Fred & Stella Susman

Holocaust Survivors

Friedrich Maier Sussmann was born 22 Jul 1889 in Landau, Germany, the son of Leon Sussmann and Matilde Poisson. Stella Alice Klebe was born on June 4, 1897 in Giessen, Germany, the daughter of Karl Klebe and Leopoldine Rothschild. Fritz was a salesman of lace used in making lingerie. When the company moved his sales territory to Italy, Fritz decided to move his family to Italy in order to be closer to his work. They moved to Milan, sometime in the 1920s. Their three children were born in the 1920s, and then their daughter Lisa left home for London, England, at age 15, in December 1938, their son Peter, then 17, left for New York/Providence, R.I. in February 1939, and their son George, then 11 years old, remained in Milan with his parents. When the war came to Milan in the summer of 1940, the family experienced their first trouble with the authorities. They were able to hand on, and Fritz kept up his business activity, until September 1943, when they managed to make a harrowing escape into Switzerland. By the time the war ended, Stella had been separated from her husband and son, having been transferred along with some 100 other refugees to the northern section of Switzerland, the German part. Stella was later rejoined with Fritz and George. After several months in camp, Fritz, Stella and George were granted permission to move to an apartment in Adliswil, a small town on the Lake of Zurich, where they spent the remainder of the war years. As foreigners they were not allowed to work. They lived off their savings. George eventually moved in with friends (Gret and Alfred Rosenstiel) who lived in Zurich. After completing high school there he became an apprentice in the textile office of a business friend of Fritz's. In 1945, at the end of the war in Europe, all three returned to their home in Milan. Their friend Gusti told them that the Germans (or their Italian collaborators) had come looking for them in their apartment several times, but she had told them that the Susmans had disappeared and she did not know where they went. (This friend, it appears, even helped Fritz's business continue in his absence, and she maintained contact with Fritz and Stella after the war.)

Fritz and Stella remained in Milan, immigrating in 1950 to the United States, where all three of their children lived. The two younger children lived in New York, but Fritz did not want to live in a metropolis like New York. Their oldest son Peter had come to the United States in 1939, lived first in New York and then in Rhode Island, and was drafted into the U.S. Army in late 1945. He was stationed at Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi, and then apparently was transferred to Brookley Field in Mobile, Alabama, where he met Rebecca Mutchnick, a native Mobilian. They were married in 1946 and had their first child, Eileen, in 1947. Fritz and Stella decided that Mobile was the right size city for them, and when they came to the States in early 1950, they headed for Mobile after arriving in New York, apparently, on the very day that their grandson William was born in Mobile. They settled in Mitchell Courts, an apartment building on Monterey and Government Streets in which a number of Jewish families lived. Knowing that they had to support themselves, they took advantage of the fact that there were in Mobile at that time a number of Jewish owners of small, neighborhood grocery stores. They managed the F&S Store in the neighborhood of Orange Grove, north of downtown Mobile. Stella, who had contracted polio as a young woman, always walked with a cane and a limp, but nevertheless she went every day with her husband to work in their store. She even learned to drive, using her left leg. Since most of the German and Italian Jewish immigrants had joined the Reform Spring Hill Avenue Temple, which is the congregation they chose to become members of.

Fritz died 10 February 1980 in Mobile, Alabama. Stella died 2 Jun 1967 in Mobile. Both are buried in the Springhill Avenue Temple Cemetery.

Their children were Peter Leon Wilhelm Sussmann, born 7 Oct 1921, died 11 Feb 1975; Liselotte Sussmann, born 11 Jan 1923, married John Francis Graney, born 26 Jun 1928, died 30 Oct 1980; Georg Albert Sussman, born 17 Nov 1927

The escape to Switzerland, by Stella Susman, October 7, 1945

Stella's Jewish ID, Milan, February 1939

Stella's 1938 German passport, cover

Stella's 1938 German passport, inside 1

Stella's 1938 German passport, inside 2

Stella's 1938 German passport, inside 3

Fred's Italian ID certificate, 1949, front

Fred's Italian ID certificate, 1949, back

Fred's Italian driver's license, 1949

Stells'a Italian ID certificate, 1949, front

Stells'a Italian ID certificate, 1949, back

Manifest showing Stella on SS Vulcania, 1948

Manifest showing Fred & Stella on RMS Queen Mary, 1950

Fred's naturalization certificate, 1955

Stella's naturalization certificate, 1955