The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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14 JUNE 1933 >

8 June 1933

Letter by Ernst Rosenthal appealing the decision to revoke his license for the statutory health insurance scheme

Two days after the eye doctor Ernst Rosenthal (1898–1971) was released from "protective custody" on 27 May, he received notification from the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians that it was revoking his license as of 1 July. This created a dire situation for the physician, who had been practicing medicine in Chemnitz since 1928.

To prevent the authorities from banning him from his profession, Ernst Rosenthal wrote a letter appealing the decision. According to the Regulation on the Licensing of Physicians to Work for the Statutory Health Insurance Scheme, passed on 22 April, a number of exceptions were possible, including cases where doctors had fought at the front or served as medics in the First World War. In his letter Rosenthal sought recognition for his work as a physician in the garrison hospital in Berlin and also for his membership in the voluntary paramilitary unit "Marschgruppe Würzburg." However, the Labor Ministry did not regard his service in Berlin "as medical service in an isolation hospital within the meaning of the regulation." Regarding his time with the paramilitary unit, it demanded proof that he had fought against the Spartacists, which Rosenthal could not provide. On 16 February 1934 the ministry sent a non-appealable notification by registered mail: "This decision is final."

Like many other Jewish doctors, Ernst Rosenthal had no other choice but to focus on treating private patients in order to stay afloat. At the same time he looked for ways to leave Germany.

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): Chemnitz | frontline soldiers | occupational ban | physicians
Letter by Ernst Rosenthal appealing the decision to revoke his license for the statutory health insurance scheme (page 1), Chemnitz, 8 June 1933
Gift of Karin and Steve Rosenthal


In early December 1935 Ernst Rosenthal traveled to the United States on the assumption that he would able to take up a position with a colleague in Chicago. However, his hopes were not fulfilled and he was forced to return to Chemnitz. One year later, though, he did manage to settle in the U.S. On 31 December 1936 he sailed with his wife, Margot, on the SS Washington from Southampton to New York. Thanks to a recommendation provided by a university friend, Joseph Kaschmann, who had left Germany in August 1933, Rosenthal was then able to continue on to Hartford, Connecticut, where he passed the required medical examinations. In November 1937 he opened an ophthalmology practice, which he ran for almost thirty-four years until shortly before his death.

Ernst Rosenthal with a patient, Hartford, ca. 1938.
Gift of Karin and Steve Rosenthal