1892 – 1979
As the head of the Department of Children’s Emigration in the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland) between 1934 and 1940, Käte Rosenheim rescued thousands of children. Because she was successful in her work, she and her staff enabled a total of over 7,250 Jewish children to escape from Nazi Germany.
Käte Rosenheim was born in Berlin on January 13, 1892. Her father, Theodor Rosenheim (Bromberg 1868–Berlin 1939), was a university professor and a physician; her mother, Hedwig (née Lipmann, 1868–1955), was a homemaker. Eleven years after Käte’s birth the family Rosenheim welcomed another daughter, Hildegard (1903–1986).
As a child Käte was educated first at a private school, then at a high school for girls in Berlin. She received her training in social work at Alice Salomon’s Women’s School for Social Work and at the University of Berlin. Her respect for and friendship with Alice Salomon continued to be important to her in later years. Upon her graduation, Rosenheim chose to receive training in baby care at a maternity center, where she subsequently worked for several years.
During World War I Rosenheim worked for a while in the Nationaler Frauendienst (National Women’s Service) and later for three and a half years in the library of the Frauenberufsamt (Women’s Professional Bureau). From May 1917 to January 1919 she worked in the women’s department of the War Office in the Marches (near Berlin). After the end of World War I she worked for several months in the women’s department of the Deutsche Liga für Völkerbund (German League for the League of Nations).
In 1919 Käte Rosenheim became the personal secretary of the Prussian Reich Minister of the Interior, Carl Severing, a prestigious position at that time. In 1928 she achieved the rank of civil servant. After eleven years as a personal secretary of Carl Severing she decided to change jobs. In 1930 she became head of the welfare department at the headquarters of the Berlin Police Department.
However, as a Jew, she was dismissed from this job in 1933 due to the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.” A short time later she joined the Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der deutschen Juden (Central Welfare Office of German Jews) and also the Reich Representation of German Jews (Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden), where she was responsible for the emigration of Jewish children.
Though this position enabled her to rescue thousands of children, in retrospect Käte Rosenheim maintained that “We had hoped to place many more children in safe countries.” From time to time, as part of her work in the Kinderauswanderung Department (Department of Children’s Emigration), Käte Rosenheim accompanied the children out of the country. In 1936 she traveled to the United States to make sure that the rescued children were being well cared for. That year, 161 boys and seventy-six girls were able to leave Germany for the United States, thanks to the Reich Representation of Jews in Germany and the German-Jewish Children’s Aid, which was located in New York City. After the pogrom in November 1938 she accompanied several transports of children to England, but she always went back to Germany. She repeatedly appealed to the people accompanying the transports to return to Germany so as not to endanger the work of the Kinderauswanderung Department in any way.
In December 1940 Käte Rosenheim resigned from the board of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany. Four weeks later, she fled with her mother to the United States via Cuba. They received their luggage (now reduced to four bags) eighteen months after their arrival in New York.
In 1943 Rosenheim began studies at the New School for Social Work. After her graduation Käte Rosenheim again worked as a social worker, first in New York and then in San Francisco. In later years she worked for various welfare organizations, finally at the welfare office in San Francisco.
Käte Rosenheim never married. After she retired at age sixty-five she continued to live in California. Her younger sister Hildegard emigrated to the USA in 1939. When elderly, the two sisters lived near each other in California.
In December 1979 Käte Rosenheim died in Santa Clara, California at the age of 87.
Interterritoriale Kinderfürsorge, Jüdische Wohlfahrtspflege 6 (1936): 93–99;
Die Abteilung Kinderauswanderung, Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt. July 14, 1939, 5.
Fassmann, Irmgard Maya. Jüdinnen in der deutschen Frauenbewegung 1865–1919. Hildesheim, Zürich, New York: 1996, 320.
Lowenthal, Ernst G. Juden in Preussen. Biographisches Verzeichnis, Berlin: 1981, 191.
Maierhof, Gudrun. Selbstbehauptung im Chaos. Frauen in der jüdischen Selbsthilfe 1933–1943. Frankfurt and New York: 2002, 168–171, 204–206.
Peyser, Dora. Käte Rosenheim. In Alice Salomon, edited by Hans Muthesius, 323 Köln, Berlin: 1958.
Walk, Joseph. Kurzbiographien zur Geschichte der Juden 1918–1945, München, New York, London, Paris: 1988, 315.
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, Israel: Correspondence Siddy Wronsky.
Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Oral History collection, Jerusalem.
Landesentschädigungsbehörde, Berlin, Germany: Restitution File.