Lily Katz, Hannover (c) Sylvia Paskin, London
I was born in 1944 to refugee parents - my father Lothar was from Hanover and my mother Mimi from Vienna. We lived in a suburban London house in Wembley - beyond the door was austerity Britain, rationing, smog, the celebration of Empire Day at my school. But once through the front door you were in Middle Europe. The furniture my sophisticated grandmother Lily had brought from Berlin graced every room, on Saturday afternoons my mother baked Viennese pastries and cakes, Linzertorte, Apfelstrudel, Spitzbuben, Sachertorte with schlag. Every Sunday morning my father played chess and in the afternoon their friends came for tea- all continental - from Germany, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. I learned German by osmosis.
I remember too being frightened by a huge black Japanese cabinet, which stood ceiling high in our lounge. I imagined as a child that the menacing eagles, dragons and apes carved all over it were monsters who would come for me in my dreams. Inside the cabinet were other precious mysteries, Bohemian glass, Dresden china, monogrammed pink damask tablecloths, and the solid, warm curves of a sumptuous silver coffee set. The cabinet and its treasures, the Persian carpets, porcelain Meissen figurines, the paintings had all been the property of my grandmother Lily. My father was her only child from her first marriage to Leopold Sauer.
Lily Knips and her son Lothar, 3 years old (c) Sylvia Paskin, London
Lily was born in Hanover but lived in Berlin. She divorced her first husband and then married Franz Knips who was not Jewish. He died in 1935. At that time Lily lived in Berlin-Schöneberg in Freiherr-vom-Stein Strasse 8 but moved eventually to Wielandstrasse 30 in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
Lily Knips (left) c) Sylvia Paskin, London
Lily and Leopold had prescience and sent their son in 1933 to London to study at the London School of Economics. He subsequently met and married my mother and they made their life there.
As the Nazi’s took a grip on Germany and Europe Lily was in fear of her life. My father managed to get her out of Berlin in 1939 and she came to London.
In Berlin she had led a cultured and affluent life - now she was a refugee in a grey war–riven Britain, dislocated, living in a cold rented flat with lodgers, trying to come to terms with a totally new culture as did many others.
Llly suffered from depression. This was further exacerbated by an unhappy love affair. Whilst trying to escape from Berlin she had met a man, a non-Jew, Josef Jakobs who had a business providing passports to ‘help’ Jews get out of Germany. In the course of their dealings they had a love affair. He was eventually arrested by the Gestapo for creating these passports and pocketing the proceeds. Jakobs was sent to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. The only way he could get out was by agreeing to work for the Abwehr as a spy. He would be sent to England having been trained to send weather reports back from Britain to the Luftwaffe for their bombing raids. He was parachuted in January 1941 but he was immediately captured by the Home Guard as he broke his ankle on his descent. Lily’s name and address was on a piece of paper in his pocket. Did he intend to be a spy - did he intend to find Lily and implicate her in his espionage or simply get her to hide him? Imprisoned, interrogated, court-martialled, as he had been a former soldier, Jakobs was finally shot at the Tower of London. His fame rests on the fact he was last man ever to be executed there.
His death and her refugee life apparently proved too much for Lily and she became a casualty of the war by committing suicide by gas in 1943. She was 52 years old, an event from which my brilliant, troubled father never recovered.
Elsa Katz, Hannover
(c) Sylvia Paskin, London
Lily had a sister, Elsa born in 1890. She married and divorced Alfons Majewski. She was a medical nurse but could not work as such being Jewish. She lived in Nikolsburger Platz 4 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf until 1940 in a building where 10 other Jewish people lived. She then was forced to move to a ‘Judenwohnung’ in Holsteinische Strasse 9 in Berlin-Schöneberg. Elsa was then deported on 13th June 1942 from Gleis 17 to Sobibor where she was murdered. The Nikolsburger Platz building was bombed and the site became the playground of the nearby Cecilien Schule. They have commemorated what happened to the Jewish occupants of the bombed building by laying 11 stolpersteine that encapsulate their fate. The school lays roses on the stolpersteine every year and lights candles…..
After Elsa died her landlord sold two sofas and two cushions for 10m, all that was left of her worldly goods but it was noted in 1943 in the Brandenburg state archives that ‘the emigrated Jew Majewski still had a property tax debt amounting to 90m….
My childhood home had beautiful objets d’art and fine furniture, and laughter was present when there were visitors but at other lonelier times it reflected the darkness, guilt and absences of the past. We were all haunted by the tragic family history of Lily and Elsa and also what happened to my mother’s parents in Vienna. There was no remedy. No exorcism could prevail.
Saturday 4 May | 2pm | Sylvia Paskin recalls two sisters at Cecilien-Schule | Nikolsburger Platz 5 | Berlin-Wilmersdorf
(c) Gregorio Ortega Coto
Albert Einstein: I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music
Visitors will be able to see what Albert Einstein saw from his window (1917-1932) when Gregorio Ortega Coto opens his apartment on 4th floor to the public. Using documentary and artistic techniques, Gregorio Ortega Coto approaches this genius, visionary and musician with an electro-acoustic composition by Marion Fabian and Claudia Teschner on violin.
Saturday, 4 May | 1 - 3pm | Haberlandstr. 8 | Berlin-Schöneberg
Bernhard Fiegel, his mother, and a lion baby (c)Naomi and Paul Fiegel, Sydney
The Fiegels were long-standing residents of Charlottenburg. For 25 years they lived in Mommsenstrasse, including at No. 6. Paul Fiegel was a wholesale seed merchant and owner of the firm founded by his father Benno. On 1 January 1919, Erna and Paul Fiegel welcomed their first and only child to the world – Bernhard.
Bernd, as he was known, started school in August 1925 at the 19th Gemeindeschule Charlottenburg, which was just round the corner in Bleibtreustrasse. Then until 1934 he attended the Kaiser Friedrich Gymnasium, which is now the European School Joan Miró.
Bernhard, with Anna and Elfriede, Berlin 1925 (c) Naomi and Paul Fiegel,
We, Claudia Saam and Wolf Baumann, now live at Mommsenstrasse 6. Locating Naomi and Paul Fiegel in Sydney was a stroke of luck. And now we can see pictures of people that we had only been able to read about in the archives.
In 1936 – the year of the Olympic Games in Berlin - the Fiegels moved into a lovely 7-room apartment in Mommsenstrasse 6.
In a sworn statement to the Berlin Office for Compensation dated 27 January 1961, Erna Fiegel declared: "When we moved into the new apartment, we had all the fittings prepared by the architect Max Lewy, Berlin-Zehlendorf West, Beerenstrasse 20A; materials, carpets, and curtains were from the Gerson company, Berlin."
As a sports enthusiast, 17-year-old Bernd visited the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. In his diary he wrote on 1 August: "It is very emotional for me. The terrible awareness of being fully excluded from German sport."
Father and Son, Berlin 1935 (c) Naomi and Paul Fiegel, Sydney
Under pressure from the Nazi-authorities, Paul Fiegel was forced to sell his company on 1 July 1937, leaving him without any income. Following the anti-Jewish terror of the Kristallnacht in November 1938, the Fliegels decided they had to leave. In June 1938, Bernhard had moved to Gouda in the Netherlands, where he worked in the State Testing Institute for Ceramic Products. Erna and Paul Fiegel booked passage on the steamer DSS Slamat, which left Rotterdam on 10 June 1939 for Colombo. From there, they sailed with the SS Srathallan and arrived in Durban on 8 November 1939. Travelling by plane, Bernhard landed on the same day in Darwin. Reunited in Sydney, they began a new life. But things were not easy. Paul Fiegel worked as a labourer in order to feed the family.
(c) Naomi and Paul Fiegel, Sydney
On 1 October 1943, Bernhard Fiegel joined the Australian Army – an occasion for a photograph of mother and son. Five months after the end of the WW II, he became an Australian citizen and in 1946 he opened a ceramics business in Ashfield, Sydney. His mother helped out.
(c) Naomi and Paul Fiegel, Sydney
Bernhard Fiegel’s children Naomi and Paul are enthusiastic about DENK MAL AM ORT and are travelling to Berlin from Sydney in May to commemorate
their father and grandparents – in the apartment of Wolf Baumann and Claudia Saam in Mommsenstrasse 6.
Tribute will also be paid to the Isaacsohn family and the Selten family. They were neighbours in Mommsenstrasse 6 until they were deported.
Johanna and Richard Landsberger, 1934 (c) Kurt Landsberger
When Kurt Landsberger sent this photograph in 2011, it was immediately clear to the current
tenant, Gabrielle Pfaff, on which floor the family lived on Apostel-Paulus-Str. 26 because each balcony was designed differently.
In 1933, the Landsberger family moved from Crellestraße to Apostel-Paulus-Straße. The three children, Kurt, Inge and Gerd, initially attended schools nearby, but the worsening political situation left them with no option but to attend a Jewish school. On 9 November 1938, the Gestapo arrested the children's father, Richard Landsberger, at his home. Due to his valid tourist visa for the USA, he was released from Sachsenhausen concentration camp at the end of December 1939 on condition that he leave Germany immediately. He left for the USA in early January 1939. In February 1940, his wife Johanna followed with the children. Richard's brother, Franz, remained in the apartment. He informed his brother in New York that a short time later the Gestapo had come to take 17-year-old Kurt, who by then was safe in New York. Franz Landsberger himself did not manage to escape. In September 1942, he was deported to Raasiku in Estonia and murdered there.
Commemorative plaque on Apostel-Paulus-Straße 26, 2012 (c) Gabrielle Pfaff
A plaque on the front of the house on Apostel-Paulus-Straße 26 commemorates the 28 former Jewish residents. Their names and other details are listed on a larger plaque in the hallway. Seven people (two adults and five children) escaped deportation.
The ceremonial unveiling of the two plaques took place in April 2012 in the presence of survivors and descendants, people from the neighbourhood, as well as district and
municipal politicians and representatives of various institutions.
The film documenting this event will be shown in the hallway on Sunday, 5 May between 1 and 3 p.m.
(c) Claudia Samter, Buenos Aires
A photo from happier days in Berlin: Max and Else Simon, née Stargardt (left) with their daughter Helga and son-in-law Hugo Kaufmann (right). In between are Else’s sister Frida and her husband Willi Kastan.
Hugo Kaufmann managed to escape to the US in March 1941. Max Simon took his own life on 15 Oktober 1941. Else Simon, her daughter Helga and Helga’s four-year-old daughter Yvonne Luise were taken from Rosenheimer Straße 40 on 3 February 1943 and deported to Auschwitz.
Claudia Samter lives in Buenos Aires. She came across DENK MAL AM ORT last summer in an article by Susana Fernández Molina in the Spanish newspaper El País.
It took a few weeks and several emails for Claudia and us to realize that three members of her own family had been subjected to compulsory accomodation in Rosenheimer Straße 40 and deported from there to Auschwitz: Else Simon (Claudia's great aunt), Helga Kaufmann (Claudia's aunt) and Yvonne Luise (Claudia's cousin). Since 2016 Marie Rolshoven has been honouring their memory in her apartment with documents from Berlin archives. It looked as if not another single photograph could be found. Up until now. Until Claudia Samter discovered us and opened her photograph album. Thank you Claudia for your trust.
Thank you Susana Fernández Molina. Without your article and your Citycize project, this would never have happened.
Claudia's mother, Ursula Samter née Kastan, was only a girl when she escaped with her scout group to Argentina in 1938. Claudia herself would like to come to Berlin in May to commemorate her lost relatives in the Rosenheimer Straße apartment and tell the daunting story of her mother's escape. We are very keen to make that happen.
Ursula Kastan in front of her home on Krefelder Strasse in
(c)Claudia Samter, Buenos Aires
Frida Kastan née Stargardt and her sister Else Simon née Stargardt, with their daughters Ursula and Helga. (c) Claudia Samter, Buenos Aires