Dr Ilse Kassel was born on 9 June 1902 in Berlin-Wittenau, the daughter of medical adviser Dr Woldemar Kassel and Hedwig Kassel, née Fürstenheim. She had a sister, Hilde, and a brother, Theo.
In 1906, her father set up a practice in today’s Wachsmuth Strasse 9, Berlin-Hermsdorf. After completing her Abitur school-leaving certificate at Humboldt Oberrealschule in Tegel in 1921, Ilse Kassel studied medicine in Berlin and Freiburg. She qualified as a medical specialist and took over her father’s practice following his death on 31 August 1930. The Nazi authorities revoked her health service licence as early as 1 July 1933, followed by her general licence to practise medicine on 3 May 1938.
From 1935 to 1936 she was detained in Moabit prison under false charges. Once cleared and released, the authorities still did not desist. She was arrested again and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on charges of “preparing high treason”. In prison she gave birth to a daughter, Edith, on 9 May 1937.
In 1938 she applied to emigrate to Palestine where her mother and brother already lived. But her application failed due to the outbreak of war.
After her release from prison, Ilse Kassel worked for a time as a hospital nurse before being made to perform forced labour in the arms industry. To evade deportation, in September 1942 she went underground with her daughter. They were taken into hiding by a former patient, Tony Großmann, née Schindler, in Alt Gurkowschbrusch, Neumark, near Landsberg an der Warthe.
When the Gestapo found her hiding place, probably on a tip-off, and appeared at Tony Großmann’s farm, Ilse Kassel and her daughter Edith just managed to flee. But a short time later they saw no further escape route than suicide. Ilse Kassel died in the river Netze; her daughter was saved but murdered later in Auschwitz. The police recorded Ilse Kassel’s time of death as 17.30 on 20 September 1943.
Her brave helper, Frau Großmann, was sentenced to 2½ years in a concentration camp but released after a time. In 1993 she was awarded the German cross of merit for her altruistic actions. Ilse Kassel’s sister survived the war as she was married to a non-Jew in a “mixed marriage”.