The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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22 August 1933

Letter from Charlotte Gumpert in Switzerland to Minni Steinhardt in Tel Aviv

Charlotte Gumpert was surely not in the mood for laughing when she wrote this letter to her sister-in-law Minni Steinhardt in August 1933. Despite her mood—or perhaps because of it?—she concluded her letter with three jokes, "even though you might already have heard them all":

1) What are new arrivals to Palestine asked? Answer: Did you come out of conviction or are you from Germany?
2) A German immigrant doctor who has just settled in Palestine runs an ad in the local paper: "Back again, after a long absence."
3) What is an Aryan? Anyone with a Jewish great-grandmother!

Charlotte Gumpert, née Blaschko (1898–1933), wrote these lines from the sanatorium in the Swiss canton of Ticino, where she had been staying for several months. A native of Berlin, she had gone there to recover from tuberculosis, but her health had not improved. She was also suffering from the separation from her husband, Martin, and her daughter, Nina, who was almost six at the time. Compounding the situation was the unsettling political news from the German Reich. Her husband was about to return to Germany after a temporary stay in France. "I'm very sad about it, because I cannot imagine that I will ever be able to live in Germany again," she wrote to her sister-in-law, who had already immigrated to Palestine with her husband, the painter Jakob Steinhardt, and their daughter, Josefa.

Charlotte and Martin Gumpert were also considering immigrating. However, the top priority for the thirty-five-year-old was to regain her health. They also needed to ensure they could work in their new home. "As long as you have nothing abroad (except for a sick wife) or even the prospect of a livelihood, you have to stick it out." Charlotte and Martin Gumpert were both physicians and knew that there were few opportunities for them in the British Mandate of Palestine because there was already an "oversupply" of doctors. In her letter to her sister-in-law Minni, "Lotte" once again makes light of this unpleasant reality by telling a joke—this time about the yekkes in Palestine: "'Are all Germans doctors?' a Palestinian child asks."

Charlotte Gumpert returned to Berlin and succumbed to her illness on 30 December 1933. Martin Gumpert immigrated to the United States two and a half years later and was joined in April 1937 by his daughter and mother-in-law.

Jörg Waßmer

Categorie(s): emigration | physicians
Letter from Charlotte Gumpert to Minni Steinhardt (pages 2 to 6), Agra near Lugano (Switzerland), 22 August 1933
Gift of Josefa Bar-On Steinhardt