Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1948, Susan Heinemann Berman is the daughter of German-Jewish Holocaust survivors. Her mother, Ruth Simon Heinemann, escaped Germany via Kindertransport to England along with her sister Hildegard Simon Gernsheimer in 1938, shortly after the Kristallnacht pogrom devastated Germany's Jewish community. The rest of the Simon family, Carl, Selma, Edith, and Ilse, became passengers on the ill-fated M.S. St. Louis, bound for Cuba. When the ship was turned away in Havana, they were granted asylum in the Netherlands. Although Edith was able to immigrate to the United States, by way of England, Carl, Selma, and Ilse ultimately perished at Sobibor.
Susan Berman's father, Manfred Heinemann, was imprisoned in Dachau with his father after Kristallnacht. Due to the persistence of Berman's paternal grandmother, Sabine Freiman Heinemann, in securing the family's immigration documents, they were able to come to the United States shortly after Manfred's father, Solly, was released from Dachau. The family settled in Brooklyn, New York, where Manfred, by then a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, met Ruth Simon shortly after the war was over.
Susan Berman lived an all-American childhood first in New York, and then in Framingham, Massachusetts. It was not until she was a young adult that she learned of her family's connections to the Holocaust. All told, she lost 37 relatives in the Holocaust, but her family's deep ties to the United States from before the war enabled her mother and two of her aunts to immigrate, and to survive. After years of living in communities all over the United States, from Wisconsin to Connecticut, Susan Berman and her husband, Steve, settled in Georgia in 1978. Susan completed her education, earning a college degree from Kennesaw State University in 2004. Fifteen years later, she shared her family's story with the Museum of History and Holocaust Education through a Legacy Series Oral History Interview.
Editor's Note: This tour will begin by following the story of Susan's grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles growing up in Germany and then fleeing the violence of the Third Reich before shifting to Susan's story. As the child of survivors, Susan has become a memory keeper for her family. Through the Legacy Series, she is sharing her family's invaluable story with future generations.