Eva Heilmann (1920 - 2002)

Eva Heilmann was the oldest child of Ernst Heilmann, a jurist and SPD politician in Berlin. Her mother Magdalena Heilmann came from a Social Democratic family. Her father was arrested in spring 1933 and murdered in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1940.

Like her younger siblings Peter, Ernst-Ludwig, and Beate, Eva Heilmann was classified according to the Nazi race laws as a first degree “Mischling,” since her father was of Jewish descent. The four children were baptized as Protestants around 1935 by a pastor of the Confessing Church. After being forced to transfer schools, Eva Heilmann was able to complete her Abitur (university entrance qualification) in 1939, despite considerable disadvantages. Her plans to emigrate failed. She was conscripted to do compulsory service and wanted to go to university afterwards, but was prohibited. In the vocational school of the Lette Verein, she was trained as a chemical technical assistant, and after that she worked in a company that built water purification plants. The head of the company kept a protective eye on her. Together with her brother Peter she gained contact with the Quaker youth group and in the “Paulus Bund,” the association of non-Aryan Christians, she met young people in the same situation.

Through multifarious family connections many threatened and persecuted Jews contacted the Heilmann family, which was relatively protected because the mother was classed as Aryan. Eva’s mother Magdalena was fearless and saw her assistance for those at risk as her personal resistance to the Nazi regime. Together with her mother and brothers, Eva Heilmann took in many Jews in hiding. In 1943 they gave lodgings to Else Behrend-Rosenfeld, a long-time friend of the family, and they helped her escape to Switzerland. They also took in Toni Boronow-Kaliski, who was also in hiding, and three young men—Walter Joelson, Ernst Schwerin, and Gerd Ehrlich—who were also able to escape to Switzerland in the fall of 1943. The sisters Alice and Elsbeth Pasch were hidden by the Heilmanns and another helper. The two older women could not endure the weeks of totally uncertain existence in hiding and turned themselves in to the Gestapo. They were deported to Auschwitz on June 28, 1943.

Martin and Eva Deutschkron, also in hiding, found their way to the Heilmann family through contacts to Tilla and Heinz Haagen, a Quaker couple. The Deutschkrons were tailors and made articles of clothing in the apartment that could then be sold in the Berlin environs. The couple stayed with the Heilmanns until early 1945. After the failed assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944, the Heilmanns also hid the fugitive Ernst von Harnack for a short time. He was later arrested and executed.

When the war ended Eva Heilmann was in Berlin; her mother and siblings also survived. She was very hopeful of a political new beginning and was looking forward to studying at the Berlin University in the Soviet sector of the city. When she noticed signs of a new dictatorship developing there, she took a clear stand and became one of the founders of the Free University of Berlin in the western part of the city.

Sandvoß, Hans-Rainer. Widerstand in Kreuzberg, 74–76, 253–255. Berlin: German Resistance Memorial Center, 1996.
Eva Heilmann


  • Quakers


    The Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, is a Christian-based lay community first founded in England in 1746. Its doctrine of the “inner light,” or divine presence in all humanity, includes a commitment to nonviolence, universal compassion, and aid for the needy. The German branch founded in 1925, with almost three hundred members, was monitored from 1933 to 1945 and some of its property was confiscated.

  • Nuremburg Race Laws

    Nuremburg Race Laws

    Anti-Jewish laws were pronounced at the Nazi party congress on September 15, 1935. The “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor” banned future marriages between Jews and non-Jews. Sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews was punishable as “race defilement.” The Reich Citizenship Law relegated Jews to being second-class citizens and was the basis for further anti-Jewish regulations.