Ilse Rewald (1918 - 2005)

Ilse Basch was born into a Jewish family in Berlin in 1918. She and her brother Josef, who was two years younger, grew up in a sheltered environment. Her father, Georg Basch, was a veterinarian with his own practice in Berlin-Friedrichshain. He died suddenly in 1929. Ilse wanted to complete secondary school and study at university, but as a Jew she had to leave the Sophien Lyzeum, a secondary school for girls, in 1935. She completed training at the Jewish commercial school and later worked as a secretary for a Jewish lawyer until he emigrated.

In 1935 she met Werner Rewald, a Jewish interior designer from Cologne, who was permitted to work only as an upholsterer. The two married after the November Pogrom of 1938. A rabbi conducted the ceremony in her mother’s apartment in Berlin-Charlottenburg, because the synagogues had been destroyed. They tried to emigrate, but their plans failed. Only her brother succeeded in leaving the country for England before the war began in 1939.

Starting in 1941, Ilse Rewald was conscripted to do forced labor in the Deutsche Benzinuhren armaments company in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. Her husband was detailed to do track work for the Reich Railway. When her mother Margarete Basch and aunt were put on a deportation list in January 1942, Ilse Rewald wanted to join them of her own accord, but her company did not let her go. Her mother and aunt were deported to Riga. Her mother managed to send two short messages to Ilse Rewald in Berlin. From then on she knew how terrible the deportation destination was. The Rewalds observed the merciless and opaque calls to deportation very closely and suspected that their “turn” would also come. Their friends Elli and Paul Fromm, in a mixed marriage, advised them to go into hiding, but they only had space to take in Werner Rewald. On January 11, 1943, Ilse and Werner Rewald left their apartment. Ilse was able to find other quarters at the last moment.

After a while, the couple was able to procure forged identity papers. In order to earn money, Ilse Rewald took on housework and typing jobs, which did not have to be reported to the employment office. Since food was difficult to come by, over time she started suffering from malnourishment. In January 1944 Ilse Rewald lost her hiding place because the apartment of the woman hiding her was destroyed by bombing. After weeks of great uncertainty in emergency lodgings, the Rewalds found quarters together in the spring of 1944 with the composer Hanning Schröder in Berlin-Zehlendorf. They all had to be very cautious since a Wehrmacht officer was also quartered there. In spite of many dangerous situations, they were together when the war ended in late April 1945.

Because of her experience with her courageous helpers, Ilse Rewald did not emigrate after liberation as did many other survivors. In 1958 she wrote down her story of survival, which was first published in 1965. The positive echo encouraged her starting in the 1970s to talk in schools and at public events about how she and her husband survived the Nazi period in hiding.

Bibliography:
Rewald, Ilse. “Der Preis des Überlebens.” In Jüdische Berliner: Leben nach der Schoa; 14 Gespräche, edited by Ulrich Eckhardt and Andreas Nachama, 189–207. Berlin: Jaron, 2003.
Ilse Rewald
Photo: German Resistance Memorial Center

Biographies

Glossary

  • Mixed marriages

    Mixed marriages

    Marriage between Jews (or non-Aryans according to the Nuremberg Race Laws) and non-Jews was banned through the “Blood Protection Law” of September 15, 1935. Preexisting marriages were tolerated. Depending on the religion of the children, “privileged” mixed marriages were distinguished from “nonprivileged” ones. Initially spared deportation, the situation for Jews in mixed marriages became increasingly uncertain as of 1943. In some areas, spouses in mixed marriages were deported.