The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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13 October 1933

Postcard from Hermann Falkenberg to Johanna Meyer

On Tuesday, 17 October 1933, a small ceremony was held in the synagogue at Fasanenstrasse no. 79/80 in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg to mark the expansion of the Jewish community‘s elementary school no. 4, next door to the synagogue. Its four new parallel classes were added in response to the "Law against Overcrowding in German Schools and Universities" of April 1933, which restricted Jewish pupils‘ access to public schools. The result was a rush of applications to Jewish educational institutions.

A few days before the ceremony, the performer Johanna Meyer (1874–1958) received this postcard asking her to recite a psalm during the festivities. It was sent by the teacher Hermann Falkenberg (1869–1936), a committed lay member of the Jewish community and founder of the liberal synagogue in Schönhauser Allee. The people whose names Johanna Meyer has noted at the top of the card were probably participants in the ceremony: the community‘s president Heinrich Stahl, the rabbi of the Fasanenstrasse synagogue Julius Galliner, and the singer Alice Hannes, who had performed alongside Meyer on other occasions. Meyer‘s notes also suggest a telephone conversation with Falkenberg about which psalm to recite; they seem to have settled on Psalms 8 and 84.

Johanna Meyer, née Löwensohn, came from an affluent family of Berlin retailers. After training as a teacher, she studied drama and then gave voice lessons. She continued working after she married the businessman Eugen Meyer in 1901. In the 1920s, Meyer became familiar to a wider audience thanks to her many radio appearances. With her literary readings, she was one of German radio‘s very first female voices.

The events of 1933 abruptly curtailed her involvement in public cultural life. From now on, she was only allowed to perform with the Jewish Cultural League (Jüdischer Kulturbund) or at events run by Jewish organizations. Johanna Meyer decided to emigrate, and in summer 1938 she left to join her two children in the United States.

Franziska Bogdanov

Categorie(s): artists and writers | Berlin | religious life | school
Postcard from Hermann Falkenberg to Johanna Meyer, Berlin, 13 October 1933
Leo Baeck Institute, Johanna Meyer-Lövinson Collection, AR 299