Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
The Story of Walter Suskind
Walter Suskind was a German Jew, who was born on 29 October 1906 in Ludenscheid, Germany. Walter has two brothers, Karl and Alfred as well as a foster brother Robert Salzberg.
In 1929 Walter Suskind became the director of Prussian and Polish margarine sales, for the German company Bolak. In 1935 Suskind married Hannah Natt, and in 1937 Robert Salzberg emigrated to the United States of America.
March 1938 Suskind and his wife, Hannah’s mother Fran Natt and Walter’s mother Frieda Suskind emigrated to Holland. Suskind starts working on a sales job for Unilever, and in 1939 a baby girl is born called Yvonne, he discussed with Robert Salzberg the possibility of emigrating to the USA to work for Unilever
IN June 1941 Salzberg informs the Suskind’s that sponsorship has been arranged but a month later the Germans cease all emigration. In July 1942 the Amsterdam Jewish Council appointed Suskind to manage the Judische Schouwburg – The Dutch Theatre as a deportation centre for Jews in Amsterdam.
The deportation centre that Suskind supervised was called the Hollandsche Schouwburg, a gutted theatre located in the Jewish centre of Amsterdam.
Directly across the street from the Schouwburg there was a crèche. Tram lines ran on the street between the two buildings, and as trams passed by children were smuggled out of the Schouwburg, into the crèche, without being observed by the Germans.
During the eighteen months that Walter Suskind was in charge of the Hollandsche Schouwburg and with the help of four separate groups of resistance workers, he was able to save almost one thousand infants and children and many adults.
The infants and children were placed in a network of safe houses in the Dutch countryside. When the streetcars stopped in front of the theatre, blocking the Nazis view of the crèche, Suskind was able to effect the rescue of children by distracting the German guards.
He fraternised with the Nazi officer in charge of the deportations, SS- Hauptsturmfuhrer Ferdinand aus der Funten and speaking fluent German he told jokes, offering cigars and schnapps to aus der Funten, and his staff.
Over time Suskind was perceived to be a Nazi collaborator when quite the opposite was true, but the operation was never betrayed or discovered by the Nazis.
Only a few people directly involved with the escapes ever knew the existence and the details of the dangerous rescue mission.
In September 1943 Suskind was arrested and spent three nights in Scheveningen prison, he is released but shortly after the whole family is arrested and sent to Westerbork transit camp.
Suskind is released but his wife and daughter are kept imprisoned at Westerbork and despite several attempts to free them by the Dutch Resistance, they all fail.
On 2 September 1944 Suskind learns his family are about to be deported to Theresienstadt he joins them and his deported to Theresienstadt. Suskind had forged a letter from the Nazis describing how invaluable Suskind had been to the Nazis, and he tried to present this letter to the Commandant of Theresienstadt Karl Rahm, but a Jew intercepted him and pushed him into a cattle car bound for Auschwitz-Birkenau.
His wife and daughter were gassed on arrival at Birkenau but Suskind was selected to enter the camp.
Suskind did not survive Auschwitz, some confusion as to how he met his death is unknown, one version is that he died on the death march from the camp in January 1945, another version is that he was killed by Dutch inmates of Auschwitz, who thought he was a collaborator.
Secret Courage – The Walter Suskind Story
Copyright. Chris Webb H.E.A.R.T 2007