Bertha became politically active at the age of 16, when she was offered and accepted the position of professor Leonard Nelson's secretary. He was professor of Philosophy at the University of Goettingen, and the founder of the German ISK Party. During the late 20's and early '30s, she dedicated most of her spare time to distributing literature, speaking in public meetings, election rallies, and other events against the Hitler movement. After Hitler's takeover, she and several other members of the ISK started an Underground Organization in Berlin to fight against the Nazi government. The majority of this organization were former Trade Union members. After Paul moved to Berlin in 1934, she became his underground contact. They worked closely together for nearly a year. After Paul's arrest she moved to Hanover, where she continued her underground work up to the end of '37. Paul had been released from prison a few months earlier, and was working in Berlin. When he learned that the Gestapo was going to arrest him again, he left Berlin and traveled to Hanover to inform the organization leader there about the recent arrests in Weimar and Jena. Since a number of those arrested knew about Bertha's connection with Paul, he thought that her life was in great danger as well. He argued that she should leave Germany immediately, but Bertha wanted to stay, and continue her work there. The organization leader had no doubts about Paul's departure, but left the decision, whether she should leave too, up to Bertha. After an evening and night's intense discussion, Paul finally convinced both of them that Bertha's stay in Hanover was nothing else but suicide. His fears had been only too true. A few days after Bertha crossed the border and arrived in Switzerland, the Gestapo was looking for her in her sister's home in Berlin, in Hanover and even in her place of birth, where her mother and some her brothers continued to live. This photograph was taken in Switzerland within weeks of their escape form Germany in 1938. Paul and Bertha would then become people without a country, and travel half way around the world, looking for a place to call home, while few believed their claims that Europe was soon to be embroiled in another great war. They were married form 1939 until her death in 1993.
This picture and the ones of Paul Bonart (then Bohnhardt) as seen on the home page of this website were sent from Switzerland to his parents to let them know they were safe. His parents mailed these photographs back to him many years later, even though he was never able to see his parents again.
This is a picture of Paul's room in Berlin. When Paul was arrested by the Gestapo at the Zeiss office in 1935, they took him back to this room to search for evidence against him. He had about 200 "Reinhart Letters", which contained reports and news from the resistance movement that he distributed, hidden in several re-sealed cookie cartons. This lead one of the Gestapo to say, "You seem to like those cookies". They didn't find the letters at that time, but pressure applied by the Gestapo on others led to "evidence" or testimony that would be used to put him in prison for two years.
This picture is taken from the building where Paul lived in Berlin (Philippstrasse 20). He and Bertha distributed underground literature from here. Paul's Landlord, Dora Jeremias (a Jewish member of the ISK) later escaped Germany with her life. Virtually all of the buildings in this picture (the St. Philippus Apostel church, and other apartments) were leveled by Allied bombing in 1945.
The pictures of his room and the street on which he lived were kept in Bertha's room in her sister's and brother-in-law's apartment. Her sister mailed them to her when Paul and Bertha lived in Calistoga, California from 1966 to 1978.