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 Home in Sweden

The sixth and final installment in our blog series “Memories from the Life of Walter Frankenstein”

In the black-and-white photo, the family is in a room with patterned curtains and houseplants. All four are smiling or laughing. The image is very lively.

The Frankenstein family in their apartment, Bandhagen (outside of Stockholm), around 1956–1957; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Leonie and Walter Frankenstein

To start from the beginning again: when I consider the path that Walter Frankenstein and his family took, I’m constantly astonished that they didn’t lose hope and always found new strength to confront the numerous changes in their lives. In 1956, the final big challenge in the lives of the four Frankensteins got underway.

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A Life Underground

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

“Her and no one else,” said Walter Frankenstein the first time he saw his future wife Leonie Rosner in the courtyard of the Auerbach Jewish Orphanage. Leonie was from Leipzig and in Berlin she had begun training at the Jewish Seminar for Nursery School Teachers.

Black and white photography

Leonie Frankenstein with her son Peter-Uri sitting in a meadow, Brzeźno in Gorzów County (German: Briesenhorst), May 1944; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Leonie and Walter Frankenstein

After it was closed, she came to the Auerbach Jewish Orphanage as an apprentice. Soon after her arrival, Leonie’s room quickly became the place where apprentices living in the orphanage met. Seventeen-year-old Walter grew closer to Leonie (three years his senior) over conversations about religion, Judaism, emigration to Palestine, and daily life. In fall 1941, after the director threatened to fire Leonie over her behavior toward a student, the young couple decided to leave “Auerbach”. Walter and Leonie subletted a room with the Mendel family in Prenzlauer Berg. Soon after that they decided to get married. They had heard that married couples would be spared deportation. Under-aged Walter had to get his mother’s permission for the wedding, which took place on February 10, 1942.

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