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All Pre-war Leaders of German and Austrian Jewish Communities Are Dead, Dr. Baeck Reveals

Chief Rabbi Leo Baeck of Berlin, who has just arrived here from There sienstadt after a short stay in Paris, revealed today that he is the only survivor of the pre-war Jewish leaders of Germany and Austria.

Dr. Otto Hirsch, executive director of the “Reichsvertretung” of German Jews, died in the Mauthausen camp, Dr. Baeck said, while other officials of the central body, including Dr. Arthur Lilienthal, a one-time Berlin judge, Dr. Cora Berliner and Hanna Karminsky were deported to Poland. Dr. Paul Epstein, another leader of the organization, died in Oswicoim. The Austrian Jewish leaders who died or were murdcred included Robert Stricker, prominent Zionist (whose son is now in the U.S. Army), and Dr. Desider Friedman, president of the Vienna Jewish community at the time of the Anschluss.

Queried concerning Jewish life in Germany in the year before he was interned, in 1943, Dr. Baeck said that the flame of Jewish learning was kept burning even while deportations were in full swing. “What was done between 1939 and 1944 will go down in history as, perhaps, the outstanding achievement of the doomed German-Jewish community,” Dr. Baeck said.

Tremendous difficulties had to be overcome during this period in arranging classes for children, who were scattered over wide areas, the chief rabbi said, but they were brought to community centeers and then transported home. This continued until July, 1942 whon all Jewish instruction and religious services were banned, Up to that time, Dr. Baeck also disclosed, he had continued lecturing at the celebrated Institute for Jewish Learning. Half-Jews and many Jews who were illegally hiding in Berlin attended his classes.

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