Help for an Escapee from Majdanek 

Robert Eisenstädt, a young technician from Hanau, wanted to go into hiding in 1942 to avoid deportation. He had already been imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp after the November Pogrom in 1938. However, when his family received its notice to report for deportation, his non-Jewish friends who were going to take him in became frightened at the last minute and took back their offer of lodgings. On May 30, 1942, Eisenstädt, his mother, four siblings, and his young nephew were deported to Lublin, in Poland.

A few weeks later Eisenstädt escaped from the Majdanek concentration camp and fled to Frankfurt via Radom and Breslau. He was hidden by his Jewish fiancée Eva Müller in Frankfurt and also by friends in Hanau. Hans Waider, the boyfriend of Eisenstädt’s sister Marta and the father of her son, was a soldier in the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). When he was home on leave in late 1942 he learned from Robert Eisenstädt that Marta and the boy had been deported. The despairing soldier at least wanted to help his girlfriend’s brother. He gave him his boots and stole the ID card of a civilian employee from a Hanau office of the Wehrmacht; Eisenstädt’s photo was inserted into it.

Eva Müller was expecting a child with Robert Eisenstädt. A trained corsetiere, she and her family had moved from Czechoslovakia to Frankfurt in the late 1920s. As a foreign Jew she was spared deportation for the time being. She had stayed in contact with her physician in Frankfurt, Dr. Fritz Kahl, and his wife Margarete, and turned to them to ask for help. Dr. Kahl and his wife, parents of four children, took in Robert Eisenstädt for several weeks. They arranged to get forged ID papers and worked together with others to help the couple escape to Switzerland.

Kahl’s sixteen-year-old son Eugen was assigned Luftwaffe support outside the city with his class at school. When he came home unexpectedly, his parents told him they were hiding a Jew in their home. He had to keep this news absolutely secret and not tell his friends.

Eva Müller and Robert Eisenstädt succeeded in escaping across the border to Switzerland on February 21, 1943. While climbing over the barbed-wire fence the pregnant woman injured her legs. Eisenstädt had been seriously abused in the concentration camp and recovered only slowly from his injuries and the ordeal of the escape. Their daughter Maria Adina Eisenstädt (called Maja) was born on July 8, 1943, in Basel.

Eva Müller’s sister Berta had remained in Frankfurt. In March 1943 she was ordered to report to the Gestapo for deportation. At the last moment she too asked Dr. Kahl for help. Margarete and Fritz Kahl hid Berta Müller for several weeks in their home. Dr. Kahl procured a forged ID card, with which she escaped to Vienna. There she was able to live anonymously, albeit under great risk.

In 2006 the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem honored Fritz and Margarete Kahl as Righteous Among the Nations.

Bibliography:
Kosmala, Beate. “Robert Eisenstädts Flucht aus dem KZ Majdanek: Über Frankfurt am Main in die Schweiz.” In Überleben im Dritten Reich: Juden im Untergrund und ihre Helfer, edited by Wolfgang Benz, 287–298. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2003.
Kosmala, Beate, and Revital Ludewig-Kedmi. “Rettung eines Flüchtlings aus Majdanek: Margarete und Fritz Kahl.” In Verbotene Hilfe: Deutsche Retterinnen und Retter während des Holocaust, edited by Beate Kosmala and Revital Ludewig-Kedmi, 43–49. Zurich: Verlag Pestalozzianum, and Donauwörth: Auer, 2003. With CD-ROM and audio CD.

Glossary

  • Confessing Church

    Confessing Church

    This church opposition to the Protestant Church’s forced conformity with the Nazi regime was founded in 1934. It rejected having Christians of Jewish descent excluded from the church. In all state churches except in Württemberg, Bavaria, and Hanover, there was a schism between “German Christians” who were loyal to the regime and supporters of the Confessing Church. Many Confessing Church pastors were imprisoned.

     

     

  • November pogroms, 1938

    November pogroms, 1938

    After a 17-year-old Polish Jew attempted to assassinate a German diplomat in Paris, propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels initiated anti-Jewish pogroms throughout the German Reich. On November 9 and 10, 1938, members of the paramilitary SA and the Nazi Party set hundreds of synagogues on fire and destroyed and plundered Jewish stores and residences. More than a hundred people were killed and about 30,000 Jewish men were imprisoned in concentration camps.