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How did Berlin's Jewish Hospital, in the middle of the Nazi capital, survive as an institution where Jewish doctors and nurses cared for Jewish patients throughout World War II? How could it happen that when Soviet troops liberated the hospital in April 1945, they found some eight hundred Jews still on the premises? Daniel Silver carefully uncovers the often surprising answers to these questions and, through the skillful use of primary source materials and the vivid voices of survivors, reveals the underlying complexities of human conscience.
The story centers on the intricate machinations of the hospital's director, Herr Dr. Lustig, a German-born Jew whose life-and-death power over medical staff and patients and finely honed relationship with his own boss, the infamous Adolf Eichmann, provide vital pieces to the puzzle -- some have said the miracle -- of the hospital's survival. Silver illuminates how the tortured shifts in Nazi policy toward intermarriage and so-called racial segregation provided a further, if hugely counterintuitive, shelter from the storm for the hospital's resident Jews. Scenes of daily life in the hospital paint an often heroic and always provocative picture of triage at its most chillingly existential. Not since Schindler's List have we had such a haunting story of the costs and mysteries of individual survival in the midst of a human-created hell.
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Dan Silver has a law degree and a PhD in cultural anthropology from Harvard, and has been General Counsel of the National Security Agency and from 1979 - 1981 General Counsel of the CIA. He is an active member in Washington DC's largest conservative Jewish congregation and lives in Chevy Chase, MD.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Preface The Story Behind the Story
In August 1945, Ernie Mayerfeld, a nineteen-year-old GI stationed in Berlin, received a letter from his father in New York asking him to undertake a mission for a family friend.
Until 1938 the elder Mayerfeld had been a prosperous leather distributor in Frankfurt. Even as the Nazi persecution mounted in Germany, it had seemed inconceivable to Herr Mayerfeld that the family’s comfortable life would be disrupted permanently. After all, the family’s roots in Germany and Austria went back hundreds of years. (The residence of one ancestor, the Baron Eskeles, whose wife was a patroness of Mozart, today serves as the home of Vienna’s Jewish Museum.) And after the Nazis took power in 1933, he still could not foresee the worst. Had he not received a medal for his service at the front in World War I, accompanied by a letter of thanks signed by Der Führer himself ? Not even the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, in which Herr Mayerfeld narrowly escaped arrest, had convinced him to emigrate. Only in the ensuing months when his suppliers would no longer sell him the merchandise needed for his business was he finally persuaded to flee.
And so, virtually at the last possible moment and aided by a large dose of good luck, the Mayerfelds escaped and eventually made their way to New York, where fourteen-year-old Ernst turned himself into Ernie, an American teenager. Five years later, after fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, he returned to the country of his birth as one of the occupying U.S. troops.
His father’s request was one of many that Ernie had received asking him to look for surviving relatives of German Jewish émigrés in the United States. Frequently, the searches were unavailing. But in this case, Herr Mayerfeld’s friend was certain that his sister, Johanna Frank, had survived the war as a nurse in the Berlin Jewish Hospital. He sent a package of foodstuffs to be delivered to her.
And so one day Ernie made his way through the rubble and devastation of occupied Berlin to 2 Iranischestrasse in the Wedding district. There he found a spacious compound of seven buildings set in a large garden. Carved in stone over the main entrance on Iranischestrasse, in the pediment of the administration building, was the name Krankenhaus der Jüdischen Gemeinde, or Hospital of the Jewish Community. Johanna Frank was indeed there, attending to her nursing duties.
The buildings were all still standing,” Ernie remembered, although some of them had taken hits in the bombing. Inside, though, it was unbelievable. Doctors in white coats and nurses in clean, starched uniforms bustled through spotless corridors and rooms, attending to their patients.” It was as if the twelve years of Nazi horror had never happened. Astounded by what he found, Ernie asked Schwester Johanna and her coworkers how it was possible that this hospital, full of Jews, had made it through the Nazi period. All agreed that it was a miracle, but no one had a coherent explanation to offer.
More than half a century passed, filled with marriage, family, and a successful career as a CIA officer and later as a lawyer in the CIA’s Office of General Counsel. From time to time Ernie thought about his strange experience at the Berlin Jewish Hospital and wondered about the story that lay behind it, but he had no time to make inquiries.
At a dinner party in the late 1970s or early 1980s, about the same time that Ernie and I became legal colleagues at the CIA and grew to be close friends, I met Klaus Zwilsky, a charming and ebullient man, then in his fifties, who spoke with a slight German accent. Over the years we continued to see each other. One night over dinner, the talk turned to how it must feel to live under the constant threat of bombing. I don’t remember how the topic arose; probably we were talking about Beirut or one of the world’s other perennial hot spots.
Klaus listened for a while and then volunteered a comment, describing his own emotions as a child in Berlin in 1944 and 1945, cowering fearfully in the cellar while Allied bombers attacked the city.
But, Klaus,” someone said. I don’t understand. You’re Jewish; your parents were both 100 percent Jewish. How could you have been living in Berlin during the last years of the war?” My father worked at the Jewish hospital,” Klaus explained, and we all lived there.” He said a few more words about his experience of the Allied air raids, and the conversation moved on to other things.
In this way I too learned that a Jewish hospital in Berlin had remained open throughout the entire Nazi era and that Jewish doctors, nurses, administrators, and patients had survived there. The fact astonished me. I thought I knew a goood deal about the Nazi persecution of German Jews. I had read widely on the subject of the Holocaust. I was aware that a handful of Jews haddddd survived in Germany, some in hiding, some protected” by marriage to non-Jews. But I also knew or thought I knew that the Nazis had ruthlessly extirpated every trace of Jewish life in Germany. They had destroyed the synagogues, desecrated the cemeteries, dissolved the Jewish organizations, prohibited Jewish worship, driven two-thirds of Germany’s Jews into exile, and then deported all but a handful of those who remained the lucky” ones to the ghetto established in Theresienstadt in what had once been Czechoslovakia, and the rest to the death camps of Eastern Europe. How, then, was it possible that a Jewish hospital operating openly under the name Krankenhaus der Jüdischen Gemeinde had continued to exist in Berlin throughout the war? How was it that Klaus and his parents, full Jews with no apparent form of protection,” could have survived the war living in that hospital?
The question kept recurring through the next two decades of a life that, like Ernie’s, was too busy to permit further investigation. Klaus, who had been only a child during the war years, was reticent about his experiences and volunteered no further explanation. I could find nothing written on the subject in English-language sources. Years went by, years during which from time to time I would say to myself, Someday I need to find out about the Jewish hospital,” and then move on to whatever preoccupation was more pressing.
Finally, the day came when circumstances made it possible for me to begin serious research on the Berlin Jewish Hospital during the wartime years. My immediate thought was to ask Ernie Mayerfeld if he would be interested in joining me.
Did you know that there was a Jewish hospital in Berlin that operated all the way through World War II?” I asked.
His response took me by surprise. Everyone else to whom I mentioned this fact reacted with astonishment. Ernie looked sheepish.
Not only do I know that,” he said haltingly. I was there.” He proceeded to tell me the story of his 1945 visit.
We agreed that we would set out together to find out how and why this hospital, alone among all of Germany’s Jewish institutions, had survived when everything else associated with German Jewry was being destroyed. Our initial objective was to satisfy our own curiosity. As we found out more, however, we agreed that we should write something that would bring this astonishing story to the public’s attention. Our determination to do so was strengthened when we discovered that the only Internet reference we could find was on a scurrilous neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denial Web site where the fact that the Berlin Jewish Hospital operated throughout the war was adduced as proof” that the Nazi atrocities had never occurred.
Our research quickly revealed that the essential facts relating to the Berlin Jewish Hospital were not unknown in the small circle of scholars who have devoted themselves to the study of the German Jewish experience during the Nazi era. Indeed, many facts pertaining to the hospital’s survival from 1938 through 1945 have been recorded in two German-language publications in a small monograph devoted to the 1938 45 period and in portions of a larger history of the hospital. Both were the products of extensive archival research and of interviews with war survivors. The findings of the monograph were summarized in English in an article in a scholarly journal, the Leo Baeck Institute Year Book. Passing references to the hospital also could be found in other scholarly books on German Jewry during the Nazi era. Thus we found that the task of preserving the record for the scholarly community had largely been completed.
Nor had the existence of the hospital in the war period completely escaped the attention even of authors who wrote for a more popular audience. Fleeting references to it gave evidence that they knew it was there. For example, in a fascinating book, The Last Jews in Berlin, Leonard Gross tells the stories of several Jews who survived the final years of the Nazi period in hiding in Berlin. A passing reference makes clear that he knew that the hospital was in operation throughout this period, but nothing more is said about the institution and the large number of Jews who were living there openly.
None of the scholarly or passing accounts, we felt, satisfactorily addressed two important questions. Again and again we asked ourselves, How could this have happened?” So, too, has almost everyone who has encountered the simple fact of the hospital’s survival. Another question that the barest outline of the facts about the hospital urgently raises is: What was it like to live and work in such circumstances?” And so we set out to do two things. First, we wanted to supplement the existing historical record as much as possible, knowing that t...
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Book Description U.S.A.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition.. AUTOGRAPHED AND INSCRIBED Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng. Signed by Author(s). Seller Inventory # 3D-102-B
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