Posts Tagged ‘House of the Wannsee Conference’

Else Ury- Life and Ghastly Death

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Else Ury, author of the famous Nesthaekchen series, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/nesthaekchen-popular-childrens-books/ 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). https://www.welt.de/geschichte/zweiter-weltkrieg/article112708668/Als-Deutsche-Nesthaekchens-Mutter-ermordeten.html 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) http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-stolpersteine/ 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, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-house-wannsee-conference/ 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. www.walled-in-berlin.com

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

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 http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

Berlin’s House of the Wannsee Conference

Monday, August 14th, 2017

The stately House of the Wannsee Conference – Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz – overlooks the Havel River in the quiet suburb of Berlin-Wannsee. However, the palatial country estate has a sinister past. In January of 1942, an infamous meeting was held in its dining room with fifteen high-ranking representatives of Nazi ministries and the SS (Schutzstaffel – Protection Squadron) in attendance. They discussed details of the planned “final solution to the Jewish question.

 

House of the Wannsee Conference, since 1992 a memorial and educational site. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

House of the Wannsee Conference, since 1992 a memorial and educational site. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Final solution to the Jewish question

The Final Solution to the Jewish Question (Endloesung der Judenfrage) was a Nazi plan to systematically exterminate the Jews during World War II. At the time of the Wannsee Conference, the decision to exterminate the Jews in German-occupied Europe had already been made. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss collaboration between agencies. A secondary goal was to arrive at definitions of who was Jewish, who was of mixed race, and who should be spared. At the Wannsee Conference it was decided that persons of mixed race of the first degree (with two Jewish grandparents) would be treated as Jews. This would not apply if they were married to a non-Jew and had children by that marriage. Such persons would be sterilized. Persons of mixed race of the second degree (with one Jewish grandparent) would be treated as Germans unless they were married to Jews.

History of the House of the Wannsee Conference

Originally referred to as Villa Minoux or Villa Wannsee, the estate is now known as “House of the Wannsee Conference.” The spacious mansion was built in 1914 by German factory owner Ernst Marlier. Six years later, Marlier sold the house to Friedrich Minoux, a German industrialist and financier. When Minoux was convicted of fraud and went to jail in 1941, he sold the estate at market price to a foundation that was controlled by the SS. https://www.visitberlin.de/en/house-wannsee-conference The SS used the villa as a conference center and guesthouse and held the Wannsee Conference in its walls in 1942.  In 1943, the Third Reich Security Main Office purchased the residence. Following WWII, the villa served various functions until 1992, when it was turned into a memorial and educational site on occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference. https://www.scrapbookpages.com/EasternGermany/Wannsee/History.html

Free Exhibit at the House of the Wannsee Conference

In 2006, a permanent exhibit opened on the ground floor of the villa, entitled, “The Wannsee Conference and the genocide of the European Jews.” It is free to the public. Although the Wannsee Conference is the central focus of the exhibition, there are many documents on display about the history of Jewish persecution, anti-Semitism and racism in the 1920s, Third Reich propaganda posters and leaflets and photos and books about Jewish ghettos. The exhibition was one of the best I have visited in a long time. The estate is small enough to allow for full absorption of the information provided. Given current events around the world, the visitor cannot help but wonder what humankind has or has not learned during the past 75 years.

 

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 http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.