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Beate Berger

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 48864

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    Beate Berger
    Beate Berger


    Beate Berger
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ayelet Bargur

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Ayelet Bargur

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Beate Berger (1886-May 20, 1940) served as the head nurse of the Frankfurt Hospital. In February 1922, she was offered the position of the head of the Beith Ahawah Kinderheim ("House of Love" Children's Home) on Auguststrasse, in Berlin. Beith Ahawah was paid for by the Jewish Council and housed roughly 120 Jewish children from Eastern Europe at any given time. With the economic problems of the early 1930s, many parents could not support their children and asked that the school care for them. Even after the Jewish Council claimed that there was no more money for certain children, Beate Berger would not turn them away and allowed them to stay at the home. She identified with the plights of the children. Her own father had died when she was six, leaving her mother alone with five children. Beate was then sent to live with relatives in the mountains. She felt abandoned, angry and lonely. Thus, she tried to give "her" children order and stability by creating a home with a highly structured schedule and a strong adherence to the rules. The school was Zionist and religious. The children studied Hebrew and the Torah, and the home was located next door to a synagogue. The children lived in dormitory style rooms, with boys and girls separated. There were 24 beds to a room. The dining hall had large paintings of the biblical story of Ruth; the food was kosher. With the rise of the Nazis, loud parades passed right in front of the children's home. The children witnessed the events from the windows of the home, but Beate Berger did her best to protect them and never allowed them to go outside alone.
    Beate Berger became convinced that Germany was no longer a place for Jewish children. By 1934, she appealed to the Jewish communal leadership for donations or other assistance but became frustrated by their lack of a response. She didn't want to wait for the Nazis to come to them, so she tried to find a way to move the school to Palestine. Finally, with the help of Max Lieberman and Herman Struck, two Jewish artists, she quietly raised 30,000 marks through an auction of their work. Berger secretly traveled alone to Palestine to make the arrangements for the new home. The mission was very dangerous, yet she successfully managed to complete the preparations in secret. There were further obstacles to the children's immigration. The British Government did not want to grant children travel certificates unless they met several conditions. They had to be between the ages of 15 and 17, have a medical certificate vouching for their health, have parental approval if their parents were living, and attend a Zionist prep camp to ensure that they were "immigration ready." Even after meeting the conditions, the British Government in Palestine only approved 30 certificates. Berger faced the agonizing decision of deciding who would leave first. The British government promised her additional certificates once the new children's home was completed in Palestine.
    The first group of 35 children left immediately after celebrating Passover on April 9, 1934. The children were excited to leave and many didn't realize that they would never see their families again. At the train station they were heckled by Nazi soldiers who urged them to leave. The train brought the children to Trieste where they boarded a ship for Haifa. The new site of the children's home was starkly different from the one in Berlin. The home in Israel consisted of small houses against the backdrop of Mt. Carmel. After the first of the children arrived, Berger continued to travel between Berlin and Palestine to bring several more groups out of Germany. By 1940, she had taken 100 children from Berlin to Haifa. In addition she also facilitated the immigration of Palestine of 75 children from Austria, 15 from Italy, and 100 from Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland.
    Beate Berger died suddenly in 1940 of heart disease while in Palestine. Several months later, Nazi officials took over the home and made it the Headquarters of the Hitler Youth. Twenty children under the age of 14 were still in Berlin awaiting their turn to immigrate. All the Ahawah children remaining in the home at the time were sent to Auschwitz.
    Source: Ayelet, Bargur. Ahawah heisst liebe: Die Geschichte des jüdischen kinderheims in der berliner auguststrasse. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co.KG, 2006.
    Record last modified:
    2009-03-05 00:00:00
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