Eugen Herman

Disguised as a Hitler Youth

Eugen Herman was sixteen years old when in early 1943 he went into hiding in Berlin. His stepfather Julius Friede was a Gentile and thus able to help him, arranging lodgings with relatives and friends.

Eugen Herman had to endure living in hiding for two years. He changed quarters often. In August 1943 he was taken in by the Winkler family in Luckenwalde near Berlin. He sometimes borrowed the Hitler Youth uniform belonging to the Winklers’ son Horst so that he would not be conspicuous on the street.

The Winklers also helped other people suffering persecution. Together with Werner Scharff, a Jew, Hans Winkler started a resistance group, the Community for Peace and Reconstruction. Eugen Herman participated in their activities. The group printed and distributed leaflets and procured forged documents for people in hiding. In 1944 the Gestapo tracked down members of the group and also arrested Eugen Herman and his parents. He was released shortly before the end of the war, on April 23, 1945, his nineteenth birthday.

Persecution of Jews in Berlin

After the Nazis took power on January 30, 1933, the roughly 500,000 German Jews were gradually disenfranchised and ostracized. Roughly 160,000 of them lived in Berlin, about half of whom managed to leave Germany before the war started. As of 1938, Berlin Jews were forced to do labor. The deportations began in October of 1941. Many tried to evade the threat by going underground or into hiding. More than 1,700 of those who went into hiding in Berlin survived.


A Teenager Goes Underground

When he was sixteen, Eugen Herman lived with his mother and his non-Jewish stepfather in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. After a Gestapo officer harassed him on the street in late January of 1943, his stepfather advised him to go into hiding immediately. Julius Friede feared that his stepson would be deported and arranged a hiding place for him with acquaintances. He reported his stepson as missing to the police. After only two weeks, Eugen Herman had to change his hiding place for the first of many times.


Community for Peace and Reconstruction Resistance Group

In the fall of 1943, Eugen Herman’s helper Hans Winkler and Werner Scharff, who sometimes also stayed there in hiding, founded a resistance group. The Community for Peace and Reconstruction had up to thirty members from the founders’ circle of friends. They helped Jews in hiding and wrote flyers calling for resistance to the Nazi regime. Eugen Herman participated in distributing the flyers. In the fall of 1944, numerous members of the group were arrested by the Gestapo.


“I was happy to have something to do instead of just twiddling my thumbs all day. … Over the course of time we sent thousands of chain letters throughout Germany.”

Eugen Herman-Friede in an interview, 2012