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Gerda (Gerry) Philipsborn

Also Known As: "Aapa Jaan"
Birthplace: Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Death: April 14, 1943 (47)
New Delhi, South Delhi, Delhi, India ( Cancer)
Place of Burial: New Delhi, South Delhi, Delhi, India
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Jakob Philipsborn and Ida Philipsborn
Sister of Dr. Arthur Philipsborn; Lizzie Brent and Clara Philipsborn

Occupation: Social Worker, Educator, Opera Singer
Managed by: Judith Berlowitz
Last Updated:

About Gerda Philipsborn

GERDA PHILIPSBORN GIRLS HOSTEL The Hostel is named after a German woman, M.Gerda Philipsborn, who played a pioneering role in laying a strong foundation for the Jamia. Since her youth she was an active social worker who took it upon herself to establish a training center for orphans in Berlin. In the 1920s she came in contact with Dr. Zair Husain and his two friends, Dr. Abid Husain and Professor M. Mujeeb, when they were in Germany for higher studies. She was greatly enthused by them when she heard them talk about returning to India and contributing their mite to nurturing a nascent Jamia. Forsaking her homeland, she came to Jamia in December, 1932, and was given the charge of the Nursery and Primary Schools established a year after her return. Her motherly and affectionate treatment towards her wards made them call her "Apajan" or her sister and for these youngsters she became a nurse, mentor and guide. Gradually, this form of address came to be used by one and all whenever they talked to or about her. Ms. Philipsborn took a special interest in the activities of women and children in Jamia. She was instrumental in involving these women in activities that brought them out from the seclusion of their homes and succeeded in establishing a familial atmosphere among them. To her goes the credit for organizing the "National Week" in commemoration of the Jallianwalla Bagh tragedy and introducing a new section., "Payam-e-Biradari". In the weekly Jamia children’s magazine " Payame-Taleem". The purpose of this action was to inculcate a sense of community among its readers who were encouraged to correspond with each other. The last ten years of her life were devoted to the service of Jamia and she died here on April 14, 1942.

Before her stay in India, Gerda Philipsborn lived in Berlin as daughter of mid-class Jewish parents. She was kindergarten teacher, opera singer and also worked as a volunteer in a Berlin asylum organization for refugee children. William Lanouette in his biography of physicist Leo Szilard ‘Genius in the shadows’ briefly mentioned Szilard’s girlfriend Gerda Philipsborn without details, but as Gene Dannen researched later, in fact she was Leo Szilard’s life partner in the period 1927 – 1934. - OK in 2012 From [website no longer valid)

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Gerda Philipsborn's Timeline

April 30, 1895
Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
April 14, 1943
Age 47
New Delhi, South Delhi, Delhi, India
Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, South Delhi, Delhi, India