A Stolperstein memorial block for Fritz Rosenfelder, who chose to end his life rather than suffer further humiliations under the Nazi regime. Photo credit: Croesch; licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The PMJ volumes offer glimpses into the motives that led some Jews facing Nazi persecution to end their lives. In some farewell letters, despair and hopelessness prevail; others are marked by a defiant insistence on preserving individual dignity. Responses by newspapers and individuals to the news of Jews taking their lives add to the selection of documents presented here.

Sample documents
Volume 1  –  document 36
Jüdische Rundschau, 25 April 1933: article on the suicide of a Jew with German nationalist convictions
‘Current events are driving Jewish people to take their own lives.’
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Volume 1  –  document 266
On 18 February 1937, 16-year-old Werner Angress describes his reaction to the suicide of his group leader in the Groß-Breesen retraining camp
‘Life goes on. There is just a gaping hole inside.’
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Volume 2  –  document 181
Hedwig Jastrow, age 76, takes her own life on 29 November 1938 so as not to have to bear the compulsory forename
‘I want to be buried with the name my parents gave to me and bequeathed to me – a name which is unblemished.’
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Volume 2  –  document 291
Writing to Stephan Lackner on 4 June 1939, Walter Benjamin expresses his thoughts on the situation in exile and on the suicides of Jews in Vienna
‘The gas has been cut off in Jewish households in Vienna. They were using too much. And since they were using it to commit suicide, the gas bill often remained unpaid afterwards.’
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Volume 2  –  document 320
On 10 August 1939 Cornelius von Berenberg-Gossler learns of the suicide of a Jewish acquaintance who had emigrated
‘She had suffered too greatly as a result of the persecution of the Jews.’
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Volume 3  –  document 21
In October 1939 Rica Neuburger takes her own life as a result of the harassment of Jews
‘The housing issue and all that they are doing to us and forcing on us is too cruel and difficult and I can’t survive it.’
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Volume 5  –  document 27
In a farewell letter dated 14 May 1940, Mr and Mrs Levy arrange the handling of their estate
‘Because it is impossible for us to live in a Netherlands that is no longer free, we have put an end to our lives.’
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