Erich Wangenheim was born on 1 October 1887, the eldest of four siblings, to an old-established Jewish family in the Berlin district of Hermsdorf. His grandparents, Louise and Leiser Flesch, had built the family home at Berliner Straße 20 in 1860.
Their daughter, Emma, and her husband Theodor Wangenheim had three daughters after their son Erich was born: Betty, born on 5 May 1890; Elly, born on 20 March 1893; and Lotte, born on 24 April 1895.
Erich trained as a chemist and later ran the Paul Lustig pharmacy at Bayrischer Platz 6 & 9 in the Schöneberg district of Berlin.
Nothing is known of Erich’s first marriage. His second marriage was to Martha, née Meilich, who worked in the same pharmacy from 1929 onwards. In 1934 Martha became co-owner and the couple’s business relationship soon evolved into a personal one.
The date of Erich and Martha Wangenheim’s marriage was not officially recorded as 1 October 1938 until after the war, as “mixed marriages” were classified as “racial defilement” under the Nuremberg Laws. Between 1935 and 1936, the Wangenheims were repeatedly interrogated and later harassed by such means as abusive anonymous letters. Erich fell seriously ill with a thyroid disorder, causing him dizziness, breathing difficulty, and heart problems. On 2 November 1939, Erich and Martha Wangenheim were forced to give up their pharmacy. Erich submitted a complaint against the increasing anti-Jewish measures, but to no avail. Robbed of their livelihood, the Wangenheims planned to emigrate – first Erich, followed by Martha a little later. But the plan had to be abandoned due to the poor state of Erich’s health, who now had diabetes and was dependent on care. In May 1942, the Gestapo arrested Erich Wangenheim and sent him to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He only lived until 8 July of that year. On his death certificate, the cause of death was given as “cardio-vascular insufficiency due to dysentery”.
Martha Wangenheim henceforth lived alone, and never remarried. Until the end of the war, she worked as a secretary for the film supervisory board at the Reich Film Chamber. After the war, she moved to an apartment at Bozener Straße 11-12 in Schöneberg. She suffered from anxiety attacks and died, childless, on 10 September 1984.