4th September 2020
“Love one another. Be tolerant. Help one another.”
“What legacy can I leave my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Much love. Yes … love each other. Be tolerant. Help each other. “- Susi Cohen
Our collection of diaries, poetry books, letters and postcards by Susi Cohen (née Katz) protects her story of fleeing Germany and immigration to Australia before the war.
Susi Katz was born in November 1920 as the daughter of Ephraim and Esther Katz. Her father was a wealthy wood carver and lived in Lodz, Poland until he was transported to Essen to work in the coal mines during World War I.
Susi’s diary from 1934 to November 1937 is in many ways a typical diary of a teenage girl, only littered with comments about the Jewish situation in Essen. In 1937 she wrote ” Everything is so calm here in Essen. Jews leave almost every month. Young and old. When are we coming next? “She wondered whether she was worthless and how different she was from her classmates in school, since she was the only Jewish girl in class. Susi wrote about the changes in her parents after the escalating anti-Semitism. Her mother Esther became very nervous and superstitious. Her father Ephraim became more fun and courageous, although he blamed his wife for her reaction to the contrary. The pages are sometimes smeared with tears.
Towards the end of 1937 the family began planning their emigration. In January 1938, Susi and her parents fled from Essen to Amsterdam after visiting the Gestapo.
The months they spent in Amsterdam waiting for a visa were tense and anxious. Despite this, or perhaps precisely because of this, Susi made some deep friendships, especially with Sal Mahler and Moses Pieter Parijs. Our collection contains 42 letters from Sal and Pieter from 1938 to 1940. The letters are very emotional and speak of friendship, love, fear and hope. At the end of her life, Susi wrote to her children and informed them of the importance of these letters; how the words and their authors helped shape their character.
In November 1938, the Katz family received a visa to enter Australia. Susi remembered that it was very difficult to say goodbye to her dear friends whom she would never see again. Sal was murdered in Sobibor on July 23, 1943. Pieter was murdered in Auschwitz on September 30, 1942.
Susi came to Sydney on board the Ormonde in January 1939. She worked as a maid and later as a nurse. On April 6, 1940, Susi married Jules Cohen, a trained actor.
Author: Erin Ramsay, curator and chancellor
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