From Munich to Edinburgh: the Story of Jewish-German Refugee, Neurologist and Father, Dr Ernst Levin

This resource gives an insight into the life of Jewish-German neurologist Dr. Ernst Levin, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and emigrated to Edinburgh with his wife Anicuta and their daughter Annekathrin. His personal collection was donated to Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA) to supplement Ernst’s existing medical archive and it contains much correspondence between family and friends, dating as far back as the 1870s, as well as passports, photographs, sketchbooks, and various other personal artefacts. The following content hopes to emphasise the value of archiving personal histories as an insight into particular moments in history.

Ernst’s private correspondence gives an extraordinary insight into the life of a Jewish refugee forced to flee Germany under Hitler’s Nazi regime. This collection is in dialogue with other projects on Jewish history across the University of Edinburgh and the UK: academic Hannah Holtschneider, lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, heads the ‘Jewish Lives’ project which is a similar project of much broader scope.

Ernst was born in 1887 to wealthy Jewish parents Willy and Natalie Levin, great patrons of the arts in Berlin. His parents were friends with famous composer Richard Strauss, in whom Ernst maintained a great interest for the entirety of his life. Ernst’s brother Walter Levin, who tragically took his own life in 1923 after severe paralysis from contracting Polio, had emigrated to Israel in 1910. Their sister Trude later married Oskar Treidel, the man on whose farm Walter had worked on. As a result, the Treidel-Levins created a link for the family to Israel.

After studying medicine in Berlin, Ernst moved to Munich in the 1910s and served in the First World War on the French front line, marrying Bucharest-born Anicuta Belau in 1917. The couple moved in the artistic circles of the Weimar Republic, maintaining friendships and correspondence with prominent artists and composers, among them the painter Max Unold and his wife Grete. Ernst had to flee Berlin when Hitler rose to power and re-established his family in Edinburgh in the 1930s, working with prominent neurosurgeon Norman Dott. In 1940, Ernst was interned at a camp in Douglas, on the Isle of Man, as he acquired the status of ‘enemy alien’ when the war escalated into its critical stages. Anicuta and Annekathrin were displaced, along with other alien women, to Glasgow, as they could no longer reside within twenty miles of Scotland’s east coast.

Their daughter, Annekathrin Levin, was in her late teens when she arrived in Edinburgh to start a new life. Correspondence between her and her parents indicates that the family maintained a bilingual home life. Annekathrin travelled during her youth, around Europe and to Israel. She had a career in Occupational Therapy, an emerging discipline at the time, and worked at the Birmingham Accident Hopsital, from which she sent photos and letters that survive in the collection. She returned to Edinburgh in her late 40s, buying a cottage in Colinton so that Ernst might move in to her bungalow when his health deteriorated, and began working as a secretary and translator at Edinburgh-based electrical engineering firm, Ferranti’s. In later life, Ernst recovered his mother’s property in Cologne and organised the family’s inheritance, also being paid compensation by the Association for Jewish Refugees. He stayed in Edinburgh until he died, maintaining regular correspondence with the branches of his family which had settled in Israel.



My name is Kimyana Scherer and I’m currently an intern working with Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA) as part of the Employ.Ed scheme run by the University of Edinburgh Careers Service: My role involves cataloguing and scoping the recently donated personal collection of Jewish-German neurologist Ernst Levin, who emigrated to Edinburgh in 1936 following some years of working in the city with neurosurgeon Norman Dott. LHSA look after local National Health Service records of historical value, cataloguing and preserving them so that they are accessible to the public upon request. To find out more, visit our frequently updated blog.

Through these posts I hope to provide a greater insight into the story of Ernst, Anicuta, Annekathrin and their loved ones. These personal narratives each create a small window into historically crucial moments in time: arguably, the most valuable function of the personal archive is to preserve the ‘humanity’ in history, which might otherwise be lost in the process of artefact selection and preservation based on the apparent ‘importance’ of the subject being studied.

I hope you enjoy!

The Love Story of Ernst and Anicuta: A Complex Marriage

As he wrote in later life, Ernst Levin believed that emigration saved his marriage, and that he and his wife had “Hitler to thank for keeping the family together”. Ernst’s marriage to Anicuta Belau in 1917 was undoubtedly a strong match, but inevitably the two forceful characters frequently clashed and the relationship was rocky, with a period of separation prior to 1936, despite their young daughter Annekathrin. Correspondence gives an insight into the course of the couple’s lives.

Ernst Levin was born in 1887 in Berlin to Willy and Natalie Levin. He studied medicine and went on to become a prominent neurologist, marrying Anicuta Belau in 1917, whilst serving in the First World War. The pair settled in Munich where they moved in artistic, bohemian circles, becoming friends with the painter Max Unold whom Ernst had met as a youth in 1906. After a spell of separation, Ernst and Anicuta emigrated to Edinburgh together with their daughter Annekathrin in 1936.

Anicuta Belau, born 1886 in Bucharest, Romania, also came from a wealthy family. She studied art in Utrecht, and the collection contains some of her sketchbooks and loose drawings. Anicuta had a taste for fashion and many photographs of her in exotic costume dress exist, probably stemming from the couple’s ‘wild’ years within the art scene of 1930s Munich.


Letter from Willy Levin to Ernst, his son, on his marriage to Anicuta in 1917:

The Levins were a prominent and wealthy Jewish family in Berlin, Ernst’s father Willy being a businessman with several confectionery factories and a patron of the arts in his free time. You can read more about the Levins’ lavish lifestyle in the post dedicated to Ernst’s family. Romanian-born Anicuta is described as ‘Aryan and Catholic’ by Elias Auerbach, who refused Ernst permission to emigrate to Palestine on this basis. There may have been tension amongst the Levin family at the idea of Ernst marrying out of the Jewish community, as indicated by the below letter.

12th October 1917

“I am very sad, that I haven’t heard anything from you since the wedding. Instead of being especially grateful to me over my approval of your marriage, I have the bitter feeling that now, after having reached your goal, you are playing the victim. Apparently you also wrote to Walter Kantorowicz on this matter, complaining bitterly about our cold treatment of your wife. But that was our agreement, son. I gave you my consent and promised you to create as good a relationship as possible between our family and your wife. It is understandable that this can’t happen overnight. Your wife appears just as strange to us, completely foreign outside and in, as we do to her. Your mother was very kind to her in Munich, we ate together … I think this should surely be enough for the moment. I also don’t think your wife complains about us, or has any reason to.”


Feldpost Letters

Ernst Levin served as a medic during the First World War, later winning a medal of honour for his bravery at the battle of the Somme. He clearly rallied and worked efficiently under pressure and in unpleasant war-time conditions, as evidenced by his later enthusiastic contribution to the medical unit of his internment camp on the Isle of Man, 1940.

During the course of the war from 1914-1918, Ernst and Anicuta kept up regular correspondence through the war-time postal service or ‘Feldpost’. The script is dated to the point of illegibility, but examples are shown below:


Letter from Willy Levin in Bad Kissingen to Anicuta during WW1, whilst Ernst served at the front

22nd May 1918

“I have heard from Ernst recently, but am not very happy over his unhappy tone. What he has to endure must be endured by all those in the field and even us at home are not exactly lying on a bed of roses. I wrote to mother [Natalie], that if somehow possible she should send Ernst some honey etc., which might improve his mood. There isn’t any chocolate anymore, and I assume you will send him something nice too. But don’t spend too much … I’ve heard from Ernst that you want to go on a health retreat … I would like to hear from you in Aibling [spa town]. I hear that in Munich, one can buy all kinds of things. Could you also please watch to make sure you aren’t as undernourished as when I last saw you – with this you are only hurting yourself”


Letter from Anicuta’s friend, writer Reinhard Koester (alias Karl Kinndt) with whom Anicuta had corresponded with regularly since the early 1910s, advising her on her separation:

Ernst and Anicuta underwent a lengthy period of separation prior to their emigration to the United Kingdom, as confirmed by Ernst’s regretful reflections on the impact this had in later life. He claims in a letter to a friend that “Hitler kept the family together”, and that the separation left an “indelible mark” on Annekathrin and Anicuta. Below is a letter from a friend in Munich advising Anicuta on how she should behave in her present circumstance.


26th March 1932:

“I think it’s very sensible that you have rented your own small apartment, assuming that Levin has officially given his consent. If you can then just live for your child and stay in Munich after all, instead of being alone in Dachau, then hopefully you will become calmer. I think, the calmer you are and the less you fight against him and her [the third party], the more you leave them alone, the more likely it is that he will tire of her and truly return to you, if that is even still possible. If he can sense that you are willing to let him have his woman but in return want the child, he might come to his senses … and the more unrestrained those two can be together, the more they will fight with each other. You just have to tell yourself one thing every day: if you ever get back together, then everything that has happened has to be forgotten and erased. After all, you share some of the blame! … just be happy, that your Annekathrin has turned out well … despite having lived through all this conflict at such an early age. What’s the use of a ‘nice upbringing’ nowadays anyway? Then afterwards the disappointment is just far greater. Make her a girl who will go into life with clear and open eyes, knowing that she has to shape her own path. Then maybe she might later be happy, that she didn’t have such a ‘nice upbringing’, when life gives her more than she expected. It was the other way round for you – and for me too”


Letter advising his younger friend

In a letter to a friend, Ernst expresses regret over his and Anicuta’s lengthy separation, particularly in regards to the impact it had on his wife and child in the following years.

6th May 1956

“I am today writing to you rather reluctantly. It was unavoidable that I learned from Annekathrin about your recent – and I do hope – transient separation. It was sad news.

You will understand that I am diffident about writing as I do not wish to give you the impression that I want to intrude in such an utterly private and intimate matter unasked.

… You probably know – or have guessed – that my wife and I have gone to the ordeal of a long separation prior to our emigration when Annekathrin was about [child of recipient’s] own age. We have to thank Hitler for keeping the family together, but still, this separation has left a mark on my wife and on Annekathrin indelibly, and I myself am still blaming myself for what I did especially to Annekathrin during the most impressionable years of her childhood when she had no father and no family home.

Please … don’t misunderstand me. I say all these things only to make you feel that I understand and that I am no stranger to your problems. Believe me, I have no wish to intrude or interfere, but if you feel I could be of any help to you and [recpient’s wife], by listening, without judging or taking sides, I will try as hard as I can. – If you can absent yourself from your work for a few days you can live with me in the flat at any time.

With kind regards,

Your old friend”


Hand-written note in shaky script by Ernst towards the end of his life

Ernst and Anicuta’s marriage, though clearly an affectionate and mutually supportive one, had its ups and downs. Below is a note scrawled by Ernst on the subject of marriage and ‘Bohemian women’, perhaps referring to his wife Anicuta.

“I often wished to marry an English woman of English education, and for that I would risk occasional indigestion. I do not wish to marry a house-wife, as Bohemian women are. Also I will not hide from you that it is good to have money, as our exchange has lowered, I think that physical affection is not a basis for marriage.”

The Levins

The Levins were a wealthy Jewish family from Berlin. Ernst was born in 1887 to Natalie and Willy Levin, who were incredibly prominent in the avant-garde arts’ scene at the turn of the century in Berlin. Ernst’s older brother Kurt, who would also eventually emigrate to the UK, also served in the First World War: some of his correspondence survives. His younger brother Walter Levin came to a tragic end after contracting Polio in Israel, which is described in detail in the post ‘The Israel Family Branch’.

Ernst later attempted to recover his mother’s property and wealth, which was unfairly taxed by the Nazi regime. In letters to his lawyer handling the case, he gives detailed accounts of his childhood in the Levin household in order to confirm their level of wealth.


Letter to lawyer Karl Leonhard on Ernst’s youth in the Levin household

Ernst describes his youth, childhood home and parents in a letter to the Berlin-based lawyer Karl Leonhard, to support the evaluation of his mother’s jewellery. This letter allows insight into the decadent lifestyle of the wealthy Jewish family in Berlin and his parents’ affinity to the arts. As a child Ernst was exposed to prominent artistic circles, to which famous composer Richard Strauss belonged, as a result of his parents’ connections.

28th June 1956:

“You requested that my brother Kurt and I separately write you a summary of our parents to get an idea of their standard of living and circumstances, in order to determine that the jewellery [of Natalie Levin] is expensive and rare.

I will try and build a picture of our life for you:

I was born on the 8th April 1887 in my parents’ flat in Berlin. At the time, this was the West and a very affluent area.

My mother, maiden name Harff and born in Cologne on the Rhine, was a rich heiress and brought 3 million Marks to the marriage with my father: they married in 1886 in Berlin.

At the time of my birth my father was a co-owner of the company ‘Louis Levin and sons’, a famous sweets company, with their biggest factory on Kronenstrasse. My grandfather Louis Levin was still living and active then, and two of my father’s younger brothers, Adolph and Otto Levin, also worked in the company. [gives details of friends and employees who would confirm this lifestyle approximation].

My father went to shops in Paris and London every year, and several of Mother’s expensive jewellery pieces were bought in Paris. Siblings Kurt, Margot, Walter and Gertrud born in the years 1888, 1889, 1890 and 1893, and with every child my mother received another piece of jewellery. As far as I can tell, all the jewellery was bought prior to 1914, whilst my father was still at the height of his success.

I spent my youth in this apartment in Berlin, moving once in 1900 to Eisenbach but returning in 1904 to my school ‘Falk Real Gymnasium’ in Berlin, sitting the final examinations in 1906.

… The house was constantly full of people, there was never an evening without dinner guests, music was played, billiards played, feasts laid out and much Bordeaux was consumed, which my father enjoyed alongside expensive Havanna[sic.] cigarettes. Family summer holidays were spent in Aalbeck or Heringsdorf. When my father stayed in Munich, he stayed at the Hotel of the Four Seasons where he reserved a suite of rooms. At this time I began life-long friendships with Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner and Max Reinhardt, who were all struggling at the time and were supported by my father.

Masked balls were sometimes held at the house, and my father kept a large wine cellar … In 1900 we moved to a 24 room apartment which cost 44 000 Marks a month. At the same time, my father built a new factory which cost 1 million Marks. He bought progressively more expensive and valuable paintings and books. This new home became the centre of contact between artists, writers, composers and superintendents.

Even though my father never discussed in detail his finances with me, I know from other sources that he earned a further 1 million Marks to mother’s 3 million.

… In the year 1917 with my marriage came a division of the wealth. My brother Kurt and I both got 200 000 marks, the two sisters 300 000 marks each and my poor brother Walter, who in Palestine 1914 as a Zionist farmer had an accident which confined him to a wheelchair, also got 300 000. I was in the war from the first day to the last, and my brother was heavily injured in 1917. My father suffered with the economic inflation, but managed to support himself in the apartment, where he celebrated his sixtieth birthday, until 1926, when he decided to move somewhere less expensive, and reluctantly sell one of his factories.

The central point is that my father until 1920 was a very rich, noble and hospitable gentleman of exemplary character. [underlined in red] Nearly all of my mother’s jewellery comes from 1886-1920 and as of yet, no one has valued it.”


Letter from lawyer Karl Leonhard detailing the reclamation of taxes on Jews for Natalie Levin

Under Hitler, as part of their progressively more drastic persecution, Jews were forced to pay special taxes to the state. These were later re-paid in compensation to Jewish refugees and survivors of the Holocaust, as part of the war reparations demanded of defeated Germany. Often property, land and wealth had been confiscated from Jews and in the decades following the war there were efforts to return these to their rightful owners. As Natalie Levin died in Berlin in 1942, her sons and grand-children inherited what she was due.

17th September 1957:

Claims for Natalie Levin

Applied for:

  • ‘Judenvermoegensabgabe’ = special tax on Jews in the Third Reich. [injury to wealth]
  • ‘Sterntraegerschaden’ = ‘star-wearer’s plight’ [injury to freedom]
  • Apartment contents
  • Silver
  • Jewellery


First World War letter from Kurt Levin to his younger brother Walter Levin (who committed suicide in 1923), describing the tedium of life on the front

14th July 1915:

“Dear Walter … The last letter I received from you was on the 25th June … I am glad to see that you all seem to be in as good a mood as possible in this time. Especially you, Walter, are being very resilient and tough ‘in the Field’, as you are in a more difficult situation than me and do not lament it. In response to your anxieties over what job to do or what to study now, is hard to advise from here … as long as the war continues, it is not easy to predict a post-war future and what it will look like. At least for me anyway, there is just a big empty hole in my brain in place of thoughts on careers etc … if the war was at least a bit more fun and active, as far as I’m concerned it can last a hundred years … For months now the war has been for me a cheap and comfortable holiday … due to my French occupation I have been excused from many duties. My hosts treat me better than I deserve, because I am often mean because of bad moods. The miserable food from the ‘Feldkueche’ (war canteen) is now just a side dish for me as I eat lunch and dinner with my hosts every day. They now have the most delicious fresh vegetables in their garden and potatoes, rhubarb and cherry compote, eggs and fresh milk. There are books: good and bad ones, French and German. We often play chess. Happily, the only thing that is really missing is a good piano. There is actually one, a good one, but it is in the ‘Chateau’, where my bosses live. The lady of the house has already offered me to play on it but I am of course only allowed in the Officers’ quarters from the back of the house through the kitchen, and only to discuss work-related matters.

But it’s fine without (a piano) too. It is good weather, we only need light clothing and boots … you can tell mother that the ones she sent fit me very well and really lifted my spirits. It is a very peculiar atmosphere, in the time just between war and peace … we can’t even hear the distant canon-fire anymore … our shooting has not once, as far as I can tell, even shot down one of the planes that fly overhead …

You see, we don’t have anything to do with the enemy over here. However we did have a war last week with the women, old men and young boys of the village … it was a type of revolution, more strange than serious: a work and respect strike. We staged a siege on them for ten days with taxes, arrest of important people and confiscation of food. And so now us Bavarians are more feared than loved down in the village.

The atmosphere amongst the troops is very good. Many of them have never had it as good as this: lots to eat, not much to do, and enough people to send three quarters of them home. But a noticeable impatience permeates: it is more present in the young ones than the old. They would all rather have just two or three months more of intensive war like in the beginning and then have it over than sit comfortably and wait for two or three years. The young ones often sign up to the infantry – they are scared, that they will be surprised with the end of the war before they even have a chance to see anything. The old ones – we have men up to forty-five years old – value their lives a bit more and sit quietly. The phrase ‘I have a wife and kids’ is not seen as an excuse though or cowardice, as we all know that when the war was in its most critical stages, the old ones were braver and held out a lot better than the sixteen year-olds. Three days and nights without any proper sleep, through thick mud in Winter … no uncomfortable situation could phase these veterans.”

The Levins and Israel: Emigration to Palestine and Israel

The Association of Jewish Refugees was involved in contextualising Jewish history and documenting the Jewish experience, as evidenced by their correspondence with Ernst in order to clarify the identity of figures in a First World War book written by the Jewish-German Zionist, scholar and physician Dr. Elias Auerbach.

From Ernst’s reply, it is apparent that Auerbach, working in Israel, treated his younger brother Walter Levin when he contracted polio in 1914. He proceeded to record this treatment in one of his autobiographies, likely one entitled ‘From The Fatherland to the Land of the Fathers, the first Jewish doctor in Haifa’, pages of which are shown below. Ernst expresses strong personal distaste for the doctor in question, who apparently refused to allow Ernst’s emigration to Palestine before WWII, due to Anicuta being ‘Arian[sic.] and Catholic’.

Ernst’s reply to query from the Association of Jewish Refugees in Great Britain:

27th July 1971:

“May I use this occasion to answer your question concerning Dr Auerbach’s book: Yes, the Walter Levin he mentions was my youngest brother, who emigrated to the then Turkish Palestine in 1910 to work on the family farm of the brothers Treidel in Kinnereth. He acquired an acute Poliomyelitis there and I collected him in Sues[sic.] … He survived the War Years 1914-1919 paralysed in arms and legs, and committed suicide in 1923; I have loved him dearly. Dr. A. denied that Polio was endemic in Palestine: it was not true”

“I met Dr. A. again in Berlin when I wished to emigrate to Palestine when Hitler was swindled into power. He bluntly refused my application because my young wife was Arian [sic.] and Catholic.; he was extremely nasty and unpleasant to me.”

“Our family farm at Kinnereth is now run my nephew Gabi Treidel, son of my youngest sister Trude Levin who married Oskar Treidel and died in Berlin from a cerebellar abscess.”


Letter from Association of Jewish Refugees in Great Britain discussing the memoirs of Dr Elias Auerbach and his mention of Walter Levin. Photocopied pages enclosed

The representative of the Association of Jewish Refugees writing to Ernst stresses the vital importance of documenting Jewish history though family archives, requesting that should he ever want to rid himself of his father’s correspondence, that he should donate them to a Jewish body such as the Leo Baeck Institute London.


10th April 1974:

“I enclose a Photostat of the relevant pages. Though I realise that they revive sad memories for you, I could imagine that they will be of interest to you.

You will notice that in the March issue the problem of Richard Strauss and the Nazis was dealt with in an article by Mr. Freyham. We received a letter of protest which will appear in the May issue together with Mr Freyham’s comments.

This brings me to another question … As your late father had personal contacts with Strauss (I think the character of the Kommerz Lenrat in Intermezzo was based on him), and as he was also in touch with other prominent artists, I could imagine that some material (correspondence etc.) still exist. This, of course, belongs to the family. There were, however, cases in which relatives were not aware of the importance and did not keep documents of this kind (early attempts at archiving) … I was just in New York where I again visited the Leo Baeck Institute which has a unique collection of literature and documents pertaining to the history of the German Jews between 1812 and 1933. The institute often receives material from families …”


Photocopied pages of Dr Elias Auerbach’s autobiography, mentioning Walter Levin

Auerbach’s account also supports Ernst’s descriptions of his wealthy parents’ lavish lifestyle and connections to prominent artists of the age. Auerbach claims that Willy Levin, Ernst’s father, was an ardent patron of the arts who knew and supported Max Reinhardt in his early career – Reinhardt would go on to become an internationally renowned theatre and film director.


“At the beginning of July 1914 in Haifa we were not yet aware that a huge catastrophe was brewing. The country didn’t yet have a newspaper that was kept informed by telegraph … I personally had other things to think about anyway, since in the first few days of July a severely ill young man of 24 years from Berlin, called Walter Levin, was brought to my hospital. He had wanted to settle in Palestine as a farmer, and as preparation was working on the farm of Alfred Treidel at Kinneret. Two days prior he had suddenly been struck with a very high fever. At first the obvious assumption was that it was malaria, but on the second day, paralysis set in on both legs.

He was in an awful condition … the paralysis was spreading and signs could already be seen in his arms too. It was undoubtedly polio. He was at serious risk of death. [Describes medical processes which halted the progression of the paralysis]

… His life was saved, although the paralysis of his legs etc. of course could not be reversed. His case moved me severely. I personally knew this handsome, blooming young man, who appeared that he would stay a cripple. He came from a rich Jewish family in Berlin. His father, Willy Levin, was a well-known businessman who used his wealth as a patron of the arts. He was one of the first, who helped Max Reinhardt in his rise to fame, and was also in general a great admirer of literature and music.

…I immediately let his father know, who did absolutely everything to be well-informed and get the best treatment for his son. Money was not an obstacle. It was clear that he was uncomfortable with his son in the hands of a ‘village doctor’ in some forgotten corner of the world, and urged the transport of his son back to Berlin. I told him that in the present condition this was as good as murder.

… After three weeks I said that he could travel. The father wanted me to personally accompany my patient to Berlin, but it was out of the question that I should leave my practice for six weeks … it was decided that his brother, a young doctor, would pick him up at Port Said.

… Already in Jaffa, we heard reports of a sharp political tension over Europe and the possibility of a European war. But this thought seemed to us so absurd and fantastical that we didn’t take it seriously. We were born in peace and had decades of peace behind us, and now a war was going to break out amongst the great powers? Unthinkable! Apparently Austria had given Serbia an ultimatum which was turned down. But still, one doesn’t set the world on fire because of one political assassination!

… We dropped the patient off with his brother … and I went to Cairo. Everywhere, groups of people stood in the street animatedly discussing the imminent war … when it was clear the war would happen, I knew I had to get out of Egypt immediately. If England entered the war, I would be in danger of being arrested and interned as a German citizen.”


Annekathrin visited the Treidels and family in Israel (Haifa), in 1964.


Between countries: the well-travelled Passports of Ernst and Anicuta


As refugees fleeing the mounting danger of a progressively more anti-Semitic Germany, Ernst and Anicuta considered many different options as a new home. Ernst explains that he was refused emigration to Palestine because of his ‘Arian [sic.] and Catholic’ wife (see post on ‘The Levins and Israel‘). He probably decided to settle in Scotland because of his work with neurosurgeon Norman Dott, which had begun as early as 1934. Below are the couple’s passports, the last of which are British, demonstrating their naturalisation to British citizenship. Nazi insignia is clearly visible on the passports from the Third Reich, and multiple stamps for renewed ‘landing permission’ indicate the logistical difficulties of gaining rights to settle permanently in Britain.

Ernst’s German passport 1929:

(1) Inner cover stamped ‘INVALID’. Lines ‘accompanied by wife by the name of ….’ Crossed out, marked as accompanied by one child. Nationality: Bavarian.

(2) Stamped 4th January 1929 by Munich police. Section for details of wife not filled out. Place of Birth: Berlin, DOB: 8th (May?) 1887, Place of residence: Edinburgh, Build: tall, Face: oval, Eye colour: brown, Hair colour: black, Distinctive features: none. Child’s name: Anna Katharina, Age: ‘Levin’ (last name crosses into column), Gender: 10.8.1919 (DOB in gender column).

(3) Valid in: Germany and abroad. Expires 4th January 1934. Signed by ‘Vogl’.

(4) French Consulate Munich visa stamped 10th April 1930. Duration of stay 15 days. Swiss border stamped 28th April 1930 (Geneva – ?). Swiss stamp 27th June 1931 entry at Martinsbruck.

(5) Three stamps at Brennero (Northern Italy).

(6) Stamp of ‘Aliens Registration Office’, Metropolitan Police at Bow Street Station, London, 12th December 1933 daybook. Permission to stay longer in UK until 20th January 1934, granted by Under Secretary of State Home Office 12/12/33.

(7) Permission from Munich police to travel out of Germany ‘with the exception of the border crossings to Austria’, valid until November 1933, stamped 23rd September 1933.

(8) Stamp (in English): ‘Leave to land granted at Harwich this day on condition that the holder does not enter any employment paid or unpaid while in the United Kingdom’ (handwritten): ‘and does not remain in the United Kingdom longer than ONE MONTH’. Stamp of Immigration Officer Harwich 20th October 1933.


Ernst’s German passport 1939:

(1) Glued to inside cover is list of responsibilities of German citizens whilst abroad from February 1938. Lines ‘accompanied by wife by the name of ……. And …. Number of children’ have been crossed out. Nationality: ‘German Reich’.

(2) Stamped with Nazi stamp 7th March 1939. Section for details of wife not filled out. Personal description as above. Section for children crossed out. Valid until 7th March 1940.

(3) Stamped by German Consulate Glasgow. Three passport stamps amounting to 14 shillings (8, 5 and 1 shilling) acquired a visa at the Foreign Office, London on 18th August 1939 valid until March 1940.

4) Visa for entry (in French), stamped French Consulate Glasgow. Entry 1st November 1939, valid for single visit of six weeks. Reason for travel stated as ‘(?) of health’. 75 Francs paid.




Anicuta’s German passport 1936:

(1) Name filled out as ‘Anna Levin’. Child accompaniment section crossed out. Stamped by Munich police 2nd December 1936. Personal details – Occupation: wife, Place of birth: Bucharest, DOB: 18.2.1886, Place of residence: Munich, Build: average, Face: oval, Eyes: grey/green, Hair: dark blonde.

(2) Munich Central Train Station stamp 16th December 1936, exchanged money.

(3) Stamp ‘Permitted to land at Harwich on 17/12/36 on condition that the holder does not remain in the United Kingdom longer than ONE MONTH’.

(4) Stamp for border cross on 4th August 1939 at Basel, Switzerland. Entry 20th December 1937 at Kaldenkirchen. Edinburgh City Police Alien Department stamp 18th March 1938.

(5) Foreign Office London 21st July 1939, visa for 12 months. Immigration officer stamp Newhaven 18th September 1939.

(6) French visa from Glasgow Consulate, 24th August 1939 for holiday.



British Passports of Ernst and Anicuta, issued 1956 and renewed 1966.


Internment: Jewish-German Diasporic Identity and Acculturation

During the Second World War, German citizens in the United Kingdom were considered ‘enemy aliens’. As the war moved into a phase of extreme tension, male ‘aliens’ were interned in camps to ensure that they were not Nazi informers or sympathisers trying to undermine Britain from within. Female ‘aliens’ were often merely relocated if they resided in an administratively or politically critical area. Annekathrin and Anicuta were displaced from Edinburgh to Glasgow as Annekathrin writes that they were no longer permitted to reside within twenty miles of the East Coast.

The policy of interment of ‘enemy aliens’ in the UK at the start of the Second World War was relatively liberal, with only known Nazi sympathisers being sent to internment camps. When the war reached its critical stages, however, in 1940 with the battle of Dunkirk, the government took a more hard-line stance. Winston Churchill famously declared: “Collar the lot!”. Interment became a bigger project, with thousands of aliens being deported from Britain to the Colonies. Many ships were lost to U-Boat attacks.

Despite being fully integrated into the Edinburgh medical community and having been granted permission to stay in the United Kingdom, Ernst Levin was interned in 1940 at the Isle of Man internment camp, along with other ‘alien’ men. His wife Anicuta and daughter Annekathrin were removed from their home in Edinburgh and forced to move to Glasgow with other ‘alien’ women. Interment camp conditions were generally good, as evidenced by letter from Ernst’s fellow interned men to Anicuta upon their release. A letter indicates that Ernst’s nephew Jacob Levin, his brother Kurt’s son, was also interned in an allied internment camp in Sydney, Australia. It seems that British citizens were sympathetic to the Levins’ plight, and famous Edinburgh-based surgeon Norman Dott personally wrote to the authorities requesting Ernst’s release so that he could continue to aid Dott in his practice. Annekathrin documents this interment experience in letters to her father, who seems to have taken up an active professional medical role in the camp.

29th June 1940 TELEGRAM:

To Ernst in Isle of Man interment camp:

‘Your family well removed to …. Glasgow – Dott’


A series of letters written from Annekathrin Levin to her father in an Internment Camp:

4th June 1940

“I have to write with pencil because my pen is out of order … I have been talking to Mr. Dott and he thinks it would be a good thing if you could write personally to Mr Adams whether your naturalisation papers are not yet ready or whether he could inquire about them. Mr Dott is not sure that you will get your salary again from the Rockefeller institution … Mr Dott had got a sort of questionnaire from the Academic Assistance Council whether your work was of national importance because in these cases (it) seems to make an application for the release of such persons”

30th June 1940:

“We had to leave Edinburgh with a week’s notice to remove with the rest of the alien (German and Austrian) women 20 miles from the East coast. You can imagine that we had very much packing to do as well as trying to find a place where we could stay. Finally we moved to Glasgow to the above address. It was given to us by the Church of Scotland offices … we are being very well looked after here … although everything is very primitive. We have one room … But the Church of Scotland office knows all about us and has taken our case into their hands. They may be able to help us. Your salary has been stopped since the first of June so that we have to be very careful with the little money that’s left”

“We had to close the flat and leave it as it stands. It would be more expensive to move the furniture and store it. I gave one key to Mr Dott and the Police are watching the flat so that no one breaks in … Mr Dott is doing everything he can to get you released as he needs you very badly in his department

9th July 1940:

“Dear Pops, we have just received your telegram asking how we are … We are staying here in lodgings and Mr and Mrs Reilly are very nice people. We got their address from the Church of Scotland offices in Edinburgh. We don’t know how long we shall stay here because unless we can get assistance it will be too expensive for us here …Whenever we hear anything new about us we shall let you know. An application for your release has been made by the Academic Assistance Council … We had together with the rest of the alien women to move 20 miles from the East coast. That’s why we are in Glasgow now”

[The Quakers and other religious organisations, such as the Church of Scotland, often helped refugees or displaced ‘aliens’ as charitable work. The Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens existed from 1933 to 1950.


26th July 1940:

“I want to congratulate you on yours and Mutti’s wedding anniversary … What a pity that we can’t be together this year … One of these days I shall go to the Society of Friends (Quakers) … quite a number of the Edinburgh alien women have come to Glasgow through their committee … (they wanted to) try to open a kind of hostel for all the women who couldn’t find anywhere else to go. So I am going to find out about this.”



18th June, 1940:

“I enclose a letter from the Aliens War Service together with your certificate of registration which arrived here today. It is clear that in your present status of an alien if would not be possible for you to work at the Infirmary nor indeed to reside in Edinburgh. These conditions might of course be altered if your naturalisation which was so imminent could be completed, and I hope that this may be possible”


From Fellow Interned ‘Aliens’ to Anicuta and Annekathrin:

3rd September 1940, from Mr Boller:

“Your father asked me to write to you … he is well … he hasn’t written in so long because he has a significant job in the camp, to discern ‘medical hardship’. He is putting his whole soul into it: organises, writes lists and argues with all the doctors … You have probably read about the camps. The people there are treated well, as they are not starving or treated badly, and have no air raids. On the other hand, there are barbed wire fences, the feeling of being trapped and cut off, and the horrendous post service”

5th September 1940, from Mr Wolff:

“I was recently released from Central Promenade Camp, Douglas, Isle of Man, and your husband asked me to send you his best greetings. I owe a lot of thanks to your husband on whose recommendation the British medical officer qualified me as unfit for interment, and who did his utmost to urge my release. I only wish that I could do anything in the interest of your husband’s being freed”


31st August 1940, from S.J. Bach:

“I have just returned from Central Camp, Douglas, where I have seen your husband very frequently … In the last two months the state of health was very good while he had to overcome the first shock of his internment in the early days. But he is quite alright now and very busy in managing an office concerning the medical hardships of the camp … Many cases have been released since due to his efforts”



Letter from ‘Society of Protection of Science and Learning’ (formerly Academic Assistance Council)

Several societies were formed during the course of the Second World War to ensure that academics doing work vital to society and science were protected, even if they held the status of ‘enemy alien’. The continued progression of science and technology in the UK during the war years was an absolutely crucial aspect of the war effort, with the acceleration of a competitive drive to innovative new forms of warfare. The work of Alan Turing and his team to break the Enigma machine code in a race against German communications technology is a good example. The Academic Assistance Council was formed in 1933, to help academics who had to flee Nazi Germany re-settle and continue their work. In 1936 it was re-named the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, and in 1999 the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics. The organisation continues its work today.

15th September 1939:

“We are anxious to have the following particulars about those displaced scholars who have been in this country for some years, in case an opportunity should arise of taking up the question of early naturalisation with the Home Office”

Ernst filled in:

Applied for naturalisation on 17th November 1938

Unconditional permit of residence on 7th October, 1937



Propaganda stamps with slogans used by both the British and German postal services during the Second World War



Grete Vester: German Identity in the aftermath of the Holocaust

At the end of the Second World War, with the Nazi’s defeat, the three major allied powers entered Germany from different fronts. German civilians, especially women, were brutalised by the victorious allied forces: horrifying stories of the rapes which occurred across Berlin abound. The Russians liberated Berlin from the East, whilst the British moved through France. Munich, the Levins’ home prior to emigration, was a US occupied zone, as evidenced by the censorship stamps on the letters Anicuta received from an old friend Grete Vester. Grete was a photographer, and like Max Unold was part of the New Objectivity movement in German art (we have a photograph of Anicuta in the collection taken by Grete, referenced in correspondence). Germany entered a period of extreme economic devastation and hardship and the people suffered under the extreme war reparations which were claimed in compensation for the horror of the Holocaust. Trials were held across the country to punish ex-Nazi officials and purge Nazism from society: this process, as Grete writes, was called ‘Entnazifierung’ [de-nazification].

A series of letters from Grete Vester in Munich, with envelopes marked ‘American Zone’, and stamped with ‘U.S. Civil Censorship’ were sent to Anicuta Levin in Edinburgh between summer 1946 and 1947. These embittered letters from the Levins’ old friend show the extent of damage to war-torn Munich and the suffering of Germans in the extreme economic hardship of 1946 and 1947. Grete Vester, identified as one of the ‘old group’ of Munich friends in which Anicuta and Ernst socialised, is described by her sister Marla as having had three strokes throughout the course of the war.

This series of letters touches on the major theme of German post-war identity – Grete expresses extreme anxieties around being deemed a Nazi by ex-neighbours and friends who had fled Germany due to persecution. She ardently claims that she was not a collaborator and in an angst-ridden tone bemoans the fate of German ‘innocents’. She describes post-war Germany as a ‘living hell’: the embittered people are murdering each other like savages. On several occasions, Grete expresses suicidal thoughts, reflecting the unbearably desolate circumstances in the ruins of central Europe circa. 1946/7.


4th April 1946:

“After six years of never-ending bad luck and abandonment, I am now writing to you full of hope and joy … in 1939 I had the bad luck to have a stroke and have been paralysed in my left side since then, although I can move again now, though with difficulty. In this state I spent the war, although I was evacuated to [Bad] Aibling. Now I am back in war-torn Munich, which you would barely recognise. Through the wretchedness, everywhere you look the people have become mean and embittered. The only thing I now long for is death. Kluger of course left me a long time ago, married a woman and had a child with her, though they are divorced already now. Obviously he already has someone else, because men always fare better in this matter”

“Oh, Anicuta, what did we live through! … I actually barely know what I should write, it cannot be expressed in words! … I would love to come and stay with you, and help with the housework”

(undated) April 1946:

“For God’s sake stay where you are! Don’t even consider trying to alleviate your homesickness for Germany! … I, a nazi-hater, as you know, should actually have a say in their [the Nazis] punishment! But the so-called ‘entnazifizierung’ [‘de-nazification’] is in someone else’s hands completely. Even us, the blameless, are suffering! I truly marvel at the fact that I didn’t end up in a concentration camp because of my big mouth [anti-Nazi discourse]. I guess that’s luck, or bad luck, however you might see it now”

16th August 1946:

“The letters which I so undeservedly receive from abroad are like balsam on my wounds … I was evacuated to Bad Aibling after a heavy attack on Munich … in the bomb shelter, everybody was drinking and flirting … they wanted to live their last hours with courage, or at least in the spirit of gallows humour … the basement doors flew open and the sounds of the bombs exploded in my ears and I waited for the end to come at any moment. But it passed, as you can see … When the Americans came, we were glad”

19th August 1946:

“I am constantly completely alone, at best Marla stops by with a cold face and the oft-used words “I don’t have much time, will need to leave in a few minutes””

[Writes that Marla tends to her out of a sense of duty, but there is no compassion or kindness behind it. Sadly she is reliant on her sister for vital supplies. Grete pleads with Anicuta not to mention her complaints in her reply as Marla reads through her letters.]

5th October 1946:

“I am living with complete strangers, not good or bad, just very uninteresting and also uninterested in me, we were just stuffed in here by the housing department, regardless of what you want. Otherwise you have to sleep in the street. The room is tiny, 2.5 – 4.5 metres, so I can’t put my few possessions anywhere … You cannot imagine what the city looks like now … I only get visitors when I have cigarettes and coffee from my American parcels”

[speaking of an old friend she has corresponded with] “Sadly I get the feeling that she holds us all in contempt, even me, who was anything but a Nazi. This hurts me as I cannot be to blame for being German, and cannot change this”

“The Unolds are somewhere in the countryside. Did you know Grete’s sister, Mrs Keis? She died and recently her son was murdered and robbed on a train. These things happen often these days. This is what desperation does. It doesn’t make people better. No one dares to walk the streets after dark, especially not women”

11th October 1946:

“I have been wanting to write to you about how I live, because I think this isn’t uninteresting to you. I think that all of you who left Germany, have no idea how it is here. Firstly, there is the devastation of the ‘luftkrieg’ [air raids], which is indescribable, although some people say that Munich is gold in comparison to some cities like Frankfurt [hit more intensely] … I need cod-liver oil and vitamin C. Of course you cannot get these in Germany, so I’ve written to New York and Switzerland and have received some already. We’ve had this appalling food for years and Hitler had been giving us low-quality food since 1933.”

“The atmosphere among the people is indescribable. It is as though one were among savages, no it is worse, since savages probably have naïve qualities that make them worthy of being alive … even the so-called ‘qualified’ people leave a lot to be desired. The whole of Germany has been completely ruined by the Nazireich”

[Asks Anicuta repeatedly not to be angry at her for requesting so many times that she join them in Scotland.]

2nd November 1946:

“As you can see, I am already writing on your new paper. Yesterday your package arrived. I thank you warmly and am so happy that at least this worry is alleviated. Sadly the package had been broken into and the typewriter ribbon was stolen out of it. But we are used to these things now … the ribbon clearly showed through the wrapping and someone decided to steal it. Here, people take everything. The people are so poor, that even an old cloth isn’t safe, if it can still be used to clean things with. Hitler left us a great country and through desperation, the people have not improved, but the opposite. This is the reason I can hardly bear it here anymore. Do you understand? … Even finding an envelope takes so long, because you have to go into many shops before you finally have the luck to find one or two”

17th November 1946:

“today I have a big favour to ask you. In Edinburgh there is surely a phonebook for London, where you can find an address which I don’t have here. It’s the address of Dr Philip Hochschild, who emigrated there. He is a very wealthy man, and could I please ask you to write to him explaining my situation and asking him to help me a bit. I was often with him in the time of the Hitlerreich and so he knows, that I wasn’t a Nazi, which means he might be prepared to help me, considering my illness. From abroad, you can send a care-package through the Red Cross … [pleads Anicuta not to think worse of her because of this request] … we are starving and freezing. We don’t have access to the most basic amenities. Often we don’t have any light because the electricity goes. Then we also can’t cook anything, because we don’t have enough gas or fuel. We don’t even have any candles and not enough matches!” 

26th December 1946:

“I received your long-awaited letter yesterday. It was truly the most wonderful Christmas gift. Hopefully it won’t just be a seasonal occurrence … letters are my only joy, and I receive them so rarely. So please don’t be so sparing! Remember than I am alone and lonely. Maybe then it will be easier for you to write more often”

“I am interested to see what we still have to live through, before life is over for us. Sometimes I think, I must have been a real piece of work in a past life, to have deserved such a punishment … no one laughs here anymore, at best cynically, which isn’t so nice”

“There are still Jew-haters here, Hitler really created long-lasting effects. It is awful. Us Germans are really suffering from this, even if one wasn’t a Nazi. And I think that won’t ever change, at least in my lifetime”

13th January 1947:

“My dear Anicuta, I thank you warmly for your last letter from the 18th December. I think I have already answered it, but am not completely sure, as I think of you almost all day long and therefore no longer know, whether I wrote to you or just meant to and thought of you intensely. I am alone for days on end. Marla often doesn’t come for a week, because as she says she has no time. And I sit here in my lonely room with hardly any wood to burn and a great sense of fear … Life is nightmarishly hard. I never dreamed that things would turn out this way. Maybe you can tell, that I don’t want to be alive anymore. But I am scared of death too. Do you understand this? There are also other things which I can’t write about. It would be such a joy if I could see you again … don’t be angry that I’m starting with all this again, because I really do think this would be the only thing that could save me now”

27th February 1947:

“You can hardly imagine what wretched lives we must lead now, even us, who were never Nazis! … You know, of course, what I thought [of the Nazi regime] and how I often opened my mouth to speak against them, even though I was spared the concentration camps. Even in Bad Aibling, where my hatred of the Nazis was well known! It seems disgraceful to have to re-iterate this to you, who knows all of this so well! But when one reads and hears how so many Nazis are trying to wash themselves clean [of their crimes], one thinks, perhaps even friends like you might believe this of me”

15th September 1947:

“I hardly dare to ask, if I couldn’t come to you [in Scotland], you seem to stall which makes me very unsure. Please don’t be offended, but just say yes or no. It is awful in Germany. You can only get medicine in very extreme cases, and life is horrible”


Letter from Annekathrin to her parents describing the fate of German loved ones

Annekathrin discusses the fate of those ‘missing persons’ who have not been heard from since the end of the war, including her Aunt Margot, who may have been sent to a German concentration camp in Riga, Latvia.

4th August, 1946

“There is no news about Aunt Margot. [Uncle] Kurt is still trying hard to receive any news of her through all manner of committees. Recently Kurt received a letter that Aunt Margot left with German friends before her deportation. The letter indicates that she knew exactly what was coming for her … she didn’t know what camp she would be sent to but assumed it would be Riga”

“Frieda Nauseu is also missing. She was in touch with Mrs Mitslaff, who told her that she would try to go underground if the circumstances worsened. But we don’t know if it worked. Apparently some people got lucky by going underground. But these people have usually come out of hiding by now. It always depended on whether or not an Aryan friend was ready to risk their life for you. I heard about a Jewish woman who was hidden by her Aryan friend for the whole war. She hid in the house and barely went outside. Of course without being registered, and with no ration card. Other people even noticed and brought extra food rations to the friend’s house. Later in the war when things started going wrong and all the officials had their hands full, the friend even risked going on holiday with the Jewish woman to the countryside! … one feels sick when one thinks about it”

“Of course, there weren’t many of these cases. In France, where many people were against the Germans … apparently they smuggled R.A.F. pilots out of the country. Uncle Kurt met one who was a friend of Lutz’s. He was shot down and the French farmers made sure he was treated quickly by a doctor and then they carried him through the village in a potato sack, and in a similar fashion took him to unoccupied territory, where he was quickly picked up by a plane and brought home”

“The letter from Grete is very moving. One really feels sorry for her. Hopefully her speech hasn’t also been affected by her paralysis. It seems as though it hasn’t been. Of course I understand that Pops is doing everything he can to bring her over here. This would probably be a very long process. But I also think it’s important to try. Her situation must be very hopeless. And she always ends up on the worst side. But it made me really happy to hear from her again”


Letter from Margot Levin [later deported] to Ernst

In Annekathrin’s letter to her parents reflecting on the war, she mentions that Kurt Levin has still not found any trace of his and Ernst’s younger sister Margot. She had left a letter with German friends before being ‘deported’, but Annekathrin implies in an ominous tone that she was being sent to a camp in Riga, Latvia. This theory would be supported by the following letter, desperate in tone, sent to Ernst by Margot in the summer of 1939. Seven years later, with Annekathrin’s letter in 1946, the family still had not had any news from her. This could have been the last correspondence between Margot and her brothers, although there may be more letters in the collection yet to be discovered. Margot appears distressed at the progressively more dangerous situation for the Jewish community in Berlin, claiming that ‘most her circle has left’. She pleads with Ernst to find her any kind of work in the UK: coming over on a ‘domestic service visa’ was a common way to emigrate.

4th August 1939:

“I am currently writing to Kurt about all of my problems and urging him to help quickly. That is why I’m writing to you and ask you also to contact Kurt on my behalf. Hermann, who promised me help last year, has now left Ruth and I in the lurch and hardly ever replies to urgent letter, and if so then with a very late and short letter. This is hard to understand and very depressing for Ruth and I. So – I will have to help myself. I want to get out and ask you and Kurt to help me. I want to get a job there [in the UK], preferably in a family with children. So, I would be a nanny or companion … Please I urge you to look around for any work for me … maybe someone could take me into their household … I can write on a typewriter and do the unpleasant housework … It is very urgent to get a permit for [Britain]. Because the whole processing of the permit takes another 2 to 3 whole months. I’ve seen loads of our acquaintances go through the process. I’m one of the last of my circle to still be here [in Germany], and sadly lost a lot of time because of Hermann’s false promises. I am completely depressed … How is your wife [in the UK] and is she getting used to the new language? … What are the job prospects like there?”

17th August 1939:

“You have not answered my urgent letter and I fear it has gone missing so I am writing to you again … Kurt has only been in Britain for a short while and is therefore less able to help me than you surely are … Ruth told me that Hermann can no longer bring me out to her [in Israel] … So I have only one more option open to me: to come over to you and take a household position … Please talk to your colleagues and boss. I know (and you can check this at the Jewish association) that I am over the required house-help age [45] but don’t worry, it still works, just means that my employer will need insurance for injury at work or sudden inability to perform my duties”.


Letter from Marla Vester in Munich to Anicuta in Edinburgh

A later letter from Grete Vester’s sister, Marla Vester, creates flaws in Grete’s bitter narrative, causing us to reconsider Grete’s psychological state in her painfully emotional desciptions of suffering. Marla explains that Grete is somewhat delusional, denying the occurrence of her second stroke. This is the last correspondence regarding Grete that I have uncovered in the collection.

4th May 1948:

“[Grete] has been in a bed in the psychiatric clinic’s neurological department for two months now, and the doctors recently told me that she cannot be healed and her situation is hopeless. It will only get worse. She can’t move anymore, the top half of her body looks very healthy and when you just see her top half lying in bed – if she isn’t crying which she does almost constantly now – she doesn’t look ill at all. But her legs are weak like a child’s and have no strength in them … it is awful, Anicuta, to see someone deteriorate like this and be unable to do anything … she suffers particularly acutely because she has lost her faith, and religion gives her absolutely no comfort anymore. She feels as though fate has been cruel to her, without believing that there is any fate beyond this earthly existence. The one good thing is that she is not in pain. / I visit her every Wednesday, but it’s very depressing because she always wants to go outside, which is impossible for her … two nurses have to carry her if she wants to lie outside / … Grete’s situation arose from a series of three strokes. The first one was on the 4th February 1939. She was in hospital for three months and then in a sanatorium for a further 2-3 months. She was left with her left arm and leg paralysed. But she could still walk with a walking stick … then she had a second, less extreme stroke in the autumn of 1941 or 42. I don’t remember exactly anymore. [She has completely forgotten that this stroke ever happened and gets very angry if you mention it]. The paralysis became worse, and her nerves worsened, but then in May 1946 she had her last, heavy stroke which has left her in the present condition. The exact cause is not known. The doctor at the neurological station told me that she suffered at 40 years of age from the kind of stroke which usually hits people at 70. Sometimes I think, maybe some of the blame lies with her frequent sun-bathing. You might remember that for years, every time it was hot, she would lie out in the sun all day and would come home all dazed in the evenings”

If you know more about Grete or what happened to Margot Levin, we would love you to contact us. If you believe any content of this page infringes your rights, please see the Centre for Research Collections’ takedown policy.



Annekathrin Levin was seventeen years old when she moved to Edinburgh with her parents. The bilingual nature of her life is evidenced in correspondence with her parents, often in English to her father Ernst, but also sometimes written in a mixture of both English and German. Whilst Ernst integrated into the Edinburgh medical community, Annekathrin enjoyed much freedom and travelled around the UK and Europe.

The Association for Jewish Refugees (in Britain) was founded in 1941 to help the settling and integration of displaced Jews and still exists today.

Ernst was in regular contact with the Association for Jewish Refugees in regards to the repayment of his war-time Jewish tax compensation and the tracing of family members.


Letter from Annekathrin’s friend, K. G. Hyder


15th February 1937:

“Dear Miss Levin … It was a nice sun-shiny day yesterday, and I not feeling inclined very much in my books, preferred walking outside. I passed my afternoon, up the Arthur seat hills behind Hollyrood [sic.] Palace … I seem to have started my work seriously for my ensuing terminal exam: but at any rate I shall be very much pleased to spare an evening for you at the coming Cosmo Dance on the 19th … I had quite a nice time in the last International gathering and had to pleasure to hear German songs and music. I liked the tunes very though the language was strange to me”


Annekathrin, like her mother Anicuta, was inclined to art and sketching, with notable examples in her notebooks and sketchbooks.


Efforts to contact missing acquaintances and friends

UNRRA, The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, was established by the Allies in November 1943. It helped displaced persons and refugees reunite with their friends and family following the chaos of the Second World War, which left much of Europe’s population uprooted and without a secure home.

This public information film, ‘In the Wake of the Armies’, produced in 1944, explains the purpose of UNRRA.

26th July 1946:

From No.1 Tracing Bureau – Austria.

Enquiring after Dr Levin, ‘about 60’, physician, British but former German nationality, ‘possible source of information’ detailed as “he is teaching at the University of Edinburgh”.

Enquirer: Josef Badel in Vienna, an Austrian friend. Message reads “very anxious for news of welfare and whereabouts”.


Letter from colleague Norman Dott vouching for Ernst’s legitimacy

Norman Dott, an Edinburgh-based internationally-renowned neurosurgeon, invited Ernst to work with him in his department as early as 1934 – he may have been the reason that the family relocated to Edinburgh specifically, as Ernst worked at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Dott went on to vouch for Ernst throughout the persecution and interment of ‘aliens’ during the Second World War, supporting the family personally, as evidenced by Annekathrin’s interactions with Dott regarding her and Anicuta’s displacement to Glasgow, and ejection from the family home (see ‘Internment’ post). To have such a prominent figure petition for your value to science and society would have been incredibly helpful to Ernst.


13th August 1935:

“This is to certify that Dr. Ernst Levin, formerly of the Poliklink, Munich, has been employed by me during the last year in the capacity of assistant in my department of Neurological Surgery at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, and in other associated hospitals which I visit. His duties have included the investigation and recording of neurological patients’ cases and assistance at operations upon them. Dr. Levin is in receipt of a grant from the Academic Assistance Council to enable him to carry on this work. In addition Dr. Levin has undertaken under my direction, research work involving analysis of certain groups of neurosurgical cases and in respect of this work he is in receipt of a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Dr. Levin attended the International Neurological Congress in London with me from 29th July to 3rd August and on 4th August he left London for Germany with my knowledge and consent. My understanding with Dr. Levin is that he is to have six weeks’ holiday and he is due to return to his work in my department in Edinburgh on 16th September.”


Letter on Ernst’s pleasure at a Burns Night dinner and integration into Scottish culture

In the below letter, Ernst emotionally expresses his gratitude to a friend for inviting their family to a Burns Night supper. He describes Scotland as his ‘adopted home’.

27th January 1955

“It is only today that I find the time and leisure to thank you and your wife once more for having invited us all to the Burns Supper and to your hospitable house.

We have enjoyed it all hughely[sic.]: the traditional food and drink, the good company, the speech, the recitations, the songs and the toasts, not least your own, but most of all the spirit of friendship for the strangers in your midst.

I want you to know that we all consider your invitation to share with you your national celebration a great honour and distinction, signifying to us acceptance in the land of our adoption. This is no small matter for people who have lost their country they loved, and we are deeply grateful for making us feel at home with you.

Scotland has been good to us and we all feel very happy here. This goes for Annekathrin especially and for the Ross family especially who from the very start has treated her as a member of the family with the result that feels to belong. Believe me that we two old birds feel very comforted in that knowledge.”


Annekathrin’s career in Occupational Therapy


Although she gave up this career path before the age of fifty, Annekathrin Levin pursued the fledgling movement for Occupational Therapy in its early stages. Her father mentions in later letters that working for seven years with physically and mentally disabled children had worn her down, leading to her decision to return to Edinburgh to work as a secretary and translator at ‘Ferranti’s’ and buy a cottage in Colinton in south west Edinburgh. There is much correspondence between Annekathrin and her parents whilst she was working at Birmingham Accident Hospital in their new Occupational Therapy department. She was active around the time that the National Health Service was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1948. In her letters, she records some of the anxiety amidst the medical staff regarding this drastic change and fears for new structuring and administration of hospitals.


Ernst and the painter Max Unold

Ernst and Anicuta were lifelong friends with the artist Max Unold and his wife Grete, with whom they shared a social circle in Munich.

Max Unold was a prominent painter, who painted a portrait of Anicuta in 1913 called ‘The Lady in the Blue Dress’, which can be seen here.

Anicuta also corresponded frequently with Unold in the early 1900s, and through the German Feldpost system during the First World War. The Levin collection holds a significant number of these letters.

Letter from Ernst to Grete , May 1964 expressing sympathies for death of Max Unold on 18th May 1964.

In this letter, Ernst describes the history of his and Max’s friendship … The two met in Winter 1906 in Munich, whilst Ernst was in his first semester of studying medicine. Through his father’s friends, Ernst was secretary of an academic drama society, where Unold performed a piece by Courteline with his artist friends and Ernst admired him greatly. Their paths diverged because Ernst went to do further study in Heidelberg. In 1912, he returned to Munich to sit his exams and they both met a man called Walter Strich there and became close. Ernst served with his Bavarian regiment on the Western Front until the end of the war. Then Ernst and Strich both married, and they formed a group in Munich. “It was a wild time…and Unold and I debated through the night on the issues of God and the world, Martin Luther, Communism and Christianity, Literature and Art and Theatre.” Ernst says that they did not once fight in 15 years, and not due to himself but to Max, who was impossible to fall out with. Ernst claims that “if anything hurt me about leaving home [Germany], it was the loss of this old dear friend”.

Richard Strauss and The Levin family’s connection to a famous composer

Ernst Levin maintained a strong personal interest in famous German composer Richard Strauss even in his old age. Correspondence implies that Strauss was a friend to the prominent Levins, Ernst’s parents Natalie and Willy. His opera ‘Elektra’ was dedicated to them, and many assume that Strauss based some of his characters on Willy Levin (see post on ‘The Levins’).  Strauss was later publicly condemned as an anti-Semite due to the seemingly ‘collaborative’ and prominent role he held as president of the State Music Bureau, established in 1933 under the Third Reich. It has been claimed that Strauss collaborated out of necessity to protect his Jewish grandchildren, as his son had married a Jewish woman. Ernst, claiming to have ‘personally known’ Strauss, frequently made moves to defend his good character.


Letter from Ernst to Mr Black denying Strauss’s anti-Semitism:

24th February 1969:

“I thank you very much for your recent letter with your commentary about Richard Strauss’s supposed anti-Semitic activities and the quotations from the new Life of Richard Strauss. It is very generous of you to offer me a copy of this new biography, but I possess it since it was first published in this country and have read it with interest from the first to the last page. Before one labels anyone an anti-Semite it is well to remember that this entirely depends on what you mean by it. Personally – after a lifetime of friendship with Richard Strauss – and with his wife Paulina – I deny that he was an anti-Semite”

Letter to Ruth about talks with BBC concerning Strauss

12th May 1968:

“I have seen Hans Gal at the club yesterday. He was very nice and very patient when I put my problem of Richard Strauss reminiscences before him. /He feels I should go through with the talk on the BBC in all circumstances in spite of the new Life published recently. He also seemed to agree with you that our first plan of the talk in the form of (your) questions and (my) answers is not a very good one. /You were also right in assuming he is no longer on the festival council and as a matter of fact can now do very little as regards the Scottish BBC’s attitude to such a talk of mine”


Letter to Austrian State Opera, enquiring about copyright of Strauss photograph printed in The Times

20th March 1964:

“This photograph does not belong to the Opera’s public collection or copyright photographs”


Ernst later wrote to The Times newspaper requesting a larger print of the image due to his great personal interest in Richard Strauss.


Ernst wrote in a disgruntled tone to Radio 4 on the 3rd October 1975, complaining about the introduction of a new ‘signature tune’ which he deemed “coarse, alarming and altogether deplorable”. He substantiates his view by claiming a substantial musical education and friendships with ‘musicians and music-lovers’.

Ernst signs off with his proudest claim to fame: “It may interest you, that I am the eldest surviving son of William LEVIN, to whom and his wife [sic.] Natalie, RICHARD STRAUS [sic.] dedicated his ELECTRA [sic.]”


Anicuta’s Salome sketches

Anicuta, who had an interest in art and had studied at Utrecht Art School, drew sketches depicting Salome, a symbol of female seduction and sinfulness, and Herod alongside John the Baptist’s head on a platter. In 1905, Richard Strauss had produced the famous modernist opera Salome, based on Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name.