In November 2022 Erika Estis was able to celebrate her 100th birthday in New York surrounded by her family. We have since received the sad news that Erika Estis passed away in the night from 13 to 14 January 2023.
We are very moved by the news of Erika Estis’ death, as we were honoured and privileged to have known her well. She had always shown a great deal of interest in the remembrance work in her native city of Hamburg and spoke about her life story in public talks. With her open and warm-hearted manner, she was able to reach and touch many people.
Erika Estis was born in Hamburg on 14 November 1922, the daughter of pharmacist Paul Freundlich and his wife Irma. Due to his Jewish background, Paul Freundlich was forced to give up his pharmacy on Fruchtallee in Eimsbüttel. The three older daughters studied abroad while Erika continued to live at home in Hamburg with her parents. From 1929 she attended the Israelitische Töchterschule on Karolinenstrasse. In the wake of the Reichspogromnacht (Kristallnacht) on 9 November 1938, Irma and Paul Freundlich decided to send their youngest daughter to England as part of a Kindertransport. On 14 December 1938, parents and daughter said goodbye to one another at the Altona railway station. Erika’s parents were no longer able to emigrate and were deported to Auschwitz on 11 July 1942 and murdered. It was only in 1945 that Erika learned that her parents had been killed. Erika left England in 1946 and went to New York, where she met her husband, with whom she had three children.
Erika Estis visited Hamburg several times and took a keen interest in the scientific research into the persecution of the Jews in Hamburg and the role of the Hannoverscher Bahnhof railway station in the deportations from Hamburg and northern Germany. She made photographs and documents available for the 2009 exhibition In den Tod geschickt. Die Deportationen von Juden, Roma und Sinti 1940 bis 1945 (‘Sent to Their Deaths. The Deportations of Jews, Roma and Sinti 1940 to 1945’). Erika Estis last came to Hamburg for the official inauguration of the denk.mal Hannoverscher Bahnhof Memorial in May 2017. Thereafter, she was in Berlin once again to speak to young people at a workshop organised by the Jewish Museum. Today, two Stolpersteine at Fruchtallee 27-29 commemorate her parents.
We will greatly miss Erika Estis. Our thoughts are with her three children, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.