Noemi Eisemann was born on 27 Dezember 1937 in Berlin. Her parents were Dr. Karl Eisemann, a teacher, (*1895 in Westheim) and his wife Else, née Katz (*1908 in Eschwege). They had married in October 1936 in Eschwege before taking an apartment together in Berlin, where Karl Eisemann had lived and worked as a teacher at the Adass Jisroel Jewish Community primary school since the 1920s. The Eisemanns’ apartment was at Dortmunder Straße 13 in Moabit.
Noemi Eisemann was born into a society which defined her as an “enemy of the people” and subjected her to racist persecution because she had Jewish parents. It cannot have been easy for them to take proper care of their little daughter. The discriminatory ration cards for Jews, which could be used to obtain food only in certain stores and at restricted times, made it hard to ensure an adequate diet. In 1942, the restrictions were tightened even further so that Jews could no longer obtain meat, eggs, milk, or wheat products such as flour and white bread. After the pogroms in November 1938, Noemi’s maternal grandfather, Simon Katz, was arrested and abused, along with all male Jews in Eschwege, before being deported to Buchenwald concentration camp. On his release, he and his wife left Eschwege and fled to Berlin, where they lived with Noemi and her parents at Dortmunder Straße 13. They helped take care of the toddler in the late 1930s/early 1940s when Karl and Else Eisemann were unable to do so, as emerges from letters written by Noemi’s father held in the family compensation file. The letters also show how far advanced the Eisemanns’ plans to leave the country had been.
Several relatives of the Eisemanns had managed to escape Nazi Germany since the mid-1930s and tried to help the Eisemanns from abroad: Noemi’s uncle and aunt on her father’s side, Dr Lazarus Eisemann and Leah (Lina) Birk, née Eisemann, lived in the British Mandate territory of Palestine; Max Katz, her uncle on her mother’s side, had escaped to the United States via Brazil. Karl and Else Eisemann also tried to leave for Palestine with their daughter. They had hired forwarding agents, paid emigration tax and “Dego” duty (levied by the Nazi state on credit transferrals abroad), consigned some of their movable goods to liftvans (transport crates for shipping overseas), and gained qualifications that would have been useful for making a living in exile. Noemi’s father practiced piano and accordion; her mother learned to make brassieres. She wanted to “either earn money by sewing or get a job straightaway as a household help.” The Eisemanns did not manage to emigrate. Their hopes were finally shattered by the Nazi regime’s ban on emigration of October 1941.
By the early 1940s, life for them in Berlin had become a struggle to survive. Karl Eisemann, whose last position had been as principal of the Rykestraße Jewish Community primary school in 1938/1939, was made to dig graves for the Jewish Community cemetery administration. Noemi’s mother was made to perform forced labour in the early 1940s for Martin Michalski – Uniformbetrieb uniform makers, based at Große Frankfurter Straße 137.
Having been stripped of their rights, they faced deportation: On 1 October 1941 the Gestapo informed the Berlin Jewish Community of the imminent “resettlement” of Berlin’s Jews. In October 1942, Noemi’s father was arrested during the Nazis’ “Gemeindeaktion” campaign to deport Berlin’s Jewish Community staff and interned in the assembly camp in the former synagogue in Levetzowstraße. A neighbour of the Eisemanns later wrote to Neomi’s uncle Max Katz about what then happened: “First Dr. Eisemann was taken away by the Gestapo, that was on Friday, and on Monday Else went voluntarily to join her husband and their child was picked up by Jewish helpers a few hours later because she was still sleeping. That was on 26 October 1942. – It was terrible! I would have written a long time ago, but I didn’t want to think about all the terrible times. […]. Your brother-in-law was a lovely man, a gentleman from head to toe. And your dear sister Else was such an affectionate, kind, and good woman, a rare kind, and their little daughter was a clever, dear, and quiet child. You could give her an apple without her telling anyone. She knew us all just didn’t let on to strangers she knew us. She was already so clever […].”
4-year-old Noemi Eisemann was deported with her parents on 26 October 1942, with the “22nd transport to the east”, from Berlin to the Riga ghetto. 47-year-old Karl Eisemann and his 34-year-old wife were labelled “able to work” in the deportation list. It is likely they were selected to perform forced labour in Riga before they were murdered in the ghetto, in a work crew, or in one of the Nazis’ extermination camps. In any case, neither Karl, nor Else, nor Noemi Eisemann were among the few survivors of the Riga ghetto.
Noemi Eisemann’s grandparents, who were officially subtenants of their daughter and son-in-law, initially stayed in the apartment at Dortmunder Straße 13. They were arrested in spring 1943, during the Nazis’ “factory campaign” to deport the last Jews officially remaining in the capital, and deported separately, on 3 and 4 March 1943, to Auschwitz extermination camp, where they were murdered. Noemi’s uncle Max Katz and her uncle Dr Lazarus Eisemann and his wife Leah (Lina) Birk survived the Nazi regime with their families in exile.
Compiler’s note: All the lines quoted are taken from the compensation file on Karl Eisemann listed below (held in the Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten Berlin Abt. I).