My grandfather Bengt Paul – early years

Natalie Paul b. Brehmer was her husband’s muse and a darling of his artist friends. My parents have art works by Albert Engström and Jean Sibelius dedicated to Tali Brehmer, and my mother recalls her as a unique woman. “There was just something very special about her.” Natalie was creative and calm, a counterbalance to her husband’s hot temper and fierce outbursts.

Within a year or so after they were married, Adolf and Natalie had their first baby, a boy named Hans. Their second child, my grandfather Bengt, was born on June 16, 1899. In 1902 Natalie gave birth to twin girls, Tali and Hedda, and five years later Holger was born (in 1907).

All children except Hans reached adult age. Hans died, probably around age eight, after falling off a rocking horse fatally injuring his head. The accident occurred while he and his twin sisters were playing, supervised by their beloved nanny. The nanny made the twins swear never to reveal the cause of the head injury that killed Hans, or she would be sacked. The twins faithfully kept the secret and in 1967 Tali died without having revealed the truth. Their parents and brothers never knew the real cause of Hans’s death. Not until her parents and all her siblings were dead did Hedda reveal the cause of Hans’s death to my mother.

Bengt and his siblings grew up in Berlin speaking some Swedish at home and were also sent to Sweden to spend time at their Uncle Oscar’s farm Stråken. Several of Bengt’s aunts and uncles and their families lived at Stråken for extended time periods, and there were always cousins to play with and plenty of activities to participate in.

Watching his father’s career waxing and waning over the years, Bengt decided early on not to follow his career path. The family went from boom to bust – a book sold well and they lived high until the money ran out and they had to scramble until next book deal or film project paid off. There are letters from Natalie to her siblings asking for financial assistance, which must have been very hard for her to write.

Instead of going into the arts, Bengt graduated with a Ph.D in political economics, at the University of Greifswald in 1923. The title of his thesis was Die wirtschaftlichen Ursachen der sozialen Erscheinungsformen. Ein Beitrag zur sozialen Dynamik.

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