Dienstag, 13. November 2007
German Holocaust-Research started in Australia
A summary of ten years of empirical studies on state-terror and the persecution of Jews in Nazi-Germany
Different to most academic investigations, the research reported on here originally was neither intended nor planned. Instead it seems to have been a mere coincidence that I happened to meet a person called Horst Salomon, at that time owner of a European stile restaurant in Adelaide. This was in January 1988. Since four month I had travelled through Australia in the pursuit of a criminological research studying new institutions of democratic control of police: ombudsmen and police complaints authorities, of which nothing was known in Germany at that time and which are still not welcome although it would be wise to have them considering the role the German police during the so-called 'Third Reich'. But Horst did not ask questions concerning police. Instead he wanted to know our liking of his coffee and cake. However, his inquiries were not in English but - to our great surprise - in German, though somewhat too distinguished for this simple matter and a bit old-fashioned. too. Although this short encounter became finally the key-event for big changes in my personal life and academic career, there is no space here to go into details (see instead: Brusten 1992). More important is the result, the decision, that I had to finish my criminological research on police and try to meet Horst again, his brother Ernie (see his interview: Brusten 1997), his friends and other former German Jews, who survived the Holocaust 'down under' in Australia. A new assignment and dedication for the next sabbatical was created: studying the Holocaust from the perspective of Holocaust survivors and testimonies.
Victims of Nazi-Terror - former German Jews in Australia
The first research, therefore, deals with the destiny of former German Jews in Australia, who have survived the state-terror organised by the Nazis during the 'Third Reich'. Main focus of attention are about 50 autobiographic narrative interviews with Holocaust-Survivors, carried out on five research-travels to Australia between 1993 and 2003; mainly in Melbourne and Sydney but also a few in Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.(1)
The interviews give insights into recollections of Jewish life in Germany before Hitler came to power, into everyday forms of anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews in Hitler-Germany, memories of emigration and escape or experiences of the barbarism in concentration camps and by forced labour. Followed by recollections of the first, often involuntary years as 'enemy aliens' in Australia and of the personal integration into the Australian society and new professional careers 'down under'. Finally the interviews give insights into today's views of the interviewees on contemporary Germany and the experiences they had when visiting Germany again after the War; and last not least their struggle with their own identity as 'Germans', 'Jews' and /or 'Australians'.
All interviews were recorded by tape and video, thoroughly transcribed by specially trained students, corrected and completed by the interviewees and finally carefully edited and complemented with information from local archives. In addition slides were taken of the interviewees, of their Australian habitat, of family photos and documents as evidence of their own personal past and their 'new life' today.
Under criminological and sociological perspectives the research tries to elaborate in particular the concept of 'state-terror', a concept, which still is very much neglected in academic discussion and which stays in clear contrast to what normally is understood by 'Terrorism'. Whereas 'normal terrorists' aim at the subversive infiltration and abolition of existing power-structures, 'state-terror' refers to the systematic misuse of existing power-structures by the state itself (as is well known from countries with military and fascist regimes) in order to establish, strengthen and extend the power of the state. Special attention is given to the different forms of state-terror; such as intimidation, discrimination, deprivation of rights, repression by means of public administration, torture, deportation and murder; but also to processes of legalisation and legitimation of state-terror by specific laws, decrees and ideologies (e.g., race theories) and - of course - their support and (bystanders) acceptance in the general population. Different to research, which limits itself on investigating the macro-structures of state powers, our investigation concentrates in particular on the 'victims' of such power structures, on their concrete personal experiences with 'state terror', their subjective perception of it and its often long lasting destructive effects on them.
Although the personal information given by the interviewees stood in the centre of our research, they had to be substantiated and complemented by further 'objective' information in official documents and records to be found in archives and document centres. This consequently, therefore, stimulated a second research, which - originally only intended as supplementation of the interviews made in Australia - generated a new and much broader perspective in gathering quantitative data from archives in Germany.
Jewish citizens of Wuppertal during the 'Third Reich' (2)
Although the Jewish community in Wuppertal and surroundings had more than 3000 members in 1933, of whom according to historical literature approximate 1000 were murdered during Hitler-time (3), there is - in contrast to other towns - still no commemorative book to remember these victims of the Holocaust (4). Hence, in the first phase of the second project a very extensive collection of data has been carried out continuously since 1997, in search of all Jewish citizens, who were born, lived or died in Wuppertal during the 'Third Reich'; about 3,700, of which by the way - about 120 had at least some relationship to Australia.
The historical sources for this investigation are very divers: including the 'commemorative book of Germany, the 'cemetery book' of the Jewish community of Wuppertal, the so-called
'boycott book of the NSDAP in Wuppertal, Nazi-deportation lists, registers of birth and deaths, official address-books and - above all - very extensive records of court-cases dealing with 'restitution' and 'compensation' in post-war Germany; and also information from local publications and interviews with witnesses of the past. The data collected from these sources cover: personal and family names, places and dates of birth and death, family relationships, school education and professional training, residential and business addresses, occupations and enterprises, as well as information about persecution, murder, emigration and escape. All data (including information on its sources ) are stored electronically; and represent today an important data reservoir for personal inquiries and further sociological and historical research.
In particular the data bank has become an extremely valuable and - regarding the tremendous problems in producing it - unique base for 'structural research' on the Jewish population of a big industrial city and also the empirical foundation for a commemorative book of the Jews of Wuppertal which were murdered during the 'Third Reich'.
From a sociological point of view at least the following questions could be answered now by 'structural analysis':
- geographical distribution of Jews within the City of Wuppertal
- age-, family- and occupational structures of the Jewish population of Wuppertal
- distribution of Jewish pupils on the public and private schools and the way they were expelled from general education
- destiny of those, who lived in 'mixed marriages'; as well as criminal prosecution and convictions because of so-called 'Rassenschande' (race-disgrace)
- emigration, escape, refuge and exile abroad; by number of the persons per year and country; subdivided by first place of refuge and final destination
- expulsion of 'eastern- Jews' by the so-called 'Polenaktion' on the 28th October, 1938
- boycott and aryanization of Jewish enterprises, shops and professions
- forced labour for Jews in German factories and camps in the 40ths.
- ghettoisation of Jews by forcing them into so-called 'Judenhäuser' (houses for Jews) before deportation
- suicides of Jews out of despair and to prevent being deported
- going underground and hiding - mostly illegally - within Germany or neighbouring countries
- rescue of Jewish children by 'child transports' to England (and even Australia)
- deportation and murder of the Jews; per year, location and camp of extermination, age and sex of the deported persons
Already the interviews made in Australia had raised questions concerning the tremendous losses of personal property, the often dramatic consequences of these losses for the victims and the possibilities of getting restitution and compensation after the war. Thus, the research in archives made it obvious that this occasion had to be used to broaden our research-perspective by including the search for evidence of the economic exploitation of Jews and the aryanization of their property.
'Aryanisation' of Jewish property in Wuppertal (5)
The displacement of the Jews from the German economy after 1933 was a major 'Policy against the Jews' ('Judenpolitik') during the 'Third Reich'. This strategy was called by the National Socialists euphemistically 'Arisierung' and aimed at about 100,000 Jewish enterprises which existed in Germany at the beginning of the 30th. However, only 5 years after the Nazis had come to power hardly 40% of these enterprises were still there. Then, after the pogrom night in November 1938 the Nazis intensified the destruction of the economic existence of the Jews by transfers of Jewish enterprises - enforced by law - to so-called 'Aryans' or to the German state.
Since Wuppertal at this time was one of the leading towns of textile industry in Germany and at the same time one of the most important Jewish commercial centres - next to Berlin, Frankfurt and Leipzig; Wuppertal looked promising for studying the so-called 'aryanisation' of Jewish property.
The research project which finally got even financially supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) deals in particular with the expropriation of Jewish enterprises (mainly textile-factories, wholesale trade business and department stores, but also numerous little shops, independent salesmen, medical doctors and advocates. It investigates on one hand the so-called 'voluntary aryanization' as consequence of the boycott against Jewish business right from the beginning of the 'Third Reich' forcing many Jews to sell their business or just close it down, and on the other hand the so-called 'forced aryanization' which started in November, 1938 after the so called 'Kristallnacht' (crystal night). Because the research will not focus only on a few (mostly well known) single enterprises but investigates into the decline of all Jewish business, its first aim is a quantitative historical and sociological analysis of the beginning, the progress and the results of the economic exclusion of Jewish business people and entrepreneurs during the 'Third Reich': including the role of the non-Jewish business sector, the city administration, the political bodies (in particular the NSDAP) and the general population who all took part in this exploitation and expropriation of the Jews in their own city.
And above all - which most likely will make this study somewhat unique - the research will trace back also the personal destiny of those who became the victims of the 'aryanization'
Could the Jewish business people and their families leave Germany 'in time' ? Did they leave or did they stay until they were deported or even murdered? And where could they go; which country would take them? Which economic resources were left to get refuge and reestablished in other countries? And finally: how many them could get at least some kind of restitution and compensation for their economic losses after the war?
The importance of Holocaust research for the teaching at universities
What made the research which started in Australia particular important, was the fact that - besides academic publications which will result from it - it could be integrated into university-teaching: since many years each semester 1-2 lectures or seminars dealing with the Holocaust were offered to introduce students to the experiences and results of the research projects mentioned. The personal and authentic involvement in Holocaust research and particularly the vivid presentation of Holocaust testimonies by personal interviews, slides and videos made great impression on the students involved, particularly on those who engaged themselves in writing papers and giving reports in their classes. Others learned realistically how to do empirical research work in such important but at the same time difficult and sensitive matters as the Holocaust. Possibly even more important was the teaching for those students of social science and history who studied to become schoolteachers getting motivated to give themselves lessons on the Holocaust in schools different to just learning from books.
Debt of gratitude and words of thanks
Whereas the 10 years of research have definitely changed my own academic and personal life enormously I am indebted to many who gave me their supported and assistance. There are - besides collaborators at the university in Wuppertal - in particular the many interviewees, who took their time and energy to make me better understand what the Nazi-state-terror and the Holocaust was, and the many others at universities, museums and Jewish institutions who assisted me by information, contacts and motivation to do my research work in Australia; and in this respect I like to mention above all others particularly Phillip Maisel, head of the Testimonies Department of the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre in Melbourne-Elsternwick (www.jhc.org.au). Without his fatherly advice, his competence and endurance and his readyness to help in all these recent years I most likely would never have accomplished what I did. I am also grateful to Stan Marks for his help in improving my own translation of this summary and for publishing a shortened version of it in the 'Centre News' (commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Jewish Holocaust Centre) April 2004, pp 30-31.
(1) The approximately 50 non-structured autobiographical interviews (of between 2 and 4 hours, occasionally distributed on 2 days) were carried out by myself during my academic sabbaticals in the winters of 1992/1993 and 1996/1997 and extended travels to take part in international conferences in summer 1994 and 1995.
(2) Over the years many students have participated in the research, some of them even for several years. In particular I am grateful to Dirk Lindner, who started the painstaking computer-work, and Klaus Zieres and Christian Schlabschi for their long and responsible exploration of thousands of files in archives of the city Wuppertal and state of Northrhein Westphalia.
(3) 820 Jews of Wuppertal and surroundings were deported in 5 transports to Lodz (26.10.941), Minsk (11.11.1941), Riga (11.12.1941), Izbica (22.4.1942) and Theresienstadt (29.7.1942); none of them survived. Others, who first emigrated in the early 30th or escaped later to neighboring countries like Holland, Belgium and France got arrested, interned and finally also deported to 'the East' (mainly to Auschwitz) after the German army occupied these countries in May 1940: in all at least another 700-800 Persons, of whom we barely know anything.
(4) Only a first version of our research-findings can be used as a kind of 'electronic memory book' for personal investigations: www.NS-Verfolgung.uni-wuppertal.de. There are now also informative books available in a special institution supported by the city of Wuppertal, called 'Begegnungsstätte Alte Synagoge' (built on the ground of the old Synagogue of Elberfeld, which was destroyed during the 'Kristallnacht').
(5) The realisation of the research was only possible with the help of Mrs. K. Kaiser as scientific assistant and Mr. K. Zieres as student-assistant working since years in archives to exploit the information from court files dealing with cases of restitution and compensation between 1955 and 1965.
Selected publications concerning the research
Brusten, M. : Opfer des 'Staats-Terrors': ehemalige deutsche Juden in Australien. (victims of 'state terror': former German Jews in Australia) , in: Kaiser / Jehle (Hg.), Kriminologische Opferforschung, Bd.1: Kriminalität der Mächtigen, Kriminalistik-Verlag, Heidelberg 1994, S. 187-212.
Brusten, M. : Dieser Bericht muß veröffentlicht werden! Zur Entstehung und Bedeutung der 'Lager- Erinnerungen' von H.-W. Wollenberg ( This report must be published! To the origin and importance of 'camps recollections' from H. W. Wollenberg), in: M. Brusten (ed.) H.-W. Wollenberg: ...und der Alptraum wurde zum Alltag (... and the nightmare became everyday life), Pfaffenweiler 1992, S. 9-21 u. S. 189-219
Brusten, M. : Multikulturalität und persönliche Identität: Deutsche, Juden oder Australier? (Multiculturalism and personal identity: German, Jewish or Australian?), in: 'Newsletter 10' der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Australienstudien, Universität Wuppertal 1996, (S. 32-50)
Brusten, M. : Ein Leben zwischen den Welten. Ernst-Günther Salomon: Kind preußischer Offiziersfamilie in Berlin - dankbar gegenüber seiner 'neuen Heimat' Australien ( a life between two worlds. A child of a Prussian officer family in Berlin - grateful to his new 'home country' Australia), in: Prießnitz, H. (Hg.) 'Newsletter 11' der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Australienstudien, Universität Wuppertal, 1997, S. 64-95
Brusten, M. : 'Mr. New Musik' in Australien, in: Being George and liking it. Reflections on the life and work of George Dreyfus on his 7oth Birthday. Allans-Publishing, Melbourne 1998, S. 69-101
Brusten, M. : Die 'zweite Heimat'. Einstellungen von Opfern des Nazi-Terrors zum heutigen Australien (The 'second home contry', attitudes of victims of Nazi terror towards Australia today), in: Bader, R., Australien auf dem Weg ins 21. Jahrhundert (Australia on the way into the 21st century), Stauffenburg-Verlag Tübingen 2000, S. 71-94
Brusten, M.: Unsichere Zuflucht: Politische, kulturelle und soziale Probleme jüdischer Exilanten in Australien z.Z. des 'Dritten Reiches' (Unsafe refuge: political, cultural and social problems of Jewish Exiles in Australia during the 'Third Reich') , in: Bader/Braun/Wimmer (Hg.), Vergangenheit und Zukunft in Australien (Australia's Legacy of the past), Stauffenburg-Verlag Tübingen 2002, S.101-129