Pevsner and Jewishness

Both Pevsner’s parents were Jewish, and as a boy he learned Hebrew in preparation for becoming Bar Mitzvah, but the family were not practising Jews. Largely for practical reasons, Hugo Pevsner had converted to Lutheranism by the time his son was born.

 

Pevsner did not feel Jewish, nor, in his anxiety to be accepted as a ‘true German’ , did he want to be a Jew.  Lola’s family, though half-Jewish, was successfully assimilated and at least partly for her sake, Pevsner himself converted to Lutheranism after they were engaged. Their wedding was held neither in synagogue nor church, but in their Leipzig flat.

 

Nonetheless, however German he may have felt, under the Nazi race laws Pevsner lost the right to work in his homeland. His children, on holiday in Germany in the summer of 1939, were almost trapped: the boys escaped  from Jutland on a Danish fishing freighter, while his daughter spent the war in hiding with her aunt’s family in Hanover. Despite Pevsner’s best efforts to bring his parents to England, they felt unable to deny their Jewish roots and feared the upheaval of a move. After his father’s death, his mother was moved to a series of ‘Jews’ Houses’ in Leipzig. In January 1942, under threat of transportation, she committed suicide.