Farewell to my Friends

a film by Heiko Arendt

Farewell to my Friends

Germany | 2019 | 80:00 min

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Born in 1922, Ernst Ludwig “Lux” Oswalt was the son of Ernst and Wilhelmine Oswalt, proprietors of the publishing house Rütten & Loening, which also published “Struwwelpeter”. Although he came from a Jewish family in Frankfurt, he was baptised in the Protestant church. Later, he was closely connected to St. Peter’s parish in Frankfurt, where he also worked as a leader for the church youth group and was himself confirmed in 1936. In spite of the fact they had been Protestants for two generations, according to the Nazi racial laws, the Oswalts were persecuted because of their Jewish origins.

In accordance with the discrimination and exclusion of the Nazi racial laws, as one of the last pupils to do so, Ernst Ludwig Oswalt had to leave the Musterschule school in Frankfurt’s Nordend in 1938 and from 1940 had to do forced labour in various companies. After his own high school graduation from the Musterschule, his brother Heinrich, who was two years older, had already left the country in 1937 to study electrotechnology in Switzerland. On 11th June, 1942, Ernst Ludwig Oswalt was deported from Frankfurt towards the east when he was only 19 years old. There is no knowledge of any survivors of this particular deportation.

Ludwig Oswalt had latterly lived with his father in Bettinastrasse number 48 in Frankfurt’s Westend. His mother Wilhelmine Oswalt contracted leukaemia in 1934 and died of the illness in 1938. After being summoned by the Gestapo and some weeks in prison, accused of not wearing the Star of David in the correct manner, his father was deported to the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen in June 1942, where he died in the same month, on 30th June 1942 at the age of 65. The 19-year-old son was never advised of his father’s deportation and death, as he himself had been forcefully deported some weeks earlier.

It would seem that Ludwig Oswalt’s relationship with St. Peter’s church and the friends he had made there held until his deportation. Not only does his farewell letter bear testimony to this, but an acquaintance of his, who was confirmed in March 1942, remembers Ludwig Oswalt singing in the church choir while wearing the discriminating Star of David on his chest. Dean Anneliese Oehlert, who was 18 years old at the time, remembers that the “once so popular red-haired church youth club leader” suddenly disappeared from one day to the next and from then on, in the parish, it was said, “He was a Jew.”

The documentary about Ernst Ludwig Oswalt uses original documents belonging to the family to show the life of this young man in the city of Frankfurt and today revisits the places he knew, for example the Musterschule school where a memorial plaque commemorates former Jewish pupils, including Ernst Ludwig Oswalt and his older brother Heinrich. In the documentary, historical class photos showing Ernst Ludwig Oswalt at the Musterschule are re-enacted by today’s pupils. The Großmarkthalle, the wholesale fruit and vegetable market, where Frankfurt’s Jews and Ernst Ludwig Oswalt were deported from, is also discussed in the film. Using photos and quotations from letters, the film undertakes a search for traces of the stages of his life and the places he knew in light of the increasingly harsh repressions of the Nazi racial laws. Furthermore, the film includes expert opinions in which the despotic racial laws vis-à-vis Jewish citizens in Frankfurt are explained.
Cast and Crew
  • Director Heiko Arendt
  • Producer Heiko Arendt
  • Director of Photography Karin Malwitz, Reiner Krausz, Heiko Arendt
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