Middleweight boxer at the "Maccabi" Jewish boxing club in Cologne, murdered at Plaszow in 1944
Jonas Kessler was born in 1908 in Cologne, Germany. His father Yitzhak Kessler died in 1918 as the result of injuries sustained in World War I while fighting in the ranks of the German Army.
Jonas lived with his Christian partner, Anna Maria Eupen, and they had two children, Hildegard (Hilde) and Leo. Jonas was a middleweight boxer at the "Maccabi" Jewish boxing club in Cologne, one of two Jewish boxing clubs in the whole of Germany at that time. The club was located on the same street as Cologne's synagogue, later destroyed during the Kristallnacht pogrom. The club had approximately one hundred Jewish members, many of whom immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) with Hitler's rise to power.
When the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935, Jonas had to part from Anna Marie and their children, but continued to see them clandestinely. During one of these visits, he was almost arrested by the police, but managed to escape and hide in a garbage bin in the courtyard. After this incident, Anna Maria begged him not to come again, for his own safety. In 1936, Jonas was fired from his job as a trader, and as far as we know, he was also forbidden from pursuing his boxing aspirations. Immediately after Kristallnacht in late 1938, he fled Germany. Before leaving, he managed to see his daughter Hilde at school and to bid her farewell. His last words to her, spoken through the bars of the school gates, were:
I can't find Mother. The whole family must leave today. Promise me that you will always be courteous and good.
Jonas reached Poland and found his sister Yohana Rochman, who had been deported from Germany to Poland in October 1938 as part of the expulsion to Zbaszyn. Their brother Samuel ("Sali") was also deported to Poland. Jonas and Samuel were sent to Plaszow, where Jonas was shot to death in front of his brother in August 1944. His body was then soaked in paraffin and set alight.
Samuel survived the Holocaust and returned to Cologne, where he was active in the Jewish community. He eventually became a Council member representing the Social Democratic Party.