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Dr. Gertrud (Gertie) Meier-Ahrens (née Ahrens) * 1894
Hallerplatz 13 (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)
Gertrud Meier-Ahrens, née Ahrens, born on 4 Aug. 1894 in Dömitz/Ludwigslust, deported on 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, deported further to Auschwitz on 9 Oct. 1944, murdered there
Gertrud Ahrens’ father, the merchant Otto Ahrens, born on 29 July 1860 in Sternberg, was the son of the umbrella manufacturer Selig Ahrens and his wife Caroline, née Daniel. On 1 Oct. 1885, he married at the Dömitz registration office Emma Wolffenstein, born on 7 Dec. 1861, the daughter of the merchant Joseph Wolffenstein and his wife Sara, née Würzburg. Both were – according to the entry of the registration office – of the Israelite religion. The witnesses to the marriage were the merchants Wilhelm Wolff and Leopold Wolffenstein, a resident of London. On 3 July 1886, Emma Ahrens gave birth to their first son. Some three weeks after his birth, on 27 July, he was given the first name of Willy. On 26 Feb. 1888, the second son, Hans, was born, also in Dömitz. Gertrud was the only daughter of the Ahrens couple. She was born six years after her brother Hans. The couple’s youngest son, Walter, born on 27 Feb. 1897, only reached the age of just under two years. He died on 18 Dec. 1898.
Nearly 30 years old, Gertie Ahrens summed up her life to date in the following words: "I was born on 4 Aug. 1894 in Dömitz/Elbe as the daughter of the merchant Otto Ahrens. I attended the ten-grade secondary girls’ school in Ludwigslust and I was prepared in a private study group in Hamburg for the high-school graduating exam (Abiturium). In Sept. 1917, I passed that exam at the Realgymnasium [translator’s note: a high school focused on science, math, and modern languages] of the St. Johannis Convent in Hamburg. I studied in Berlin and Tübingen, passing the preliminary medical examination in Berlin in May 1920. During the internship semesters, I studied in Berlin and Freiburg. On 20 Dec. 1922, I passed the state examination in Berlin. Since 1 Feb. 1923, I have been working at the ward of Privy Councilor Dr. Goldscheider at the Men’s Polyclinic.” On 15 May 1924, she submitted her inaugural dissertation for obtaining her doctorate at the Friedrich Wilhelm-University in Berlin entitled "On the excretion of bismuth in urine” (Über die Ausscheidung von Wismut im Urin) – which contained the résumé quoted above. She dedicated the doctoral thesis to the memory of her father.
The Men’s Polyclinic, where Gertie Ahrens worked since 1923, was part of the III. Medical Clinic of Berlin University, whose medical directorship Alfred Goldscheider had taken over in 1910 – at a time it was still called Poliklinisches Institut. His focus was neurology but he also worked on other areas of internal medicine. Among other things, he made efforts toward physical therapy, joining Paul Jacob in editing a manual. Cooperating with Ernst von Leyden, he founded the Zeitschrift für physikalische und diätetische Therapie ("Magazine for physical and dietetic therapy"). In 1926, emeritus status was conferred on Goldscheider.
Two years prior, on 1 Feb. 1924, Gertie Ahrens was granted her license to practice medicine in Berlin. In Aug. 1924, she set herself up as a "general practitioner” – as indicated on her Reich Physicians’ file card of the Reich Physicians’ Chamber (Reichsärztekammer – RÄK). By 1926 at the latest, she had a medical practice in Berlin-Halensee, at Paulsborner Strasse 7. As a qualified Mensendieck instructor, she occupied herself with exercises for babies and nerve point massage. In 1927, when she had already had "long-standing experience as a gymnastics teacher,” she wrote an essay "On the foundations of the Mensendieck system” ("Über die Grundlagen des Mensendieck-Systems”) that was published in the Vierteljahrsschrift Deutscher Ärztinnen, the quarterly of German female physicians. Gertrud Ahrens was a member of the League of German Female Physicians (Bund Deutscher Ärztinnen), in whose newsletter her article appeared as the first in a series of publications on the topic of "Suitability of gymnastic systems for cultivating the female body” ("Eignung der gymnastischen Systeme für die Körperausbildung der Frau”).
According to Ahrens, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Mrs. Bess Mensendieck was encouraged "by the study of ancient works of art to devise a series of exercises to give back to the neglected, flaccid female body the elasticity and vigor necessary to be able to cope with her task as a mother and the increased work demands in the struggle for existence.” She quoted the comment of a student to describe the characteristic feelings after the exercise classes – fresh, light, elated: "I feel so light as if I could fly.” Another effect of these gymnastics, she added, was that "the feeling of control over the muscles and the scope of movement [made you] happy and secure.” According to Gertie Ahrens, with increasing "mastery of the external alignment,” it was also possible to master bad character traits. She described the influence of bodywork on the psyche as follows: "The harmonious shaping of the body does not fail to have its effect on the psyche as well, educating cheerful, balanced humans resting in themselves and in their strength.” Those doing the exercises had no clothes on or, respectively, were wearing only a "triangle [of cloth] to cover the pubes” called "artist’s panties” in order that "the back, upper thighs, and a considerable part of the buttocks [were] accessible for observation.” Training took about a year and a half.
Until 1931, Gertie Ahrens was listed in the Reichsmedizinalkalender (RMK – Reich Medical Directory) under her Halensee address. The 1932 supplement indicated her relocation to Neustadt-Glewe. Gertie Meier-Ahrens, by then married, practiced at Ludwigsluster Strasse 22. Her husband, Karl Meier, born in 1884, was classified by the Reich Physicians’ Chamber as having German blood ("deutschblütig”) and by the German-Israelitic Community as an "Aryan.” She stayed in Neustadt-Glewe at least until 1933. In July of that year, her license to practice as a statutory health insurance physician was revoked – as happened to most other Jewish doctors. By 1935 at the latest, Dr. Meier-Ahrens moved to Hamburg, where she initially operated a practice at Gneisenaustrasse 5. The 1937 Reichsmedizinalkalender lists the practice of Gertie Meier as located at Eppendorfer Baum 11 in Hamburg 20. By that time, a colon in front of her entry and the entries of other Jewish physicians pointed to the fact that the Reich Physicians’ Leader, Dr. Gerhard Wagner, deemed the "labeling of physicians who are Jewish in accordance with the Nuremberg Laws” to be "an imperative addition.”
In the foreword to the 1937 edition of the RMK, the positions and achievements of Wagner are listed: "The assumption of leadership over the voluntary physicians’ associations by the representative of the deputy Führer, the Reich Physicians’ Leader Dr. Wagner, who at the same time is department head of the Main Office for People’s Health within the Reich Leadership of the NSDAP, head of the National Socialist Physicians’ League and of the Experts’ Advisory Committee for People’s Health, already prepared the ground for the Reich Physicians’ Regulations passed in 1935 that implemented the integration of German medical professionals into the National Socialist state.”
By 1936 at the latest, Dr. Meier paid dues to the Hamburg RÄK. The payments ceased in 1938. The Fourth Ordinance to the Reich Citizenship Law (Vierte Verordnung zum Reichsbürgergesetz) dated 25 July 1938 stipulated, among other things: "Sec. 1 Appointments (licenses to practice medicine) of Jewish physicians lapse effective 30 Sept. 1938.” The revocation of medical licenses is also documented on Meier’s file card kept by the RÄK. Her "foregoing the practice of the medical profession” was considered "temporary” in this document. Incidentally, from this card also emerges that she did not have any children.
On 14 Jan. 1937, Dr. Gertrud Meier-Ahrens had joined the German-Israelitic Community in Hamburg. Under the heading of "company and trade,” she was listed as a physician and owner of a guesthouse. By 1938 at the latest, the RÄK also provided reference to her sideline. "Hd. of a medical guesthouse.” Whereas she was not assessed for Jewish religious tax (Kultussteuer) for the years 1937 until 1939, she paid rising contributions to the Jewish Community between 1940 and 1942, ranging from 40 RM (reichsmark) to 181 RM a year. This suggests that – despite the fact that she was no longer allowed to practice as a medical doctor – she had considerable revenues. On her Jewish religious tax file card, Grindelhof 101 was listed as her business address. As the corresponding entries indicate, she resided in homes at Eppendorfer Baum 11 and, since 1939, at Oderfelderstrasse 42.
Like all Jewish women, she was forced to assume and notify the authorities of the compulsory added first name of Sara. On 6 Jan. 1939, the registration office of the fortress town of Dömitz documented the following: "In accordance with Sec. 2 Par. 2 of the Second Decree regarding the Implementation of the Legislation on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names [§ 2 Absatz 2 der zweiten Verordnung zur Durchführung des Gesetzes über die Änderung von Familien- und Vornamen] dated 18 Aug. 1938 (RGBl. [Reich Law Gazette] I, p. 1044, the person referred to here, Gertrud Ahrens, has given written notice of bearing the additional first name of ‘Sara.’”
By 30 May at the latest, the Jewish physician Dr. Max Israel Levor lived as a subtenant with Gertie Meier-Ahrens. He wanted to emigrate and applied to the foreign currency office of the Hamburg Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) that he be allowed to take along his Steinway grand piano. He intended to go to "England and from there probably to the United States of North America later.” He stayed in Oderfelderstrasse for only a few months; by 19 Jan. 1940, he had succeeded in emigrating to London.
Gertie Meier-Ahrens also taught massage courses. Paula Sara Boas, a Jewish woman born in 1897, participated at least in one such course between Nov. 1939 and Feb. 1940 in order to prepare for emigration. On a monthly basis, she applied to the foreign currency office of the Hamburg Chief Finance Administrator for "the unblocking of sums secured in accordance with Sec. 59 of the foreign currency law” in order to effect the transfer of 60 RM in each instance to be credited from her "security account with limited availability” to the payee Dr. Meier-Ahrens. The payments were approved.
In 1940, her husband Karl passed away. As a widow having lived in a privileged mixed marriage ("privilegierte Mischehe”), Gertie Meier received the deportation order to the "preferential camp” ("Vorzugslager”) of Theresienstadt. Before being forced to leave Hamburg, she lived at Grindelhof 101 – as indicated by the deportation list for 19 July 1942. The lot on which this house was located was in the ownership of the Jewish Community. At least in 1942, the building accommodated a retirement home.
The Nazi state appropriated her last belongings. On 4 Nov. 1942, the asset management office of the Chief Finance Administrator commissioned the court bailiff’s office with auctioning off the apartment furnishings of "Dr. Meier, Gertie Sara, née Ahrens.” The list of auctioned items points less to apartment furnishings and more to the fittings and furnishings of a practice. The items offered for auctioning included sofas, chairs, tables, drawers, a desk, leather armchairs, mirrors, a coat rack, chaise longues, wall clocks, and paintings.
Gertie Meier was taken on Transport VI/2 from Hamburg to Terezin (Theresienstadt), where she arrived on 20 July 1942. Apparently, she worked there as a physician, as documented, for instance, by her signature on the death notice of the deceased Berlijn Fuldauer, the inspection of whose corpse she had carried out. On 9 Oct. 1944, the 50-year-old woman was deported further to the Auschwitz extermination camp and murdered there.
I received important references and sources from Sabine Brunotte, Jutta Buchin, Prof. Dr. Anna Hàjkovà, Dr. Beate Meyer, and Dr. Anna v. Villiez. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to them.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: October 2017
© Christiane Jungblut, Juli 2009/2014
Quellen: Archiv der Ärztekammer Hamburg, Karteikarte der Reichsärztekartei der Reichsärztekammer (RÄK); Bundesarchiv Berlin, Reichsarztregister der Kassenärztlichen Vereinigung (DVD-Datensatz); Bundesarchiv Berlin, R 1509 Reichssippenamt, Ergänzungskarten der Volkszählung vom 17. Mai 1939; Standesamt Dömitz, Geburts- und Eheschließungseinträge; Staatsarchiv Hamburg 214-1 Gerichtsvollzieherwesen, 494; Staatsarchiv Hamburg 314-15 Oberfinanzpräsident, FVg 5506; Staatsarchiv Hamburg 314-15 Oberfinanzpräsident, R39/2698; Staatsarchiv Hamburg 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden, 992 b Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeinde; Staatsarchiv Hamburg 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden, 992 e 2 Band 5; Staatsarchiv Hamburg 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinden, 992 n; Nationalarchiv Prag/Institut Theresienstädter Initiative, Todesfallanzeige Berlijn Fuldauer.
Ahrens, Gertie, Über die Ausscheidung von Wismut im Urin. Med. Diss. v. 15. Mai 1924, Berlin 1924; Ahrens, Gertie, Über die Grundlagen des Mensendieck-Systems. In: Vierteljahresschrift des Bundes deutscher Ärztinnen 3 (1927), S. 82–86; documentArchiv.de: http://www.documentarchiv.de/ns/1938/reichsbuergergesetz_vo04.html (1.7.2009); Gedenkbuch. Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der Nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland 1933–1945: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/gedenkbuch/; Mensendieck, Bess, Bewegungsprobleme. Die Gestaltung schöner Arme, München 1927; Mensendieck, Bess, Körperkultur der Frau. Praktisch hygienische und praktisch ästhetische Winke, München 1925; Reichsmedizinalkalender für die Jahre 1926 bis 1937; Wolff, Horst-Peter/Gerhard Fürstler, Biographisches Lexikon zur Pflegegeschichte. "Who was who in nursing history" Band 3, München 2004; Yad Vashem, The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names: http://www.yadvashem.org/wps/portal/IY_HON_Welcome (eingesehen am 20.03.2009).