Leo Baeck Institute works to preserve and promote the history and culture of German-speaking Jews.
62nd Leo Baeck Memorial Lecture by David Sorkin
The Art of Exile: Paintings by German-Jewish Refugees
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The Hamburg attorney Julius Jonas supported his wife, Julie, and five children with a successful law practice until 1933, when Nazi racial policy immediately began to splinter the family. Julius lost his position as a notary when the Nazis purged Jews from the civil service in 1933, and his eldest son, Walter, left for Great Britain the same year. In 1934, the second-eldest son, Jens Peter, left for a Kibbutz in Mandate Palestine after his Jewish employer’s firm was “Aryanized.”
By November 1938, with the violent designs of the Nazis laid bare by the events of Kristallnacht and Julius no longer allowed to practice law, Julie and Julius were desperate enough to consider sending their two youngest daughters abroad to England. The Leo Baeck Institute Archives hold the postcards they sent their daughters Elisabeth and Margarethe in England. Addressed to the girls variously at a “Holiday Camp” in Dover Court Bay and the Jewish Convalescent Home in Broadstairs, they attest to deep love and the pain of parents separated from their children.
Julie and Julius planned to join them in England. By March, 1939, they had acquired an Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung certifying that all their taxes had been paid, including the arbitrary “Judenabgabe” and the “Reich Flight Tax” levied on emigrating Jews, and they were about to close on the sale of the family home on Walderseestraße 12. Their final message to their children, composed March 4, 1939—the day they were scheduled to close on the sale of their home— is not in the LBI Archives, but in the archives of the Hamburg Police for Unnatural Death Cases. In their suicide note, they acknowledge the terrible pain they know they are causing their children, but beseech them nevertheless to honor their parents’ memory by becoming “decent and hardworking people.”