Elisabeth Schmitz

The daughter of a Reformed secondary school teacher in Hanau, Elisabeth Schmitz graduated from high school in Frankfurt am Main in 1914 and subsequently studied history, theology and German studies at the universities of Bonn and Berlin. She earned her doctorate in 1920.

Upon completing her high school student teaching, Schmitz taught at various schools in Berlin for six years. She was hired as a high school teacher at the Luisengymnasium in 1929.

From 1933 onward, Elisabeth Schmitz was a member of the church council of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. She joined the Confessing Church in 1934.

Elisabeth Schmitz encountered the tribulations of victims of racial persecution first hand in her circle of friends and acquaintances and attempted to help them in word and deed out of Christian charity. Her hostile attitude toward National Socialism brought her into conflict with the school principle and she had herself transferred to Auguste Sprengel School in Berlin-Lankwitz in 1935. That same year, the liberal Protestant wrote an anonymous memorandum “On the Situation of German Non-Aryans” under the National Socialists, which however did not meet with a positive response within the Confessing Church. Prior to this, she had already unsuccessfully entreated Karl Barth in correspondence to become active in the “Jewish question”. A supplement to her memorandum in the wake of the Nuremberg Racial Laws also met with little response. Unable to adhere to the guidelines of the new curricula of 1938, which were intended to mold National Socialists, she accepted early retirement on December 31, 1938. In Berlin, Schmitz also provided victims of racial persecution concrete assistance and thus exposed herself to danger.

In 1943, she returned to her family in Hanau. Although she would have preferred to have pursued an academic career, she reentered the teaching profession one year after the war’s end and was reinstated as a civil servant in January of 1948. The historian was active in the Hanau Historical Society and participated in work on a planned memorial book for the expelled and murdered Jews of Hanau. Elisabeth Schmitz died at the age of 84. The Evangelical Church of Electoral Hesse-Waldeck and the city of Hanau honored her with a memorial grave in 2004.

back to person back to person