Under the guise of a language-learning service, the Schindlers connected their students with people and groups in the United Kingdom.
By Shiryn Ghermezian, The Algemeiner
A couple who helped Jewish families and others escape Nazi Germany was honored in Berlin on Thursday with a commemorative plaque installed outside their former apartment and the home of their covert operation, according to the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.
Max and Malwine Schindler lived at Pariser Strasse 54 in the Wilmersdorf district. After Max, a member of the Social Democratic party, lost his job in 1933, he set up a clandestine network from his home to help those facing Nazi persecution flee Germany — but disguised it as an English-language tutoring service. Their son’s friend, Evelyn Parker, was recruited as a conversation coach and helped with the operation, The Guardian reported.
Under the guise of a language-learning service, the Schindlers connected their students with people and groups in the United Kingdom, including Max’s contacts in the Labour Party, who could help them with boarding or lodging. When the Gestapo began removing Jewish citizens from Berlin in 1941, the Schindlers illegally hid families in their apartment and provided them with food.
“Your attitude towards the Nazi system and your convictions led you to courageously demonstrate willingness to help us when most other ‘friends’ failed to do so,” Jewish dentist Ernst Lachmann wrote in a condolence letter to Malwine after Max died in 1948. “Your apartment was a refuge for us; we were able to flee there and be saved. Malicious neighbors and housemates didn’t deter you from appearing with us in your air raid cellar.”
The Schindlers’ efforts during World War II was rediscovered two years ago when Parker’s daughter, Frances Newell, found in her garden shed in Victoria, Australia, letters and photographs that revealed information about the couple’s work. Newell said, “The Schindler story is about friendship, indomitable courage and ingenuity in the face of oppression. It provides a window into the past and affirms the possibility of ordinary people making a difference.”
It is unknown how many people the Schindlers saved but at least seven people testified after the end of World War II that they were helped by the couple, The Guardian reported.
Malwine was honored by the Berlin Senate as an “unsung hero” in 1963 and received some financial support from the government in the post-war era because of her anti-Nazi activism. She died in 1973 and is buried in a state-owned cemetery in the Berlin district of Wilmersdorf. Max’s burial site is unknown.