Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


The old administration building of the Krankenhaus Am Urban being renovated in February 2011 (photo: notmsparker)

The old administration building of the Krankenhaus Am Urban being renovated in February 2011 (photo: notmsparker)


On March 11th Jewish doctors and registrars (junior doctors) working at the 3rd Municipal Hospital Am Urban in Kreuzberg were attacked, beaten up and banned from ever returning to their posts.

As one of the victims, Prof. Dr Hermann Zondek, the then head of the Internal Medicine Ward of Krankenhaus am Urban, wrote later in his book Auf Festem Fuß, the events of that day were not entirely unexpected. The atmosphere among Jewish and non-Jewish colleagues and other staff such as nurses, for instance, had been deteriorating already for a while. Which is not to say that there was any clearly marked front wedged between the hospital employees: many of them considered the way their Jewish colleagues were treated as appalling and unjust. Still, pressed to choose sides, they followed the aggressive herd.

A warning came three days earlier when a large group of SA men (the so called Brownshirts, a paramilitary wing of NSDAP) forced their way into the hospital and after terrorising the staff, demanded 50 hospital beds to be put entirely at their disposal. The conflict threatened to escalate when the mediation of Kreuzberg’s Mayor, Carl Herz, called in the middle of the night by hospital supervisors, initially failed to produce a peaceful solution.

In the end a compromise was struck: 30 beds in exchange for the Nazis withdrawing themselves from the Urban. It is hard to believe that it was a coincidence that on the 10th of March the troops storming Herz’s office in Kreuzberg’s Town Hall in Yorckstraße were most probably (according to Herz’s own account of those days) led by the very same man.

When after the morning round, just past 1:00 PM Dr Hermann Zondek returned to his office, he was told to go to the management building where he was already expected by Graf Helldorf – Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf, who only days later became the head of the police force in Potsdam. The only positive thing that can be said about him is that he died executed in July 1944 as a member of the group conspiring to kill Hitler – he was part of the plot together with Graf von Stauffenberg.

In the meantime the leader of the SA pack ordered his troops to block all exists from the hospital to prevent any Jews or socialists from leaving. Zondek was locked up in his room together with all the other “unwelcome” colleagues for at least one hour while the building was searched for evidence of their anti-national, not to say seditious activities. At the same time, Professor Zondek was “kindly asked” (the gun which was waved next to his head certainly facilitated the process of decision-making…) to sign a document in which he “donated” his car parked in front of the hospital to the National-Socialist movement that happened to be in need of means of transportation. In this very car his younger colleagues were carried to the place where they were beaten up in the most beastly manner.

Zondek was lucky in the sense that as a high rank member of the hospital’s management he was submitted to a frightening and humiliating procedure not unlike secret tribunals of the Holy Inquisition. Among the “judges” who gathered in another room, people who where to decide (or rather “announce” as such decisions were made elsewhere) the verdict, was his other colleague, a former intern – or trainee –  of Zondek’s, Dr Kohn (spelled with K to avoid being held for a Jew; later he changed his name to something entirely different and was henceforth known as Dr Kondeyne). Here Zondek was informed about his immediate dismissal and being banned from ever entering the hospital again.

Luckily for him, Professor Zondek listened to an older SA man standing by the door of the room when he was leaving the meeting. “Please, Herr Professor, you should take a leave for the next three weeks and go, preferably somewhere in the south of Germany.” Zondek went. To Zürich and from there to Palestine (later Israel). He never returned to Germany again.

During the Nazi “cleansing of the body of staff” (Bereinigung des Personalkörpers) of the Krankenhaus am Urban all Jewish or considered not devout National-Socialist employees of all levels were fired . Here are some of the names:

Dr Kurt Engelmann (head of the ENT Clinic)

Dr Karel Bobath (neurologist and paediatrician, but first and foremost the future co-author of a leading cerebral palsy therapy method neuro-developmental treatment, known as Bobath-approach)

Dr Fritz von Gutfeld (head of the Microbiology Clinic)

Dr Arthur Hessmann (the head of Radiology Clinic)

Dr Edmund Mayer (head of Anatomical Pathology Clinic)

Dr Ludwig Pincussen (head of Research)

Dr Franz Schück (head of Surgery)

Dr Erich Simenauer (surgeon, badly physically abused at the SA Prison in Pappestraße, where he was also witness to other prisoners being battered to death, here is a link to a German page where he reports on those events)

Dr Leo Wislicki (Radiology, one of the young doctors taken away in Dr Zondek’s car and horribly beaten up by the Nazis; he managed to escape to the UK together with Prof. Zondek and his wife – he joined them at the station at the very last possible moment – where he opened a small surgery in Manchester)

Gertrud Rüden (the Head Nurse of the hospital).

Those are only some of the altogether 43 doctors and many, many more other members of medical staff who lost their jobs and in some cases also their lives after that day in March 1933. The Borough Council of Kreuzberg reports later about that period at the hospital:

“After the national-socialist coming to power some significant personnel changes were introduced. The both Jewish medical directors as well as the eight Jewish registrars and auxiliary physicians stepped down.

After seizing power, in order to enable people to work in the spirit of National Socialism at all, the cleansing of the body of staff was necessary. To achieve this the following (persons) were removed: the Stadtarzt (borough head physician), 2 head doctors and 40 junior rank doctors, 28 of whom employed as charity doctors and 2 as social welfare workers. All of those 43 doctors were Jews! – A proof of how Israel supports its own.”

In March 1933 around 8,000 German doctors of medicine had Jewish roots. In Berlin their number could be estimated at 30-50% of all medical experts: out of 6,500 doctors in the capital then between 3,000 and 4,000 were Jews; 2,000 of those were Kassenärzte (state health insurance system physicians) or panel doctors  and as such lost their jobs first. The Nazi regime gradually and very systematically removed them all and replaced with their own politically- and racially-correct candidates. The question if they were also good enough professionally to take the vacancies was a secondary one.

A plaque on the wall of the old Urban hospital house in Diffenbachstraße 1, listing the names of head doctors attacked on that day in march 1933, commemorates those events.


  1. berlioz1935
    Mar 14, 2012

    What a sad story in the history of Kreuzberg. The Nazis were a barbaric lot. They were the worst group of people that ever reached the top in Germany. Democracy could not save Germany and the world from them.

    It is often said that democracy failed in Germany. I think people were not ready. More then thirty parties created chaos. With an overriding sense of order Germans thought Hitler is the saviour from that chaos that was the Weimar Republic.

    By showing us the fate of individuals you doing a great job. Germans often forget that “die Juden” were real people. In the Jewish Museum in Berlin one can see exhibits from families that perished. That goes right to the heart.

    Thank you for telling us what had happened.

    Nov 25, 2012

    My name is Stewart Seymour, born Simenauer (name changed in 1953) in London on 21-11-49, brother of Sonia and son of Alfred (previously Alfredo) and Hilda (previously Hildegard), a German gentile; also nephew of Prof. Erich Simenauer (brother of Alfredo); Alfredo was born in Gleiwitz on 17-7-06 and his (and Erich’s) elder Sister, Edith, and eldest brother, Georg (killed in the Great War on 1/11/18), were the children of Leobel (7/9/65-12/12/41) and Jenny (died 1949).

    I had only recently read on the website (what would we now do without it!) about my Uncle’s, and also that of his colleagues’, apalling treatment at the hands of the SA – I wasn’t aware of it until then; whether or not my father and/or my mother was aware of it, I don’t know, but my mother (my father sadly died prematurely in 1965) had frequently mentioned horror stories to me, two of which I will relate: My father was also taken and sent to an SA prison (I’m not certain which one but I seem to recall my father mentioning one in Charlottenburg, Berlin) where he was subjected to mental torture, for some months, with mock executions; rather extraordinarily he was helped to escape by one of the guards (!!!) and I believe he then made his way to France; he was “on the run” as a refugee (trying in vain to find his way to Palestine) residing for short lengths of stay in Italy, Greece, Cyprus (where Erich was then residing) and Turkey until the outbreak of war when he had to leave and returned to France; he was eventually arrested by the Vichy French and “given the choice(!!)” of returning to (Nazi) Germany or join the Foreign Legion, which of course he did; he was sent to Colomb-Bechar (along with many hundreds of others) in Algeria and, after a few months, realised this was a trap from which they were all sent to a nearby labour camp where they were incarcerated for 3 years until liberation by the allies, after which my father joined the British army and later British Intelligence, where he was later sent to Graz to interrogate posible Nazis and where he then met my mother. … My aunt Edith was married to a Jewish Czech coal merchant and they lived in Prague. Assuming its accuracy this is the account of events as told me by my mother: During the Nazi occupation two Gestapo officers called at their house: My aunt answered the door and was asked if Mr. …(?)… (don’t know their surname) is in – she replied in the affirmative and called her husband; he again was asked if he was the person and, after having replied, one of the Gestapo men signalled to an accompanying SS officer who simply drew his pistol and shot and killed him in front of my aunt; their two babies/todders were later taken, thrown into an incinerator (I don’t know whether locally or in a concentration camp) and burned alive! Edith was also taken – to Auschwitz, where she was killed. Their teenage daughter, Hilde (my one and only blood cousin), was fortunately smuggled out of the country and eventually to safety – she since moved to Israel and her married name became Gershon; she would now be about 87/8 years of age.

    I have had the great fortune of seeing my Uncle Erich on several occasions, mostly in London and once in Berlin. Both my sister (who now lives in Spain) and I are currently in the (long) process of investigating our respective family’s histories. I had learnt that Leobel Simenauer owned a large building in Gleiwitz: “Die Hotel Goldene Krone”, which included a pharmacy (he was a chemist by profession), restuarant, shops, apartments and possibly offices. His father also owned the first cinema in town – I’m uncertain whether that’s Gleiwitz or maybe the nearby small town or village of Simenau, from where my forefathers originate. If you should happen to be aware of any further background information on my father’s family then I would be most grateful to receive it. Assuming my mother’s information is correct, all Simenauers (some family members are spelt Simmenauer) are all related.

    With kindest regards,

    Stewart Seymour,
    64 Marlborough Road,
    Braintree, Essex, CM7 9NH, England.

    • notmsparker
      Nov 26, 2012

      Dear Mr Seymour, thank you ever so much for this message. I am both shaken by it and quite thrilled. I would very much like to contact you via email – please send a short message to so that I can pick up your email-address from it.

        Nov 26, 2012


        I thank you for your response and hereby acknowledge its receipt; hope this reply is sufficient.

        Best regards,

        Stewart Seymour

      • Stewart Seymour
        Jun 27, 2013

        As requested, I have pleasure in enclosing my e-mail address (assuming you do not already have it) which is <>

        Kind regards,

        Stewart Seymour,
        Braintree, England.

        • notmsparker
          Jul 1, 2013

          Thank you. Wishing you a nice July week!


  4. Robert J. von Gutfeld
    Oct 23, 2013

    I am shocked and appalled to learn of this travesty. My father was Dr. Fritz von Gutfeld and he never spoke of this. He was luckily spared this brutality as far as I know and got a position in the Judisches Krankenhaus in Berlin. In Feb. 1939 we left Berlin for Sweden, then came to America in 1940.My father died in 1947 after struggling to make a living in bacteriology in Richmond VA and Princeton NJ. He never regained his confidence or reputation in America which is probably what actually killed him.

    Thank you so much for making me and my wife aware of this tragic episode that occurred so many years before the real war started.

    Robert J. von Gutfeld

    • Stewart Seymour
      Oct 24, 2013

      Dear Mr. Gutfeld

      My father’s family have all suffered at the hands of the Nazis, in way or another. On hearing about your father having practised at the “Krankenhaus am Urban” it is very similar to my uncle’s fate at the hands of the infamous “Sturmabteil” (Storm Troopers); even though I had met him several times in my youth, he never mentioned about it! Just like you I had no idea of what happened to my uncle, Prof. Dr. Med. Erich Simenauer, until I trawled the internet looking for him and found a harrowing account of his experiences, there, on a German website: []; it is in German, so if you are unable to read it and you have nobody to translate it for you then I can e-mail you a transcript (which forms part of my ‘My Father’s History, “Alfredo Simenauer”‘). He died in Berlin in 1988 but, unlike your dear father, his career was very successful.

      My kindest regards and sincerest wishes to you and your family,

      Stewart Seymour

    • notmsparker
      Oct 26, 2013

      Dear Mr von Gutfeld,

      I am sorry for replying to you only now but I was away for a couple of days.

      I can hardly think of any message being more important to me and my work on the blog than yours and that of Mr Seymour, who has contacted you already as well.

      That exactly my purpose here: let people learn more about this place and remember what significant past it has. And what impressive characters built its history.

      Thank you so much for contacting me.

      Yours truly,

  5. berlioz1935
    Mar 13, 2014

    Dear Notmsparker, thank you for reblogging this important, historical post, It gave me the opportunity to read the comments by Mr Robert Seymour and Mr Robert von Gutfeld which I haven’t seen before.

    I must confess I became very emotional reading the accounts of both men. I always said the whole horror of the holocaust becomes real when one hears the story of the people involved.

    And I can see, that credit should go to you and your effort, to bring light to what has happened, that those two men learnt something of what happened during those dark days in German history.

    • notmsparker
      Mar 13, 2014

      Thank you, Peter! I myself keep learning so much and it is incredibly important to me to share that knowledge with as many people as possible. Things get forgotten so easily when there is so much to take in or so much to distract you.


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