Ernst Günter Fontheim

Ernst Günter Fontheim was born in Berlin in 1922 to Jewish parents. His father was a lawyer. As a schoolboy, he witnessed the destruction of the Fasanenstraße Synagogue in a fire on 10 November 1938. Forbidden as a Jew from attending school, he applied himself to learning English. He hoped that this skill would make it easier for him to emigrate and/or establish himself in a foreign country. After managing to sit the externally administered Abitur (A-level) examinations in March 1940, he began to train as a locksmith at an ORT school. In April 1941, he was conscripted into forced labor at a Siemens plant. On 24 December 1942, Fontheim’s parents and sister were arrested and in Janury 1943 deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. In late January 1943, Fontheim himself went underground in order to avoid deportation. After the liberation, Fontheim studied Physics at the Technical University in Berlin. In 1947, he emigrated to the United States, where he obtained a PhD in Physics and subsequently worked as a physicist.


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Ernst Günter Fontheim (*1922) on the desecration of the Fasanenstraße Synagogue and the anti-Jewish riots of 10 November 1938.
Interview with Beate Meyer, conducted on 26 May 1999 [Excerpt] (New Synagogue Foundation – Centrum Judaicum, Berlin).

The Dr. Wollheim referred to here was a teacher of Fontheim’s, who during the pogroms advised his pupil to hurry home in order to avoid being exposed to even greater danger as a Jew.