Memorial plaque for the Jewish teachers Martha Behrend and Gretchen Wohlwill
A memorial plaque on the wall of Emilie Wüstenfeld Secondary School commemorates two former Jewish teachers from the school. Martha Behrend (1881–1941) and Gretchen Wohlwill (1878–1962) were both dismissed from their jobs in 1933 because of their Jewish heritage. Martha Behrend was deported in November 1941 to the Minsk ghetto, where she was murdered. Gretchen Wohlwill managed to emigrate via Italy to Portugal in 1940, thus escaping the Holocaust.
Gretchen Wohlwill was not only a teacher but also a well-known artist who belonged to the artists’ association known as the 'Hamburg Secession'. In 1931, she was commissioned by Hamburg’s Chief Planning Director (Oberbaudirektor), Fritz Schumacher, to paint two murals in the stairwell of her school. In 1938, her work was painted over with images of the Hitler Youth and League of German Girls.
After the end of the Nazi dictatorship, Gretchen Wohlwill returned to Hamburg and continued to work as an artist. Her works hang in the Hamburger Kunsthalle art museum and the Museum for Hamburg History. But she did not live to see her two murals uncovered again at the Emilie Wüstenfeld school. They were restored in 1993 to commemorate Gretchen Wohlwill’s art, which had been banned by the Nazis.