Oskar Almus

Dortmunder Straße 13
Stone was laid
20 September 2013
16 December 1885
1938 in Sachsenhausen
on 04 March 1943 nach Auschwitz
in Auschwitz
  • Stolperstein für Oskar Almus
    Stolperstein für Oskar Almus © OTFW

    Stolperstein für Oskar Almus © OTFW

Oskar Almus was born on 16 December 1885 in Arnau in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Hostinné in the Czech Republic). Some 20 kilometres west of Trautenau, Arnau is one of the oldest towns in the foothills of the Giant Mountains. In 1870 it was connected to the Velký Osek–Trutnov railway line, starting an economic upturn. By the early 20th century Arnau was the seat of a district court and industry, producing mainly timber and paper. Oskar grew up here, the son of the local grocer Max Almus and his wife Wilhelmine Almus, née Stiasny, with his three siblings: his brothers Leopold and Alfred, born in Arnau in 1877 and 1883, respectively, and his sister Jenny Almus, born in 1881. Oskar’s parents had two more children, Milanka and Siegfried, who died some months after their birth in 1878 and 1879. Oskar’s father Max owned a house on Bahnhofsstraße in Arnau, listed as no. 357 in the Registry of Deeds. The local directories of the years 1905 and 1912 show that Max Almus ran a general and colonial goods store at this address.
No records survive of Oskar Almus’ and his siblings’ childhood and youth. But it is likely that his parents belonged to Arnau’s relatively small Jewish Community, which counted 110 members at its peak around the turn of the century. After completing his schooling, Oskar went into trade like his father, probably specialising in textiles, the sector in which he is known to have worked later. His older brother Leopold, who had sold brandy from his parents’ house in Bahnhofstraße since the 1900s, ran a business in Arnau producing liqueurs and soda water. During the First World War, Oskar Almus volunteered for, or was recruited to, the Austro-Hungarian land forces and served as a soldier in various war zones. The family owns a photograph from 1916 showing Oskar as a soldier in uniform, sitting on his bunk in a dugout, smoking and reading a magazine; his rifle and backpack are leaning against the wall, which is covered with newspaper clippings, including a portrait of Emperor Franz Joseph I.
After the war, on 26 July 1920, Oskar Almus married Margarete Feder, a young woman ten years’ his junior from Hermannstädtel (now Heřmanův Městec in the Czech Republic). They moved to Berlin where they took an apartment at Levetzowstraße 19a in Moabit in 1921. A year later, they moved to Dortmunder Straße 13, where they lived with their children Vera Ruth, born in 1923, and Heinz-Egon, born in 1925. In the mid-1920s, Oskar and Margarete Almus set up a textile factory in Berlin. Oskar’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 family later stated that Margarete was closely involved in running the company and “always helping out in her husband’s firm”. Oskar’s sister Jenny Almus, who had married Leopold Leib Stiassny, a ladies’ clothing manufacturer, in 1901, also lived in Berlin with her three children, as did his brother Alfred Almus with his wife Kamilla Almus, née Jilovsky, and their sons Bruno and Herbert. Oskar’s brother Leopold Almus stayed in Arnau with his wife Olga Almus, née Seiner, and their sons Kurt, born in 1907, and Otto, born in 1909.
Few records of the Almus family’s life in Weimar Republic-era 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. Oskar’s children attended the local elementary school. Heinz-Egon Almus started school in Bochumerstraße in 1931 and later changed to a Jewish Community grammar school. On 30 November 1932 Oskar’s father Max Almus died, aged 80, in Arnau. He was buried on the Jewish cemetery in Arnau; his children and grandchildren attended the funeral in December 1932.
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 Oskar Almus and his 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 Nazis’ decrees and laws increasingly stripped them of their rights. And as business owners, Oskar and Margarete 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 Almus later recalled: “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 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, Margarete Almus ran the business under the name Blusen und Kleiderfabrikation Almus. 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 left for 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. 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 stated: “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.”
Oskar and Margarete 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, 58-year-old Oskar was deported with his wife and son on 4 March 1943 with the “34th transport to the East” to Auschwitz extermination camp, where he and his wife 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.
Few of Oskar Almus’ relatives survived Nazi persecution: His older brother Leopold Almus was deported with his wife Olga Almus, née Seiner, from Prague to Litzmannstadt (Łódź) ghetto on 26 October 1941. They were not among the few survivors of the ghetto. It is not known what happened to their son Kurt; their younger son Otto survived and later lived in Israel. Oskar’s sister Jenny Stiassny, née Almus, was deported on 19 January 1941 with her husband Leopold Leib Stiassny from Berlin to Riga, where they were murdered. The fate of their three children is unknown. Oskar’s brother Alfred Almus and his son Bruno were deported on 2 March 1943 from Berlin to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Alfred’s wife Kamilla Almus, née Jilovsky, was also deported to Auschwitz extermination camp, the day after her husband and son, on 3 March 1943, and murdered there. Her younger son Herbert survived Nazi persecution and later lived in Australia. Oskar’s daughter Vera Ruth Almus, who later married and took her husband’s 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).