The Reifeisen family was an ‘ordinary’ Jewish family, whose fate is exemplary for the destruction of European Jewry during the Second World War. Ilse Reifeisen, the daughter, luckily survived, but her parents, Simon and Gertrud Anna Reifeisen, shared the fate of many other victims of ghettos and camps. Gertrud died in Stutthof whereas Simon’s death is unknown.
Simon Reifeisen was the eldest of five children, born in 1892 in Bolechów, Poland. Simon studied law and languages. He was fluent in Polish, German, Russian, English and French. From 1915 he served in the Austrian army until he was captured by the Russians. During his time as a prisoner of war he suffered a frozen nose. On 26 October 1924 Simon Reifeisen and Gertrude Anna married in Gelsenkirchen, where they ran a clothing shop. The Reifeisens were rather liberal and socially very active, often receiving visitors.
Ilse Reifeisen was born in December 1926. She grew up as an only child. The Reifeisens were clearly not naïve about the intentions of the Nazis, and on 20 December 1939, Ilse was sent to Stockholm with a so-called Kindertransport of a Jewish organization. There she was housed in an orphanage together with 30 other Jewish children. The change was very difficult, but it saved her life. A few months later she moved to a foster family in Vänersborg. In the meantime, her parents were deported to Riga. Her father probably died there. In August 1944, her mother was deported to Stutthof. The date of her death is not clear, maybe she died in the gas chamber, maybe during the horrible death marches in the winter of 1945.
The Stutthof camp was planned long before the war broke out. It was built as a regional prison camp, but during the war the Nazi’s enlarged Stutthof and incorporated it in their overall camp system. Finally, Stutthof became a concentration camp that contributed in the attempted extermination of all European Jews.
Museum Stutthof is located in the former German Stutthof concentration camp. The museum preserves, researches and displays archival records and historical artefacts. Exhibitions and videos offer visitors a haunting insight into the lives of the 110.000 people that were imprisoned here during the Second World War.
The concentration camp in Stutthof was initially founded to eliminate and persecute Poles. Later in the war the role of Stutthof changed as it became an integral part of the planned extermination of European Jews. Before the Soviet Army could liberate Stutthof, the surviving prisoners were send on horrible “death marches”.
Nervous about the approaching Soviet Army, the Germans decided to evacuate the Stutthof concentration camp in January 1945. The prisoners, already hungry and weak, had to walk for days in severe winter conditions, almost without food. Thousands of them died from exhaustion or were killed by the German guards.
During its history the City Prison in Gdansk housed all kinds of prisoners: criminals, but political prisoners as well. After the abolishment of the Free City of Gdansk by the Nazis in 1939, hundreds of intellectuals, democrats, freedom fighters and jews were incarcerated here. Many of them were subsequently sent to Piasnica or Szpegawsk, where they were executed.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or Holocaust Memorial, in Berlin honours the Jewish victims of the Holocaust during the Second World War. The memorial was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It was inaugurated on 10 May 2005, sixty years after the end of the war.
The Jewish Museum in Berlin opened its doors in 2001 and serves as a reflection centre on Jewish history and culture. Changing temporary exhibitions depict a broad range of themes, ranging from cultural history to contemporary art installations. The new permanent exhibition, which is currently being remodelled, is expected to open in 2019.