January 9, 1926,
Susan was born 9 January 1926 in Vacha, Germany, a small Thuringian town where her family had lived for more than 400 years. Her father, Hermann, owned a general store and her mother, Bertha, managed the home and took care of Susan and her younger sister, Brunhilde (b. 1928). The Strauss family was one of about twenty Jewish families living in Vacha in the years leading up to the war.
Soon after the Nazis took power, many of Susan's friends stopped playing with her. In 1938 she was forced to leave the public school and she and Brunhilde moved to Frankfurt am Main to study at the Jewish school. That November, the Nazis unleashed a wave of pogroms throughout Germany known as Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass”. In Vacha, local party members damaged the family store and imprisoned her father in Buchenwald. He was released four weeks later on the condition that he would emigrate quickly; he fled to Belgium in 1939. Nearly a year later, in February 1940, her father reached the United States, but he was unable to get his family out of Germany.
After Susan’s father emigrated, the family moved to Berlin with Hermann’s mother, Jettchen. Susan, her mother, and sister were conscripted into forced labor and were put to work producing radio equipment for the German U-boats. On January 25, 1942, Susan and her family were deported to the Riga ghetto in occupied Latvia. Shortly after arriving, her grandmother, Jettchen, was taken to the nearby forest and killed. The ghetto was liquidated in October 1943 and Susan and her family were deported to the nearby Kaiserwald concentration camp. After arriving, Susan was separated from her mother and sister and sent to the Meteor factory where she repaired and painted pontoon boats. In August 1944 she was transported by boat to Stutthof, only to be transferred to Sophienwalde two weeks later. At Sophienwalde she was forced to uproot trees to clear the way for a new road and later worked as a bricklayer. In January 1945 the camp was evacuated and Susan and the other prisoners were forced to march 150km over ten days until they reached the camp at Lauenberg in eastern Germany.
Susan’s mother perished in the Thorn (Torun) labor camp and her sister, Brunhilde, died in Stutthof. Susan was liberated by Soviet troops on March 10, 1945, but with nowhere to go she was transported to the east and forced to work on a Soviet farm. Eventually she was sent to work in the town of Koszalin where she met a Polish Jew from Lodz named Herman Taube.
Susan and Herman married in July 1945 and lived briefly in Poland until the July, 1946 pogrom in Kielce made it apparent that they were no longer safe there. They made their way back to Germany, living for a time in the Ziegenhain displaced persons camp before settling in the town of Alsfeld. In April 1947 Susan and Herman immigrated to the United States where they were reunited with her father and settled in Baltimore. The Taubes have four children, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
Why I Volunteer
I like to volunteer to meet nice kids and work with nice people. Sitting at the donor desk I try and help the museum and I am able to speak about my experiences.
Portrait Portrait of Susanne Strauss (right) and her friend Rita Bergwerk. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Susan and Herman Taube
Susan, Herman and a group of Jewish DPs gather around a table in Koeslin, Poland. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Susan and Herman Taube
Susanne Strauss and her mother Bertha outside in a field near their home in Vacha, Germany. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Susan and Herman Taube
Susanne Taube feeds some chickens near the hospital that her husband administered. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Susan and Herman Taube