The last view of Berlin, 1942

The Jewish Hospital, Iranischer Strasse, Berlin, 1942. Here Martin Ephraim spent his last days before being taken to Theresienstadt in 1942. His daughter (and my great aunt) Marianne (‘Tante Janni’) wrote a note about this period. What we get is an impression of someone loyally German and stubbornly unable to believe what was happening in the outside world:

“In his little bedroom in the Jewish hospital, Iranischer Str 2, with the window barred with wood with almost no view after the constant air-raids, in the far north [of Germany], during the coldest winter in 34 years, he was an example of courage and calm. “I can console others on the way and so will have something to do”, he said, as an admiring nurse wrote to me afterwards.”

Martin and Hildegard Ephraim, around 1930

Martin and Hildegard Ephraim, around 1930

“He never wanted to leave his beloved homeland, despite multiple invitations from his son Herbert in America. “I was born here, and I will die here too!” was his constant refrain. And also in his pride he did not want to be dependent on anyone. Meanwhile he did not even receive his small pension from the ironworks any more.”

“When someone hinted at the atrocities of the Nazis, he always answered ‘That is surely exaggerated. A GERMAN WOULD NEVER DO THAT!’.”

“In his child-like innocence, he saw only the good in others; his trusting nature could not even imagine the possibility of such crimes on the part of German people!”

“All his care and love was for us, his children and grandchildren. Many people came to him full of sadness, to ask for his advice and help, and poured their hearts out to him! He helped them all patiently, with words and deeds. What he promised, he did, reliably and punctually. He kept  things in scrupulous order, so that everything was always immediately dealt with.”

The Jewish Hospital in Berlin around 1930

The Jewish Hospital in Berlin around 1930

Remarkably, the Jewish hospital in Berlin survived the war and still stands, complete with inscription “Krankenaus  der Judischen Gemeinde,” (Hospital of  the Jewish Community). In May 2014 I went to the address and imagined him peering out of a window into the street outside.

Even more remarkably, there were 800 Jews still living inside the hospital near the end of the war. Daniel Silver’s book A Refuge in Hell gives the full story. See also http://strangeside.com/world-war-ii-jewish-hospital-in-berlin/

Martin’s wife Hildegard died in 1932, a year before Hitler’s rise to power. What a tragedy that Martin did not end his days that same year instead of having to suffer a ten-year slide into oblivion.

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