The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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7 December 1933

Letter from Julius Obst to Martha Marcus concerning the erection of a gravestone for her husband

In mid-November 1933 Martha Marcus wrote to the sculptor Julius Obst to obtain information about the cost and design of a gravestone for her husband, Magnus, to be erected in the Jewish cemetery in the Weissensee neighborhood of Berlin. Martha Marcus did not want the gravestone to be put up on the first anniversary of her husband‘s death on 22 November, as would have been customary in Jewish tradition, but two weeks later, on her husband‘s seventieth birthday. Unable to meet this deadline, Julius Obst made plans to erect the stone a few days later, but as he wrote to the widow on 7 December, even this date had to be postponed due to severe frost. Twelve days would pass before he was finally able to put up the plain light-gray granite stone, which bore only Magnus Marcus‘s name and the dates of his birth and death.

Since it was not easy for Martha Marcus to defray the costs related to the burial, she applied to the cemetery commission of the Jewish community requesting a reduction in its percentage fee and the cost of the foundation. As a disabled women without any savings, she was cared for by her daughter Alice, who lived with her. Alice was employed at the Ullstein publishing house, but the company was "continuing to shed its Jewish staff," as Martha Marcus wrote to the commission. "Had I not assumed that my request would be met, the erection of the modest stone would have been impossible." The commission complied.

One and a half years later Martha Marcus‘s daughter was indeed dismissed. After working for three other companies, she decided to leave Germany and in September 1938 joined her fiancé in Kenya. Before she departed she was able to find accommodations for her mother in the Jewish Home for the Blind in the Steglitz district of Berlin. Martha Marcus died in the Jewish Hospital on 5 September 1942 at the age of seventy-seven and was thus spared deportation. She was buried next to her husband in the Weissensee cemetery.

Julius Obst, born in 1878, was a respected sculptor in the 1910s. In mid-June 1938 he was arrested as part of the operation "Arbeitsscheues Reich" ("Work-Shy Reich") and deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp as a "work-shy Jew." He was "convicted" in early August. Although the date of his death is recorded as 1939, nothing else is known about his subsequent fate.

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): artists and writers | Berlin | religious life
Letter from the sculptor Julius Obst to Martha Marcus informing her of the postponed installation of her husband‘s gravestone, Berlin, 7 December 1933
Gift of Alice Gordon