Feodora Mendheim was born Feodora Weishaus on 8 November 1891 in Berlin. In most later sources, her maiden name is written Weisshaus, but her parents wrote their surname with one ‘s’ in the middle. They were both born in what was then eastern Galicia, now part of Ukraine. Her mother Laura Lea, née Halpern, came from Bolechau (Bolechiw); her father Moritz Moses from Stanislau (Iwano-Frankiwsk). Feodora and her elder brother Siegfried Maximilian were raised in Prenzlauer Berg, where their father ran a whalebone factory. Feodora attended the local girls’ school to 11th grade and then trained to become a clerk. She subsequently worked as a clerk until her marriage in 1918.
Her husband was Sally Mendheim, a textiles merchant 14 years’ her senior, who came from Kolmar (Chodzież) in Posen. He owned a ladies’ wear business at Turm Straße 66 in Moabit, where Feodora Mendheim worked after their marriage. They lived nearby at Jagow Straße 5. On 14 March 1920, their daughter Doris Elisabeth was born and on 24 May 1924, their son Hans Moritz. The family moved to Bundesrat Ufer 12 and then, in the early 1930s, to Solinger Straße 10, at the corner of Agricola Straße. Here they occupied a 7-room apartment with a roof garden, stretching across the fourth and fifth floors. At around the same time, Sally Mendheim became the main shareholder of the wholesale ladies’ wear business Robert Kuesell & Co. Feodora Mendheim took over the commercial management of the family business with its offices and sales rooms at Markgrafen Straße 37. The business thrived, enabling the Mendheims to lead a life of relative luxury. They employed several domestic helps and could afford to go away on regular vacations. They spent their winter holidays in St Moritz. On 13 September 1937, their daughter Doris gave birth to a son, Ernst Eduard. Before the birth, the baby’s father Ludwig Lesser married Doris, who was just 17 years old at the time.
During the November pogroms in 1938 – on Feodora Mendheim’s 47th birthday – the family business on Turm Straße was ransacked and looted. A short time later, the Mendheims were forced to sell the business under the Nazis’ anti-Semitic legislation. The new owner paid a fraction of its actual value. The Mendheims’ other business interest, Robert Kuesell & Co., was also “Aryanized”. Two apartment buildings belonging to Sally Mendheim had to be sold soon afterwards, leaving the Mendheims with no source of income. But hoping to ensure their children at least lived in freedom, they still managed to obtain the necessary documents for their emigration to America. In April 1939, Doris, aged just 19, and her almost 15-year-old brother Hans took a train to Hamburg, where they boarded the S.S. Manhattan to New York. Doris’ son Ernst Eduard stayed with his grandparents in Berlin. In September 1939, Hans, who later changed his name to John, enrolled in high school in Chicago and later studied at the university there. Doris settled in New York and, after divorcing her first husband, married Siegfried Schott with whom she had three children.
A few months after Doris and Hans had escaped Germany, Feodora Mendheim’s mother moved in to the apartment at Solinger Straße. Widowed since 1915, Laura Lea Weishaus had previously lived with her son Siegfried in Charlottenburg, who had fled to Brussels. Belgium proved to be a fatal destination for Siegfried Weishaus. He was one of several thousand fleeing Nazi persecution whom Belgium extradited to France after May 1940. Initially imprisoned by the Vichy regime in Saint Cyprien, in October he was deported to the Gurs camp, where he died on 5 December 1940.
Feodora and Sally Mendheim made several attempts to prepare an escape to South or Central America, helped by their daughter Doris in the United States. But they all came to nothing. In August 1942, the Mendheims had to vacate their apartment for a Nazi Party member named Dr Manstein. They were allocated a 2-room apartment at Tile Wardenberg Straße 19, where they lived with their grandson and Feodora Mendheim’s mother. Most of their home furnishings were seized. A short time later, on 3 October 1942, Laura Lea Weishaus was deported to Theresienstadt. She died on New Year’s Eve the same year, allegedly of heart failure. On 1 February 1943, the Nazi authorities ordered the confiscation of all the Mendheims’ assets. They had already been forced to pay extra levies (“Jewish property tax” and “Reich flight tax”) amounting to some 30,000 Reich marks. On 6 March 1943, Feodora Mendheim was deported with her husband and five-year-old grandson to Auschwitz and murdered. Her date of death, 31 March 1943, was determined by order of the Tiergarten local court.