The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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19 April 1933

Certificate of appreciation issued to the teacher Levi Schwalm by the Prussian government

This is a somewhat surprising document given that it was issued during the first wave of anti-Jewish legislation in Germany. Whereas most Jewish teachers were put on forced leave and ultimately dismissed as a result of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, passed on 7 April, here the teacher Levi Schwalm is thanked by the Prussian government for services rendered "in the faithful performance of your duty."

What the document does not tell us, though, is that Levi Schwalm was forced to retire as well—not because he was a Jewish teacher at a public school, but rather because the Jewish school at which he taught was closed. Nevertheless, this expression of thanks was apparently extended in good faith, even if it probably afforded him little consolation.

Born 1878 in Treysa, Hesse, Levi Schwalm, whose last name comes from the river running through the town, completed a three-year program at the Jewish teachers‘ seminary in Hanover. In 1898 he began to work as a religion and elementary school teacher at the Jewish grade school in Bovenden near Göttingen. He was also employed as a cantor and kosher butcher by the Jewish community there. Three years later, the Royal Prussian Government certified that Schwalm was "qualified for permanent employment as an elementary school teacher." In 1903 he moved to the nearby town of Dransfeld, where he worked in the same capacities as in Bovenden.

After almost thirty years of teaching, Schwalm was forced to retire. In 1937 he moved to Hamburg with his wife, Meta, and from there to the home of his daughter and her husband in the Netherlands. The younger couple emigrated to the United States in February 1939 and the Schwalms joined them there in October the same year—two months after the outbreak of war.

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): boycott | school
Certificate of appreciation issued to the teacher Levi Schwalm by the Prussian government, Hildesheim, 19 April 1933
Leo Baeck Institute, Levi Schwalm Collection, AR 6447