City of Neu Isenburg

Heim Isenburg

Under NS-Rule

Life in “Heim Isenburg” could be organized and regulated quite easily until the pogrom of November 1938, even if discrimination and harassments made the life of residents quite hard. The indispensable financial donations became fewer. The countless Nazi parades and celebrations that – as everywhere in the German Reich – took place also in Neu-Isenburg, were associated with anti-semitic tirades and insecured women and children who lived in the “Heim Isenburg”. Actions such as the boycott of Jewish shops on April 1 and the book burning on May 10, 1933, made it brutally clear, that Jews were unwanted in the Nazi Germany. In October 1934, Hannah Karminski, a close friend of Bertha Pappenheim, wrote in the diary of the Jewish Women’s Association:

“In our homes and foundations we keep working with all our strengths, but more and more we feel insecurity and in difficulty, we feel something new, something, that will become our destiny … […]. Even being able to keep performing its old duties becomes harder for Isenburg; less money to care for our people, fewer donations and at the same time, so many more people to help!”

After the decree of the anti-semitic and racist “Nuremberg Laws,” the residents of the home were officially registered. From fall 1935 the home management had to periodically submit statements with the personal data of the clients and carers to the local police. As of 1937, the institutionalized children were not allowed to visit the Neu-Isenburg Elementary School. Now, they had to go to Frankfurt daily, where they could go to the Samson Raphael Hirsch School. Bertha Pappenheim couldn’t accept governmental service carers anymore and built the training capacities.

The Pogrom in November 1938

During the November pogrom of 1938, on the evening of November 10th, “Heim I” and II were damaged and burned down by respected citizens of Neu-Isenburg. Before that, they moved through the city, shops were looted, people beaten and humiliated and the house of the Jewish textile trader Max Pscherowski was set on fire. In the evening, at 7 o’clock, they raided the home of the Jewish Women’s Association. They chased the terrified children and their caregivers – about 100 people – in the yard. It was a cold November evening, and the children were not allowed to take their coats. The attackers threw the furniture out of the window of the main house and set fire to the building while all children and residents were watching.

The director of the home, Helene Kramer, reported in a notarial hearing of 1951 in New York:

“On 10 November 1938 I […] gathered all occupants, with the exception of infants and their carers, in the main building. […] At seven o’clock in the evening we heard that a large number of people approached the main building. Soon after, somebody knocked on the door and when I asked who was there, I got the answer: “The meat man.”; I replied that we had not ordered any meat but was asked to immediately open the door, which I then did . […] I can’t remember the exact number of people. There were probably 15 to 25 men, most of them were carrying torches … when I opened the door, the whole group cried “all Jews Out. Jews, get out” […] When we went down, most home occupants had already left the house without anything on, and they weren’t allowed to get their coats from the neighboring building. I saw that many men of the group were throwing pictures from the walls on the floor. I asked one of the men if they may allow the children to take warm clothes outside, but this was denied. […] We had to stay outdoors over an hour until a man came and allowed us to go to one of the neighboring houses, because of the crying children. He said: >This house we want to leave for you.< Another offered to get us candles, since the light line had been interrupted by the fire, and we were forced to sit in the dark. [...] I tried to buy food for the children on the same evening. But I hadn't obtained a certificate that entitled me to purchase food for them, [...]. The two shops that gave us milk and bread did so at their own risk."

(Hessian City Archive Darmstadt, H 13/964).

The Closure of “Heim Isenburg”

The day after the pogrom the home management had to dismiss all Christian counselors, some of whom had worked in the home for years. The school children, whose residential house had been burned down, were housed in the Jewish orphanage in Frankfurt Röderbergweg. Fortunately, at least the food and winter supplies, that were stored in the basement of the main building, were undamaged, so that the home residents had provisionally enough to eat and did not have to freeze. The home property was confiscated. The district office selected a commissioner as a manager. Helene Kramer now had to go to Offenbach weekly, to beg for money for the management of the home.

Marginalized women and children were living in a hostile environment – in constant fear of new attacks. According to later tellings of Helene Krämer, this lasted for weeks, until the children could go to bed in the evening without fear. The number of persons in the home didn’t change during the next three years, even if the turnover among protégés as well as the staff was great. Even though, more and more women and homeless children were sent back to their place of birth or into their towns and cities, where they had relatives. At the same time, however, the number of newcomers did not break off. In particular, after the start of the war many desperate parents brought their children to the “Heim Isenburg” because they could not feed their sons and daughters. Many families hoped that the children would be safer in a Jewish institution than at home or would have a better chance to be saved with a “Kindertransport,” which would take them abroad. In addition to that, the authorities brought boys and girls, who had been found without parents, to the Neu-Isenburg home, which didn’t have a choice about which children to admit. Boys and girls from Christian foster families were sent back into the home. More and more expectant mothers, who had been abandoned by their Christian partners, arrived as well. Great educational problems were caused by the assignment of young people from prisons and workhouses. The large garden of the home was enough to feed all women and children, patrons from Holland and America supplied the home with meat. A courageous Neu-Isenburg doctor made medical care. (Helene Kramer, 1955, by H. Heubach, The home of the Jewish Women’s Association, p 78). 

On January 1, 1942, three months before the forced closure of the foundation, 47 women and children were still living in „Heim Isenburg“ with their carers. There were 30 children under six years of age. Children in schooling age had left the „Heim Isenburg“ after the November Pogrom of 1938. The home was forced to empty all rooms starting February 1942. On April 4, 1942, the director, Sophie Sondhelm, and her friend and colleague, Hanna Königsfeld, were the last to leave the foundation.  

The Deportations

Many women and children, who had been returned to their families after their stay at “Heim Isenburg” before the beginning of 1942 or had been transferred to other social institutions or were leading an independent life, were deported from various German cities to ghettos and camps, that were built in the states which had been conquered by the German Wehrmacht. Most of them were deported from Frankfurt (70) and Berlin (44).

The first deportation that affected a great number of residents of Neu-Isenburg took them to France. Three children aged between four and seven years and seven women aged between 17 and 39 were among the victims of a carefully prepared deportation of Jews from Baden and the Saarland. In this campaign, which is called “Masterplan” for future deportations from Germany in scientific research (Peter Steinbach), more than 6,500 Germans with Jewish origins were put on railway trains in the night of 21 to 22 October in 1940, and were taken to the Gurs internment camp in southern France. Of the women and children that lived in “Heim Isenburg” only a toddler who was rescued in the United States survived. Five of the deportees were later on deported from Gurs via Drancy (internment camp near Paris) to Auschwitz, from then on we know nothing about them. The 31-year-old Martha Goodman died in December 1940 in Gurs, the fate of the other one is unknown.

At least 105 former home residents were taken to ghettos in 1940: to Theresienstadt Ghetto (44), Riga (43), Minsk (28), Lodz (12), Warsaw (9), Piaski (7), Krakow (1) and Belzyce (1). Most of the women and children were deported in 1943 or 1942. Many of those who survived the ghetto Theresienstadt were then re-deported to extermination camps and murdered in 1943 and 1944. These camps were located in annexed and occupied Poland and Belarus. Of the former residents of the “Heim Isenburg” 80 people died in Auschwitz-Birkenau, 33 in the area of Lublin in the extermination camps of Sobibor (22), Treblinka (10) and Belzec (4). Two women were sent to Chelmno in northern Poland and died in gas chambers.

At least four former home residents died in the forced labor camps Malines in Belgium and Trawniki near Lublin. 15 women and children were shot in Serbia, Belarus, and Estonia. Grete Katzenstein, who had probably been in the concentration camp Sabac to perform forced labor, was killed at a mass shooting near the Serbian village Zasavica. Her son Peter is one of the few survivors from the “Heim Isenburg”. Marie Stein and her four-year-old daughter were murdered in Estonia. Their track got lost in Raasiku near Tallinn. They were deported on September 24 from Frankfurt am Main. Also the 19-year-old Else and the 25-year-old Louise Rothschild, who had been cared for in “Heim Isenburg”, were deported on the very same day. During a stopover in Berlin, the wagons were attached to a train full of Jews from Berlin. It left the German capital on September 26. Immediately upon their arrival in Raasiku on September 31, most of the men, women and children were taken by bus to the nearby Baltic Sea Dunes and shot. This was probably the fate of the four-year-old Ilse Stein and her mother, Marie. The 19-year-old Else and the 25-year-old Louise Rothschild initially survived and were forced to work in camps around Tallinn. When in summer 1944 the Red Army advanced and labor camps in Estonia were evacuated, they brought the two young women to the concentration camp Stutthof near Danzig. Their fate remains unknown.

On November 22 twelve women and children who had previously lived in the home of the Jewish Women’s Association, were deported to the Belarusian Kaunas from Frankfurt am Main. What happened with the people there, is described by Monica Kingreen in the essay “Forcibly deported from Frankfurt”, on the basis of traditional source file records and eyewitness accounts:

“They [the deportees] walked the six-kilometres walk from the train station through the town on the edge of the Jewish ghetto, to Fort IX, situated on a hill in the southeast of the city. The fort had been built as part of a massive military fortress ring around the city […] in the 19th century and rebuilt after the First World War to become a prison. The large building complex was arranged with prison cells and crew quarters and a trapezoidal courtyard surrounded by six meter high walls. The Frankfurters were […] brought into the cells of Fort IX and spent the night there. Behind the high walls of the fort, […] – not visible to the new arrivals – large pits were dug. According to a report of an eyewitness the following happened: the Germans and Lithuanians put the deportees in rows of 80 people each. They made them perform some morning exercise in the courtyard and finally began, to send people from the courtyard to the pits that had been dug before. As they began to diverge, they pushed them into the pits. Most of the victims were shot after they had fallen. The fire came from machine guns that had been hidden on the wooded hills above the pits. But even those who had not walked or run in different directions, were shot by the Lithuanians and the Germans. Of the victims, who had been deceived until the last moment, no one has survived.”

Escape and Collection Sites of the last Home Residents before their Deportation

The children that had been accommodated in the home were taken either to relatives or Jewish childrens facilities. The government controlled release to their place of birth or relatives was only meant to be a short-term accommodation measure, while the deportations were prepared. With their relatives, the children often encountered inhumane living conditions, as many Jews had been gathered in ghetto houses under extremely cramped living conditions. A little girl was even sent with her mother to a labor camp. Other children had to live at their mother’s residence town in Jewish institutions because the ghetto houses were too full of people. Most mothers and children even had no binding, because they had never had any contact after the birth of the child.

Eleven boys and girls were taken in various groups to the orphanage “Weibliche Führsorge” in Frankfurt in March 1942. The welfare association “Weibliche Fürsorge” founded in 1901 by Bertha Pappenheim and the Frankfurter suffragette Henriette Fürth, was a home for orphans and for children up to the age of six, who came from difficult families, until 1911. Since 1919 the children’s home had been located in the Hans-Thoma-Str. 24 in Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen. The children who were relocated beginning of 1942 from the “Heim Isenburg” to Frankfurt were between one and six years old. The 1-year-old twins Ruben and Tana Weinberger were deported and murdered in the Sobibor extermination camp a few weeks later, in June of the same year. The rest of the children found refuge in the childrens home for about half a year. On September 15, 1942, however, they and the remaining 43 other children from Hans-Thoma-Straße were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, accompanied by six adults. There, two of them died, Lane Hammerschlag and Joel Wolf, both three years old. The other children were deported to the concentration and extermination camps Theresienstadt and Auschwitz on October 23, 1944, and were probably murdered upon arrival. Only two children from the Neu-Isenburg home of the Jewish Women’s Association survived the Shoah. However, they were not among the boys and girls who had been transferred at the closure of the Neu-Isenburg facility. Peter Isaak Katzenstein lived in the “Heim Isenburg” until the spring of 1941, Margerit (Margaret) Stein until the fall of 1936. Both children were liberated from the Theresienstadt ghetto.

Four girls were housed in the home of the Jewish Women’s Association in Neu-Isenburg until its closure and were then sent to Berlin on February 27 and March 2, 1942. The four-year-old Ilse Rosa Kusel came into the care of the Jewish childrens home in Fehrbelliner Straße 92, the three-year-old Ruth Fleischer was in the childrens home in Moltkestraße. 8-11 (today Wilhelm-Wolff-Straße). The children that had been accommodated in these two institutions had to move to the Baruch Auerbach’s Orphanage a little later, where the two-year-old Gittel Fleischer and the one year older Lane Mannheim had been transferred to earlier. The teacher and educator Baruch Auerbach had founded the orphanage in 1832, and in 1897 it was located in a newly constructed building complex in the Schönhauser Allee 162. Two of the Neu-Isenburg children came from Berlin and had previously lived there. Lane Mannheimer’s mother stayed in Berlin in 1942, as she had been forced to work there. We don’t know why Ilse Kusel was deported to Berlin as well. The only known starting point is that Ilse’s aunt had been forced to work in Berlin.

On October 19, 1942, the Auerbach’s Orphanage was evacuated by force. That same day, together with her mother Lane Mannheim was deported to the Riga Ghetto and murdered a little later. It is unclear, where the other children were staying in the next few weeks. They were deported on November 29, 1942, with 35 other children from Auerbach’s Orphanage (Berlin) to the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. We know nothing about them after this point. Presumably, the children were killed immediately upon arrival.

Of the adult women who had lived in Neu-Isenburg until its closure, some found a home in the Frankfurt Jewish Hospital in Gagernstraße 36. At this time, the institution was full of people. All other Jewish hospitals in Frankfurt had been closed, and the patient had been taken to Gagernstraße. At the same time, the building served as a nursing home. The supply was bad because their stock of food had been confiscated in spring of 1940. With the beginning of the deportations, patients and residents of the Jewish Hospital were gradually deported. By the fall of 1942, the liquidation of the facility was completed. 

The caregivers who were active until the closing of the institution “Heim Isenburg” were brought to Darmstadt for deportation. There they were initially housed in the Jewish home for elderly people in Eschollbrückerstraße 4 ½. The facility was the last stop before the deportation of many people from Darmstadt and the province Starkenburg. Ellen Marcuse and Rosa Strauss were deported on September 30, 1942, from Darmstadt, probably to the Treblinka extermination camp. Shortly before that, on September 19, 1942, Selma Strauss had committed suicide in Darmstadt. Hanna Königsfeld, Ilse Trzeciak and Sophie Sondhelm, the last director of the Neu-Isenburg home, were deported on February 10, 1943, to the Theresienstadt ghetto. There they survived until the beginning of October 1944. They were then taken to the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. Sophie Sondhelm died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we know nothing about the other deported women. 

Explanations and notes