Thea Wolf and the Jewish Hospital in AlexandriaPosted: 2014/12/03
Ada Aharoni has been awarded the Prix du Témoignage (Testimony Prize) for this little known WW2 history of Arab-Jewish co-operation.
Text: Solveig HansenAda Aharoni’s Not in Vain: An Extraordinary Life (1998) about Thea Wolf (1907–2005), German Head Nurse at the Jewish Hospital in Alexandria during World War II, has recently been translated into French, titled Thea Wolf – la femme en blanc de l’hôpital d’Alexandrie (also available as an e-book at Kindle). Through the hospital and in some cases with the aid of Egyptian officials, hundreds of escaping European Jews found sanctuary.
The English title of the book, Not in Vain, is derived from Wolf’s own statement, “I did not want to live in vain.” Independent and strong from an early age, she fought the prejudices of her time and became a nurse. In 1932, she left for Egypt and the Jewish Hospital in Alexandria, never to see her family again. Most of them were killed in the Nazi concentration camps.Wolf kept meticulous records throughout her career. After the war, she even tried to find out what had happened to many of the people she helped save. Her notes proved to be valuable to Aharoni while writing and documenting the events that unfolded in the Alexandrian hospital.
Some of the stories are truly remarkable, like the one about the last German ship to visit Egypt before the outbreak of the war. Onboard were thirteen Jewish refugees who were not allowed to disembark and were about to be transported back to Germany. One of the ship’s crew members arranged with the hospital staff to administer a dose of sleeping pills to the refugees in order to put them in an appeared state of coma, after which they were admitted to the hospital. The ship had to leave without them. Later they were smuggled into Palestine, with the co-operation of Egyptian police and port authorities.
In 1947, Schwester Thea left Egypt and moved to Palestine where she continued her work as a nurse. She married Julius Levinsohn, an attorney from Germany, and adopted young Michael, a relative of her father. They moved back to Germany, but after her husband’s death in 1964, she settled in Jerusalem.
Thea Levinsohn-Wolf passed away in 2005 in Frankfurt, the city where she trained to become a nurse.
Ada Aharoni calls her a forerunner of the “new woman.”