The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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12 May 1933

Training certificate issued to Walter Weissenberg by his driving school

Twelve driving lessons, taken over the course of two and a half weeks, was all the instruction Walter Weissenberg (1910–2000) needed to be admitted to his driving test on 12 May 1933. After driving a total of 152 kilometers, which was certified with a stamp by the Berlin police authorities, he was on the verge of getting his license to drive a "class-3 motor vehicle with an internal combustion engine." The requirements that students needed to fulfill to pass their driving tests were set by the driving examiners. There were no uniform examination regulations for driving schools. The only condition was that candidates be at least eighteen years old.

At the time Walter Weissenberg was nearing the end of his law studies. He had begun studying in Freiburg in 1929 and then transferred to Berlin. There he had witnessed the Reichstag fire on 27 February 1933. As his wife, Judith, explained seventy years later, it proved a key experience in his life, prompting him to announce to his parents: "I have to get out of here." Walter eventually withdrew from his final examinations in law and in June 1933 emigrated to England.

Michaela Roßberg

Categorie(s): Berlin | school | students
Training certificate issued by the driving school "Am Bahnhof Charlottenburg" to Walter Weissenberg, certified by the Berlin police authorities on 12 May 1933 (front).
Gift of Judith Weissenberg, née Ucko

From England to South Africa

In England Walter Weissenberg was issued the registration certificate that every foreign national received upon entering the country. It served as an identification document but not as a work permit. On it, his profession is listed as "visitor." With the financial support of a relative, Walter was able to emigrate to South Africa in 1935 after first making stops in the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia. In his new country he earned a living, among other things, as a baker, tennis teacher and fashion agent.

British alien‘s passport issued to Walter Weissenberg, Great Britain, 2 June 1933 (first double-page spread).
Gift of Judith Weissenberg, née Ucko 

Fraternity student

During his studies in Freiburg Walter Weissenberg joined Neo-Friburgia, a Jewish dueling fraternity. In the 1931 fraternity elections he was made deputy president (Zweitchargierter) and given responsibility for important tasks such as organizing events and ensuing that life ran smoothly at the fraternity house. In the summer of 1930, the Jewish fraternity moved to a building in Basler Strasse—even in the early 1930s the growing antisemitism of Freiburg innkeepers made it difficult for the fraternity to find rooms for its meetings. On 20 April 1933 the fraternity house was ransacked and badly damaged. One week later Neo-Friburgia announced its dissolution.

Group photo of the members of the Neo-Friburgia fraternity, among them Walter Weissenberg (first row, fourth from left), Freiburg im Breisgau, 1931.
Gift of Judith Weissenberg, née Ucko