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Georg Mewes * 1909
Hasselwisch 5 (Wandsbek, Wohldorf-Ohlstedt)
Georg Mewes, born on 7 Apr. 1909, perished in the Buchenwald concentration camp on 2 Jan. 1944
Georg Mewes was born on 7 Apr. 1909 on Wohldorf Estate, where his father worked as an estate manager. After completing the local village school, he first attended Matthias-Claudius High School in Wandsbek. Subsequently, he changed to the reform-oriented coeducational Lichtwark School, a school that better matched his artistic inclinations. Following a six-month student exchange in Britain, he passed his high-school graduating exam (Abitur) there in 1929. Although he was definitely interested in farming, he prevailed in his wish to study architecture. The owner of Wohldorf Estate encouraged him in this, initially supporting him financially as well. Georg Mewes turned down a scholarship that would have required him to join the Nazi Party. As he said, he intended to "make it even without that,” completing his studies as a graduate engineer in 1935.
Professionally, his life in the Nazi state went very well; his first boss at a Berlin architect’s office recommended the capable young man directly to Albert Speer, who placed him in a senior position in his "Beauty of Labor” Bureau (Amt "Schönheit der Arbeit”), even though he had never become a party member. From then on, community centers, comrades’ houses, and housing development buildings were constructed according to his plans across the Reich. In 1937, Georg Mewes attended the Paris World Exhibition and in 1939, he designed the German contribution at the "Exposition Internationale de la technique de l’eau” (International Exhibition for Hydraulic Engineering) in Belgium.
During his studies, Georg Mewes met a fellow student in Berlin, the young German-American Isolde Berger. In Apr. 1938, Isolde returned to her family in the USA. Georg joined her and they got married. The young couple went on a trip through America. Georg Mewes’ employer, Albert Speer, generously gave him time off so he could study the modern architecture of the United States.
On this occasion, Mewes noted very clearly American criticism toward the preparations for war undertaken by the German Reich. He resisted the urging by his new relatives to stay in the USA by saying, "My homeland Germany needs me because it is headed for troubled times, I have to go back!” In Dec. 1938, he and Isolde returned to Germany, where they moved to Kurfürstendamm in Berlin.
Georg reported for military service, though much to his chagrin he was not accepted but rather declared "indispensable.” In private, he frankly said, "I will not build for war purposes, let the bigwigs [Bonzen] do that!” This constituted the first in a series of remarks critical of the regime that eventually led to his violent demise.
Contrary to his declared intention, Mewes found himself forced to build exclusively for the Nazi war logistics. He was sent to Baden near Vienna, where he served as deputy site engineer of the "Todt Organization” in Austria, designing hangars and army barracks.
In the spring of 1940, when the German invasion of Norway took place, Georg Mewes became site engineer there from one day to the next, with the main office located in Oslo. There he often associated with high-ranking figures about whom he related, "The main thing is that the big shots are in safety and get to smoke big cigars and talk big, but none of them ever comes along, out into the snow and ice.”
In June 1942, Georg Mewes sustained serious head injuries in a plane crash during an inspection trip. He was admitted to the Nikolasee military hospital in Berlin. Visiting him there, his father described him as "terribly haggard” and beyond recognition. In Oct. 1942, Georg Mewes, severely traumatized, was discharged and granted leave until his complete convalescence. He recovered at his parents’ home in Ohlstedt because his wife, despite holding US citizenship, was enlisted for compulsory labor duty and due to her foreign language skills, she was forced to listen in on foreign radio stations near Berlin under SS guard.
Repeatedly, Georg Mewes expressed his own critical, disillusioned stance toward the Nazi state, also harboring intentions in his letters to emigrate to a neutral country such as Switzerland, Portugal, or Sweden. His father urgently warned him but the neighborhood denunciations had already begun:
In Feb. 1943, two Gestapo officers and the local police sergeant showed up, rifled through Georg’s room, and took him into custody at the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp. The reasons given for his continued detention without indictment and trial were his alleged plans to flee, suspicion of espionage, and planned high treason.
Following the large-scale air raids on Hamburg in late July and early Aug. 1943, the Mewes saw their son a few times clearing rubble together with other prisoners. The last time was in Dec. 1943 in Niendorf, where he was in the process of building a house with a few other prisoners for a bombed-out SS sergeant (SS-Wachtmeister).
Four weeks later, Georg Mewes was taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, where he died on 2 Jan. 1944 at the age of 35. The notification of his death reached his parents one month later. The urn containing his ashes was buried in the Waldfriedhof Wohldorf-Ohlstedt (Wohldorf-Ohlstedt forest cemetery).
His widow Isolde was not granted any leave to attend the funeral service. Soon her workplace was destroyed and her apartment bombed out. She fled to the Swedish legation, whose staff took her to Denmark undercover. Danish fishermen ferried her across to Sweden, and from there she made her way back to the United States.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: October 2017
© Eva Lindemann, Marina Dietz, Johanna Geyer, Josephine Lindemann
Quellen: StaH 351-11 (AfW), 4282; Thüringisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Weimar, NS 4 Bu: Datenbank der Häftlingsnummernkartei, Totenbuch des KZ Buchenwald; VVN-Akte Georg Mewes; unveröffentlichtes Typoskript der Lebenserinnerungen von Georg Mewes Senior; Zeitzeugengespräche und Interview mit Uta Schröder am 13.1.2009.