The picture shows the “Identity and Travel Certificate for Refugees from Germany” (Certificat d’identité et de voyage pour les réfugiés provenant d’Allemagne) by Max Diamant, issued in Paris on August 30, 1938 and valid for one year. At that time Diamant has been living in France for five years, four of them in Paris, where he works for the Paris headquarters of the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany (SAP). The identity card functions as proof of identity, grants Max Diamant temporary asylum in France and authorizes him to travel internationally (with the exception of the French colonies of Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Djibouti and Indochina, the latter now Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam).
One day after the expiration of the identity card, on September 1, 1939, Germany starts the Second World War by invading Poland. On the same day, France decides to intern “enemy foreigners”, including refugees such as Max Diamant and his wife Anni Nord. This is followed by long months of internment in various camps until the couple succeeds in escaping to Brittany.
Max Diamant (1903-1992) was a workers’ union activist, journalist and escape helper.
Diamant is born into a Jewish family in the Polish city of Łódź and grows up trilingual: Yiddish, Russian and German. His parents are members of the Bund, the Jewish socialist workers’ party. In 1919 Max goes to school in Mannheim, where he lives with relatives. Five years later he emigrates with his family to the Soviet Union, but returns to Mannheim in 1927, where he meets his wife Anni Nord and writes for the social democratic newspaper “Volksstimme”. He dedicates his journalistic work to the fight against the rising National Socialists: He writes numerous articles on the strengthening of the National Socialist structures, including among students at Heidelberg University, where he himself was a student.
Diamant is co-founder of the Socialist Workers Party of Germany (SAPD). As a politically active social democrat and journalist, Max Diamant is already exposed to persecution shortly after the National Socialist takeover. He flees to Strasbourg in 1933 with Anni Nord and his 11-year-old brother Arnold, and in 1934 he continues on to Paris. After arriving in Paris, Max Diamant works in the Paris headquarters of the SAP and is an editor of the anti-fascist newspaper “Neue Front” and publisher of the socialist magazine “Marxistische Tribüne”. In France, Diamant and Anni Nord are granted the status of recognized refugees and later live with their friends Paul Frölich and Rosi Wolfstein in a house in Vanves.
With the beginning of World War II in September 1939, however, Diamant and Nord are also declared “enemy aliens” by France and are temporarily interned in camps. They manage to escape to Montauban in Brittany and from there to Marseille. In Marseille, the couple joins the escape aid network Centre Américain de Secours (CAS) around the American Varian Fry. In September 1941, the threat caused by the war intensifies and Diamant goes on to Lisbon, where he continues his work as an escape agent. From there he reaches Mexico in 1942. It is not until 1962 that he returns to Germany with his family. In Frankfurt he builds up a department called “Foreign Workers” within the trade union IG Metall with the goal of international networking of workers. Max Diamant dies in Frankfurt in 1992.
Max Diamant’s Refugee Identity Card, Paris 1938, private archive Doris Diamant
Published here with kind permission of Doris Diamant.