Ingeborg Hunzinger (1915-2009) is among one of the better-known sculptors of the German Democratic Republic. She is most known for her sculptural work Block der Frauen (Block of Women), which honored the rebellion of the courageous mothers and wives against the forced deportation of Jewish men in Berlin. The group of sculptures was set up in Rosenstrasse in 1995.
In 1936, Hunzinger began teaching at the Steinbildhauerin in Wuerzburg. Under the Nazi regime, Hunzinger’s Jewish identity left her banned from teaching, but she was able to flee to Italy. She returned to Germany in 1942 and spent the last war years in the Schwarzwald. Later, she taught at the Academy of Art in Berlin-Weißensee and from 1953 worked as a freelance artist.
Author: Olivia Tjokrosetio
On March 6th, 1943, non-Jewish wives and relatives of Jewish men and male children protested outside Rosenstrasse 2-4, an administrative building turned deportation center for intermarried Jews. These individuals were typically held for two days before being shipped off to concentration camps and never returned. As many as 8,000 Jews residing in Berlin were arrested from their work and homes with no warning that day—the Nazi Gestapos’ attempt at eliminating the remaining Jews in Berlin on the orders of Hitler. The incarceration was made up mainly of Jewish men and children married to non-Jewish partners. Word spread quickly once their partners realized that their spouses were missing, resulting in multiple groups of women gathering in front of the Rosestrasse building, attempting to see their husbands. They were aware that they had a limited amount of time, as detainees were not kept long before they were transported off to concentration camps like Auschwitz, forcing these women to act quickly.
The women at the scene established rapport and solidarity quickly. There is a significant history within these women in intermarriages; even amongst non-Jewish peers, they were constantly looked down upon, ridiculed, and discriminated against by federal regulations. Beginning in 1933, non-Jews who had Jewish partners were turned away from jobs, loans, and government positions, as Hitler began to establish a “new Germany.” The Nuremberg Laws in 1935 criminalized sexual relations between Jews and Germans, labeling any sexual relations as “racial defilement.” On June 30, 1933 a law was passed which required candidates for the civil service to report that their spouse’s ancestors had been Aryan, or German. Those who could not show proof of their Aryan ancestry were dismissed. This discrimination resulted in intermarriage defiance, which culminated in the Rosestrasse protests.
The women who gathered outside the administrative holding building were heard shouting “Give us our husbands back.” The Gestapo responded by trying to scare them away with gunfire, but the women returned, still persistent in their demands. While the exact number is now known, several hundred women were estimated to have been protesting at any given time during that week, amounting up to around 6,000 protesters that faced off against the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, one of the most feared militarized groups of the 20th century. These mass protests reached Joseph Goebbels, who was the minister of propaganda at that time, who then ordered the release of these men, saving the lives of several hundred Jews from their fate in Auschwitz. There were also reports of 35 men, who had already been shipped off to concentration camps, who were ordered to be brought back and reunited with their partners. This swift action was in part to prevent more dissent from reaching the international news, as intermarried Germans were seen as a disgrace to the German ideology of a “pure race”, as well as preventing an uprising amongst the German population. Furthermore, Germany had also just lost a major battle at the battle of Stalingrad, which had caused a sharp decrease in German morale. A public massacre or deportation of both husband and wife to concentration camps was not ideal, as the deaths could not be covered, and would only attract more attention and sentiment both locally and internationally. As such, this spontaneous protest on the part of German women saved the lives of many Jews, and is still honored today as a movement of defiance against government tyranny.
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