In Memory’s Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezin

The Theresienstadt Ghetto was created at the end of 1941 as a collection point for Jews of the former Czechoslovakia, and in the following months for Jews from Germany and Austria as well. A place with a complicated history of deception, starvation, slave labor, and periods of “beautification” for propaganda purposes, the Theresienstadt Ghetto’s primary purpose was as a way-station for further deportations to the death camps in Eastern Europe, most notably Treblinka and Auschwitz. It was in this hell that Mina Pachter, who before the war had been an art historian, made this cookbook.

Kochbuch der Hélènemama (Arad, Romania, 1924)

Hedi Levenback escaped Austria in 1939 via a Kindertransport to England at the age of 14. Her own mother had died of natural causes when she was only six, and she was raised by an aunt. Her aunt managed to flee Austria as well, immigrating to Shanghai and, after the war, joining her niece in New York. We presume that this cookbook belonged to her aunt, carried with her from Vienna to China and to her new life in the United States. She seems to have been truly devoted to the domestic arts.

Heim des Jüdischen Frauenbundes Neu-Isenburg. Feiertags-Küchenkalender für die jüdische Hausfrau. c. 1910.

As described in this Holiday Cookbook for Jewish Women, the Home of the Jewish Women’s League in Neu-Isenburg was a safe haven for pregnant women and mothers, children (legitimate and illegitimate), and displaced young women; it offered these women education and training in a traditional Jewish environment and family-like setting.

Elias, Julie. Das Neue Kochbuch. 1925

Julie Elias was a fashion journalist living in Berlin with her art historian husband, Julias Elias. She published reviews and commentary on current fashions of the Weimar period in both mainstream and Jewish publications. In 1925 she branched out to create Das Neue Kochbuch or “The New Cookbook.” This book was aimed at Jewish housewives.

Wolf, Rebekka (Heinemann). Kochbuch für Israelitische Frauen. 1851

Although Wolf’s cookbook offered housewives the opportunity to surprise guests and family with “einem fremdartigen Gerichte” (an exotic dish), what was really special about this “Cookbook for Jewish Women” may have been its emphasis on Jewish customs. Over at least 10 editions, this juggernaut cookbook was expanded into a compendium of housekeeping tips, notes on Jewish practice in the home, and even first aid remedies.

Gumprich, Bertha. Vollständiges Praktisches Kochbuch für die jüdische Küche. 1896.

Gumprich’s “Complete, Practical Cookbook” was a resource for inexperienced housewives trying to prepare affordable meals that were both tasty and kosher. As Gumprich writes in her introduction, many cookbooks in the 19th century did not provide guidelines for kosher cooking methods and ingredients; or they weren’t practical for “die einfach bürgerliche Küche” (the simple middle class kitchen).

Kauders, Marie. Vollständiges israelitisches Kochbuch […]. 1896.

What sets Kauders’ cookbooks apart from many others was her emphasis on cooking as an artform. In the introduction to her Vollständiges Kochbuch she compares cooks to sculptors who create monuments out of raw materials.

Morgenstern, Lina. Illustriertes Universal-Kochbuch für Gesunde und Kranke. Berlin. 1907.

Lina Morgenstern developed her “illustrated, universal cookbook for healthy and sick persons” using the latest nutritional theories of renowned doctors, thus offering a fascinating glimpse into early 20th-century concepts of food as medicine.

Kahn, Lena. Die Frau auf richtige Fährte : erzieherische Winke und praktische Ratschläge. 1901.

The author of “The Wife on the Right Track”, Lena Kahn, was born in Sulzburg (Baden-Württemburg, Germany) in the 19th century. She offers not only instructions for the efficient management of a Jewish kitchen, but child-rearing advice as well.

The Sisterhood of Congregation Habonim, New York. “Recipes Remembered : German-Jewish Specialties”

Published by New York City’s Congregation Habonim in 1976, Recipes Remembered offers a look at how a community with roots in the German-Jewish refugee experience was evolving and adapting to life in America after about three decades.