Irene Block worked as a tax and currency advisor because as a “mixed race second class” she was not allowed to take the second state legal exam in 1938. She advised hundreds of customers in the following years, for the most part Jews in Frankfurt, who needed various tax confirmations as they planned their emigration. Maria Fulda also sought her advice.

When Fulda was informed that she was to be deported in October 1941 she was shocked, remained lying as if she was paralyzed and was declared unfit for transport. Irene Block got involved for the first time on her client’s behalf when the next deportation order was issued. She found Dr. Stilgebauer, a physician who with great difficulty got Maria Fulda admitted to the Jewish Gagern Hospital. Dr. Fritz Kahl issued a medical attest when the third deportation order was issued. The numerous extensions caught the Gestapo’s attention and they had their own doctor, Dr. Philippi, review this latest attest. Once again however Irene Block got involved on Fulda’s behalf by personally speaking with the physician. She was left behind once more after being declared unable to walk. This tactic succeeded a fourth time and when the final deportation order was issued at the end of September 1942 Irene Block stood in Maria Fulda’s room shortly before the scheduled departure. A friend, whom she had smuggled into the room, was also present in order to say good-bye. The unavoidable would have happened if Irene Block had not suddenly decided to act. She removed the star from Fulda’s coat and requested her friend to throw Maria’s dress and ID card in the Main River. She then took Maria by the hand, went to the railway station and rode with her to Ziegenhain (district of Kassel). She housed her ward in a room, which she had rented before as a precaution against air raids. She presented Maria Fulda to the owner of the room as her aunt from Berlin, who after a nervous breakdown required peace and quietness and a daily bowl of soup, but who would not speak very much.

Postal ID card issued with the alias „Maria Fischer“ which was used by Maria Fulda during her illegal residence in Ziegenhain. © Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden
Postal ID card issued with the alias „Maria Fischer“ which was used by Maria Fulda during her illegal residence in Ziegenhain. © Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden
Irene Block’s student ID from 1935, the year of her enrollment. © University Archive, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main
Irene Block’s student ID from 1935, the year of her enrollment. © University Archive, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main

Upon her return to Frankfurt Irene Block was horrified to find out that her friend had not gotten rid of Mrs. Fulda’s things into the Main River. It remained up to her as a last resort to report Fulda as suicidal and as a “missing” Jew. After one week Irene Block brought her protégé back from Ziegenhain and hid Maria Fulda in her apartment in Frankfurt Westend, Unterlindau 51, which was simultaneously her office. When unannounced visitors showed up Fulda hid in a sofa bed or disappeared into a neighboring cellar. The two women lived this restricted lifestyle for 1½ years. None-the-less with one ration card and with the help from friends they managed to avoid all dangers. When Maria Fulda became very sick in April 1943 and needed medicin Irene Block found excuses and told lies, hid her identity and gave the injections. Two of Fulda’s friends were deemed to be dangerous and would have to be repeatedly warned by Irene Block not to talk about their hidden friend. The neighbor Lina Hatschek helped out as Fulda did not have any clothes. When a civil servant from the tax department showed up, Block’s secretary bribed him to leave the office quickly. During this period and also later when the city was bombed the neighbor Else Brauchler made her cellar available where Maria Fulda could hide during the day. Block assumed that this resident did not know Maria Fulda’s identity. When Unterlindau 51 was totally destroyed by fire after an air raid on 22 March 1944 Irene Block and Maria Fulda escaped from the cellar at Unterlindau 55 to the rented room in Ziegenhain. Irene Block registered herself and her protégé as having been bombed out in Frankfurt and applied for a postal ID under the name “Maria Fischer”.

A month later she registered Maria as a member of her household and in that way Fulda-Fischer was able to receive her own ration coupons.

The Americans occupied the district around Kassel on 30 March 1945 and Maria was set free. For a long time she could not believe that she had been saved. Four additional months went by before she acknowledged her real name to the American authorities. Both women lived in Frankfurt until Maria Fulda’s death in 1966. Fulda dedicated herself to having Irene Block honored in Yad Vashem as one of the “The Righteous among the Nations”. Despite many affidavits Dr. Irene Block was only honored –posthumously– in 1992.

See: Petra Bonavita, Mit falschem Pass und Zyankali, Stuttgart 2009, 
pages 54-57

[german version]

One thought on “Irene Block rescues Maria Fulda: “I knew what I was doing”

  1. Irene Block rettet Maria Fulda: „Ich wusste, was ich tue“ – rettungs.widerstand

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