Jan 2008 Journal

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Book review: The standard text for the history of Pankow Jewry


by Inge Lammel
ed. by Forderverein ehemaliges Jüdisches Waisenhaus Pankow
e.V., die Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes und den Bund
der Antifaschisten Pankow e.V.
Teetz/Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich, 2007, 397pp. paper, ISNB 078-3-938485-53-8, 24.80 euros

This book, by the historian Inge Lammel, to which a number of others have also contributed, provides a vivid and poignant, as well as a detailed and well-illustrated, description of the life and fate of Jews in these two adjacent suburbs of Berlin. An amalgam of two earlier books, it has been amended, enlarged and brought up to date.

Inge Lammel came to Britain in 1939 on a Kindertransport, and returned to Berlin in 1947 to study Musikwissenschaft at Humboldt-Universität. She has lived in Pankow, which used to be in the DDR, ever since. She established and directed the Archive for Workers’ Songs at the Academy of the Arts, played a prominent role in Pankow’s anti-fascist organisation, and has published a number of books, most of them concerned with Jewish life in Pankow.

Pankow remains home to an unusually large number of doctors, artists and intellectuals, and it is hardly surprising that before the Second World War they should have included a great many Jews. It is thanks largely to Inge Lammel’s careful and persistent research and the resulting books that the life and fate of many of the Jews of Pankow have been remembered and cherished. This book is the culmination of these endeavours. It will be of interest not only to Berliners or ex-Berliners but to anyone with an interest in German-Jewish life. In his introduction, Dr H. Simon describes the book, which is written in lucid German, as the standard text for the history of Pankower Jewry.

The book does indeed cover much ground and the reader is treated to a kaleidoscope of fascinating and not always well-known facts. Jews settled in Pankow, which was still a village in the seventeenth century, relatively late, mainly in the second half of the nineteenth century. An exception was one Daniel Itzig, who was banker to Frederick II and was rewarded for services rendered with permission to establish a business in Pankow in 1761. By 1910 the Jewish population numbered 1,100 and prominent buildings included a brewery, the Garbaty cigarette factory, and the Jewish Boys’ orphanage. The large building of the orphanage survived the war, was totally renovated some ten years ago by the Cajewitz Foundation (director and moving spirit: Professor P-A Albrecht) and is, astonishingly, still known as ‘the former Jewish orphanage’.

One learns a lot about a wide variety of small Jewish businesses and prominent lawyers and artists, and there are biographical sketches of a number of individuals, from the painter Doris Kahane, who survived in France and internment in the Drancy detention centre in Paris, to the jazz trumpeter and band leader Sigmund Petruschka-Friedmann, who emigrated to Palestine in 1938. One will find a list of doctors, with their Pankow addresses, and a minimal estimate of the number of Pankow Jews who perished (at least 600) in the Holocaust or survived it (some 60), with another 40 who survived underground and 80 who were protected by virtue of being only partly Jewish. A significant chapter is devoted to the religious life of the Jewish community and its synagogues, including the Betsaal of the Boys’ orphanage (in which I had my barmitzvah in 1938), and to the Jewish schools and other institutions.

Part 11 of the book describes in great detail the life and fate of a number of families, the information having been gleaned from diaries and painstaking interviews. As well as telling us about the carefree years of family life before 1933, they inevitably include heart-rending accounts of survival in concentration camps and in other dire circumstances and of the fragmentation of families. One such account is that of the Jedwab family, of which David (a prominent member of the AJR’s Kindertransport special interest group until his death a few years ago) was a contemporary and on whose recollections this account (‘Reise in die Vergangenheit des David Jedwab’) is based. It is all very poignant, for example the account of the Jany family (‘von den Nachbarn geachtet, von den Nazis zerstört’ (respected by the neighbours, destroyed by the Nazis)): the title and the family photograph say it all. What is clear is that the Jews of Pankow had a great variety of professions and skills and that some were lucky, whilst others paid the ultimate price for their Jewishness.

In Part 111 Inge Lammel reviews the impact Nazi Germany had on German Jews, from the organised boycott on 1 April (!) 1933 of Jewish shops, doctors and lawyers to a succession of laws curbing the freedom of Jews, preventing professionals from practising, to the book-burning on 10 May 1933 and the Nurenberg laws that gave the persecution some sort of ‘legality’. This inevitably led to the forcible acquisition of the property of Jews in Pankow (and elsewhere), the creation of ‘Judenhäuser’ following Kristallnacht, the ‘cleansing’ of schools of Jewish children, and, with relentless inevitability, to the deportations and killings. Once again, Inge Lammel documents all this with names and other details.

Other chapters consist of eye-witness accounts of Pankow Jews who survived and of non-Jews who risked their lives hiding or protecting friends and neighbours. Included here is the extraordinary story of the Pankow policeman, one Wilhelm Krützfeld, who heroically prevented the Nazis from burning down the synagogue in Oranienburgerstrasse, an action in which he was supported by his superior officer Willi Steuck, also a resident of Pankow, who was executed barbarically in the last days of the war. Consideration is also given to Catholic ‘non-aryans’ and their families living in Pankow.

Part V recounts the participation of Pankow Jews in the anti-Nazi resistance. Some were killed, but others survived with the assistance of non-Jewish Germans. Again, Inge Lammel helps us to remember some of the forgotten heroes. In Part VI she describes the November pogrom and its aftermath, partly seen through the eyes of those who survived the war, and the deportations. With touching devotion she lists (in 15 pages) the names of the Pankow Jews who were murdered or driven to their deaths, together with addresses, transport numbers, dates and destinations. The remainder of the book deals with Jewish social institutions in Pankow, including the Lehrlingsheim (school for apprentices) and the Boys’ Orphanage, which receives detailed attention as a major educational institution under several directors. The last director, Dr Kurt Crohn, made his mark as an exceptionably caring man who refused to leave his boys and was eventually deported, together with his wife and young daughter, to Theresienstadt and later to Auschwitz. Crohn died but happily his wife and daughter (the latter now living in Israel) survived. Other institutions described include the Mädchenhaus (girls’ hostel) Pankow, the baby and infant nursery, an old people’s home for the deaf, and a children’s home run by the Fürst sisters.

Finally, we are given a description of life in Pankow after 1945, as told by Professor Ernst Hoffmann. The book is well indexed and exhaustively referenced. Dr Lammel is to be congratulated on providing us with a document of considerable historical importance.

Leslie Baruch Brent

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