Together with his family, Salomon Schneider (born 1 August 1867) leaves Chrzanów, a city in West Galicia located west of Kraków, in 1912. He moves into Choriner Straße 3 (directly across) and works as a traveling salesman for the Josef Leinkauf forwarding agency at Linkstraße 25. Yet, his application for naturalization is denied in 1920 despite the fact that his family had always spoken only German, even in Chrzanów. The refusal is justified on the grounds that his “economic situation” – he reported an annual income of 3,000 marks – is deemed “insufficiently secure.”
“Eastern European Jews” were unwelcome in Berlin. The first “Jewish census” took place in 1916; in an atmosphere of hysteria, the Austrian borders were closed and new arrivals were interned in concentration camps (a term already used in 1920). In most cases, naturalization was denied. The question on the police form was, “Is the applicant to be considered a desirable addition to the domestic population? – and in the case of Salomon Schneider and his family as well, the recording official wrote, “No.”
The principal targets of anti-Semitism during the Weimar Republic were “Eastern European Jews,” and many assimilated “Western Jews” also regarded the new arrivals as objects of suspicion. Albert Einstein was a notable exception who saw things quite differently, and he spoke up for “these unfortunate refugees who have escaped the hell.”
The life of the Schneiders does not know a moment’s peace. Two daughters (Aurelia, 1903–1963, and Hinda/Minka, 1907–1974) seek their fortune in England. In 1934, Salomon dies at age 66; his wife Malka (née Bienenstock on 15 September 1867) moves across the street to number 81 to live with her eldest daughter Chaja, who resides there with her husband, tailor Chaim Singer (born 1897 in Pobiedro) and their two children Edwin (born 1924) and Stefanie (born 1926).
National Socialism transformed widespread anti-Semitism into a political goal, burdening the cultural, economic and social lives of the Jews with legal prohibitions and outright violence. Apparently, the Singers and Schneiders also understand that it is a matter of life and death. In November 1938, British Jews and Quakers persuaded their government of the need, at a minimum, to rescue Jewish children from Germany. Children’s immigration to England was permitted so long as there was a sponsor or foster family willing to accept them. More than 10,000 such children left Germany on what became known as the “Kindertransporte” (child transports). On 4 July 1939, 14-year-old Edwin Singer is among the children on the train to Holland, who then cross over to Harwich, England by boat.
Were Edwin’s London aunts Aurelia and Hinda only able to take a single child? Did the Berlin family lack the means to also pay for such a rescue journey for Stefanie?
In 1940, the family is apparently still residing at Choriner Straße 81, but by the summer of 1942, they had been deported to Poland. Malka Schneider’s only son Manes, who was last registered (voluntarily or not?) at Melanchtonstraße 18, is listed as Number 468 on the transport list for the “23rd Eastern Transport,” which leaves Berlin’s Moabit freight station on 29 November 1942 with the destination of Auschwitz. The rest of the family were killed in or near Skawina, a town hardly 50 km from their birthplace of Chrzanów.
Edwin searches desperately but in vain for survivors of his family. He completes his basic military training, returning to Berlin in 1946 as a member of the Allies’ “Interpreter’s pool” or translation staff. It is here that he meets his future wife Ingeborg Huchthausen (1926–1997) and moves together with her to Enfield, near London, where he dies in 1992.