Margarete Almus née Feder

Dortmunder Straße 13
Stone was laid
20 September 2013
18 May 1895
on 04 March 1943 nach Auschwitz
in Auschwitz
  • Stolperstein für Margarete Almus
    Stolperstein für Margarete Almus © OTFW

    Stolperstein für Margarete Almus © OTFW

Margarete Feder was born on 18 May 1895 in Hermannstädtel, a small town in eastern Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (also known as Hermannstadt or Hermanmestec; now Heřmanův Městec in the Czech Republic) in the northern foothills of the Iron Mountains. Margarete’s parents were Alois Feder, the local schoolteacher, and his wife Elise, née Glaser. Margarete had two sisters: Her elder sister Rudolfine was born in 1893 and her younger sister Marie was born in 1897 in Hermannstädtel. No records survive of the girls’ childhood and youth in Bohemia in the late-period Habsburg Monarchy, but their parent presumably belonged to Hermannstädtel’s Jewish Community.
As a young woman, Margarete met her future husband, Oskar Almus from the neighbouring town of Arnau (now Hostinné in the Czech Republic). A businessman ten years’ Margarete’s senior, Oskar served in the Austro-Hungarian army during the First World War. Following his return home after the war, on 26 July 1920, Margarete and Oskar were married in Hohenelbe (now Vrchlabí). Soon afterwards they moved to Berlin, where their children Vera Ruth and Heinz-Egon were born, in 1923 and 1925, respectively. Their first apartment in Berlin, which they took in 1921, was at Levetzowstraße 19a in Moabit. A year later they moved to Dortmunder Straße 13. In the mid-1920s Margarete and Oskar Almus set up a clothing factory in Berlin. Margarete’s daughter Vera Ruth later recalled: “My father had a successful wholesale ready-to-wear ladies clothing factory with about 15 or 20 employees in Berlin’s business district near Hausvogteiplatz. He even sent sales representatives into the provinces, especially Saxony.” Operating under the name “Oskar Almus & Co.”, the business was located at Kommandantenstraße 70 until the late 1920s and moved to Schützenstraße 65 in the early 1930s. Friends of the Almus’ later stated that Margarete Almus was closely involved in running the company and “always helping out in her husband’s firm”.
Few records of the Almus family’s life in Berlin survive. One photograph shows Margarete Almus arranging flowers in a part of their Berlin apartment styled as a tearoom. Vera Ruth later stated that both her parents – and indeed the entire family – were very interested in music. They not only had an electric record player and a large collection of concert and opera recordings in their home but also a piano and violin for playing at home. Their son Heinz-Egon was a member of the Jewish Community choir. Margarete’s children attended the local elementary school. Heinz-Egon started school in Bochumerstraße in 1932 and later changed to a Jewish Community grammar school.
The gradual introduction of mechanisms to persecute Jews from 1933 on – or all those considered Jewish under the Nazi state’s Nuremberg Laws – soon hit Margarate Almus and her family. These included numerous measures designed to discriminate against and exclude Jews from society, to deprive them of their civil rights and oust them from the nation’s business and economic life. The Nazi regime’s decrees and laws increasingly stripped them of their rights. As business owners, Margarete and Oskar Almus were also directly affected by the antisemitic campaigns, boycotts and rioting that came to a visible head in the pogroms of May and November 1938. Vera Ruth later described her parents’ situation as follows: “In 1936 or 1937, my father was forced by the Nazi regime to give up his business premises and lay off his employees. He continued to run the business with my mother on a smaller scale until November 1938. In November 1938 he was sent to Dachau concentration camp [Note: He is stated as having been imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in the Gedenkbuch memorial book] and was released, in poor health, in late December 1938. My mother suffered a nervous breakdown. As both my parents were unwell, they were not able to emigrate. - I escaped to England with a kinder-transport while my parents stayed in a furnished room in Berlin, Solingerstr[aße].”
From the mid-1930s on, the business operated under the name Blusen und Kleiderfabrikation Almus, with Margarete Almus as its proprietor. It was located at Elberfelder Straße 16 in 1933/1934, and finally, in 1936, in a converted room in the Almus’ home at the time at Stromstraße 70. A last family photograph taken in the 1930s, probably shortly before Ruth was sent to England, shows Oskar and Margarete Almus with their children Vera Ruth and Heinz-Egon in their apartment on Stromstraße. By the late 1930s Oskar and Margarete Almus had no option but to sell off their possessions to survive. In the early 1940s, they were forced to give up their apartment and moved with their son Heinz-Egon first to a smaller apartment on Solinger Straße and finally, in 1941/42, to one at Jagowstraße 1. By that time, Margarete und Oskar Almus were being deployed as forced labourers - Margarete in the Krone Preßwerk GmbH plant at Frankfurter Allee 288 in Lichtenberg and Oskar in the Daimon battery and torch factory within Elektrotechnische Fabrik Schmidt & Co at Sellerstraße 13 in Berlin-Wedding. Before his deportation, Heinz-Egon Almus worked for the Berlin opticians’ association Arbeitsgemenschaft Berliner Optiker. In the early 1940s Vera Ruth received a postcard in England from her brother, sent through the Red Cross, saying that he hoped to become an optician and was already in training. It was the last personal sign of life she received from him. She also said: “I received only a few Red Cross messages from them [her parents]; the last were in about March 1941. I later heard from an aunt in Czechoslovakia that she had received a postcard from my brother Heinz, saying that he and my parents had been waiting for a transport. […] That was the last I heard from my parents.”
Margarete and Oskar Almus were arrested with their son Heinz-Egon in late February 1943, during the Nazis’ “factory campaign” to deport the last remaining Jews officially living in the capital, and taken to an assembly camp in Berlin. From here, 47-year-old Margarete was deported with her husband and son on 4 March 1943 with the “34th transport to the East” to Auschwitz extermination camp, where she and her husband were murdered, probably immediately on arrival. Heinz-Egon Almus was initially selected for labour in the concentration camp, and murdered in Auschwitz some weeks later, on 5 June 1943.
Margarete’s daughter Vera Ruth, who later married and took the name Schragenheim, survived in exile in England. She became a nurse and lived in Israel after the war with her husband and children.

Author’s note: The photographs mentioned are from the Almus family collection and can be viewed in the Yad Vashem photo archive (see sources). All the passages quoted were taken from the compensation file on Oskar Almus (Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten Berlin Abt. I).