Pick Arthur, Dr.
Kurhausstraße 6 (older count - today 11)
October 1938 emigrated to U.K.
The members of the Pick family belonged to the group of assimilated Jews. They were baptized and members of the religious community of Protestants. Many of their Jewish ancestors had already converted to Christianity in the 19th century. In a society where anti-Semitic prejudices were still abundant and Jewish people had to face disadvantages in society as well as in their professions, getting baptized appeared to present the only chance for being accepted as a full-fledged member of society. But indeed, this hope proved an illusion with the seizure of power by the National Socialists at the latest. The exclusion and persecution of Jews based on the Racial Theory also affected Jews who were baptized and assimilated and didn’t have any connections with Jewish religion and tradition any longer whatsoever.
Dr Arthur Pick, the respected physician and owner of the "Sanatorium Dr. Pick" in Kurhausstraße, which was named after him, was born on December 6, 1871 in Simmering/Vienna, as the son of the businessman Dr. phil. Sigismund Pick and his wife Ottilie née Bernstein. The family was wealthy and cosmopolitan. His mother came from Odessa/Ukraine, his father from Wroclaw (Breslau), and his father's professional career as managing director of various firms took the family throughout Europe.
Arthur spent the first six years of his life in Vienna, then the family moved to England, where he attended elementary school in Sandbach (Cheshire) between 1879 and 1883 and learned to speak English fluently. The family then moved to Czszakowa, near Kraków (which belonged to Austria in those days), where Sigismund Pick became the managing director of a Soda factory. Arthur and his three siblings spent a carefree childhood there. The wealthy family owned a great house on an extensive estate and employed lots of servants.
Arthur attended the grammar school in Gliwice (Upper Silesia). Then he studied medicine at the universities of Wroclaw, Berlin, Munich, and Heidelberg. In 1897, he received a German doctorate at Wroclaw University, an Austrian graduation at Krakow University, an English graduation at London University in 1903 and an Italian one in Genova in 1901. Certainly, it was an extraordinary achievement to have qualified in four different countries, which made it possible for him to practice at different places.
He started his career as a ship doctor on a voyage to Asia. Further voyages also took him to Africa and America before he settled down as a spa doctor in Carlsbad/ Austria in 1903 which may be regarded as the most popular of all the spas in the whole of Europe at that time.
One of his first patients was Henrietta Wolff, who was accompanied on this trip to Karlsbad by her then 19-year-old granddaughter Bertha Hammerstein. Arthur Pick and Bertha fell in love and were married on Oct. 11, 1905, in Bertha's native city of Stettin. She came from a Jewish family but was baptized before the wedding, though the Protestant pastor who also performed the wedding ceremony and was a close friend of her father is quoted as having admonished her at the wedding to "preserve her Jewish heart". This illustrates the liberal thought prevailing in those circles at that time. After the wedding, Bertha moved to Karlsbad to join her husband, where he practiced as a spa doctor til 1909. In 1906, their daughter Vera Ruth was born in Charlottenburg.
Dr Pick who had the reputation of being an excellent diagnostician, didn’t intend to remain only a spa doctor all his life. He had the objective of managing a sanatorium, which would enable him to wholly devote himself to his patients. The chance for reaching that aim presented itself to him in Bad Kissingen which was a “world spa” back then. In October 1908, he moved into the spa town. In May 1909, he received the concession to run a sanatorium in Kurhausstrasse 6. It was centrally located, in close vicinity to the spa fountain, the baths and the spa gardens. The estate – a building that is listed as being under monument conservation as an Art Nouveau building still now - had been built as a sanatorium in 1905 by Dr Manfred Bial on the basis of the plans of the well-known Bad Kissingen architect Carl Krampf.
There, in the following years, Dr Arthur Pick and his wife Bertha established an internationally acclaimed sanatorium for cardio-vascular, stomach and intestinal diseases, nervous disorders as well as metabolic and eating disorders. Dr Pick was responsible for the medical management of the sanatorium, his wife for the management of the house and the kitchen.
During World War I, the sanatorium, like other health resorts in Bad Kissingen, also served as a reserve military hospital. In 1916, Dr. Pick received Bavarian citizenship according to the Reich and Citizenship Law that had just come into force at the time - he had previously been an Austrian-Hungarian citizen, so his wife and two children were automatically naturalized as well. The application was supported by the town of Bad Kissingen and approved by the Bavarian authorities, the Royal Government of Lower Franconia and Aschaffenburg in Würzburg, in the middle of the First World War in 1916.
After the war, the sanatorium experienced a further increase in prosperity. Werner Rolf Theodor Pick, Arthur Pick’s son who was born in 1913, remembers that time: "As a result of the runaway inflation in Germany in the early twenties, Germany attracted many tourists from abroad, and the Sanatorium was always full. We had a lot of Polish Jews as our guests... There was a fair sprinkling of well-to-do Dutch and English guests, and quite a few wealthy Germans who came in their large chauffeur-driven limousines (I remember being taken out in an enormous Maybach car)." (Werner Pick, Memoirs, Claygate 2000).
During the winter months, when the sanatorium was closed, Dr. Pick occasionally practiced as a ship's doctor or even as a hotel doctor in San Remo, but often the family then enjoyed beautiful vacations in the mountains (Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Oberstdorf, Berchtesgaden), where they rented a simple house and finally had time for a normal family life.
In the mid-1920s, the sanatorium was modernized and expanded. This was a big and expensive investment, financed mainly by mortgages. All went well until the Great Depression of 1929, when the number of visitors dramatically declined, and it became extremely difficult to clear the debts. Not only the effects of the Great Depression but also the experience of increasing anti-Semitism by the local Nazis had the effect that many Jewish guests, first and foremost those from abroad, stopped coming after 1930 and the number of occupants in the house declined. Because of that decline, Pick was no longer able to clear his debts to the bank after 1930. Because of the exorbitant debts in 1932, the sanatorium was put under receivership for the first time following a request of Süddeutsche Bodencreditbank. The procedure lasted till February 1934 when the bank was attributed the property in the foreclosure proceedings (details for the further history of the property).
Arthur Pick and his wife announced their departure from Bad Kissingen to Pieve (Liguria) in November 1933 as they intended to start a new existence there. They, however, gave up this plan and moved to Berlin in Summer 1934. Dr Pick could practice as a doctor there and his wife opened a boarding house that was successful right from the beginning. But although the boarding house was successful, the living conditions for Jews deteriorated, which made it only a question of time until they would have to emigrate. They did not suffer any personal persecution, except that Arthur Pick was fined for employing an Aryan maid - an offence in Nazi Germany.
When war seemed to be imminent in 1938 during the Sudeten Crisis, the Picks were visiting their son Werner who had already emigrated to England at the beginning of 1933. He exerted an influence on his parents for such a long time to leave Germany that Arthur didn’t return to Germany and Bertha also went to London after having given up her boarding house in Berlin at the beginning of 1939. By means of her courage and negotiation skills she even managed to send a considerable part of the furniture and personal belongings - some still from her house in Bad Kissingen - to England.
Dr Pick – who had become nearly 67 in the meantime – couldn’t practice in his profession any longer for health reasons. When the German Army started their war in the west in 1940, he was also put into prison as an “enemy alien” for several months on the Isle of Man.
In the last years of his life, he and his wife lived in Adamson Road in Hampstead, a fashionable living quarter in London. Arthur Pick died there in 1956 at the age of 84. His wife outlived him till 1963.
His descendants who live in the United Kingdom, regained German citizenship in 2021 (according to Art. 115 Abs. 2 Grundgesetz).
Meldeakten Stadt Bad Kissingen (Meldekarten, Familienbogen, Hausakte)
StAWü, WB IV JR 3442 Pick Bertha (früher JRSO)
Werner Pick, Memoirs, Claygate, August 2000 (The source was kindly provided by the Pick family)
Werner Pick, Aufsatz zum Verhältnis der Familie zum Judentum (The source was kindly provided by the Pick family)
Wikipedia-Artikel Marinekurlazarett Bad Kissingen
Andreas Micheli, Heimat, die doch meine Heimat nicht ist, Der deutsch-jüdische Schriftsteller und Arzt Dr. Richard Huldschiner, S.225
Werner Rolf Theodor Pick in memoriam in: Die Pforte, Schulpforta Nachrichten Zeitschrift des Pförtner Bundes e.V., Nr. 70, S. 67 -71
Nachruf Werner Rolf Theodor Pick, The Times, 16.06.2017
© Robert Pick