A Jewish Family in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg between 1922 and 1943
written by Sophie Lange
Sima Süssman, nee Fluss (*18.8.1891) and her husband Jakob (*26.8.1884) came to Berlin from Pysnica in Poland between 1922 and 1924. Why? We suspect that the living conditions were worse in Poland than in Berlin and that they wanted to find better jobs and also a better education for their children. In Poland Jews experienced pogroms and persecution long before the National Socialists came to power in Germany. However, what did the Süßmanns find in Germany? Not only the Golden Twenties, but also widespread poverty and unemployment. If they had hoped to escape antisemitism in Poland, they were disappointed. The discrimination of Polish Jews and anti-Semitism grew.
Their son Aron was born in Poland on 5th November 1922. Their first daughter, Tosca was born in Berlin on 18th February 1924. In the archives she is also called „Taube“ (dove).
The family can be found in the Berlin address book of 1928. They lived in Lottumstrasse 20. Jakob is registered as „Süßmann, J., Handelsm.“ (Handelsmann - trader). Jakob Süssman traded in textiles. Later, when they lived in the Strassburger Strasse, he stored the textiles in the flat and sold their material on markets outside of Berlin. Both parents were very busy with the business, which is why the children – at first only Aron and Tosca – were looked after in a Jewish creche in Auguststrasse, and later in the Jewish children’s home in Fehrbelliner Strasse 92. After school the children attended a play group in the children’s home. During the summer holidays the home took groups to the near-by lakes or to the Baltic Sea.
The youngest child, Sonia, was born on 2nd November 1933 in Berlin.
Aron attended the 153rd Boys’ School in Zehdenicker Strasse from 7th June 1928 to 27th March 1936. Today this is the John Lennon College. The school had 8 classes. Aron’s last class was class 1, so they must have counted them backwards. The first one was class 8.
Rebekka and Sophie N. from the John Lennon College found Aron’s school certificate in the archive of their school. They had little hopes of finding anything, because the school did not establish its archive until later. There was only a big book with school certificates from Aron’s time. As several of us had already heard from others that they had not found anything, Rebekka and Sophie N. were all the more surprised when a page fell out of the book and it happened to be one of Aron Süssmann’s school certificates. When leafing through the book, they also found Aron’s very last certificate from this school. This made us all very happy.
While most of Aron’s class-mates started work immediately after school, Aron applied to attend the Knabenvolksschule of the Jewish Community in Berlin C25, Kaiserstrasse 29/30. The headmaster accepted him. His parents wanted him to have a better education. According to Tosca, Aron was artistically very talented. However, at the 153rd Volksschule he had only just passed in drawing, whereas he got the second-best mark for this subject at the Jewish school. Aron’s parents then sent him to an Art School after he left the Jewish Boys’ School on 19th March 1937. This school also had 8 classes which counted backwards, plus a 9th class. At the age of 15 Aron was mature enough for study. Unfortunately, we could not find out which school he then attended. His sister told us that he always travelled by S-Bahn to the Zoo Station.
However, he was too young for the nearby University of Arts. Apart from that, Jews were no longer accepted at state universities.
Tosca also went to school in the Zehdenicker Strasse at the neighbouring 152nd Volksschule probably until 1938. From 15th November 1938 Jewish children were forced to attend Jewish schools only. Tosca then went to a Jewish school in the Ryke Strasse and later to another in the Choriner Strasse to prepare for emigration.
At the 152nd school, Tosca was asked to describe her family’s looks. Her sister and Aron were blond and had blue eyes. Her mother, Sima, had black hair and also blue eyes. Tosca describes her today as „a strong soul“. She always thought positively, optimistically. For her there was never a „no“, only a „yes“. Tosca’s family members did not correspond to National Socialist racial ideology, which Tosca’s teacher commented on in her presence.
The Süssmann family was registered in the Berlin address book of 1938 at Strassburger Strasse 60. Their flat was on the ground floor. The parents used one room to store their textiles. Large bales of material were piled up and her parents received customers. Sometimes Tosca had to help deliver the material. As the family was Polish, they had to go to the Polish Consulate every three years to have their citizenship renewed. After the „Polenaktion“ (Polish campagne), during which 15,000 to 17,000 Polish Jews were expelled from Germany on the night of 27th to 28th October 1938, Jakob and Aron went into hiding. Aron went to his friend Ignatz Kempler. Jakob went to live with a stateless family. Tosca secretly brought him food and had to make sure that no one saw her.
When Tosca saw that the situation for Jews in Germany was getting worse and worse, she tried to emigrate. She went alone to the Jewish organisations that organised emigration for children, particularly in the framework of the Kindertransport. At first, however, her parents did not want to let her go. Sonia, too, could have left, but she was too small and her parents adamantly refused permission. Tosca then spent 4 weeks at a camp at Rüdnitz near Bernau which prepared the young people for emigration. She worked on a farm and in the household. Tosca’s parents then gave their permission that she emigrate.
Tosca left for England with a Kindertransport in August 1939 for the Great Engham Farm. This saved her life. She reached England two weeks before the outbreak of war (1st September 1939: Germany attacked Poland). At the station, Tosca’s mother went onto the platform to say good-bye to her. It was forbidden, but Sima ignored this. After she left, the parents packed a so-called „lift“. They sent their daughter bedding, towels and clothes to England. Tosca remembers that no other children received such things from their parents.
After Tosca left for England, Aron and his father must have returned home.
After the 2nd World War began, the Gestapo arrested father and son on 13th September 1939. Tosca believes that the headmaster of the Jewish school, Herr Reschke, was also there. They were taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the same day.
Tosca’s mother’s last letter says that she received post from her husband and son every two weeks. It also says that one of Tosca’s uncles, Isaak Fluss, had already gone to Poland, to Pysznica.
In 1940, Tosca’s mother was able to pay 200 Reichsmark, whereupon Aron and his father were released. They left Sachsenhausen on 18th September. However, they were now stateless and had to leave Germany within 24 hours. As they could get an entry visa only for Poland, they went to Sima’s hometown, where Isaak Fluss was already living. He found work as a book-keeper for his nephew. In 1942 the so-called Aussiedlung (resettlement) began in Poland. Aron was taken to a labour camp in Stalova Wolla. The Stalowa Wolla-Razward camp existed until 21.7.1942. The inmates were taken either to the death camp in Belzec or to the Debica Ghetto. The father was deported to Sokolov. Two camps existed there side by side: Sokolov Malapolski and Sokolov Podlaski; the first from 1.4.1942 to 7.7.1942. The inmates were murdered in Belzec; the second existed from 28.9.1941 to 22.9.1942. Those inmates were murdered in Treblinka. Jakob Süssmann, too, was murdered in one of these two places – Treblinka or Belzec – probably in 1942.
Sima remained behind in Berlin with Sonia, the only daughter now left to her. Sonia was seven years old and went to the Jewish school in the Ryke Strasse. She enjoyed learning, as her mother wrote to Tosca in her last letter to England. In summer 1942 all Jewish institutions were closed down and Sonia was no longer allowed to go to school. They were able to live in Berlin until 1943. We do not know if the mother had to do forced labour, if she tried to live illegally (German law demands that everyone register their address with the police. If you fail to do this, you are living illegally) or if she was denounced. All we know is that mother and daughter are no longer listed in the Berlin address book from the end of 1939.
In 1943 they were taken to the deportation centre in the Grosse Hamburger Strasse, from there sent to Auschwitz and murdered. Tosca thought it would have been the last transport to Auschwitz, but according to the records, smaller groups of 31 persons were sent directly to Auschwitz up to 12th October 1944. Whether another group of 27 people left on 24th November 1944 is uncertain. (Gottwaldt-Schulle: Die Judendeportationen aus dem Deutschen Reich 1941-45, Wiesbaden 2005, page 465). According to the Memorial Book, Sima and Sonia were deported to Auschwitz on 6th March 1943. This was the fifth large transport of 665 Jews after the Fabrikaktion and the 35th Osttransport. In Auschwitz, a group of 665 Jews were registered to have arrived on 7th March. Of these 447 were immediately killed in the gas chambers.
On March 20th, 2007 we put Stolpersteine in front of Strassburger Str. 60. David, Toscas son, came to be there with us.