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Susanne Perl 1922-2020

Aug 14, 2020 | JMW News

The Jewish Museum Vienna mourns the loss of an important friend and patron: Susanne Perl, who passed away at the age of 98 in New York. Born on August 9, 1922 in Vienna as the daughter of merchant Max and housewife Elsa Spritzer, she grew up on Jägerstrasse in Brigittenau. During her carefree youth, the Augarten served as her playground and meeting spot. The “Anschluss” brought the lightness of her youthful life to an end. Susanne was fortunate and found a place on a children’s transport. Even at her advanced age she still knew her transport number by heart: 7356.

She was well taken up in Scotland; she missed her parents and her brother, but the awareness that she was not alone with her fate helped her through the difficult time. In 1941 she made her way to Canada and from there by train to New York, where she was reunited with her mother and a year later with her father. In New York she met Otto Perl, who also came from Vienna, and they married in 1943. Otto Perl became a respected tailor who made suits for, among others, Leonard Bernstein, and especially his tailcoats. Susanne Perl said with a twinkle in her eye: “Our company was called Otto Perl Limited. My husband was Otto Perl and I was the Limited.”

Susanne Perl was not only an interesting and eloquent conversation partner, but also impressed people with her always elegant and tasteful appearance while maintaining her naturalness at all times. The documentary film “Vienna’s Lost Daughters” traced Susanne Perl’s life. Married for 71 years, she and her husband Otto had three children: Larry, Monica, and Martin.

We thank Martin Perl for providing many insights into the life of the family, as well as for many wonderful encounters with his mother. We consider ourselves lucky to have been supported by Susanne and Martin Perl during two exhibition projects: Our exhibition “Leonard Bernstein: A New Yorker in Vienna” would have been far less impressive without the great loans from the Perl family or the interview Susanne Perl gave us about Leonard Bernstein. She humorously described how Bernstein tested his tailcoats before her eyes at the dress rehearsal for the ability to conduct well in them. A few months ago I still had the great privilege of interviewing Susanne Perl about her experience as a “Kindertransport child,” which will be shown in our exhibition “Youth without a Homeland” in 2021.

I am fortunate and grateful that I was able to spend time with Susanne Perl and share in her memories. She will remain unforgettable and we will miss her very much.