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© Esther Bauer, geb. Jonas
Dr. Alberto Jonas * 1889
Woldsenweg 5 (Hamburg-Nord, Eppendorf)
ermordet am 29.8.1942
Dr. Marie Anna Jonas, née Levinsohn, born on 12 Jan. 1893, deported on 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, murdered in the fall of 1944 in Auschwitz
Dr. Alberto Jonas, born on 19 Feb. 1889, deported on 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died there on 29 Aug. 1942
They had met on a train trip to Bad Harzburg, 34-year old Dr. Alberto Jonas, senior teacher at the Hamburg the Talmud Tora Realschule, an educational institution for Jewish boys steeped in tradition, and the medical doctor, four years his junior, "Miss Levinsohn” from Königsberg (today Kaliningrad in Russia). They were married in 1923, initially living at Grindelallee 12.
Marie Anna Jonas was a native of Fischhausen in East Prussia, where her father had operated a pharmacy. In 1895, the liberal-Jewish family moved to Königsberg. Orphaned at the age of 15, Marie Anna Jonas first completed training to become a teacher. When she was 18 years old, she passed the corresponding exam, and then spent two years in Britain and France for further qualification. Together with her sister, she worked as a Red Cross nurse in World War I. Her journey through life over the following years demonstrated a great deal of assertiveness: Even during the war, she began preparing for the high school leaving exam (Abitur), which she passed in 1919, by then aged 26. She studied medicine at the University of Königsberg, something still quite unusual for women at the time. She obtained her doctorate in 1922 by submitting a thesis on complications associated with suppurative inflammation of the middle ear, receiving her license to practice medicine in 1923, the year of her marriage. She was very proud of her career history, attaching importance to the fact that the designation of "Dr. Jonas” ("Frau Dr. Jonas”) was the result of her own efforts and not acquired by getting married.
Her husband, born in Dortmund and raised in Breslau (today Wroclaw in Poland), a classical scholar, had submitted his doctoral thesis entitled De ratione quae inter Josephum et litteras rabinicas intercedit to the University of Breslau in 1915, passing the state exam for a teaching post at secondary schools that qualified him to teach Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He had acquired his first job experience as a teacher in Halberstadt and Leipzig, before being posted in Hamburg in 1922. In 1924, he was appointed principal of the Israelite Girls’ School on Carolinenstrasse, where his wife took up the position of school physician. The same year, their only child, Esther, was born. In 1925, the family moved to Woldsenweg 5 in Eppendorf.
"In my opinion, they did not suit each other at all,” daughter Esther Bauer remembered her parents, "but they seemed to be quite happy together. My father was a strict and very devout Jew, whereas my mother had no clue about Judaism … My father tried to teach her Hebrew and explain to her how to pray in the synagogue, but I think she was not interested whatsoever.” Her father attached great importance to keeping the Sabbath rest, and on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, he went to his "Minyan” just around the corner, at Oderfelder Strasse, to pray. Her mother also lived her Judaism, very actively in fact, but entirely differently. Having experienced anti-Semitism even as a Red Cross nurse, she had become a Zionist. Whereas he vehemently rejected any internal Jewish-political positioning, she, according to Esther Bauer, joined the WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) and ran successfully for election as group chairwoman. The Israelitische Familienblatt listed her (in Oct. 1938) even as board member of the Hamburg Zionist local committee (Zionistischer Orstverband).
Esther Bauer recalls her mother as being very loving, tender, and humorous, someone who stayed home when the daughter was sick, even though there was a nanny. "Gentle Miechen” she was called by her husband. Anni, the nanny, practically belonged to the family: "Once, when I was still quite small, we travelled to the Island of Norderney. My mother always crocheted gloves, the white kind for summer use. This time, she was crocheting egg-cozies. I wanted to do that, too. My Anni, our nanny, was also on the trip. So the two showed me how to crochet, and instead of an egg-cozy, mine turned out to be a thimble! Mum and Anni killed themselves laughing!” Marie Anna Jonas managed a modern household with an electric fridge, steam iron, and a zigzag sewing machine. On a regular basis, guests would call, physicians, also teachers of the Israelite Girls’ School. The family attended concerts, went to the theater and the opera.
Alberto Jonas was a committed and prudent head of the Israelite Girls’ School, initiating organizational and pedagogic restructuring that had become necessary to meet the demands of modern education for girls. At his school, he was very popular (nickname "Jonni”), and he also taught himself, Hebrew, history, and German. He opposed enrolling Jewish children in the public municipal educational institutions, a practice that was usual in general. "It is not right to say my child can and shall absorb world culture like any other child and be introduced to Judaism in special classes. … Only the concurrent and consistent imparting of both worlds of ideas creates consistent education and forms consistent character,” he wrote in the community newsletter of the German-Israelitic Community in 1930. Applying a wealth of ideas and great negotiating skills, he succeeded in having the school recognized as a Realschule [a practice-oriented secondary school up to grade 10].
Together, the Jonas couple worked at the Israelite Girls’ School until 1932. They also enrolled their daughter Esther there, which she did not like at all due to the prominent presence of her parents. Marie Anna Jonas then lost her job as the school physician: Because of the economic crisis and widespread unemployment, it was possible to dismiss women from civil service jobs if the husband secured the family income. After this, she practiced her job in an honorary capacity, first at Eppendorf University Hospital, then at the Israelite Hospital on Simon-von-Utrecht-Strasse. In 1938, when Jewish physicians were stripped of their licenses to practice medicine, the worked as a home nurse, providing care particularly at night for elderly persons in their apartments.
Alberto Jonas had always regarded Jewish schools as sheltering spaces for Jewish children, in 1930 describing them in the community newsletter as places granting "undisturbed development, … cheerfulness and joy, ease and a zest for living.” When Nazis assumed power, the situation for Jewish children at public schools became increasingly unbearable; many Jewish parents transferred their children. This development was in the interest of the authorities, who allowed Jewish schools to continue working relatively undisturbed during the early years. An official letter dating from 1934 stated that the Jewish educational institutions "[relieved] the public schools from Jewish elements,” which "corresponded to the basic tendency of the National Socialist state.”
Far earlier than her husband, Marie Anna Jonas recognized the dangers of National Socialism, even if she was awarded the "honor cross” for her work as a Red Cross nurse as late as 1934. She pushed toward leaving Germany, wishing to go to Palestine, something out of the question for him. She taught biology and hygienics in the classrooms of the Israelite Girls’ School. Her male and female students were adolescent participants of vocational courses toward preparing for emigration.
Their number included daughter Esther, who had also considered emigration to Palestine, without her parents, just with other adolescents, in the context of a "hachshara.” This did not happen because she fell ill, with inflammation of the middle ear. Perhaps, she thinks today, her father would have assessed the situation differently at the time, had he been treated less respectfully during his weekly summons to the Gestapo, and perhaps that would have been the case as well if he had been arrested, like many other Jewish men, in the course of the Pogrom of November 1938. He got away though, hidden by the family of a female teacher of his school who was a Czechoslovakian citizen. When an application for an exit visa to the USA was filed at last, it was far too late.
Alberto Jonas accompanied children transports (Kindertransporte) to Britain, always returning home on time, concerned about his family. He would not allow his daughter Esther to go along. In the spring of 1940, he, the principal of the Jewish schools merged by then, was prohibited from emigrating, far before the general ban on emigration in the fall of 1941. In the spring of 1942, the Jonas family had to leave the apartment at Woldsenweg 5 and move into a room in a "Jews’ house” ("Judenhaus”) at Laufgraben 37. Marie Anna Jonas succeeded in handling everyday life, she managed to light the stove and provide for her family somehow. "What my mother cooked – I have no idea!” recalled Esther Bauer. "My father came home making a face every day.”
On four large-scale transports, most of the Hamburg Jews remaining had been deported. Only about 100 Jewish schoolboys and schoolgirls were left in Hamburg, taught in the rooms of the school building at Carolinenstrasse 35 in the care of Alberto Jonas. The school authority was already busy planning other uses for the rooms, for instance, the gym. As late as Mar. 1942, Alberto Jonas addressed a letter to the school administration: "In contrast to students from public schools, Jewish children are unable to do physical exercises in buildings at the disposal of publicly educated youths. If gymnastics and physical education were to be stopped altogether, serious harm to Jewish children’s health is to be feared.” Seven weeks later, the keys of the building at Carolinenstrassee 35 were handed over to the school administration. Until the complete ban on teaching Jewish children on 30 June 1942, classes continued in the boys’ orphanage on Papendamm.
When the deportation order arrived, Marie Anna Jonas also packed, in addition to books and canned food, a sewing machine, which subsequently disappeared from the box. Even at the train station just prior to departure, Alberto Jonas was assured by the head of the "Jewish Affairs Department” ("Judendezernat”) of the Hamburg Gestapo headquarters, Claus Göttsche, that in Theresienstadt, he would be principal of a school again. Instead, he was forced to shovel coal. Not used to heavy physical labor, he perished not even six weeks after arriving in the ghetto. Marie Anna Jonas worked as a physician. "She had hardly any medications but was able to say something nice to people and … [to be] kind to them,” Esther Bauer remembers. In early Oct. 1944, she tried in vain to dissuade Esther, who had married in Theresienstadt, from traveling after her husband to what was supposedly a labor camp. It was a transport to Auschwitz. Esther survived; Marie Anna Jonas was deported shortly afterward to Auschwitz and murdered.
The building at Carolinenstrasse 35 was renamed after Alberto Jonas in 1998, a square in Eppendorf after Marie Anna Jonas in 2009.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: October 2016
© Erika Hirsch
Quellen: Hirsch, Jonas, in: Das Jüdische Hamburg, 2006, S. 129; Randt, Carolinenstraße 35, 1996, S. 48ff., 90ff.; Sabine Brunotte: Rede anlässlich der Benennung des Marie-Jonas-Platzes in Hamburg-Eppendorf am 18.2.2009; Hirsch, Esther leben, 2006; Hirsch, Stolpersteine am Woldsenweg 5, in: Scherben bringen Unglück, 2008, S. 17f.; Randt, Die Talmud Tora Schule, 2005, S. 180ff., 248f.; Briefe an Mirjam Friedfertig von ihren Klassenkameradinnen, Privatarchiv Steffi Wittenberg (Brief v. 4.12.1938); Mündliche Auskünfte von Esther Bauer.
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