The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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23 November 1933

Certificate confirming Hans Wilk‘s release from the Lichtenburg concentration camp

"We hereby certify that the prisoner Hans Wilk has been released today from the Lichtenburg concentration camp"—this terse statement, found in the discharge certificate issued to the salesman Hans Wilk (1909–1970) on 23 November 1933, ended the more than four months he had spent in prison. The Lichtenburg camp was housed in a rundown castle that had been built by a prince-elector in the Saxon town of Prettin in the sixteenth century and used as a prison for more than one hundred years. In June 1933 the Nazis converted it into one of the first concentration camps in the German Reich.

Like all the inmates in these early camps, Hans Wilk was referred to as a Schutzhäftling, or a prisoner in protective custody. This Nazi euphemism had been in use since the "Reichstag Fire Decree" of 28 February 1933 and was associated with the practice of arresting and detaining people arbitrarily and without legal counsel. Hans Wilk had probably been transferred to Lichtenburg from one of the so-called Emsland camps—Esterwegen, Börgermoor or Neusustrum. In the fall of 1933, it was not uncommon for prisoners to be moved from camp to camp

The reason for Hans Wilk‘s release is unknown. Over the following years, he lived with his mother in Potsdam and for a time worked at a large dry cleaning firm. But he was not spared further persecution.

Michaela Roßberg

Categorie(s): captivity
Certificate confirming Hans Wilk‘s release from the Lichtenburg concentration camp, Prettin, 23 November 1933
Gift of Loni Wilk

Five years later

Hans Wilk was among those apprehended in the mass arrests following the November Pogroms of 1938. He was deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp but released just one month later, as shown by his Sachsenhausen discharge papers. Thanks to the efforts of his mother, Hans Wilk was subsequently able to escape to Shanghai, where he was admitted as a refugee and assigned the number 8336. The exact date of his arrival is unknown, but it is documented that he lived at Zang Yang Lu Street 42 and worked as a chemical manager. In 1944 he married Loni Meyer from Hamburg and after the war the couple immigrated to the United States. Hans Wilk became an American citizen in August 1953.

In April 1970 the Wilks traveled to Germany and visited West Berlin, where Hans Wilk died unexpectedly on 14 April.

Hans Wilk‘s mother did not manage to leave the country in time. She was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto but survived the war and afterward joined her other son, Alfred Wilk, in France.

Certificate confirming Hans Wilk‘s release from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Oranienburg, 16 December 1938
Gift of Loni Wilk