Project information, biography and donations

The project: “Marie Juchacz – On the route to exile“...

 ...is a research project on the exile route Marie Juchacz took from 1933. A research tout took place in May and June 2023 during which the exile route of Marie Juchacz (1879-1956), SPD (Social Democrat) member of the Reichstag (until 1933), feminist, social reformer and founder of the German Workers‘ Welfare Association (Arbeiterwohlfahrt, AWO), was retraced and examined more closely.

Lydia Struck, cultural anthropologist and great-grandniece of Marie Juchacz is leading this project as a private initiative.
Donations towards the costs of this research project, irrespective of the amount, will be greatly appreciated. 

Lectures can be booked by arrangement in advance.


What issues are to be examined during the project:

The few personal letters written by Marie Juchacz to friends that had been retained provide information on the places where Marie Juchacz found refuge as from the end of April 1933 when National Socialists in Germany presented a threat to her life. The letters also give examples of how the resistance work of the group she was with defined her everyday life. Also that help was provided by people in France. A lot of information to follow up is also provided in the biography of the Reichstag member Emil Kirschmann published by Axel Redmer (1987). Entitled: “Wer draußen steht, sieht manches besser” (Those that stand on the outside, get a better view of some things”. These sources, both letters and publications, complement each other and act as indications in the search for further traces.

The Questions were: Are there perhaps more sources in local archives? Can anyone (in the second generation) provide information on the “Kirschmann Group“ that could lead to new discoveries? Despite their meticulous obliteration of “incriminating evidence” before moving on, it was hoped that certain objects or documents can be retrieved as a result of which some relevant information about the corresponding period of exile could be gained.
New facts and questions were published regularly on a Project Travel-Blog


Places along the route of exile that were visited in May 2023, are:


Berlin, Cologne, Saarbrücken, Forbach, Metz, Mühlhausen/Mulhouse, Belfort, Lyon, Marseille and Sauvagnon (near Pau).



 The story 

By 1933 Marie Juchacz’s life was in danger in Germany. Friends had advised her to leave Germany as quickly as possible. She followed this advice and, until her final exile in the USA (1941-1948), first stayed in the Saarland, which at that time was still under the administration of the League of Nations.


In the hope of returning to Germany in the near future, she first ran a café in Saarbrücken which developed into a meeting place for many refugees from Germany. Marie Juchacz took advantage of her networks in order to help those in need to continue on their further journey. The Workers’ Welfare Association still existed in Saarbrücken, whereas in Germany it had already dissolved itself under pressure of attempts at forming an enforced community.


In 1935, following a referendum, the Saarland was allocated to Germany. Marie Juchacz fled once again in the direction of France, together with a resistance group which had formed around her brother-in-law Emil Kirschmann: first to Forbach, Metz, Mühlhausen/Mulhouse and then to the south of France in 1939 to the village of Sauvagnon (near Pau), where Marie Juchacz and the group was offered refuge in an empty house by the inhabitants of a village until Marie Juchacz, Emil Kirschmann and Catherine Fey were able to continue their escape to the USA from Marseille in 1941. After a very unpleasant stop on the Isle of Martinique the ship arrived in New York. The three stayed with the Kirschmann Family in Meriden and Marie Juchacz left for West Branch to learn English in a Quaker home for refugees. Later she returned to New York to live with Emil Kirschmann and Käthe (Catherine) Fey. In 1945, when the war ended she helped to start an organization to send “Care” parcels to Germany to help the victims of National Socialism from 1946 onwards called Arbeiter-Wohlfahrt New York of which she became the president. It was part of the German-speaking branch of the Workers’ Welfare. The project and her huge number of letters of advice to Lotte Lemke in Hanover (Germany) helped to revive the new Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO) in Germany. Not until 1949 did Marie Juchacz return to Germany after a total of 16 years of exile and was warmly welcomed by friends and family on the quay side at Bremerhaven.


Companions along the first stage of her exile from 1933-1941 (Saarbrücken and France) who played a role were (the list will be continually updated):
• Emil Kirschmann
• Käthe Fey (Kirschmann)
• Johanna Kirchner
• Max Braun
• Angela Braun-Stratmann
• Max Hofmann
• Elfriede Hofmann
• Margarethe Leuthé
• Emile Erhard





Marie Juchacz (1879 - 1956) 

SPD (Social Democrat) Member of the Reichstag (until 1933), feminist, social reformer and founder of the German Workers Welfare Association (Arbeiterwohlfahrt, AWO).


Marie Juchacz (née Gohlke) was born on 15th March 1879 in Landsberg an der Warthe (today: Gorzów Wielkopolski). There she grew up with her older brother Otto Gohlke and her younger sister Elisabeth Kirschmann-Röhl, née Gohlke) and both parents in a simple, loving carpenter’s household. She attended a simple elementary school which she left at the age of 14.


Professional and private life

She first worked as a domestic servant, then in a net factory, later as an orderly, following which she learned the trade of seamstress. Her family encouraged her political education. She developed a strong interest in women’s politics at an early age. In 1903 she married the tailor Bernhard Juchacz, with whom she set up a mutual workshop and started a family. Their two children, Charlotte and Paul were born in 1903 and 1905. Shortly after the birth of her second child, Marie Juchacz separated from her husband and moved to Berlin in 1906.

 Berlin and politics

Her younger sister Elisabeth Kirschmann-Röhl followed her. In 1907 the two women joined the SPD party and became popular speakers. In Berlin they first lived at her brother Otto Gohlke’s and, after the wedding of Elisabeth and Gustav Röhl they moved into a communal apartment in Berlin-Schöneberg and later in Rixdorf near Berlin), today’s Berlin-Neukölln where Marie’s children Charlotte and Paul grew up together with Fritz, the son of Elisabeth and Gustav Röhl. The two sisters gradually took up political work. In 1913 Marie Juchacz was appointed as Secretary for Women’s Issues by the leaders of the SPD in the district known at that time as the ”Obere Rheinprovinz" and moved to Cologne. She gave speeches throughout the district and tried to find out from the women attending what their lives were about, what they lacked and what they expected from the SPD. Elisabeth also separated from her husband and followed Marie Juchacz with the three children to Cologne. They were soon joined by Emil Kirschmann whom Elisabeth later married.

First World War and the home workers‘ centre (Heimarbeitszentrale)

At the beginning of the First World War, Marie Juchacz and Elisabeth Kirschmann-Röhl, together with some of their female friends, including Else Meerfeld, joined in the activities and help projects run by the National Women’s Community in Cologne. The home workers‘ centre (Heimarbeitszentrale) in which women (in particular) sewed clothing for soldiers from second-hand garments.

Marie Juchacz led the division „Women’s Movement, Political Education for Women, Organisation and Training of Functionary Staff". Her responsibilities included, among others, giving speeches at meetings, organising courses, carrying out teaching work and publishing the monthly magazine "Die Genossin" (The Comrade) for functionaries. Marie Juchacz returned to Berlin in 1918 in order to continue this work.

Weimar Republic

Elisabeth Kirschmann-Röhl became a city councillor in Cologne in 1918. In 1919 Marie Juchacz and her sister were elected onto the National Assembly in Weimar as two of 37 women – after achieving the rights of women to vote – for the first time democratically and mutually by men and women. On 19th February 1919 Marie Juchacz became the first female member of Parliament to step up to the lectern in the Weimar National Assembly. Her speech began with the words “Dear Gentlemen and Ladies!“ It was a historic moment. Again and again, silence had to be restored in the hall, as the gentlemen did not hold back with interjections and comments. They were not used to hearing women speak in Parliament.


The founding of the Workers‘ Welfare Association (AWO)

On 13th December 1919 Marie Juchacz founded the Workers‘ Welfare Association together with other social democrats, with its head office in Berlin. The AWO was an organisation that was to offer help for self-help and was not intended as an organisation simply for handing out alms. Numerous facilities of various kinds were set up.

 Resistance to National Socialism

In 1930, in the middle of their election campaign, Elisabeth Kirschmann-Röhl died unexpectedly and left a large gap in the life of Marie Juchacz. However, Marie Juchacz continued her fight against the political currents of National Socialism. She tried to relieve poverty and to offer young people an alternative to the undertow of the National Socialist movement. Even in her speeches, she warned about the consequences that the crumbling of the carefully built up social state could have. The Weimar Republic was dissolved upon the seizing of power by the NSDAP and people who, like Marie Juchacz, had opposed their politics, were now in danger of their lives.

Marie Juchacz and Emil Kirschmann fled from their house in Berlin-Köpenick across the „green border“ into the autonomous Saar region. Marie  Juchacz opened a lunch and evening canteen for refugees in Saarbrücken and compiled offers of help to her best possible extent. As the AWO still functioned in Saarbrücken until 1935, it was possible to quickly set up an effective network. As a result of the Saar status referendum of 1935 the Saar region was reallocated to Germany. With a small political group from Saarbrücken Emil Kirschmann and Marie Juchacz fled to France. The group formed a kind of „commune“, first in Forbach, then in Metz and Mühlhausen, until they only narrowly escaped internment, and they hid in Sauvagnon, a small village near Pau, with the help of farmers, until Marie Juchacz, Emil Kirschmann and Käthe Fey were finally able to flee from Europe by ship in 1941 via Martinique and then at last en route to New York.


 In American Exile

After the three had first been accommodated by Emil‘s brother in Meriden, Marie began to look for help. The meanwhile 63-year-old was able to learn English in a Quaker home in West Branch, Iowa and a few months later moved with Emil Kirschmann and Käthe Fey to New York to the Bronx district in a three-room flat. After the end of the Second World War, they succeeded in supporting the reconstruction of the Workers’ Welfare Association (AWO) in Germany from New York by sending emergency consignments (CARE packets), and upon the founding of the Arbeiter-Wohlfahrt New York, they despatched parcels to Germany to the “Victims of National Socialism”. They also kept in close communication by letter with Lotte Lemke in Hanover (Germany), who took on the General Management of the new Workers’ Welfare Association AWO in Germany.

Return to Germany
In 1949 Marie Juchacz returned to Germany, supported the Women’s Lib Movement and the Workers‘ Welfare Association (AWO) with her know-how and contributed with this to closing the gap that had arisen over the years of her exile and of the lacking exchange of information due to the Second World War among the ranks of the Social Democrats. Marie Juchacz passed away on 28th January 1956 in Düsseldorf. Her grave, in which she was reunited with her sister and Emil Kirschmann, can be found on the Southern Cemetery Südfriedhof in Cologne and is one of the listed graves of honour on that site.





No matter if the donation is small or large - any support is welcome and goes straight into making this research tour possible. 

 „Marie Juchacz – On the route to exile“ will be talking place in May 2023. You are supporting scientific research and the memory of Marie Juchacz, of her struggle during her escape and her continuous fight against National Socialism.


A project of rememberance, friendship and against racism.


 Please send your donation to:


or to the account:


Lydia Struck

 Bank: Deutsche Bank

IBAN: DE30 2007 0024 0826 4897 01
Purpose: Donation Marie Juchacz Exile Project



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