The Creizenachs

Criminalization

Frankfurt Association of Reform Supporters

by Angelika Rieber

The Creizenach family is closely intertwined with Frankfurt’s history. Theodor Creizenach (1818-1877), renowned expert on Goethe and Dante, founded the Frankfurt Association of Reform Supporters (Frankfurter Verein der Reformfreunde), which promoted a reform of Judaism. Finally Creizenach’s ideas moved so far away from traditional Judaism, that he converted to Christianity in 1854.

His son, merchant Ferdinand Creizenach, moved his family to the nearby town of Oberursel, just below the Taunus mountains. His wife Gertrud came from a Christian family. Under the Nuremberg Laws, theirs was a “mixed marriage.” Their two children, Elisabeth (1894) and Theodor (1896) both had their confirmation at Christuskirche in Oberursel.

“The deceased was last seen alive on said day at 21.45h.”

Theodor Creizenach belonged to the generation of young men drafted straight from school. He only returned from French captivity in 1920. The Oberursel resident studied history, German and philosophy and in 1928 finished his doctoral thesis “German Reich and German state as viewed by the French.” As a historian, he followed his famous grandfather’s example, whose name he also bore.

The Nazi takeover destroyed Theodor Creizenach’s career. As a “Half-Jew,” he was dismissed from all functions at the Frankfurt Association for History and Regional Studies (Verein für Geschichte und Landeskunde). To secure a living for himself and his mother, he gave foreign language lessons in private.

In June 1939, Theodor Creizenach was arrested on his way home for still unknown reasons after giving a lecture and visiting family friends. He was brought to the police prison at Klapperfeldstraße. According to police information, he was found hung dead in his cell shortly after his committal. His mother was informed only two days later. “The deceased was last seen alive on said day at 21.45h,” states the death certificate issued three days later.

Escape to England

His sister, Elisabeth Wolfskehl, survived. She succeeded in escaping to England with her two children in 1939. Not just her brother, also her husband died a violent death.

Henry Wolfskehl was deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp in November 1938. There he was found unconscious and brought to the psychiatric hospital in Jena, where he died on November 30, 1938.

“C. was spreading rumors”

Gertrud Creizenach remained in Oberursel alone. Her husband had already died in 1928. Her son and son-in-law died under unresolved circumstances, her daughter and grandchildren lived in England. Adding to all these misfortunes, Gertrud Creizenach was denunciated and tried for making a “defeatist remark” in 1943.
“C. was spreading rumors about the SS (Zacken)” reads a comment on a Gestapo index card dated January 5, 1944.
During a conversation, Gertrud Creizenach and another Oberursel resident had expressed disgust about “SS women who can give birth in a special home, where they receive money for abandoning their child to the institution.”

The “crime” was seen as an “offense against the anti-treachery law.” Her marriage to a Jew was considered full proof for her “all-round anti-government disposition.” A ruling by the special court of Frankfurt’s highest provincial court of July 5, 1944 sentenced Gertrud Creizenach to five months of prison, but her lawyer achieved that she did not have to serve the sentence. In 1953, Gertrud Creizenach died at 86; embittered, as contemporaries report.

Biograohical Notes

Creizenach family
Theodor Creizenach
Born 1896 in Frankfurt am Main
Historian; could not complete his dissertation after 1933
Earned his living as a private tutor
Lived on Austraße, Oberursel
Arrested in June 1939; police report states suicide in his prison cell

Father:
Ferdinand Creizenach
Jewish background; belonged to the congregation of Christuskirche
Died in 1928

Mother:
Gertrud Creizenach, née Meißner
Denunciated in 1944 for “defeatist” remarks and sentenced to a prison sentence, which she did not have to serve
Died in 1953

Sister:
Elisabeth Wolfskehl, née Creizenach
Married to Henry Wolfskehl
Henry Wolfskehl arrested during November Pogroms; transferred from Buchenwald to Jena, where he died on November 29, 1939
Lived on Kurhessenstraße in Frankfurt
In 1939 Elisabeth emigrated to England with her children Dieter and Eva


Sources:

Archives: Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Wiesbaden, Stadtarchiv Oberursel, Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt, Historisches Museum, Archiv der Christuskirchengemeinde, Universitätsarchiv Heidelberg
Talks with contemporaries
Rieber, A. (2010): „Dem Wahren, Schönen, Guten“. Die Creizenachs – eine Familie aus Oberursel, in: Mitteilungen des Vereins für Geschichte und Heimatkunde Oberursel e.V. Nr. 49

Photos:
Angelika Rieber, private

Text:
Angelika Rieber

Translation: Emal Ghamsharick