Rosenstrasse Rebellion: Berlin monument memorial to the protest by German women to save their Jewish husbands ttp://

The Rosenstrasse Rebellion: Berlin monument to the protest by German women to save their Jewish husbands

On February 27, 1943, the war was going poorly for the German army, but Hitler was still bothered by the problem of Jews remaining in Berlin. There were only a couple of thousand, mostly men, left from what was once a flourishing Jewish community, but Hitler’s aim was to exterminate all the Jews. But German women married to Jewish men had a different idea.

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These remaining men were special. They were married to German women, the same women the Nazis venerated as the future of the Aryan race. They were, in Nazi-speak, privileged.

While others were being picked up and murdered, or worked to death in forced labor camps, these men held on to a tenuous life. Until February 27th when all the Jews remaining in Berlin were to be picked up.

The History of the Rosenstrasse Rebellion

I was standing in front of the monument on Rosentrasse (Rose Street) dedicated to the women who mounted what was probably the only peaceful and successful Nazi protest. My guide, Yael Goldberg, was telling me the story behind the pink-tinted sculpture.

The women were furious. “They had struggled through over 10 years of social humiliation and punishment and stress to protect their family, and suddenly their husband and children get picked up.”

It had particular resonance for Yael – her grandmother escaped death because she was the daughter of one a German woman, married to a Jewish man. For Yael, this was no abstract event, it was her family’s history.

She continued with the story.

“The women were upset. They assembled in front of the building and protested for days,” she said. “Then, the street was not as quiet as it is right now,” she continued. “What could the Nazis do when the women protested? They couldn’t shoot the height of Aryan womanhood down in the middle of the street.” Further, because they weren’t Jewish, they didn’t wear the yellow star that identified the Jews of the city. Those passing by would only see the Nazis shooting these women.

“The Nazis had to be careful of what they did in public,” she concluded.

Days went by with the women protesting to release their husbands.

Nathan Stoltzfus who wrote Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany reported "One day the situation in front of the collecting center came to a head," a witness reported. "The SS trained machine guns on us: 'If you don't go now, we'll shoot.' But by now we couldn't care less. We screamed 'you murderers!' and everything else. We bellowed. We thought that now, at last, we would be shot. Behind the machine guns a man shouted something – maybe he gave a command. I didn't hear it, it was drowned out. But then they cleared out and the only sound was silence. That was the day it was so cold that the tears froze on my face."

Finally, on March, 7th, 1943 the women won, and their men were freed.

Monument to the Courageous Women

In 1995, a memorial created by Ingeborg Hunzinger, an East German sculptor, was erected in the nearby park (which was ironically the site of a former synagogue). The memorial, named "Block der Frauen (Block of Women)" reads The strength of civil disobedience, the vigor of love overcomes the violence of dictatorship; Give us our men back; Women were standing here, defeating death; Jewish men were free.

In the horror and destruction of German Jewish society the story had been just about lost from the public view. The families knew about it. It was these families who were the core of the Jewish community when the war ended.

And so, these women both saved their families, and they saved German Jewry.

Berlin tourism is probably the best source for information on Jewish sites throughout the city. You can find their information on Jewish travel to Berlin at Berlin Tourism: Jewish Travel

Read more about Jewish history in Germany

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Neala McCarten

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Updated: August 23, 2016

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