Posts Tagged ‘Else Ury’

Else Ury- Life and Ghastly Death

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Else Ury, author of the famous Nesthaekchen series, was the daughter of a prosperous Jewish tobacco merchant and grew up in a bourgeois household during the German Empire. The family lived in an upper-class neighborhood in the Kantstrasse in Charlottenburg, just around the corner from where I grew up. Although, by the time my family rented one of those flats, they had long been divided into three or four small working-class apartments. In many ways, the Nesthaekchen series echoes Ms. Ury’s life in the Kantstrasse, where she penned the books. Despite having attended a prestigious high school, she did not pursue higher education because it wasn’t customary then for women to go after advanced degrees. Else Ury never married, became a tremendously successful writer of children’s books and lived with her parents until their deaths.

Else Ury during the Nazi years

When the Nazi party came into power, Else Ury’s writing career came to a sudden end. In 1935, she was barred from the Reichsschrifttumskammer (Reich Literature Chamber) and  forced to cease publishing because she could not prove Aryan heritage. Other members of her family had already been barred from practicing their professions. By 1939, Else Ury’s life in Germany had become untenable. Stripped of their possessions, Else and her mother were forced to leave their beautiful home and relocate to a Judenhaus (a ghetto house where Jews were awaiting deportation). Her mother passed away one year later. In 1943, Else Ury was deported to Auschwitz and gassed the day she arrived.

Else Ury and her most troublesome Nesthaekchen volume

During Else Ury’s lifetime, Nesthaekchen und der Weltkrieg (Nesthaekchen and the World War), the fourth volume of the series, was the most popular. The book refers to World War I. Following World War II, the Allied Control Board, in charge of determining which books were suitable for publishing, viewed her narratives as glorifications for Germany’s role in World War I and placed the book on the censorship list. The publisher subsequently pulled the volume from circulation, and it wasn’t reworked and republished for many years.

Else Ury Remembered

Until 1992, the general public knew little of Else Ury’s fate. That changed abruptly when Marianne Brentzel, another German author, reconstructed Ms. Ury’s life through photographs and letters. The work bore the shocking title, Nesthaekchen kommt ins KZ (Nesthaekchen is sent to the concentration camp). In 2007, Brentzel published a biography of Else Ury entitled, Mir kann doch nichts geschehen (Nothing can happen to me). Now, the public became keenly aware of the fate of its once favorite author. Since then, a memorial plaque has been affixed to the façade of the apartment building in Kantstrasse 30 where Else Ury penned the series. In 1998, a shopping arcade was dedicated to her. The colonnade is located beneath the Stadtbahn – Berlin’s elevated train – between Bleibtreustrasse and Knesebeckstrasse, close to where Ury was raised. A Stolperstein (stumpling stone) was installed in front of the former “Judenhaus,” in Solingerstrasse 10 to which Ury and her mother had been relocated in 1939. And the well-known memorial and educational site, Haus der Wannsee Konferenz, hosted an exhibition that featured the life of Else Ury and included the suitcase she took to Auschwitz.


Memorial plaque affixed to the facade of Kantstrasse 30 in Berlin, where Else Ury penned Nesthaekchen. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Memorial plaque affixed to the facade of Kantstrasse 30 in Berlin, where Else Ury penned Nesthaekchen. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

My recollections of the Nesthaekchen Series

I never knew that Else Ury was Jewish or that she had been gassed in Auschwitz until my eye fell on the memorial plaque on a visit to Berlin. That was in 2017. The Nesthaekchen books were my all-time favorite reading during my early teens. What made the series so special to me was the fact that Nesthaekchen’s childhood played out in my own neighborhood. I fully expected to see her walk down my street one day. Although I wasn’t born until after World War II and did not grow up among the privileged, I completely identified with Annemarie Braun and envisioned my life to play out exactly like hers when I grew up. To my delight I learned that reprints of the series are still available.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.



Nesthaekchen – Once Popular Children’s Books

Monday, December 11th, 2017


Nesthaekchen is a German term for the baby of the family. Else Ury (1877 – 1943) wrote close to forty books for children of all ages, including her immensely popular 10-volume Nesthaekchen series. The series was published between 1918 and 1925 during the days of the Weimar Republic (between the end of the German Empire in 1918 and the beginning of Nazi Germany in 1933.

In her Nesthaekchen series, Else Ury describes the adventures of Annemarie Braun – the baby of the Braun family – from childhood to old age. Ms. Ury was not only one of the most productive female German writers of her time, she was also one of the most successful. Millions bought her books, heard them read on the radio, attended her receptions and read her newspaper columns. As a child, I received one Nesthaekchen volume for Christmas and another for my birthday until I owned them all. In other words, it took me years before I had read the entire series. Still, I have the fondest memories of reading those books, curled up on the couch and deeply engrossed in Annemarie Braun’s life.

Volume 5 of the Nesthaekchen series by Else Ury - Nesthaekchen's Backfischzeit (Nesthaekchen's Teen Years) - Photo J. Elke Ertle, 2017,

Volume 5 of the Nesthaekchen series by Else Ury – Nesthaekchen’s Backfischzeit (Nesthaekchen’s Teen Years) – Photo J. Elke Ertle, 2017,

The Nesthaekchen series continues to be re-published. Since 1945, with every new release, the stories were modernized so that today’s editions contain only 70 to 80% of Else Ury’s original text. During her lifetime, more than one million Nesthaekchen books were printed, and over seven million have been printed to date.

Synopsis of the Nesthaekchen Series

The Nesthaekchen series follows Annemarie Braun, the youngest of three children in the family, from age of 6 to grandmotherhood. Her father is a physician. Her mother is a homemaker. The family, which includes Annemarie’s parents, her two older brothers, a cook, a maid, a nanny, the family dog and a canary, lives in an upper-class neighborhood of Berlin. During WWI, Dr. Braun is dispatched to France as a medical officer while her mother is trapped in England, having missed the last departure for Germany. In 1923, Annemarie marries a young doctor, Rudolf Hartenstein, and raises a family of her own. Her youngest daughter, Ursel, marries the son of a coffee plantation owner, moves to Brazil and makes Nesthaekchen a grandmother with all its joys and hardships.


To read about Else Ury’s life and untimely death, click a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.