VHM Artifact Highlight: Susanne’s Doll

February 6th, 2017–
Susanne Hirt (nèe Hirsch) was born in Berlin, Germany on August 1, 1913. She was the youngest child of Joseph—a businessman—and Dorothea Hirsch—a caregiver. Susanne grew up with her older half siblings, Alexander and Rosetta, and her older sister, Anna Margarete, and near extended family like her uncle, the painter Hermann Hirsch. This doll, which is part of the Hirsch/Hirt Family Estate collection, is from Susanne’s childhood. It is one of the few artifacts we have in our collection that reflects life and childhood before the Holocaust, as Jews were stripped of their possessions or forced to leave them behind.

After Susanne graduate high school, she started medical training in Berlin. She was forced to withdraw from the university, however, because of her Jewish heritage. Susanne attempted to continue her medical education in Switzerland and later in Vienna, until Hitler’s forces annexed Austria in 1938.

When it arose, Susanne took the opportunity to leave Europe. She left Austria as an au pair, traveling with a family to the United States. She worked for this family for several years, before deciding to pursue her medical training again and gaining her degree in physical therapy. Susanne settled in Richmond, where she taught anatomy and physical therapy at the Medical College in Virginia (MCV). She later went on to direct and chair MCV’s physical therapy department.

Although Susanne and her siblings made it out of Europe in the 1930s, her mother and many extended family members did not.

This doll and other objects in our collection are available to view online! Click here to view.