16 November 1933
Letter from Hans Rosenbauer to Berta Levite
This two-page typed letter reveals not only conflicting opinions, but also very different lifestyles: the sender, Hans Rosenbauer, was married, had children and worked as a bank manager at the Westdeutsche Bodenkreditanstalt in Cologne. In other words, he was leading a settled middle-class life. The recipient, Berta Levite (1910–1998), was single and had evidently just lost her job. We do not know how the two had met—they might even have been related.
Hans Rosenbauer began the letter by reproaching his dear “Bertl” for not taking him up on his repeated offers to visit them in Cologne. She probably preferred staying in Württemberg over a “glass of sweet cider” to coming to the big city, he joked.
At the same time Hans Rosenbauer was well aware that the twenty-three-year-old was not as unadventurous as he was making her out to be. Although born and raised in the Bavarian town of Dinkelsbühl, she was not bent on remaining in the southern part of Germany—or even in Germany as a whole. Rather, she was entertaining the idea of immigrating to Palestine. Hans, for his part, felt these plans should be “seriously” reconsidered and tried to talk her out of them. “After all,” he wrote, “things don’t seem that easy there [in Palestine], either.” As an alternative, he suggested that she come to Cologne and look for a new job there.
“Besides,” he continued, “I really don’t understand where your exaggerated fears come from.” He apparently believed the situation in Germany was much less dangerous than she did. As a non-Jew married to a Jewish woman, he (still) trusted “Herr Hitler’s” official statements—or at least claimed to. According to Rosenbauer, anyone who helped “rebuild Germany” and was loyal to the state had nothing to fear.
Berta Levite was more farsighted. She left Nazi Germany, not for Palestine, but for America. In August 1934 she boarded the Stuttgart in Bremerhaven, a passenger ship that took her to New York. She lived there until she died in 1998.
Köln-Klettenberg,16 November 33
Yes, I meant it seriously when I extended my invitation to you on the phone. That was not the first time, either—I was only repeating the invitation we had made several years ago.
We’ve never been able to explain why you didn’t comply with our requests. The only excuse can be that you prefer sitting over a glass of sweet cider in Württemberg than subjecting yourself to the “unknown” in Cologne. As a rule we also serve a good glass of wine here in Cologne, though only “by the drop” these days. Perhaps you’d enjoy it? At any rate, as I said, you’re more than welcome here and you can use the occasion to look for another job in the city.
I would seriously reconsider your plans to go to Palestine before acting on them. After all, things don’t seem that easy there, either. Besides, I really don’t understand where your exaggerated fears come from or why you feel you must “do a runner.” To the best of my knowledge, Herr Hitler has issued regulations that make it illegal to exclude Jews from economic life as long as they’re willing to do everything in
their power to rebuild Germany.
Based on what I know about you and your relatives, you were never hostile to the state but loyal to it in every way. The fact that your dear father served in the war demonstrates this.
The state of my wife’s health has not changed or improved in any substantial way. It will probably be some time until we can provide any definitive news. My wife’s address is:
(signed by Hans Rosenbauer)