The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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29 May 1933

Letter from the Lübeck Israelite Community to its former president Leo Landau

"The board of the Lübeck Israelite Community would not like to miss this opportunity, dear Doctor, to express its sincere and heartfelt thanks for your years of faithful service." When Leo Landau (1880–1960) read these lines, he had already been in Haifa for six weeks. Following the seizure of power by the National Socialists, he and his wife Charlotte (1881–1972), committed Zionists since their youth, had very quickly decided to immigrate to Palestine. Over the previous decades, they had been heavily involved in Jewish affairs – Leo Landau as community president and Charlotte Landau as a member of the board of the Jewish Women‘s League – and their departure therefore represented a significant loss for Lübeck‘s Jewish community. To what extent the board was actually hoping, as expressed in its letter, that the Landauers would return to Lübeck is unclear.

Leo Landau had worked as an attorney in Lübeck for 25 years. On April 1, the very day on which SS members were posted outside his office, a district judge sent him congratulations on his twenty-fifth professional anniversary, adding that he trusted Landau would "be granted another quarter of a century in which to place your abilities in the service of your native city." Three days later, the Landaus left Lübeck, together with their children Hans and Eva and Leo Landau‘s 78-year-old mother. They were followed in October by their eldest son Gustav and his fiancée.

In September 1950, Leo Landau looked back on those fateful days: "When I (…) was saying goodbye to a few non-Jewish acquaintances, they warned me, above all my partner Dr. Roeper, against taking 'such a hasty step.' One nationalist government councilor asked me in private, 'Do you really want to abandon your successful practice? Do you really think that this nonsense can go on any longer than a few weeks?' Most of our Jewish friends also thought we had lost our heads. However, we were undeterred because we saw things as they were, as they really were. The future was to prove us right. Our quick decision saved our lives and those of our family as well as enough possessions to provide us with a modest but sufficient means to establish a new home for ourselves in Erez Israel."

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): emigration | lawyers | occupational ban | religious life | Zionism
Letter from the Lübeck Israelite Community to its former president Leo Landau, Lübeck, 29 May 1933
Leo Baeck Institute, Charlotte and Leo Landau Collection, AR 7287

Old and new home

Along with his many years on the board of the Lübeck Israelite Community, Leo Landau was also the president of the Jewish men‘s lodge B’nai B’rith. From 1919 to 1921, Charlotte Landau, sister of the poet Erich Mühsam, was one of the first female members of the Lübeck city assembly, where she was heavily involved in social issues.

"Leaving our old home," writes Leo Landau, "our beautiful house, in which we had spent so many happy years, our friends, our Jewish community and everything we loved, was very difficult. Nevertheless, we summoned our courage, accepted this fateful necessity, and, since as committed Zionists we had a concrete goal, bravely set course for our new home."

Leo Landau was able to find work in Palestine both as an attorney and as a business consultant. Charlotte Landau campaigned for the rights of Jewish immigrants from Germany and, as she had in Lübeck, devoted herself to the fine arts.

Leo and Charlotte Landau, 1932
Leo Baeck Institute, Charlotte and Leo Landau Collection, AR 7287