Elisabeth Braun: Sheltering Victims of Persecution
At least fifteen victims of racial persecution, who had lost their residences and homes through disenfranchisement and the Nazis’ persecutory measures, found shelter in the Hildebrandhaus on Maria-Theresia-Strasse in Munich from 1937 to 1941. Elisabeth Braun (1887–1941) and her stepmother Rosa Braun (1870–1945) had owned the imposing artist’s villa since 1934.
Elisabeth Braun, daughter of an affluent Jewish master tailor and businessman, was born in Munich. She was certified as a teacher of modern languages by the government of Upper Bavaria. In 1920, she decided to leave the Jewish congregation and join the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria. A writer, she lived in Tegernsee from 1919 to 1923 and then in Munich and again in Tegernsee from 1927 to 1938. She inherited a sizeable fortune upon her father’s death in 1929.
Although her stepmother had moved into an apartment in the Hildebrandhaus in 1934, Elisabeth Braun remained in Tegernsee at first. She did not move to her stepmother’s until the persecution of Jews escalated in 1938 and relatives had been driven to commit suicide. At the same time, she was preparing to emigrate. She preferred to take in as tenants “non-Aryan” Christians who had become victims of the compulsory Aryanization and were usually single women. She and her stepmother accepted severe restrictions on their own living space.
At the same time, Elisabeth Braun was threatened herself by the compulsory Aryanization of her property because she fell under Nazi racial legislation. Her tireless struggle enabled her to save the Hildebrandhaus from the clutches of the Nazis for a few years more. Her situation became so dangerous in June of 1940, that she wrote a will in which she appointed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria the sole beneficiary. Her legacy was supposed to serve the care of and mission to “non-Aryan” Christians and the Hildebrandhaus was also to continue serving as a shelter for victims of racial persecution.
This never happened, though: Elisabeth Braun and her fellow residents had to leave the house in August of 1941 and were interned in a camp for Jews in Munich. Shortly thereafter, the Gestapo seized her assets on account of “unpatriotic and subversive activities”. In November of 1941, Elisabeth Braun was deported together with 1,000 other “non-Aryans” from Munich to Kaunas in Lithuania where she was shot dead. Her stepmother Rosa Braun was deported in 1942 and died in Theresienstadt Ghetto in 1945.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria was not able to claim Elisabeth Braun’s legacy until after the war. It was used it to set up a special fund that now supports the association “Begegnung von Christen und Juden” (Christian-Jewish Dialog) and a senior citizens home for Christians of Jewish descent in Haifa, among other things.
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