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Emma Stern mit ihren Söhnen Otto und Karl (r.)
© Verein zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Juden in Blankenese

Dr. Karl Stern * 1883

Dormienstraße 7 (Altona, Blankenese)

Freitod 21.2.1935 im Amtsgericht

Dr. Karl Stern, who was born in Eschwege on 20th June in 1883, committed suicide in the magistrates court in Blankenese on 22nd February 1935.

Karl Stern was the second son of the well respected Sanitätsrat Dr. Moritz Stern and his wife Emma. He became a doctor like his father, and took over his practice in Eschwege in 1911. He was of Jewish descent but his wife Clara Maria, was not. Born Schultz in 1885, Clara Stern was from Schwerin, They had a son, Joachim Heinrich (*1913), and two daughters, Ursula Miriam (*1917) and Edelgard Elisabeth (*1919), who were brought up as Lutherans.

Until 1933 Karl Stern had a practice near Kassel in Eschwege, where he was a popular GP. There were two other Jewish doctors and eleven non-Jewish doctors in the town. Even before Hitler came to power, National Socialists from Eschwege began to persecute and threaten Karl Stern. There were hostile public notices in the Stürmer (a Nationalist.Socialist smear sheet), and night-time attacks on his house, which led him to barricade the windows. As more and more patients stayed away, he faced financial difficulties and was finally forced to close down his practice.

In 1932 he bought a house in Blankenese (Strandweg 67), to which he and his family moved in 1933, hoping to be safer from persecution in a city than in a small town where everybody knows everybody else. Indeed, due to the fact that he had fought at the front in WWI, he was registered with the health authorities even though the registration of many other Jewish doctors had already been withdrawn by 1933.

But on 21st February the anti-Semitism of Eschwege caught up with him. He was subpoenaed to appear in the Blankenese Magistrates Court without knowing what the charge was. He was accused of an abortion he was supposed to have carried out eight years before in Eschwege, and he was also suspected of having committed Rassenschande (miscegenation), which led to further investigation. Such trials were an established method of driving Jewish doctors out of their professions.

He had to be prepared for a very tough sentence if he was convicted. Immediately after the judge had told him that preliminary proceedings had been instituted against him, he took potassium cyanide in the courtroom, obviously carrying out a decision he had taken long before. A doctor who lived nearby was called but Karl Stern died on the way to the hospital in Schenefelder Landstraße.

His wife said that he had tried to spare his family the shame of his arrest by taking his life in the courtroom, as he was unable to imagine life after being expelled from German society. He considered himself a German patriot, a dutiful officer, and a conscientious doctor but he was witnessing the destruction of his livelihood. His wife learned later that the charge had been unfounded. She was told that her husband had lost his nerve.

His son Joachim Heinrich had to give up his studies and went to Cape Town in South Africa in March 1935. His two sisters, Ursula Miriam and Edelgard Elisabeth, joined him in 1936. Clara Stern lived with her children for one year in 1937, but she could not get a residence permit so she returned to Germany, finally emigrating to South Africa for good in 1949.

Translation: Irmgard Köstlin

© Birgit Gewehr

Quellen: StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 7662 (Stern, Clara-Maria); StaH Auskunft aus der Hausmeldekartei von Blankenese 1927–1939 (1943); AB Altona 1937; Susanne Gonnermann, Bettina Plenz, Zur Erinnerung an Dr. Karl Stern, in: Verein zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Juden in Blankenese, Stolpersteine, S. 20; Recherchen von Sabine Boehlich; Zimmer, Juden in Eschwege.

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