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Jürgen Israel Loewenstein

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00:00:00 Background

00:09:13 Zionist youth movement

00:15:17 Deportation/selection

00:17:10 Daily life and survival in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp

00:32:25 Death marches/liberation

00:40:04 Postwar period

00:50:42 Relationship with Germany

“The first days are the hardest. People stand there naked, with their heads and the rest of their bodies shaved, trembling with cold and fear, and can hardly recognize each other. The first of our chaverim are sent to the infirmary.”[1]


Jürgen Löwenstein was born Jürgen Rolf Sochaczewer in Berlin on March 28, 1925. His mother, Paula, married Walter Löwenstein, who later adopted him. He came from a low-income background, and his father was a working man. His mother, beset by worries about the family’s future, tried to supplement her husband’s earnings. Walter Löwenstein had served as a soldier in World War I, and as late as 1935 he was awarded the Honor Cross for Combatants in the World War. He believed that German anti-Semitism was directed only against the Ostjuden, the Jews from Eastern Europe, and was still rejecting all contact with them in 1938, when the Löwensteins were forced to give up their family apartment in Berlin-Mitte and move to the Scheunenviertel quarter (populated mainly by Eastern European Jews).


Jürgen Löwenstein was able to participate in a holiday camp at Horserød in Denmark, organized by the Jewish Community of Berlin under Norbert Wollheim’s leadership, and eat his fill of good food at last. A photo of little Jürgen with his suitcase on his shoulder was taken on this trip, probably by Norbert Wollheim. In Berlin, Jürgen had Jewish and Christian friends. After a rash caused him to lose his chance to take part in the Kindertransports to England in 1938, he saw emigration to Palestine as his last chance to get out of Germany. In September 1939, he entered the Hachscharah program, going first to Schniebinchen in Lower Lusatia, and then moving to Rüdnitz near Bernau, to Eichow-Mühle, and finally to Ahrensdorf as the Hachscharah camps were closed one after the other. When the National Socialists banned Hachsharah in 1941, they sent Jürgen to the Paderborn labor camp. From there, the last 60 young men and 40 young women of the German Youth Aliyah program were deported to Auschwitz on March 3, 1943. Of their group, 13 men and one woman survived. Jürgen Löwenstein’s parents were deported to Auschwitz on December 3, 1942, and murdered there.


At Auschwitz, the men from Paderborn were placed in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp. Their bonds of friendship held up in the camp, and they helped each other. Jürgen Löwenstein became ill and was transferred to the infirmary of the Auschwitz I main camp. From there he was sent to the Eintrachthütte subcamp near Świętochłowice for forced labor in an antiaircraft gun factory. In January 1945, he was forced to go on the death march to the Mauthausen concentration camp. He was transported again, first to Vienna for forced labor in the Saurer-Werke, and then back to Mauthausen in April 1945, and finally to the Gusen concentration camp, where he was liberated by the U.S. Army.


For Jürgen Löwenstein, it was clear that he would go to Israel. In 1949, he emigrated to Israel by way of Italy and went to Kibbutz Dorot in the Negev. In 1951, now calling himself Israel Löwenstein, he joined his wife, Chana, and other Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust in founding Kibbutz Yad Hanna, named for Hanna Senesh. They have lived and worked there ever since, and their three daughters were born there.


Jürgen Israel Loewenstein died February 16, 2018 in Israel and was buried in the cemetery in Yad Hanna, his place of residence, alongside his wife Hanna Loewenstein.His will to survive accompanied him to the end of his life.

(MN; transl. KL)


Israel Jürgen Löwenstein, oral history Interview [Ger.], July 7, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.



Löwenstein, Israel (Jürgen): “Ich habe ein Zuhause gefunden.” In: “Wer hätte das geglaubt!” Erinnerungen an die Hachschara und die Konzentrationslager. Schriftenreihe des Evangelischen Arbeitskreises Kirche und Israel in Hessen und Nassau, No. 16 (Heppenheim, 1998), pp. 28–32.

[1] Israel (Jürgen) Löwenstein: “Ich habe ein Zuhause gefunden.” In: “Wer hätte das geglaubt!” Erinnerungen an die Hachschara und die Konzentrationslager. Schriftenreihe des Evangelischen Arbeitskreises Kirche und Israel in Hessen und Nassau, No. 16 (Heppenheim, 1998), pp. 28–32, here p. 32.