The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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5 May 1933

Letter dismissing Heinrich Ziegler from his position at the Velten maternity center

When he received this letter of dismissal, the physician Heinrich Ziegler was thirty-five, married and had a son. Since 1925 he had been living in Velten, a city to the northwest of Berlin, where he ran his own medical practice. Ziegler also held several positions in the public health sector and was dismissed from them in rapid succession in April and May 1933.

At the beginning of the Nazi dictatorship, more than 10 percent of all doctors in Germany were of Jewish descent. Directly after taking power, the Nazis made it their goal to oust these doctors from their professions. Professional organizations were "aligned" (gleichgeschaltet) and Jewish officials and members were expelled from them. After the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service went into effect on 7 April 1933, Jewish physicians were dismissed from their positions in the public health sector. Not long afterward they were stripped of the license allowing them to bill their services to the statutory health insurance system. This meant they could only treat private patients.

These regulations affected Heinrich Ziegler as well. The letter presented here from the Osthavelland District Welfare Association informed him that his position as a doctor at the Velten maternity center was being terminated "with immediate effect." The reason for the dismissal was his "non-Aryan descent." In addition, the association asked him to return the money he had already received for April due to "non-performance of medical services." He had evidently been notified the previous month that the association no longer wanted him to continue working there.

Over the following years Heinrich Ziegler was able to continue working as a physician at his own practice due to the fact that he had fought at the front during the First World War. However, when the Nazi regime withdrew the medical licenses of almost all Jewish physicians in 1938, he emigrated with his family to British India. One of his wife‘s uncles, who had already emigrated there, helped him to obtain the entry permits.

Heinrich Ziegler continued to work as a doctor and opened his own practice in Karachi. After Pakistan gained independence, he took on Pakistani citizenship. However, in 1960, after twenty years in exile, he returned to Germany and died in Munich in 1971.

Franziska Bogdanov

Categorie(s): frontline soldiers | occupational ban | physicians
Letter dismissing Heinrich Ziegler from the medical staff of the Velten maternity center, sent by the Welfare Association for the District of Osthavelland to Heinrich Ziegler, Nauen, 5 May 1933
Gift of Ruth Ziegler

Termination of employment as a police doctor

After the Nazis took power Heinrich Ziegler remained in his job as a police doctor for the district of Velten for only a few weeks. On 1 April 1933—the day of a nationwide anti-Jewish boycott—he received a letter relieving him of his duties. No period of notice was observed. As the letter concisely states, Ziegler was dismissed from his position "as a result of changed circumstances … with effect from today."

The German police force was an important instrument of power for the Nazi state. Police authorities were involved from the outset in both the persecution of political and ideological opponents and the marginalization of the Jewish population.

Termination of employment as a police doctor, letter from the local police authorities to Heinrich Ziegler, Velten, 1 April 1933
Gift of Ruth Ziegler 

Dismissal notice from the Red Cross

When the new regime assumed power in 1933, it began the ideological alignment (Gleichschaltung) of the German Red Cross. The organization increasingly distanced itself from its original task—providing general welfare services for the population. Now the Red Cross was above all expected to support army medical corps in the event of German mobilization. In the first few months after the Nazis‘ accession to power, unpopular Red Cross members, including Jewish staff, were expelled.

Heinrich Ziegler sought to avoid such a degrading experience by voluntarily resigning his position as a Red Cross doctor in Velten, which he had held for almost eight years. In response, his colleagues in the Volunteer Ambulance Corps composed a letter on 21 April stating: "We offer you our heartfelt thanks for your loyal service to the Red Cross and the genuine camaraderie that you have shown to all of us. We hope you will remain kindly disposed to us in the future." By signing the letter, the twenty-five staff members distanced themselves from official Red Cross policy. They also thanked Heinrich Ziegler‘s wife, the doctor Margot Ziegler, who had worked in the women‘s department. She had also been forced to resign because she was Jewish.

Letter sent by the Volunteer Ambulance Corps of the Red Cross to Heinrich Ziegler, Velten, 21 April 1933 (front). An additional twenty-one signatures can be found on the back.
Gift of Ruth Ziegler 

Dismissal as a school doctor

On 11 May 1933 Heinrich Ziegler was dismissed from four public offices in the space of six weeks. The acting head of the local council in Velten, where he had lived for eight years, informed him that, with immediate effect, he was to be relieved of his post as a school doctor at the Velten elementary and the middle schools because of "[his] non-Aryan descent."

Heinrich Ziegler is an example of how the exclusion of the Jews from German economic and professional life—and thus from public life—took place gradually until it reached a point where their very existence was threatened and they had no choice but to emigrate.

The documents linked to Heinrich Ziegler and his family were donated to the Jewish Museum Berlin in 2011 by his daughter Ruth Ziegler. In addition to material about his professional life, the extensive collection includes many documents, photographs and objects related to the family‘s emigration to British India and life in exile there.

Dismissal from the position of school doctor at the Velten elementary and middle schools, letter from the acting head of the local council to Heinrich Ziegler, Velten, 11 May 1933
Gift of Ruth Ziegler