In Memoriam: Irm Wessel

by PAR Planning Committee

It is with great sadness that we notify our readers that on Sept. 20, New Haven resident, activist and clinical social worker Irm Wessel passed on. Our condolences to her husband Dr. Morris Wessel and her family. She influenced many people, professionally and personally, and will be greatly missed. The following are excerpts from the New Haven Independent website index.php/obituaries/entry/irmgard_rozensweig_wessel_881.

Irmgard Rosenzweig Wessel, a clinical social worker and long-time New Haven resident, died Saturday at home. She was 88 years old, and had lung cancer.

Irm, as she was widely known, was born in Kassel, Germany, on Nov. 12, 1925. After Kristallnacht in November 1938, her parents, Louis and Grete Kaufmann Rosenzweig, sent her to England on the Kindertransport, which brought nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany and neighboring countries to safety.

When her boat docked in England at 6:30 a.m. on a cold morning, a group of ladies
handed all the children metal cups of English tea and dry biscuits. In Irm’s words, “I don’t remember much, but it hit me at that moment that there must be a better way to help kids who were used to hot cocoa and freshly baked hard rolls. I think this was the start of my becoming a social worker.”

She served as president of the AFSCME Local 39 and was a trustee of the New Haven Central Labor Council. She also was active in several professional organizations, including the Connecticut Society for Clinical Social Work and the Council on Social Work Education and in various local community organizations including Aging at Home, the New Haven Community Soup Kitchen, the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project and the Greater New Haven Labor History Association.

“In every conceivable way,” her social work colleagues, Barbara Berger and Ann Segal, write in a 2003 profile published in Clinical Social Work Journal, “Irm has brought strength to those needing representation, increasing their power to be heard and be effective. To ‘never to let it happen again,’ to mediate oppression when it does happen and to relieve the suffering of others are the driving forces in Irm’s life.”

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