The History of Wandsworth Common



Benni and Bella Spanier

Rough translations of biographical info. from German-language sources

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Wikipedia (Germany): Ben Spanier

Ben Spanier

Ben "Benni" Spanier (born on October 4, 1887 in Munich; died around October 14, 1944 in the Auschwitz concentration camp) was a German theater actor, director and show teacher.

Ben "Benni" Spanier began his career in 1910 in the city theater of Mülhausen in Alsace. Further stations were Bern, Munich, Altona near Hamburg from October 1911. He served at the Bavarian Army in the First World War [1] and then worked in the Berlin Residenztheater, where he also worked as a director for the first time.

In Frankfurt am Main, Spanier was an ensemble member of the Schauspielhaus from 1919 to 1931. In Frankfurt he made a name for himself as a character actor as well as as a director. He celebrated great success in Frankfurt and performed the conversion of Ferdisch Pistora and René Schickeles Hans in the Schnakenloch in Carl Zuckmayers of Schinderhannes, Kornfelds Kilian or the yellow Rose, Franti_ek Langers. In these twelve years he played alongside colleagues such as Heinrich George, Toni Impekoven, Fritz Odemar and Paul Verhoeven as well as the later Nazi-followed Jakob Feldhammer, Theodor Danegger and Lilli. He was also a show teacher at the school there.

Realed in Berlin since 1932, Fritz Hirsch left Spanier small occasional tasks. After the National Socialists were taken over, Spaniers was released in February 1933 due to the "arid efforts". Benni Spanier joined the Jewish Cultural Association of Rhein-Ruhr, who was just founded, where he was able to continue his acting career, but especially directed. The last performance of the Cultural Association, Ferenc Molnár's comedy game in the castle, was also staged by him. He was managed there as an employee and so he and his wife could continue to entertain their apartment. [2]


Stumbling blocks at Haus Prager Straße 10, in Berlin-Wilmersdorf

Deportation to concentration camp

Even before the Jewish Cultural Association was dissolved on September 11, 1941, Spaniers got offside. The couple was forced to live in a small apartment on Trautenaustraße. The property was bombed in part. A subtenant was deported in August 1942. [2] On May 18, 1943, Spanier was finally deported and came to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. There, Spanier was allowed to perform the game in the castle with the camp, but was also seen in other pieces between October 1943 and August 1944 (e.g. Nathan the wise) and also took readings (Georg Hermann's Jettch the turn of the century, classic ballads etc.) part.

On October 12, 1944, Spanier was spent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and probably gassed there after his arrival.

Private life

Ben Spanier was married to Bella Clara Spanier, born Schottenfels. She was also murdered in Auschwitz in October 1944. The two had a common daughter who could be withdrawn from the Nazis access to England by transporting children.

On June 9, 2009, two stumbling blocks were laid for him and his wife in front of his former house in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. [2] These were donated by the daughter. [3] literature

Kay less: between stage and barrack. Lexicon of the persecuted theater, film and music artists from 1933 to 1945. With a guide from Paul Spiegel. Metropol, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-938690-10-9, p. 319.

Volume 2: Biographical Lexicon of Theater Artists Part 2: L - Z. Edited by Frithjof Trapp, Bärbel Schrader, Dieter Wenk, Maaß,ingrid. Series: Handbook of the German-speaking Exiltheater 1933-1945. Ed. Frithjof Trapp, Werner Mittenzwei, Henning Rischbieter, Hansjörg Schneider. De Gruyter Saur 1998. ISBN 978-3-110959-69-7, p. 882.

Web links

Spanier, Ben. Hessian biography. (As of October 4, 2022). In: State History Information System Hesse (Lagis).


Bavarian main state archive IV; Digitized copy, war trunk roll 15419 (Fig. 37) at, accessed on December 6, 2019

Frank Siebold: Ben (Benni) Spanier., accessed on August 16, 2015.

Stumbling blocks Prager Str. 10., accessed on August 16, 2015.

[Wikipedia (Germany): Ben Spanier]

See BezirksamtCharlottenburg-Wilmersdorf — Stolpersteine Prager Straße 10 [English translation here.]

Ben Spanier, called "Benni", who born in Munich on October 4, 1887, lived with his wife Bella Clara, born Schottenfels, who was born on August 30, 1899 in Aschaffenburg, in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in the Prague Street 10.

Their daughter Ruth was able to escape to England on August 24, 1939. In the past two years, the couple had been forced to live in Trautenaustraße 20. From here they were deported to Theresienstadt on May 18, 1943.

In addition to his career as an actor, Benni Spanier also worked as a director and show teacher. After numerous stations on stages in Bern, Munich, Hamburg and Berlin, he worked as a director for the first time at the Residenz Theater in Berlin in 1917. Almost the entire time of the Weimar Republic, from 1918 to 1931, he experienced as an ensemble member of the Schauspielhaus in Frankfurt, where he was employed, like Heinrich George and Paul Verhoeven.

In February 1933, like many of his colleagues, Spanier became unemployed as a result of the socalled "arisement efforts" on German theaters. From his "declaration of asset", which can be viewed in a file from the Berlin High Finance Directorate, it shows that he was a "longtime employee of the Jewish Culture Association" with a monthly salary of 175 RM a month.

Bella Spanier was a worker in the Osram factory at the Warsaw Bridge, according to her "declaration of assets". There she received a weekly wage of 20 RM.

From January 1, 1940, the couple lived in an apartment that consisted of two rooms with a kitchen and was located on the first floor of the garden house. As a subtenant, Ida Katzenstein lived in a room, which was deported to Theresienstadt in August 1942 and killed there on May 14, 1943.

In her declaration of asset, Bella Spanier expressly noted that they had a "kitchen with all the comfort", which could also mean that they lacked the most necessary - the property Trautenaustraße was partly bombed out.

The most valuable parts of their apartment inventory represented two sewing machines, which the superiors found in the estimate. One of the sewing machines is noted in the "declaration of assets", was the property of Kurt Levy, who lived in the front building of Trautenaustraße 20.

The second machine was the property of the Reich Association of the Jews - District Office in Berlin, they submitted the application for retransfer, which was also granted quickly. Apparently, military trousers were made on these sewing machines, of which ten were found in the apartment.

The Spanier couple was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto on May 18, 1943, where Benni still appeared as an actor and director until August 1944.

On October 12, 1944, Benni and Bella Spanier were deported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered immediately after their arrival.

Biographical compilation: Frank Siebold

[Stolpersteine in Bezirksamt Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf — Stolpersteine Prager Straße 10.]

Commemoration of November 9th, 1938

Everyone has a name

Ben, called Benni Spanier, theatre actor and director

Ben Spanier was born on October 4, 1887 in Munich. "Benni", as he was lovingly called by his parents Joseph Ruben and Gretchen Spanier, née Weinbach, and throughout his life, is the youngest of four sons. The eldest is Jakob, born in 1879, the second Julius, born in 1880, followed by Ruben, who was born in 1884.

The mother Gretchen comes from Harburg, district of Donau-Ries in Swabia; her father, Loeb Michael Weinbach, is cantor and teacher there, her mother is Fanny Weinbach. Gretchen was born in Harburg in 1854 and died in Munich in 1909. She has two sisters, Elka, a married Hausmann, and Rosalie, who died at the age of four.

Ben's father, Joseph Ruben Spanier, works as a stock exchange agent, was born in Hamburg, was born there in 1952 and died in Munich in 1919. His father is the merchant Ruben Spanier, his mother Karoline, née Fränckel.

Ben began his acting career in 1910 at the Municipal Theatre in Mulhouse in Alsace. Until the First World War he had engagements in Bern, Munich and Altona. Then he does military service in the First World War. He then goes to the Residenztheater in Berlin, where he also makes his debut as a director.

He doesn't stay in Berlin for long. From 1919 to 1931 Ben Spanier was a member of the ensemble at the Frankfurter Schauspielhaus. There he made a name for himself as a character actor and as a director, and during these twelve years he celebrated stage successes in Carl Zuckmayer's Schinderhannes, René Schickele's Hans im Schnakenloch and Franti_ek Langer's Die Bekehrung des Ferdisch Pistora. His colleagues in Frankfurt include Heinrich George, Paul Verhoeven, Toni Impekoven, Fritz Odemar and also Jewish actors such as Jakob Feldhammer, who was later murdered in Auschwitz, and Lilli Kann, who managed to emigrate to England. He also teaches at the drama school that belongs to the theatre.

In the meantime, Ben Spanier married Bella Klara Schottenfels, who was born on August 30, 1899. In 1928 their daughter Ruth was born. _In 1932 Ben Spanier moved back to Berlin. In Berlin, he keeps his head above water with the help of Fritz Hirsch, who temporarily worked in Berlin in 1932 as the head director of the Schiller Theatre, who gives him small occasional jobs. Fritz Hirsch went back to The Hague in 1933; he had built up a professional operetta theatre (the "Fritz-Hirsch-Operetta"), mainly in the Netherlands, with actors and singers commuting back and forth between The Hague and Berlin.

In February 1933, Ben Spanier was released; the dismissals of Jewish artists from the state cultural institutions in accordance with the so-called "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" are in full swing in all German theatres. In Frankfurt, too, whose theatre was Ben Spanier's cultural home for so long, director Joseph Thurnau, chief director Hans Graf and other employees are suspended. From June 1933, Hans Meissner took over the management of the municipal theatres as General Manager and retained it for the entire twelve years of the National Socialist cultural-political dictate.

As a reaction, the "Jewish Cultural Association" was founded in Berlin in 1933 - initially with the name "Cultural Association of German Jews"; however, the combination of the terms German and Jew is politically undesirable and must be dropped. In the first years of its existence, 20, 000 members joined this self-help association for Jewish artists affected by the professional ban. In addition to the Berliner Kulturbund, which maintains a theatre ensemble, an opera and a philharmonic orchestra, regional branches are established both in the Rhine-Ruhr area with Cologne and in the Rhine-Main area with Frankfurt as centres. Cologne maintains only one independent theatre ensemble, Frankfurt has a philharmonic orchestra headed by Hans Wilhelm Steinberg, who emigrated to the United States in 1936.

In October 1934, for example, Ben Spanier played King Zedekiah with Walter Hertner as Baruch in the German premiere of Stefan Zweig's "Jeremias" staged by Fritz Jessner at the Berlin Kulturbundtheater. Fritz Wisten appeared as Jeremias and Lilli Kann as Jeremias' mother. Fritz Jessner, the artistic director and director of the Berlin Kulturbund, is able to emigrate later, as are Walter Hertner and Lilli Kann; Fritz Wisten will survive because of his marriage to the non-Jewish actress Gertrud Widmann._In 1934, Ben Spanier joined the Rhein-Ruhr Jewish Cultural Association, which was founded that year, where he mainly directed. He still appears as an actor from time to time. The last performance of the Kulturbund, the comedy "Play in the Castle" by Ferenc Molnár, will be staged by him. He is a "long-time employee of the Jewish religious association" with a monthly income of 175 RM; his wife Bella is a worker in the Osram factory on the Warsaw Bridge with a weekly wage of 20 RM; it is enough for him and his wife to rent the apartment in Wilmersdorf, Prager Straße 10.

The daughter, Ruth Spanier, was able to escape from Berlin on August 24, 1939 with the last Kindertransport. To make it easier for Ruth, who is only 11 years old, to travel to England, her parents ask her if she would like to go to England to learn English during the holidays; they would come soon. Then they keep in touch with their daughter via the short letters from the Red Cross, which only allow 25 words, always with the promise to be reunited soon. Ruth is housed in the family of a London rabbi, who doesn't know what to do with her. She is taken out of school at the age of 14 and has to attend a preparatory course in Scotland for emigration to Palestine. But Ruth doesn't want to go to Palestine. She returns to London as a young woman after the war,

A year and a half before the Jewish Cultural Association was dissolved in September 1941, Ben Spanier and his wife Bella were no longer able to pay the rent and were forced to move to a small apartment on the first floor of the garden house at Trautenaustrasse 20 on January 1, 1940. Two rooms with a kitchen, which they share with their lodger, Ida Katzenstein. There they make military trousers on two borrowed sewing machines in order to earn a little money. Ida Katzenstein was deported to Theresienstadt in August 1942, where she died on May 14, 1943.

On May 18, 1943, Ben Spanier and his wife Bella were also deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto. There, Ben Spanier performs Molnár's "Spiel im Schloß" once more with companions in fate from the ghetto. Between the autumn of 1943 and August 1944 he also appears in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's "Nathan der Weise" and "Jettchen Gebert" (by Georg Herrmann) and often recites classical ballads and poems. On October 12, 1944, eight days after his 57th birthday, Ben Spanier and his 45-year-old wife Bella were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, where both were murdered immediately after their arrival.

Jakob Spanier, his brother eight years his senior, worked as a banker in Krumbach, where he also headed the Jewish community. He is able to emigrate to New York via London with his wife Bella and their daughter Gretchen, named after her grandmother. He dies there in 1968._Julius Spanier, Ben's seven-year-old brother, studied medicine at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, received his doctorate in 1904 and trained as a pediatrician in Berlin. There he met his future wife Zipora. He also took part in World War I as a medical officer. He then worked as a pediatrician and school doctor in Munich. From 1926 to 1928 he was chairman of the "Munich Society for Pediatrics". From April 1933 he was no longer allowed to work as a doctor for infant welfare for the Munich district association. In July 1938, the license to practice medicine was withdrawn from Jewish doctors; On October 1, 1938, Julius Spanier, along with 13 other doctors, received a special permit and was able to continue working as a "patient therapist" for Jewish patients. In the fall of 1939 he took over the management of the Israelitic Hospital at Hermann-Schmid-Strasse 5-7; his wife Zipora supports him in the clinic. He was employed as a shop steward in the "home facility for Jews" in Berg-am-Laim and in the "Flachsröste Lohhof" labor camp.

On June 4, 1942, Julius Spanier was deported to Theresienstadt together with his wife, 22 nurses and all the patients at the hospital. He continues to work as a doctor there. Only he, his wife and two of the sisters survived the three deportations from the Jewish hospital. The couple returns to Munich, where Dr. Julius Spanier continued to work in high professional and honorary positions and died in 1959 at the age of 78. His wife Zipora dies eleven years after him.

Little is known about the brother Ruben, who, like Ben Spanier, lives in Berlin. The 58-year-old was deported on September 26, 1942 together with his wife Lotte Spanier, née Norden, born in Berlin in 1905, with a transport that left on September 24 from Frankfurt am Main via the Berlin-Moabit freight station on September 26 goes to Raasiku near Reval in Estonia. In the labor camps there, the younger men and women able to work are forced to do forced labor. But many of the deportees are also murdered immediately upon arrival in the nearby dunes of the Baltic Sea.

Ben Spanier's niece, the daughter of his brother Jakob, Gretl Schwabe-Spanier from New York, created a memorial for Ben Spanier in Yad Vashem in 1988.

His daughter Ruth Margarete Wing, née Spanier, who lives in London, also created a memorial page in 1998, which also has a photo. In 2009 she also had two stumbling blocks laid in front of the former residential building in Wilmersdorf for her parents.

[Source: Link]