The Paul Family in Stockholm 1945 – 1951

In early 1945, when the war was almost over, the Paul family was reluctantly evacuated to Sweden by the Swedish consulate. They found a one-bedroom apartment on Arkitektvägen in Bromma, then in the outskirts of Stockholm. The apartment was near public transportation – a subway stop was a short walk away and the airport was close as well.

As a child I sometimes spent the night and recall the sounds of the airplanes in the morning.  The humming airplane propeller noise was kind of soothing, as if to remind me that I was not at home, but a grandpa’s place. Bengt enjoyed to paint, take photographs and read. He always cooked the same meal for me: fried pork chops with boiled potatoes and canned peas followed by canned fruit mix with whipped cream.

The place was adorned by interesting objects; a pencil holder that looked like an elephant, thin china cups with dragon fly-shaped ears and, of course, grandpa’s old Underwood typewriter and his Leica-camera (with film that was never properly winded when he asked me to hold my pose).


Bengt at his desk in Bromma. Natalie (his mother) in the foreground.

The apartment had a balcony facing the street, a kitchen with a small dining table and a gas stove, a small bedroom facing the backyard, a small bath room and a living room where my grandparents slept during the time Birgit and Christa lived at home. Heye was renting a student room and did not live at Arkitektvägen.

Bengt’s mother Natalie wanted to live in Stockholm, but none of her sons, nor her daughter Tali, who lived in a cottage at Lidingo,  had the means to welcome her as a permanent guest. Bengt and Hildegard struggled to make ends meet. Holger and Herta had 4 children and no space and Tali pretended her income was artist stipends, but in reality she lived on welfare. Natalie had to move in with Hedda in Saffle; the daughter she liked the least of her 4 surviving children. As an art teacher Hedda had a steady income and her own apartment. Natalie, who had been born in a wealthy family, grown up in a patrician villa and got a 1 million D-mark dowry in 1897 did not complain – she lived until age 82 and attended several of her great grand children’s christenings.

Thus, money for higher education for the Paul siblings did not exist.Thanks to a rich and childless brother of Adolf, Uncle Oscar, Heye could continue to study medicine and become a doctor.To my mother’s dismay, Uncle Oscar kept asking whether she had a secret fiance – he was prepared to pay a dowry, but thought it would be a waste to pay for an education since girls were supposed to marry and stay home raising children. Birgit’s parents also demanded that she stay home from school if they needed help with household chores, thus emphasizing that the need for education came second to the demands of housekeeping.

Christa, Heye and Birgit in 1947 in Stockholm.

Birgit settled for a short education and became a schoolteacher outside Strängnäs by lake Mälaren. The teaching position came with a cottage and fire wood. There was a brick oven to heat the place and a well for drinking and portable water in the back yard. Somewhat primitive, but to Birgit it was wonderful to be independent and have her own income.

After a few years, teaching the same material over and over started to become tedious so when uncle Oscar died and my mother inherited money, she used it to obtain a higher education at the University of Uppsala, a 45-minute train ride from Stockholm. She moved there and started study language and literature in the fall of 1951.

My grandfather was interested in the supernatural and in interpreting handwriting. In 1951 he and three others founded the Stockholm Grafological Society. In addition to believe he could read people’s personality in their hand writing, he also dabbed in automatic writing and card reading.

The former means that one holds a pen and the pen writes on its own, giving messages from the spirits. Once the pen wrote “sprich nicht mit den Namenlosen” (do not speak with those without names). My grand father followed that advice and gave up automatic writing.

He sometimes read the cards for his good friends Sofie and Hans Gabler. Once they asked about their son Hava’s upcoming marriage. “He will marry a blond woman,” my grandfather read in the cards. “No, no,” the Gablers said, “he is engaged to a brunette.” A week before the scheduled wedding his fiancée cancelled. When Hava came with his new bride-to-be, she was indeed blond.

Another time Bengt told Hans Gabler that he would have to take a trip to Germany soon. This was shortly after the war, which had broken out when the Gablers lived in London. At the time Hans had no wish to return to his homeland. But soon came news that he had been accused of treason, and he was forced back to defend himself in court.

Bengt and Hildegard continued to work as freelance journalists in Stockholm. Bengt did some radio and later wrote economic reports about Sweden regularly for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Now and then Hildegard sold articles to magazines, including the at that time popular Idun. Shortly before her death, she wrote a charming story about a kingdom of smell called “Luktuania” where people had two noses instead of one. She was extremely sensitive to odors and could not stand bad smells.

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