The beginning of the end of German Jewry

1933

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Thursday
26 October 1933

The daycare center of the Jewish Children’s Relief Organization in Auguststrasse in Berlin

“An aid organization dedicated to Jewish youth and our Jewish future”—this is how the author of an article published in the CV-Zeitung on 26 October 1933 describes the Jewish Children’s Relief Organization at Auguststrasse 14/15 in Berlin. The article is illustrated with a collage of photos by Herbert Sonnenfeld showing children with childcare workers.

The Jewish Children’s Relief Organization was founded in 1920 and originally looked after children primarily from the “slums in the north of Berlin.” However, in 1933, due to the consequences of Nazi legislation, members of “other social strata” were making their way there, “forced by hardship,” as the article explains. The restrictions imposed in this period affected not only the parents and their children who were cared for at the center, but also its staff. The dedicated childcare workers included “young girls who have been forced to interrupt their medical or legal studies [and] are now enthusiastically and cheerfully devoting themselves to this great organization and supporting themselves through this work.”

The building in which the organization was located was built in 1861 to serve as a Jewish hospital and was used as such until 1914. Several social welfare groups affiliated with the Jewish community moved into the building after the First World War. In 1933 they included not only the Jewish Children’s Relief Organization but also the Ahawah children’s home, the kindergarten run by the orthodox Agudas Jisroel association, a home economics school and a student dormitory. In addition to its daycare center, which was established in 1923, the Children’s Relief Organization ran a children’s polyclinic with five departments, offices providing counseling on infant care and child-rearing, and a department for recreational welfare. It also offered school courses for mothers. According the CV-Zeitung, more than 20,000 people were treated or received counseling at the building each year, making it one of the most important Jewish self-help facilities in Germany.

In 1936 the Jewish Children’s Relief Organization moved to Blumenstrasse near Alexanderplatz with all its departments. It was dissolved in 1943.

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): associations | Berlin | childhood | journalists | physicians
Feeding small children at the Jewish Children’s Relief Organization, photograph by Herbert Sonnenfeld, Berlin, 1933
Purchased with funds from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin

Herbert Sonnenfeld

The photographer Herbert Sonnenfeld was born in the Berlin district of Neukölln in 1906. After finishing school, he initially worked in an uncle’s clothing store and then became a sales rep for the Berlin provider of emergency number services, selling alarm systems to villa owners. After losing his job in 1933, he was forced to choose a new career path and decided to turn his hobby into a profession.

Sonnenfeld had begun devoting himself intensively to photography in the 1920s, but he had never received any formal training. In 1933 he traveled to Palestine to look into the possibility of immigrating. He took photographs during the trip that his wife then submitted to the Jüdische Rundschau, marking the start of Sonnenfeld’s many decades of work as a photojournalist.

Over the next five years he took thousands of photos documenting the entire spectrum of Jewish life, above all in Berlin. Between 1933 and 1938 several hundred of these photos were published in the largest Jewish newspapers in Germany. In late 1939 he and his wife succeeded in immigrating to the United States, where he continued to work as a photographer, only stopping a few years before his death in 1972. The Jewish Museum Berlin holds around 3,000 negatives by this important chronicler of Jewish life during the Nazi dictatorship.

Herbert Sonnenfeld with camera, photograph by Leni Sonnenfeld, Berlin, around 1935
Purchased with funds from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin 
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