personal data

Isaacs Bertha

Birth Name
First Name
Date of Birth
Place of birth
Other family members

Parents: Adolf Heimann and Therese née Kuhn
Siblings: Arthur, Max, Rosa
Spouse: Isidor(e) Isaac
Children: Ralf and Norman


Am Marktplatz 2

Domestic servant

since 1941 interned at Ghetto Schaulen
July 1944 deported to KZ Stutthof 
survived NS-Era  
1946 emigrated to the USA

Date of death
Place of death
Hollywood, Broward, Florida, USA


Bertha Isaak, née Heimann, lived in Bad Kissingen for only a short time. She was born in Schwanfeld in the District of Schweinfurt on March 25, 1908 as the daughter of the cattle dealer Adolf Heimann and his wife Therese, née Kuhn. The widely branched Jewish family had been living there for many generations.

In September 1933, Bertha Heimann moved to Bad Kissingen and lived and worked as a domestic servant with the then already widowed Salomon Leuthold at Marktplatz who she was distantly related to. Here she experienced the increasingly stronger emergence of anti-Semitism. In an interview recorded in 1994 she still remembered the ban of the municipal swimming pool for Jews. Or an incident during a visit of her sister from Schwanfeld: When they wanted to go dancing here, they were expelled without any further ado because Bertha was known as being a Jewess. In Bad Kissingen she also got to know her future husband Isidor Isaak. In November 1935, she already returned to Schwanfeld.

In April 1936, she married Isidor Isaak and moved to his hometown of Saugen (now: Saugos) in Memelland (lith. Klaipédos krastas), where he ran a big department store. After World War II, Memelland had been separated from Ostpreußen/ East Prussia. It was first mandated to the League of Nations and belonged to Lithuania since 1924. Therefore, the couple had the illusionary hope to be safe from the Nazis there. But when Lithuania returned the area to Germany after a German ultimatum in March 1939 and German troops occupied the country after that, the Jewish people living there were delivered defenseless to Nazi terror. 

After Hitler’s expansive policy against Czechoslovakia in 1938/39 which found its climax in the invasion of German troops into Prague in April 1938, the Isaak family had been afraid of something similar happening in Memelland and had rented an apartment in Lithuanian Tauroggen and already moved their furniture there. When they were warned by a German friend, who was a telephone operator, in the night before the German invasion into Memelland, they set out before the break of day and fled to Tauroggen with their son Ralf who had been born in 1937 and their most important belongings on a lorry. Like the rest of Lithuania, the town was added to the Russian sphere of influence according to the Hitler-Stalin-Pact of August 1939 and, accordingly, occupied by the Russians by October. The Isaaks had to adopt Russian citizenship and had to hand over their comfortable apartments to the Russians. But they were spared downright anti-Semitic experiences. 

This changed all of a sudden with the attack of the Soviet Union by German troops in Summer 1941. When Tauroggen was bombed by the German air force in the night of June 26, the population of the town was evacuated. That event started a four year-long time of terror for the Isaak family which can only be scantly sketched. (A graphic, harrowing rendering can be found in the interviews of the Holocaust Documentation Center with Bertha Isaacs and her husband Isidore listed below.)

During their flight, they narrowly escaped being killed due to lucky circumstances several times and arrived in Schaulen (now Siauliai) in August 1941, which is one of the bigger towns in the north of Lithuania. Here they lived in a ghetto together with about 5000 fellow Jewish citizens where the population of the ghetto had to perform forced labor for the Germans. November 5, 1943 was to become the most horrible day in Bertha’s life, as on that day, her 6-year-old son Ralf was abducted from the camp and murdered together with 500 other children as part of a “cleaning action”.

Bertha Isaacs (new spelling of her name after the emigration) tells in the interview of 1994 that Ralf had asked her the day before: “Why don’t you dig a pit for me in the garden where I can hide before they can find me.” Bertha took her son with her for her work in a workshop where old clothes were mended and tried to hide him under a bunch of old clothes. When about 80 Ukrainian soldiers in German uniforms came in who searched rooms for the children and told the working women to leave the room, she didn’t want to leave her sun behind and took him outside with her. “And at the same moment when we went into the street, they wrested my child from my hand. I wanted to prevent that and said that I wouldn’t let him go on his own, that I wanted to accompany him. After that they took their rifles and hit me. I had to witness helplessly that they ripped my child away from me. Then they took us to a place where lorries were standing waiting into which they loaded the children.” Bertha Isaacs never saw anything of her child again.

A short time later, Bertha reported for working in a clothing office of the army in a subcamp some kilometers outside the ghetto of Schaulen. The working and living conditions there were slightly better. But when the Red Army approached Schaulen in July 1944, Bertha and Isidor Isaacs were evacuated to Stutthof Concentration Camp near Gdansk.

There, the chances for survival were markedly worse. But luckily, Bertha could soon apply for agricultural work on a big farm where she stayed from August 1944 till November 1944, according to her own report, and where she was treated rather well. When the Red Army got closer there as well in January 1945, she had to go back to Stutthof Concentration Camp and was sent on a “Death March” for weeks. Having survived the hardships and weakened by typhus and terminally ill, she reached a little village in Pomerania in Western Prussia where she was liberated by soldiers of the Red Army on March 10.

The first time she saw her husband again – she hadn’t known anything about his fate since Summer 1944 – was in October 1945. After a few weeks’ stay in Stutthof Concentration Camp he had been taken to Dachau Concentration Camp. From August 1944 till April 1945, he was imprisoned in an external camp at Ammersee whose inmates were used as part of the "Ringeltaube" armaments projectexterner Link to build aircraft in large underground bunkers. In the last days of the war Isidor Isaak was also sent on a so-called “Death March” to Tyrol. In Waakirchen near Bad Tölz, he was liberated by the Americans on May 2.

From October 1945, Bertha and her husband lived together in the Displaced Persons’ Camp of Neufreimann near Munich. They stayed in Germany for another year and then emigrated to the United States. In December 1946, they arrived in New York Harbor and a short time later, their second son Norman was born.

Bertha’s siblings Arthur, Max and Rosa also survived the Nazi Era and could emigrate in time. 

Bertha Isaacs and her husband lived in the USA for 27 years and emigrated to Israel after Isidor’s retirement in 1973, where siblings of them lived. Of all days, they arrived there on the first day of the Yon-Kippur-War. They couldn’t really cope with the language in Israel and presumable also wanted to live closer to their son again. Therefore, they returned to the United States in 1986 and spent their old age in Florida. Bertha Isaacs died at the very old age of 95 in Hollywood, Broward, Florida in October 2003. Her husband had died a year earlier.

Her unusual fate is concisely summarized by her in one sentence she uttered in her Survival Interview: “It is impossible to believe that human beings are able to survive something like that – I can’t believe it myself nowadays, I could never believe that human beings can survive something so horrible.”

Isidore Isaacs and his wife Bertha née Heimann


Stadtarchiv Bad Kissingen, Polizeiliche Wohnungsmeldung
Datenbank Ancestry, Bertha Isaacs in Einbürgerungsgesuche New Yorkexterner Link
Datenbank Ancestry, Bertha Isaacs in USA, Sterbeindex der Sozialversicherung, 1935-2014externer Link
Zurück in einem anderen Leben, Artikel Mainpost, 04.05.2015externer Link
Informationen Elisbath Böhrer, basierend auf Telefonat mit Faye Salmon, geb. Rosenstock, Cousine von Bertha
Interview Holocaust Documentation Center: Bertha (Bertel) Isaacs Holocaust testimony externer Link 
Interview Holocaust Documentation Center: Isidore Isaacs Holocaust testimonyexterner Link
Landsberger Zeitgeschichte, Erinnern, Forschen, Dokumentieren, Europäische Holocaustgedenkstätte Stiftung e.V. externer Link
(Den Hinweis auf die beiden Interviews und auf die Website zur Landsberger Zeitgeschichte verdanken wir Hans-Jürgen Beck)

Photo credits