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Flickers of Light

Dr. Ella Lingens

Dr. Ella Lingens Dr. Ella Lingens Dr. Ella Lingens

Dr. Kurt Lingens and his wife, Dr. Ella Lingens (née Reiner) were both physicians who lived in Vienna at the end of the 1930s.

Kurt Lingens was an anti-fascist, born in 1912 in Düsseldorf, Germany. His father, chief of police in Köln, Germany, lost his job in 1936 because he was associated with the Catholic “Zentrum” party that traditionally objected to Nazism, and because he had tried to hinder SA persecution of Catholics. Kurt Lingens himself was barred by the Nazi authorities from studying in German universities because of his anti-fascist activities as a student.

Kurt’s wife, Ella, born in Vienna in 1908, had a doctoral degree in law and studied medicine at the local university. When the Nazis annexed Austria, she began to help Jews, especially students that she knew through her studies. During the Kristallnacht riots, she hid ten Jews in her room. In 1939, the Lingenses met Baron Karl von Motesiczky, an anti-Nazi who also studied medicine in the Vienna University up to 1939 and was born to a Jewish mother. They became friends, and Baron von Motesiczky invited the Lingens couple to live in a large house he owned in the Hinterbruhl suburb of Vienna during the summer months. The Baron often hosted Jews and members of the anti-Nazi resistance at this house. The Lingenses hid a young Jewish woman, Erika Felden, in their apartment over a period of several months in 1941 and 1942. They were helped by friends: a married couple that was responsible for the distribution of food-ration cards, and gave the Lingenses several cards for Felden, and the Lingenses’ housekeeper, who gave Felden her identity card when she came down with a gastrointestinal infection, thus enabling her to get medical treatment paid for by the health plan to which the housekeeper belonged. Felden eventually underwent an operation under an assumed name.

The Lingenses’ home continued to be a place of refuge for the couple’s Jewish friends. Of those who managed to reach the apartment, some asked Kurt and Ella to care for their valuables so they wouldn’t be looted. Others asked the Lingenses to use their connections to help them escape the Nazis. One of these “connections” – a Jewish former stage actor named Rudolf Klinger – was later proven to be an informer, who reported on the Lingenses and Baron von Motesiczky’s activities to the Gestapo. In 1942 Kurt and Ella were asked by a Jewish acquaintance of theirs, Alex Weissberg-Cybulski, who was living in hiding in Krakow, to help him and a number of his friends reach Hungary. Klinger volunteered to accompany the Jews to the border. In August 1942, Weissberg-Cybulski sent two Jewish couples to Vienna, the brothers Bernhard and Jakob Goldstein and their wives Helene and Pepi, with a request that they be taken over the border. Klinger brought them to the border, but at the last minute, turned them over to the Germans, and also informed on the people who had helped plan the escape. On October 13, 1942, the Lingenses and Baron von Motesiczky were arrested. Kurt Lingens was assigned to a unit made up of soldiers who were sent to the Russian front as a form of punishment for various crimes. While at the front, Lingens was seriously wounded.

Ella Lingens and the Baron von Motesiczky were sent to Auschwitz. Baron von Motesiczky died of typhus on June 25, 1943. Ella was put to work as a doctor of the camp inmates, and managed to save a number of Jews from death in the gas chambers. She was sent on a death march from Auschwitz to Dachau, and managed to survive until the end of the war. Klinger, the Gestapo informant, was arrested in 1943 after his handlers decided he could no longer be useful to them. He was sent to Auschwitz, where he died.

On January 3, 1980, Yad Vashem recognized Kurt Lingens and Ella Lingens as Righteous Among the Nations.