Ilse Feibel

I am Ilse Feibel, born in Marburg. I will tell you my date of birth, that was 1917. That is quite, quite elderly. I used to live at Barfüsserstrasse 9, went to Israel in ’39, now I am living in Nof Yam, Herzliya. Twice every year I come to Frankfurt, I got a small apartment in Frankfurt, and then I invariably also go to Marburg, I still got some friends there.

Childhood in Marburg

I was born in Marburg, and I used to be very happy there. Most of my childhood friends were Christians. We used to wear rings, friendship rings, and we circulated friendship books to write stuff into, things that went like this: Sometimes life is hard, sometimes we’re at ease, yet our friendship will never cease. Well, but cease it certainly did, during the Nazi era.

We were all very chummy, until one day they made us sing the Horst-Wessel-Lied in school, and everybody raised their arm. I did not know whether I was also supposed to raise my arm, so I sort of did it halfway, when I got a kick in the butt: “You damn Jew, don’t you dare raise your arm! You’re a Jew!“ And I was very embarrassed. I came into the classroom, and my friend said: “I don’t want to sit next to a Jew any more.“

And I came home crying. So my mother went to the headmaster, and the headmaster said: “Ah what times, there’s nothing to be done. You best take your child out of this school.“ So after ’33, ’34 there I was, still quite young and I did not know where to turn to.

The November Pogroms

I witnessed the November pogroms … somebody knocking on the door … telling us the synagogue’s on fire. During the night they are beating on the door, people are nailing down our door, shouting: “We do no longer want to live with Jews under one roof!“
In the morning I go out into the street, I intended to go to the police station. I thought the police could help us, but … I’m coming into the street when I am encountering one Mrs Rosenbaum, a Jewish woman who used to run a milliner’s store, and she says to me: “Ilse, why are you out at this time?“ Says I, “I’m going to the police“. Says she: “Didn’t you hear that the synagogue’s on fire?“ Says I: “I heard about that. And back there, they are nailing shut the house!“ Then she said: “Don’t go anywhere! Go home! Our men have all been rounded up. My husband is gone. Stay at home!“ So, back home we went, crying, weighed down…
Then my mother said: “You know what? We will go to Meimbressen.“ That’s near Kassel… And she called Meimbressen. But my aunt said: “You best stay in Marburg. At our place the sugar is running down the stairs.“ Because they also ran a grocer’s shop, and the Nazis had wreaked havoc on the place. Well, that was… those were hard times. The neighbour who had locked the door stood at the window, we could see each other from window to window. “Ha!“, she cried, “Ha! So you think you will ever see your husband again? That one managed to escape, but there is no way for you to get out!“

Some people in Marburg were very good to us, very kind. There was the magistrate who saved the life of my husband, and on that day, that was the Kristallnacht, it was the next day I had an appointment at my dentist, and the dentist lived down in Marbachweg. So I went down there, and then he said: “Ilse, you’re not going home across the city.“ The whole city had been destroyed, the shops. “You stay here, and afterwards you return home by way of the castle.“ That’s quite some distance, across the hill. So then there were after all some people who could not help us, but at least they showed us some kindness.

In Marburg in the Late Sixties

Coming back to Marburg for the first time was not easy, not easy at all. I went to the Barfüsserstrasse to see our house, the first time, and went into the hallway, when a woman asked: “What are you doing here?“

Even so another time I went… it was another invitation from the Christian-Jewish Society, to Marburg, stood in front of the door, when the daughter comes out and says to me: “What are you looking at the house like that for?“ Says I: “What am I looking at? This used to be our house.“ Says she: “What do you want here? Get the hell away from here. You must be crazy! Our house indeed.“


What would you like to tell people at this place, the site of the former synagogue?

That I have fond memories of the beautiful synagogue, of Rabbi Kohn, of Mr Pfifferling the teacher, and that I loved going to the synagogue. I was very young, but for me it was a wonderful place. We used to have our own seats at this synagogue.

Very often I went to the synagogue with my mother. I also sang quite well. I remember I was presented with a ball because I always sang along so prettily.

This place touches me whenever I visit it. I have seen the stone put up there. And I have seen that they are building something at this place now, digging down into the ground. It touches me and it conjures up memories, childhood memories.

It is important for the young people to know what has happened in former times.


Links to Contemporary Marburg

I feel deeply related to this place. I visit Marburg a lot. And I always pay a visit to Barfüsserstrasse. Barfüsserstrasse no. 9. I look at it – nowadays the house has been completely remodelled. And I go to Kugelstrasse, the rear building. And I show it to people. Each time I am coming into Marburg…. for one thing I have stayed single, then I get sort of an aching feeling. It has been home to me, it has been my adolescence, my language too.


Ilse Feibel with a photograph of
her fellow pupils at school