Leonard Gross

The Last Jews in Berlin


Early on the morning of February 27, 1943, units of Hitler’s corps, the S.S., undertook a lightning roundup of Berlin’s remaining Jews. Code name for the operation was Fabrik Aktion – Operation Factory.

On March 2 Joseph Goebbels entered a mixed review of the operation in his diary: “We are definitely now pushing the Jews out of Berlin. They were suddenly rounded up last Saturday, and are to be carted off to the East as quickly as possible. Unfortunately our better circles, especially the intellectuals, once again have failed to understand our policy about the Jews and in some cases have even taken their part. As a result our plans were tipped off prematurely, so that a lot of Jews slipped through our hands. But we will catch them yet. I certainly won’t rest until the capital of the Reich, at least, has become free of Jews.”

But by March 11 it had become apparent to Goebbels just how difficult a job that would be. “The scheduled arrest of all Jews on one day has proven a flash in the pan because of the shortsighted behavior of industrialists who warned the Jews in time. We therefore failed to lay our hands on about 4,000. They are now wandering about Berlin without homes, are not registered with police and are naturally quite a public danger. I ordered the police, Wehrmacht, and the Party to do everything possible to round these Jews up as quickly as practicable.”

Goebbels was wrong on two counts. First, the Jews who had slipped through the Nazis’ hands had not all done so on February 27. Many had been “underground” for months. Second, while some of the Jews were wandering homeless about the city, those who had anticipated the deportations were sequestered in rooms, apartments, homes, shacks, offices and even stores – most often by the grace of Gentile friends and even strangers, sometimes as a consequence of their own ingenuity.

In any case, the hunt for the last Jews in Berlin was on.

Selected Works

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--The New York Times
“Nothing short of a tour de force.”
--Los Angeles Times
“Mirror is a compelling novel, so well paced that the pages almost turn themselves.”
-- Susan Isaacs

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