Four members of the Rothschild family lived at Yorck Strasse 88 until their deportation in the years 1942/43: Else Ruhemann, who was born Else Rothschild, and her son Kurt, along with her brother Georg and his daughter Charlotte.
Else Ruhemann and her brother Georg Rothschild lived together in the same building or even apartment for much of their lives. The home they shared the longest was at Kleinbeeren Strasse 4, north of the Landwehr Canal, roughly where there is now a multi-storey carpark behind a high-rise post office building.
Their father ran a “banking and commissions business” at nearby Wilhelm Strasse 144 (where the Willi Brandt house stands today); he and his wife also lived here between 1873 and 1878. Subsequently, they lived for ten years in Königgrätzer Strasse (now Stresemann Strasse 66), where Else and Georg were born.
Probably in 1907, Else Rothschild married Felix Ruhemann, a bank clerk who worked for the Berliner Handelsgesellschaft bank. From 1907 to 1914 the Ruhemanns lived near Felix’s workplace at Möckern Strasse 132 (now opposite the Tempodrom concert hall). Here, their son Kurt was born in 1909.
On 3 September 1914, one day after his 45th birthday, Felix Ruhemann died of myocardial inflammation. From January 1915 on, Else Ruhemann received a widow’s pension from the Berliner Handelsgesellschaft. Eventually she and her son Kurt moved back to her parents’ house at Kleinbeeren Strasse.
In 1932, Else and Kurt Ruhemann moved into the house at Yorck Strasse 88 where Georg and Charlotte Rothschild also lived. As the two children are not listed in any of the Berlin directories under their own addresses, the family presumably all lived together from this point onwards. Else and Kurt Ruhemann lived on the first floor, staircase 5, in one room with a kitchen. They probably shared an apartment with Georg and Charlotte Rothschild, who occupied two rooms.
In July 1942, Kurt Ruhemann, who had completed a training in merchandising and later became a male nurse, was caught up in the Nazi machinery of death. Up to that point, he had performed forced labour in the Julius Karl Görler factory, manufacturing transformers, at Flotten Strasse 58 in Reinickendorf.
On 10 July 1942, he was made to complete the obligatory declaration of assets. This usually occurred in the assembly camps where Jewish people were sent a few days before their deportation. In this way, information on the victims’ assets was collated to facilitate their expropriation, and the people collected for transport.
Kurt Ruhemann was probably deported on the “17th transport to the East” on 11 July 1942. Due to a military road closure, a group of 192 Berlin Jews was combined with another transport of 697 people from Hamburg or Bielefeld. The train was originally destined for Auschwitz but might have been redirected to the Warsaw ghetto. No conclusive information on the train’s ultimate destination has been found. All trace of Kurt Ruhemann is lost after his deportation.
His mother Else was abducted two months later. Notification of the seizure of all her remaining assets was delivered to her at the Große Hamburger Strasse assembly camp on 21 September. One day later, she was deported on a transport of 100 people to Theresienstadt ghetto. Between June 1942 and March 1945, there were a total of 116 of these small-scale Theresienstadt transports, resulting in in the deportation of some 9600 people. For these transports, a regular Reichsbahn train carriage was simply attached to the daily 6.07 service from Anhalter Bahnhof station, platform 1, to Prague via Dresden.
Perhaps Else Ruhemann met her sister in Theresienstadt. Henriette Rothschild, whose married name was Falkenburg, was deported on 18 November 1942 from her hometown Dessau to the same ghetto, where she died on 19 February 1943.
Else Ruhemann survived her sister by only a few weeks. Unable to cope with the inhumane conditions in the camp, she died on 11 April 1943.
On 14 December 1942, the household goods she had left behind in Berlin had been valued by a Reich finance official. Exactly one month after her death in the ghetto, the custodian of St. Boniface church, Pappert, purchased Else Ruhemann’s household effects for 100 Reichmarks. The apartment was registered as “vacant” on the same day. The proceeds from the sale of Else Ruhemann’s household goods was “collected for the benefit of the German Reich” by the Berlin-Brandenburg revenue office on 22 June 1943.
On 19 January 1945, the “asset reclamation office” (Vermögensverwertungsstelle) closed the file on Else and Kurt Ruhemann with the note “no assets found”, and the file was shelved under “statistics”.