Lawyers w/o Courts

Earlier this year, I was contacted by Dr. Susanne Mauss, a German academic and researcher, who was writing a book and preparing an exhibition on the Jewish German lawyers in Nord-Rhein Westfalen who had been excluded from the legal profession by the Third Reich. She was seeking information and a photograph of Charlotte Grunebaum, later Hachenburg, changed to Hackett. I put Dr. Mauss in touch with Thomas Hackett, one of Charlotte’s sons. In his words:

"Lotte" Grunebaum

“Lotte” Grunebaum

(Dr. Mauss was looking for) a photograph of my mother, Charlotte (usually known to her family, her husband and friends as Lotte) from the 1930’s, namely the period after she’d been barred by the “Nuremberg laws” from continuing her career in the legal profession.

My mother, although she’d qualified as a lawyer and had already been accepted (and may’ve even begun) as a Referendar (legal intern), was unable to continue her legal career because of the blocking measures then introduced. I had a photo which I passed on and which is now reproduced in the book which is entitled “Nicht zugelassen” (Not Allowed), published recently. It’s available on

Thomas’s Ancestors
  1. Salomon Herz Hirschland (one of the three original brothers)
  2. Simon Hirschland
  3. Isaac Hirschland
  4. Agathe Hirschland Grunebaum (and Ernst)
  5. Charlotte Grunebaum (Hachenburg changed to) Hackett
  6. Thomas Hackett

The book is a fascinating exploration of the lives of these professional men (apart from my mother and one other woman, Käthe Levy) and their families, their trials and tribulations, and in many cases their tragic fates. Some names from the deepest caverns of memory emerge – Susanne’s book refers to the friendship of (various Grunebaums) with Frank Opton (who apparently was linked romantically with my mother before my father came on the scene – news to me but I don’t think my mother was short of admirers and her relatively late marriage by the standards of the time was due more to her professional ambitions followed by the upheavals of the late 1930’s). … Also Hans Wetzler, whose son is a holistic doctor in London, apparently working a lot with the Haredi community.

The book consists of short (sometimes quite long in fact) histories of these men/families, what happened in the 1930s and after, supported by archival references and reproduced photos and documents.

In another email, Thomas noted that:

My aunt (by marriage) Gabriele (Gaby) Grünebaum (geb. Neumann) came from Cottbus to Munich University where she met my mother as they were both studying law there. My mother introduced Gaby to her brother Erich and the two married in October 1933 (almost 80 years to the day). I don’t think Gaby can be said to have been prevented from pursuing her legal career as their first child was born 14 months later (his parents took the post-March 1933 precaution of having the birth in London to give him a British passport – the British authorities were less hostile to immigrants in those days, possibly because they were rather fewer!) after which I think she applied herself more to domestic responsibilities. Gaby’s story can be found here.

Dr. Mauss commented that the book has created a landslide of information about Jewish lawyers who could not practice because of the prohibitions:

Today I got a phone call from a woman (daughter of a former attorney in Düsseldorf who was a colleague of Kurt Frank) who read the book and had further information for me. It is like a landslide. People read the book and remember things you can’t find in the archives. That is really important because in some years the “children” who still know the people on the pictures will disappear and nobody can ever tell their stories. This woman still got photos from her father with old friends from the years before 1933. I will meet her in November. This makes my work really satisfying when there are answers from total strangers.


Where was the money?

From my half-sister, Joan Meijer:

For some reason two separate Gonny and Paps stories have conjoined in my head in a way that always makes me laugh.

Grossvater, Isaac Hirschland

Grossvater, Issac Hirschland

Grossmutter, Henrietta Simon Hirschland

Grossmutter, Henrietta Hirschland

The first was a story Paps used to tell me about my great-grandmother Henrietta or Grossmutter. She came the Simon Bank banking family in Cologne. Grossvater (was it Isaac?) came from the Essen Bank, banking family. They had courted for a long time in letters, had met on a few occasions….when he proposed to her. She said yes and returned to Cologne where she learned that her father had offered Grossvater a sizable dowry – which he evidently had accepted. When she learned of the transaction she cancelled the wedding.

“If you don’t love me enough without the dowry then I will not marry you,” or something like that – she said.

He loved her enough, refused the dowry and they lived happily for many years.

Evidently Grossvater was proud of telling his children that if they weren’t wealthy enough it was all her fault.

Honeymoon Voyage

Franz & Gula Hirschland, Honeymoon Voyage

Second story. The time was later when gossamer dresses were the order of the day, all frilly and feminine. They were in Germany and Paps had met a peddler on the street who was peddling a new invention, the zipper.

Paps was very excited by the invention, bought one, and hurried home with it.

“Mammy,” he said. “Look what I have found.”

I think he told her that he intended to get the patent and return with it to America where he would make a fortune. Anyway it was a big, clunky commercial thing and Gonny took one look at it, thought of her filmy gowns, and said – “Never work.”

Now really if we aren’t hugely wealthy, I don’t think it had anything to do with Henrietta’s dowry and everything to do with Gon’s pronouncement of “Never work.”