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Hermine Baron (née Löw) * 1866
Mannesallee 20 (Harburg, Wilhelmsburg)
Hermine Baron, née Löw, born on 15 Sept. 1866 in ˇCerná Hora, deported on 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died on 22 Jan. 1943
Hans Leipelt, born on 18 July 1921 in Vienna, executed on 29 Jan. 1945 at the Munich-Stadelheim prison
Dr. Katharina Leipelt, née Baron, born on 28 May 1892 in Boskowitz, died on 9 Dec. 1943 in the Fuhlsbüttel police prison
District of Rönneburg, Vogteistraße 23 (Hans Leipelt, Katharina Leipelt)
Hermine Baron was of the Protestant faith. Based on the 10th Ordinance to the Reich Citizenship Law, she became, without any action on her part, a member of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland) in July 1939, even though she had long since turned away from the religious community to which her Jewish parents had once belonged. According to the Nazi conception of the law, she was nonetheless a "full Jew” ("Volljüdin”). Her native town of Černá hora near Brno (Brünn) in Moravia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the nineteenth century, something that changed after World War I following the foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic. Hermine Baron spent her childhood and adolescence in this part of what was the Danubian Monarchy then. She also remained there during the initial years of her marriage to Arnold Baron, who came from a Jewish family as well.
Their two children, Otto (born on 13 Nov. 1888), and his sister Katharina Baron, nearly four years younger, were also born there and baptized Protestants. Later, the family moved to the imperial city of Vienna, where the siblings studied after graduation from high school (Abitur), each obtaining a doctorate in their respective disciplines. After the First World War, Otto Baron married Margarethe Nenutil, a native of Vienna and member of the Reformed Church, while his sister tied the knot with the Catholic graduate engineer (Dipl.-Ing.) Konrad Leipelt (born on 15 May 1886) from Neisse/Oder. On 28 July 1921, the couple delighted in the birth of their son Hans in Vienna, and four years later, on 13 Dec. 1925, in the birth of daughter Maria in Hamburg-Eppendorf, as the family had moved to the Elbe River in the meantime.
Initially, Konrad Leipelt had found an interesting professional task working at Norddeutsche Affinerie AG (today: Aurubis), a copper producer located in the Veddel quarter, before subsequently becoming technical director of the Zinnwerke Wilhelmsburg, a company processing tin. After the family had changed addresses several times, the Leipelts moved to the village of Rönneburg located on the southeastern outskirts of Harburg in 1932. They lived there at Vogteistraße 23 in a magnificent villa with a park-like garden. The exclusive interior of this house and the family’s upper-class lifestyle corresponded with Katharina Leipelt’s family background. Friends and neighbors were fascinated by her cosmopolitan nature and her likable ways.
Both children attended the Rönneburg village school. Hans Leipelt then continued his schooling at the Harburger Oberschule für Jungen, a secondary school for boys (today: Friedrich-Ebert-Gymnasium) and later at the Wilhelmsburger Oberschule (today: Stadtteilschule ["district school”] Wilhelmsburg), where he passed his high-school graduation exam on 19 Mar. 1938. His sister also went to school in that same building for several years because in the meantime the family had moved into a house of its own at Kirchenallee 20 (today: Mannesallee) in Wilhelmsburg.
The mother raised the children in the Protestant faith. On 7 Apr. 1935, Hans Leipelt was confirmed by Dean Johann Feltrup at the Protestant Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Trinity Church) in Harburg, his sister Maria on 3 Mar. 1940 by Pastor Karl Tribian at the Protestant Emmauskirche (Emmaus Church) in Wilhelmsburg. She was also a member of the church choir in this parish.
The Nuremberg Laws on race passed in 1935 intruded massively into the life of the family. Although Katharina Leipelt was baptized a Protestant just as her parents were, she was considered Jewish according to Nazi interpretation, since her parents were Jews by birth. According to this reading, her children, Hans and Maria, were "half-Jews” or "Jewish half-breeds ("jüdische Mischlinge”) of the 1st degree,” and her marriage to the "Aryan” Konrad Leipelt was classified as a "mixed marriage.” That marriage afforded her a degree of protection for the time being.
At the latest, Katharina Leipelt probably realized just how great the threat was when her brother Otto committed suicide on 15 Apr. 1938 – shortly after the Wehrmacht had marched into Vienna. He took his life following interrogation by the Gestapo, leaving his wife and 15-year-old daughter Christine behind penniless. Soon afterwards, Katharina Leipelt took in her niece, also fetching her 73-year-old mother, Hermine Baron, by then widowed, to Harburg. She hoped that her mother was less at risk there than in Czechoslovakia, where she had fled from Vienna after her son’s suicide, without suspecting that in Mar. 1939, Hitler would incorporate this country, too, into his sphere of control.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Hans Leipelt completed his labor service on the Siegfried Line (the Westwall), subsequently volunteering for military service. As an infantryman, he fought in the campaigns in Poland and half a year later in France. In June 1940, he was decorated for distinguished military service with the Iron Cross Second Class.
Soon after conclusion of the armistice with France, he was discharged dishonorably from the Wehrmacht in Aug. 1940 for being a "half-Jew.” Thanks to his influential father, he was able to begin studying Chemistry in Hamburg in the winter of 1940/41, something he would have had to cease one year later, if he had not been fortunate enough to be allowed to continue his studies at the Institute of Chemistry of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich under the supervision of the renowned Nobel Prize winner Prof. Heinrich Wieland. This was also the place where Marie-Luise Jahn from Sandlack near Bartenstein in East Prussia (today: Poland) studied, to whom he soon felt closely connected.
The summer of 1942 saw further dramatic changes in the lives of the Leipelt family. Based on a new decree by the Reich Ministry of Science, Education, and Culture (Reichsministerium für Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung) dated 2 July 1942, Maria Leipelt, as a "half-Jew (jüdischer Mischling) of the 1st degree,” had to leave the senior grades of the public Elise-Averdieck School that she was attending by then to obtain her high school graduation diploma.
Soon thereafter, Hermine Baron received the "evacuation order” for her "resettlement” to the "ghetto for the elderly,” i.e. Theresienstadt, on 19 July 1942. On the eve of being transported off, she said goodbye to her Viennese daughter-in-law in a farewell letter.
These were Hermine Baron’s last lines received by the family. The large-scale Transport VI/2 that brought her to Theresienstadt was comprised of 771 persons from Hamburg and other towns in North Germany. Among them were mainly Jews with their families older than 65 years and not living in a "mixed marriage,” as well as frail, highly decorated, and prominent Jews with their wives and children under 14 years of age.
Only few survived the indescribable suffering that followed. Hermine Baron was not among them. She spent another six months in this "waiting room of death” before she closed her eyes forever on 22 Jan. 1943, without her family ever finding out about it.
Friends of the family later reported that Hans Leipelt and the rest of the family suffered unspeakably due to this painful separation and the subsequent uncertainty. Not least of all, Hans Leipelt reportedly became much more reserved and even more pensive. No sooner than regaining a modicum of stability, the family was shaken by bad news yet again. On 23 Sept. 1942, Konrad Leipelt died of cardiac arrest during a stay at the Bad Kissingen health resort, a completely unexpected event that threw the surviving dependants into deep grief and despair. To his wife and their two children, this death not only meant the loss of the husband and father, respectively, but also the imminent end to many special provisions in effect for Jews living in "mixed marriages” and their children. Shortly afterwards, Katharina Leipelt received the order to report for forced labor at an animal feeds company on Moorburger Straße in Harburg.
In emotional turmoil and deeply outraged, Hans Leipelt returned to the Chemical Institute at the University of Munich in the fall of 1942 after the university vacation. Increasingly, he got to appreciate the open-minded atmosphere prevailing there, which permitted students considerable freedom to engage in conversations critical of the regime, provided they took the appropriate precautions. The young academics owed this above all to Prof. Heinrich Wieland’s courageous stance. He tolerated no ideological exertion of influence and risked a lot when deciding to ignore the regulations in effect by enabling Hans Leipelt and numerous so-called "half-Jews” ("Halbjuden”), who were listed as "guest scholars” of the Institute, to continue their studies.
It was also in this positive environment that Hans Leipelt’s friendship with Marie-Luise Jahn grew, who shared his liking of contemporary art, music, and literature. Their discussions were not limited, however, to cultural topics. Repeatedly, the talks dealt with political questions. In these conversations, Hans Leipelt’s friend felt very clearly "his great hurt because of the humiliations and discriminations by the Nazi racial policies. This marginalization cut him to the core, and his mood constantly shifted between powerless rage and aggressiveness toward the misanthropic ideology and politics of the Nazi regime.”
One morning on Feb. 1943, Hans Leipelt found a leaflet addressed to Munich university students (6th leaflet of the "White Rose”) in his mail. He took it to the lab and showed it to Marie-Luise Jahn. Even 60 years later, she still recalls this moment very well: "Together, we read the leaflet, astonished that someone had had the courage to write what we were thinking as well but what would never have dared to write. We were impressed.” Both did not know who was responsible for the content. Only when the Scholl siblings and Christoph Probst were arrested on 18 Feb. 1943 and sentenced to death four days later by the First Division of the "People’s Court” ("Volksgerichtshof”) presided over by Roland Freisler, did they learn who had circulated this call for resistance.
Marie-Luise Jahn described their reaction in retrospect: "We had the leaflet but those who had authored it had been executed by the Nazis. Who would open people’s eyes now? Who would now tell the truth about the criminal regime? Those who had dared it were no longer alive. But we had the leaflet. What were we to do? We knew it. Quite spontaneously, we made the decision: We must continue. We did not think about the danger.”
No sooner said than done. Hans Leipelt and Marie-Luise Jahn copied the 6th leaflet of the "White Rose” by means of a portable typewriter, appending to each copy the addition "And their spirit lives on!” before handing out this appeal to close acquaintances. In addition, they began collecting among their friends for Clara Huber. Her husband, Prof. Kurt Huber, author of the last leaflet by the group around Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell, had been arrested in the meantime as well. As a result, the University of Munich had dismissed him immediately, at the same time revoking all of his pension claims.
When Hans Leipelt and Marie-Luise Jahn traveled to Hamburg during their Easter break in 1943, they carried in their luggage, among other things, the 6th leaflet of the "White Rose.” Among Hans Leipelt’s Hamburg friends, too, lively discussion took place about the appeal and concrete possibilities of supporting him/them through initiatives of their own. Several Hamburg companions joined the assistance campaign for the Huber family.
In Oct. 1943, Hans Leipelt and Marie-Luise Jahn were arrested because of a denunciation. Additional arrests among their friends followed in Hamburg and Munich, arrests that Katharina Leipelt and her daughter did not escape either. Maria Leipelt was taken away by the Gestapo on 9 Nov. 1943, her mother four weeks later on 7 Dec. 1943. Both women were committed to the Fuhlsbüttel police prison.
As a "Jewess,” Katharina Leipelt did not have any chance of getting a court trial. As early as the fall of 1942, Heinrich Himmler had issued orders to "clean” all German prisons and penitentiaries of Jews and to transfer them to the Auschwitz extermination camp. In the face of this hopeless situation, Katharina Leipelt took her own life in her prison cell on 9 Dec. 1943. Her household effects were sold off in public auction, yielding proceeds of 13,214.70 RM (reichsmark) to the benefit of the Reich.
The charges against Hans Leipelt, Marie-Luise Jahn, and seven additional friends from Munich were "preparation of high treason in coincidence with aiding the enemy and broadcast crimes.” The trial before the Second Division of the "People’s Court” took place in Donauwörth on 13 Oct. 1944. Hans Leipelt was sentenced to death and Marie-Luise Jahn to 12 years imprisonment, after her friend had assumed the entire responsibility shortly before at the trial in order to exonerate her in this way.
In the months that followed, Hans Leipelt arrived in the course of lengthy conversations with the Protestant prison chaplain Karl Alt at a firm Christian faith. In farewell letters to his sister Maria and his friend Marie-Luise Jahn, both of whom survived the Second World War, this inner transformation is clearly discernible:
"Hans K. Leipelt prisoner. – B – no. 1947 Munich, 29 Jan. 1945,
Dear little sister, this very moment, as it were, I let go of a card (and a letter, respectively), the first to the address in Cottbus, which I found out only last week – and today my execution will take place. I know what great pain this message – if you receive it at all in the current transport situation and the current state of the war – will cause you. It will make you feel the utter helplessness and desertedness of your present position even stronger, since now the last person really close to you will be taken away from you, the person – even though now just as helpless as you – who would nevertheless have been able to provide you with any sort of help after the war within his power, who would have tried through a life full of constant love and to the extent possible to make up for part of what you had to endure because of him and for his sake. And yet, dearest, you will not be left behind alone. Apart from the fact that I know good people you will do anything in their power after the war to find you and secure your livelihood, you are left in God’s hands, where I leave you confidently – after all, he holds us all in his hands, protecting and preserving us, and wherever he may seem to deny us this protection, this preservation, even that, and that in particular must nevertheless serve toward our best. This trust in him we may have, nay, we must have, even though we may not at times understand his ways or find them harsh. I would ask you, and I will pray in these last hours for it on your behalf that you may keep this trust in God your entire life. Do not be sad for my sake if you can, and do not worry at any rate. I feel in the truest sense of the word divine serenity in me, and I die without fear in the hope of God’s forgiveness, of which I am, however, sorely in need, considering the severe ways in which I have sinned against him, our dear Mom, you, and Eileen [Marie-Luise Jahn] – not to mention other dear ones. The Protestant institutional priest, Dr. Alt, will administer Communion to me. In closing, I will ask you, too, that you may forgive my frequent lack of loving toward you, my egoism, and above all my boundless lack of self-control through which I have brought disaster upon you. Farewell, my dear one. Once again, I commend you to God’s hand. I know we will see each other again.
Your loving brother Hans.”
Hans Leipelt died on 29 Jan. 1945 on the same scaffold in the Munich-Stadelheim prison on which the Scholl siblings and other members of the "White Rose” had been executed before him.
In the post-war years, two streets were named after him in Munich and Hamburg. His name can also be found on the commemorative plaques located in the atrium of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich and in the entrance hall of the main auditorium at the University of Hamburg. In 1995, the Staatliche Fachoberschule (a specialized upper secondary school) in Donauwörth received the byname "Hans-Leipelt Schule,” and since July 2000, a seminar room in the new building of the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy in Munich is named after Hans Leipelt. Three Stolpersteine were set for Hans Leipelt , the third one on 22 Apr. 2010 in front of the main building of the University of Hamburg at Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1.
Moreover, numerous commemorative plaques keep the memory of Hans Leipelt alive: at the entrance of the Stadtteilschule ["district school”] Wilhelmsburg at Rotenhäuser Straße 67 in Wilhelmsburg, on the former residential building of the Leipelt family at Vogteistraße 23 in Rönneburg, on the city hall of Harburg, on the "White Rose” Memorial Hamburg-Volksdorf and on the building of the former bookstore Anneliese Tuchel in Hamburg’s city center at Jungfernstieg 50, which was the meeting point at the time of the Hamburg branch of the "White Rose.” They also commemorate the fate of his mother.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Klaus Möller
Quellen: 1; 2 (V 1/184); 4; 5; 8; Heyl (Hrsg.): Harburger Opfer; StaH 351-11, AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 131225 Bade-Leipelt, Maria; Heyl, Synagoge; Diercks, Gedenkbuch ,Kola-Fu‘; diverse Gespräche des Verfassers mit Marie-Luise Schultze-Jahn, Maria Bade-Leipelt und Christine Croy, geb. Baron.
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