The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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25 September 1933

Expulsion of Eduard Graun from the Virchow-Wedding gymnastics club

The head instructor at the Virchow-Wedding gymnastics club in Berlin was not a man to mince his words. He curtly informed Karl Graun that his son Eduard was to be expelled from the club with immediate effect. He was candid about the reason, too: members of the German Gymnastics Association were required to be of "pure Aryan descent."

The leaders of the German Gymnastics Association had gone to considerable lengths to lay the groundwork for such expulsions. As early as April 1933 they had added the "Aryan Clause" to the association‘s statutes, which meant the immediate expulsion of all Jewish athletes. With this policy they took the lead in the movement to bring German sports into line with Nazi ideology—without there being any particular need to do so or as the result of a state directive.

Eleven-year-old Eduard Graun must have been surprised by this news. Like his father, he had been baptized a Protestant. Although his mother was Jewish, her religion had almost certainly not played much of a role in his life until then. Nevertheless, his expulsion from the club marked the insidious start of a series of setbacks and personal defeats that were to characterize his life in the years to come.

Eduard Graun began a commercial apprenticeship at the Jacob Walzer company in 1937 but was unable to complete the program because the firm was 'Aryanized' in December 1938. He was taken on as a trainee by Schwarzschild-Ochs but he now had other plans—he wanted to be an actor! He prematurely ended his apprenticeship and in the following years worked as a production assistant and bit player in theater and film. However, he could not keep his background a secret and it continued to prove an obstacle. In 1944 the Reich Theater Chamber turned down his application for membership, which he needed to work in theater. That year, like thousands of other 'half-Jews', Eduard was forcibly conscripted into the "Todt Organisation," which was responsible for all military construction projects in the German Reich and the occupied territories.

Edward Graun survived the war and in 1949 landed his first steady job as an assistant director and announcer with the Berliner Rundfunk radio broadcaster. However, when the station moved to offices in East Berlin in 1951, Graun lost his job again. Over the following years he remained on the unemployment rolls and was also involved in several lawsuits for damages, few of which were successful. In 1958 he received the final ruling rejecting his application for recognition as a racially persecuted person.

Ulrike Neuwirth

Categorie(s): associations | Berlin | childhood | sport
Letter from the Virchow-Wedding gymnastics club to Karl Graun informing him of the expulsion of his son Eduard, Berlin, 25 September 1933
Gift of Bernd Stein