The Brauns and the Grünebaums

An exhibition about the history of the municipal Jewish elementary school in Cologne

The exhibition The Brauns and the Grünebaums commemorates the history of the municipal Jewish elementary school of Cologne in Lützowstraße. It was inspired by the life stories of Walter Braun and Heinz Grünebaum, who were born in Cologne in the mid 1920s.

Walter Braun and Henry Gruen (before his emigration Heinz Grünebaum) were friends since early childhood. Their fathers were teachers at the municipal Jewish elementary school in Lützowstraße, and Dr. Siegfried Braun was also editor of several Jewish newspapers.
After elementary school, both boys attended the Jawne in Cologne, the only Jewish high school in the Rhineland. Both were rescued with a Kindertransport in 1939 to Great Britain.
Siegfried and Else Braun were able to emigrate to Palestine, later Israel, where their son Walter followed them after the end of the war. Walter’s older brother Gerhard succeeded in emigrating to Kenya; after many other stops, he lived in Great Britain last.
Leopold and Thekla Grünebaum and Henry’s little sister Inge were deported to Theresienstadt in 1942.
Henry Gruen went to the USA in the postwar years and returned to the Rhineland (Germany) in the early 1970s. He visited his friend Walter Braun regularly as long as he lived.
Walter Braun died in Israel on June 5, 2013 at the age of 89.
Henry Gruen turned 90 and died on November 14, 2013 in Cologne.

From its beginning to 1933

School children at the entrance of the school in Lützowstraße in the 1920s. (Photo: Zvi Asaria, Die Juden in Köln, Köln 1959)
Children from the first school class with their teacher, Hedwig Schloss, 1932

The municipal Jewish elementary school of Cologne was situated at 8-10 Lützowstraße from 1922 onwards. It was one of the largest state Jewish elementary schools in Germany. Although the building with its well-lit classrooms and a spacious sports hall had been built by the city of Cologne in 1914, moving into the school was delayed by the First World War.

The girls’ school and the boys’ school were merged in 1870 and in 1881 the elementary school was given the status of a publicly gov- erned institution. Until 1939 it was a municipally-run school in which the pupils were taught according to the state curriculum. Jewish education remained a priority, but many orthodox Jews found it too liberal.

Pupils at the school, the majority of whom were Eastern Jews who came from poor backgrounds, grew in numbers. In 1894, 445 children were taught at the school. At the beginning of the 1930s, there were more that 700 pupils. Generally children went to the elementary school for eight years and left at the age of 14.

From 1933 until the school´s closure

Once the National Socialists seized power in 1933, it became more and more difficult for Jewish children to go to state schools. Thus, the municipal Jewish elementary school became a haven from daily discrimination so that the number of pupils in Lützowstraße rose quickly. While in 1935 702 children were being taught there, one year later, 870 pupils attended the school. By 1935, pupil numbers had increased to 950.

In 1938, the school had to leave the school building in the Lützowstraße, by order of the municipal school board. At first the school was transferred to the school buildings in the Löwengasse / Weberstraße. One year later, from the 1st October 1939, all Jewish pupils in Cologne had to be taught together in the school building in St.-Apern-Straße. On the 30th June 1942, all Jewish schools in Germany were closed down.

The school in Lützowstraße was half destroyed during the Second World War and rebuilt from 1950 onwards. In the 1950s, a commercial college moved into the building. Nowadays it is used as a vocational college.

The school building seen from Lützowstraße, 2007 (Photo: Ursula Konopka)

The last signs of life

The beginning of the Second World War meant that escaping from Nazi Germany had become nearly impossible. The running of the school for Jewish pupils was continued for another two and a half years under the most difficult circumstances. Little is known about this time at the Jewish elementary school, which was now located in the Jawne buildings.

Hannelore J., daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, started school at Easter 1940. Before the Easter holidays in 1942, the head teacher, Erich Klibansky, who was responsible for all Jewish pupils in Cologne, told her parents that they should not send her daughter back to school after the holidays. Hannelore and her parents survived in hiding. However, most of her classmates and the teachers, who had stayed in Cologne, were deported and murdered.

Heinz Gruenebaum’s parents, Leopold and Thekla, and his sister Inge, born in 1929, who had also gone to school in Lützowstraße, were deported to Theresienstadt in July 1942 and from there, in 1944, to Auschwitz. The last sign of life from them was a Red Cross letter from Theresienstadt.

The seventh and eigth grades of elementary school, March 1940

Inge Gruenebaum, d.o.b. 27th March 1929;
Leopold Gruenebaum, d.o.b 5th May 1885;
Thekla Gruenebaum née Plaut, d.o.b. 19th November 1899.

The photo was taken by Dennis Pelmore, Heinz Gruenebaum’s English hostel father, who spent a short while in Cologne in 1939.

The teaching staff

Between 1922 and 1938 more than twenty teachers taught at the Lützowstraße elementary school. They had been educated according to modern principles and taught the pupils following the national curriculum. They all had special fields, but as elementary school teachers they had to teach every subject, even foreign languages.

From 1926, Emil Kahn was head teacher at the school in Lützow- straße; Paula Loeb was deputy head teacher. The teachers showed their commitment in many respects. For example, Dr. Siegfried Braun wrote for the “Jüdische Schulzeitung” (Jewish school magazine), CIlly Marx developed a primer specially for Jewish elementary schools and Leo Gruenebaum II led the Jewish Lehrhaus (academy), a kind of adult education centre.

Various teachers at the Lützowstraße school were carried off to concentration camps following the Pogrom in 1938. From 1941, those who had not been able to emigrate were deported. Amongst them were Leopold Grünebaum (father of Henry Gruen), Max Hirschfeld, Eugen Jacobi and Meta Freyer (teachers of Monique Joseph). Only a few of them managed to escape. Dr. Siegfried Braun emigrated to Palestine with his family, Cilly Marx went to Great Britain in 1939 and Leo Grünebaum II escaped to the United States.

Monique Joseph – Helga Irene Kaufmann

Helga Kaufmann (right) and her Cousin Ruth, 1926

Helga Kaufmann spent her early, very protected childhood at 42 Pauli- straße in Cologne. Her father, Sally, had a jute company. They had a car, a nanny for Helga, the only daughter, and a cook. In 1930 Helga joined the Lützowstrasse school. First, she attended Meta Freyer’s class of girls, then she switched to Max Hirschfeld’s co-ed class, where she met her childhood sweetheart, Walter Braun.

Her father had already been forced to flee to France in April 1933. During the Easter Holidays in 1934, Helga went to see him in Strasbourg. After returning to Cologne for a few months, she followed her parents who, in the meantime, had settled in Tours. In 1938, she went to see her grandparents for the very last time in Cologne.

After the beginning of the war, the Kaufmanns’ situation got worse. They fled to the south of France, which was not yet occupied, but whose government was collaborating with the Nazis. At the end of 1943, Helga and her mother were arrested in the Camp de Nexon. They were able to save themselves from the threat of deportation by a mixture of luck and courage. They managed to go into hiding in a village under false names. From that time onwards, Helga Kaufmann was known as Monique Colin. In the autumn of 1944, the „Colins“ were liberated by the Seventh United States Army. Some years later, Monique emigrated with her husband Theo Joseph to the United States.

Child’s identity card issued in Cologne in 1935, with French visa and entry stamps.

The sixth grade school year with the teachers Hulda Dahl (left) and Berta Löb (right), 1936. Front row (8th from the left): Helga Kaufmann

Amalie (Malchen) Banner

The envelope to Malchen’s last letter from the Warsaw Ghetto. (from: Dieter Corbach, Köln und Warschau sind zwei Welten. Amalie Banner – Leiden unter dem NS-Terror, Cologne 1993)
Amalie and Selma Banner in Purim fancy dress at the end of the 1920s.
The last known picture shows Malchen in Cologne’s Jewish hospital in summer 1938.

Amalie Banner was born in Cologne on the 25th February 1923 and one year later her sister Selma was born. Their parents, Simon and Hene Beile Banner, née Alter, came from Kolokolin/Ukraine and Old Dzikow/ Galicia. In 1928 the mother was taken into a mental home. The father, who had now sole responsibility for his two daughters, found lodgings for them in the Abraham-Frank-House in Cologne-Braunsfeld, as he was away as a travelling salesman. At weekends he brought the girls back home.

In 1934, Malchen’s lower right leg had to be amputated. Her classmates from Lützowstraße tried to cheer up the artistically gifted girl. After getting her school leaving certificate in 1938, Selma Banner attended a domestic science school, whereas Malchen became a tailor’s apprentice.

During the deportation of Polish Jews („Polenaktion“) in October 1938, Simon Banner was expelled with his two daughters from Cologne to Poland. After the German invasion in Poland they found a place to stay in Warsaw in a basement flat.

Malchen and her father wrote letters from July until November 1941 to their male and female friends. Malchen’s last letter to her former dancing teacher Susanne Levinger is dated 28th November 1941. After that date, there are no more messages from her.

Class with teacher Regina Frenkel, around 1937. Third row: 2. Selma Banner, 3. Amalie Banner

Henry Gruen – Heinz Grünebaum

Heinz Gruenebaum (centre) and Walter Braun (right) with neighbourhood children in Cologne, ca. 1928. (Photo: Henry Gruen)

Heinz Gruenebaum was born to Leopold and Thekla Gruenebaum on 30th May 1923 in Cologne. Heinz and his sister Inge grew up in a politically and religiously liberal household. Leopold Gruenebaum, who had come to Cologne in about 1912, was a teacher at the municipal Jewish elementary school. From 1915 to 1918, he and four of his five brothers fought at the front for the German Reich.

Heinz started at the elementary school in Lützowstraße in 1929. In 1933, he went to the Jawne, the Jewish grammar school. After the family’s flat was destroyed during the pogrom in 1938, Heinz lived with the Brauns. In January 1939, Heinz left Cologne, together with Walter Braun, on a children’s transport. That was the last time that Heinz saw his parents and his sister.

In 1941, Heinz began to work in England at a dye laboratory and completed his secondary education in 1944 at evening classes. In 1947, he emigrated to the United States, where he changed his name to Henry Gruen. In 1957, he completed his chemistry studies at the University of Illinois with a master’s degree. Apart from his profession, music and literature played a large role in his life.

In 1971, Henry Gruen decided to go back to Germany.

Passport photo on the identity card that was issued in 1940 in Great Britain (Document: Henry Gruen)
First school class, 1929. Henry Gruen identified himself as being the second boy from the left in the back row.

Back to Germany

Henry Gruen at his work in the Max-Planck-Institute, in about 1975 (Foto: Henry Gruen)

Heinz Grünebaum had been living in the United States since 1947. When he received American citizenship, he changed his name to Henry Gruen. In 1959, he travelled back to Cologne for the first time. „A difficult visit, like some kind of dream,” he said in an interview in 1996. However, at this time he was not able to visit Köln-Ehrenfeld, the last place his family lived in before his departure to England. He was just too afraid. It was only when he came back to Cologne a second time in 1966, that he also visited Ehrenfeld.

Henry Gruen with Else Braun in Ma'ayan Zwi (Israel), 1970s
Henry Gruen with Else Braun in Ma’ayan Zwi (Israel), 1970s

What induced Henry Gruen to come back to Cologne?

He said, “I wanted to renew my relationship with Cologne, and re-establish my familiarity with it.”

The Max-Planck-Institute for Radiology in Mülheim on the Ruhr offered him a job in 1971. That spurred him into wondering whether he should move back to the German Federal Republic. „That was an open situation for me. I said to myself: I will try.“ He was not sure if he would be able to manage this and whether the ‘adventure’ would work out. The fact that he had a few friends in Germany that he had met in America allowed him to take the risk and return.

Henry Gruen was the only person involved in the Lützowstraße School exhibition project who emigrated but returned.

On the school playground of his old elementary school, December 2007 (Photo: Ursula Konopka)

Walter Braun

Walter Braun was born in Cologne in 1925. At the age of six, he started at the Lützowstraße school. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Walter could not go to a state grammar school but had to transfer to the Jewish grammar school ‘Jawne’.

During the Pogrom on 9th/10th November 1938, Walters’s father and his brother Gerhard were arrested and deported to Dachau. They were lucky enough to escape and the family left Cologne straight away. Walter ́s brother emigrated to Kenya, his parents to Palestine.

Walter and Karin Braun with their three sons, in the 1950s. (Photo: Walter Braun)

In January 1939, Walter escaped to England on a children’s trans- port, together with his friend Heinz. In 1946 he tried to get to Palestine on an illegal emigration ship. However, this attempt failed and Walter was put into an internment camp for illegal immigrants in Cyprus. Only months later he came to Palestine. There he went to the Maayan Zvi kibbutz and worked as a farmer and teacher of Hebrew.

In 1958 he met his future wife Karin. They married and had three sons. Today Walter and Karin are still living in Maayan Zvi.

Walter Braun in the 1950s (Photo: Walter Braun)

Dr. Siegfried Braun – Walters´s father and teacher at Lützowstraße school

In 1916, Siegfried Braun was a teacher at a Jewish school in Werl.
Siegfried Braun with his son Walter and a niece, in about 1930 (Photo: Walter Braun)

Dr. Siegfried Braun was born in 1885 in Brauneberg on the Mosel. He started his professional career as a young teacher in a Jewish school in Werl. There he fell in love with his pupil Elisabeth Mond. In 1923, they moved together to Cologne, where their first son Gerhard was born. In 1925, Walter was born.

Siegfried Braun became a teacher at the Lützowstraße Jewish elementary school. He was especially liked as a teacher, as he did not box his pupils’ ears. Also, he wrote for various magazines, including the “Jüdische Schulzeitung” (Jewish School Magazine).

When the National Socialists came to power in 1933, life became increasingly difficult for Jewish teachers and pupils in Germany. During Kristallnacht on 9th/10th November 1939, Siegfried was arrested by the Gestapo. After three weeks in the concentration camp at Dachau, he was able to escape by a stroke of luck. Now Siegfried wanted to leave Germany with his family as soon as possible.

He fled to Palestine and his wife followed him shortly afterwards. Walter was not able to emigrate from England to Palestine until 1946. Siegfried taught Hebrew in the Maayan Zvi kibbutz. In 1969, he died at the age of 84.

Dr. Siegfried Braun (right) and Rabbi Dr. Isidor Caro (left) with a school class in the schoolyard, Easter 1938

The Youth Aliyah

Esther Giladi (second from the right) and her family in the Cologne Municipal Forest the day before her departure to Palestine (Photo: Esther Giladi)
Yehuda Levi (above left) and his family in Cologne, on the day before his departure (Photo: Yehuda Levi)

The Youth Aliyah, an organisation enabling the emigration of children and young people to Palestine, was started by Recha Freier. She realised in 1932 that young Jews in Germany had no future there and were suffering more and more from anti-semitism and discrimination. On the 30th January 1933, she founded the „Hilfskomitee für die Jüdische Jugend“ (Committee for Helping Jewish Youth) that was responsible for the organisation of the Youth Aliyah in Germany. Henrietta Szold, who first had some doubts, because children were emigrating without their parents, became manager of the Youth Aliyah office in Palestine at the end of 1933 and organised the movement there.

Yehuda (Bernhard) Levi, Esther Giladi (Margot Levi) and Jehudith Zeiri (Trude Meyer), who all attended the Lützowstraße school, managed to get to Palestine with the help of the Youth Aliya. While Jehudith Zeiri had already emigrated in 1936, Esther Giladi left Germany in March 1938 and Yehuda Levi in March 1939.


Jüdische Kinder aus dem ersten Kindertransport erreichen den Hafen von Harwich (Foto: USHMM, courtesy of National Archives)

Heinz Grünebaum and Walter Braun were two of almost 10,000 mostly Jewish children who were able to flee to Great Britain on the so-called ‘Kindertransport’ between 1938 and the outbreak of the War on 1st September 1939. The rescue operations were made possible by the British Government allowing simplified immigration controls and the commit- ment of British Aid Organisations.

In Cologne, the head teacher of the Jewish Grammar School Jawne, Dr. Erich Klibansky, had made a plan for the evacuation of his entire school, which was not completely achieved. Pupils at the Jawne, many of whom had attended the elementary school in Lützowstraße, and other pupils from Cologne and its surroundings, went in groups to hostels, where accommodation had been arranged in advance. On the way to those hostels, they were accompanied by male and female teachers from the Jawne.

Erich Klibansky did not want to leave Cologne before the rescue operation was completed; he was not able to save himself or his family.

Pupils of the “Minster Road“ Hostel, London, Summer 1939

A class picture

During a visit to Cologne, Samuel (Sally) Brückner, a former student of the school in Lützowstraße, inscribed this photo, taken around 1934, with the names of all the fellow students he remembered. Samuel’s teachers were Leopold Grünebaum, the father of Henry Gruen, who can be seen in the photo, and Siegfried Braun, Walters father. From some of Sally Brückner’s classmates biographical data could be found.

First row from left:

1. Hermann Engländer, possibly later Abraham Englaender, born April 7, 1925, finished attending elementary school, now located in Löwengasse, in 1939 // 4. Moritz, presumably Siegmund Moritz, born April 4, 1925, also attended elementary school in Lützowstrasse until 1939 // 7. Hermann Cohn, fate unknown // 8. Hermann Neuss, fate unknown // 9. Baer, presumably Hermann Herbert Baer, born January 17, 1924, attended the Jewish Gymnasium Jawne after elementary school in Lützowstrasse. 1938 emigration to the Netherlands, 1939 further escape to Bornemouth (Great Britain) and in 1940 to Australia. Hermann Herbert Baer served in the Australian Army from 1942 to 1945 and then lived in Melbourne, where he worked as a stockbroker // 13. Kurt Marx, born on August 31, 1925, attended the Lützowstrasse Elementary School from 1934 and later transferred to the Jewish Gymnasium Jawne. The family lived in Cologne at Peterstraße 75. In 1939 Kurt Marx came to England with a so called Kindertransport organized by Jawne principal Klibansky. After the end of the war he lived in Edgware, Middlesex and worked in the diamond-industry.

Third row from left:

5. Breuer, probably Kurt Breuer, born on 22.12.1925, lived with his parents and the siblings Rolf and Ruth at Ubierring 16. Kurt Breuer was deported and murdered // 6. Samuel (Sally) Brückner, born April 24,1925, lived with his parents and the siblings Erna, Adolf, and Jehudith at Alexianerstraße 44. In 1937, school doctor Julius Ochs certified that Samuel was unable to make the trip to Palestine due to illness. Sally Brückner survived the Mielic concentration camp in Poland, where he was imprisoned from 1939 to 1944, as well as the Flossenbürg concentration camp and Hersbruck, a subcamp of Flossenbürg. Samuel’s sister Jehudith emigrated to Palestine // 11. Helmuth Mayer, fate unknown // 12. Hermann Loeb, fate unknown // 14. Walter Stein, born on May 11, 1925, attended the Cologne-Klettenberg Boys’ School from 1931 to 1933, before moving to the school in Lützowstrasse. Walter Stein was probably able to save himself by emigrating.

Second row from left:

4. Siegbert Prawer, born February 15, 1925 in Cologne, emigrated with his parents and sister Ruth in 1939 to Great Britain, where he kept attending school. In 1964 Siegbert Prawer became professor of German language and literature in London; from 1969 until his retirement he taught at Oxford University. His sister Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is a well-known writer and film author // 5. Aron Rebhahn, fate unknown // 8. Nathan Mantel, later name: Nathan Adari, born March 13, 1924, lived with his family in Kaigasse. He emigrated to Palestine in 1939 and lived in Hallandale, (Florida, USA) after World War II, working as a bank clerk.

Last row from left:

1. Leopold Grünebaum, teacher // 2. David (Dudi) Rosenbaum, born April 1, 1925, parents: Wolf and Berta Rosenbaum, née Alster; siblings Josef and Samuel. David Rosenbaum died in the Holocaust. Two possible fates can be read from different sources: A Dawid Rozenbaum was deported with his parents and siblings from Cologne to Poland in 1938 and later deported via Litzmannstadt and Theresienstadt to an extermination camp. According to another source, David Rosenbaum and his brothers were deported to Theresienstadt from a children’s home in Arnheim (Netherlands) // 7. Walter Alster, born September 9, 1925, lived at times with his parents and siblings Joachim, David, Joseph, and Isi at Trierer Strasse 11. On November 15, 1938, Walter Alster fled to the Netherlands, and in February 1940 further to the USA, working as a jeweler and watchmaker there.

This is the online version of the exhibition The Brauns and the Grünebaums. The original consists of 10 PVC exhibition banners of 60 X 100 cm each, one banner 150 X 120 cm and two window frames, each about 100 X 100 cm. Lending of the exhibition is possible and desired, however, the exhibition is available in German only. A companion booklet (German and English) has been published, which can be ordered free of charge (donation welcome!).

The exhibition commemorates the history of the municipal Jewish elementary school of Cologne in Lützowstraße.

Special thanks to Henry Gruen, Walter Braun, Monique Joseph, Hannelore Göttling-Jakoby and other former students of this school for their support and for their willingness to tell their life stories.

This exhibition was created as part of a project seminar of the Institute for Jewish Studies and the History Department of Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf in winter semester 2007 / 2008. It was developed by Christian Fuest, Ursula Konopka, Nicola Kramp, Fabian Pickelmann, Christine Pilger, Eric Vedder, Susanne Steinküller and Melanie Walfort.

Seminar directors Dr. Ursula Reuter and Dr. Cordula Lissner
All photos und documents NS-DOK Cologne, Corbach Collection (unless otherwise indicated)
Translation Claire Merkord und Elisabeth Heesom
Design DruckBetrieb

Layout for web Simon Brinkmann

Supported by
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
NS-Documentation Center of the City of Cologne
School Museum Bergisch Gladbach
DruckBetrieb Köln
Jawne Memorial and Educational Center