What we Know:
Birth Name: Katz
First Name: Elka
Date/Place of Birth: 16 November 1890/Themar, Sachsen-Meiningen
Date/Place of Deportation: 14 April 1942 from Magdeburg to Warsaw Ghetto
Date/Place of Death: unknown/unknown, before 1945
Age at Death: 52 years
Years in Themar: at least 13 years, 1890-1903.
Elka Katz was born in Themar in 1890 and lived at least until her early teenage years in the city. She probably attended the Bürgerschule in Georgstrasse. With marriage to Berthold Goudsmid of Dessau, she moved to that city. Dessau was a much larger centre than Themar, with a total population of close to 70,000 in 1925 and a Jewish community of around 400. The city landscape included a handsome synagogue seen below from two perspectives, one from the street the other from the River Mulde. Although we do not know about the religious practice of Elka and Berthold Goudsmid, the location of their residence at Franzstrasse 47 was very much within the Jewish community of Dessau.
Elka and Berthold had one child, Ruth, born in 1922. Ruth was considered mentally retarded and we know that she was in the Jewish School for Special Needs Students, the Israelitische Erziehungsanstalt Wilhelm-Auguste-Viktoria-Stiftung in Beelitz (near Berlin) but exactly when she went there, we do not know. The school was founded in 1908 and accepted children as young as 6 years of age, so it is possible that Ruth went to Beelitz in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Until the Nazis came to power in 1933, the children in the school received excellent care under the leadership of Sally Bein.
The Goudsmids were in the textile business and in 1930 they acquired property at Franzstrasse 47 (now Franzstrasse 111-115) in one of Dessau’s main streets. Berthold Goudsmid, who was 12 years older than Elka, died about 1933, in his early fifties. Elka, age 43 when Bertold died, continued to run the business on her own with the help of her sister, Bettina, and brother, Josef, both of whom lived with her at Franzstrasse 47 until 1939. On 17 January 1939, Elka closed the business and she also sold a piece of property at Akenschen Strasse 5.
The 1930s were years of heavy personal loss for Elka. In the mid-1930s, both her father and mother, who lived in Meiningen, died, Adolf in 1935, and two years later, Meta. Both parents were in their seventies, and died, we assume, of natural causes. In late 1938, the Katz siblings sent the required forms to the Themar Records Office (Standesamt) to register the addition of Israel/Sara to their names. Sometime in the late spring 1939, Elka’s younger sister, Bettina, chose to take her own life, possibly/probably in despair at the brutality of the Kristallnacht pogrom and unwilling to face what she felt the future held. Bettina was reported missing on the 22nd of May, but her body was only found on June 11, 1939 on the bank of the Mulde River. She was buried in the Dessau Jewish cemetery. As well, in spring 1939, Elka’s brother, Josef, decided to leave Germany; whether this happened before or after Bettina’s suicide is unknown. Josef hoped to emigrate to Uruguay but his plans failed and instead he sought refuge in France.When WWII broke out, therefore, Elka was probably alone in Dessau as we believe that Ruth, her daughter, was in Beelitz. Our knowledge of Elka’s life between 1939 and April 1942 is sketchy. Whether she learned of the deportation of her sister, Martha Katz Hahn, from Frankfurt am Main, in November 1941, is unknown. Elka was deported on 14 April 1942 to the Warsaw Ghetto; the date and place of Elka Goudsmid’s death is unknown. On the Stolperstein laid for Elka Goudsmid on October 27, 2011, it therefore states: “Here lived Elka Goudsmid, née Katz, b. 1890. Deported 1942. Ghetto Warsaw. Murdered.”
By the end of 1943, all — unless Erich Katz somehow emigrated earlier and we have yet to to learn his story — of Elka’s siblings were probably dead, victims of the Holocaust. So too was her daughter, Ruth was deported from Berlin to Sobibor on June 13, 1942. With her on the transport were Sally Bein, the leader of the school in Beelitz, and 23 other school children. The dedication on the Stolperstein for Ruth states: “Here lived Ruth Goudsmid, b. 1922. Deported 1942. Murdered in Sobibor.”
If you have any information or questions about the family of Elke Goudsmid, née Katz, which you would like to share, please contact Sharon Meen @ [email protected] or [email protected]. We would be pleased to hear from you.
With thanks to Dr. Bernd G. Ulbrich for the contributions he has made to our website.
City Archives Dessau-Rosslau
City Archives Themar
Das Bundesarchiv, Memorial Book (online) updated 14 November 1911
Gedenkkultur Dessau-Rosslau, Stadtplan of Stolpersteine, 2011 here.
Gedenkkultur Dessau-Rosslau, Goudsmid, Elka geb. Katz
Gedenkkultur Dessau-Rosslau, Goudsmid, Ruth
Gottwaldt, Alfred u. Diane Schulle. Die ‘Judendeportationen’ aus dem Deutschen Reich: Eine kommentierte Chronologie, 1941-1945. Wiesbaden: Marix Verlag, 2005.
Siegfried Wolf, Juden in Thüringen: Biographischen Daten 1933-1945, vol. 1, 2000.
Werkstatt Gedenkkultur in Dessau-Roßlau, STOLPERSTEINE für Dessau-Roßlau Ein Beitrag zur lokalen Gedenkkultur, Brochure. December 2008