Edith Bruck (1904 - 1997)

Edith Fürst grew up in a Jewish family in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) and completed training to be a baby nurse. Along with her four siblings, she was active in the Jewish Youth Movement in the 1920s. Inspired by the ideas of freedom and equality, she made her dream of running her own children’s home a reality. Opened in 1933 in Berlin-Niederschönhausen, it was soon known for its free spirit. Many oppositionists brought their children there.

After the pogroms in November 1938, she had to close the home. Her siblings Max and Rosa managed to emigrate in time. Edith made an important contact, meeting the lawyer Hilde Benjamin, wife of the Jewish doctor Georg Benjamin, whose son she took care of. Starting in 1939 she ran the day nursery of the Jewish Community at Auguststrasse 17. Two years later Edith married Emanuel Bruck, the former editor of the Ruhr Echo, who served a long sentence with hard labor because he was a communist. When he was supposed to be released in 1942 he was instead transferred to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was murdered in August 1942.

Hilde Benjamin and Dr. Kurt Hess, a dentist she had known for a long time from left-wing oppositional circles, encouraged Edith Bruck to go into hiding in order to avoid being deported. And that is what she did in October 1942. She found a number of different quarters. Hilde Benjamin could not take her in, but Edith entrusted her with important photographs and documents for safekeeping, and they remained in regular contact with each other. Harald Poelchau, an acquaintance of Hilde Benjamin, heard about Edith Bruck’s situation. When she first went into hiding, she was given work and food by Poelchau, who also asked his friends, archeologist Peter Knoblauch and his French wife Yvonne, to help Edith Bruck. In 1943 she started looking after the Knoblauch’s daughter (b. 1942) in their apartment at Charlottenbrunner Strasse 41 in Berlin-Grunewald. Kurt Hess managed to get a postal ID card for Edith Bruck issued under the name of his sister-in-law Gertrud Hess, but with Edith Bruck’s photo. When Peter Knoblauch was drafted into the Wehrmacht and Yvonne Knoblauch left the city with her daughter in 1944 because of the increasing air raids, they made arrangements with their housing association that Edith Bruck alias Gertrud Hess could officially “look after” their apartment.

Through her connections to illegal communist circles, Edith Bruck met Charlotte Bischoff, a communist who had emigrated to the Soviet Union. In 1941, Bischoff entered Germany illegally via Sweden in order to restore the disrupted resistance connections. Charlotte Bischoff lived on and off with Edith Bruck in the Knoblauch’s apartment and also met Harald Poelchau, who arranged quarters for her with the prison doctor Hilde Westrick.

On November 19, 1944, Edith Bruck was arrested at Charlottenbrunner Strasse 41 and was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp a few days later. She survived the camp but was seriously ill. After convalescing following her bout with tuberculosis, she ran various children’s homes in East Germany and married Bruno Holzapfel in 1958. She died in Halle in 1997.

Bibliography:
Scheer, Regina. Ahawah. Das vergessene Haus. Spurensuche in der Berliner Auguststraße, 229–250. Berlin: Aufbau, 1992.
Edith Bruck
Photo: privately owned

Biographies

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Glossary

  • Kreisau Circle

    Kreisau Circle

    In 1940 a group of regime opponents of varied social background and intellectual traditions formed around Helmuth James Graf von Moltke and Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg to draft plans for a new order for post-Nazi Germany. Some of them were later involved in the coup attempt on July 20, 1944. The resistance group was mercilessly pursued.