23 May 1933
Letter from Emil Gerson to his niece Margarethe Paderstein
The Gerson family originally came from the Westphalian town of Soest and looked back on a long history. As Emil Gerson reports, one “progenitor” bravely defended his hometown during the Thirty Years’ War. His grandfather Israel Gerson was a co-owner of the Gerson brothers’ drapery shop in Hamm. He moved in high society and enjoyed “great popularity among the ladies of the Westphalian nobility,” as Gerson somewhat mysteriously writes. A brother of his grandmother Minna was killed in 1813 in the Napoleonic wars.
At the end of the letter Gerson moves from the glorious past to the present. His situation “reflects present circumstances.” His son Heinrich, who was a lawyer, was being “forced to close his office.” Due to the Law on Admission to the Bar, Heinrich was no longer permitted to practice his profession and would shortly afterward emigrate to London via Paris. The news that Gerson provided about his daughter Anne Marie and her husband, Leo Grebler, a correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung, was also not good. The couple was concerned about the “new press law.” And, indeed, as a result of the Editors’ Law, passed on 4 October 1933, Leo Grebler would ultimately lose his job and emigrate with Gerson’s daughter to the United States via Switzerland. And the recipient of the letter? In 1938, Margarethe Paderstein fled to Brazil with her family.
After emigrating to Great Britain himself in 1939, Emil Gerson wrote an extensive family history, which also covered the period of Nazi persecution: “But I do not wish to write a history of National Socialism here,” he states. “I want to tell the story of the Emil Gerson family, which has unfortunately been directed down very different paths by political events.”
Telefon: J 1 Bismarck 2557
In 1819 your great-grandfather Israel Gerson married Minna Hahlo from Hannoversch Münden. In 1799 he moved to Hamm from Soest in Westphalia & began working for the Gebrüder Gerson company, which his older brothers had founded. Your great-great-grandparents and their ancestors had lived in Soest for a long time. During the Thirty Years’ War one progenitor is said to have bravely defended the lower city under the command of the famous Johann von Soest. One of your great-grandmother’s brothers was killed in the battles against Napoleon. Your great-grandfather, who enjoyed great popularity among the ladies of the Westphalian nobility, performed the invaluable task of researching these old family lines. Unfortunately, your father destroyed the evidence, which took the form of charming letters.
My situation reflects current circumstances. Heini is being forced to close his office and will probably go to England to study. Annchen & husband are anticipating the enactment of the new press law with heavy hearts. We unfortunately do not see your dear mother as often as we would like, but we do talk to her frequently on the telephone. Give our regards to your dear husband and lovely daughters.
your faithful uncle,