07 July 2021

Kenilworth Square house
for sale was the Irish home
of a Holocaust refugee

No 65 Kenilworth Square … home of Ludwig Hopf, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, in 1939, is now on the market (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

No 65 Kenilworth Square South in Rathgar, Dublin 6, is currently on the market through Sherry FitzGerald with an asking price of €1,350,000. It is described by the selling agents as a ‘handsome, distinctive, Victorian home.’ But it is also interesting because of its associations with Professor Ludwig Hopf, a Holocaust refugee, theoretical physicist, and friend of Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger and Carl Jung.

No 65 Kenilworth Square is a three-storey bay-windowed Victorian home with four double bedrooms, on the corner of Kenilworth Square at the junction of Leicester Avenue.

From July to December 1939, this was the home of Professor Ludwig Hopf (1884-1939), a German-Jewish refugee and theoretical physicist who had been the first assistant to Albert Einstein and introduced Einstein to the psychoanalyst Carl Jung.

Walking around Kenilworth Square in Dublin in recent days, and working on photo-essay earlier this year on the architecture, families and history of the square, I was surprised to come across the story of the Ludwig Hopf.

Ludwig Hopf was a German Jewish refugee who escaped the Holocaust when he fled to Dublin in the weeks immediately before the outbreak of World War II and lived and died on Kenilworth Square.

Hopf was a theoretical physicist who made contributions to mathematics, special relativity, hydrodynamics, and aerodynamics. He was born in Nürnberg on 23 October 1884, the son of Elise (née Josephthal) and Hans Hopf.

The Hopf family were prominent hop merchants and an established Jewish family in Nürnberg. His great-grandfather, Löb Hopf, moved to Nürnberg from Upper Franconia in 1852, and there he was among the first Jews to acquire citizenship. His son, Stephan Hopf (1826-1893), Ludwig’s grandfather, held high public office and became ‘respectably wealthy’ as a hop wholesaler.

His father, Hans Hopf (1854-1918), was a prominent industrialist and business figure in Nürnberg and a city councillor. He inherited the family business interests and was a co-founder of the city’s public library and reading rooms in 1898. His large, private collection of Nürnberg memorabilia included many priceless items. During World War I, he was in charge of the city’s supply of food and potatoes.

Ludwig Hopf’s mother Elise (1865-1936) was the daughter of Gustav Josephthal who presided over both the Nürnberg lawyers and Nürnberg’s liberal Jewish community, the latter for four decades from 1869-1909. This family had lived in Franconia for generations.

Elise has been described as ‘without a doubt one of the most forceful personalities in the family and, indeed, among Bavarian Jewry of her time.’ She was a member of many committees and councils, a leading member of the women’s suffrage movement, instrumental in the development of welfare services in Nuremberg, particularly for single mothers, and was prominent in Jewish public life. She was a prolific letter writer and kept a diary until late in life.

She was remembered in 2016 with an exhibition at the Nuremberg State Archives on Elise Hopf and the bourgeois women movement in Nuremberg. Elise and Hans Hopf were buried together in the old Jewish cemetery in Nürnberg.

Ludwig Hopf was born in Nuremberg on 23 October 1884, the eldest son in the family. His two siblings, Ernst and Betty, remained connected with the hop business. However, Ludwig followed his scientific interests, although initially he was attracted by philosophy and music. He studied in Berlin and Paris before going to Munich in 1906 where Arnold Sommerfeld had begun to build one of the most important nurseries for theoretical physics. He received his PhD in Munich in 1909 on the topic of hydrodynamics.

Arnold Sommerfeld, Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr are regarded as the founding fathers of modern theoretical physics.

Hopf became Einstein’s first assistant at the University of Zurich. There Hopf introduced Einstein to Carl Jung, and Einstein returned to Jung’s house several times over the years. Hopf also visited the Karl-Ferdinand University in Prague with Einstein.

Ludwig Hopf married Alice Goldschmidt in 1912. She had a similar, privileged middle-class background. Her father, Ferdinand Goldschmidt, was a physician in Nuremberg, and was also the author of a number of publications in the health sector. The relationship between son-in-law and parents-in-law was so good that they eventually moved in next door in Aachen.

Ludwig and Alice were the parents of four sons and a daughter: Hans (1913), Peter (1915), Arnold (1916), Dietrich (1918), and Liselore (1925).

Hopf was on the staff of the Hochschule from 1914 and had become one of its most popular teachers. During World War I, he contributed to the design of military aircraft. He became a professor in hydrodynamics and aerodynamics at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH Aachen University), a leading technical university in Germany, in the 1920s, and eventually became a professor.

Hopf was dismissed from his position as Professor of Applied Mathematics in Aachen on racist, anti-Semitic grounds soon after the Nazis seized power. The situation became even more perilous after Kristallnacht on the night of 9/10 November 1938. The SS efforts to arrest him and were thwarted by his son Arnold posing as his father.

Arnold Kopf, who had pretended to be his father, was arrested and was taken to Buchenwald. He was one of the 13,687 Jews imprisoned in Buchenwald between April and December 1938; of these, 10,012 were released by the end of 1938. Arnold was released in December 1938 when he obtained papers and he fled to Kenya.

Ludwig Kopf remained in Germany until 1939 and escaped the Nazi regime only at the last minute. In early February 1939, through the efforts of Sydney Goldstein in Cambridge and Peter Paul Ewald in Belfast, a research grant in Cambridge materialised. Ludwig and Alice Hopf left Germany for England with Liselore in late March 1939. Three weeks later, they moved into 86 Lovell Road in north-east Cambridge.

The relationship between Ludwig and his parents-in-law was so good that they later followed the couple to England and then to Ireland.

Ludwig Hopf moved to Dublin on 17 July 1939 (Photograph: Deutsches Museum, München / Sommerfeld Sammlung)

The Hopf family moved to Dublin on 17 July 1939 when Ludwig was offered a specially created professorship of mathematics at Trinity College Dublin. They moved to No 65 Kenilworth Square in Rathgar, close to the corner with Leicester Avenue.

He was soon in contact with other exiled academics, and guests at his home on Kenilworth Square included: the serologist Hans Sachs (1877-1945), who had first fled to Oxford and then lived at 3 Palmerston Villas, Dublin; Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961), who was to take up a position in the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies; a young Hans Reiss (1922-2020), who later completed his PhD at TCD and became Professor of German in Bristol; and John Hennig (1911-1986), a radical pacifist church historian and theologian who was then teaching at Belvedere College and whose wife Clare (Kläre) Meyer (1904-1990) was the daughter of the Jewish inventor and entrepreneur Felix Meyer (1875-1950) of Aachen.

Hopf regarded Dublin as expensive to live in and estimated that everything cost 50% more than in Cambridge. Writing to friends in Germany, he describes living in ‘a very beautiful, very famous and very expensive corner of Europe.’

However, shortly after taking up his post at TCD, Hopf became seriously ill with a previously undiagnosed thyroid failure. He died at 65 Kenilworth Square on the evening of 21 December 1939.

The speakers at his funeral were two fellow refugee Hans Sachs in German and Erwin Schrödinger in English. Schrödinger, who was then living in Clontarf, described Hopf as ‘a friend of the greatest geniuses of his time, indeed, he was one of them.’

He recalled how Hopf ‘soon began to love this country which had received him with such kindness, and to love a people whose mentality he felt to be akin to his own. He would have continued to call himself a happy man, had it pleased Providence not to take him away from us. His loss is irretrievable to all of us, and more so to his next of kin. In bidding him his last farewell, we are determined to preserve his memory and to remember his friendship with gratitude.’

After the death of their 18-year-old daughter Liselore (known in the family as Mädi) in Cork Street Hospital, Dublin, on 28 September 1942, his widow Alice returned to England with their sons. She died in London in 1975.

Through the persistence of Father Willie Walshe, a former missionary in Kenya who knew Arnold Hopf, his sister Kay McNamara and John Halligan, the grave of Ludwig Hopf in Mount Jerome was repaired in 2013.

At a small gathering described by Frank McNally in The Irish Times, the prayers at Hopf’s grave were said in English by Willie Walshe and in Hebrew by Tomi Reichental, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen.

The gathering at Ludwig Hopf’s grave in Mount Jerome in 2013 (Photograph: Frank McNally)

Two doors away, No 67 Kenilworth Square was the home of Dr Ernst Scheyer (1890-1958), a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. He was born in Oppeln in Upper Silesia in 1890, was decorated for his bravery in the Germany army in World War I, and later earned a PhD in Breslau (Wroclaw). Later, he was a practising lawyer and a respected member of the Jewish community in Liegnitz, Silesia. He married Marie Margareta (Mieze) Epstein, who was five years younger than him and was born in Breslau.

He was rounded up after Krtistallnacht, and spent almost a month in Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp near Berlin. He arrived in Dublin on 14 January 1939, and the Scheyer family made their home at 67 Kenilworth Square. He later taught German at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and in Trinity College Dublin. When he died in 1958, he was buried in the Progressive Jewish community’s cemetery in Woodtown, Rathfarnham.

Nearby, No 60 Kenilworth Square was the home of Charles William Comerford (1877-1953), the only member of the Comerford family who was actually in the GPO in Dublin in Easter Week 1916.

Charles William Comerford was born on 28 February 1877, and was baptised on 31 January 1878, Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Aungier Street, Dublin. On 9 June 1910, in Holy Trinity Church, Rathmines, he married Adelaide Margaret Field (1878-1953) of 13 Leinster Square, Rathmines, daughter of John E Field, solicitor’s clerk, of 39 Longwood Avenue, South Circular Road, Dublin, and his wife Elizabeth Mary (née Doyle), of 53 Lower Clanbrassil Street.

His granddaughter, Angela Marks, believes Charles Comerford was in the GPO in O’Connell Street in 1916 and says family tradition tells of him crawling out along the street and swearing to leave Ireland.

The Comerford family left Ireland ca 1922, but the memory of the family home on Kenilworth Square continued in the name ‘Kenilworth’ which they gave to his house on Nore Road in Portishead, near Bristol. Adelaide Comerford died on 2 February 1953, and Charles Comerford died seven months later on 3 September 1953. Charles and Elizabeth Comerford had three daughters, Lillian, Nora and Kathleen, who were born while they were living at No 60. All three daughters became teachers in England.

After the Comerford family moved, No 60 Kenilworth Square was home to the same family for almost a century until it was placed on the market in 2016.

No 60 Kenilworth Square … the home of Charles William Comerford in 1916 … the only member of the Comerford family who was actually in the GPO in Easter Week 1916 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
39, The Pantheon, Rome

The Pantheon has been a place of worship, first as a temple, and then as a church, for 2,000 years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This week my photographs are from seven churches in Rome, and my photographs this morning (7 July 2021) are of the Pantheon, or Santa Maria ad Martyres (Saint Mary and the Martyrs), often known Santa Maria Rotonda.

Light from the oculus moves around the Pantheon in a reverse sundial effect (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Pantheon is Rome’s best-preserved ancient temple, and has been in continuous use, first as a temple, and then as a church, throughout its 2000-year history. This magnificent building has an awe-inspiring dome, and for many people it is a symbol of Rome itself.

Although the Pantheon is now a church, this is a former Roman temple, first built by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of his father-in-law Augustus (27 BC-14 AD). The present building was completed by the Emperor Hadrian (118-125 AD) and was dedicated ca 126 AD.

This is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, and it has been in continuous use throughout its history.

The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with an oculus or central opening to the sky.

Now, 2,000 years after it was first built, the dome of the Pantheon remains the world’s largest dome not built of reinforced concrete. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres, so the whole interior would fit exactly within a cube. The dimensions make more sense when expressed in ancient Roman units of measurement: the dome spans 150 Roman feet and the the oculus is 30 Roman feet in diameter.

The interior of the dome was possibly intended to symbolise the arched vault of the heavens. The oculus at the dome’s apex and the entry door are the only natural sources of light in the interior. Throughout the day, the light from the oculus moves around this space in a reverse sundial effect. The oculus also serves as a cooling and ventilation method. During storms, a drainage system below the floor handles the rain that falls through the oculus.

Brick arches embedded in the structure of the wall act as internal buttresses, distributing the weight of the dome.

The name of the Pantheon is derived from the Ancient Greek Pantheion (Πάνθειον), either because the statues of so many gods were once placed around this building, or because the dome resembles the heavens. Another explanation that is now questioned says the original temple was dedicated to all the gods.

The inscription on the front of the temple which reads: M-Agrippa-L-F-Cos-Tertium-Fecit, M[arcus] Agrippa L[ucii] f[ilius] co[n]s[ul] tertium fecit ‘Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made [this building] when consul for the third time.’

However, the first Augustan Pantheon built by Agrippa was completely destroyed by fire, except for the façade, in the year 80 AD. Domitian rebuilt the Pantheon, but it was burnt again in 110 AD. The present building probably dates from 114, four years after the temple was destroyed by that second fire.

In 202, the building was repaired by the joint emperors Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla.

Since the seventh century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to Saint Mary and the Martyrs, but known informally as Santa Maria Rotonda. In 609, the Byzantine Emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV, who converted it into a church dedicated to Saint Mary and the Martyrs It is said 28 cartloads of relics of martyrs were removed from the catacombs and placed in a porphyry basin beneath the high altar.

The conversion of the temple into a church may have saved the building from being abandoned and falling into ruin. Yet, much fine external marble has been removed over the centuries, and capitals from some of the pilasters are in the British Museum in London.

During the Papal exile in Avignon, the Pantheon was used as a fortress and a poultry market, but it became a church once again when the Popes returned to Rome.

At his own request, the painter Raphael was buried in the Pantheon when he died in 1520. The inscription on his sarcophagus of Raphael says it holds his ossa et cineres or ‘bones and ashes.’ He had lived for many years with his model and lover, La Firnarina, but he turned her away from his deathbed and she was kept away from his burial. His fiancée, Maria Bibbiena, a niece of his patron, Cardinal Dovizi di Bibbiena, is buried to the right of his sarcophagus – she died before they could marry.

In the early 17th century, Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) removed the bronze ceiling of the portico. Most of the bronze was used to make bombards for the fortification of Castel Sant’Angelo, and it is also said that the bronze was used by Bernini in his baldacchino or canopy above the high altar in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Pope Urban VIII also replaced the mediaeval campanile with twin towers or turrets, ridiculed as ‘the ass’s ears’ and removed the late 19th century.

The present high altars and the apses were commissioned by Pope Clement XI (1700–1721) and designed by Alessandro Specchi. On the apse above the high altar is a seventh century Byzantine icon of the Virgin and Child, given by the Emperor Phocas to Pope Boniface IV in 609.

The choir, which was added in 1840, was designed by Luigi Poletti.

The marble interior has largely survived despite extensive restorations, and the marble floor, restored in 1873, preserves the original Roman design.

Along with Raphael, those buried here include painters, composers and architects, as well as two kings of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, and King Umberto’s wife, Queen Margherita, and their tombs have become shrines for Italy's sad and dwindling number of royalists.

Although the Pantheon is owned by the Italian state, it continues to be used as a Catholic church, Mass is said here on Sundays and feast days, and weddings take place here from time to time.

In the Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon, the Fontana del Pantheon (was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII. It was designed by Giacomo Della Porta in 1575 and sculpted in marble by Leonardo Sormani. In 1711, Pope Clement XI modified the fountain be modified, with Filippo Barigioni designing a new layout, including a new stone-made basin.

The Macuteo obelisk, which dates from the reign of Ramses II in Egypt, is set in the centre on a plinth with four dolphins decorating the base.

In 1886, the original marble figures were removed, and replaced with copies by Luigi Amici. Today, the originals are in the Museum of Rome.

The oculus and the entry door are the only natural sources of light in the interior of the Pantheon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 10: 1-7 (NRSVA):

10 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near”.’

Inside the Pantheon, which has been used used as a church since 609 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (7 July 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the work of mission hospitals in Malawi. We pray for the medical teams working at Saint Luke’s Hospital in the Diocese of Upper Shire, Saint Anne’s Hospital in the Diocese of Lake Malawi and Saint Peter’s Hospital in the Diocese of North Malawi.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The painter Raphael was buried in the Pantheon when he died in 1520 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Fontana del Pantheon in the Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)