Introduction: More and more people’s stories are coming to light
When the book was published in 2005 and the English version was made available on the Internet a year later, I thought my work was done. However, since then, survivors from Israel, the USA and Columbia have approached me with their stories. At the same time, more information is being uncovered about the fate of some of the children's families, of whom I had previously only known the names. Relatives who no longer live in Germany but who obtain new information on the Internet suddenly start asking questions. On several occasions there have been emotional meetings in Berlin and elsewhere.
One day, someone who formerly worked in the children’s day nursery, which was opened in the house in 1955, visited the district community centre.
1) She saw the names of the sisters Ruth and Thea Fuss, with whom she had played as a child, on the memorial tablet in the passage of the house and remembered that her mother had worked for Mr Fuss in his tailor's workshop. The Fuss family had lived in Fehrbelliner Strasse 81 2) and the two little girls may have spent several years in the children’s home. They only started to spend the nights there as well when their father Abraham Fuss (born on 19 March 1891) was deported like so many Polish Jews to Bentschen on the German-Polish border. From September 1939 he was in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was murderded on 28 May 1942 ( information from the German archiv-Bundesarchiv) on 15 April This historical witness gave us the photo which shows the Fuss family.The mother, Hildegard (born on 27 February 1903), emigrated to Sweden on 18 August 1939, using forged papers. She was to have been deported, but this was prevented when war brokeout. She lived in Stockholm, did not remarry and died in Stockholm on 28 November 1976 as a Swedish citizen. (Information from Lars.Halberg@riksarchivet.ra.se-the Swedish statearchives-on 26 may 2010.)
A lot of questions about the year 1936 also arose. One of Abraham Pisarek’s photographs mentioned the opening ceremony for the extension to the children's home.
For a long time we couldn't find any answers. However, when the house was renovated in 2009, new construction files turned up, clearly showing that the third storey only became part of the children's home in 1936 and that reconstruction took place at that time. This was further confirmation that the third storey was home to a non-Jewish family, the Ziemkes, up to 1936. An old lady came up to me at a reading in 2008 and told me that as a little girl, she and a friend had played with the Jewish children. I was reluctant to believe her at that time, because I had heard nothing about this. But the Berlin Address Book quickly confirmed the information. 3)
The Ziemkes were a non-Jewish family of traders who had a shop in Münzstrasse , selling food, specialities, jams and spirits. They moved from Lothringerstrasse 75 to Fehrbelliner Strasse 92. The son, Manfred Ziemke, who was born in 1927, clearly remembers the large flat and especially the huge balcony where he could ride his little scooter. His mother loved her midday snooze on a deckchair on the balcony. There were also two large loggias, big enough ti walk in to. They bred rabbits and pigeons. Frau ZiemkeFetter Text did not like the Nazis. She sometimes spoke out about them and often afraid of beeing picked up because of this.
The family occuppied the whole top floor apart from one room, where the head of the children`s home lived. The folowing names are mentioned in the adress book:Frau Schlesinger, Frau Laqueur, Frau Bamberger.
Manfrd Ziemke remembers many games with the Jewish children, and that it was very quiet and peaceful at weekends, because most of the children were at home. At weekends he particularly liked playing in the big sandpit in the garden and building sandcastles with tracks for balls to run down. One of this happy memories is how at the end of every weekday, all children gathered together ans sang together: e.g. Brahms´lullaby „ Good evening, good night…“ (Guten Abend, gute Nacht…) (Text from Des Knaben Wunderhorn,melody by Brahms)
He has very unpleasant, frightening memories of how in the afternoons, children, bawled in front of the house, beat up the children and bedaubed the front door. he had to defend himself as well, but it did not help much to say that he was not Jewish.
Why did the family move out? Was it because of the increasing anti-Semitism? The authorities later demanded that no non-Jewish families live in the Jewish house. I think that in fact, more space was needed for the children who had to stay overnight in the home. Their situation was deteriorating all the time, due to forced labour, emigration, arrests and hardship. The Ziemkes moved to Weinbergsweg 6.
The present district community centre at Teutoburger Platz has taken part in the European Heritage Days for the last few years. A number of local people take the opportunity to visit the house, some simply wanting to get to know their neighbourhood better, others because they are particularly interested in the history of the Jews who were murdered and driven out of Berlin. Sometimes we also meet people who came to the house between 1942 and 1995, but know nothing of its earlier history. Sometimes the children and grandchildren of former „children“ who were at the children`s home come to visit.They no longer ive in Germany but interested in the home country of their parents and grandparents. So we can make contact with former „children“ and hear about their lives and how they survived. So we came in contact with Avraham Amitai.
Now a monthly meeting point for people who were persecuted in the past, Cafe`Berlin has been set up in the rooms of the former Jewish children`s home in Fehrbelliner Strasse 92. Ludwig Josel is one of those who came to the café. He was born in Berlin on 15 October 1914. After many years of exile he now lives in his home town again. On his first visit, he told us that he was looked after at the children’s home for some time in its very early days. He can remember the kindergarten and the after-school group, but can no longer recall how long he attended them. It is all so long ago. He celebrated his 95th birthday a few months ago and can no longer remember his early years so clearly. He started an apprenticeship as a printer in 1929. He got married in 1935 in the synagogue in Riekestrasse. He and his wife soon realised that they would have to emigrate, but they only succeeded in leaving for Columbia in 1938. They also lived in California for a time, but then the couple returned to Berlin. However, their daughter, who was also born in Berlin, remained in Columbia.
Survivors of the children’s home are always telling us that their time in the children’s home was very special for them, even if they only lived or worked there for a short time, sometimes only six months. The warmth of the people working there and the liberal spirit of the home created a place where everyone could feel safe and cared for. The worse the situation for Jewish children became on the streets and in the schools, the more they needed a place where they could feel looked after like normal children. They found this place in the children’s home, and the historical witnesses remember this even in very old age. Manfrad Ziemke also confirmed that the home was a very special place, and that the children could have found nowhere better.