Anneliese Heikaus geb. Levy
„You can’t do that to me!“
Stories from the life of Anneliese Amalie Heikaus‘, née Levy
Anneliese Amalie Levy was born on December 22, 1911 in Bad Kreuznach to Max Eugen Levy and Frieda Gottlob.
She remains a single child; her parents later separate. Her father runs a branch warehouse in Düsseldorf. After graduating from high school with a high school diploma, she begins training as a retail saleswoman.
In April 1933, at age 21 she marries Joseph August Heikaus (born on September 10, 1905), a Catholic salesman from Cologne. Her first son, Egon, is born on September 26, 1933. Her daughter Rita is born 4 years later on June 15, 1937, and her son Ralf Heikaus on July 4, 1941. In an attempt to protect the children a bit, all three are baptized as Catholics, and the family and her mother, Frieda Gottlob, who now has separated from her father, move to Ernst Ludwig Street in Bürgel, the Catholic area of the City of Offenbach.
Anneliese’s husband Joseph Heikaus has worked for years as a buyer for Kaufhof Company and ultimately becomes Assistant Director. However, in the course of time he has more and more problems, because he is married to a Jewish woman. His wife Anneliese is not allowed to enter the store. But she is a determined woman and refuses to be forbidden anything. Several times she ignores the ban and even takes her children with her. After 24 years with the company, in 1942, Joseph has to relinquish his position as Assistant Director of Kaufhof Company. The head of the company had suggested he should get a divorce, but Joseph refused. After his dismissal he works as an independent bookkeeper.
In the end, Anneliese’s mother Frieda Gottlob is deported on September 30, 1942.
On March 8, 1944 Offenbach suffers heavy aerial bombing; a fire bomb falls through the family apartment’s roof and sets fire to part of the children’s room. When city-wide evacuations begin Anneliese looks for shelter for herself and her three children, while Joseph only occasionally stays with them, depending on where he can find work.
In Steinau an der Straße Anneliese asks former acquaintances if they perhaps have room for her family. While talking with them she looks out the window and sees a circus wagon standing nearby. She moves into it with her children. Times being as they are, and living in this place where no one knows her, while a number of Nazis live nearby, Egon even joins the Hitler Youth as a kind of camouflage to prevent the family from being discovered.
The circus wagon can’t be properly heated, and Ralf gets sick; thus the family finally returns to their apartment in Bürgel in the fall of 1944.
When shortly afterwards, an acquaintance warns Anneliese’s husband Joseph that the Gestapo is on his track, he flees to the Czech border and Upper Silesia where he has personal contacts from his Kaufhof days and can hide with a family there. However, Russian soldiers find him and put him into a labor camp at the beginning of 1945.
In the end, Anneliese herself is deported with one of the last transports to Theresienstadt on February 18, 1945. Being married to a non-Jewish partner and bringing up “his” children, as well as her unassuming, integrated way of life, for a long time had protected her from being persecuted.
In Theresienstadt she is assigned to a mica production unit*. This “militarily important” work protects her from being deported to one of the death camps. Innumerable documents and mementos bare witness to this dark period.
*Mica: Group of natural, complex aluminum silicates that can be easily split into flexible, shiny, transparent discs. (cf. : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mica)
When early on the morning of February 18 between 5 and 6 o’clock she is picked up at her apartment (s. photo) without any previous warning, Ralf and Rita are still in bed with their mother. They see her run to the chest of drawers, take something out, and hear her say, “Stay here, I’ll be right back!”
Ralf and Rita watch from the window and see Anneliese getting into a car. At this moment, suddenly 11-year-old Egon, the oldest, is responsible for himself and his two younger siblings. Later, he said he knew exactly what was happening when the Gestapo rang the bell. The evening before Anneliese had suffered a bad headache and Egon had gone to get pain tablets for her. When the Gestapo arrives, Anneliese asks Egon to tell the little ones she is going to the hospital and will be back soon. From then on little Egon goes every day to the tram station, in spite of bomb alarms, in the hopes his mother will return.
Thankfully, after three days of living alone, the three children can move in with the Grünebaum family. After Anneliese was deported, the family had received a note saying, „Please take care of my children!“ Ernst Grünebaum, the family’s son from a so-called „mixed marriage“, had been on the same transport as Anneliese; he had succeeded in fleeing and had taken with him the note she had given him.
When four months later, in June 1945, Anneliese, 33 years old and exhausted, traumatized and hair cut short, stands before her children once again, four-year-old Ralf doesn’t recognize the woman, he doesn’t know his mother any more.
When a year later, in 1946, father Joseph appears – his wife had written several search petitions, in vain – little Rita is convinced that this can’t be her father, but rather her grandfather standing there in front of them, so weak and apparently so many years older he had become. However, now it is little brother Ralf who assures her that the man is indeed her father.
During the months without her husband Anneliese had worked for the Americans in the censor department and she had also begun to make plans to emigrate to relatives in America, leaving all memories behind and starting out anew.
But Joseph doesn’t approve of his wife’s plans. America is a foreign place, he can’t speak the language. They have done nothing wrong, so there is no reason to leave.
Thus the family remains, and Anneliese decides, if she can’t emigrate to America, then at least she can contribute politically a bit to rebuilding society. She becomes a member of the city parliament.
She thus becomes – as far as we know – the only Jewish woman who after the war becomes active in municipal politics in Hessen. Her motivation can be found in her personality structure as well. She has unusual civil courage, never lets anyone tell her to keep quiet, nor does she ever put up with injustice. However, her own life situation as a survivor of the Shoa leads her to also feel a particular obligation. „I always tried to know the reason why I am among the small group of surviving German Jews, though I never was religious or what human beings call a good one. I only could get one answer, that I might be obliged to help others, who need my kind of help.“ (This quote is taken from a speech she gave during a three-month lecture trip in America where she had been invited as a Holocaust survivor in 1951.)
After just one legislative period she leaves the city parliament again. She finds new political work that appeals to her much more: in 1953 Anneliese and five other citizens found the Offenbach Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation. Here she begins to care for Jews who are returning from emigration and from concentration camps. Another main focus lies on gathering information about the terrible events in Nazi-Germany. The Society’s main purpose is the “fight against fanatic ideologies, religious intolerance, racial discrimination, social and political oppression and national arrogance”, as stated in the association’s preamble, which also sees its purpose as an “adult school for reducing prejudice”. (OP v. 8.6.1984) The association still exists and is a member of the German Coordinating Council, the umbrella organization for all Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation.
After the war, when he is once again healthy, Joseph Heikaus and Ernst Grünebaum found the ‚Gründebaum and Heikaus‘ Trade Association. He is able to benefit from the numerous contacts he made while a buyer for Kaufhof. When years later he loses a good-paying job, or rather, gives notice himself, Anneliese begins to work again in order to have the money for the children’s higher education. She holds her ground, even when younger colleagues torment her.
In the private sphere, Anneliese fights for reparation and restitution for loss of freedom and for damages to life and health, both hers and that of her parents. She never again sees her mother Frieda after the latter is deported in 1942; she was most likely murdered in Treblinka. She has also lost her father Max to the Holocaust; he is registered as missing, and May 8, 1945 is established as his date of death.
Her application for reparation, resp. restitution fails simply for having missed a deadline. Her request for a return of confiscated property holdings is turned down as well. Anneliese’s grandparents Nathan and Sophie Levy, née Lieben, both die in Theriesenstadt. They had been deported there at age 88 and 83, resp., and both died the same year, in 1942.
When Anneliese dies on June 13, 1983 at age 71 – she lives to the day exactly 18 months longer than her husband Joseph – not much remains of the resolute and brave woman she had once been. She suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has depressions that are strengthened when in sessions with a psychologist the war sufferings come alive again, and she can barely walk. On June 13, 1983 at one o’clock in the afternoon, Anneliese Heikaus dies and takes her memories of the Holocaust with her. She had never told anyone what she had experienced in Theresienstadt.
Today, a street in Offenbach-Bürgel memorializes Anneliese Heikaus, a woman whose strength and will could not be broken during the wartime, who instead continued to fight socially and politically for a better world, although she herself had suffered so much injustice.
Memoirs of Dr. Ralf Heikaus, Anneliese Heikaus‘ youngest son, and of his older sister Rita Heikaus.
Andrea Fink: Jüdische Familien in Kreuznach. Vom 18. Jahrhundert bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg. Eine Dokumentation; (Jewish families in Kreuznach. From the 18th century to World War I. A documentation) Bad Kreuznach, 2001.
Elke Schüller: Neue, andere Menschen, andere Frauen? Kommunalpolitikerinnen in Hessen 1945 – 1956 (New, different people, different women? Women in communal politics in Hessia 1945-1956); Frankfurt am Main, 1995.
Written by Heike Freidank, née Heikaus