Simon Salzmann, a tradesman, was born on 9 February 1863 in Deutsch Eylau in West Prussia (now Iława, Poland) and later moved to Berlin. When he was 31 years old, he married Berlin-born Jenny Posner. They had two daughters, Erna and Edith, born in 1896 and 1900. Between 1898 and 1910, the Salzmann family lived at Lothringer Straße 77 (now Tor Straße) and later at Prenzlauer Straße 27 (now Karl Liebknecht Straße) in Mitte. Around 1904, Simon Salzmann started working for his father-in-law’s business, M. G. Posner, manufacturing decorative silk bands and ribbons for wreaths. Originally located at Prenzlauer Straße 2, the business moved in around 1909 to Neue Friedrich Straße 9-10 (now Litten Straße) and in 1926 to Alexander Straße 27a (later renumbered 39). Simon Salzmann took over the business together with his brother-in-law Georg Posner. Initially, Georg’s brother Martin was also co-owner, but he went missing in action in the First World War.
In around 1915, Simon Salzmann moved with his family to Wildensteiner Straße 7 in Karlshorst. Around 1917, he bought a house right around the corner at Kaiser Wilhelm Straße 16 (renamed Lehndorff Straße 29 in 1934) which he named Villa Jenny in honour of his wife. Simon Salzmann always stressed that he was only able to buy the house because his wife was such a good housekeeper. His mother-in-law Elise Posner lived there with them until she died, aged 91, in the mid-1930s. The Salzmanns’ younger daughter Edith and her husband Walter Rosenthal and daughter Beate also moved into the building when the top-floor apartment became vacant.
Religion was not a major issue in Simon Salzmann’s life. Although he and his family were Jewish, they gathered for a meal on Sundays rather than on the Sabbath. Simon Salzmann and his wife and son-in-law attended services only on High Holy Days, in the assembly hall of Karlshorst grammar school, which the Jewish Community hired for the purpose.
Under the Nazi regime, anti-Semitic boycott caused the family business’s sales to plummet. Simon Salzmann’s son-in-law Walter, who worked as a representative for the company, was the first to realize there was no future for him and his family in Germany. In March 1936 he emigrated together with his wife and eleven-year-old daughter to Palestine. Despite having no previous agricultural experience, the family started a farm in Naharija, on the Mediterranean coast. Life at first was difficult and their home was a one-room hut. When Simon and Jenny Salzmann visited them in October 1936, they were horrified at their living conditions and could not be convinced to moved to Palestine as well. Simon Salzmann felt sure that Hitler would not stay in power for long and that his daughter and her family would return to Germany after two years at the most. Nonetheless, immediately after his return to Berlin, he transferred a substantial sum of money to Edith and Walter Rosenthal to enable them to build a house.
In February 1938, the family had one last get-together in Berlin to celebrate Simon Salzmann’s 75th birthday. Even Edith came with her family from Palestine for the occasion. Soon afterwards, Simon Salzmann was forced to give up his business and, one year later, to sell the house. From the proceeds of the sale, he received a mere 500 Reichsmark. When his brother-in-law and business partner Georg Posner emigrated with his family to England, Simon Salzmann also decided to leave Nazi Germany with his wife. Edith and Walter Rosenthal tried to raise enough money to pay for Edith’s parents to emigrate but before they could succeed, the Second World War broke out and they lost contact. When Simon Salzmann had sold Villa Jenny, he had negotiated the proviso that he and his wife be able to continue living there until their emigration. But on the outbreak of war, the new owner had them legally evicted. Simon and Jenny Salzmann were forced to move out on 1 February 1940. Until early December 1941 they lived as subtenants at Wullenberger Straße 9 in Tiergarten, then they moved into the Jewish old people’s home on Iranische Straße.
The following year, Edith Rosenthal received a postcard from her father via the Red Cross, inscribed with only one line: “We have to go away soon”. On 13 July 1942, Simon and Jenny Salzmann were deported to Theresienstadt. Two months later – on 19 September – they were taken to Treblinka, where they were murdered.
Their daughter Edith survived in her new home country. Their elder daughter Erna (whose married name was Grindel) also survived the war under unexplained circumstances. From her application for compensation for the theft of her property, it is known that she was arrested by the Gestapo and everything in her apartment at Lessing Straße 13 was taken. In 1947 she lived in Berlin.