Research Project Betar Professional School Darsmatdt, Germany 1947-48
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Combined Article from
DARMSTÄDTER ECHO  January 28, 2011 by  Klaus Honold
and   January 28, 2011, 67.Jahrgang, Nr.23, R5, Frankfurter Rundschau/Darmstadt by Roman Grösser

"Aliyah" as Part of the Class Schedule

Exhibition: The Jewish Vocational School “Masada” in Darmstadt

It is accomplished: Lea Dror-Batalion (middle) from Haifa, the teacher Renate Dreesen (left) and her students from the German excellence class created: Together, they created the exhibition which can be seen in the vocational school center on the Aslfelder street until the end of February and which can be borrowed by other schools.
Photo: Roman Grössler



Ten hours daily: The class schedule in the Masada school was tight. The picture depicts the Main-Neckar train station on the west side of the Steubenplatz around 1900. The school used the building in 1947/48. Photo: Archive


The Jewish vocational School was the first of its kind in Germany. 45 to 60 Jewish youth were instructed during the years 1947/48. Samuel Batalion insisted on a tight daily schedule consisting of ten hours of vocational training for professions like carpenter, locksmith, or electrician. In addition, students were taught Hebrew, as well as Jewish History. The teacher that stood out was Moshe Mordchelewitz, who was a youth counselor in the sense of the Betar organization (Madrich), whose task was to ultimately prepare the students for for a life in the Land of Israel. Their residence was the nearby city hospital.

How did Batalion find his way to Darmstadt? A Jew from Galicia, who, in 1939 when the Germans attacked   Poland,   fled to the east by walking 2000 km to the Siberian area of Perm. When in 1945 the Stalininistic anti-Semitism rose, he marched in the opposite direction and succeeded to reach Berlin, dressed as a Russian soldier and pretending to be on a secret mission. He became an officer of the United Nation Relief and Rehabilitation Organization, reached Hesse and finally Darmstadt where he was appointed rector of the school.

Hope for the Survivors: Samuel Batalion established and managed the Jewish Vocational School Masada Darmstadt. Reproduced: Roman Grösser


After one year, the vocational training was completed. The school was closed and slowly buried in oblivion. The exhibition brings it now back to the city’s consciences.

Batalion's granddaughter Nathalie was the singer of the Israeli national anthem, and his daughter Lea the initiator of the exhibition.  Lea Dror-Batalion, born in Darmstadt and now living in Israel, explains that she had never talked to her parents about their experiences and agonies during the war. However, one day at school, Nathalie, the granddaughter had to draw a family tree. Suddenly the questions "Where from?" and "Why?" became relevant.
Lea Dror-Batalion traveled to Darmstadt and started her research, supported by Friedrich Wilhelm Knieß of the municipal archive. Slowly a picture of the institution, which her father, who passed away ten years ago, had lead, emerged. In Darmstadt, Batalion's daughter received a significant hint: Contact Renate Dreesen who is a teacher at the Heinrich Emanuel Merck School and a tireless member of the history workshop.  Through the team work and support of Renate Dreesen and her students, the private research became a public exhibition project. Together, they recovered the records of Masada graduates that allowed them to connect with former students in Israel, Canada, as well as Darmstadt where two alumni had remained: The brothers Isak and Mundek Altkorn who, along with their friend Gregor Uscherowitsch, had owned the first nightclub in Darmstadt, the legendary "Hawai-Bar".
Uscherowitsch’s son was the pianist of the Hatikwa at the exhibition opening, and contributed to its conclusion with a melody that once again moved the audience, and brought tears to their eyes: "Jerusalem of Gold". Many of them were members of the Batailon family who had come together from different corners of the world: the brother from New York, the grand children from Frankfurt- on occasion of the event. The Merck's students who were also present were visibly touched by the solemn opening ceremony. They could rightfully be proud of the exhibition they had helped to organize and their teacher complimented them: "In thirty years as a teacher I never experienced students with such engagement".

For More Information Please Contact: Lea Dror-Batalion :
Administrative Services and Webmaster Jewish Professional School, Darmstadt 1947 Haifa, Israel