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Grellstr. 17

Grellstr. 17

Aerial view of the building at Grellstraße 17 (marked), 1928, photographer unknown. The tracks of the circular rail line and three round gas storage tanks can be seen behind the building. Source: Geoportal Berlin, Luftbilder 1928, Maßstab 1:4000 (Datenlizenz Deutschland – Namensnennung – Version 2.0)
This building, overlooking the rail line circling central Berlin and the gasworks on Greifswalder Straße, was divided into 30 apartments, at least three of which were used as forced homes. A total of 15 Jewish people lived in them, who were almost all deported and murdered. The building is bound up with the stories of Philipp Moses, a communist who was repeatedly detained between 1934 and his murder in 1942, and a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, who defied persecution to stay together.

In the 1920s and 1930s, a number of non-commercial residential blocks were built on Grellstraße in the northern part of Prenzlauer Berg. They included the striking, white, green and gray blocks designed by Bruno Taut & Franz Hoffmann for the Eintracht (“Unity”) housing association. Built in a New Objectivity style with open, light-filled, street-facing courtyards, they contrasted starkly with the typical Berlin tenements on the other side of the rail line.

The property overlooking the circular rail line at Grellstraße 17 was owned by the Goldberg family. It was one of twelve in the city owned by Berl and Malka Goldberg and their three adult children. Their son Jacob Goldberg was a property manager and realtor and managed all the family’s properties. In 1938, under mounting pressure from the Nazi state on property-owning families with Polish backgrounds, Malka and Berl Goldberg took their own lives. Shortly after the November pogrom of 1938, the German Labor Front (DAF) seized all their account books. Jacob Goldberg was forced to hand over his entire business to a non-Jewish property manager. In early 1939, he fled to Paris, where he was later joined by his wife Ella Goldberg and their two small children. From Paris they escaped via Bayonne to Morocco, where their third child was born. In 1941, they finally obtained a visa for the United States. In the meantime, all the Goldberg family’s assets were confiscated by the Main Trustee Office for the East.

Most of the members of the approximately 30 households in the building (in 1939) were not Jewish. The Jewish residents comprised three families and a single businessman named Julius Curt Kosack, who lived on the third floor. The building was demolished in 1953. Since 1954, customs administration offices have been located here as well as, more recently, the Federal Forest Administration.

Eintracht housing association apartment blocks on Grellstraße, late 1930s, photographer unknown, taken from the community-garden grounds next to the buildings at Grellstraße 17 and 18. Source: Landesarchiv Berlin, A Pr. Br. Rep. 030-08 Nr. 23891
Three of the 16 apartment blocks built by Bruno Taut & Franz Hoffmann on Grellstraße, 1935, photo: Otto Hagemann, taken approx. 300 meters east of Grellstraße 17. Source: Landesarchiv Berlin, F Rep. 290-01-30 Nr. 987


Street-facing building, 2nd floor

Apartment Schloß

From 1933 on, Dora Schloß, née Hoffmann, lived with her two adult children on the second floor of the street-facing building. Their apartment had two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom with hot running water, a balcony, and a basement. Dora Schloß divorced in 1937. Her son Herbert was single and a company employee. In January 1942, he was incarcerated in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was assigned to a penal commando deployed in the brickworks. This was where newcomers and those at the bottom of the prisoner hierarchy, e.g., homosexuals, were sent to work. Herbert Schloß died in 1942 during a phase of intensified SS violence on the camp grounds. The reason for his being jailed in Sachsenhausen concentration camp does not emerge from the few surviving documents.

In 1941, Herbert Schloß’s younger sister Hildegard married Leo Schilibolski, who then also moved in at Grellstraße 17. Originally a salesman and visual merchandiser, he became a sales representative in a bid to find some work after 1934. Eventually, he registered as unemployed. In winter 1938/39, the employment office made him work shoveling snow. In May 1939, he was enlisted for railroad construction work. “If you did not go to work, the Gestapo would arrest you,” he later wrote in his compensation application. He broke his “right hand and left foot” performing this work. Despite being treated by the Reich railroad doctors, his left leg continued to plague him afterwards whenever he stood for any length of time.

On December 1, 1941, the Skurnik family moved into a “partly furnished” room of the apartment and the kitchen as subtenants. Rosa Skurnik was a qualified book-keeper who worked as a forced laborer for Siemens-Schuckert in the firm’s turning shop in Siemensstadt. Siemens-Schuckert was known for its severe disciplining of staff members, handing over 300 or 400 of them to the Gestapo each year. Rosa’s husband Carl Skurnik had originally been a tradesman. He was made to work for Pertrix, a company which made batteries for the German army. Their son Siegfried Skurnik worked as a forced laborer for Weber & Co., a metal punching plant in Treptow.

On February 5, 1943, Hildegard and Leo Schilibolski were arrested in their apartment and on February 19, 1943, deported along with the Skurnik family to Auschwitz. Dora Schloß had already been taken away to the Theresienstadt ghetto in spring 1942. Leo Schilibolski was the only one to survive. While in Auschwitz, he was subjected to medical experiments: Patches of skin on his upper arms and shins were removed to examine changes in tissue such as caused by cancer. In late January 1945, he left Auschwitz for Mauthausen concentration camp, where he was liberated by soldiers of the US army on May 5, 1945.

Unknown location

Apartment Isenthal

On January 1, 1939, Georg Isenthal, a Jewish dental technician, and his non-Jewish wife Hedwig were evicted from the apartment and practice rooms at Grellstraße 66 that they had rented from the Eintracht housing association. They then moved in at Grellstraße 17, on the opposite side of the street. In early 1948, Hedwig Isenthal recalled the couple’s situation at the time: “Wherever I went, people treated me with hostility and contempt, nobody dared speak to me.” In late February 1943, Georg Isenthal was incarcerated in the assembly camp at Rosenstraße 2–4 in connection with the Nazis’ “Factory Action”. He was released nine days later thanks to his “mixed marriage”. He was then made to perform forced labor in the arms industry – replacing Jewish forced laborers who had been deported. His wife later stated that he was made to perform heavy manual labor despite his physical limitations, though she did not say for how long, where, or when. A former domestic aid and housewife, she was forced to give up her job as an assembler in a metal factory in late 1944:

“I had to leave my job and do heavy manual work in a dyeworks. The work, the harassment and oppression, seriously damaged my health […] Despite the extreme mental torment and dirty treatment, I bore it all bravely and stood by my husband to the last.”
Source: Hedwig Isenthal, geb. Brade, Landesarchiv Berlin, C Rep. 118-01 Nr. 32087, p. 2

On October 26, 1941, a subtenant moved into the Isenthals’ apartment for a short time: Horst Heinemann, a former commercial employee who worked as a domestic servant, bicycle messenger, and from early 1941 on, “dirty worker” for Deutsche Lufthansa in Staaken. To escape the forced labor “in very bad conditions” for Lufthansa, he tried to flee with a non-Jewish acquaintance to Switzerland. But the escape attempt failed. On November 21, 1941, Horst Heinemann was detained in Lörrach. When he had served his sentence but was still held pending his deportation to Dachau concentration camp, he managed to escape while working outdoors.

Horst Heinemann, late 1940s, photographer unknown. Source: NLA Hannover Nds. 110 W Acc. 14/99 Nr. 122613

With Reichsmark 50 lent to him by a fellow inmate, he set off back to Berlin. Here, his friends Fritz and Käthe Zins – a non-Jewish cap manufacturer and his Jewish wife and assistant – found him various places to hide: the homes of Jewish and non-Jewish friends and associates and an arbor in Hohenschönhausen – in the middle of winter. In 1942, Fritz Zins was jailed in Wuhlheide corrective labor camp for aiding Horst Heinemann’s escape and assigned to road construction work. As Fritz Zins was married to a Jew, in spring 1944, he was sent to Watten-Eperlegue prison camp in France and assigned forced labor with “Organisation Todt”. In the meantime, his business was closed down. Käthe Zins was interrogated by the Gestapo. The couple’s younger daughter was forced to leave high school in spring 1943 as she was categorized as “of mixed blood, first degree”, although she was baptized.

Käthe Heinemann, formerly Zins, date and photographer unknown. After the war, Fritz and Käthe Zins divorced and Käthe Zins married Horst Heinemann. Source: NLA Hannover Nds. 110 W Acc. 14/99 Nr. 126792

When Allied bombing was driving many Berliners out of the city in August 1943, Käthe Zins also left Berlin with her two daughters. Horst Heinemann joined them a short time later. Outside the capital, the family was known as Protestant, nominally non-Jewish: Käthe’s younger daughter was able to attend high school again; her elder daughter found an apprenticeship. For the next one-and-a-half years until the war ended, Horst Heinemann lived with them in a small apartment in Bad Flinsberg. In early 1945, they were joined by Ilse Mende, another Jewish friend living in hiding.

Ilse Mende, around 1946, photographer unknown. Source: Landesarchiv Berlin, C Rep. 118-01 Nr. 3545

From the time of his escape from prison until his liberation, Horst Heinemann “lived like a hounded animal. For years, I did not have a minute without fear,” he stated in 1957 during his compensation proceedings.

The Moses family

The Moses family, who were repeatedly hit by Nazi terror, also lived in the building. In spring 1934, the Supreme Court sentenced Philipp Moses, a tradesman, to two years’ imprisonment for high treason and “communist machinations”. His non-Jewish wife Anna Susanna Urschel and his 18- and 20-year-old sons Herbert and Manfred were also sentenced to one year and several months’ imprisonment. Philipp Moses was sent to prison in Brandenburg an der Havel, then to Oranienburg concentration camp and finally to Moabit detention center.

Philipp Moses, Oranienburg concentration camp prisoner file, 1933. Source: BLHA, Rep. 35G KZ Oranienburg Nr. 3/23, p. 156

He was jailed again in connection with the Nazis’ “Workshy Reich” action in summer 1938 and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was held until spring 1939. His wife died in Berlin’s Urban Hospital during this period; he was not able to say goodbye. After his release from the concentration camp, he lived with his daughter Lilly Moses as subtenants in Wilmersdorf. In spring 1942, he was arrested once again as one of 500 Berlin Jews held in reprisal for an attack on the anti-Soviet exhibition “Das Sowjet-Paradies” by the Jewish-Communist resistance group led by Herbert Baum. Following their arrest, 154 of the “Jewish hostages” were murdered in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Philipp Moses was one of them.

His son Manfred, a forced laborer for Warnecke & Boehm, returned to live in his parents’ home on Grellstraße from late 1941 to August 1943, until he was deported on September 28, 1943, to Auschwitz. Neither he nor his younger brother Herbert nor his elder sister Lilly survived Nazi persecution.

Gustav and Margarete Feingold also lived in the Moses’ apartment with their baby daughter Bela. Gustav Feingold was a metal worker, his wife Margarete worked as an assembler. When they moved in is not known. They were deported in early 1943, when Bela was just eighteen months old, to Auschwitz.


The public holding housing association “Mieteraktienbauverein Gemeinnützige Aktiengesellschaft”, renamed “Wohnungsbaugesellschaft Eintracht Gemeinnützige AG” in 1929, and known as “WBG Eintracht” (“Unity HA”), constructed three buildings at Grellstraße 59-61 in 1927/28. By 1938, WBG Eintracht had twenty buildings here – numbers 46 to 73 – with 160 apartments. From around 1938, by the latest, WBG Eintracht combined the pursuit of clear-cut economic interests with the Nazi state’s antisemitic and racist ideology, taking drastic action against Jewish tenants and forcing them to move out at short notice. The association’s business report for 1938 declared that it had “made arrangements with all our remaining non-Aryan tenants for them to vacate their apartments,” and that “most non-Aryans have already given up their apartments. By the end of the year, all our residential property will be free of Jews.” The term “non-Aryan” implied various groups of racially stigmatized people besides Jewish people. A total of 19 Jewish people, or people read as Jewish, were forced to give up the apartments they rented from WBG Eintracht on Grellstraße by spring 1939, including the Isenthals and the Jakubowski family, who were ejected as early as January 1, 1939.


Jeanette Jakubowski

In remembrance of the Jewish residents of Grellstraße 17 

Gustav Feingold

Born October 15, 1908, in Berlin
Deported January 29, 1943, to Auschwitz, murdered February 13, 1943

Margarete (Margareta, Margarethe) Feingold, née Goldner

Born December 25, 1910, in Dittlofsroda
Deported January 29, 1943, to Auschwitz, murdered

Bela Goldner

Born July 4, 1941, in Berlin
Deported January 29, 1943, to Auschwitz, murdered

Horst Heinemann

Born February 8, 1914, in Berlin
Survived, emigrated March 1949 to Israel, died April 29, 1993, in Tel Aviv

Georg Isenthal

Born October 14, 1892, in Halle an der Saale
Survived, died June 20, 1968, in Berlin

Kurt/Curt Kossak

Born March 14, 1893, in Weißensee/Berlin
Deported March 4, 1943, to Auschwitz, murdered

Herbert Moses

Born October 28, 1915, in Berlin
Murdered, circumstances unclear

Lilly Moses

Born March 28, 1912, in Berlin
Deported March 1942 to Bernburg an der Saale (possibly via Ravensbrück concentration camp), murdered March 18, 1942

Manfred Moses

Born August 6, 1913, in Dortmund
Deported September 28, 1943, to Auschwitz, murdered

Philipp Moses

Born August 16, 1888, in Pinne (Pniewe)
Jailed May 27, 1942, in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, murdered May 28, 1942

Hidegard Schilibolski, née Schloß/Schloss

Born January 26, 1913, in Berlin
Deported April 2, 1942, to the Warsaw ghetto, perished

Leo Schilibolski

Born March 7, 1909, in Cologne
Deported February 19, 1943, to Auschwitz; January 25, 1945, to Mauthausen concentration camp

Herbert Schloß/Schloss

Born June 22, 1911, in Berlin
Jailed in Sachsenhausen concentation camp, murdered March 21, 1942

Caro or Carl/Karl Skurnik

Born October 6, 1888, in Kurnik (Kórnik)
Deported February 19, 1943, to Auschwitz, murdered

Rosa Skurnik, née Fabian

Born December 10, 1892, in Kallies (Kalisz Pomorski)
Deported February 19, 1943, to Auschwitz, murdered

Siegfried Skurnik

Born August 26, 1924, in Berlin
Deported February 19, 1943, to Auschwitz, murdered

Antisemitic housing policy before 1939

The evictions conducted by the WBG Eintracht housing association exemplify the Nazi state’s antisemitic housing policy, which affected Jewish people even before the Law on Tenancy with Jews came into force in 1939.

Context, Introduction