The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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8 March 1933

Letter of complaint from Jakob Steinhardt, probably to the Berlin police authorities

During the night of 3 March, five SA members searched the live-in studio on Berlin‘s Pariser Strasse, where painter and artist Jakob Steinhardt (1887–1968) lived with his wife, Minni, and their nine-year-old daughter, Josefa. A few days later, Steinhardt described what had happened in a letter of complaint that was probably intended for the Berlin police authorities. We do not know whether he ever sent the letter—only a draft has survived.

The SA men did not have a search or an arrest warrant, but they nonetheless took the artist into custody and drove him to a private apartment for questioning. Steinhardt was accused of operating a secret radio station in his apartment but was released a few hours later when it became clear that the SA‘s suspicions were unfounded.

The next night the artist was threatened by an anonymous telephone caller: "Well, Herr Steinhardt, how did you like things yesterday? … It‘s time you left for Palestine. We‘ll be paying you frequent visits from now on. We have your keys and can get in at any time we like."

After the phone call, Minni Steinhardt suffered a nervous breakdown. Acting on the advice of a physician, the family left Berlin on 7 March. After remaining for several days in the Yugoslavian spa town of Bled, where Jakob Steinhardt wrote this letter, the family fled to Palestine in mid-March. They never returned to Berlin again.

Lea Weik

Categorie(s): artists and writers | Berlin | captivity | emigration
Letter of complaint written by Jakob Steinhardt, probably to the Berlin police authorities (draft, page 1), Bled, after 7 March 1933
Gift of Josefa Bar-On Steinhardt, Nahariya, Israel