Running south from Hohenzollenplatz and parallel to the modern, busy Bundesallee in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district of Berlin is the small, quiet, residential street of Nassauische Straße, named in 1886 after the former Province of Hesse-Nassau.
At the turn of the 20th Century, the street was in its prime and consisted mainly of substantial 5-storey blocks with gardens, and apartments of 8-12 rooms for wealthy, middle-class families.
By the end of the First World War, demand for more affordable housing was so great that these grand apartment blocks had begun to be sub-divided, and additional smaller blocks built into the gardens and inner courtyards.
Many of the buildings in this small street have stories to tell, but one in particular stands out.
(Picture : Brendan Nash)
In the Spring of 1923, newlyweds Rudolf and Marlene Sieber moved into their first family home at Nassauische Straße 30.
They had been married at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche on May 14th of that year, and Marlene was already pregnant with their first -and only- child.
Rudolf was a talented Assistant Director at the Ufa film studios in Potsdam and Marlene a regular performer with the ‘repertory’ company at the Theatre am Nollendorfplatz.
(Picture: Filmmuseum Berlin)
The Renton Mark was yet to be introduced to stabilise the currency and Germany was in the grip of catastrophic hyper-inflation, one American Dollar was worth 350 German Marks.
The Siebers would only live at Nassauische Straße for a year but the apartment block was a very established one, full of both born-and-bred Berliners and those who had moved to the city from elsewhere – often extended families thrown together in these difficult times.
The neighbours at No.30, if they even met the young, aspiring actress who had just moved in, could have had no idea of what the future held for Frau Sieber as she transformed into the worldwide superstar, Marlene Dietrich.
Their own lives over the next two decades would be filled with the optimism of a fledgling new republic, confusion at the rise of hatred and far-right politics, discrimination and erosion of their human rights and ultimately the terror of deportation.
The names of some of these neighbours are remembered in fourteen Stolpersteine – brass, commemorative ‘stumbling blocks’ – laid in the cobbles of the street outside.
(Picture: Brendan Nash)
Adele Alifeld was born on December 29th 1865 in the small town of Pasewalk,in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in the north-east of Germany.
On March 17th 1943, at the age of 78, she was taken from her home and deported to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia where she died eight days later on March 25th.
Wilhelm Goldstein from Stolpe in Melklenburg-Vorpommern, was 58 when he was deported to Auchwitz on March 4th 1943. There are no further records of what happened to him.
Luise Niklas from Lipiny in Poland endured the three day train journey to Riga, after having been deported on January 19th 1942, aged 51. She was killed on arrival.
63 year-old Regina Seidemann was deported to the Piaski ghetto in eastern Poland on March 28th 1942. The site was soon to be liquidated and it’s inhabitants murdered in the Belzec extermination camp.
(Picture: Brendan Nash)
Johanna Danielsohn was born in Berlin in 1879 and Elsa Danielsohn in 1907.
The 63 and 35 year old mother and daughter were loaded onto a train on September 5th 1942 and also endured the three day journey to Riga, where they were killed on arrival on September 8th.
Art-dealer Theodor Frankenbach had come to Berlin from Leipzig where he was born in 1869 and had married Elizabeth Graupe, four years his junior. They were 73 and 69 years old when they were deported to Theresienstadt on October 3rd 1942, they were both dead by November 2nd of that same year.
Their son Kurt had been taken from them a week earlier and died on arrival at Raasiku bei Raval, on September 26th.
(Picture: Brendan Nash)
Henriette and Ludwig Dalheim were Berliners, born in 1888 & 1883 respectively and Thea Dalheim had been born Thea Toller in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt in 1899. They were 56, 59 and 43 years of age when they were deported to Raasiku bei Raval in Estonia, on September 26th 1942, where they died soon after.
Mother & Daughter Paula and Ruth Schiff had come to Berlin from Köln.
Ruth was born in 1913 and was just 31 when she and her mother were deported to Theresienstadt on March 17th, 1943 on the same transport as their neighbour Adele Alifeld. Ruth was then taken on to Auschwitz where she died in 1944.
Her mother Paula remained in Theresienstadt and, aged 67, was freed when the camp was liberated in 1945.
These fourteen Stolpersteine were laid on November 29th 2005 – there are 50 more of them in Nassauische Straße alone, and over 45,000 Europe-wide.
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