Eisenhower” or subordinate units, American soldiers were not only granted permission to accept and to wear their Soviet decorations, but they had practical benefits as well.[2]

That the Supreme Allied Commander in the West admired Marshal Zhukov was no secret.


SC 207756 Shaef, Frankfurt, on June, 10, 1945: General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, with Marshal of the Soviet Union Zhukov, and interpreter Lieutenant Colonel O. Pantuhoff. Zhukov remained the most decorated general in the history of both Russia and the Soviet Union. Photo by Lieutenant Moore


On June 10, 1945, Zhukov was appointed Military Governor of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany. That day, he traveled all the way to Frankfurt am Main, to present Eisenhower with the Order of Victory, the highest possible Soviet military decoration. On June 25, 1945, when Time Magazine printed a bold “Salute to General Ike”, readers learned that it was “glittering with thousands of dollars’ worth of diamonds and rubies”. Both men quickly became more than brothers-in-arms. In Strictly Personal, Eisenhower’s son, a military historian, reminisced about traveling with them.[3]

Shortly thereafter, however, the Cold War set in, destroying most of this once vital Alliance. Germans and the Soviets returned to business as usual. By 1973, a transcontinental gas transport system from Western Siberia to Western Europe was established. It was so successful that five years later, Soviets planned to expand it with a 2,800-mile long trans-Siberian pipeline. Originating in the Urengoy gas fields, it crosses the Ural Carpathian Mountains and more than 600 rivers.[4] In July 1981, Deutsche Bank, other German banks, and the AKA Ausfuhrkredit GmbH pledged 3.4 billion Deutsche Mark in credits. AEG-Telefunken, Mannesmann, and others signed construction deals. Under President Ronald Reagan, however, a transatlantic battle began.[5] The foreign ministers of the European Economic Community issued a formal note of protest, calling the 1982 US-sanctions illegal.[6] To this day, that route continues to deliver approximately 40 billion cubic meters gas a year.

Britain, Norway, and the Netherlands, Western and Northern Europe’s biggest producers of natural gas, primarily rely on resources from the North Sea. In 2016, that amount covered merely one third of the union’s needs, yet over the next few decades, that gas might be depleted.

Nord Stream, another pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany, has operated since 2011. To continue delivering gas via the Black Sea as well, Russia extended its contract with Ukraine until 2024. Today, Russia controls nearly 40% of the EU gas market, compared to 80% in 1990.

While Germany is Russia’s biggest market, Green politicians and others dread burning more fossil fuels. To replace coal and nuclear energy while becoming carbon-neutral in the long run, Europe needs more gas. Piping in additional supplies along the shortest route is efficient. It is no surprise that the German government proposed Nord Stream 2, a parallel, 760-mile-long line beneath the Baltic Sea. The $11 billion international project could add up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year, thus roughly doubling Russia’s export volume on that route.

And once again, not everybody in the transatlantic alliance is happy about that. Like 30 years earlier, some opponents fear Russia’s increased geopolitical options. Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, on NATO’s eastern border, oppose Nord Stream 2 because two pipelines through the Baltic Sea might enable Russia to cut them out of billions in transit fees for the existing line through the Black Sea.

The United States, however, seems intent on repeating history from the 1980s. Donald Trump was not the only one who tried to increase US-access to a profitable market with reliably growing demands. Selling Europe more American liquefied natural gas (LNG) still seems worth fighting for – by all means. After various 2016 warnings,[7] Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern and Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel pointed out that “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, and not for the United States of America.”[8]

In 2018, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced US opposition to the pipeline. In December 2019, the U.S. Congress hurled sanctions at a Swiss company for supplying ships that lower Nord Stream 2 pipes into the Baltic Sea. While this delayed the project, Russia simply sent another vessel instead, and in the meantime, the pipeline is almost complete.[9]

Whereas German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reiterated in a tweet that “European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the United States,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the U.S. Congress “is literally overwhelmed with the desire to do everything to destroy” Russian-U.S. relations.[10]

Undeterred, in the summer of 2020, a bipartisan group of US-Senators met to widen sanctions to prevent Nord Stream 2. According to those senators, individuals as well as companies from multiple nations can be targeted for lawful business deals such as underwriting insurance for that pipeline or providing port services. Unsurprisingly, the German government set out to make the EU retaliate.

On July 3, 2020, ANDREAS KLUTH, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, opened his article with these words:

U.S. President Donald Trump is furious at Germany for many reasons, not all of them fathomable. In phone conversations with Angela Merkel, he’s allegedly called the German chancellor “stupid” and denigrated her in “near-sadistic” tones. Though this be madness, as the Bard might say, there is—on rare occasions—method in it. One such case is Nord Stream 2.[11]

When Germans arrived for the NATO summit in Brussels, they might have anticipated another Trump insult. On July 11, RICK NOACK reported in the Washington Post,

Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking on camera. “We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against.”[12]

On January 1, 2021, the annual U.S. defense policy bill passed by Congress included sanctions for companies that insured the pipeline or worked on it. On January 19, Trump’s last full day in office, his administration sanctioned a single Russian ship for laying pipe.

Although Trump may be gone, it remains to be seen whether America remains hostile towards Nord Stream 2, and thus a critical ally. On February 16, 2021 a Bloomberg article was headlined, “Germany Seeks Deal With Biden on Controversial Russian Pipeline.”[13] It quoted Richard Morningstar, founding chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center and Former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union: “It won’t be easy to convince the U.S. to back off of sanctions,” but “Biden’s team is sensitive to the outcry over extraterritorial sanctions and are looking at alternatives, according to a person close to the matter.”

On March 18, 2021, DANIEL BENJAMIN, president of the American Academy and coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department 2009-2012, wondered in Politico:

The Nord Stream 2 fight has everything: Russian tentacles, an irate Congress and billions of dollars at stake for our closest allies. Can the Biden administration avoid a train wreck? […] whatever damage a new round of sanctions implementation will inflict on Russia will be relatively minor compared to the harm to the U.S.-German bilateral relationship at a genuinely critical moment. Washington is looking to Europe—with Germany in the lead—to craft complementary policies to manage an emboldened China. […] Breathing new life into NATO, revitalizing the Iran nuclear deal and, ironically, managing Vladimir Putin are other areas where German support will be essential.”[14]

Anthony J. Blinken, now Secretary of State, seems to be stalling for time.




[1] See: Rosmus, Anna: Valhalla Finale, Dorfmeister, Tittling 2009, pp. 153-190; Rosmus, Anna: Ragnarök, Dorfmeister, Tittling 2010, pp. 403-437; Rosmus, Anna: Allied Encounters, Spring and Summer 1945, Kindle Edition 2012;

[2] On August 8, 1945, for instance, 1st Lieutenant Charles B. Amyx contacted the Commanding General at Headquarters US Forces in the European Theater, to find out “whether or not these awards entitle recipients to combat credit points.” Lieutenant Colonel A. H. Corley confirmed that the recipients, all assigned to Military Intelligence Service, were “entitled to five points” which sped up their military discharge.

[3] Eisenhower, John S. D.: Strictly Personal, Doubleday, 1974

[4] For details see: Afzal, Amina, 2004:

[5] Anthony J. Blinken, then a Harvard student, penned his undergraduate thesis about that dispute, and later wrote a book, Ally Versus Ally: America, Europe, and the Siberian Pipeline Crisis.

[6] Lee, Jae-Seung, Connolly, Daniel: “Pipeline Politics between Europe and Russia: A Historical Review from the Cold War to the Post-Cold War” in: The Korean Journal of International Studies 14-1, April 2016, pp. 105-29

[7] A German international lawyer stated, “You won’t find a single reputable scholar here or anywhere [outside the U.S.] who thinks secondary sanctions are legal under international law.” Even Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned that such sanctions “are viewed, even by some of our closest allies as extra-territorial attempts to apply U.S. foreign policy to the rest of the world.”

[8]Germany, Austria Slam US Sanctions Against Russia” in: U.S. News from June 15, 2017

[9] According to the Danish Maritime Authority, work is to be largely completed by the end of April 2021.

[10]Ukraine and Russia look to strike new gas deal amid US sanctions threat” in: CNBC from December 16, 2019.

[11] For details see: “Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline Could Sever U.S., Germany Ties – Bloomberg”

[12] For details see: “The Russian pipeline to Germany that Trump is so mad about, explained – The Washington Post”

[13] For details see: Dezem, Vanessa, Flatley, Daniel, Jennen, Birgit in: Bloomberg News;

[14] How One European Pipeline Is Derailing Biden’s ‘America Is Back’ Promise – POLITICO

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Apr 21 2021

From Time to Time – Ammonium Nitrate and Germany

Published by under From Time to Time

From Time to Time

History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.



Ammonium Nitrate and Germany’s


Explosive Relationship with Lebanon


by Anna Rosmus



Ammonium Nitrate and Germany’s Explosive Relationship with Lebanon

In 1659, German chemist Johann R. Glauber synthesized the first batch of ammonium nitrate, an oxidizer. For hundreds of years, it was used as a fertilizer component, thus increasing the yield of crops and other plants. During World War I, however, ammonium nitrate’s explosive capabilities were discovered, and soon German ammonia synthesis facilities began to produce materials for bombs.

In 1921, at Kriewald, 30 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated, and 19 people died. Two months later, on September 21, when a silo with 4,500 tons of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate at a BASF plant in Oppau exploded, approximately 500–600 people were killed, and another 2,000 were injured.

During World War II, amatol, a highly explosive mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate, was used extensively for weapons such as aircraft bombs, shells, depth charges, and naval mines.[1] Even warheads for the German V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rockets contained amatol.

In May 1941 Admiral François Darlan signed the Paris Protocols, an agreement that granted the Germans access to military facilities in Vichy-controlled Syria.[2] Although the document remained unratified, the Luftwaffe refuelled its aircraft there, and Germans requested permission to use Syrian railways to send armaments to Iraqi nationalists in Mosul.[3]

After VE-Day, when combat ended in Europe, the U.S. army discarded exorbitant amounts of captured explosives. Countless caches were shipped to Bremen.


SC 246725 17,000 10 1/2 inch Artillery shells at Schierling awaiting shipment to Bremen after World War II.


Decades later, Bremen continues to be generally considered an appropriate location for such volatile commodities.

A 2018 case study quoted Martin McVicar, Managing Director of the globally successful Irish Combilift: “Germans are very analytical and open to innovative products when they can see a visible benefit – for example, when it will make them more efficient,” and “Having Germany as a good reference has helped to build our credibility in other export markets – customers think if German companies are buying our product, it must be good.”[4]

In spite of a sporadic migration from the Middle East since the 20th century, Germany’s Lebanese population did not significantly increase until the Lebanese civil war began in 1975. Today, people of Lebanese descent represent one of the country’s largest minorities. Most of them hold dual citizenship, and a majority is presumed to be Shia and Sunni Muslims. Few make headlines.

In the spring of 2020, however, Mossad, the Israeli Foreign Intelligence Agency, alerted German authorities that Hezbollah was warehousing ammonium nitrate in southern Germany.[5] And whereas Germany formerly distinguished between Hezbollah’s political party and its military wing, on April 30, 2020 Horst Seehofer, the German Interior Minister, declared that all Hezbollah activities were banned.[6]

At that time, a lot happened regarding various stashes of ammonium nitrate; some of it behind strategically closed doors, and some hidden in plain sight.

According to Reuters, FEM, a Mozambique firm, ordered thousands of tons ammonium nitrate from Savaro Ltd, a London trading company that procured the chemicals in 2013. Shipping records show that these were loaded onto the Rhosus in Georgia, before making an originally unscheduled stop in Lebanon, in November 2013. According to Al Jazeera, the vessel had mechanical problems. Indebted already, and unable to pay for its passage through the Suez Canal, the ship was abandoned.[7] After lengthy litigation, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were confiscated. Port officials stated that the chemicals were then stored in Hangar 12, near the docks. Its surroundings, the local climate, and other conditions made the ship unfit for explosive cargo. According to The New York Times, Lebanese custom officials requested its disposal, at least six times.

Greater Beirut has a population of 2.2 million. On August 4, 2020, welding work at a warehouse triggered an explosion that reached a 3.3 magnitude on the Richter scale. It killed 211 people and wounded more than 6,000. A report by SARAH GIBBENS began with a graphic description:

Look closely at footage of downtown Beirut, and you can see the ground warp and buckle just after the blast erupted .… Cell phone videos also show the shockwave and dust cloud rushing through the portside buildings, leaving behind scenes of carnage in the Lebanese capital.[8]

Entire neighborhoods were devastated. Beirut mayor Marwan Abboud estimated that between 250,000 and 300,000 people became homeless, and rebuilding would likely cost 10 to $15 billion.

Rumors ran wild. During a press briefing at the White House, President Donald Trump began to make the unsubstantiated claim that it was a bomb attack.[9]

When associate editor Samir Salama reminded the public in the Gulf News from August 7, 2020 that “Iran-backed terrorists kept the explosive chemicals in ‘cold packs’,”[10] Germany’s Federal Authority for the Protection of the Constitution quickly asserted that “The stored cold packages were taken out of Germany in 2016. There is no information or evidence that this storage of the cold packages has any connection to the warehouse in Beirut port.”[11]

On August 20, Asia Times published an article by ALISON TAHMIZIAN MEUSE. According to the German daily Die Welt, she began, “Hezbollah is believed to have imported up to 670 tons of ammonium nitrate.”[12] Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, however, “categorically” denied his group was involved in that port.[13]

When military experts were called in for an inspection, they located 4.35 tons of additional ammonium nitrate. Allegedly, this was removed “and dealt with”. On September 10, however, when a massive fire erupted, port authorities voiced their concern over remaining material at their facility.

Internationally, interest in these matters resulted in a variety of events.

During an AJC webinar on September 17, for example, Ambassador Nathan Sales, U.S. coordinator for counterterrorism at the Department of State, announced that “Since 2012, Hezbollah has established caches of ammonium nitrate throughout Europe by transporting first aid kits whose cold packs contain the substance.”[14] A representative of the German Federal Interior Ministry confirmed the seizure of ammonium nitrate, in substantial amounts, in southern Germany.

Already at the brink of economic collapse, worsened due to Covid-19, Lebanon publicly asked for international support. Germany’s response was decisive. The Federal Government sent some 50 members of its SEEBA (Rapid Deployment Unit Search and Rescue) team. The Bundeswehr deployed a medical exploration team and the corvette Ludwigshafen. The Auswärtiges Amt (Federal Foreign Office) pledged financial help for Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (German Red Cross) activities in Lebanon. Even NGOs such as @fire Internationaler Katastrophenschutz Deutschland and I.S.A.R. Germany (International Search and Rescue) sprang into action.

In November, Lebanon signed another deal. On February 6, 2021, AP headlined, “German firm to remove dangerous material from Beirut port.” For $3.6 million, Combi Lift in Bremen was to treat and ship abroad containers with flammable chemicals. The company website declares,

At Combi Lift, we believe that, by setting the highest standards through solid business ethics, inspirational leadership, and integrated best practices in quality, health, safety, environment and pollution prevention, we are able to provide safe, innovative and reliable transport solutions that meet the individual demands and expectations of our clients.”[15]

An announcement that Lebanese port authorities will pay only $2 million, whereas the German government will cover the rest, raised more than some eyebrows, however. And when Andreas Kindl, Germany’s ambassador to Lebanon, tweeted that the treatment at Beirut’s port for 52 containers of “hazardous and dangerous chemical material” was complete, he added that the material was to be shipped to Germany.

Background stories and speculations, however, continue to emerge. On January 17, 2021, Reuters reported that “The company that bought the ammonium nitrate which exploded in Beirut last August had possible links to two Syrian businessmen under U.S. sanctions for ties to President Bashar al-Assad.”[16]




[1] Brown, G. I. The Big Bang: A History of Explosives. Sutton Publishing, 1998 pp. 158-163.

[2] Keegan, John, in: Dear, I. C. B.; Foot, M. R. D. (eds.). Oxford Companion to World War II. New York: Oxford University Press 2005, p. 676

[3] On February 27, 1945, fifteen months after Lebanon became an independent state, it declared war on Germany.

[4] Combilift, based in Annahagh, Ireland, is a manufacturer of multidirectional forklifts and not to be confused with the Bremen-based Combi Lift mentioned later in this piece. For details see: “Strong Strategy Key to Combilift’s German Market Success”, in Enterprise Ireland from June 12, 2018.

[5] Not until August 6, two days after the Beirut explosion, did Martin Hagen from the Free Democratic Party (FDP) ask the state government whether Bavarian authorities knew of such depots in the Free State, whether they had been located, and how much ammonium nitrate had been seized. The resulting evasiveness surprised few.

[6] In May 2020, the Israeli N12 channel reported about an Israeli official saying the ban was “the result of many months of work with all parties in Germany. The heads of services were required to present explicit evidence and legal proof… linking the organization to significant terrorist activity – and that is what we did,” before he added that “Bruno Kahl, the head of the German intelligence organization BND, is a close friend of the Mossad.”

[7] A BBC-interview with Boris Prokoshev, the Russian captain clarified details. It was published on August 7, 2020. For details see: “Russian captain recalls journey that led to deadly cargo being impounded”

[8] For details see: “” from August 6, 2020

[9] For details see: “Donald Trump claims Beirut explosion ‘looks like a terrible attack’ – video” in: The Guardian from August 4, 2020

[10] Beirut blasts/ Hezbollah stored ammonium nitrate in Germany | Mena – Gulf News

[11] For details see “Hezbollah stored ammonium nitrate in Germany” from August 7, 2020

[12] In 2017, the world produced more than 20 million tons of ammonium nitrate.

[13] For details see Halaschak, Zachary: “’No cache, no nothing’: Hezbollah leader denies storing weapons at Beirut port at center of explosion” in the Washington Examiner from August 7, 2020

[14] Toby DERSHOWITZ and DYLAN GRESIK quickly pointed out that “Hezbollah, designated a terrorist entity by 15 countries, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, also used ammonium nitrate in the 1994 bombing of Argentina’s AMIA Jewish community center that killed 85 people.” For details see: “FDD | Hezbollah’s History with Ammonium Nitrate/ The Danger to Europe” from September 25, 2020

[15] Combi Lift GmbH in Bremen. Crewing company Combi Lift GmbH, retrieved on March 20, 2021

[16] For details see: “Beirut blast chemicals possibly linked to Syrian businessmen: report, company filings” by Ellen Francis, Tom Bergin and Maria Tsvetkova


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Jan 22 2021

From Time toTime: Americans with Covid-19 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Published by under From Time to Time

From Time to Time

History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.


Americans with Covid-19 in


Alpine Garmisch-Partenkirchen


by Anna Rosmus


On September 8, 2020, when a 26-year-old American in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, showed symptoms of Covid-19, she went for testing, and was told to self-quarantine until her results came back. Instead of doing that, however, the woman visited various bars and pubs. Then, she was confirmed positive.

As a result, the district administration asked all 18- to 35-year-olds to get tested for the virus. AP reported that 740 locals obliged.[1] Allegedly, the woman had infected up to 59 people. Because 24 were staff members of the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort,[2] where she worked, the Lodge was closed. In addition, all bars and restaurants in Garmisch-Partenkirchen were ordered to close by 10 p.m.; indoor gatherings were limited to 50 people, and outdoor gatherings to 100.

Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder deemed the woman’s behavior not only “a model case of stupidity,” but he demanded that “such recklessness must have consequences.” Because US civilian employees are subject to Bavarian ordinances on prevention of infectious diseases, like German citizens, the woman could not only face a fine of 2,000 euros ($2,370), she might also be held liable for the lost revenue of businesses impacted by this coronavirus outbreak. To better determine whether this woman caused “bodily harm,” the public prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation. Depending on the outcome, she could also face six months to 10 years in prison.[3] In the meantime, the US military has launched its own inquiry.

News of that case spread like a wildfire. Among many other outlets, Bayerischer Rundfunk,[4] Deutsche Welle,[5] The Guardian,[6] the Mirror,[7] CNN,[8] nbc,[9] Newsweek,[10] People,[11] the hill,[12][13] and[14] reported about it, and among the millions of readers more than a few may have wondered why this particular Corona case stirred not only international news but legal procedures as well. The affected municipality is relatively small, after all, and its geographic location in the Alps somewhat remote.

Partenkirchen, which originated as the Roman town of Partanum, on the trade route from Venice to Augsburg, was first mentioned in the year A.D. 15. Its main street still follows the original Roman road. Some 800 years later, neighboring Garmisch was mentioned as Germaneskau, a “German District.” While bears, wolves and lynxes posed a constant threat to livestock, the swampy valley floor was hard to farm, and residents periodically suffered from epidemics, including several bouts of bubonic plague, the deadliest pandemic in human history. Resulting witch hunts led to trials and executions. From 1589 until 1596, 63 people, more than 10 percent of the population at that time, were strangled or burned at the stake.[15]

In anticipation of the 1936 Winter Olympic games, which featured alpine skiing for the first time, Adolf Hitler forced the two market towns to unite. And for most people, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, as it has been known ever since, remained simply that, a ski town near Zugspitze, Germany’s highest alpine peak and the Partnach Gorge, where water gushes
through a narrow, one mile gap between limestone cliffs.


Signal Corps 209354, Garmisch-Partenkirchen on July 14, 1945: The 10th Armored Division celebrates its 3rd anniversary


After World War II, however, when combat ended, the US-Army confiscated a number of German military hotels and resorts. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, for instance, had served as a major hospital center for Germany’s military. Now, Americans used it as a R&R center for US military stationed in Europe.[16]


Signal Corps 209350, General George S. Patton Jr. on July 14, 1945 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen


This new relationship between the American military and German civilians was not without benefits for locals. Funds from the US-Marshall Plan, for example, helped them to convert a pediatric facility for treating tuberculosis into a full pediatric hospital. In 1952, the German Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology, the largest of its kind in Europe, opened.

With the Cold War quickly emerging, however, America pursued somewhat different goals. In 1947, the US Army Russian Institute (USARI) opened in Garmisch-Partenkirchen,[17] “cementing the community’s role as a center for both military education and U.S. Forces recreation.”[18] An article in the Los Angeles Times begins with a summary, “Surrounded by snow-capped Alpine peaks, an elite U.S. Army school turns out experts on the Soviet Union. They go on to become military attaches, Pentagon intelligence analysts and even ambassadors.”

Two paragraphs later we read, “The institute’s two-year program covers Soviet military and political affairs, Marxism-Leninism, the news media, military history, arms control and the fine points of the Russian language, as well as numerous other subjects.”[19] In 1953, the NATO School in nearby Oberammergau (NSO) started its operations.[20] In 1993, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, an internationally funded and mostly US-staffed conference center for governments primarily from the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, opened in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It replaced the US Army Russian Institute. Facilities include the Sheridan Kaserne and Artillery,[21] formerly known as the Krafft von Dellmensingen Kaserne.

In 2000, the US-Congress approved the consolidation of all Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) resorts in Europe into one facility. Three years later, the fabled Lake Hotel closed, and the Von Steuben and General Patton hotels followed.[22] In September 2004, at a cost of $80 million, the American AFRC opened its Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. Operated by the US Department of Defense, it serves US and NATO military as well as their families. Facilities include 246 rooms and suites, a conference center, three restaurants with American and German dishes, a fitness center, a sauna and a pool. The resort operates a ski school, the Edelweiss Vacation Village and Campground, and it offers guided tours – ranging from the Dachau Concentration Camp to Oberammergau. To make it all possible, the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort employs US citizens, recruited from the United States, as well as local hospitality staff.

“Today, the George C. Marshall Center and NATO School provide essential forums for international military diplomacy, education and cooperation.”[23] To provide logistical support to the Marshall Center and the Edelweiss Recreation Center, a number of US-troops and civilians are stationed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

No wonder, then, if various politicians, institutions and the media on both sides of the Atlantic were instantly on high alert by this local outbreak. The White House and more than just a few significant other US-leaders have – at the very least – failed to discourage cautionary prescriptions and mandates. By contrast, Germany’s relatively strict response to this particular pandemic might be a mere backdrop for such international interest.[24]



[1] JORDANS, FRANK and RISING, DAVID, “3 more COVID cases linked to American’s bar crawl in Bavaria,” on September 15, 2020,

[2] Lieutenant General Michael S. “Mike” Tucker, then Executive Officer to the Commanding General U.S. Army Europe, suggested the name “Edelweiss”.

[3] On September 17, 2020, the Independent headlined an article by Danielle Zoellner, “American woman could face up to 10 years in prison after allegedly spreading coronavirus during German bar crawl.”

[4] “Corona in Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Ein Superspreader macht Party,” on September 12, 2020,,SALvXYT

[5] “US army probes coronavirus outbreak at military ski resort in Bavaria,” on September 16, 2020,

[6] Kate Connolly, “American accused of ignoring Covid-19 quarantine to go on Bavaria bar crawl,” on September 14, 2020,

[7] “Coronavirus ‘superspreader’, 26, ‘went partying’ after being told to self-isolate,” on September 14, 2020,

[8] Halasz, Stephanie and Pleitgen, Frederik, “A 26-year-old American woman is believed to have caused a coronavirus outbreak in Germany,” on September 14, 2020,

[9] “American woman’s bar crawl spreads Covid in southern Germany,” on September 15, 2020,

[10] Impelli, Matthew, “U.S. Woman Accused of Infecting Over 50 People With Coronavirus in Bavaria,” on September 14, 2020,

[11] Mazziotta, Julie, “American Waiting on Coronavirus Test Results Went Bar Hopping in Germany, Likely Infecting 59,” on September 16, 2020,

[12] CASTRONUOVO, Celine, “American woman at German resort allegedly spread COVID-19 to at least 59 people,” on September 15, 2020,

[13] VANDIVER, John, “Edelweiss to close for two weeks after getting blame for virus spread in Garmisch,” on September 12, 2020,

[14] “American could face fine over Garmisch-Partenkirchen virus spike in Germany,” on September 14, 2020,

[15] Much of Werdenfels Castle, where the accused were held, tried and executed, was torn down in the 1750s. Its stones were used to build a baroque church that replaced one that may originally have been a pagan temple.

[16] Maps and photos of this cluster are featured at

[17] Details about this intelligence agency:

[18] Link here.

[19] COSTELLOE, Kevin in the Los Angeles Times from May 7, 1989: “Army Training Facility in W. Germany: Just Don’t Call It a ‘Spy School’”,

[20] Since then, more than 200,000 officers, non-commissioned officers and civilians have attended NSO courses focusing on multinational military education as well as individual training to support NATO “operations, strategy, policy, doctrine and procedures.” For details see:

[21] Sheridan Kaserne, originally named Jäger Kaserne, was built in 1937 to house German Wehrmacht troops. In 1945, the U.S. Army began to use it as a prisoner-of-war camp for officers. On November 1, 2015 the Münchner Merkur headlined an article by Tanja Brinkmann “US-Army gibt Artillery-Kaserne auf” (US-Army Gives up Artillery Barracks). On June 28, 2017, during a ceremony honoring 70 years of the Marshall Plan, however, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and former German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen reaffirmed transatlantic bonds between the U.S. and Germany.

[22] In November 2004, the U.S. military returned to the German government the last hotels it confiscated at the end of World War II.

[23] Link here.

[24] With currently more than 356,000 deaths due to the virus, the US death toll is 10 times as high as Germany’s. For updates see:

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Oct 22 2020

Bridge-Builders: A Prelude to Kamala Harris

Published by under From Time to Time

From Time to Time

History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.





Black Colleges, German-Jewish Refugee Academicians

and The Civil Rights Movement:

A Prelude to Kamala Harris, the “Mameleh


 by Michael Panitz, Old Dominion University


The selection of Senator Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party’s nominee for Vice President, a woman of multi-cultural (South Asian and Jamaican) heritage, is without a doubt partly the effect of the renewed American focus in 2020 on the year’s second pandemic, the pandemic of racism. The massive wave of protests that broke across the cities of this country after the putative murder of George Floyd, an African American, by a White Minneapolis police officer has produced profound political as well as social consequences. Blacks and Whites marched together, demanding a dismantling of the structures of institutionalized oppression in the United States. One of the two major political parties, the Democratic Party, aligned itself with the protestors, and its (then) presumptive nominee, Former Vice President Joe Biden, signaled that he was looking closely at selecting a Black, female running mate. Senator Harris, already a serious contender for that post prior to the Floyd murder, became the leading contender in June and was duly selected in August.

One of the sad ironies of this season of protest against bigotry is that it has exposed a strain of anti-Semitism within the African American community. Despite the demonstrations of support on the part of most Jewish Americans for the protests against racial injustice towards Blacks, there has been a dismaying drumbeat of anti-Semitic expressions on the part of American Black cultural icons. The rappers Diddy, Ice Cube and Waka Flocka Flame, the sports journalist Nick Cannon and the celebrity athletes DeSean Jackson and Stephen Jackson followed in the footsteps of the inveterate anti-Semite, Minister Louis Farrakhan, voicing a range of anti-Semitic tropes: the Jews own all the banks; they murder Black children; they are satanic.[1] Jewish fellow athletes then engaged their peers in attempts to raise consciousness. Moreover, other prominent African Americans, such as the sports legends Charles Barkley and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the sports journalist, Jemele Hill, and the cultural critic L.Z. Granderson, called out those expressions of bigotry[2]. Some, although not all, of those who had made bigoted remarks then recanted them.

Even so, the flurry of expressions of anti-Semitism served as a sobering reminder that high levels of anti-Semitic prejudice recorded in earlier surveys of African Americans have not disappeared.[3]

Against this backdrop, the elevation of Senator Harris offers positive prospects. Although a few progressives, White and Black, have criticized Harris as being insufficiently radical, a large chorus of voices has responded approvingly. Significantly, both Blacks and Jews have applauded her selection enthusiastically. It came as a revelation to many Jews that Senator Harris is married to Douglas Emhoff, a Jewish man, and that she celebrates aspects of Yiddish and Jewish culture in her family’s identity. Her fondness for the term of endearment, “Mameleh” (Yiddish for “mother dear”) can serve as a shorthand for the widespread embrace of Senator Harris by a majority of American Jews: Kamala has become a Mameleh.

Given this patchwork of hopeful and sobering signs of the times, it is timely to remember an episode in American history in which certain leading institutions within African American society came to the aid of Jews, with the Jewish beneficiaries later returning the favor and campaigning for Civil Rights. This is the outreach by Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to hire German and Austrian Jewish refugees, fleeing Hitler and seeking asylum in the United States. Those academicians served ably in their African American settings, and in many cases, became key allies in the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950’s and 1960’s.[4]


  1. From Asylum Seeker to Ally and Mentor: Jewish Academicians at HBCUs

Looking back at the history of the Civil Rights movement for instances of Jews and African Americans working, and sometimes suffering, in partnership, there are some iconic images: Jewish Freedom Riders across the South; the three voting rights activists, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, two Jews and one African American, murdered together in Mississippi in 1964; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, speaking at the March on Washington, just a minute before Dr. Martin Luther King took the podium; Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching arm and arm with Dr. King at Selma, 1965, a score of other rabbis in the line of march.

We should add other, earlier images to this gallery. These images should include scenes of African American students at schools such as Fisk College, Talladega College, North Carolina Central University and other HBCUs, gathered around their German-Jewish refugee professors. Emblematic of an entire set of images is that of Professor Ernst Borinski, the distinguished sociologist, teaching social science to his African American students at Tougaloo College, Mississippi.


Professor Borinski and his students, c. 1960. Credit: Coral Gables Museum


The outreach on the part of HBCUs to Jewish refugee scholars began in the late 1930’s, as the Nazi oppression of Jews grew ever fiercer. Three examples will serve as illustrations: Viktor Lowenfeld, Ernst Manassee and John (Hans) H. Herz.

Viktor Lowenfeld was a leader in the field of Art Education. He was the art director of the Blind Institute in Vienna, also working in primary and secondary-level schools, until he fled Austria in 1938. During the war years he consulted for the U.S. Navy in the field of visual aids. His main work was at Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia, where he was hired as assistant professor of industrial arts in 1939. When Hampton created an art department, Lowenfeld was named its chairman. He left Hampton when he accepted a position at Penn State University in Art Education in 1946, remaining there until his untimely death in 1960.

North Carolina Central University was a leader in the effort to employ Jewish scholars. In 1939, the president of the school, James Shepard, offered a position to the refugee philosopher Ernst Manasse. Manasse had fled Germany after the passage of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 and had spent some time in Italy and in England while attempting to gain entry to the United States. Once in the USA, he was unsuccessful in his job search, and his visa had nearly expired, when Shepard brought him on board. He later reflected that he would most likely have been killed had he been deported.[5]

A position at one of the HBCUs was not always the first employment secured by the refugee scholar, but it could mean rescue rather than deportation when earlier employment ran out. A rising political scientist, John H. Herz, found temporary employment in America, 1939-1941, as assistant to Abraham Flexner, director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. But in 1941, Herz was failing to find steady, long-term employment at the college level. He was told that his being Jewish and a refugee were obstacles to his search. Schools were giving preference to American citizens, to help bring down the high unemployment that persisted since the Depression. He was saved from deportation when Ralph Bunche, head of the political science department at Howard University, hired him. Although Herz ultimately spent the bulk of his career at the City University of New York, he remained forever grateful for the open-mindedness he experienced at Howard. In 1994, he expressed this sentiment in a letter to the Editor of the New York Times: “’The helping hand stretched out by black colleges and black scholars should not be forgotten at a time when, alas, Jewish-black relations have become strained. I will forever remember in gratitude.”[6]

How did the HBCUs manage to make these hires, during the hard times of the Depression? There were financial inducements offered to facilitate the hiring of these scholars. The Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, founded in 1933, was the most important institution working for the admission of refugee scholars to the United States and their successful job placement. Knowing that the public climate of opinion was isolationist, the Emergency Committee kept a low profile, turning to Foundations rather than to the general public in its fund-raising activities. One of its most fruitful partnerships was with the Rockefeller Foundation. These financial arrangements provided needed budget relief for the colleges that hired the refugee scholars.[7] But that does not detract from the humanitarian accomplishment. In a racist society, these hires were noteworthy exceptions to the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism within American society.[8]

Once the refugee crisis had passed, administrators at colleges that had hired Jewish refugees initially remained open to hiring Jewish faculty. Some of these later placements were scholars who had come to the United States as children. George Iggers, the noted historian, arrived as a 12-year-old just before Kristallnacht. He completed his academic training in the late 1940’s and began his academic career at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1950.

Other Jewish scholars finding a temporary or permanent home at HBCUs had arrived as adults but had at first been unable to find work in the academic setting. The economist Fritz Pappenheim, who made it to the USA, with great difficulty, in 1941, did settlement work with youths in Cleveland, Ohio, prior to attaining his first college position at Talladega College in 1945. The sociologist Ernst Borinski, trained in the law, had worked as a lawyer and magistrate in Kelbra, in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, prior to fleeing the Nazis. He turned to academic teaching in America only after the completion of his army service in World War II. Unlike some of the other refugee scholars, who ultimately moved on to other and more prestigious institutions, Borinski remained committed to his students at Tougaloo for the rest of his career. He continued teaching as an emeritus, albeit at a reduced level, until his death in 1983.


  1. Assessing the Significance of the Phenomenon

How should the importance of this phenomenon be assessed?

The significance of the presence of Jewish teachers and scholars in African American colleges was not a matter of large numbers. It should be remembered that a small fraction of the refugee population was involved in this endeavor. Statistics reveal the limited scope of this phenomenon: Of the nearly three quarters of a million Jews in Germany and Austria during the early years of the Third Reich, 282,000 succeeded in leaving Germany, and 117,000 from annexed Austria, by 1939. Of this number, 95,000 emigrated to the United States. Within that group were approximately 2,000 scholars from European academic institutions. Just over 50 scholars found employment in HBCUs. Again, looking at the phenomenon from the perspective of humanitarian agencies assisting scholars to relocate to the United States and secure employment, the role of HBCU’s does not stand out if judged by numbers alone. As noted, The Rockefeller Foundation was one of the principal donor organizations tapped by The Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars to underwrite the costs of assisting these scholars. The Rockefeller Foundation gave grants to approximately 300 social scientists and scholars within this category. The 53 scholars who found work in the Historically Black college network—not all of whom were Rockefeller Foundation grant recipients—were clearly only a modest fraction of the total number of scholars who received assistance. Most found employment elsewhere. Elite scholars and public intellectuals achieved placement in more prestigious schools of higher learning. Others were unable to continue their careers in higher education after migration.

This analysis makes it clear that the ultimate importance of the hiring of that cohort goes beyond that number of careers salvaged.[9] Rather, the importance of the humanitarian work of the HBCUs, hiring Jewish refugees as faculty, and of the scholars themselves, interacting with African American students, lay in three domains:

First, the action was exemplary. When the placement of Jewish scholars in faculty positions at HBCUs began in the 1930’s, offering them employment advanced the frontiers of the conceivable. That is always a key early step in the general advance of a humanitarian ideal. The ideal advanced in 1930’s America was that anti-Semitism could not be tolerated within the mainstream of civil society.

Bringing in Jewish refugees to fill jobs was deeply unpopular at that time. Public opinion surveys in the 1930’s and 1940’s disclosed anti-Semitic attitudes common to high percentages of American respondents. In 1940, 63% said that, as a group, Jews had “objectionable traits.” In fourteen polls conducted, 1938-1946, between one third and one half of respondents opined that American Jews were too powerful for the good of the country. Most germane to the question of bringing Jewish refugees to this country and having them fill jobs, in 1938, 83% opposed opening the country to more European refugees than had already been admitted. This opposition was a function of bigotry, not of the presence of large numbers of refugees in the country, since the era of unrestricted immigration to America from Europe had been curtailed in the 1920’s by the Johnson Immigration Bill.[10]

Up through the 1930’s, in the mainstream American university, as within the larger American context, anti-Semitism was well within the spectrum of accepted opinions. Quite a few schools had quotas, not for the purposes of affirmative action, but rather, for the reverse: to limit the number of Jewish students. This was true both in the prestigious Ivy League schools of the Northeast and in many public state universities across the nation. Graduate, professional schools such as medical schools were notorious for their Jewish quotas. [11]Hiring Jewish scholars to teach non-Jewish students was an act of moral courage on the part of the leaders of the HBCUs. Moral courage is the necessary precursor to testing and transcending discrimination.

Second, the fortuitous “marriage of convenience” of Jewish scholars and teachers with their African American students created mentor-disciple relationships that raised the sights of the students and helped them to fulfill their dreams of entering positions of leadership within the cultural, professional and academic sectors of American society.

A striking example of this was the mentor-disciple relationship of Viktor Lowenfeld and John Biggers. They met each other in the right place, at the right time, for their combination of talents and interests to achieve fruitful results:

As noted, Lowenfeld found work teaching industrial arts at Hampton Institute. Despite its small size, that school already played an outsize role in the transmission of African art to American audiences. One of its early alumni, William Sheppard, was the first African American to collect African art. He had amassed a respectable collection during his tenure as a Christian missionary in Africa. In 1911, Sheppard donated a considerable assemblage of art from the central African Kuba Kingdom to his alma mater.[12] Lowenfeld assumed the collateral responsibility of curating the collection at Hampton’s art musuem.

Lowenfeld taught at Hampton until he began teaching at Pennsylvania State University in 1945, where he remained until his death in 1960. But during his tenure at Hampton, he mentored the rising Black artist John Biggers. Biggers had come to Hampton intending to study plumbing. Lowenfeld inspired him to devote his energies to art. In 1943, Biggers’ work was featured in the exhibit, “Young Negro Art”, presented by New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Biggers was then drafted into the U.S. Navy, but after his discharge, he followed Lowenfeld to Penn State and accomplished his advanced training there. While completing his dissertation in 1954, he took up a position at Texas State College for Negroes, later Texas Southern University, and remained there for three decades until his retirement, while also earning accolades as one of the leading African American artists of the generation.

One of the remarkable examples of mentor-disciple bonds was the connection forged at Talladega College between the economist Fritz Pappenheim and his students. After five years of teaching at Talladega, he became eligible for tenure in 1950. While supported by many of the faculty, Pappenheim was denied tenure at Talladega because, in the Cold-War atmosphere of the times, the trustees of the college were unwilling to support his openly Marxist orientation. The debate continued for two years. When Pappenheim’s bid was finally rejected, in 1952, his admiring students assembled outside the building where the trustees were meeting and protested vociferously until the president of the college was dismissed.[13]


Illustration: Students and one of their five Jewish professors at Talladega College.[14]  

Credit: Amistad Research Center in association with Tulane University


Third, the interaction of Jewish faculty and African American students promoted the development of the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Jewish professors, themselves the victims of racism, were, as a group, more willing than the generational norm to challenge the anti-Black racism of mid-twentieth-century America.

The Jewish scholars assisted in developing the Civil Rights movement in two ways: first, they modeled integration and inter-group respect. Second, they advised their students in areas related to civil rights activism. Drawing upon his legal experience, Borinski counseled his students in the legal aspects of their civil rights activities.

Sometimes working behind the scenes, at other times the Jewish scholars were willing to defy the anger of Southern, White racists by taking higher-profile actions. Examples of these kinds are pioneer efforts on behalf of civil rights are found in the lives of Lore Rasumussen, Borinski and Georg Iggers.

Lore May Rasmussen, a German-Jewish refugee, and Donald Rasmussen, her American-born husband, began their academic careers at Talladega College in Alabama, teaching there from 1942-1956. They then moved to the Philadelphia area, where Lore devoted her energies to mathematics instruction in the Philadelphia public schools. While in Alabama, the Rasmussens defied the local segregation laws by dining, with an African American friend, in a black-owned restaurant. They spent a night in a Birmingham jail for their defiance.[15]

Borinski enlisted his African American students in a stratagem to challenge segregated seating patterns in education. Giving social science presentations that were open to the general public in the late 1950’s, he would direct his students to arrive early and occupy alternate seats, so as to compel the Whites to sit together with the Blacks.[16] He also encouraged White students at nearby colleges to attend integrated events at Tougaloo: “Borinski encouraged numerous events—meetings, lectures, and German language classes—that cut across racial lines, and his social science lab was an oasis of journals, newspapers, and other related publications that ultimately led to an African study group that included students from nearby Millsaps College despite the dangers faced by participants in integrated activities.”[17]

Georg Iggers and his wife, Wilma, likewise a Jewish refugee (from Czechoslovakia) were leaders and activists in the civil rights movement in the 1950’s. During that decade, they served two historically Black colleges and universities, Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Dillard University in New Orleans. Later, they moved to the University of Buffalo, where Georg completed a fruitful career. While in Little Rock, they organized the successful effort to desegregate the city’s public library system. George compiled a report for the NAACP detailing the differences between the city’s two high schools, one for White and one for Black students. That report became part of Little Rock’s historic desegregation lawsuit.[18]

The encomium offered by Iggers’ colleague at the University of Buffalo, Andreas Daum is apt: “His and Wilma’s joint autobiography, Two Lives in Uncertain Times: Facing the Challenges of the Twentieth Century as Scholars and Citizens (2006), provides a lasting testament to the multiple identities Iggers lived as a German Jew, scholar, civil rights activist, and intercultural mediator.”[19] This tribute could apply to many in that remarkable cohort: Jews who fled oppression, and, in a land of greater—but still partial—freedom, worked to make their adopted country more tolerant.

The symbiosis encompassing HBCUs, Jewish faculty members and African American students may or may not ultimately be a counterweight to the tribalism that threatens the American ideal of e pluribus unum. But if this symbiosis is to have an impact on the evolving story of America, it needs to be remembered and celebrated that two minorities, Jewish Americans and African Americans, have been siblings in suffering., and that they have helped each other in meaningful ways.

From the vantage point of 2020, the candidacy of Kamala Harris provides a grace note to the melody of the historical episode presented in these pages. A practicing Baptist, with Hinduism in her background and Jewish tradition in her blended family, she may be seen as a symbol of the multi-cultural synthesis made possible by the American experiment.[20] Whatever may be the outcome of her candidacy in the coming presidential election, her ascent within American politics suggests that the bridge builders of the past three quarters of a century have successfully spanned at least some of the chasms in American society.


Michael Panitz

Old Dominion University

Temple Israel of Norfolk, Va.




[1] Emily Schrader, “Antisemitism from unexpected source: The African American Community”, The Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2020.

[2] Marcy Oster,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jemele Hill call out anti-Semitism in the Black community” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 15, 2020; L.Z. Granderson, “My first brush with Black anti-Semitism came early. It was wrong then. It’s wrong now”, Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2020.

[3] Anti-Defamation League, Anti-Semitism and Prejudice in America: Highlights from an ADL Survey”, November 1998. In that survey, 34% of African Americans, as compared with 9% of White Americans, were in the most anti-Semitic category. The 1998 survey confirmed the findings of three earlier surveys with respect to the level of anti-Semitism in African American circles, whereas the percentage of Whites with comparable levels of anti-Semitic prejudice declined over time.

[4] The principal scholarly treatment of the outreach by HBCUs to Jewish refugee scholars, and of the contributions of those scholars to the schools that had rescued them, is Gabrielle Simon Edgcomb, From Swastika to Jim Crow: Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges (Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 1993).


[6] These words of tribute are quoted in John. H. Herz’s obituary, Washington Post, Jan. 25, 2006.

[7] “Rockefeller Foundation,” Transatlantic Perspectives, 2020, 11 Jul 2020

[8] Charles Herbert Stember, Jews in the Mind of America (N.Y.: American Jewish Congress/Basic Books, 1966), p. 8.

[9] U.S. Holocaust Museum,; Miriam Intrator, “Jewish Refugee Scholars in America”,

[10]  Stember, pp. 110-115.

[11] This did not immediately end with the Second World War. Many more Americans attended college after 1945, thanks to the G.I. Bill, and Jews among them. But quotas persisted. Two examples of this emerge from within the synagogue in Norfolk, Va., where I serve as rabbi: A 1953 graduate of the Medical College of Virginia dental school told me that of the 200 students in the four years of his cohort, eight were Jewish. A still older colleague, now deceased, who went to the same school in the 1930’s, changed his family name to one that was not obviously “Jewish-sounding” to enhance his chances of being accepted into dental school.

[12] Hampton University museum website.

[13] Heather Gilligan, “After Fleeing Nazis, many Jewish refugee professors found homes at historically black colleges,”; Dirk Struik, “Fritz Pappenheim 1902-1964”,

[14] Brenda Flora, “50 Years/50 Collections: Gabrielle Simon Edgcomb and the Refugee Scholars of the HBCU”, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, 2016.

[15] Ruth Ellen Gruber, Lore Rasmussen obituary, Feb. 1, 2009,

[16] Rahel Masleah,

[17] Annie Payton, “Ernst Borinski”, Mississippi Encyclopedia,

[18] William H. Pruden III, “Georg Iggers (1926-2017)”, Encyclopedia of Arkansas

[19] Andreas Daum, “Memorial: Georg G. Iggers 1926-2017”, in Central European History 51 (2018), pp. 335-353.

[20] Elana Schor, “Harris brings Baptist, interfaith roots to Democratic ticket”, Washington Post, August 12, 2020.

Comments Off on Bridge-Builders: A Prelude to Kamala Harris

Oct 14 2020

From Time to Time: Grußadresse der “Frauen für den Frieden”

Published by under From Time to Time

From Time to Time

History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.


Grußadresse der ehemaligen


Frauen für den Frieden Ost-Berlin


an die belarussischen Frauen



Liebe belarussische Frauen,

wir verfolgen Eure Aktionen mit größter Sympathie und Anteilnahme. Wir fühlen uns Euch sehr verbunden. Lasst Euch nicht entmutigen, auch wenn einige von Euch bereits außer Landes gedrängt wurden oder in Haft sitzen. Wir wenden uns an Euch als die ehemaligen „Frauen für den Frieden“ Ost-Berlin. Wir waren in den 1980er Jahren Teil der Opposition gegen die DDR-Staatsmacht. …

Liebe Frauen und auch Ihr Männer in Belarus – Ihr seid viele, Ihr seid mutig und Ihr seid kreativ. Bleibt mutig und stark für ein demokratisches Belarus!


Rommy Baumann-Sevim
Gudrun Birk-Gierke
Ute Delor
Elisabeth Gibbels
Beate Harembski-Henning
Almut Ilsen
Petra König
Tina Krone
Irena Kukutz
Ruth Leiserowitz
Barbe Maria Linke
Gisela Metz
Hannelore Offner
Ulrike Poppe
Bettina Rathenow
Jutta Seidel
Christa Sengespeick-Roos
Elke Westendorff

und die damaligen Unterstützerinnen aus der westeuropäischen Friedensbewegung Barbara Einhorn/END und Eva Quistorp/“Frauen für den Frieden“ West-Berlin…“


Den vollständigen Text finden Sie hier.


Lesen Sie auch die Presseerklärung der Stiftung Friedliche Revolution vom 12. Oktober 2020: PM_Demo_121020,

…und hier Beiträge über das Wirken von Freya Klier und einen Text über weibliche Revolutionärinnen.



Fortbestehende Gewalt in Belarus gegen friedlich Demonstrierende verurteilt


Stiftung Friedliche Revolution fordert Lukaschenko zum Dialog außerhalb von Gefängnismauern auf


Leipzig. Die Stiftung Friedliche Revolution hat die erneute Gewalt gegen friedlich Demonstrierende in Belarus verurteilt und Machthaber Aljaksandr Lukaschenko aufgefordert, sich endlich dem Dialog mit der Opposition über die Zukunft des Landes zu stellen. Ein solcher Dialog könne allerdings nur dort beginnen, „wo Menschen sich aus freiem Willen begegnen“, betont der Vorsitzende der Stiftung, Prof. Dr. Rainer Vor, am Montag in Leipzig.

Gespräche mit gefangenen Oppositionellen im Minsker KGB-Gefängnis stünden dazu völlig im Widerspruch. Erforderlich sei deshalb zuallererst, alle politischen Gefangenen freizulassen. „Erst dann kann am Runden Tisch über freie Wahlen und Rechtstaatlichkeit diskutiert werden“, fügt Vor hinzu. Entschieden verurteilt die Stiftung auch die neuerlichen Verhaftungen von Medienvertretern während der Demonstrationen an diesem Wochenende. Die Friedliche Revolution in der DDR vor nunmehr 31 Jahren habe gezeigt, welche Bedeutung eine unabhängige Berichterstattung der Medien habe.

Mit einer Demonstration durch Leipzigs Innenstadt hat die Stiftung am vergangenen Samstag ein Zeichen der Ermutigung und der Solidarität mit den Menschen in Belarus gesetzt. Dabei dankte der belarussische Dirigent Vitali Alekseenok für alle Unterstützung und Empathie. Das sei angesichts der eigenen Probleme durch die Corona-Pandemie alles andere als selbstverständlich.

Umso wichtiger sei für die Menschen, die in seiner Heimat seit Wochen friedlich für ein freies Land, für Demokratie und für Rechtsstaatlichkeit kämpfen, „dass die Stiftung Friedliche Revolution sich solidarisch mit den Protestierenden in Belarus erklärt und so auch einen Beitrag zu Menschlichkeit, Offenheit und Demokratie in so einem autokratischen Land wie Belarus leistet“, betonte Alekseenok, der seit 2017 das Abaco-Orchester der Universität München leitet.

Die sächsische Staatssekretärin Gesine Märtens verwies bei gleicher Gelegenheit darauf, dass es vor allem die belorussischen Frauen seien, die seit Wochen für Demokratie, Freiheit und Demokratie auf die Straße gingen. Sie protestierten und demonstrierten trotz der Bedrohung und der Gewalt weiter. „Sie brauchen unsere Unterstützung dafür! Aus Europa, aus Sachsen, aus Leipzig“, fügte sie hinzu.

Die Bundesregierung forderte sie auf, nicht nur besorgt zuzuschauen, sondern „den Staatsterror und die massiven Menschenrechtsverletzungen“ zu sanktionieren. Auch Lukaschenko müsse auf die EU-Sanktionsliste, denn er sei „für Morde an Regimekritiker/innen, für Verschleppungen, Verhaftungen, für Folter und sexualisierte Gewalt verantwortlich“, so Märtens.


Kontakt: Gesine Oltmanns, Vorstand/Projekte
Stiftung Friedliche Revolution
Tel. 0163 4881 895


Bitte finden Sie hier auch weitere englischsprachige Links zu dem Thema und hier eine Grußadresse von Bürgerrechtler*innen der ehemaligen DDR.

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Oct 03 2020

From Time to Time: Eine Revolution gegen die Angst

Published by under From Time to Time

From Time to Time

History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.


Eine Revolution gegen die Angst –


öffentliche Grußadresse an die

mutigen Demonstrant*innen in Belarus



A Revolution Against Fear

A message of solidarity by leading civil rights activists of the former German Democratic Republic to the courageous demonstrators for democracy in Belarus

This message was originally published in various media outlets in Europe and appeared in German, English, Russian and Belarus. We would like to thank Doris Liebermann of the PEN Center of German Speaking Writers Abroad for sharing this message with Glossen.


“Die Bilder und Nachrichten, die uns nun schon seit einigen Wochen aus Belarus erreichen, erinnern uns stark an das Jahr 1989. Sie rufen Erlebnisse und Erfahrungen wach. Auch wir standen lange einem aggressiv agierenden Staat gegenüber. Die gewaltsame Niederschlagung der friedlichen Proteste in Peking im Juni 1989 war uns ständig vor Augen, die Angst vor einer „chinesischen Lösung“ wurde täglicher Begleiter des Aufbegehrens gegen die Diktatur. Doch auf wundersame Weise verlief der Herbst 1989 weitgehend friedlich und ging als „Friedliche Revolution“ in die Geschichtsbücher ein.

Möglich wurde dies durch viele Mosaiksteine. Die Solidarność-Bewegung in Polen, die Charta 77 in der damaligen Tschechoslowakei, die Politik von Glasnost und Perestroika durch Michail Gorbatschow und die Aufarbeitungsgruppe „Memorial“ in der Sowjetunion, der Widerstand in den baltischen Staaten und die immer stärker werdende Zahl der Demonstrant*innen waren nur die wichtigsten Leuchtfeuer.

Den Großdemonstrationen in der DDR ging fraglos eine lange Opposition von Bürgerrechtsgruppen voraus. Zum Auslöser der Massenproteste wurde – so wie bei Ihnen in Belarus – das offensichtliche Fälschen von Wahlen durch die Staatsregierung. Die Schmerzgrenze war erreicht. In dieser Situation war für uns die Unterstützung durch westdeutsche Medien von größter Wichtigkeit.

Umso mehr wissen wir uns Ihnen in Ihrer weitaus schwierigeren Lage zutiefst und solidarisch verbunden. Bei Ihnen wird die freie Berichterstattung unterbunden, Journalist*innen werden inhaftiert, Demonstrant*innen sind Justizwillkür und Folterungen ausgesetzt. Die Gefahr des gezielten russischen Eingreifens ist nicht gebannt und die Unabhängigkeit von Belarus bedroht.

Ohnmachtserfahrungen sind auch uns nicht fremd. Mit großem Respekt verfolgen wir daher die mutigen Aktionen der Frauen und Männer, die Unerschütterlichkeit der Streikenden, die öffentliche Unterstützung z.B. durch die Literaturnobelpreisträgerin Swetlana Alexijewitsch.

Wir möchten Ihnen mit dieser Grußadresse Ermutigung und Ermunterung senden. Lassen Sie sich nicht einschüchtern! Streiten Sie weiter für ein demokratisches, freies und unabhängiges Belarus – trotz begründeter Angst.

Wir fordern den deutschen Außenminister auf, sich auch weiterhin klar und unmissverständlich für das Recht auf friedliche Demonstrationen und die sofortige Beendigung der aggressiven Staatsgewalt sowie für Verhandlungen u.a. mit dem gegründeten Koordinierungsrat (analog zu den Runden Tischen in Polen und der DDR) einzusetzen.

Wir fordern die Europäische Union auf, deutliche Schritte der Diplomatie zu gehen und beschlossene Sanktionen umgehend wirksam werden zu lassen.

Unsere gemeinsame Hoffnung für Belarus ist groß: „Für ein offenes Land mit freien Menschen“.”


Bürgerrechtler*innen der ehemaligen DDR

Stephan Bickhardt/Dresden, Wolf Biermann/Berlin, Marianne Birthler/Berlin, Roswitha Brennig/Berlin, Martin Böttger/Zwickau, Christian Dietrich/Erfurt, Frank Ebert/Berlin, Rainer Eckert/Berlin, Frank Eigenfeld/Halle (Saale), Katrin Eigenfeld/Kasnewitz, Petra Falkenberg/Berlin, Hans-Jürgen Fischbeck/Berlin, Katrin Hattenhauer/Berlin, Beate Harembski-Henning/Zühlsdorf b. Berlin, Gerold Hildebrand/Berlin, Ralf Hirsch/Berlin, Almut Ilsen/Berlin, Roland Jahn/Berlin, Gisela Kallenbach/Leipzig, Freya Klier/Berlin, Petra König/Berlin, Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk/Berlin, Doris Liebermann/Berlin, Heiko Lietz/Schwerin, Markus Meckel/Berlin, Gisela Metz/Berlin, Günter Nooke/Berlin, Maria Nooke/Berlin, Hannelore Offner/Berlin, Gesine Oltmanns/Leipzig, Liane Plotzitzka/Leipzig, Gerd Poppe/Berlin, Ulrike Poppe/Berlin, Bettina Rathenow/Berlin, Lutz Rathenow/Dresden/Berlin, Lothar Rochau/Halle (Saale), Bettina Röder/Berlin, Rüdiger Rosenthal/Fredersdorf, Jutta Seidel/Berlin, Tom Sello/Berlin, Rommy Baumann-Sevim/Berlin, Annette Simon/Berlin, Siegbert Schefke/Leipzig, Uwe Schwabe/Leipzig, Wolfgang Templin/Berlin, Kathrin-Mahler Walther/Berlin, Reinhard Weißhuhn/Berlin


Lesen Sie hier auch eine Grußadresse der ehemaligen Frauen für den Frieden Ost-Berlin an die belarussischen Frauen.

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Aug 26 2020

From Time to Time: (Hydroxy)Chloroquine

Published by under From Time to Time

From Time to Time

History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.



From Himmler’s Poison to Trump’s Miracle Cure

by Anna Rosmus


Throughout history, malaria has played a prominent role in the fate of nation-states and military actions.[1] World War II was no exception. The United States Army faced malaria, both at home and abroad. German troops contracted it in Greece, in the Pinsk marshes, and in North Africa.[2] Throughout WWII, an average of 100 German soldiers died per hour.[3]

Malaria was not to incapacitate millions more.[4] In 1934, when Hans Andersag worked for Bayer IG Farbenindustrie in Elberfeld, Germany, he discovered chloroquine (aka Resochin).[5] It was deemed too toxic for human use.[6] Two years later, Andersag developed Sontochin, a somewhat safer derivative.

On January 27, 1942, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler spent five hours with his visitors, retired Professor Claus Schilling and Reichsärzteführer Leonardo Conti.[7] Afterwards, he provided Schilling with an experimental malaria research station at the Dachau concentration camp. Of an estimated 1,200 intentionally infected inmates, many were then injected with synthetic malaria drugs, “with high and sometimes lethal doses.”[8] At least 120 of these victims were priests.

When Himmler proposed adding an SS-institute exploring insects, the “Ahnenerbe“ organization established one directly east of the prisoners’ compound. New research suggests that dropping malaria-infected mosquitoes over enemy territory as biological weapons might have been the goal.

In 1946, during the first Nuremberg trial, Schilling admitted to have “inoculated between 900 and 1,000 prisoners.” They “were not volunteers.”[9] Hundreds of them died as a result of the experiment, and the military tribunal sentenced Schilling to death by hanging.[10] Buchenwald survivor Eugen Kogon mentioned the experiments in a 1946 book, and decades later, historian Ernst Klee quipped that a professor emeritus got an entire concentration camp as an experimental laboratory.

After Allied forces captured Tunis in May 1943, Jean Schneider, who carried out Sontochin trials for a Bayer partner in North Africa, offered his data and remaining drugs to U.S. troops.[11] Desperate to cure half a million of its own men incapacitated by malaria, the U.S. Government not only re-created Himmler’s research model, but increased it tenfold. A dozen strains of malaria were injected into mental health patients and convicted criminals.[12] Many more deaths later, chloroquine emerged as the best and least expensive antimalarial ever developed. Evidence dating back to World War II, suggesting that in some people chloroquine even causes psychosis, was basically ignored.

For decades, U.S. soldiers received the drug, either before they were stationed in tropical territories or after they returned with malaria. And before long, waves of tourists began to use Resochin. Many people suffered side effects such as shortness of breath, muscle weaknesses, hearing and mental problems. Others refused to take the medicine. In addition, malaria parasites became immune against the drug, and cheaper generics flooded the markets. In the end, only Pakistan produced chloroquine any more. In July 2019, the Bayer AG stopped merchandizing Resochin.

In September 2019, the Trump administration ended an early warning program that used to train scientists in sixty foreign laboratories (including one that shortly thereafter discovered the virus causing COVID-19) to respond to viruses with the potential to cause a pandemic.

Then, in early January 2020, National Security Council officials received warnings about the potential dangers from a new virus in Wuhan, China. The State Department’s epidemiologist warned that this virus could develop into a pandemic, and the National Center for Medical Intelligence agreed.[13]

On January 20, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported cases in China, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea. One day later, Vietnam, Singapore and Washington state announced their first case of COVID-19. On January 22nd, when asked whether he worries about a pandemic, Trump replied, “No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control.”[14] On February 27th, Trump added, “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.[15]

Whereas the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials repeatedly stated, it would take 12–18 months to develop a vaccine, on March 2nd, Trump claimed that a vaccine would be available “relatively soon.”[16] On March 17th, he added, “I’ve always known this is a real—this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic…”[17]

Trump has German roots[18] as does chloroquine. Trump became a tough salesman for chloroquine makers, promoting the antimalarial drug as a treatment for COVID-19. On March 19th, Bayer announced a donation of 3 million tablets of Resochin (chloroquine phosphate), until then not approved for use in the United States. On that day, Trump uttered, “But the nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if it—if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.”

Within days, of course, the old dangers resurfaced. On March 23rd, Nigeria reported its first cases of chloroquine poisoning.[19] In Arizona, a man fearing infection, died after swallowing “a form of chloroquine used to treat aquariums.”[20] His wife, who also took the drug, was in critical condition.

At that time, a Brasil hospital had started a clinical study. It was supposed to treat 440 COVID-19 patients. One group was to receive a high dosage of 600 mg chloroquine twice a day for ten days, the other, 450 mg once a day for five days, with a double dose on the first day. After three days, however, with merely the first 81 patients enrolled, the high dosage trial was stopped because several had either damaged their heart muscles or died of arrhythmia.[21]

On March 27th, a pensive President marveled, that this pandemic “was something nobody thought could happen… Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have happened.”[22]

One day later, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave in to pressure, “authorizing the emergency use of chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate, … when clinical trials are not available, or participation is not feasible…”[23] That triggered panic-buying in Africa and South Asia,[24] and all too many Americans became eager guinea pigs. Florida alone obtained nearly one million doses for its hospitals, although most of them did not want that drug.[25]

Where used, it quickly became evident that this drug poses a particular danger for people with heart, eye, liver and kidney problems, which are common among the elderly. In other words, those whom COVID-19 makes the sickest to begin with, are then also the most vulnerable by the side effects of chloroquine. Studying hospitalized veterans, for example, showed that the death rate actually increased among those treated with hydroxychloroquine.

On March 30th, the President told Fox News, “We inherited a broken test.” Of course, there could be no test before the new virus emerged. China first confirmed its existence on Dec. 31, 2019.[26] By early April, when the pandemic worsened, Trump blamed the media, Democratic state governors, the previous administration, China, and the World Health Organization.

On April 23rd, Karen M. Masterson, a professor of science journalism and author of  “The Malaria Project,” warned, “Trump’s salesmanship of chloroquine has dragged regular people into the medical sciences with too little experience to understand the consequences.” For details, she referred to “more than 500 boxes of archived materials I used… Chloroquine, especially, showed unpredictable side effects. Itchy hives. Vomiting. Severe diarrhea. Headaches. Bleached hair. Depression. Blurred vision. Suicidal thoughts. Nightmares. Trouble sleeping. Psychoses…”[27]

IV fluids for a single COVID-19 patient


On June 15th, the FDA reversed its course, revoking its emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19. By July 1st, it released “reports of serious heart rhythm problems…, blood and lymph system disorders, kidney injuries, and liver problems…”[28]

Despite record fatalities since then, during a 4th of July celebration, “with jets flying overhead and soldiers parachuting through the air,” Trump claimed that 99% of COVID-19 cases are “totally harmless”. When Stella Gwandiku-Ambe Immanuel claimed that hydroxychloroquine can cure COVID-19, and that face masks are as unnecessary as is social distancing, she quickly impressed him.[29]

The US has less than 5% of the world’s population, and approximately 25% of global deaths from COVID-19. That currently amounts to almost one thousand more Americans dying per day. During an interview with Axios on HBO, Trump conceded: “It is what it is.”[30]



[1] Russell, Paul F.: “Communicable diseases Malaria.” Medical Department of the United States Army in World War II. U.S. Army Medical Department. Office of Medical History. 2009

[2] By the time a Victory March was held in Tunis on May 20, 1943, for example, more than 250,000 German and Italian troops had been taken as prisoners of war.



[5] Andersag H, Breitner S, Jung H. March 1941. Quinoline compound and process of making the same. US Patent 2,233,970








[13] Shear, Michael D.:

[14] Greenberg, Jon: Timeline: How Donald Trump responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

[15] Collinson, Stephen:

[16] Paz, Christian: Politics: All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus. The Atlantic, March 24, 2020

[17] Paz, Christian: Politics: All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus. The Atlantic, March 24, 2020

[18] His grandparents, Friedrich Trump and wife Elisabeth, grew up in Kallstadt, in the Kingdom of Bavaria. Amid the anti-German sentiments sparked by World War II, their son Fred, however, claimed to be Swedish instead.



[21] Blasius, Helga: “Brasilianische Studie stoppt Hochdosis-Gabe von Chloroquin.Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung. April 16, 2020

[22] Paz, Christian: Politics: All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus. The Atlantic, March 24, 2020


[24] To this day, malaria, commonly associated with poverty, accounts for some 200 million infections per year. One to two million people die, and many survivors suffer significant long-term consequences, including developmental and neurological impairment. (Fernando SD, Rodrigo C, Rajapakse S. 2010. The ‘hidden’ burden of malaria: cognitive impairment following infection. Malar. J. 9:366.)


[26] It was the CDC’s first shipment of tests to states that contained tainted reagents. That, along with bureaucratic delays, did cost the U.S. several critical weeks.





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