Interview with Franziska Mayer, conducted by Beate Meyer, on December 14, 1992 [in excerpts].

English Translation

    I: And then tell us again how you came to Peru.
    M: Because my brother was there.
    I: Yes.
    M: I wanted to see my brothers again after ten years. Because the one from England had also got tired of milking cows at Mrs. Mc Donald’s or some such. Ha-ha. Has also always...
    I: Yes.
    M: And went to Peru.
    I: And then…
    M: We all saw each other again.
    I: Did all three of you stay there?
    M: Yes. And we thought we would always stay there.
    I: Yes.
    M: My brother, who was there, had married and had children.
    I: Mhm.
    M: And I was very useful as an aunt.
    I: Mhm.
    M: The mother also wanted to relax once in a while. And, um... We had this beautiful center with this beautiful garden, which fed us well with vegetables. And... We watched the children grow up. [] Interruption in the original (brother dropping in just then, tape being turned off).
    I: Yes… And would you have come up with the idea of going back without the “Shining Path”?
    M: No.
    I: You would have stayed there?
    M: Yes, I would have.
    I: I see... Yes. When did the terror start?
    M: Oh, about ten years [ago] at least.
    I: Mhm.
    M: Back in the 1980s.
    I: How long have you been here now?
    M: For three years.
    I: Oh, only for three years.
    M: Mhm.
    I: Mhm. So that means you put up with it for quite a long time and...?
    M: Yes. [] Brief digression on other jobs in the textiles industry in Peru
    I: What made you decide to go back? I mean, if you…
    M: That my brother was attacked and clobbered, be... be... be... beaten up.
    I: Oh, Yes.
    M: The one who just came in.
    I: Yes.
    M: They broke his collarbone and all that nonsense.
    I: And your other brother stayed there?
    M: Yes. He still... First of all, we had the big... or he had the big property where the house you saw...
    I: Mhm. [] The door opens by itself and Franziska Mayer gets up to close it.
    M: And at the moment, nobody wants to and nobody can, uh, invest money or acquire larger assets, uh.
    I: Mhm.
    M: For example, the farm, uh, where the orphanage is now – you’ve seen the picture where the loom is in the hayloft…
    I: Yes.
    M: Um. What did I say? That could only be sold for a third of the, uh, declared price.
    I: So that means your other brother would have come along too, if he, well...
    M: Would not have come along. We are independent of each other. His wife certainly wouldn’t live in the retirement home. This, so even if I... But I wanted... My brother has become very, um, orthodox, the one who just came in here. And he wanted to go to the Jewish retirement home.
    I: Mhm.
    M: And I wouldn’t have been able to, uh, – I was 75 at the time – I wouldn’t have been able to earn money anywhere to support us both and run the household. I had to go to the retirement home.
    I: Yes.
    M: And, um…
    I: Was it difficult for you to come back to Hamburg?
    M: Oh God... I’ve already lived in an orphanage and worked in a clothes warehouse and worked in a hospital and, ha-ha, done all these things. So well, you can try retirement ... retirement homes, no? Like that, along those lines.
    I: Yes.
    M: Hehe.
    I: Hehe.
    I: Yes...And you got something right away here too?
    M: What do you mean…?
    I: Well…
    M: My second brother went to Hamburg, my... the brother who was just here. Let’s say Reinhard, shall we? Reinhard read through... always read the Allgemeine, and there he found an article by Arie Goral. And then he wrote to Arie Goral, isn’t there a retirement home?
    I: Mhm.
    M: And then Arie Goral wrote back, yes, there is. Hehe. And then my brother Wilhelm, who had the…
    I: The other one.
    M: …had the business, he traveled here and had a look at it and rented two rooms.  Phone in the background
    I: Ah yes.
    M: Very simple.
    I: That’s how it was. Yes…
    M: That’s how it was.
    I: When did you come back to Hamburg for the first time, after the war, or were you never there during this entire ?
    M: I was never there, I had never gone back. Neither from Newfoundland, nor from America, nor from Peru. [] Sound failed in the original (sound interference was deleted).
    M: Yes.
    I: 1989...
    M: ... did I return.
    I: Return?
    M: Yes. ’38 bis ’89…
    I: That’s a long time, the city has changed a lot since then.
    M: Well, yes, God knows. Above all, you don’t see any more ruins, but you do see a lot of new houses that were built after the war.  Phone in the background
    M: Now stop it!
    I: Yes, here too, right? This house. So…
    M: Yes, of course!
    I: Yes.
    M: The whole Jewish community only [moved] here after the war...
    I: Yes. Did you ever see anyone again here in Hamburg that you had known?
    M: Yes! I have two class reunion days.
    I: Mhm
    M: Hehe. One from Firgau and one from Curschmannstraße.
    I: Aha.
    M: High school graduation class. First of all! So these are school acquaintances.
    I: Mhm.
    M: And secondly, we had a cousin from the Wohlwill Clan.
    I: Yes.
    M: She married a Christian and survived by the skin of her teeth. She was already on the list when the war ended.
    I: Mhm.
    M: But... So, so... And... She married, uh, a Brandis, whose sons – Thomas Brandis, the violinist, and the, um, a lawyer, a doctor, and something else – four sons, and they all in turn have lots of children. So, there is no lack of relatives.
    I: Mhm, Yes.
    M: Only they live in southern Germany... or something like that. But in Hamburg there were also a few…
    I: And you didn’t have any uneasy feelings about coming back here?  Telefon im Hintergrund
    M: Well, antisemitism directly, I never actually experienced it personally.
    I: Mhm.
    M: Except for the time, um, everything was pretty good, except for the time before the emigration, because all those songs were sung and all those kinds of stories, no, so…
    I: Yes… []

    Source Description

    Franziska Mayer was born on July 4, 1914 into a merchant’s family in Hamburg. She attended the Firgau-Lyzeum (a girl’s secondary school) on Sierichstrasse and then completed an apprenticeship as a weaver. In 1938, she managed to escape to Peru, where one of her brothers was already living and where her second brother emigrated later. Her parents were deported and murdered. In Peru, Franziska Mayer worked in the textiles industry and lived with her brothers and their families. Due to the armed struggle of the “Shining Path” guerrilla organization, she returned to Hamburg in 1989 at the age of 75. She moved into a Jewish retirement home, where she passed in 1994. Two years before her death, she gave an interview to the Workshop of Memory in which she also spoke about her remigration. Further interviews from the Workshop of Memory can be found here.

    Recommended Citation

    Interview with Franziska Mayer, conducted by Beate Meyer, on December 14, 1992 [in excerpts]. (translated by Erwin Fink), edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <> [April 17, 2024].