Erika Aronsbach was born on 2 June 1924 in Berlin. She was the daughter of Paul Aronsbach (*1887), a businessman, and his wife Selma, née Goldemann (*1895). Her parents had married in Berlin in 1921 and set up a wholesale business trading in scrap paper and cardboard in Dircksenstraße 51 in Mitte. When Erika was born, her parents lived at Raumerstraße 21. In 1928 the family moved to Neue Königstraße 55/56 (now Otto-Braun-Straße) and in 1932 to an apartment at Alt-Moabit 105. Unfortunately, no records have survived of the family’s life in Berlin during the Weimar Republic.
The gradually introduced mechanisms to persecute Jews from 1933 on – or all those considered to be Jews under the Nazi state’s Nuremberg Laws – soon hit Erika Aronsbach and her family. They included numerous measures designed to exclude Jews from society and deprive them of their civil rights. Erika Aronsbach was directly impacted by laws affecting the school system. She had started school in April 1930, enrolling into the school at the Garnisonskirche church before changing in August 1933 to the parochial school on Bochumer Straße in Moabit, which she left “after completion of [her] compulsory education” at Easter 1938. The Nazis’ “Law against Overcrowding in German Schools and Universities” and other new regulations aiming to accomplish “as complete racial segregation as possible” in schools made it very difficult for Jewish children to gain a higher education. After the pogroms in November 1938, they were strictly prohibited from attending state schools; Jewish schools were the only alternative for continuing their education.
In 1935 the Aronsbachs moved to an apartment at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straße 12 (now Karl-Liebknecht-Straße). Erika’s brother Manfred was born on 23 November 1936. In 1940 the family of four moved to Große Präsidentenstraße 8 near the Hackesche Höfe. By the early 1940s, the family’s life in Berlin was a struggle to survive. A police decree of 1 September 1941 “concerning the identification of Jews” was just one of many measures with drastic repercussions for them. It meant that they could not leave their home without wearing a “yellow star” branding them as Jews. From the early 1940s on, at the latest, they were also made to perform forced labour for various businesses in Berlin: Erika’s father worked for Warnecke & Böhm at Goethestraße 15/16 in Weißensee, her mother was a forced labourer for Firma Martin Michalski – Uniformbetrieb, based at Große Frankfurter Straße 137. Erika Aronsbach was made to perform forced labour in the munitions factory Deutschen Waffen- und Munitionsfabrik Borsigwalde at Eichborndamm 103–122 in Wittenau.
Having been stripped of their rights, the Aronsbach family then faced deportation. They received a deportation notice in autumn 1942 and were interned together in one of Berlin’s assembly camps. On 19 October 1942, Paul, Selma, Erika, and Manfred were deported from Berlin to the Riga ghetto, with the “21st transport to the East”. 16-year-old Erika and her parents were labelled “able to work” on the deportation list. It is possible they were selected to perform forced labour in Riga before they were murdered in the ghetto, while part of a work crew, or in a Nazi extermination camp. In any case, none of the four members of the family were among the few survivors of the Riga ghetto.