Eva Michaelis's interrogation

  During the routine cataloging of the personal archive of Eva Michaelis-Stern (1904-1994), one of our archivists stumbled upon a chilling document, in which Michaelis writes about her interrogation by the Gestapo in 1937. Michaelis, one of the founders of the Youth Aliya office in Berlin, was summoned to appear before Adolf Eichmann, at that time the head of the Jewish department in the Nazi secret police apparatus. Apart from the interrogation itself, the document offers a glimpse into the reality lived by the Jews in Germany on the brink of the Holocaust. It shows how, despite immense efforts by Zionist activists to continue their daily lives, fear simmered beneath the surface, and the watchful eye of the Gestapo managed to slowly erode their sense of belonging to a country they had lived in for centuries. The document, which reads like a short suspense story, also tells of the fickleness of human nature and of the thin line between friendship and animosity.
  "It was one of the dark Berlin winter days in December 1937 when everybody at the Youth Aliyah Office was at his desk until very late." Michaelis writes. "During the Nazi period, as long as Jewish organizations were allowed to proceed with their work, no specific working hours existed, and the term "overtime" was not known. Everybody who could do something to ease the disaster which had befallen German Jewry was only too happy to be a member of a team which was called upon to do productive work." That evening, a telephone call disturbed Michaelis'  work. "This is Mr. Mueller – you know who I am – you have to come to the secret police immediately", ordered the voice on the other end of the line. Mueller was the pseudonym of Eichmann's Jewish informer, and Michaelis, knowing who he was, obliged. Before entering the offices of the secret police, she asked her secretary to wait for her in a nearby café. Before stepping into the building that also acted as a prison, she asked that if she didn't re-appear within an hour, her secretary should contact her family and fiancé.
  "The entrance to this infamous building was dark; the only light emanated from a lit up poster advising "Breathe deeply, don't be nervous". Inside the building, Michaelis was led by two officers into a small interrogation room, where an unpleasant surprise awaited her. Next to the interrogating officer she saw a familiar face – a former employee of the Youth Aliya office that had been fired recently. "I understood immediately that she was behind my being ordered to appear at secret police headquarters. This was obviously her revenge for Youth Aliya parting with her." In the interrogation, Michaelis was accused of spreading anti-Nazi propaganda outside Germany, an accusation she denied.  
  Following this preliminary interrogation, Michaelis was summoned to appear before Eichmann. "He didn’t look at me even once", Michaels writes. "He shouted his questions at me, whilst always looking ostentatiously to the other side". After a few questions, Eichmann accused Michaelis of using her work in the Youth Aliya as a cover for spreading anti–Nazi propaganda, and forbade her to continue her work. He let her go, but not before demanding her passport. Michaelis, who had anticipated this demand, had not carried her passport with her, and was let go. In the wake of these occurrences, Michaelis left Germany and immigrated to Palestine. She continued to be active in the Youth Aliya until 1952; when she retired she founded the Hovevei Yerushalayim organization.
  The paths of the two women crossed once again, in 1945 in Jerusalem. Like Michaelis, the former activist had also immigrated to Palestine in the late thirties, shortly after the incidence. Seven years later, she paid a visit to her old acquaintance. "Some time later the door of my office was opened and the "Rebbezin" entered without prior notice", Michaelis remembers. "She seated herself unconcernedly at my writing desk and declared the following: 'I have come to tell you that, in case you should ever dare to tell anyone what happened in Berlin, I am in a position to incite  all your friends against you…".
  A few years later, this woman passed away. Michaelis ends the document with a hint of satisfaction: "A mutual acquaintance has told me that the 'Rebbizin' had once said to her: ' In case something should happen to me, I know why G-d had to punish me'. May her soul rest in peace."