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Susskind was born in Prague, Austria–Hungary, now the Czech Republic. His father was a Viennese music critic and his Czech mother was a piano teacher. At the State Conservatorium he studied under composer Josef Suk, the son-in-law of Antonín Dvořák. He later studied conducting under George Szell. Early in his career, he was often known as H. W. Süsskind (H for Hans or Hanuš).
Susskind fled Prague on 13 March 1939, two days before the German invasion. With the help of a British journalist and consular officials, Susskind arrived in the United Kingdom as a refugee. He formed the Czech Trio, a chamber ensemble in which he was the pianist. Encouraged by Jan Masaryk, the Czech ambassador in London, the trio obtained many engagements.
In 1942 he joined the Carl Rosa Opera Company as a conductor, working with singers such as Heddle Nash and Joan Hammond. In 1944 he made his first recording for Walter Legge of EMI conducting Liu's arias from Turandot with Hammond.
After the war, Susskind became a naturalised British citizen, and though he spent much of his subsequent career outside Britain he said he would never dream of giving up his British citizenship.
His first appointment as musical director was to the Scottish Orchestra, where he served from 1946 to 1952. From 1953 to 1955 he was the conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (then known as the Victorian Symphony Orchestra). After free-lancing in Israel and South America he was appointed to head the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1956 to 1965. While with the TSO he taught conducting at The Royal Conservatory of Music where among his pupils were Milton Barnes and Rudy Toth. From 1968 to 1975 he was conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Susskind died in Berkeley, California at the age of 66.