Dr. Siegfried Pollak was born October 10th, 1875 in Hannover.
His parents were Fedor and Therese Pollack.
He had three sisters: Helene Amanda, born in Halle, spouse name: Thein. She emigrated to Vienna. Gertrude, spouse name: Loewendahl/Loewenthal. She emigrated to Hollywood. And Marta, spouse name: Fraenkel. She lived in London and New York.
His wife’s maiden name was Helene Romann and she was born December 10th, 1888 in Berlin.
Their son Franz was born October 4th, 1911 in Berlin.
Dr. Siegfried Pollak worked as managing director in his father-in-law’s business: Firma Emil Romann, wholesaler for account books and printed forms. The firm, founded in 1902, was located in Berlin Kreuzberg, Grünstrasse 30.
From 1891-1893 Siegfried Pollak visited secondary school in Halle . He studied in Berlin, Munich and Zurich and wrote a dissertation on the subject of the combustion engine.
In 1912, after his father-in-law’s death, he became director of the renowned firm Emil Romann. He was a successful businessman: he owned property, stocks and bonds and lived in a representative, generously furnished apartment with seven rooms on the Suarezstrasse 64, which he and his wife had rented in 1910. In a letter to the United Restitution Organization, his business associate Rudolph Heinze wrote: „The apartment was exquisitely furnished, there were valuable carpets and paintings as well as porcelain, glass and silver, etc.“
According to a letter from the life insurance agency, Siegfried Pollak had terminated his policies and had been paid out a total of 25.263,65 Reichsmark in April, respectively August 1939. He had made preparations for his emigration, Rudolph Heinze remembers in his letter dated June 6th, 1959: The required documents for immigration had been granted, but the couple were still waiting for a permit of emigration from the German authorities. It never arrived.
Emil Romann was Berlin’s general distributor for the firms T. T. Heinze (Brieg/Silesia) and Louis Leitz. (Still today, >Leitz< is a well established company with a dominant market position for office supplies.) After WW I, Leitz suspended the right of sole agency which had been granted to Emil Romann and so he carried on selling their products like any other of the city’s wholesalers.
Summing up all information, we may say that Dr. Siegfried Pollak continued his father-in-law´s firm with great respect and success, possibly even expanding it.
Sadly, the archives do not provide any information on Siegfried’s wife Helene, Emil and Flora Romann’s daughter.
Nonetheless, we might say that the couple had a happy and pleasant lives in the Suarezstrasse in Charlottenburg. In 1893 the street was called „Prinzessinnenweg“ and only after 1897 it was named after the lawyer Carl Gottlieb Suarez.
In those days, Charlottenburg was a very prosperous city: the richest city in Germany. It still held the status of independency and was not yet a part of the city of Berlin. The development of the Suarezstrasse dates back to that time – there is the Neo-Renaissance corner house built in 1907 as well as its neighbouring house, Suarezstrasse 2. The fire department celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007 – the Kaiserdamm’s anniversary was in 2006 and the underground station Sophie-Charlotte-Platz was opened in 1908.
Many Jewish families lived in the Suarezstrasse; while the Pollak family was living here, there were about 40 Jews according to registration.
Today we know the Suarezstrasse for its antique shops, but in former times it was home to many Jewish businesses and trade firms: twelve altogether. For example, there were bookshops, shops for electrical equipment, clothes, a film business and a kosher butchery, Max Meyer at number 26.
There were synagogues and prayer rooms not very far away from the Suarezstrasse: on the corner of Schlüter- and Schillerstrasse, in the Fasanenstraße, Pestalozzistraße, on the corner of Kant- and Leibnizstraße, in the Mommsenstraße and in the Hektorstraße.
We may assume that, before 1933, the Pollak family was freely moving around their neighbourhood just like we do today: taking walks around the Lietzensee lake where you could even go for a boat ride, or visiting the Schlosspark with its beautiful palace.
After the NSDAP’s takeover the Pollak family soon must have encountered increasing restrictions. At first, in Jewish businesses and trades, then followed the expulsion of clerks and physicians, soon Jewish people could not enter schools and parks, the underground and busses, for short: the whole public sector.
Certainly the Olympic Games 1936 did not go unnoticed on the Suarezstrasse: tourists as well as politicians made their way to the stadium; the Kaiserdamm’s lamp posts, still standing today, were designed by Albert Speer. Decorated with a sea of swastika flags, the street became the Nazis’ main avenue for military displays; Benito Mussolini drove down this street when he visited Berlin in 1937. Siegfried and Helene Pollak experienced all these events very closely, literally watching them from their balcony.
In 1938 the >Firma Emil Romann< was liquidated and taken over by Walter Borch.
For 32 years, from 1910 - 1942, Mr. and Mrs. Pollak lived in their apartment in the Suarezstrasse 64 and from here they were evicted on January 11th, 1942. Two days later the couple were deported to Riga and there their traces are being lost.
The apartment and everything inside was instantly taken over by an SS officer and his family.
During the final days of war the house was fired at and heavily destructed by a Russian tank positioned on the Sophie Charlotte Platz. Rumour has it that the tank targeted in retaliation after a young >Hitlerboy< had fired an anti-tank missile. The Pollak’s former apartment on the top floor was ripped apart with the rooms facing the square destroyed completely.
The Pollak family’s lives were shattered to the core by the German fascists. The parents were murdered and their son, despite his timely escape from Germany, was left deeply hurt and traumatized.
Franz Pollak was Siegfried’s and Helene’s only child.
As if by an invisible umbilical, his fate was connected to his parents’ tragic fate.
Born in 1911, he emigrated from Germany in 1933. But the painful disaster and the dire events followed him across the borders.
He gave up his studies of medicine in Berlin and travelled to Italy via France and Switzerland where he fell in love with a Swiss girl. In Italy he finished his law studies at the university of Perugia with a PhD while his parents would still send him their financial support from Berlin.
Franz loved music, played the piano and enjoyed reading and all intellectual work. He learned five languages. He was polite, friendly, „well-educated and a very decent human being brought up by a good family“, as his son Peter remembers him.
In 1937, the Italian government introduced the >Judengesetze< and Franz´ hopes to outrun the Nazis came to a bitter end: in 1940 he was taken prisoner and transferred to the Isola del Gran Sasso concentration camp.
He managed to escape to Brazil via Lisbon with the help of his friend Edgar Auteur.
Very soon after his arrival in Sao Paulo he fell in love with a girl named Manon; she noticed that Franz feared day and night for his parents. Working in a factory to make a living, he severely injured his finger and it was difficult for him to focus on daily life. His uncle Walter Loewendahl/Loewenthal did his best to help him financially.
When, in 1942, a Red Cross letter informed him about his parents’ deportation, something deep inside him shattered to pieces. He withdrew from everybody and became mistrustful even to his closest friends.
In 1943 Franz and Manon married and in 1945 their first son, Peter, was born.
In 1946 the family immigrated to the United States of America where their second son, Robert, was born.
Struggling to settle once more in a foreign country, Franz’ pains and worries developed into a severe anxiety disorder. The community and the State of New York supported the young, struggling family.
Franz was hospitalised for more than a decade and his marriage was annulled. The development of new drugs to control anxiety and realization by the mental health community that long term institutionalisation is counterproductive resulted in a partial recovery of Franz and he resumed contact with his oldest son, Peter. Franz retired to the Jewish Home for the Aged where he lived out the last 20 years of his life.
It should be mentioned that Dr. Franz Pollak was not recognized as a victim of National Socialism. He was merely attested a post-traumatic stress disorder for the time between 1944 and 1945 following his camp imprisonment and flight.
He died April 26th, 1993 in New York.
His sons are his future, he said in 1964. He viewed his children as his life’s accomplishment.
And he was right: his recent baby great grandson, Helene’s and Siegfried’s great great grandson, thrives and prospers happily.
Franz rests at peace and is happy.
We commemorate all three family members.
Finally, we would also like to mention and thank Mr. Reinhold Woertzel: he sponsored the memorial stones and worked on the research with immense dedication despite his old age and fragile health. Unfortunately he cannot attend this ceremony as he is not strong enough to participate.
For 60 years, until January 2016, he lived in the reconstructed, former apartment of the Pollak family. His in-laws had rented it in the 50ies and he has always been aware of the flat’s tragic history.
He feels glad that he was able to contribute to Mr. and Mrs. Pollak’s memorial stones by the end of his residence on the Suarezstrasse.