GHDI logo

Martin Lövinson Recalls Jewish Emancipation and Enthusiasm for the German Wars of Unification (early 1870s)

page 3 of 6    print version    return to list previous document      next document

Above all, however, it was pointed out that the many Christian laborers and employees were entitled to demand consideration of their religious feelings as well as their financial interests in all these matters. The concept of tolerance, which was to become a guiding principle throughout our lives, was thus placed at the center of our civic and religious philosophy of life. Just as we, as a religious minority, had to take the interests of the state into account, in the private sphere we also had to exercise absolute respect for the reverence with which our fellow citizens of another faith were attached to their religion and its particular customs. I can only say that in those days, before the invention of social and racial antisemitism, the views of our Christian environment completely coincided with our own.

Thus, the others welcomed it almost with appreciation that we Jews, too, were to have a regular prayer service, and the few coreligionists living there did not mind at all that our father relieved them not only of the troubles but also completely of the costs of this institution. [ . . . ] By affixing a curtain, a wardrobe was transformed into the holy ark, and it happened that in the possession of the families there were two Torah scrolls, which were willingly made available for the good cause. As cantors, two dignified old men were found, Herr Ebenstein and Herr Cohn; the former had previously been teacher, cantor, and schochet in Neuruppin and now lived in retirement in Berlin, while the other tried to make a modest living with a small business. Since they could not travel by any vehicle on holidays and, in addition, their duties kept them busy from morning until night, they came out to us early on the evening before the holidays and received board from our mother.

[ . . . ]

Today, one can hardly imagine how my mother, besides keeping up the household, also managed, with complete attentiveness, to receive our many guests. For the ones mentioned until now did not make up the entire flock. During the wars, the Jewish soldiers from the hospitals in Charlottenburg also came regularly. But that was still not all. Word soon got around about the beautiful prayer service, and whoever showed up for it and didn’t have a place to stay or to take holiday meals, without much ado became a guest of our parents. Thus the large garden room, in which we dined at such times, was just as full of guests as in the days during the entry of the army in 1866. Of the acquaintanceships made at this time I will mention only two. Once, during his walks, Grandfather Lövinson discovered among the diggers who at that time were making a broad highway from the narrow pass at Spandau Hill a hardworking young man whom he recognized as a Jew and to whom he spoke thereof during a break. He turned out to be a bookbinder from Russia and was named Hermann Presakowicz, or perhaps Polakewicz. Like many Jews and Christians, he had fled from his inhospitable homeland to escape the unbearably long and hard military service, and had found work in his profession only temporarily. In order not to become a burden to the charity of his coreligionists, without hesitation he seized the first opportunity to work that came his way. Now, however, he received help, not only for the holidays, on which he naturally was a guest like all others at our table, but also in the long run. At first father took him into his factory as an unskilled worker. Later, when we had moved back to Berlin, he also did many repairs at our home. In a house that belonged to my father, he found rather primitive lodgings, which were all the cheaper for that, and soon, with my father’s support, he was able to acquire his own tools and he became an independent master craftsman in his own trade.

[ . . . ]

"Published by Indiana University Press. Further reproduction is prohibited."

first page < previous   |   next > last page