The Brehmer Siblings

My great-grandmother Natalie (Tali) Brehmer) had five sisters and two brothers who both died young. One brother died before his second birthday and the other, Paul born in 1891, died in 1918 (WWI or the flu).

One of Tali’s sisters, Susanne (Suse), had a suitor who prior to asking her father for his daughter’s hand, inquired whether Suse’s dowry would be enough for them to live on and him to attend law school and train to became a lawyer. When the answer was positive, he proposed and they married. Their son Otto Stiebeling followed his father’s footsteps and became a lawyer.

Elisabeth (Lithi) Brehmer, (1882-1967), obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry and became one of Germany’s first female scientists in her field. Magdalene (Ala), an older sister of Tali, became mother of Alén Müller-Hellwig who created a successful career for herself as a textile artist, weaving tapestry images which she exhibited and sold worldwide. A younger sister Leonore (Lola) married Alfred Jansen, but I don’t know what happened to Margarethe (Detta 1873-1946), and Paul Brehmer’s widow Clara.

It was Alén’s family’s loss of wealth that enabled her career, she used to say. Had they not lost everything during the hyperinflation in the 1920s, Alén would have been expected to marry and supervise the servants. Having no money liberated her to strike out and create her own future. She was a strong and opinionated woman who married an accomplished violin builder named Günther Hellwig and didn’t have children until she was over 35 years old – very unusual at that time.

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Alén was my grandfather’s favorite cousin and occasionally visited us in Sweden. My family used to visit her and her husband in Burgtor Haus in Lübeck where they lived and worked for many years. In the watch tower she had her  studio and he built his violins. Burgtor is one of originally four gates in the city wall, dating back to 1250.  Burgtor Haus was intriguing – I especially recall being shown a lid in the gate floor that could be opened to pour boiling oil on the enemy as they entered the city through the gate that was supposed to keep them out.

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