The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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16 February 1933

Program for the guest performance in Kassel by the Hellerau-Laxenburg dance group

On 16 February 1933 the well-known Hellerau-Laxenburg dance group from Vienna gave a guest performance in Kassel "for the benefit of the Kassel Winter Aid Society." Illa Fackenheim (1914–2010) was in the audience. It must have been a special occasion for her, as she saved the evening‘s program and took it with her when emigrating several years later. Indeed, the memory of that February evening stayed with her for the rest of her life, far from the country of her birth and long after she had given up her dream of a career in dance.

Illa Fackenheim worked in a blueprint factory in Kassel until she lost her job in 1934 because of her Jewish background. Wanting to study modern dance, she moved to Berlin, where she met Erich Wolfsfeld (1884–1956), a painter, graphic artist and professor at the United State Schools of Fine and Applied Arts. The two married in 1935.

In 1936 Wolfsfeld lost his position as a professor – also because he was Jewish. Illa repeatedly attempted to persuade him to emigrate to safety abroad, but all her efforts were in vain. In 1938 she went to England alone. There she obtained a visa for Wolfsfeld and in 1939, shortly before the war, he, too, succeeded in emigrating to England.

Michaela Roßberg

Categorie(s): artists and writers
Program for the guest performance in Kassel by the Hellerau-Laxenburg dance group, 16 February 1933

In England

In the following years Illa Wolfsfeld worked as a companion to an elderly lady. After the war, she and her husband divorced. She married the German-Jewish journalist Friedrich Walter (1902–1989) in 1948 and remained in England until she died in 2010.



Illa Fackenheim, photo by Erich Wolfsfeld, Altdöbern, post 1933