Helmut Goldschmidt

1918 (Magdeburg) - 2005 (Cologne)


"I didn’t even know that I was Jew or someone else was a non-Jew. Who was interested? But then suddenly, that’s the way it was … To this day, I haven’t gotten over the complex I developed as a result."

Helmut Goldschmidt was born in Magdeburg on 16 October 1918, the son of the lawyer Moritz Goldschmidt of Cologne. In 1933 he was forced to leave grammar school prematurely because he was a Jew. He trained as an architect with the architect and art historian Dr Zucker of Berlin and the construction engineer Dr Hauer. Since Jews were barred from practising their professions, he worked illegally in an architectural firm and devoted his leisure time to music, primarily jazz.

On 1 December 1942, Goldschmidt was arrested by the Gestapo in Cologne and in the spring of 1943 deported to Auschwitz. Friends succeeded in hiding his father at the last minute. In July 1943, after three months in quarantine camp, thanks to the intervention of his non-Jewish mother he was transferred to Buchenwald Concentration Camp as a “political inmate and first-degree half-breed”. He was employed in the SS construction office as a draughtsman and composed arrangements for the inmates’ jazz combo in the main camp.

Following liberation, Goldschmidt worked as a freelance architect in Mayen in the Eifel region of Germany. In 1949 he was commissioned with the reconstruction of the synagogue in Ottostrasse in Cologne; commissions for a hospital building in Cologne and a Jewish community centre followed. In the years following 1950 he founded his own firm, married and started a family. From 1957 to 1959 he reconstructed the large synagogue in Roonstrasse in Cologne, later going on to construct or reconstruct further synagogues and Jewish community centres. He also designed and managed the construction of housing estates and subsidized housing as well as a small number of business and office buildings in Cologne. In 1998 he received the First-Class Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his architectural lifework and his initiatives in the Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Helmut Goldschmidt died in Cologne on 6 August 2005.