The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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13 November 1933

Expulsion of Martin Thurnauer from the Noris chapter of the German and Austrian Alpine Club

Long before 1933, anti-Semitism was firmly rooted in many quarters of the German and Austrian Alpine Club (DuöAV). Some chapters introduced Aryan Clauses as early as 1899, and the following years saw the expulsion of Jews from most of the Austrian chapters. As a result, in 1921, the Danube Region chapter was founded, which had a majority Jewish membership. However, its affiliation to the DuöAV led to a bitter debate, culminating in its debarment in 1924.

After the National Socialists took power, many members of the DuöAV actively pursued "alignment" with the new government‘s policies. However, despite these aspirations, the meeting of the club‘s steering committee in May 1933 "merely" recommended that non-Aryans no longer be accepted as new members. Nevertheless, some chapters expelled their long-standing Jewish members anyway, independently of the organization as a whole.

The Noris chapter in Nuremberg was one of these. In November 1933 it expelled its Jewish members, not as the result of a majority vote but of an executive decision by its president, Konrad Brunner, as is attested by the chapter‘s records in the archive of the German Alpine Club. During a chapter meeting on 8 November 1933, Brunner "used an opportune moment to expel the remaining Jewish members, 15 in number." Before this, "3 already emigrated without canceling their membership, another 3 canceled voluntarily and 5 expelled themselves by not paying their dues."

Five months earlier the chapter‘s steering committee had voted seven to six in a secret referendum against expelling Jewish members (while at the same time agreeing to stop accepting non-Aryans as new members). Following the adoption of the National Socialist "Leadership Principle" in the chapter‘s articles of association in late July, Brunner saw his chance and pushed through the expulsion of the existing Jewish members. Among those whose names were "removed from our membership list" was Martin Thurnauer, who would have received this letter of 13 November 1933 a few days later.

Interestingly enough, Brunner‘s action had unforeseen repercussions. Although the expulsion of the Jewish members was not retracted, the president found himself subject to "an increased antipathy" toward his person, and several administration members took a stand against adopting the Leadership Principle. In addition the chapter began having financial difficulties and problems with the leaseholder of its alpine hut. In late November 1934, forty-seven members submitted a petition for the election of a new chapter president. Konrad Brunner come up with his own explanation for what had happened: "Marxism has triumphed here; the Jew is grinning."

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): associations | businessmen | captivity | Nuremberg | sport
Expulsion of Martin Thurnauer from the Noris chapter of the German and Austrian Alpine Club, Nuremberg, 13 November 1933
Leo Baeck Institute, Martin Thurnauer Collection, AR 10901

Martin Thurnauer

Martin Thurnauer‘s expulsion from the Alpine Club probably meant little to him compared with the persecution he experienced throughout 1933. As director of the Steatit Magnesia AG, which was based in the town of Lauf an der Pegnitz, just outside Nuremberg, he was a victim of National Socialist "alignment." His company owned Germany‘s largest soapstone deposits, which were located in the Fichtel Mountains, and mined this material primarily for use in producing insulating compounds for the electroceramic industry. "Chief Executive Soapstone Jew Thurnauer" and his Jewish business partners were accused in 1933 of undermining German industry by catering almost exclusively to French and English companies, and of planning to relocate the German soapstone industry to France.

On 27 June Martin Thurnauer was taken into "protective custody" in order, so it was claimed, to protect him from the angry townspeople of Lauf and his own workers. He was released one week later after pledging never again to set foot in his factory. In September he was briefly held under house arrest. One month later he and the other Jewish management personnel were permanently dismissed.

Martin Thurnauer recognized the hopelessness of his situation and arranged for a visa to the United States. Together with his daughter he traveled to New York in February 1934. A month and a half later his wife and second daughter joined him.

Thurnauer may have found some small degree of consolation in the card shown here from the German Ceramics Society, which arrived at his new address in New Jersey in March 1935. It informed him that "our non-Aryan members will continue to retain membership in our society" and that there existed no reason "to refuse membership to non-Aryans." To judge from the handwritten notes, Thurnauer continued to maintain his membership of the society.

Note from the German Ceramics Society in Berlin to Martin Thurngauer, West Englewood, New Jersey, 27 February 1935
Leo Baeck Institute, Martin Thurnauer Collection, AR 10901