personal data

Rosenau Helene, Dr.

Rosenau (Rosenau-Carmi)
Birth Name
First Name
Date of Birth
Place of birth
Monte Carlo
Other family members

Parents: Albert Rosenau and Klara Rosenau née Lion
Spouse: Dr. Zwi Carmi


Bismarckstraße 15 (now 26)

Architectural historican

During NS-Era emigrated to Switzerland later to Great Britain

Date of death
Place of death
Enfield Middx/London


Helene Rosenau comes from a long-established, respected Jewish family of Bad Kissingen whose roots can be traced back into the 18th century. 

Her father Albert Rosenau had studied medicine, quickly moved on in his career and received the title “königlich-bayerischer Sanitätsrat” (royal Bavarian Sanitätsrat= honorary title for a doctor). In 1898, he had married Klara Lion from Mannheim. Initially, the couple lived in Monte Carlo where their daughter Helene (Auguste) was born on March 27, 1900. In July 1913, the family moved to Bad Kissingen where Albert Rosenau practiced in his own spa establishment. Helene’s parents ran an extremely renowned sanatorium in Bismarckstrasse that was known as “Westendhaus” by the people of Kissingen and which is now part of the Luitpold Clinics/ Heiligenfeld. Helene got private tutoring and graduated with her ‘Abitur’ in 1923. Till 1923, she got her lessons in Hamburg, Munich, Berlin and Heidelberg; her summer months she spent mostly in Bad Kissingen.

From 1923 to 1929, Helene Rosenau studied History of Art with professors such as Heinrich Wölfflin in Munich, Adolph Goldschmidt in Berlin, Paul Clemen in Bonn and, finally, Erwin Panofsky in Hamburg. In Hamburg she handed in her doctor’s thesis on Cologne Cathedral in 1930. Then she changed to the University of Münster in order to write her habilitation treatise with Martin Wackernagel as her adviser. She attended excavations in the Cathedral of Cologne as well as Zurich Großmünster. Her efforts to continue her academic career came to an abrupt ending after 1933 because she was Jewish. Because of that, she couldn’t finish her habilitation though she had already completed her habilitation treatise. Münster Universtiy declined her application for a habilitation on the basis of the “Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums” (Law for the reconstruction of the Civil Service). Helene Rosenau had to give up her job at the university and, in addition, lost her grant from “Notgemeinschaft (association founded for mutual assistance in an emergency) der deutschen Wissenschaft”, which was not continued. 

As she didn’t have any prospects in her profession and her private life in the Nazi Era, in April 1933 she emigrated to Zurich, then in autumn 1933 she to London.

With the help of a grant by British Federation of University Women, she could finish her habilitation treatise in 1934 and 1935 on “Design and Medieval Architecture”. Then, from 1935 to 1940, she continued her studies at the renowned Courtauld Institute where she specialized in studies on the architectural history of the synagogue.

For Christmas 1935, she planned to visit her mother in Baden-Baden for two weeks, but Klara Rosenau’s application for a visit was repeatedly denied by Bavarian Political Police.

Obviously, the reason for this denial was a statement of Würzburg Gestapo that classified Helene Rosenau as “staatsfeindlich” (subversive) and accused her of having “a Communist attitude” in spite of not being able to prove anything detrimental neither in her criminal nor her political activities. It’s possible that Helene travelled to Frankfort/ Main nevertheless, even after her request had been rejected. In any case, Gestapo received confidential hints by an informant of her having stayed there with a Romanian. The Nazi police authorities regarded her as a public enemy. In Spring 1940, the Reich Security Main Office in Berlin put her on its “’Special Wanted List Great Britain’, a list of persons who were to be found by special command units of SS after an invasion and successful occupation of the British Isles by the German armed forces (Wehrmacht).

In 1938, she married the doctor Dr. Zwi Carmi who was born in 1883. Two years later, she was appointed Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) by the University of London. Later, she worked at the London School of Economics for the renowned sociologist Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) and on the authority of him, researched the social position of women as mirrored by art. In 1944, her adoptive son Michael was born. In 1945, she got British citizenship. After the war, from 1947 to 1951, she gave lectures at different universities, among them the University of London. In 1948/49 and 1951, she paid some visits to Bad Kissingen. Her husband died in 1951 while she was visiting Bad Kissingen with her adoptive son Michael. In the same year, she answered a call to the University of Manchester where she did research on Etienne Louis Boullé, the architect of the French Revolution. With diverse publications, she soon made a name of herself as one of the leading experts of architectural history in England. In 1968, she returned to London, where she gave lectures at the University of London and at Leo Baeck College, a well-known liberal Rabbi University. She died in London in 1984. 


weitgehend übernommen aus: Hans-Jürgen Beck, Kissingen war unsere Heimat, Stand April 2017, S. 675ff und Wikipediaartikelexterner Link Helen Rosenau).
Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil, S. 563externer Link
Tabellarischer Lebenslauf      externer Link                                                                                                                               
Aufbau, 21.03.1980/Artikel zum 80. Geburtstag externer Link    
Datenbank Internationale Netzwerke von Akademikerinnenexterner Link
Meldeunterlagen der Stadt Bad Kissingen
Datenbank Ancestry, England und Wales, nationaler Nachlasskalender (Index von Testamenten und Verwaltungen), 1858-1995externer Link
Gedenkblatt für Helen Rosenau, Otto Gertzen, Flurgespräche, 2017externer Link
Sta Wü, Gestapo 11011 Dr. Helene Rosenau