Born in 1918, two minutes from his parents’ perfumery on Kurfürstendamm

Fritz Scherk and the history of a family business in Berlin

Black-and-white photography of a laughing toddler sitting on a chair next to a birthday table.

Fritz Scherk on his second birthday, Berlin, May 26, 1920; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Irene Alice Scherk, photo: Jens Ziehe

A beaming toddler sits naked on a lavishly laid birthday table, apparently having the time of his life. A photo like this could easily have been taken today, I thought, when I saw it in the diary that Ludwig and Alice Scherk kept for their son Fritz. In fact, the happy child would have turned 100 today. Being born in 1918 didn’t exactly promise a peaceful life, especially not for a member of a German-Jewish family. Actually the family’s second child had been planned for 1916, three years after the birth of their first son, but the outbreak of war got in the way. But on May 26, 1918, the time had come: Fritz was born next to his mother’s Bechstein piano—by candlelight because of the war, and just two minutes away from his parents’ business, the Scherk Perfumery on Kurfürstendamm.  continue reading

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A New Beginning

The fourth episode in our blog series “Memories from the Life of Walter Frankenstein”

Black and white photograph. Walter Frankenstein sits on a chair, bent forward, his elbows supported on his thighs.

Walter Frankenstein during his time in the kibbutz, Greifenberg, around December 1945–May 1946; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Leonie and Walter Frankenstein

What were they to do now? Nothing was left of the Frankensteins’ old life. Their relatives and friends had been murdered, including Walter and Leonie’s mothers. All of Europe lay in ruins.

The first step in the Frankensteins’ new life was a simple administrative act: they registered with the Jewish Community of Berlin and were assigned an apartment. However, due to the bad supply situation, they were advised to leave Berlin as soon as possible. Nevertheless, they decided to spend the summer in Berlin. Walter volunteered as a manager for the Neukölln Leisure Games. At the same time, he made contact with the Jewish Brigade. Over the course of the war, the British Mandate government had drastically reduced the channels for legally entering Palestine. That meant that for the roughly 250,000 displaced persons ( DPs) in camps in western Europe, illegal entry was often the only way to reach Palestine. Walter managed to arrange an opportunity for legal emigration for Leonie and the children through the members of the Jewish Brigade. In return, he promised to smuggle young Jews southward through Germany for the Brigade. Their destinations were harbors on the Mediterranean where underground Jewish organizations prepared ships for their illegal entry into Palestine.

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“In the quarry, children freeze in the rusty air”

On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we recommend listening to Ruth Klüger’s speech – for the first time or once again. On 27 January 2016, the author talked in the German Bundestag about her experiences as a 13 year-old forced laborer in the women’s camp Christianstadt (Krzystkowice).

Introduction of Bundestag President Norbert Lammert and speech by Ruth Klüger (from 20:10) on 27 January 2016.

This year’s Ceremony of Remembrance in the German Bundestag will take place on Wednesday, 31 January 2018 at 1 pm. Anita Lasker-Wallfisch will give the commemorative speech. The ceremony will be broadcast live from 1 pm on the website of the Bundestag. You will find the English version at (www.bundestag.de/en).

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