Luise Meier (1885 - 1979)

Born in Hagen in 1885, Luise Bemm married the businessman Karl Meier in 1909. The couple lived in the Westphalian city of Soest, where their four children were born between 1910 and 1918. Luise Meier was responsible for raising the children. The Meiers moved to Berlin in 1936 and lived in the well-to-do residential district of Grunewald. Karl Meier died in 1942 while his sons were in military service in the Wehrmacht.

As a devout Catholic, Luise Meier opposed the Nazi regime, whereas her son Rudolf was a member of the Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler, a paramilitary unit of the SS, starting in 1934. In 1942 she hid Herta and Felix Perls in her apartment and toward the end of the year helped the Jewish couple to escape to Switzerland near Bregenz at Lake Constance. In spring 1943 she also temporarily took in Wally Heinemann, an acquaintance of the Perls.

In early 1943 she was asked by a Swiss delegate of the International Red Cross to help a Jewish woman she did not know. In planning this escape she met Josef Höfler, who lived in the Lake Constance region; together with him and others she helped about twenty-eight Jews escape into Switzerland. When a planned escape failed in May 1944 Luise Meier was arrested. The Freiburg Special Court investigated against her and her fellow helpers for "continued assistance for the illegal emigration of Jews into Switzerland." The case was later transferred to the People’s Court in Berlin, but the trial never took place.

"In contrast to my fellow prisoners, I was never despairing or disheartened. I did not doubt I would receive the death penalty, yet remained cheerful and confident, strengthened through prayer," as Luise Meier retrospectively described her situation at the time she was incarcerated in the Singen court prison. On March 5, 1945, she was transferred to the Stockach prison, where she was then liberated by French troops in April. Luise Meier was honored posthumously in 2001 by the Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations and in 2011 a street in Soest—where she moved back to after the war—was named after her.

Schoppmann, Claudia. "Fluchtziel Schweiz: Das Hilfsnetz um Luise Meier und Josef Höfler." In Überleben im Dritten Reich: Juden im Untergrund und ihre Helfer, edited by Wolfgang Benz, 205–219. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2003.
Luise Meier
Photo: privately owned

Rescue Attempts


  • "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.

  • People’s Court

    People’s Court

    In 1934 the National Socialists established the People’s Court in Berlin to try political opponents for treason. Offenses such as "aiding the enemy" and "undermining military morale" were also tried there. The People’s Court handed down 5,200 death sentences up to 1945; most of the verdicts were delivered after 1942 by Roland Freisler, the notorious president of the court. No appeals were permitted.