Zerline Rohrbach

“It is suicide, without a doubt.”

By Angelika Rieber

The Rohrbach family moved to Oberursel in 1936. Many Christians of Jewish ancestry lived here and many couples in so-called “mixed marriages.” The majority of Jewish partners were converts and belonged to the congregation of Oberursel’s Christuskirche, just like Zerline Rohrbach. “Jewish” partners in a mixed marriage were exempted from the initial deportations to extermination camps, which started in 1941/42. Frankfurt’s Gau administration, however, was exceptionally cruel and in early 1943 began planning mass arrests.

Zerline Rohrbach, née Löwenstein, was born into a Jewish family in 1868 in Lollar, near Gießen. She married a Christian, who was also born in Lollar. Just before moving to Oberursel in 1936, the family lived in Frankfurt-Rödelheim. Until 1943, there were no grave changes in the family’s life. The first calamity befell them when Zerline Rohrbach’s husband died in 1943. She fell into a long depression. In this condition, a Gestapo letter reached her on May 19, 1943.

She was summoned for May 24, 1943 to “give a statement”. Her sons report that she was very frightened after receiving the letter and cried often. “After receiving the message, she thought she would be deported and never return to Oberursel,” her son is quoted in a police interrogation report.

On May 22, 1943, Zerline Rohrbach ended her life. In the morning, the sons found their dead mother, sitting in an armchair in the kitchen, all four gas taps open, doors and windows closed. “It is not verified whether the reasons for her suicide lie in this anxiety, but it can be assumed. […] It is suicide, without a doubt,” concludes the report of the police investigation.
From the report:
The mayor, as local police authority
Patrol police division, Oberursel, May 23, 1943
To the District Court of Bad Homburg v.d.H.
On Sunday, May 23, 1943 around 8 AM, the Jew Sara, called Zerline Rohrbach, née Löwenstein, born May 19, 1868 in Lollar, district of Gießen, local resident of Scharnhorststraße 5, was found dead in her kitchen, sitting in an armchair. The 4 gas taps of the oven were open, doors and windows were closed, so that it can be assumed with certainty that Rohrbach poisoned herself with gas.
According to her son’s testimonies […] Ms. Rohrbach had become very anxious and fearful after being summoned by the Gestapo on May 19, 1943. It is not verified whether the reasons for her suicide lie in this anxiety, but it can be assumed. The testimonies of the two sons regarding the discovery of the corpse, which are confirmed by Dr. H., are plausible. It is suicide without a doubt. I ask you to issue the burial permit.
By order of the Lieutenant Colonel of the Patrol Police

“Sent to Theresienstadt for labor duty”

Zerline Rohrbach’s two sons were also subject to discrimination and forced labor as “first-degree Mischlinge”.

Fritz Rohrbach was the factory manager for the company Carbone in Frankfurt-Bonames until 1942. The Nazi party (NSDAP) and their German Labor Front (DAF) had been trying to push him out since 1939. Upon orders of the NSDAP, Fritz Rohrbach was finally dismissed from his managing post and assigned an administrative job where he “would not be leading people”.
After their mother, Zerline Rohrbach, had commited suicide, the two sons received notice from their insurance company, Flamma, that the Financial Governor of Berlin-Brandenburg had confiscated all life insurance payments to Jewish members who died by suicide.
Flamma wrote on July 20, 1943: “Our branch in Frankfurt has forwarded us your letter of July 12, 1943 for further handling. The attached documents showed that your mother is to be considered a Jew according to the Nuremberg Race Laws. The Financial Governor of Berlin-Brandenburg has confiscated the insurance payments for life insurances for Jewish members, who die by suicide. […] Heil Hitler.”
Like other “half-Jewish” Oberursel residents, Fritz Rohrbach received a Gestapo order on February 7, 1945 to get ready to be “picked up” the next morning at 6 AM. “The purpose is interned labor duty in Theresienstadt.” His brother had already been conscripted for forced labor by the Todt Organization.
“Per (By?) order of the Gestapo, you are to be handed over to the Gestapo in Frankfurt/Main by the Oberursel police on February 8, 1945. The purpose is interned labor duty in Theresienstadt. You may only take as many items of luggage as you can carry, also food coupons. According to this order, you must be ready to be picked up in your apartment on February 8, 1945 at 6 AM.
Precinct Captain of the Patrol Police”
Fortunately, this nightmare ended right on the next day. The group was first transported to Frankfurt in a closed train wagon and brought to the remand prison on Klapperfeldstraße, but released around noon. A few weeks later, Oberursel was liberated.

Today a memorial at Hospitalplatz in Oberursel commemorates Zerline Rohrbach and the other Oberursel residents of Jewish origin who were deported or forced to commit suicide.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Name:
Zerline Rohrbach, née Löwenstein, born 1868 in Lollar near Gießen

Husband:
Ludwig Rorbach, non-Jewish

Last places of residence:
Frankfurt-Rödelheim, Oberursel from 1936

• May 19, 1943 – Zerline Rohrbach is summoned by the Gestapo
• May 22, 1943 – Zerline Rohrbach commits suicide

Sons:
• Fritz (1906) and Ernst Rohrbach, “first-degree Mischlinge”
• Ernst Rohrbach was conscripted for forced labor by the Todt Organization; in February 1945, Fritz Rohrbach received the order to appear for “interned labor duty in Theresienstadt”


Sources:
• Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Wiesbaden
• Rieber, A. (2004): Wir bleiben hier. Lebenswege Oberurseler Familien jüdischer Herkunft, Kramer-Verlag: Frankfurt

Documents:
• Summons to Zerline Rohrbach by Gestapo in May 1943, Source: HHStAW
• Dismissal of Fritz Rohrbach as factory manager of Carbone 1942, Source: HHStAW

Text and research:
Angelika Rieber

Translation
Emal Ghamsharick