Ida Ehra leading actress and Grand Dame of the German stage. Born the daughter of a cantor in Vienna and a student of the the Academy for Music and Theater in Vienna, she moved to Berlin in 1933. In 1933 she was barred from the stage by order of the Nazi party and worked instead as the assistant to her husband Dr. Bernhard Heyde (1899-1977), a prominent gynaecologist. They and their daughter planned to leave the country after Kristallnacht, but the outbreak of the war made this impossible. She was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and taken to Fühlsbüttel concentration camp, a first step on the road to Buchenwald. She avoided this fate only because her (non-Jewish) husband was able to arrange her release by writing a personal appeal to an old school mate, Heinrich Himmler.
Seven months after peace was declared, she with the help of a British officer (he had no German, she no English) founded the Hamburg Kammerspiele, a theater dedicated to “humanity and tolerance”. Opening night was virtually empty, but over time the audience grew, drawn in by quality productions of Jean Anouilh, T. S. Eliot, Jean Giraudoux, Jean-Paul Sartre and Thornton Wilder.
Ida Ehra was the first woman to be named an honorary citizen of Hamburg (1984) has since had a square named for her, as well as the Ida-Ehre-Gesamtschule. She performed notably in the film version of Sholom Aleichem’s play, Tevya und seine Töchter, 1961, better known to American audiences as Fiddler on the Roof. She died in 1989, honored for her part in the revitalization of post-war German culture and society.