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Failed Emigration

From Our Holdings

Shortly before being deported on 6 July 1942, Frieda Neuber gave this leather pouch to her niece Gerda Maison. The pouch contains drafts of letters by Frieda as well as letters and telegrams sent to her over a period of nearly three years.

Photo of a leather pouch filled with letters

Leather pouch belonging to Frieda Neuber with letters from the years 1939-1942, Gift of Gerda Maison; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Vain Efforts to Emigrate

Most of them consist of correspondence between herself and Bob Kunzig, a young American law student. They had met during Frieda Neuber's three-year stay in Philadelphia. Bob tried to arrange the emigration of his Aunt Frieda to the US with money he had inherited from his grandmother. He obtained an affidavit and passage on a ship, and urged her to speak personally to the American Consulate. But Frieder Neuber was assigned such a high number on the waiting list for emigration to the US that she could not have emigrated for years. She was deported to Theresienstadt where she was killed along with her siblings Clara and Hermann.

Deported despite Baptism

Only Frieda's brother Robert Maison, Gerda's father, survived thanks to his non-Jewish wife. It didn't help in the least that all four siblings had been baptized at the St. Jacobi Protestant Church in Berlin on 12 October 1882. More than fifty years later, they were classified by the Nuremberg Race Laws as Volljuden (full-blood Jews). They were exposed, without recourse, to the Nazis' persecution. In her letters, Frieda Neuber describes her arduous daily life in Berlin – in a tone shifting between hope and deep disheartenment.

Exceptional Documents

Gerda Maison gave the leather pouch to the Jewish Museum Berlin sixty-five years after her aunt's deportation. Many of the family collections in our archive contain letters or messages from those who remained in Germany to their emigrated relatives. In very few cases, however, have the letters of both correspondents survived. In an interview from 30 October 2007, Gerda Maison, then 88, talked about what she lived through as a young woman. You can listen to audio clips from the interview here.

Title Leather pouch belonging to Frieda Neuber with letters from the years 1939-1942
Collection Material Culture
Location and year of origin Berlin, Philadelphia, 1939–1942
Medium Leather, paper, ink, pencil
Acquisition Gift of Gerda Maison
Affidavit

An affidavit is a statement of sponsorship that a citizen of the destination country provides for an immigrant.

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Theresienstadt Concentration Camp

The Theresienstadt concentration camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia was a transit camp from 1941 to 1945, at first primarily for Czech Jews. After the Wannsee Conference of 1942, elderly and prominent Jews from Germany and other occupied European countries were deported to the camp. Nazi propaganda disguised Theresienstadt as an “old-age ghetto.” During a short period as an alleged “model Jewish settlement,” a number of foreign visitors were given tours of the camp.

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Nuremberg Laws

The Nuremberg Laws were passed at the Nazi Party Convention in 1935. The two “race laws” (the Law for the Protection of German Blood and the Reich Citizenship Law) excluded Jews from Reich citizenship and treated them as foreigners by law. The laws also prohibited marriage and extramarital intercourse between Jews and non-Jews.

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Eyewitness Testimony of Deportation

In an interview from 30 October 2007, Gerda Maison, then 88, talked about what she lived through as a young woman. You can listen to audio clips from the interview here.

Gerda Maison talks about Frieda Neuber's futile efforts to emigrate.

Gerda Maison describes her mother's attempts to prevent her aunts' and uncle's deportations.

Gerda Maison describes the deportation of her aunt Frieda Neuber.

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Selected Objects: Material Culture Collection (10)

Selected Objects: Archive (10)