Dr. Friedrich “Friedel” Bieber

The story of a lawyer in Germany during the Nazi regime

Told by Peter W. Schaper November 11, 2017

Preamble

These pages are in no way intended to be an official biography of Friedrich Bieber. They are the author’s collection of facts from various sources and especially from his own memories of his uncle, brother of his mother. There were three main sources of information used by the authors, which are listed below along with the author’s acknowledgement of these references and with his gratitude for supplying them. The reference sources:

1900 to 1941: Notes from Gerhard Lieschke, son of Friedrich Bieber’s best friend during these years, Wolfgang Lieschke; Transmitted to the author via emails in German on the occasion of a “dormant for about 75 years” renewal of communications.

Pre 1900 to 1944: “Meine Lehrerin, Dr. Dora Lux“, a book written by Hilde Schramm in German. This extremely well researched book represents and excellent reference of the history of the Bieber Family. Its subject was the sister of Friedrich Bieber and it contains most of the information supplied here. Unfortunately the book has not been translated into English at the time of this writing.

1935 to 1944: letters from Dora Lux to her sister in the USA, Annemarie “Mieze” Bieber covering mostly the years of World War 2 and Friedrich Bieber’s final fate; all from typewritten copies of fair quality in this author’s possession.

As the information for this story was collected and arranged, the author found clearly that different stories showed different bias of those who provided the details. That also is certainly true for the comments made by the author himself. His intent throughout was to tell a life story , probably for the first time in English, of a great human being who faced life in good and bad times, always trying to do “the right thing”, sometimes not very successfully. However, he always found the will to survive and persevere although quite often the “cards he was dealt were stacked against him”, It is fitting that his story be told to members of his family who will take the time to experience life in Germany during the infamous Nazi Years.

Friedrich Bieber Growing Up

In the years 1812 to 1920 there existed officially a province, Posen, in Eastern Germany, East of the river Oder. The region now is in Poland, but at the time of Bismarck was part of the German empire. It was populated mostly by Polish families and featured a strong Jewish population of German and Polish nationality. On July 27, 1891 Friedrich “Friedel” Bieber was born in the town of Lissa, a different locale from the towns like Gross Zalesie and Schneidemühl, birthplaces of Friedel’s siblings. Friedel was the youngest child of Georg and Alberta Bieber. The geography associated with these events is significant, because it shows that the Bieber family was much on the move. Georg was first owner of the Bismarckshöhe estate, bought for him by his father, Joachim, and later became administrator before mostly agronomical difficulties and other labor troubles forced the family sell the estate and to move to Berlin in the fall of 1891. The move to Berlin was to various parts of city, not to the house built on a large property Friedel’s grandfather had purchased in 1870, across from the old Marien Kirche (church) suitable for apartment dwelling and Business enterprises. Another noteworthy family trait for the Bieber family in the late 1800s was the fact that George Bieber had always wanted to be a government employee or a military officer, was denied these opportunities because of anti-Semitism in Prussia at this time. He therefore decided that, because his ancestors who were Jews, never actively participated in that religion, to have all of his family baptized. This overcame the State’s objections and had consequences in the future! However George never joined the military but worked as a merchant in Berlin.

Not much is known about the very early years of Friedel. The first mention of Friedel’s education comes through Gerhard Lieschke’s notation that he met his father, Wolf Lieschke, as student in 1908, attending first the “Grey Cloister” a Lutheran private school in Berlin and then at the Joachimsthaler Gymnasium. Both “made their Abitur” – or graduated _ a half year apart in 1910. Both were actively interested in rowing and joined the Rowing Club Wiking in Berlin and the ARV, Academic Rowing Club. Friedel was studying Jura after graduation and joined a dueling fraternity. This led to an incident in Heidelberg, in 1911, when Friedel and his friend lived in Heidelberg. They met a physically handicapped young lady who was being verbally insulted in their presence, by another student. Friedel challenged the offender to a duel. The end result: this author remembers seeing the ‘Heidelberg dueling scar” on his uncle’s face in the 1930ies. Student life continued for Friedel in Heidelberg with summers spent in Berlin. It was during a rowing tour in the waters round Berlin that Friedel and his friend Wolf met Gertrud Driesen, Friedel’s future wife.

World War 1 and Weimar

When World War 1 erupted in Europe, Friedel and his older brother Wilhelm joined the German army as officers. Both were ordered to the Western Front to serve in the Elsass Infantry Regiment. Wilhelm was killed very early in the war. As Friedel was ordered to leave for the front, he went to say goodbye to his older sister, Else, who was in a hospital in Berlin giving birth to her third son. She was married to a Frenchman at the time. Friedel greeted her with the words: A fine situation, here I am being sent off to kill Frenchmen while you are lying there, putting new ones into the world!” [An anecdote told to the Author by his mother, Else.]

Friedel served in a distinguished manner from the German point of view, throughout the conflict. He did not talk much about his service, but he did mention several large battles to this author, when pressed for details later in his life. One instance that stuck out was the horror tale of how, in the heat of battle, one’s emotions can be so altered by the adrenaline onrush, that one forgets one’s principles. Thus, as he was leading a charge as a lieutenant with his sergeant, they passed a wounded French soldier lying on his back, clearly wounded and terrified, asking for mercy. The sergeant asked Friedel what he should do and the running response came: “Kill him!”. But the sergeant had better sense and questioned Friedel: “Do you really mean that, Herr Doctor?” It brought Friedel to his senses. He liked to tell this to show the horrors of the trench warfare of the conflict.

Friedel served continuously during the War, was wounded several times, including a fairly serious head wound, and was decorated several times for valor. During the summer of 1917 both Friedel and his friend, Wolf Lieschke, who served as a doctor and contacted typhus while in service, managed to “get away” on a recovery furlough at the island Hiddensee. Wolf had since married. Gertrud joined the travelers, chaperoned by Friedel’s two sisters – Mieze and Dora – and Mieze’s husband, Dr. Richard Bieber, a lawyer (Justizrat) . The get together was reprised in 1918 when Mieze assisted in the birth of Wolf’s daughter Eva and Friedel, of course, stood in as godfather to the child. Thus a long-lasting friendship between the two families resulted.

 

The Nazi Years

In spite of the fact that he was wounded 5 times during frontline service for the duration of World War I, Friedel wanted to remain in the armed services of Germany after the end of the conflict. He briefly continued to be a member of the small German military, but was disappointed in the role the military began to play in post-war German politics and consequently decided to finish his studies in Jura (law) first begun in 1911.  By 1922 he was ready to join his uncle Richard Bieber in the law firm in Berlin and began to build an excellent reputation as a lawyer. By the year 1928 he was able to start building a practice of his own.

All seemed to be going well until, in 1934 he was sentenced to 2 years in prison for mishandling funds of his firm. According to the court records, cited in some detail by Hilde Schramm in her book about Dora Lux, Friedel appeared to have an inherent problem with answering demands for information from official court sources. With the help of famiy members and also his old friend, Wolf Lieschke, he was able to make full restitution of the moneys, but when he was discharge in 1936, he was broke. He had lost his license to practice law and since by this time the National Socialist government had begun to earnestly prevent Jews from being in the law profession, he decided not to take the chance to ask for re-instatement, fearing that his Jewish background might be uncovered.

Friedel and his wife Gertrude moved into an apartment intended for a concierge in the Schaper house in the Buchenstrasse in Berlin, being run by his sister Elsbeth Yvonne Schaper, the authors mother. For two years the couple assisted around the house wherever they were needed. Gertrude pinch hit for Yvonne at times when she was not around, but she mostly helped her husband with secretarial task . Friedel worked as an advisor to several of his former lawyer colleagues and took care of the yard in the Schaper house. The author also remembers him being a father figure in his life – he needed the military authority figure Friedel represented. He also served as his sponsor during the confirmation in the Lutheran church. By the year 1938 Friedel and Gertrud were able to move into their own apartment in Berlin.

The author will continue Friedel’s biography by turning the narrative over to his cousin, Gerda Lux, who shared the excerpted paragraphs with the author prior to her death. The author hereby expresses his gratitude to her for having shared with him her personal experiences and her mother’s.

In 1997 Gerda Lux Voss writes:

I saw my uncle Friedel for the last time on August 31, 1943, when I came home to Berlin for my father’s eightieth birthday. Mother had invited a small group of family and friends for a glass of wine to celebrate the occasion.

We were sitting in Father’s den, a room dominated by his big oak desk, its top as usual hidden by a clutter of papers, pens, pencils, drafting tools and slide rules. Dark curtains, tightly drawn across the high bay windows prevented any glimmer of light from escaping into the blacked out city . Only a single bulb lit the pretty alabaster bowl that hung from the ceiling. A somewhat worn carpet covered the oak floor. The bool cases that lined the walls were, like the rest of the furniture, heavy, old-fashioned and mismatched. Mother had added a cheerful note with a big bunch  of sunflowers  placed  in a tall, blue-green Chinese vase. Year after year an old friend grew father’s favourite birthday flowers in his garden.

There were few other gifts. My friend Odje Voss had brought some tea from his pilot’s ration and was surprised  by  Father’s delight in the rare beverage. While Mother poured the wine, another birthday gift, she could not help drawing the comparison to Father’s seventieth birthday, when the table was too small to hold all the flowers and gift baskets sent by friends and colleagues, clubs and  professional associations.

Father raised his glass in the toast he had given for the last ten years, “pereant” ( may they perish.) Mother glanced at her future son-in-law about whose sentiments she was not quite sure, and thought it was just as well that he had no background in Latin.

It was the last time that mother sat so comfortably together with the few of her family who remained in Berlin. Not even an air raid disturbed the peace of that night. The year that followed brought nothing but grief and sorrow. Father did not live to see another birthday; Mother’s younger sister was deported to Theresienstadt  within the next six months. Her brother Friedel’s fate was already sealed.

Dr. Friedrich Bieber, Friedel to his family, my mother’s youngest brother, in his fifties still good looking, debonair, a bit of a gambler, had a charm that endeared him to family and friends. He was born in 1891, baptized at birth and brought  up as a Protestant. Only he and his family knew that both his parents had originally been  Jewish.

– In the years preceding World War I Jews in Prussia had all civil rights except two: They could not become officers in the army, and they could not be civil servants.These restrictions irked my grandfather , Georg Bieber, who had an inclination towards the military, and would have liked  to have become an officer in the reserve. Because of his religion he could only make it to the highest non-commissioned rank. He had never been a practicing Jew. Therefore, a decade later, after a series of reverses in his fortune, he took the plunge. Together withhis wife and older children he converted to the Christian relig ion. This step made him into what he always wanted to be, a regular Prussian citizen. Both his sons fulfilled his military ambition.

When the Great War broke out Friedel, who had served his obligatory year in the reserve before studying law, joined the army as an officer. He spent the four war years in active combat. Twice wounded and much decorated, he was a good officer, well liked by his subordinates, many of whom kept in touch in later years. Although Friedel became a successful lawyer in Berlin, he never quite lost his military bearing.

Shortly after the war, to his friends’ surprise and Mother’s dismay, he married Gertrud, a non-descript, humorless sour-puss. Mother had known her when they both taught at the same high school. She had formed her first, and lasting, impression one day in the principal’s office. Gertrud complained bitterly about a prank the children had played on her, which Mother secretly thought was funny. Mother herself was quite capable in dealing with adolescent mischief. Like her brother she was an intellectual. Although she had none of his light-hearted charm, she had a dry sense of humor and in spite of her quiet ways was never at a loss for an answer.            Gertrud never hit it off with Friedel’s  close-knit family, although she too was of partly Jewish descent. The marriage remained  childless.

In 1933 the Nazis came to power, and many, who like Friedel, had no connection to the Jewish religion, suddenly found themselves classified as Jews. For several years Friedel kept this fact from the authorities by avoiding to apply for any  identification papers.

Then came a day, late in 1938, when Berlin woke up to the smell of burning synagogues and shattered window glass of Jewish stores. Hitler’s SA, the para-military organization of brown-shirted hoodlums, had done their work during the night. In the morning they manned all official buildings demanding to see identification, and refusing entry to all whose cards indicated that they were Jews.

They stood in front of the court house where Friedel had business, demanding identification from him. The lawyer looked down at the two slouching figures and snarled, “stand erect when you are on duty.”There was no mistaking the military voice used to command. The two awed SA men stood to attention and let him pass.

But Friedel knew he could not maintain the bluff. He had to  stop practicing law. Unofficially he started to work as a consultant, advising former clients on legal and financial matters, a job that frequently took him out of town. My father’s birthday was  the

eve of another of his business trips. Gertrud had already left Berlin to find refuge from the bombs with friends in the country.

Unbeknown to mother, Friedel and Gertrud had allowed a Jewish family of four to seek shelter in their nearly always empty apartment. The woman worked unofficially as secretary to Professor Eulenburg a friend of Friedel’s. During the party Friedel told Mother that Eulenburg had been summoned to appear before the Gestapo (the secret police) the next day. An order like this was usually ground for grave concern. But since it had happened to Prof. Eulenberg before, and only for some trivial reason he was not overly worried. Neither he nor Friedel connected the summons with the employment and sheltering of the Jewish secretary.

However, as was happening so often, somebody had betrayed them. Professor Eulenburg never returned. He was arrested on the spot, and died later in jail. The Jewish family was deported. The Gestapo occupied Friedel’s apartment, setting a trap for its occupants. Gertrud was caught. Unfortunately she called home, was traced and deported to Auschwitz, where she perished.

Friedel had disappeared. Mother hoped that he had been warned and was hiding. To ssure herself that he was still at large she phoned his number once in a while, cautiously from a pay telephone, and hung up as soon as an unfamiliar voice answered. The fox was still waiting for the rabbit’s return.

One day Mother received an unannounced visit. The caller was a lady she had never seen before. She appeared to be in her late forties, good looking and sophisticated; she introduced herself as Mrs. Siebert.When Mother asked her in, she revealed that she had been Friedel’s intimate friend for many years. Mother who had no personal vanity and dressed plainly, or as her irreverent daughters thought unbe­ comingly, liked what she saw. She realized immediately why her brother had been attracted to a woman so unlike his wife. Mrs.Siebert told Mother that Friedel was presently staying with her in Baden-Baden. “He has sent me to find out from Lies Bruck all she knows about her husband’s arrangements for his escape to Switzerland.”

On the date of Father’s birthday, the last day Friedel had spentin Berlin, the family knew only

that it had been some weeks since

.

Werner left . Actually on that very day he was still in Vorarlberg packing his knapsack  for the final walk. Since then he had  found a way to let his wife know that his escape had  been successful.

Mother arranged a meeting between Lies an Mrs. Siebert. Lies had been completely in her husband’s confidence and knew all his plans. She had promised to divulge them only if somebody was in dire need. The need had arisen, and Lies told Mrs. Siebert all she knew.Mother packed a suitcase with some of Father’s shirts and underwear and asked that Friedel should send it back as a sign that he had set out for the border. After a few weeks the suitcase arrived. Now Mother hoped fervently that it meant that Friedel had crossed the border. Some day, she hoped, her ever-inventive brother would find a way to let her know.

It was a trying year for Mother. Other worries pushed the still nagging doubts about her brother’s safety into the background.

Father’s health was deteriorating; his mind started to wander. Before the year was out her widowed younger sister faced deporta­ tion. It was a small consolation that the transport was headed for Theresienstadt, reputedly the least terrible of the concentration camps. Only elderly Jews were sent there and those, who like my aunt, had been married to Aryans. Before her sister left, Mother had promised to assume responsibility for the sixteen year old son she had to leave behind . She finally arranged to place him with his father’s relatives. And all along the relentless nightly air raids took their toll of everybody’s nerves.

Mother had nobody to share her worries. As never before she felt the twenty years’ difference in age that lay between her and her and her husband. She was now the only one of her family left in Berlin. Both my sister and I lived in other parts of Germany, and only occasionally came home to visit. From Friedel she had not heard anything in over six months.

Finally in April 1944 a lady telephoned. “I have a message from your brother,” she said. Mother’s heart jumped. So he had found a way to contact her from Switzerland. Nothing more could be said over the telephone, but they arranged a meeting. It was a cruel disappointment.

“You probably know that your brother is in the police jail on Alexander Platz,” were her first words, when Mother arrived all excited at the rendezvous. The woman was the Aryan wife of a Jewish lawyer who had been in that jail for quite some time. He had found a way to send messages out to her and have food and some necessities smuggled in. A few days ago he had let her know that a former colleague, a Dr. Bieber, now shared his cell and had asked himto contact his sister.

Once more Mother ransacked her husband’s closet, scrounged cigarettes, and packed as much food as she could spare. Friedel sent her a note in return. He wrote that the host of the Alpenrose inn near the Swiss border had promised to help him to escape, provided he was paid a great sum of money. After accepting from Friedel· several thousand marks he had turned around  and betrayed him. On his walk through the dark night, he had been just one hour away form the border, when a police patrol intercepted and arrested him.

The following six months he had been shunted from jail to jail insouthern Germany, and came close to starvation. As he put it, “I have done penance for all my sins.”

Friedel  did  not stay long in the Alexander Platz jail either..In May the building was hit by bombs and burned down. Many of the prisoners were killed. While Mother tried to find out what happened to the other inmates, her brother, the incorrigible opportunist, had used the general confusion to escape once more. Again he was relentlessly hunted down and captured only a short distance away from the relative safety of a friend’s house in the country.

Once more, about four weeks later, Mother received a telephone call with a message from her brother. This time the unknown caller was a young man. He suggested a meeting in a small restaurant near the Gestapo building where he was working, and asked her to bring cigarettes, food and underwear, but no more than he could stash away in a briefcase. he described how she could recognize him. Mother told him that she was sixty years old, of medium height and built, with short, grey hair; that she was darker than her brother and did not look much like him. She made sandwiches and with some of Father’s underwear and all the cigarettes she could put her hands on set out on the long way from the western suburb to the centre of the city. Berlin was already wearing the scars of frequent air raids. In many places the grey rows of four-story apartment buildings showed gaping holes where only a wall or two were left standing. Others were burnt out shells with empty openings that had once been windows. Mother walked the ten minutes to the nearest subway station. No efforts were spared in maintaining public trans portation to keep the city that depended on it function­ ing. Subway, electric trains, even busses and streetcars were sti11 running, most of the drivers and conductors now women.

The small restaurant, the place of the rendezvous, was almost empty at this time of the day. Mother sat down at one of the  round, marble-topped tables. In a very short while a young man joined her. “I am your nephew Horst,” he whispered, “and you are my aunt Adele Schulze of Kopenick. My supervisor can come in any minute,  we will then talk about family  affairs .”

Horst worked in the prison were Friedel was now held, a former Jewish old age home. He told Mother that he was delegated    to repair the bomb damage to the Gestapo building with some of the inmates, and that Friedel could not be sent out to work because he had injured his foot. He handed Mother a letter in which Friedel wrote that compared to what he had  previously endured; the old age home was heaven. He expected to be shipped off to Theresienstadt.

The supervisor came into the restaurant. Horst went back to work, and Mother sat a while with the supervisor, gave him cigarettes, bought him a beer and some lunch and chatted with him about Kopenick. Mother knew this suburban town in the eastern lake area from her hiking days. When it was time for her to leave, she obtained permission for Horst to accompany her to the station. Thus they could exchange a few more private words and make a new assignation.

During the next weeks Horst met several times with his aunt Adele. Nobody seemed to be surprised at the young man’s devotion to his old aunt. After all, the aunt had cigarettes and food not only for her nephew but also for his supervisor.

But Mother’s resources were quickly exhausted. She wrote to Mrs. Siebert with veiled hints about Friedel and asked for help. Mrs. Siebert sent cigarettes and alcohol. Friedel’s sister-in-law, who had some of his clothing in storage, also contributed. One day in July Horst warned Mother that Friedel was scheduled for immediate deportation to the east, but not to Theresienstadt.

Mother packed a suitcase with more of Father’s things, shirts, pajamas, soap and liquor. Since it was Sunday she travelled across town to find the old age home. She plied the guarding policemen with cigarettes. They promised to deliver the suitcase, but could not give her permission to see Friedel. After she introduced her­ self as his sister-in-law, they advised her to get  permission from the Gestapo – the last place Mother would seek out.

Dejectedly she strolled along the Sunday-empty street beside the building. Suddenly she saw him. He was sitting by an open window smoking a cigarette. Almost a year had passed since she had last seen her brother at Father’s birthday party. She waved and he called a greeting down. They could not say much, Mother’s voice hardly carried up to him.

”You will hear from me again, for sure,” were his last optimistic words. She never did; however she often remembered these  words with a flicker of hope. When the war ended she still waited for him to come back from somewhere, out of hiding.

A few days after that last encounter Mrs. Siebert came to Berlin in a flurry of panic. She pleaded with Mother not to write her again. Mother’s letter had been intercepted by the police. Mrs. Siebert had been thoroughly interrogated. The police  wanted to know, who was F., why would she send cigarettes and    liquor and who was the writer of the letter? They had recorded everything  and then, sent her home.

Although Mrs. Siebert had made what excuses she could think of, Mother’s whereabouts was now divulged. Mother resigned herself to her fate. She made her last will, and waited for the inevitable arrest.•

For several years now, Mother felt that she lived on borrowed time. Just before the war the Nazi government had decreed that everybody had to have a passport or identification card. All people of Jewish descent were ordered to file an application to have the middle name Israel or Sarah respectively added to the birth register. They were then issued an identification with the  big letter ‘J’ stamped across it. Almost everybody including Mother’s two sisters complied with the order, fearing the threatened reprisals. Friedel had not done it, now fate had caught up with him.

Mother, my gentle, soft-spoken mother could be stubborn.”I am not putting a rope around my neck, just because  they’re ordering me to do it,” she said. “I’m not Jewish and my name is not Sarah. Let them come.”

They would come now. It was only a matter of days. – Nothing happened. –

Father died. Berlin became more and more devastated. Mother        made room for two friends who had lost their home to the bombs. Still, nobody came for her. The only explanation she could find was that with the invasion of Normandy and the ensuing turmoil in the west her file had got lost.

Things did not return to normal for many years after the war.As soon as it was possible Mother tried to investigate her brother’s fate. The result was two conflicting  stories:

One came from Mrs. Siebert. She reported of an encounter with a police officer who told her that in the summer of 1944 he was given the unpleasant assignme nt to conduct a single prisoner to Dachau, the infamous concentration camp in Bavaria. He recognized in the prisoner  Friedrich Bieber who had been his commanding officer in World War I. He asked if he could deliver any messages, but Friedel       declined. He had at that time appeared very dull and completely apathetic.

The second version is given in a certificate by the ‘American Joint Distribution Committee,’ dated Jan.14, 1951. It states in cruel bureaucratic language:”We confirm that according to the deportation card index at hand Mr. Friedrich Bieber, transport file number 65/37836 was deported on July 12, 1944 with the 55 transport to the east, and has not returned. Even when committing genocide German officials will do so in orderly and bureaucratic fashion.

Epilogue

 

The only picture existing of Friedrich “Friedel” Bieber .

This picture was snapped by the author in 1938 in the town of Wutsrow, Germany,during a happy summer vacation. Next to Friedel is “Mutter Lisa”, a friend of Dr.Mieze Bieber, next to her is Heinrich “Hinz” Lux, Gerda Lux’s father; standing on the right is the author’s mother Else “Yvonne Schaper and kneeling in the front is Inge Mucha, Mutter Lisa’s granddaughter and the author’s first “girl friend” as they shared a baby buggy together right after birth and remained friends until the end of the war..