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Martin Ostwald

Martin Ostwald

Male 1922 - 2010  (88 years)

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  • Name Martin Ostwald 
    Born 15 Jan 1922  Dortmund, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Biography Martin Ostwald
    (b. 1922)


    The numbers of refugee faculty are dwindling fast. Only one, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of Classics Martin Ostwald, remains a presence on campus. He can still be found most mornings making his way from his home on Walnut Lane to his study carrel in McCabe, where he continues his writing and research.
    Last fall, Ostwald was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university in his hometown of Dortmund, Germany. His decision to accept the award and return to Germany—which he had fled as a teenager—was not an easy one. But he did and, in the process, found some relief for what he calls an "agony of the soul."
    Ostwald’s father, a classically trained lawyer, insisted on a similar education for both him and his younger brother. But Martin’s plans to enter the rabbinate—as well as life itself—changed drastically after Nov. 10, 1938—Kristallnacht.
    "It was a free-for-all on anything Jewish," he says. "In the middle of the night, a bunch of SS officers came to our apartment and wrecked the place."
    In the morning, the family called the police. "We were still citizens deserving of their protection," Ostwald says indignantly. "They came and said, ‘We don’t see anything.’ My brother and I were teenagers. They arrested us and took us to police headquarters."
    They and their father were held in a cell with 17 others. "The next day, the 11th," he says, "we were marched to a railroad station, put on a train, and shipped out to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp near Berlin, Germany."
    His experiences at the camp are burned deep in Ostwald’s memory. Most of all, he remembers his father’s words to him and his brother just before the boys’ release on Dec. 3.
    "My father is the one to whom I owe my love of classics," he says. "He knew Greek fairly well, and he quoted Homer to us: ‘The day will surely come when holy Troy will perish, with Priam and Priam’s people.’ He wanted to comfort us, to tell us this kind of Germany wouldn’t last. It didn’t, but he didn’t either." His sons never saw him again.
    Ostwald suspects it was his mother’s efforts to get them on a children’s transport that brought about their release in late 1938. It took them first to Holland, then 10 weeks later to England.
    "At the time, neither my brother nor I realized we’d never see our parents again," he says. "It was not until after the war that we learned of their deaths."
    In 1941, both Ostwald parents were sent to the Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp, where his father died in 1943 and was buried by Leo Baeck, the last chief rabbi in Germany. "On Oct. 18, 1944, my mother was sent to Auschwitz," he says. "That’s the last we know of her."
    After escaping from Germany—on a passport stamped J, which he still has—Ostwald’s path to America took several years, over anything but a straight line. In fits and starts, he even managed to continue his education. In England, he lived at a Ramsgate hostel, which had been rented by a group of Jewish doctors to provide housing and English lessons for refugee children—one of the many selfless acts to which Ostwald attributes his education. Once the war began, he was forced to move to decidedly worse conditions at a farm school in Oxfordshire. Later, after Germany invaded France in May 1940, a stint as an apprentice waiter in Bournemouth ended when he was interned, not unhappily, by the British government.
    Shipped to the Isle of Man, then to Canada, Ostwald arrived in Quebec City on July 14, 1940: Bastille Day. He was 18. Ostwald did not see his brother, who remained in England, again until several years after the war.
    Ostwald spent two years in refugee camps. Fellow internees started a camp school, where he resumed his education and also taught Greek and Latin. Students were excused from some camp work but not all. While working toward his high school certificate, Ostwald also made camouflage netting and knitted socks for the army.
    With the backing of a Jewish fraternity, the University of Toronto accepted him and about 20 others from the camp. To assuage trustees worried about "enemy aliens" studying on campus while the country was at war, the group trained, in uniform, in the school’s Canadian Officer Training Corps.
    After Toronto, Ostwald enrolled at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, where he wrote a master’s thesis on the treatment of the Orestes myth in ----------------------------------
    Swarthmore College The Phoenix Daily Gazette
    Alumni Relations Alumni On-Line Community News and Information
    For Parents Haverford College Bryn Mawr College Borough of Swarthmore
    Philly.com

    Martin Ostwald
    (b. 1922)

    The numbers of refugee faculty are dwindling fast. Only one, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of Classics Martin Ostwald, remains a presence on campus. He can still be found most mornings making his way from his home on Walnut Lane to his study carrel in McCabe, where he continues his writing and research.

    Last fall, Ostwald was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university in his hometown of Dortmund, Germany. His decision to accept the award and return to Germany—which he had fled as a teenager—was not an easy one. But he did and, in the process, found some relief for what he calls an "agony of the soul."

    Ostwald’s father, a classically trained lawyer, insisted on a similar education for both him and his younger brother. But Martin’s plans to enter the rabbinate—as well as life itself—changed drastically after Nov. 10, 1938—Kristallnacht.

    "It was a free-for-all on anything Jewish," he says. "In the middle of the night, a bunch of SS officers came to our apartment and wrecked the place."

    In the morning, the family called the police. "We were still citizens deserving of their protection," Ostwald says indignantly. "They came and said, ‘We don’t see anything.’ My brother and I were teenagers. They arrested us and took us to police headquarters."

    They and their father were held in a cell with 17 others. "The next day, the 11th," he says, "we were marched to a railroad station, put on a train, and shipped out to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp near Berlin, Germany."

    His experiences at the camp are burned deep in Ostwald’s memory. Most of all, he remembers his father’s words to him and his brother just before the boys’ release on Dec. 3.

    "My father is the one to whom I owe my love of classics," he says. "He knew Greek fairly well, and he quoted Homer to us: ‘The day will surely come when holy Troy will perish, with Priam and Priam’s people.’ He wanted to comfort us, to tell us this kind of Germany wouldn’t last. It didn’t, but he didn’t either." His sons never saw him again.

    Ostwald suspects it was his mother’s efforts to get them on a children’s transport that brought about their release in late 1938. It took them first to Netherlands, then 10 weeks later to England.

    "At the time, neither my brother nor I realized we’d never see our parents again," he says. "It was not until after the war that we learned of their deaths."

    In 1941, both Ostwald parents were sent to the Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp, where his father died in 1943 and was buried by Leo Baeck, the last chief rabbi in Germany. "On Oct. 18, 1944, my mother was sent to Auschwitz," he says. "That’s the last we know of her."

    After escaping from Germany—on a passport stamped J, which he still has—Ostwald’s path to America took several years, over anything but a straight line. In fits and starts, he even managed to continue his education. In England, he lived at a Ramsgate hostel, which had been rented by a group of Jewish doctors to provide housing and English lessons for refugee children—one of the many selfless acts to which Ostwald attributes his education. Once the war began, he was forced to move to decidedly worse conditions at a farm school in Oxfordshire. Later, after Germany invaded France in May 1940, a stint as an apprentice waiter in Bournemouth ended when he was interned, not unhappily, by the British government.

    Shipped to the Isle of Man, then to Canada, Ostwald arrived in Quebec City on July 14, 1940: Bastille Day. He was 18. Ostwald did not see his brother, who remained in England, again until several years after the war.

    Ostwald spent two years in refugee camps. Fellow internees started a camp school, where he resumed his education and also taught Greek and Latin. Students were excused from some camp work but not all. While working toward his high school certificate, Ostwald also made camouflage netting and knitted socks for the army.

    With the backing of a Jewish fraternity, the University of Toronto accepted him and about 20 others from the camp. To assuage trustees worried about "enemy aliens" studying on campus while the country was at war, the group trained, in uniform, in the school’s Canadian Officer Training Corps.

    After Toronto, Ostwald enrolled at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, where he wrote a master’s thesis on the treatment of the Orestes myth in Greek tragedy. In Chicago, he met his wife, Lore, also a German refugee; in 1952, he earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

    Ostwald taught at Wesleyan University for one year and at Columbia for seven before Centennial Professor Emerita of Classics Helen North, now his neighbor, recruited him to Swarthmore. He recalls fondly his colleagues’ friendly reception on his arrival and the "warm, family atmosphere" at Crum Ledge Lane.

    At Swarthmore, Ostwald taught honors seminars that combined Germanic philological rigor with a relaxed, conversational style. He also benefited from an unusual joint appointment with the University of Pennsylvania, which allowed him to continue research on fifth-century Athens with Penn graduate students, maintaining this dual role for 20 years. He published widely, and his magnum opus, From Popular Sovereignty to the Sovereignty of Law, in which he examined the political and social tensions within ancient Athens, has been praised as an indispensable work of political, social, and cultural history.

    In an even greater testament to his influence, Ostwald also drew generations of students to careers in classics. "There is no question that Martin was the person I wanted to emulate as a scholar," says Ralph Rosen ’77, a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania. "His interests are amazingly broad within the field of classics. He showed that the real reward of getting good at reading Greek and Latin came when one asked the ‘big’ questions about antiquity that still resonate with us today."

    On Ostwald’s retirement in 1992, Rosen solicited and co-edited more than 40 critical essays from his mentor’s former students and colleagues for Nomodeiktes: Greek Studies in Honor of Martin Ostwald.

    Ostwald’s additional honors include some of academia’s most esteemed: president of the American Philological Association; election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; member of the American Philosophical Society; and an honorary degree from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Yet none required the soul searching that would be asked of him in Dortmund in fall 2001.

    I had vowed never to go back, never to set foot on German soil again," says Ostwald. "One doesn’t know whose hand one shakes." Despite this aversion, he had made occasional trips over the years, including an emotional return with his two grown sons to his family’s ancestral village, Sichtigvor, where he was reunited with long-lost childhood friends.

    Yet it was his first trip back, in 1966, that may have led him to return in such a public capacity last fall. On sabbatical in Greece, he took a side trip to visit two former Columbia professors, both German and then living in Munich. "One was so thoroughly admirable it was almost unreal," he says. "He felt it was his duty to go back and educate young Germans." It was a lesson Ostwald would emulate more than 30 years later.

    In 2001, seemingly out of the blue, the University of Dortmund offered him an honorary doctorate for his achievements in cultural history. Flattered as he was, Ostwald says he could not suppress the thought that the invitation would not have been extended had he not been a hometown Jew. Receiving assurances he had been selected before his heritage had been investigated, he accepted—on the condition that he could meet informally with a group of students and find out firsthand what they knew about the Nazi period.

    This meeting with several dozen students, who peppered him with questions about his past, was the clear highlight of a trip that also included a visit to his old school. "They understood when I told them I sympathized with them for the terrible burden they had to bear for the shame their immediate ancestors had put on a once great and respectable nation," he says.

    It may have taken a lifetime, but Ostwald says he has come to terms with his past. "My personal experiences show me," he says, "how human beings are capable not only of degrading and dehumanizing themselves and their fellow men but also that people have the potential to achieve greatness by creating monuments in art, literature, philosophy, and social justice that constitute the values of civilized life. In my case, the Greeks have shown the way, and it is their heritage that I have tried to pass on to my students."

       [1
    Hebrew Birth 15 Tev 5682 
    Holocaust Left Germany December 13, 1938 for Netherlands. From there to England where he was interned and sent to Canada to camps in Trois Rivieres, Moncton, Farnham and Sherbrooke. 
    Residence 1922-1938  Dortmund, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Immigration 1939  England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Immigration 1940  Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1939-1940  England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Immigration 1946  USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1951-1960  New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1960 to present  Swarthmore, PA, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Hebrew Death 26 Nis 5770 
    Occupation Professor Greek Studies 
    Residence Toronto, ON, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died 10 Apr 2010  Swarthmore, PA, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I957  Blank Family
    Last Modified 22 Jul 2015 

    Father Dr. Max Ostwald,   b. 6 Jun 1884, Sichtigvor, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Sep 1943, Theresienstadt CC Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 59 years) 
    Mother Hedwig Strauss,   b. 27 Nov 1889, Dortmund, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 10 Oct 1944, Auschwitz CC Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 54 years) 
    Married 19 Dec 1920  Dortmund, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Divorced Yes - date unknown 
    Family ID F522  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Lore U. Weinberg,   b. 8 Apr 1924, Hannover, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 May 2010, Swarthmore, PA, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 86 years) 
    Married 27 Dec 1948  Glencoe, IL, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • 408 Walnut Lane
      Swarthmore, Pa. 19081-1137, USA, Martin & Lore U. OSTWALD, 408 Walnut Lane, Swarthmore, Pa. 19081-1137, USA, 1-610-543-6408
    Children 
     1. Living
     2. Living
    Family ID F532  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 15 Jan 1922 - Dortmund, Germany Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1922-1938 - Dortmund, Germany Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1939 - England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1940 - Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1939-1940 - England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 1946 - USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 27 Dec 1948 - Glencoe, IL, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1951-1960 - New York, NY, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1960 to present - Swarthmore, PA, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Toronto, ON, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 10 Apr 2010 - Swarthmore, PA, USA Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Martin Ostwald
    Martin Ostwald
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    Phillipine Ostwald, grandmother of Martin (left) and Ernst (right). Courtesy of Grune, Albert-Friedrich
    Phillipine Ostwald, grandmother of Martin (left) and Ernst (right). Courtesy of Grune, Albert-Friedrich
    Dr. Max & Hedwig Ostwald, Phillipine, ,Martin (left), Ernst (right) Courtesy of Grune, Albert-Friedrich
    Dr. Max & Hedwig Ostwald, Phillipine, ,Martin (left), Ernst (right) Courtesy of Grune, Albert-Friedrich
    Dr. Max Ostwald (left) Ernst (rght) Martin & Philipine. Courtesy Grune Albert Friedrich
    Dr. Max Ostwald (left) Ernst (rght) Martin & Philipine. Courtesy Grune Albert Friedrich

    Histories At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    Martin Ostwald - Wikipedia
    Martin Ostwald - Wikipedia

    Holocaust Records
    Ostwald Memorial Plaque
    Ostwald Memorial Plaque

  • Sources 
    1. [S89] Swathmore Bulletin, Swathmore College.


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