Holocaust Survivor Charlotte Knobloch Turns 90

Germany’s small Jewish community does have prominent voices. One of them is Charlotte Knobloch, who was born three months before the fascist Nazi regime came to power in Berlin. She survived the Holocaust thanks to a non-Jewish woman who pretended she was her daughter.

Hanover, October 29th, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — On last year’s Holocaust Memorial Day, during a commemoration event at the Berlin Bundestag, a powerful speech was given by Charlotte Knobloch, 77 years after her grandmother, who raised her, was murdered by the Nazis, and 76 years after the Allies finally defeated Nazi Germany and liberated Europe, including its death camps.

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Increasingly Difficult

In that speech, Charlotte Knobloch told the guests, the MPs, the nation and the world about her life in Nazi Germany. She wept when she spoke about the day her grandmother was deported. In 1938, at age 6, she had cried as well because her friends had not been allowed to play with her anymore, she said. The only reason was the fact that she is a Jew. In the late 1930s, life had become increasingly difficult, Charlotte Knobloch stated in front of the parliament of Nazi Germany’s free and democratic successor state, the Federal Republic of Germany.

Since, she has been very active. She still heads the Jewish Community in Munich and Upper Bavaria. A few years back, she was President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. Tomorrow, an official birthday ceremony will take place at the Ohel Jakob Synagogue in Munich. Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will hold a speech there. The many birthday wishes Mrs. Knobloch will receive today include one by former Chancellor Angela Merkel who honored her in a piece she wrote for the ‘Jüdische Allgemeine’ weekly, Germany’s most important Jewish newspaper.

Lost Fight

At the big event at the Bundestag on January 27th, 2021, Charlotte Knobloch also commented on today’s increasing Jew hatred in Germany and slammed the extremist far-right ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ (AfD) deservedly hard. She said words were the precursor of deeds. Where there was antisemitism, there was room for other forms of hatred as well. Then she turned to the MPs of the AfD: “Maybe you will continue to fight for your Germany, and we will continue to fight for our Germany”, she told them. “You lost your fight 76 years ago.”

Munich has been the center of Charlotte Knobloch’s life most of the time. Ninety years ago today, she was born there. Her father was a Jewish lawyer, her mother converted to Judaism. After her parents divorced, she went to live with her grandmother. When she was deported and later murdered in Theresienstadt, young Charlotte was saved by Kreszentia Hummel, her uncle’s former maid. She told people Charlotte was her ‘illegitimate’ daughter and saved her life. She was added to Yad Vashem’s list of Righteous Among the Nations. It includes the names of non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

Unworthy Form

In 1945, right after the liberation, Charlotte Neuland, which is her maiden name, returned to Munich with her father. Six years later, she married. A son and two daughters were born. Her husband died in 1990. She founded the Women’s International Zionist Organisation, became very active in Jewish organizations and headed some of them, including the Central Council. She also was Vice President of the World Jewish Congress for five years.

Charlotte Knobloch does express her opinions. For instance she has made clear she finds the stumbling blocks Germany uses to commemorate Jews murdered in the Holocaust to be an unworthy form of doing so. One thing is certain: The Jewish community in Munich, with its new community center and synagogue, and that in Germany, are indebted to Charlotte Knobloch. She has contributed so much and still does.