The Museum Wäschefabrik (linen wear factory museum) at Bielefeld is one of the relatively few places at which the heritage of the manufacture of clothing (as distinct from the production of fabrics) is commemorated. It is also a testimony to the fate of Jewish industrialists during the Third Reich.
The factory was established in 1913 by Hugo Juhl (d 1939) and his wife Clara (b 1887) for the manufacture of table linen, bed linen, women’s underclothes and men’s shirts. In 1938 they were force to sell the business to the Winkel brothers who ran it until the 1980s after which a voluntary body, the Föderverein Projekt Wäschefabrik, was established to ensure the preservation of the factory. A museum was opened in the building in 1997. Visitors can see how clothing was made in the mid-twentieth century in rooms filled with ranks of sewing machines, rolls of fabric and reels of thread. They can also learn of the fate of Hugo Juhl’s family.
In 1933, fearing the onset of persecution of the Jews, Juhl’s daughter Hanna (b 1913) who was married to Fritz Bender, fled to the Netherlands. Hugo Juhl died from natural causes soon after the enforced sale of the factory after which his wife and his other daughter Mathilde (b 1910) went to the Netherlands. After the Nazi invasiotn the three women took their own lives rather than face deportation to an extermination camp, although Fritz Bender escaped. There are Stolpersteine (commemorative stones in the pavement) for the three women outside the museum in Bielefeld.