The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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19 October 1933

Award of the 1914/18 commemorative medal to Hans Sachs

Hans Sachs (1886–1941) had been leading a busy civilian life as a cravat manufacturer for many years when, on 19 October 1933, he was awarded the 1914/18 commemorative medal by his veterans‘ association, the German Warriors‘ League "Kyffhäuser" (Reichskriegerbund "Kyffhäuser").

There was good reason to honor Sachs "For Loyalty in the World War." In 1906, he finished his service as a one-year volunteer and entered the reserves as a corporal. It was probably then that he joined the Comradely Association of German Soldiers (Kameradschaftlicher Verein Deutscher Soldaten). Sachs served in World War I from 1915 until shortly before hostilities ended, when he was deemed unfit for service and sent home. He renewed his membership of the veterans‘ association every year, including in 1933.

But 1933 brought far-reaching changes for Germany‘s countless veterans‘ associations. The first were imposed by the associations‘ own umbrella organization, the "Kyffhäuser League." By May 1933, the League president Rudolf von Horn and the organization as a whole had already pledged loyalty to the Nazi state, heralding the end of the previously independent provincial associations. On 30 September 1933, von Horn then ordered the implementation of an "Aryan paragraph"— which excluded non-Aryans from membership. The deadline for their resignation was 1 November.

Not all the veterans‘ associations endorsed this order: they were well aware of their Jewish comrades‘ achievements and patriotic loyalty, and rightly regarded the exclusion as an act of defamation. Perhaps for this reason, or perhaps as a way of honoring him for his service to the association and his fatherland before he left, Hans Sachs was awarded this commemorative medal as late as October 1933. But his resignation was still inevitable. "We emerge upright and proud from the struggle that we endured for four years against a world of enemies"—Hindenburg‘s words are quoted on the reverse of the medal. For Hans Sachs, they would take on a very different meaning in the years to come.

Ulrike Neuwirth

Categorie(s): businessmen | frontline soldiers
Certificate of ownership of the 1914/18 commemorative medal awarded to Hans Sachs, Berlin, 19 October 1933. The certificate bears the facsimile signature of Paul von Hindenburg, Reich President and honorary president of the Kyffhäuser League.
Gift of Brigitte Hundt

Soldier and businessman

Hans Sachs was born in 1886 in Schoppinitz (Szopienice), near Kattowitz, as one of Max and Rosa Sachs‘s four children. After completing high school and military service, he followed in his father‘s footsteps as a retailer. After World War I, Hans Sachs settled in Berlin, and in 1922 he married the young Else Stern, who came from a highly respected textile manufacturing family in Krefeld, western Germany. Their son Walter was born the same year. Sachs joined his father-in-law‘s company as a partner, and was soon managing the Berlin branch of Stern-Lehmann & Co., manufacturers of cravats and caps. In 1930, Hans and Else‘s daughter Eva was born.

By the mid-1920s, a bitter and protracted conflict had broken out within the Stern family over who would succeed the company‘s founder. Hans Sachs became caught up in the dispute and eventually had to leave the firm in 1938. He was forced to make a new start in business, but never really found his feet again. He soon ran out of funds, and was unable to send his son to Haifa to study at the Technion as planned.

Following the November Pogrom of 1938, Hans Sachs was arrested and interned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. His family tried desperately to arrange their emigration from Germany. Walter Sachs managed to leave for Palestine in March 1939, but there was no escape for his parents or his sister Eva. In 1941, on one of the very first transports from Berlin, they were deported to Minsk and murdered.

The brothers Hans (right) and Walter Sachs as soldiers, Berlin, before 1916. Unlike Hans, Walter did not survive World War I. He died in 1916, aged twenty-seven.
Landesarchiv Berlin