Odyssey through Germany 

Jewish journalist Wilhelm Meyer was an editor for the Ullstein publishing house until 1933. When he died in the fall of 1942, friends urged his widow Susanne to go into hiding. Their thirteen-year-old son had been able to escape to England in 1939. The newspaper illustrator and Social Democrat Alois Florath, in particular, urged Susanne Meyer to flee. He had heard from a police inspector that Jews in Poland were being murdered with carbon-monoxide gas.

Friedrich Kroner, former Ullstein editor-in-chief, introduced Susanne Meyer to Eduard Stadtler, a former politician in the right-wing German National People’s Party, who played an ignominious role at Ullstein after 1933. In 1943 he became a helper, saving Meyer’s life. Through his contacts to conservative opponents of the Nazi regime, Stadtler arranged her first illegal lodgings with an acquaintance.

On the morning of January 7, 1943, Susanne Meyer left her apartment without her Yellow Star and boarded a train to Küstrin. This step marked the beginning of a dramatic odyssey crisscrossing Germany. Meyer’s first stop was in the area around Landsberg an der Warthe (Polish: Gorzów Wielkopolski). She was picked up at the Lipke train station by manor owner Hans-Wolfgang Lent and his wife Ingeborg. The couple, who had three children, didn’t know the Jewish woman from Berlin, but had agreed to take her in. When six weeks later someone in the circle of the manor owner was arrested, Meyer fled to Berlin, where Stadtler helped her again. He referred her to lodgings with several Catholic families in Düsseldorf who were relatives of his wife.

When Susanne Meyer again returned to Berlin in the summer of 1943, Alois Florath helped her find lodgings in Kagar, a village near Rheinsberg in Brandenburg. Starting in 1943, Kagar was a refuge also for non-Jewish opponents of the Nazi regime. Georg Steffen, a farmer and, like his Huguenot ancestors, village mayor of Kagar, and his wife Elise offered refuge during the war to people suffering racist and political persecution. Among those who found temporary shelter in their inn and guesthouse were Otto Suhr, later mayor of Berlin, and his Jewish wife Susanne. Susanne Meyer was taken in on numerous occasions. She also hid temporarily in the summerhouse of her former neighbor in Berlin, Arthur Veit, at Mellensee, and she stayed for a few months with Mathilde Stoltenhoff, a physician in Berlin-Lichterfelde. Meyer helped her in the household and in her practice.

Berlin journalist Herta Zerna was a member of the Social Democratic Party until 1933. Toward the end of the war she let Susanne Meyer stay with her and her mother in their small house in Kagar, which is where Meyer was when the war ended. A short time later she returned to Berlin, where after six years she finally saw her son again, who had since become a British soldier. She married her helper Arthur Veit.

Georg Steffen was denounced in July 1945 and subsequently interned in the Soviet special camp in Jamlitz near Lieberose. He died there in June 1946 at the age of fifty-five.

Bibliography:
Kosmala, Beate. “Zuflucht für Verfolgte: Kagar bei Rheinsberg.” In Juden in Rheinsberg: Eine Spurensuche, edited by Peter Böthig and Stefanie Oswald, 163–170. Karwe (Neuruppin), Germany: Edition Rieger, 2005.
Kosmala, Beate. “Solidarität mit verfolgten Kollegen: Die Rettung von Susanne Meyer.” In Die Eule lässt Federn. Das Ullsteinhaus 1926–1986. Setzer, Drucker, Journalisten, edited by Egon Bannehr and Bernd-Ingo Drostel et al., 94–100. 2nd rev. ed. Berlin: Trafo, 2012.

Glossary

  • “Aiding the enemy”

    “Aiding the enemy”

    Everything that the Nazi regime viewed as harmful to the German Reich or serving its enemies was defined by the Nazi judiciary as “aiding the enemy,” and therefore state treason. This also included helping people to escape. The notorious People’s Court imposed the penalties for such actions, including the death penalty and penal servitude for life.

  • Nazi Party

    Nazi Party

    In Munich in 1920 Adolf Hitler announced the anti-democratic and racist program of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP, founded in 1919 as the German Workers Party). The party was an authoritarian organization headed by the “Führer”; it gained political significance during the economic and state crisis around 1930. From 1933 on it was the sole party. Up to 1945 around 8.5 million Germans had become “party comrades.”

     

  • Social Democratic Party

    Social Democratic Party

    The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) grew out of the labor movement of the nineteenth century and was founded in 1890. After 1918 it was a pillar of Weimar democracy. In 1933 the SPD members of the Reichstag unanimously rejected Hitler’s Enabling Act. Consequently, leading SPD members were persecuted and many emigrated.