Holocaust Education in Germany

In June 2018, my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann sent me a paper written by a German high school student named Johanna Petry. Johanna’s paper1 was done as part of a school project about the Holocaust. I am really impressed by Johanna’s work, and she has graciously allowed me to share it on my blog.

Johanna researched the family of my cousin Anna Seligmann, who once lived in Johanna’s hometown of Neuenkirchen. Anna Seligmann was the daughter of August Seligmann and Rosa Bergmann and a sister of Wolfgang’s grandfather, Julius. She was also the first cousin of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen.

Johanna researched and wrote about Anna, her husband Hugo Goldmann, and their children, Grete, Heinz, and Ruth Goldmann, and what happened to them during the Holocaust. As I have written before, Hugo and Anna and their three adult children were all killed in the Holocaust, but until I read Johanna’s report, I did not know the details.

Johanna obtained documents from the International Tracing Service at Arolsen and also searched Yad Vashem, the archives in Neunkirchen, and other sources she found on the internet. In the course of doing her research about the Goldmann family, Johanna discovered my blog and then found Wolfgang as a result of finding my blog. Wolfgang provided her with more information about the Goldmanns and the extended Seligmann family.  Using what she learned in all this research, Johanna wrote a detailed and well-researched report on the fate of Hugo and Anna and their children.

The report is written in German, and with Johanna Petry’s very gracious permission, I am providing a link to it here so that those who are interested in the full report can read it. Unpublished paper by Johanna Petry, “Juden in Neunkirchen,” May 9, 2018, for the Gymnasium am Krebsberg, Neunkirchen.

For others, I will translate and summarize Ms. Petry’s overall findings, which are near the end of her report:

Anna Seligmann was born on November 30, 1889 in Gau-Algesheim near Bingen, where her father August ran a successful wine trade. She had three siblings and married Hugo Goldmann, who was born on March 24, 1885, in Gundersheim. Professionally, Hugo worked as managing director and moved to Neunkirchen in 1906.

From 1912 Hugo and Anna lived in Neunkirchen where they had three children. First, Grete Rosa Goldmann was born on July 8, 1913. Then, Heinz Leo Goldmann was born on March 28, 1916, and the youngest daughter Ruth Goldmann was born on July 23, 1924.

In 1935 the Goldmann family moved to nearby Saarbrücken. Grete moved in 1936 to Giessen [140 miles from Saarbrucken] where she worked as a milliner. In 1937 she was forced to move into the “Jew’s House” in Bergstrasse 8 in Hannover [340 miles from Saarbrucken, 188 miles from Giessen].

Johanna was interested in the term “Jew’s House” and did some further research. She wrote:

I had never encountered the term “Jewish house” before, but I suspected that it was a place of residence for Jews. My internet research revealed that “Jewish houses” were actually the homes of Jews who were forced to live there. The houses were often Jewish owned and many Jews had to live in very small spaces. In addition, they should prevent the maintenance of social contacts with non-Jews and contributed to the ghettoization. In Hanover on 3 and 4 September 1941, 1,200 Jews had to move into 15 Jewish houses, which were completely overcrowded. The Judenhaus in Bergstraße 8 was the Alte Synagoge.

Hugo Goldmann was imprisoned from November to December 1938 in the Dachau concentration camp and after his release did forced labor for a family. When parts of the Saarland and the Rhine-Palatinate were evacuated in 1939-1940, Hugo, Anna and their youngest daughter Ruth moved together to Halle [345 miles from Saarbrucken]. Ruth worked there as an intern in a retirement home of the Jewish community.

On May 30, 1942, Hugo, Anna, and their daughter Ruth were deported to Lublin in Poland, where they died immediately after their arrival at the Sobibor death camp on June 3, 1942.

Their son Heinz Leo worked in Berlin and was taken to the Auschwitz extermination and concentration camp on January 29, 1943. He died there three weeks later on February 19, 1943.

Anna and Hugo’s daughter Grete was deported from Hannover in 1941 to the Riga ghetto. She was transferred to the Riga-Kaiserwald concentration camp when it opened in 1943.  When this camp was evacuated by the Nazis as the Allied forces approached, Grete and the others being kept at Riga-Kaiserwald were taken to the Stutthof concentration camp, where Grete died on December 27, 1944.

Here is a map showing the places where the Goldmann family lived and then were forced to live and die:

 

Reading Johanna’s report not only provided me with more specific details about the Goldmann family; it also gave me insight into the mind and feelings of a young woman in Germany today as she learned what happened to a family that once lived in her town. Johanna’s personal reflection on her findings is both sad and uplifting:2

The sober, objective style of writing does not fit in with this terrible fate of this family – a destiny shared by millions of Jews at that time, and yet every life story is special to itself.

During the evaluation of the documents and the search my thoughts wandered again and again. I wondered how Anna, Hugo, Ruth, Grete and Heinz Leo went, what they thought and what they were most afraid of. I would like to know more personal details from their lives, because I find these much more exciting than dates and dates. Unfortunately, such information is extremely rare. All the more I was pleased that we were able to locate a descendant of the Seligmann family and, thanks to him, learned still more details.

And yet the fates of the victims of the National Socialist regime repeatedly make me deeply affected and thoughtful, especially since there are currently again racist and anti-Semitic tendencies in Germany. That’s why I find it all the more important to do commemoration work and to deal with this dark part of German history.

I find it very heartening that German schools are providing their students not only with an education about the Holocaust but with the research skills necessary to learn more about those who were killed during the Holocaust. Given the anti-Semitism and hatred of others that continues to exist in all parts of the world, including the United States and Germany, it is critical that all children and adults learn these same lessons that Johanna Petry learned. We all must remember the past and do all we can to prevent it from ever happening again.

 

 

 


  1. Unpublished paper by Johanna Petry, “Juden in Neunkirchen,” May 9, 2018, for the Gymnasium am Krebsberg, Neunkirchen. 
  2. Unpublished paper by Johanna Petry, “Juden in Neunkirchen,” May 9, 2018, for the Gymnasium am Krebsberg, Neunkirchen. 

29 thoughts on “Holocaust Education in Germany

  1. I interviewd and filmed a very old lady survivor who was also taken from Vilna to
    Stutthof concentration camp. At the entrance, a young man told her: your husband is here, too. So she looked for him – sucessfully – and thus was helped on the “death march”. They made it back to Prague eventually, had a son, lived there until the son as a university student fled to Germany – where the mother was from originally. They settled in Wiesbaden, this survivor lived to be 108 !!!
    She loved her granddaughter and the little greatgrandchildren. We had a very moving ceremony to take her to her grave – come and see the gravestone at our impressive Jewish cemetery, established around 1890 and enlarged since.
    A new congregation was founded by survivors in 1946!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I skimmed over parts as it is a lengthy report but the notes and thoughts Johanna included in italics were interesting to read. She did a great research job. Kudos to her teacher for introducing the students to the subject.

    My husband arranged an “enrolé de force” (a man forced into recruitment) in the German army to talk to our daughter’s class when they were on the subject of WWII in high school. For a long time, this was a taboo subject in Luxembourg. Nearly 14,000 young Luxembourg men and women were conscripted and only a little over 1,000 came home. The students in the class were so interested in what this man had to say that the hour turned into two and many had tears in their eyes listening to him. We need more people who can awaken the interest of young people in the dark chapters of our history.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What wonderful research and Johanna has such great writing skills. I am so happy to see young people interested in history, no matter how sad it might make us feel. My dad spent one day at the Nuremberg trials as a Jewish reporter and my daughter did a 7th grade assignment on his memories. I’m so glad he was still here to share that with her.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Amy. Your blog is not only a wonderful history of your family, it is also an excellent teaching tool that gives the reader a personal glimpse into the lives of your family members and puts a name with a life story on the enormity of the holocaust. What we have witnessed here in the last year makes it all the more important for us to ensure that everyone hears these stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Ted—your words mean a lot. It’s a labor of love for me. I am driven by the desire to remember them all—those who suffered, those who did not, those who were rich, those who were not. Every life is worth remembering. And yes—we need these reminders even more so today.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this young woman’s research. I am quite well read on the subject but had not heard of Jews Houses. Would be interesting to know more about this as I assume they were created by the Nazi’s in cities and towns without a historic ghetto. These Jews Houses must have been hard for non jewish Germans to ignore what was happening. Not simply Jewish neighbours terribly discriminated against then disappearing but a neighbouring house suddenly overcrowded with clearly displaced Jews . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading. I first heard of the Jew Houses when I visited Germany two years ago, and my cousin Wolfgang showed me where the Jew House had been in Mainz where some of our relatives had been forced to live.

      Like

  6. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  7. Wow – what a heartbreaking paper for you to read, yet, as you said, it’s good to know that young people today in Germany are learning, writing about, and fully understanding the evils of the Nazi party and its reprehensible tenets. Thanks for sharing…it’s so important that we NEVER forget what happened in Europe from the 20s through the 40s…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s really impressive, Amy, and affecting. It’s encouraging that this was an assignment and to read her nuanced, thoughtful take on the tragedy and how the seeds of antisemitism are surfacing again. Awareness is key.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awareness and action. Germans knew what was happening to the Jews in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, but that awareness did not stop the Nazis. It takes action, and that’s what it will take today to stop the hate that is spreading here and throughout the world. Thanks, Michael.

      Like

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