Rolf Abrahamsohn

Rolf Abrahamsohn

Born in Marl on 9 March 1925, Rolf Abrahamsohn was the third of four sons. His father, who fought in World War 1 as one of the front line soldiers, married Rolf’s mother in 1919. The two had a textile business together. Rolf Abrahamsohn had a very happy childhood. He grew up with Christian friends without any difference between Jews and Christians. That suddenly changed when the Nazis took over. Rolf’s whole family got ether into concentration camps or died because of diseases. He himself survived seven different concentration and work camps. In the end he only weighed 39 kilograms. However he was instrumental in his work to rebuild Jewish life in the Ruhr area after the war and also he supported several projects in Israel – even though the images of the past still kept bothering him.

»Abi, give up on the Jewish Community, give up on this and that, but when students are looking for you, go! Even if you only convince one student out of 50 that Jews aren’t any worse than Christians you already reached so much.«

born 1925 in Marl, resides in Marl (Germany)

Rolf Abrahamsohn says he has two faces. We couldn’t describe him any better. Before we even met, he already showed us his quick-wittedness, irony and humour. With those characteristics he is able to draw everyone out, to reduce one’s uncertainty and to create an intimate and relaxing atmosphere.

He is a man marked by destiny. He got through seven concentration camps, he lost his whole family and experienced great disappointments and anti-Semitism. Images of death and misery will stay in his mind for ever. Anyway, all those things couldn’t discourage this strong person from helping others. He donates money to orphanages and medical care in Israel. In memory of his family he bought land in Akkon (Israel) in order to build up a forest for them. For many years he as chairman stood up tirelessly for the Jewish Community, for the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation and for the Israel Foundation. By doing all that he got a significant impact on the development of Jewish life in the Ruhr area.

Then and now he makes an important contribution in the culture of memory: he supported the construction of the Jewish museum in Dorsten and gives lectures to students at school. For his constant and active commitment he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit in 2002. In 2011 he received yet another award as »Vestischer Ehrenbürger« by the Recklinghausen district. According to his own words he doesn’t really need those awards: »Everything I did, I did for the dead. I don’t need a thank you for doing it. For me, doing those things is just natural.«

Who thinks all those things are easy for him to do is certainly wrong. Nightmares and the fear of persecution are bothering him still and we would like nothing more than to relieve him of his suffering. When he’s talking about the past during our interview or when giving lectures at schools, Rolf Abrahamsohn experiences everything once again and it is hard for him to get back into the present. Even though it is important to him to pass on his experiences. If he convinces only one person in his lecture that Jews are not worse than Christians, all the effort of telling his story once again was worth it. Rolf tells us that sometimes he loses strength anyway and tears are running down his cheeks. When that happens he’s quickly telling a joke and then he’s able to continue talking. These jokes he shared with us as well, also many of his anecdotes: for example he told us how he got the nickname »Würstchen« (small sausages) and the reason why the well-known US-actor Cameron Mitchell (known for the western series »High Chaparral« and the movie »How to marry a millionaire«) helped him to get a Ford Mustang.

At this point we remember what we saw in the beginning: an admirable and strong man, full of humour and irony, who is marked by destiny.

» Listen
» questions? Write Rolfs second witness Ruth-Anne.


Wir von HEIMATSUCHER e.V. interviewen Zeitzeug*innen des Holocausts, dokumentieren ihre Geschichten und erzählen sie dann in Schulklassen und unserer Ausstellung weiter. Der Überlebende Elie Wiesel sagte einmal: »Jeder der heute einem Zeitzeugen zuhört, wird selbst ein Zeuge werden.« Und so sehen wir unseren Auftrag darin, als »Zweitzeug*innen«, (junge) Menschen stark gegen jegliche Art von Rassismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit zu machen. HEIMATSUCHER e.V. ist laut § 78 SGB VIII anerkannter Träger der freien Jugendhilfe.

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