The beginning of the end of German Jewry


< 28 FEBRUARY 1933
1 MARCH 1933 >

28 February 1933

Diary entry by Erich Seligmann

"Bleeding, burning Germany!"—these words conclude the entry that Erich Seligmann (1880–1954) wrote in his diary the day after the Reichstag fire. The renowned Berlin physician and bacteriologist was horrified at what he now saw looming on the horizon: the persecution and arrest of the Nazis‘ political opponents, including many German Jews. Seligmann read the situation correctly and expressed here what many were already thinking: the Reichstag had been set on fire by the Nazis as a means of finally overturning democracy in Germany.

Erich Seligmann began his diary in 1908, although in 1933 he wrote on only twenty-two occasions. In some of the longer entries, he refers to political events, but mostly reflects on his own situation. In late March, he was suspended from his position as director of the Scientific Institute of the Central Health Office. In August, he was accused of having an "unpatriotic attitude" and abusing his office. His complaints and efforts to disprove the charges proved unsuccessful. In a letter written at the end of the year, the acting mayor described Seligmann as an "exponent of the Social Democratic Jewish members of the Central Health Office … for whom there is no room in our National Socialist community."

Shortly after he was suspended, Erich Seligmann was appointed director of the newly established Board of Health of the Berlin Jewish Community. He also served as president of the Jewish Hospital. He did not decide to leave Germany until 1939 and immigrated to the United States via England, where he was able to continue his illustrious career.

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): Berlin | occupational ban | physicians | politicians
Diary of Erich Seligmann, double page with the entry of the 28 February 1933
Leo Baeck Institute, Erich Seligmann Collection, NY AR 4014