The beginning of the end of German Jewry


< 1 APRIL 1933
1 APRIL 1933 >

1 April 1933

Prisoner registration form for Erich Simenauer with the note "Do not mistreat"

In conjunction with the Nazi-organized anti-Jewish boycott on 1 April, a unit of the SA (Storm Troopers) entered the Urban Hospital in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin and arrested Professor Erich Simenauer (1901–1988), a well-known surgeon and psychoanalyst. Simenauer was taken to the notorious barracks on General-Pape-Strasse used as an "unofficial" concentration camp.

The prisoners that were kept in the cellar rooms there—not only prominent Jews but above all Communists, Social Democrats and trade unionists—were subject to degrading treatment, beatings and torture by the SA. However, one of the SA guards, a former patient of Simenauer‘s, recognized the doctor and wrote "Do not mistreat" on his registration form.

As Simenauer wrote nearly fifty years later, the note protected him from an orgy of night-time beatings: "A number of people to my right and left were beaten with clubs until they died. It was horrible. If they had at least shot them—but they bludgeoned them death! This note saved my life."

Manfred Wichmann

Categorie(s): Berlin | captivity | emigration | physicians
Registration form for the prisoner Erich Simenauer, front and back, Berlin, 1 April 1933
Gift of Agnes Wergin

Erich Simenauer

Erich Simenauer was born in the Upper Silesian town of Gleiwitz on 31 August 1901. After graduating from high school, he began studying philosophy and medicine in Freiburg im Breisgau in 1929. In the autumn of that year he transferred to Berlin. Simenauer earned his PhD in 1926 and worked as a doctor in various Berlin hospitals until 1933, including the women‘s clinic at the Charité and the Rudolf Virchow Municipal Hospital.

Simenauer was not only an expert surgeon but also a well-known psychoanalytic theorist. However, the Nazi regime prevented him from completing his habilitation and taking up a professorship in the spring of 1933. He was expelled from the German Surgical Society in March of that year and worked only for a short time as a doctor at the Urban Hospital before being arrested on 1 April.

Erich Simenauer (right) with a colleague in front of the Urban Hospital, April 1932
Gift of Agnes Wergin 

Cyprus and Berlin

After four weeks of incarceration in the SA prison, Simenauer was provisionally released and immediately emigrated to Cyprus with his wife, Erna. The island was still a British crown colony at the time and Simenauer opened a surgical and gynecological practice there. When the German authorities refused to renew the couple‘s German passports in 1939, they took British citizenship.

The Simenauers remained in Cyprus until 1941, but were then forced to leave the island due to the war in the Mediterranean. They moved to the port city of Tanga in present-day Tanzania, where Simenauer was once again able to work as a hospital physician.

In 1957 Simenauer returned to Berlin. He taught at the Psychoanalytic Institute and was one of the first researchers to study the long-term psychological effects of persecution on the Nazis‘ victims. In 1980 the city of Berlin awarded him an honorary professorship in recognition of his services.

Certificate issued to Erich Simenauer confirming his medical work in Cyprus, Nicosia, 7 June 1941
Gift of Agnes Wergin