The beginning of the end of German Jewry


< 21 DECEMBER 1933
30 DECEMBER 1933 >

25 December 1933

Letter from Herbert Schwalbe to the Persian Minister of the Interior

The dentist Herbert Schwalbe (1899–1963) had been living in Tehran for three months when he wrote this letter to the Persian Interior Minister. In a note on his old stationery from Berlin he asked for permission to open a dental office in the Persian capital or in another large city in the country. In his eyes, this was the only way he could build a future for himself and bring his family over from Germany.

Herbert Schwalbe was finding it difficult to endure the separation from his wife, Ilse, and his two children, Reiner and Steffi, whom he had left behind in Berlin when he emigrated in October 1933. Waiting for permission to open a dental practice was wearing him down and gradually depleting his savings. To make matters worse, some of the belongings he had brought with him from Berlin, including dental equipment, had been damaged in transit, which meant battling for compensation from the shippers and insurance company. In addition, he was finding it difficult to learn Persian.

A letter from his wife dated January 1934 reveals her concern about his situation and poor state of mind. At the same time, Ilse Schwalbe urged him to be hopeful: "No doubt a telegram will soon arrive telling you which city you have been assigned to."

Herbert Schwalbe had to wait a long time before his life returned to normal. When the Interior Ministry proposed the cities of Shiraz and Mashhad as alternatives, Schwalbe chose Mashhad, close to the border to Afghanistan. The thirty-four-year-old settled there in March 1934.

Lea Weik and Jörg Waßmer

Categorie(s): emigration | physicians
Letter from Herbert Schwalbe to the Persian Minister of the Interior requesting a work permit (copy), in French, Tehran, 25 December 1933
Gift of Stephanie Wells

In Mashhad

Schwalbe rented living quarters and suitable rooms for his practice and soon began working as a dentist. He even hired a receptionist who spoke both German and Persian.

But the practice was never successful. During his restitution proceedings many years later, in 1955, he blamed this failure on the "religious fanaticism" that made it impossible for him to earn an adequate living as a "non-Mohammedan." After narrowly escaping a lynching (one of his patients died a day after dental surgery and an angry mob forced him to take refuge in the British consulate), he decided to leave Persia for good.

Herbert Schwalbe immigrated to Palestine in 1935 and continued on to the United States in June 1938. His wife managed to join him there with their children in 1939. After being separated for more than five and a half years, the family was finally reunited.

Herbert Schwalbe‘s home and dental practice with his dentistry sign hanging over the entrance, Mashhad, 1934
Gift of Stephanie Wells