Lotte Wangenheim was born on 14 May 1895, the youngest of four children, to an old-established Jewish family in the Berlin district of Hermsdorf. Erich, the eldest, was born on 1 October 1887; his sister Betty was born on 5 May 1890 and Elly on 20 March 1893. Their father Theodor Wangenheim ran a leather shop, to which he later added a cobbler’s workshop, at Berliner Straße 20 in Hermsdorf. The house had been built by Lotte’s maternal grandparents, Louise and Leiser Flesch, whose only child, Emma, had married the cobbler Theodor Wangenheim.
Lotte and her sister Elly started school in 1904, attending the local elementary school and then the girls’ college in Hermsdorf, in today’s Olafstraße. After leaving school, Lotte and Elly took over their father’s small shoe factory and store. In the wake of the Nuremberg Laws, especially after 1938, life became increasingly difficult for the Wangenheims. Lotte and Elly lost their business at Berliner Straße 20 but were given a temporary “right of residence” in the family home until 30 June 1944. The sisters did not live to see this date. Their two other siblings, Erich and Betty, also endured surveillance, interrogations and harassment leading to the loss of their livelihoods. Betty and her husband Otto Kramer were only able to visit Lotte and Elly at night in Hermsdorf—in constant fear of arrest.
Having had her business taken away, Lotte was recruited for forced labour, starting on 3 November 1941, at the Teves works, a supplier to the car industry. This initially protected her from deportation as the firm was considered vital to the war effort. At the same time, her sister Elly worked at the Osram works. However, the Nazis’ “factory campaign” aimed to remove all Jewish forced labourers from Berlin armaments industries by the end of March 1943 and deport them east. Between 1 and 6 March 1943, there were five major transports taking the last remaining Jewish forced labourers from Berlin, mostly to Auschwitz.
On the morning of 28 February 1943, Lotte and Elly were seized by members of the Gestapo at their workplaces and taken to assembly points.
Lotte Wangenheim was deported to Auschwitz on 2 March 1942, one day after her sister Elly, on the “32nd transport to the east”. The train with 1500 men, women and children on board arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau at 5.56 pm on 3 March 1943. After a selection was carried out, 535 men and 45 women were admitted to the camp as prisoners. The remaining two thirds of the train’s passengers were killed in the gas chambers. Lotte and her sister were among them. The camp files contained the note: “The sisters Elly and Lotte were liquidated”.
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.