Jewish Doctors

By Dr. Horst Sassin, translated from German by Miriam Braun, June 2021

Stops 1–7 can be completed on foot. If you want to include stop 8, we recommend going either by bike or by bus (lines 692 or 693, from “Rathaus” to “Klinikum”).

Stop 1: Dr. Walter and Dr. Ida Marcus

Kartenausschnitt Werwolf 20

Werwolf 20 – go to map

Paediatrician Dr. Walter Marcus, born in 1894 in Essen, and paediatrician Dr. Ida Marcus, née Winternitz, of the same age, moved from Düsseldorf to Solingen in 1923. Walter Marcus’ older sisters Toni Michelson and Lina Westheimer already lived there. Ida Marcus had been born in Oxford and grew up in Prague. She joined the “Liga für Menschenrechte” (“German League for Human Rights”) of which Albert Einstein was also a member. When the physicist stayed in Prague in 1911/12, Ida’s father, indologist and Sanskrit scholar Prof. Moriz Winternitz, had made friends with him. The family was therefore frequently visited by Einstein on the weekends.

From 1924 onwards, Mr. and Mrs. Marcus lived and practiced in their own home, located at Auf dem Kamp 53 (address today: Werwolf 20). Their two children Eva and Hans-Werner were born in Solingen in 1925 and 1929, respectively. The fact that even parents from the district of Solingen-Gräfrath brought their children to Walter Marcus’ office, despite it being boycotted by the Nazis after 1933, indicates just how popular he was.

There is a telling example of this. In February 1936, the antisemitic tabloid “Der Stürmer” published a primitive denunciation of the pastor in the Protestant parish of Gräfrath. Julius Roeßle was not explicitly named, but he could be clearly identified nonetheless. The text read [in translation]:

„A clerical whiner in Solingen. The Protestant pastor Lic[entiate] R. (of the Confessing Church) lives in Solingen-Gräfrath. This Mr. Pastor is a member of the NSDAP but does not really care about National Socialism since he is constantly whining. This Mr. Pastor has his children being treated by a Jewish doctor (Marcus). If this Mr. Pastor wants to be a proper National Socialist, it is about time he studies the Jewish Question and stops his whining.“

Excerpt from “Der Stürmer“, February 1936 (translation: M.B., 2021)
Ida and Walter Marcus. Source: Karen I. Marcus

Ida and Walter Marcus. Source: Karen I. Marcus

Roeßle was indeed a member of the NSDAP and of the closely linked organisation “Deutsche Christen” (“German Christians”). As such, he was elected as pastor in 1933. However, he distanced himself theologically from the National Socialists and personally appreciated also the Jewish among his fellow citizens. Friedel, son of architect Hermann Fritz Gräbe from Gräfrath who saved Jews in Ukraine during World War II, was a patient of Dr. Walter Marcus, too.

According to the census of June 1933, there were 5,557 Jewish doctors in Germany, not including those who had left the Jewish community or who had converted to Christianity. They accounted for 11 % of all German doctors.

In 1936, Dr. Walter Marcus’ permission to treat state-insured patients was withdrawn. Although he was allowed to attend the International Medical Week in Interlaken in 1937, he eventually lost his approbation in 1938. By this time, he and his wife had already taken precautions for their emigration. Their house was spared during the “Kristallnacht” of 1938 as they had already found an “Aryan” buyer who protected his future property. Nevertheless, the paediatrician was arrested in the aftermath of the pogrom and was deported to Dachau. In mid-December 1938, he was released under the condition that he left Germany within 14 days. Since they could not obtain an entry visa within the short time available, he and his wife Ida – who, since she had been born in Oxford, also held the British citizenship – applied for a visitor visa to British Palestine. From there, they travelled via England to the USA.

Until he had completed an additional exam in 1943, Walter Marcus was not able to pursue any professional career in the USA. During this time, he mostly depended on the income of his wife who at first had found some underqualified work as a laboratory assistant. In the mid-1940s, both were offered the chance to work at Thorek Hospital in Chicago and went on to later found their own laboratory, while Walter Marcus also opened his own medical practice.

Ida Marcus died on 2 December 1958 in Chicago from pneumonia, presumably as a result of brain inflammation that she had caught while working at the laboratory. Her burial was met with great sympathy. The mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, was among those who signed the book of condolence. After her death, Ida’s husband Walter married again and died on 28 July 1973, also in Chicago.

When their daughter Eva was contacted in 1968 by Herbert Weber of Solingen, who was working on documenting what happened in the city during the „Kristallnacht“, she replied that she preferred not to remember those unhappy times which she had successfully repressed. She wrote [in translation]:

„It is horrendous when people that you knew and trusted turn into a wild, unrestrained, lunatic mob to which you can no longer say anything and which furiously destroys and burns everything. There are many other people who have experienced themselves the agitation and despair of having a father or husband in one of the concentration camps. But how to explain such facts and feelings to the free youth of today? It’s nothing more than old history now. I am deeply sorry that I cannot be of any more help to you, but what I experienced best remains forgotten.“

Eva Cohn, née Marcus, in September 1968 (translation: M.B., 2021)