The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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29 May 1933

Letter of dismissal from the Dresden Educational Authority to Friedrich Wilhelm Ehrenfreund

On 29 May 1933 the Dresden Educational Authority informed the pediatrician Friedrich Wilhelm Ehrenfreund (1875–1934) that his dismissal as a school physician in April was being revoked. A highly decorated medical officer during the First World War, Ehrenfreund had proved his status as a war veteran and was therefore exempted from the general ban placed on Jewish professionals. However, any hopes that Ehrenfreund may have had that he could continue with his work were immediately dashed. The Educational Authority was in fact only postponing his dismissal for three months. Due to the "current situation" his replacement had already been appointed. The letter ends with a brief expression of thanks and a reassurance that he will receive moneys owing to him.

From this point onwards things only got worse for the pediatrician. Apart from running his own practice on Bismarckplatz, he had also been working on a voluntary basis for several charitable institutions, which he had in part helped found and organize. Now he found himself being systematically driven out of his profession to the point where in January 1934 he was forced to close his practice. The ruin of this respected physician‘s career was something he never recovered from. In February 1934, at the age of 58, he died of unexplained causes.

The destruction of his career in 1933 must have initially seemed incomprehensible to Friedrich Ehrenfreund. He had been born in 1875 to the horn meal manufacturer Aron Ehrenfreund and his Protestant wife Agnes and was baptized shortly afterwards. In 1883 his father also converted to Christianity. Despite experiencing the horrors of the First World War, Friedrich Ehrenfreund had remained a committed German patriot. As he wrote in February 1918, "We are happy to endure it all so that our aged parents can sleep soundly and our children will remain free and happy citizens." This ideal of the free and happy citizen was already shattered for Friedrich Ehrenfreund in the initial months of 1933.

Ulrike Neuwirth

Categorie(s): frontline soldiers | physicians | school
Letter of dismissal from the Dresden Educational Authority to Friedrich Wilhelm Ehrenfreund, Dresden, 29 May 1933
Gift of Betina Chill

Pediatrician in Dresden

From 1919 onwards, Friedrich Ehrenfreund worked as an officially appointed pediatrician in Dresden. At the beginning of the 1930s, he was responsible for the city‘s 2nd and 47th elementary schools as well as the Vitzthum Secondary School. Ehrenfreund‘s dismissal was just as surprising for the rectors of these schools as it was for the physician himself. The fact that they held him in high regard both personally and professionally is clear from the personal letters Ehrenfreund received following his initial dismissal: "It is also a matter of personal importance for us (…) to express our deepest gratitude for your devotion to the task of ensuring the well-being of our children, not least for the readiness you have shown time and again to care for the neediest among them." Director Müller from the 2nd elementary school also expressed his hope that the physician would soon return to work.

School director Richard Ulbricht emphasized his personal esteem for Ehrenfreund, writing: "I myself would ask that you invest the words on my Easter card ‘in enduring loyalty’ with all that has existed and will continue to exist between us." Ulbricht‘s colleague Dr. Kleinstück went even further: "Without wanting to say too much, I can state quite openly that I do not approve of any of this."

The reputation that Ehrenfreund had established for himself in Dresden was still evident decades later. On the fiftieth anniversary of his death, a private initiative was mounted to mark the pediatrician‘s achievements with a commemorative plaque. A request by Dresden newspapers for readers to send in their memories of the doctor resulted in over a hundred letters. Many former patients recalled his tireless devotion to his work and the slogan in his waiting room: "Children and calves should not be overfed."

The Dresden City Council ultimately rejected the idea of a commemorative plaque on the grounds that it saw no evidence of a concrete "case of persecution."

Letter from Johannes Kleinstück, Director of the Vitzthum Secondary School, to Friedrich Ehrenfreund, Dresden, 19 April 1933
Gift of Betina Chill