Felice Schragenheim: A love during wartime
This is the story of Felice Schragenheim, a Jew hiding secretly in Berlin during the Second World War. Felice was also a member of the Jewish resistance and spied for them while working for a Nazi newspaper.
At the same time, this is a love story between Felice and Lilly Wust, a German housewife to a Nazi soldier with four children. In their letters to each other, Felice called herself “Jaguar” while Lilly was “Aimee.”
Despite living under a death sentence (as a Jew, not as a lesbian), Felice courted Lilly and they became lovers in a time of war.
Felice Schragenheim: No fear
Born in 1922 in Berlin, Germany, Felice was the daughter of two Jewish dentists. She was known as gregarious, cosmopolitan, and quite intelligent.
Before the war broke out, Felice’s parents had both died. Felice was given a chance to migrate to Palestine to be with her stepmother. However, she decided to sail to the US to be with her uncle who lived in Chicago.
Unfortunately, her ship failed to leave for America in 1941 and diplomatic relations between the US and Germany broke down, leaving her trapped in Berlin.
It was while working for a National Socialist newspaper and hiding in plain sight under the assumed name of Felice Schrader, that she met Lilly.
Felice Schragenheim & Lilly Wust
Felice and Lilly’s tale seemed straight out of the movie: Felice got to know Lilly when Lilly’s nanny introduced them.
“There was an immediate attraction, and we flirted outrageously. I began to feel alive as I never had before,” Lilly said.
At that time, Lilly had been awarded the bronze medal of honor for having four children to her husband who was off at the front.
While her husband was away, Lilly had a number of affairs– until she met Felice, who was nine years younger than her. The two exchanged letters, and when Lilly was hospitalized for dental sepsis, Felice brought flowers.
“It was the tenderest love you could imagine. I was fairly experienced with men, but with Felice I reached a far deeper understanding of sex than ever before,” Lilly said.
This love deepened further when Felice confessed to Lilly that she was a Jew. This was after Lilly pleaded where Felice would go during the latter’s secret missions for the resistance.
“She told me she was a Jew and immediately I took her in my arms, and I loved her even more,” said Lilly.
The death of Felice Schragenheim
Fearing even more for their lives that the two would be arrested, the couple loved each other even more ferociously.
They became “engaged” to each other on March 25 as they signed written declarations of their love. They sealed this with a marriage contract three months later.
After a picnic on August 21, 1943 near Havel lake where they took pictures of each other, Felice was arrested on their way home by the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police.
Felice was imprisoned in Schulstrasse in north Berlin before being transferred to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Gross-Rosen. Lilly followed, seeking to visit as much as possible.
Felice died in the winter of 1944, presumably during a death march and possibly due to tuberculosis.
Lilly took the death hard, becoming almost suicidal. She divorced her husband, and mourned Felice’s death by keeping all their letters throughout the years.
These letters, plus Lilly’s story, later became the basis of a book by Austrian journalist Erica Fischer, and then later on, a German movie, Aimee & Jaguar.