Marie Burde was a loner and a vegetarian, Marie Burde lived in a dark cellar in the Wedding neighborhood of Berlin, and made ends meet by selling old newspapers, empty bottles and rags.
Despite her difficult situation, during the war years she hid three Jewish men and thus saved their lives. Brothers Alfred (b. 1921) and Rolf (b. 1920) Joseph came from a religious Jewish family. Their father, Hermann, had been a soldier in the German army during WWI.
On June 6, 1942, when Rolf returned from forced labor duty, he saw a truck parked in front of his family’s home. He went up the stairs and heard his mother’s screams and an unknown voice yelling at her. While he was standing on the landing, thinking what to do, he heard footsteps on the staircase. He ran down and out of the house. For the rest of his life he felt guilty for having abandoned his parents, even though there was nothing he could have done to save them. Had he stayed, he would have been arrested and deported with them. After the war, he found out that his parents were first deported to The resienstadt and then to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.
After he escaped, Rolf ran to alert his brother Alfred who was staying with friends, and the two went to the home of a former neighbor who had promised to help them if the need arose., When they showed up on his doorstep, however, he told them he was afraid to help because his neighbors were Gestapo agents. The two brothers spent the next few months hiding in public gardens, railway stations and the nearby woods.
Their mother had left them 2,000 Reichmarks with a neighbor, and they used the money to buy food on the black market. They were eventually joined by Alfred’s friend, Arthur Fondanski. When fall came, the three refugees could no longer subsist in open areas, and desperately began to look for shelter. An acquaintance of Rolf and Alfred’s mother, whom they met on the street by chance, told them that although she could not help them herself, she recommended they turn to Marie Burde, who was known to have sympathy for the persecuted and who was secretly helping Jews.
When the three men arrived at Burde’s home, she immediately agreed to take them in. At night they slept on the piles of newspapers Burde collected, but during the day they had to leave the apartment so as not to be detected by inquisitive neighbors. Living in hiding was a daily struggle: every person on the street presented a danger of denunciation and the fear of being stopped by a policeman was ever present.
In November 1943, the building in which Burde and her three wards lived was destroyed in an air raid. Burde set out with the three Jewish men to a lot she owned in Schoenow in the north of Berlin. They loaded what was left of her belongings on a hand cart and began their journey. When stopped by police, they said that all their papers had been destroyed in the bombing.
Arriving in Schoenow, they built a shack out of wooden planks they found. But when winter arrived again, life in the makeshift hut became impossible and they returned to Berlin. There Burde, who had received a room from the authorities after she declared that her home had been bombed, continued to help them.
In August 1944, Alfred Joseph was arrested on the street. He was deported to Sachsenhausen and from there to Bergen-Belsen. He survived the camps, and was reunited with his brother Rolf after the war.
After liberation, it was the Jospeh brothers who supported Marie Burde.
She passed away in the 1950s.
On February 14, 2012, The Yad Vashem Foundation UK recognized Marie Burde as “Righteous Among the Nations”.
In July 2022 Marie Burde was Honoured in The W.I.S.E. Journal