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A Holocaust Survivor, Still Loyal to Germany

Lawrence Bush
June 21, 2017

Jeanette Wolff, a German Jewish social activist who helped rebuild the Jewish presence in Germany after surviving imprisonment in several Nazi concentration camps and enduring the murders of her husband, daughter, and other family members, was born in Westphalia, Germany on this date in 1888. “One of the best-known German Jewish women in post-war Germany, she was an activist in three fields,” writes Jael Geis at the Jewish Women’s Archive, “as a Social Democrat and labor unionist; as one committed to equal rights for women, and as a worker for the Jewish cause before and after World War II. After 1945, unlike so many Jews, she did not consider the Jewish communities and institutions she helped to rebuild to be just ‘Liquidationsgemeinden,’ temporary organizations. She was convinced that Jews had the right -- if not the obligation -- to live in Germany for good.” From 1952 until 1961, she was president of the Central Jewish Social Service Office in Germany, and she became co-chair of the Union of Jewish Women when it was reestablished in 1953. Wolff served as a witness at several prosecutions of Nazi war criminals and cofounded the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation in Berlin, of which she was an officer from 1949 until 1976, the year of her death at age 88.

“Thorough enlightenment, according to her, was the antidote to the remnants of Nazism in post-war Germany. In 1954 she testified against the commandant of Stutthof concentration camp and in 1970 against the former SS-Obersturmführer Otto Bovensiepen, who was accused of acting as accessory to deportation from Dortmund and murder. Bovensiepen had abused and tortured Jeanette Wolff’s youngest daughter Käthe and while she was held in Ravensbrück had prevented her from being deported together with her family to the Riga ghetto.” --Jael Geis

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.