The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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6 September 1933

Letter from Hans Lustig to his teacher Robert Raphael Geis

Eleven-year-old Hans Lustig (1922–2002) had exciting news for his religion teacher Dr. Robert Raphael Geis (1906–1972), who had been working as a youth rabbi in Munich since 1932. A great deal had happened since the two had last met and Hans regretted that he had not been able to say good-bye in person. Now the words flowed from his pen as he shared all his adventures with his teacher.

In the letter displayed here, Hans first describes the train journey that started in his native town of Munich on 25 August. At first he did not feel very well, perhaps because of all the excitement. However, from Innsbruck onwards, he stood at the window. He did not want to miss the many tunnels through which the train traveled on its way to the Brenner Pass. After the passport and luggage checks at the Italian border, the family continued their train journey to Bolzano, and then, on the next day, to Soprabolzano. In words and pictures Hans excitedly describes how he slid down a mountain slope on a board with his older sister, Herta, and how his five-year-old brother, Franz, caught a frog. He also tells about the "small sukkah" that his family built from leaves and branches for the upcoming festival of Sukkot. And then there was the tent! To show Dr. Geis what it was like, Hans illustrated his letter with an additional picture of a tent set up between two pine trees, crowned by a Zionist flag. The stick figure on the right running toward the tent is Hans. Two of his friends are inside—one has "already departed."

The impression the letter conveys of a normal family holiday in South Tyrol is deceptive. In fact, the Lustigs had left Germany for good. Hans‘s father, Bernhard Lustig (1884–1969), who had served with Adolf Hitler in the 16th Royal Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment during the First World War, was a member of the Zionist movement. He had recognized early on where his country was headed and, together with his wife Paula, née Futter (1886–1965), he had decided to immigrate to Palestine. The couple was apparently able to ensure that their children had a few hours of fun even as they headed into an uncertain future.

Jörg Waßmer

Categorie(s): childhood | emigration | Munich | school | Zionism
Letter from Hans Lustig to his teacher Dr. Robert Raphael Geis, South Tyrol, 6 September 1933
Leo Baeck Institute, Robert Raphael Geis Collection, AR 7263

Continuing on

In October 1933 the Lustigs emigrated from Italy to Palestine, first settling in Haifa and later in Jerusalem. They changed their last name to "Ron" and Hans became "Jochanan." Hans fought in the British Army during the Second World War and his brother, Walter ("Zwi"), was killed in 1948 during the Israeli War of Independence. Hans died at the age of eighty on 6 September 2002—exactly sixty-nine years to the day after writing this letter.

Hans Lustig (left) with his father, brothers and sister, Munich, ca. 1932
Arie Ron, Jerusalem