(Hi)Story of a Villa

The Liefmann House in Freiburg

In 1894 the Hamburg based salesman Semmy Liefmann built a beautiful villa on Goethe Street, No. 33. in Freiburg to save his family from cholera, which was then spreading in Hamburg. This was the beginning of a new neighborhood in Freiburg: the “Wiehre“. After Semmy’s death, his three children inherited the villa. Robert became a well-respected professor of law at Freiburg University, Else completed her Ph.D. in medicine and in education and set up practice as a pediatrician. Martha was the housekeeper. In 1933 life for the Liefmann siblings changed dramatically: Robert and Else were ousted from their professions. However, they felt so close to Germany that they did not even consider emigration. In 1940, the siblings were deported with other Jews from Freiburg to the concentration camp in Gurs, France, where Robert died in 1941. Else and Martha managed to emigrate to Switzerland. Meanwhile their home in Goethe Street became the headquarters of the Gestapo, the Nazi German secret police. After the war ended, it was confiscated by the French military police. In 1949, it was returned to the German state of Baden. The Liefmann sisters tried in vain to repossess their father’s villa. From 1949 until 2000 the villa Goethe 33 was the police station in “Wiehre“. After that it was renovated with much care and was designated an historical monument. Today the “Liefmann House“ is used by the University of Freiburg as a meeting place for scientists and guests. If the walls of Goethe 33 could speak – what all would they tell us: about the Liefmann family’s happy years, about fear and terror under the Nazi regime, about French denazification attempts, about little crooks and traffic violators, and perhaps about a new international spirit there that the Liefmann siblings would welcome? A film about a house that represents more than one hundred years of German history.

Produced by


A film by

Sigrid Faltin



Running time

30 min.


  • Kamera: Thomas Schäfer
  • Kameraassistenz: Yvonne Idler
  • Ton: Michael Karthäuser
  • Schnitt: Renate Nebe
  • Redaktion: Felicitas Wehnert
  • Leitung: Max Fastus

„We produce documentary films - it's real life that interests us.“
Sigrid Faltin, white pepper films


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