…where old people, who got a raw deal in the battle of life, may pass away in peace.”
(Elkan Nathan Adler, 1895)
Had the institutions not been destroyed during the Nazi era, Frankfurt am Main could look back on nearly 170 years of unbroken tradition of institutionalized Jewish care for the elderly. Due to the growing demand for care services outside the home also in Frankfurt´s two Jewish communities, the Jewish Elder’s home (Versorgungsanstalt für Israeliten) and the´Gumpertz´ infirmary were established by generous donations in the second half of the 19th century. In the first third of the 20th Century they were followed by the Freiherrlich Wilhelm and Freifrau Mathilde von Rothschild´s retirement home for Jewish women and maids of higher classes, the Home for Female Jewish Teachers and Students (registered association), the retirement home of the Hospital of the Jewish Health Insurances as well as two Jewish-Christian institutions with the retirement home of Frankfurt´s association for elderly care (in former times Rödelheim Jewish Hospital and nursing home) and the Henry and Emma Budge Home for single old people. During the Nazi era the homes were forcefully dissolved, “aryanized” and misused as transit camps prior to the deportations. However, two re-established institutions could continue the tradition of Frankfurt Jewish elderly care and aged care work unlike Jewish nursing which was not re-instated after the Shoah: the senior center of the Jewish community (on the premises of the former Frankfurt Jewish hospital on Gagernstrasse) and the Jewish-Christian retirement and nursing home of the Henry and Emma Budge Foundation
Retirement Homes, Nursing Homes and Foundations
The first senior citizens residence, the Jewish Elder’s home (Versorgungsanstalt für Israeliten) of Frankfurt´s Jewish community, was opened in 1845 at former “Wollgraben 8”, near the former “Judengasse” (Jews Alley) (Kirchheim 1911; Arnsberg 1983, Bd. 2, S. 87; Schiebler 1988, S. 129f.) At first it gave needy Jewish Frankfurt citizens “whose inability to work was due to infirmity” from the age of 60 up a home, , , but also people from the age of 40 up, who dropped out of employment early “due to illness or afflictions”. Schiebler 1988, page. 129. The home was not equipped for any nursing or care for persons confined to bed: The applicants had to be either insured (until the introduction of the statutory disability and old-age insurance in 1889) with the Jewish health insurance for men and women or had to prove they had a care option outside the retirement home in case they should become ill or bedridden. The proposed gender parity occupancy in the statutes could not be always observed, since there were more female than male applications. In 1847 the Jewish retirement home accommodated six, and after having moved to neighboring “Wollgraben 6” in December 1852 even 11 “nurslings” (citation as above, page 130.) In 1889 it moved into its new domicile at Röderbergweg 77 with room for 47 people. Around 1925 the number of beds occupied by women was 24 and by men 15 (Segall/ Weinreich 1925, page. 3). On October 23, 1939 the Nazi authorities incorporated the institution, rich in tradition, into the “National Association of Jewish people in Germany”. The last head was Rosa Schuster, who was supported by her daughters Bertha Schuster (Betty Kale) and Margot Schuster. In May 1941 (Kingreen 1999b, S. 147) the Nazi authorities evacuated the retirement home and placed it at the Wehrmacht´s disposal. The residents were moved to the transit camp (referred to as “collective accommodation for Jews” by the Nazi authorities from November 1, 1942) at Hermesweg 5-7 where later also the last Jewish hospital ward was located. In August 1942 the frail and partly very elderly people were deported to Theresienstadt senior ghetto and transit camp (Kingreen 1999b, S. 384f.) followed by Rosa Schuster and her two daughters one month later. Only Bertha Schuster survived the Shoah.
In 1888 Betty Gumpertz founded Gumpertz´ infirmary for poor fellow Jews, which was named after her and last located at Röderbergweg 62-64. It brought together, under one roof, nursing, care of the elderly and severely disabled, and poor relief, as well as hospice care for dying people. The care was managed by Matron Thekla Mandel from about 1894 until her marriage in 1907, followed by Matron Rahel Spiro, both of whom were trained by the Association for Jewish Nurses of Frankfurt am Main. Ferdinand Gamburg, Charles L. Hallgarten and Julius Goldschmidt officiated, among others, as chairmen (presidents) of the infirmary. In addition to Betty Gumpertz, further founders/foundresses like Träutchen Höchberg, Raphael Ettlinger, as well as Minna Caroline (Minka) von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, committed themselves to the home. After Betty´s death (in 1903) the Minka von Goldschmidt-Rothschild Foundation was established and affiliated with the Gumpertz Foundation – which was why the nursing home was also known as Rothschild´s infirmary. Minka´s widower Maximilian Benedikt von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, their daughter Lili Schey von Koromla and other family members took care of the foundation. Among the dependent persons were personalities like Gerson Mannheimer and Salomon Goldschmidt, who were well known in the Jewish community life of the state of Hesse. The beneficial work of Gumpertz´ infirmary ended in 1938 with the Aryanization measures of the Nazi rulers. It was finally located on 15 Danziger Platz (until 1941). Since 1956 a nursing home of the worker´s welfare has been located on the former premises of the Jewish infirmary with the August-Stunz-Center (today at Röderbergweg 82).
The smaller Sussmann-Una-Foundation provided care for frail, elderly and very needy Jewish men with a “strict religious moral conduct in accordance with the standards of traditional Judaism” (Schiebler, 124, see also Andernacht/Sterling 1963, S. 144). It was founded on October 18, 1901 with money left in the will of the pensioner Sussmann Una, who had died on June 23, 1899. On November 27, 1939 the Nazi authorities also forced this foundation into the “National Association of Jewish people in Germany”. The “Michael und Adelaide Rothschild née Honig and their children Josef and Emily Foundation”, which also supported “Jews in old age and illness” and of which little is known so far, fared no different. It appears that these two foundations did not maintain their own homes so that they seemed to make everyday assistance, drug supply and outreach care possible.
In memory of her husband Wilhelm Carl von Rothschild, who had died in 1901, Hannah Mathilde von Rothschild formed a foundation on March 27, 1903. It was her aim to provide a secure home” to “single needy Jewish” women from the age of 60 up “residing in Frankfurt am Main or within an air-line distance of 100 km […] (statute of Rothschild´s retirement home 1907, page 3). In the same year the Freiherrlich Wilhelm and Freifrau Mathilde von Rothschild´s retirement home for Jewish women and maids of higher classes was referred to as “Rothschild´s retirement home”, opened within the old Rothschild´s Palais at Zeil 92, providing room for 25 people; the house at Liebigstrasse 24 additionally belonged to the foundation´s assets (Arnsberg 1983 Bd. 2, S. 86f.; Schiebler 1994, S. 119f.). As the honorary president of the board, Hannah Mathilde von Rothschild got actively involved in the management of the home making use of her own rooms. The seniors’ home, whose female residents came from the upper educated class and had to lead an irreproachable life according to expectations of the time, corresponded to the concept of a Christian convent for noblewomen: Should a resident get married, she had to leave the home. Residents who started to need permanent nursing care were transferred to institutions like Gumpertz´ infirmary which were appropriately equipped. After the death of her mother, Hannah Mathilde and her also dedicated sister, Minka von Goldschmidt-Rothschild Adelheid de Rothschild continued to support the home generously from Paris, including a large donation of RM 500,000. Also closely connected with the history of the institution is the biography of Jenny Hahn, who had been employed from 1917 and worked as the administrator of Rothschild´s retirement home between 1930 and 1940. On September 27, 1940 the Nazi authorities incorporated the foundation into the “National Association of Jewish people in Germany”. About one year later the residents of the home were forcefully evicted, and were transferred to different retirement homes (NS- transit camps) and the elderly care department of the Hospital of the Jewish Frankfurt am Main Community on Gagernstrasse (cp. Andernacht/Sterling 1963, page 471). The old people as well as the administrator Jenny Hahn were deported and murdered. In 1902 Minka von Goldschmidt-Rothschild initiated a residential project for single, older, female tenants of all confessions: The „Residential Home for Ladies“ of the Baron Wilhelm Carl von Rothschild Foundation for Charitable and Non-Profit Purposes was officially opened at 142-146 Hügelstrasse in 1911. Rothschild´s Residential Home for Ladies still exists today.
A smaller Jewish retirement home for women, the “Jewish Home for Female Teachers and Students” was founded by Clara and Isaac Bermann at Rückerstrasse 53 with room for 8 persons (Segall/Weinrich 1925, S. 4f; Schiebler 1994, S. 202; siehe auch Kirchheim 1911, S. 21; Arnsberg 1983 Bd. 2, S. 110).. The home, in which female students also used to live temporarily, accommodated “female teachers, nursery school teachers, kindergarten workers, house officials and other female civil servants as well as further higher educated female employees”, who could no longer practice their profession due to age or infirmity. In addition to 10 years of work experience, they usually had to be older than 45 years. A home for female Jewish teachers was established in response to the “celibacy for female teachers” which was introduced in the Wilhelmine Empire in 1880: If female teachers and civil servants married, they had to retire from professional life which was why many remained unmarried and childless. This affected female Christians and Jews equally. : “And yet, “we Jewish women also have to fight with special difficulties which a Jewish woman has to face everywhere” (Löffler 1932, S. 40; siehe auch Bericht 1911).. On May 20, 1932 the home commemorated its co-foundress and “first and oldest board lady” Ida Dann, who had died at the age of almost 79 years on April 14, 1932. In February 1933 two long-term residents, Ida Bernstein and Rosalie Heinemann, celebrated their 75th and 85th birthdays in the home. An anniversary celebration for the 25th year of the home´s existence was planned for autumn 1933. From June 1, 1942 the Nazi authorities managed the Jewish home for female teachers as “Jewish retirement home Rückertstrasse” (see below).
The Jewish hospital of the Joseph and Hannchen May Foundation at Alexanderstrasse 96, which was opened in Rödelheim in 1874 and assigned to the municipal hospital as a result of Rödelheim´s incorporation to Frankfurt am Main in 1910, was turned into a retirement home of Frankfurt´s Association for Elderly Care in 1922. The institution remained interdenominational: Jewish and Christian senior citizens spent their retirement years there together – until the Nazi break in 1933. Apparently, there was still a Jewish prayer room until July 1937. Today with the Social and Rehabilitation Center West there is still a (non-Jewish) retirement and nursing home located at Alexanderstrasse 94-96, in which a little exhibition commemorates its Jewish history.
Like the Jewish hospital of the Joseph and Hannchen May Foundation in Rödelheim, the Hospital of the Jewish Health Insurances at Röderbergweg 18-20 was increasingly used as a retirement home from the beginning of the 1920´s with room for 18 (health insurance for women) and 15 (health insurance for men) (Segall/Weinreich 1925, S. 4f.). The history of Frankfurt’s oldest Jewish nursing institution stretching across at least two centuries and rooted in the ghetto times ended as a NS-transit camp prior to the deportations. Allied air raids destroyed the “aryanized” buildings.
The retirement and nursing home of the Henry and Emma Budge Foundation, located on Wilhelmshöher Strasse in Frankfurt´s district Seckbach since 1967, has committed itself to vision of Jews and Christians living together after the Shoah. This is how it continues the tradition of the previous Henry and Emma Budge Home for old and single people, opened on Edingerweg in 1930, but already donated by Emma and Henry Budge in 1920. Its statute provided for a bed occupancy of one half each of Jewish and Christian residents. In 1938 the national Socialist Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt enacted the racial segregation of the residents into a Jewish and Aryan department. At this time the home still had 60 Jewish residents, who, however, had to leave the Budge Home by March 31, 1939. Now the Budge Home was referred to as “Heim am Dornbusch” ; nothing was to commemorate the Jewish donor couple anymore. In 1942 former Jewish residents of the Budge Home were deported into extermination. Due to the air raids the Christian residents were transferred to other homes in Frankfurt´s district before being evacuated to Bad Salzhausen. Finally, they were accommodated in Wächtersbach Castle. Following the surrender, authorities of the American Army took over the severely damaged building on Edingerweg, which they still used as renters after the Henry and Emma Budge Foundation was revitalized in 1956.
In addition to the institutions maintained in the city of Frankfurt, there were homes of the Jewish elderly care in health resorts, which were initiated and administered from Frankfurt am Main, like the rehabilitation and retirement home for Jewish teachers, cantors and scholars located in Bad Ems (Rhineland-Palatinate), a spa town and health resort, and opened in 1930. It existed until 1939.
Nazi era: From a retirement home to a ghetto house
A particularly depressing and shameful chapter concerns the establishment of Jewish “retirement homes” as transit camps in Nazi Frankfurt. The need of Jewish places in retirement and nursing homes increased also by moves into the city from the surrounding Hesse region and the emigration of younger people who were persecuted for anti-Semitic reasons and had to leave their frail family members behind – also due to immigration restrictions of host countries . In addition to the increased use of existing institutions like the Jewish Elder’s Home and the Hospital of the Jewish Health Insurances, also ghetto houses (“Jews´ houses”) were occupied. Due to high fluctuation the homes were finally often managed by staff not trained in nursing or care of the elderly. The following Nazi transit camps for old people have been identified up to this time (Andernacht/ Sterling 1963, S. 481, S. 507-533): :
– the last Jewish hospital ward at Hermesweg 5/7 which was referred to as “collective accommodation”
– “Jewish retirement home” at Feuerbachstrasse 14, last managed by Erna Blum. Nora Gottfeld, who had to give up her profession as a porcelain painter during the Nazi era, was a member of the caring staff. Then she worked as a nurse in the hospital of the Jewish community, in the retirement home on Feuerbachstrasse and finally in the Niederau retirement home. Residents of the Jewish Elder’s Home, including the widowed trader Salomon Hirschberger, were also transferred to Feuerbachstrasse.
– “Jewish retirement home” at Hans-Handwerk-Strasse 30, managed by the former shop assistant Jenny Dahlberg. To this transit camp Nazi authorities committed, in particular, people cared for by the Jewish Welfare services, including Johanna (Hannchen) Löwenberg.
– “Jewish retirement home” at Niedenau 25, managed by Dora Kaufherr. On behalf of the residents, Rosa Natt-Fuchs is mentioned here.
– the above-mentioned hospital of the Jewish health insurances at Rechneigrabenstrasse 18-20 (management unknown so far)
– “Jewish retirement home” at Reuterweg 91, managed by Rosa (Rosel) Möser, who survived the Shoah
– “Jewish retirement home” at Rückertstrasse 49 (management unknown so far)
– “Jewish retirement home” at Sandweg 7 (management unknown so far)
– “Jewish retirement home” at Wöhlerstrasse 6, 8, 13 (management unknown so far) (Leiterinnen: Cilly Bachrach , Martha Katzenstein, into which the Nazi authorities forced older people who had moved from rural areas to Frankfurt.
The hospital of the Jewish community on Gagernstrasse became Frankfurt´s final institution of not just nursing, but also elderly care: “The number of beds being available could be increased […] from 324 by 49 to 373. At the end of September 1941 the hospital was filled with 248 persons in total of which 120 were patients and 128 old and frail people.” The prayer room was changed into a dormitory and the kosher-run kitchen into an emergency kitchen. The hospital’s laundry also offered its services to the remaining “Jewish retirement homes”. It was thanks to committed nurses like Thea Höchster that the hospital on Gagernstrasse became the final hideaway in Frankfurt for frail and dependent Jewish people for a few months prior to the deportations. According to Hilde Steppe “almost 400 people were accommodated in the hospital as patients, in addition to 100 employees and 37 nurses” in 1942 (Steppe 1997: 246). They were deported to concentration and extermination camps during and after the Nazi eviction in September 1942 (siehe Kingreen 1999b sowie Karpf 2004). The initiated aryanization of the last Jewish hospital in Frankfurt am Main was thwarted by allied air raids in 1943, which caused severe damage to the hospital building.
After 1945: Break, continuity, new start
After the end of the National Socialism, attempts failed to erect Frankfurt´s Jewish hospital to a smaller extent at Gagernstrasse 36. However, a retirement and nursing home was established in the still existing circular building in 1946, where its first heads – Rosa Möser and Else Herlitz – cared for elderly and dependent Shoah-survivors under, at first, very limited conditions. Since 1952 today´s senior center(retirement and nursing home with Ateret-Zwi-Synagogue) of the Jewish community has been developing from these harsh beginnings on the premises of the former hospital and nurses´ house on Gagernstrasse / Bornheimer Landwehr. Following extensive building work, a modern building complex with large park grounds holds one of Europe’s largest senior centers today. The residents are from many nations, a part of them is non-Jewish. Pioneering work is being carried out in the handling of old and severely traumatized people and development of an intercultural care concept. The Jewish-Christian senior center and nursing home of the Henry and Emma Budge Foundation on Wilhelmshöher Strasse was opened again in 1967 as Frankfurt´s second central institution of Jewish elderly care and aged care work after the Shoah. With its memorial, inaugurated in 2011, in which 23 persons were named, including Emma Israel, a monument was created for the murdered residents of the “old” Budge Home.
The research on persons, institutions and concerns of Frankfurt´s Jewish elderly care and aged care work needs to be continued.
Birgit Seemann, 2012, updated 2017