Elly Wangenheim was born on 20 March 1893 to an old-established Jewish family in the Berlin district of Hermsdorf. Her grandparents, Louise and Leiser Flesch, had built a house at Berliner Straße 20 in Hermsdorf in 1860. Their only child, Emma, married Theodor Wangenheim, a cobbler. After their marriage, he set up a leather store, to which he later added a shoemaking workshop, in the house at Berliner Straße 20. Elly had three siblings: Her brother Erich was born on 1 October 1887; her sisters Betty and Lotte were born on 5 May 1890 and 25 May 1896, respectively.
Elly Wangenheim went to the local elementary school (in a building that today houses the Hermsdorf local history museum) before attending the Hermsdorf college for girls (in what is now Olafstraße), like her sisters, from 1904 to Easter 1909.
After leaving school, Elly and her younger sister Lotte took over their father’s shoe factory and store. Their older sister Betty had married a tradesman, Otto Kramer, on 19 March 1913. On 27 July 1921, their daughter Ursula was born. After 1938, Betty and Otto Kramer were classified as living in a “mixed marriage”, and it became too dangerous to visit Elly and Lotte in Hermsdorf in daylight. To avoid arrest, they only saw Betty’s sisters at night. Elly Wangenheim and her sister Lotte were forced to give up their shoe store but were given a right of residence until 30 June 1944.
Starting on 7 July 1942, Elly performed forced labour for Osram; Lotte started on 3 November 1941 as a forced labourer for the Teves works, manufacturing machine and car parts in Wittenau. Initially the sisters were protected by the fact that they worked for firms considered vital to the war effort. But more than a year before their right of residence at Berliner Straße 20 expired, in the morning of 28 February 1943, Elly and her sister Lotte were seized by the Gestapo at their workplaces, during the so-called factory campaign, and taken to assembly points. The factory campaign aimed to remove all Jewish forced labourers from Berlin armaments industries and deport them east by the end of March. Between 1 and 6 March, five major transports of deportees left Berlin for eastern Europe.
Elly Wangenheim was deported to Auschwitz on 1 March 1943 on the “31st transport to the east”. She has been classified missing ever since. Of the approximately 1500 people on the transport, 142 men and 385 women were admitted to the camp as prisoners. The others were killed in the gas chambers.
The house at Berliner Straße 20 was sealed off by the Gestapo in March 1943 and confiscated, along with its entire contents, by the German Reich. Later it was sold at auction.