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Paula Meyer (née Polack) * 1880
Isestraße 39 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
GEDEMÜTIGT / ENTRECHTET
FLUCHT IN DEN TOD
Paula Meyer, née Polack, born 13 Feb. 1880 in Hamburg, death by suicide 3 Dec. 1941
On the morning of 3 December 1941, Anna Svoboda found the doors leading to her "Mistress’s” room locked. She called the building superintendent to open them. Once inside, she found Paula Meyer, for whom she had worked as a live-in maid since 1934, unconscious on her bed. There were still signs of life, however, so Fräulein Svoboda called an ambulance. Paula Meyer was taken to the Israelitic Hospital on Johnsallee. She had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. The doctors and nurses, not for the first time, had a difficult decision to make. Should they, according to the oath they had taken, do everything in their power to save her life, or should they respect the last wishes of a desperate women and allow her to die in peace rather than be sent to certain death in a concentration camp?
Paula Meyer had received her "evacuation orders” for Riga. She died shortly after being admitted to the hospital. The building management requested that the "momentarily empty Jewish household” be secured, the outstanding rent of 147 Reichsmarks be paid, and that the apartment not remain unguarded because of the "air raid danger.” Rather than give this last task to Anna Svoboda, who was now homeless, it was given to the building superintendent. Paula Meyer had no relatives in Hamburg. Her brother Wolfram, who went by the name of Charles Garden, had emigrated to the US in 1940, and her brother Julius had died in 1933. It thus became the task of the Consulent Samson, who had advised her previously, to administer her estate.
Paula Meyer was the widow of James Meyer, whom she had married after divorcing her first husband. In 1902, at the age of 22, she had married Iwan Franck. Four years earlier he had opened a stationery business. Their son Erwin was born in 1903. He attended school at the Eimsbüttel public school, and then attended the private Wahnschaff school. He did a commercial apprenticeship at the Hamburger lead works Adolf Bernstein AG and then worked, beginning in 1930, in the construction department of the Protos Telefon GmbH, a subsidiary of the Siemens and Halskske AG. He became an independent member of the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community in 1926. His parents divorced in 1927. The next year Paula married James Meyer (*1874), a general manager at the H.A. Jonas & Sons banking house.
While her ex-husband began losing customers in 1933 and soon found himself in financial trouble, she and her new husband lived very comfortably. Her son emigrated to Copenhagen in 1933. James Meyer died in May 1937, leaving his wife a substantial fortune. She was also the owner of two properties. Morris Samson handled Paula Meyer’s affairs with the Foreign Exchange Office of the Chief Tax Authority. Like all Jews in her situation, a "security order” was issued on her accounts. From October 1939 onwards, Paula Meyer had "free access” to only 550 Reichsmarks per month: 180 RM for rent and utilities, 180 RM for living expenses for her two-member household, 60 RM for her housekeeper, and 130 RM for other expenses. She had to request permission for all other expenditures. For Christmas 1939 she was allowed 100 RM for her housekeeper, her accountant, her dressmaker, etc., "to whom I have given something every year.”
In June 1940, she was allowed to send her son in Copenhagen 350 RM via the Uruguayan General Consulate in Hamburg. This was a clear indication that she intended to emigrate. On 30 October 1941 she arranged that 5,000 RM be given to Anna Svoboda. Her lawyer justified the gift as follows: "Fräulein Anna Svoboda, Aryan, has worked for the Meyers since February 1934, first for the couple, then after Herr Meyer’s death, for Paula Meyer. In all of those years, she has remained very loyal and was of particular help to Frau Meyer at the passing of her husband. As Frau Meyer plans to emigrate soon, she would like to see that Fräulein Svoboda be presented with this special gratuity now, since she is 54 years old and no longer fully able to work, and when Frau Meyer leaves will be dependent on welfare subsidies.”
On that same day, and once again on 14 November 1941, two more requests for special allowances were submitted, both of which show that Paula Meyer had actual plans to emigrate. She was granted 92.40 RM for an urgent telegram to Uruguay with regard to her emigration, and 65.50 RM for a cable to the Hamburg-America Line, also "with regard to emigration.”
By 14 November 1941, however, emigration as no longer possible. Two large deportation transports had already left Hamburg, and the third loomed. After Paula Meyer once again had to witness the disappearance of friends and acquaintances on 18 November, from whom no one ever heard again, it is easy to understand that she had no desire to share this fate.
Anna Svoboda received her gift in 1942, probably at the insistence of Consulent Samson. Samson also represented Paula Meyer’s son in the reparation proceedings, as he was familiar with her financial situation. Samson did not live to see the conclusion of the reparation proceedings in 1967.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: April 2018
© Christa Fladhammer
Quellen: 2; StaH 331-5 Polizeibehörde, Unnatürliche Sterbefälle 1942/142; StaH 351-11, AfW 4807; Björn Eggert, Biografie Iwan Franck in Stolpersteine-Hamburg, in: www.stolpersteine –hamburg.de.
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