Inge Deutschkron: Remembrance as a life′s mission | Culture | Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 09.03.2022

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Culture

Inge Deutschkron: Remembrance as a life's mission

Many Holocaust survivors remained silent throughout their lives — but not Inge Deutschkron. On March 9, 2022, the honorary citizen of Berlin died at the age of 99.

Germany Holocaust survivor Inge Deutschkron

Inge Deutschkron (23.08.1922 - 09.03.2022)

It was February, in the middle of an icy cold Berlin winter in 1995. We were all squeezed onto a small balcony, because its view of the snow-covered roofs of the city provided a perfect backdrop for our TV interview. In front of the camera was Inge Deutschkron, back then a 72-year-old delicate woman with short black hair and colorful make-up.

I was shivering in the extreme cold, but Inge Deutschkron wasn't while she told us how she survived the Nazis by spending two years hidden in Berlin when she was 20-years-old.

Deutschkron was born on August 23, 1922, in Finsterwalde, south of Berlin. Her father Martin Deutschkron was a secondary school teacher and a staunch Social Democrat. At home, the family used to talk openly about politics.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, her mother Ella took her along to counter-demonstrations organized by Social Democrats and Communists.

When the windows of Jewish shops started getting smashed shortly afterwards, her mother told her that she was a Jew. As her family had not been practicing the religion, Inge did not really understand what that meant.

"The most important thing my mother added was: 'If someone attacks you, don't put up with it! Defend yourself!" recalled the author in an interview in 2013. That became the guiding principle of her life. She would not put up with anything, but rather got involved and addressed difficult issues.

Cover of Inge Deutschkron's book titled I Wore the Yellow Star

Cover of her book, 'I Wore the Yellow Star'

Two years in hiding

Yet to survive Nazi dictatorship, people had to keep their mouth shut. As a Jew, Inge Deutschkron's father was expelled from his public school. In 1939, he fled to England, but he did not manage to get his wife and daughter to join him before the war broke out in September that year.

Friends helped Inge and her mother hide in Berlin during two years. "They were non-Jewish simple craftsmen, pensioners, who couldn't bear the barbarism and risked their own lives to save ours," she said during an interview with DW in 2012.

Inge and her mother were among the few 1,700 out of 200,000 Jews in Berlin who survived the Holocaust by hiding in the city. Those years are the subject of her book Ich trug den gelben Stern ("I Wore the Yellow Star"). Based on this book is also a play for children called Ab heute heißt du Sara (From Now On, Your Name is Sara), which is still staged in theaters across Germany.

In 1946, one year after the end of the war, Inge Deutschkron moved to London. She studied languages and worked as a secretary for the International Socialist Organization. In 1955, she returned to Germany to work as a freelance journalist in Bonn. In 1958, she moved to Jerusalem where she worked for the Israeli daily Maariv, which sent her to Frankfurt to cover the Auschwitz trials in 1963. Three years later, she became an Israeli citizen. Shemoved to Tel Aviv in 1972 to take up a the role of editor at Maariv.

Watch video 05:15

Fighting against Forgetfulness: Inge Deutschkron

Living in Germany and Israel

For a long time, Inge Deutschkron felt torn between Germany and Israel. Many Nazis continued to live in Germany during the post-war years, yet there were also those people she called "silent heroes," people to whom she owed her life.

In Israel, her adopted home, the successful journalist and author became an expert on Middle East politics and international relations, as well as German-Israeli relations. Her book Israel und die Deutschen. Das schwierige Verhältnis ("Israel and the Germans: The Difficult Relationship") became a standard work. In 1988, Deutschkron returned to Berlin, where she was made an honorary citizen in 2018, and where she spent the rest of her life. 

Like many other Holocaust survivors, Inge Deutschkron could never overcome her feeling of guilt of having survived while so many others lost their lives.

German Bundestag commemorates victims of National Socialism Inge Deutschkron

Inge Deutschkron on 30.01.2013 at the German Bundestag

On January 2013, 80 years after the Nazis took power, the 90-year-old gave the annual Auschwitz Memorial Day speech, remembering those years during which people around her simply disappeared. "At night, I saw them in front of me, and could not stop thinking of them. Where were they? What was being done to them?" she said in the German parliament. "What right did I have to hide, to duck out of a fate that should have been mine as well? That feeling of guilt haunted me, it never let me go." And it was that feeling that inspired her to fight against forgetting for the rest of her life.

Once again I encountered Inge Deutschkron via television; this time she was onscreen. In January 2014, she narrated a film that took up her memories. Ein blinder Held ("A Blind Hero") tells the story of the brush manufacturer Otto Weidt, who between 1941 and 1943 saved his Jewish employees from deportation. Inge Deutschkron was one of them.

After our interview on that balcony 27 years ago, she had hardly changed, had only become a little smaller, and her back was slightly more bent. But her manner of speaking was the same: vividly gesticulating, full of humor, never bitter. Her schedule was always filled with book projects, lectures and visits to schools where she told young people about her life.

Inge Deutschkron received numerous awards for her tireless commitment to remembering the Holocaust. With her death, one more of those few remaining voices has been silenced forever.

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