Germany’s oldest bookstore, Helga Weihe, dies at age 98

Berlin — She made her usual commute after Helga Weyhe closed a bookstore in the town of Salzwedel, Germany, every night — Tradage to an apartment on the second floor. She has traveled since World War II as her father, and as her grandfather was in front of him.

H. Weyhe Bookstore is one of the oldest bookstores in Germany. It was founded in 1840, before Germany became a country. Weihe’s grandfather Heinrich Weihe bought it 31 years later. It endured through World War I, the Weimar Republic, and the Nazi regime. Weihe took over the store from his father in 1965, four years after East Germany built the Berlin Wall, leading to communist rule and reunification with West Germany.

She was finally trapped one day in December. She died before January 4th at the age of 98. Her body was found in her home, said grandmother Yutu Rem.

“In her life, she closed the circle,” Rem said. “She died where she was born.”

Helga Weyhe (pronounced VIE-eh) became an anchor for Salzwedel, about 110 miles west of Berlin. The town is located in the former East Germany, and during Communist rule she kept religious books not available in state-owned bookstores and frowned like a government. It was a boon to loyal people and a quiet rebellion to her.

Weyhe was a kind of lifeline for our customers. After the East Germans were generally allowed to go sightseeing, she traveled far and regained her infectious enthusiasm for the outside world. “She brought a little bit of the world to Salzwedel,” Rem said.

When the Iron Curtain broke and those who fled to the west returned to Salzwedel, they gathered in her store for the reading she organized.

“They used to buy textbooks in Ways as a kid, but now when they return to the city, they were elderly,” said town archivist Steffen Langsh. In her office behind the store, he had a long conversation with Mr. Weie about local history in a pile of books and black-and-white photographs recording the store’s past.

Bookstores are a special place for many Germans. During the pandemic blockade, some were classified as “essential” businesses. The country’s 3,500 small independent bookstores (compared to 2,500 in the United States) are backed by legislation that locks book prices, preventing small stores from being cut off by large chains or Amazon.

In 2012, Weyhe was the first resident to be officially honored by the town after the reunification, which is equivalent to receiving the city key. In 2017, we won a special national award at a bookstore.

“She wasn’t just an honorary citizen,” said town mayor Sabine Blümel. “She was an institution.”

The interior of the store, with its wide selection of wooden shelves and display stands, hasn’t changed much since my grandfather renovated it around 1880. Weie printed quotations and poems for passers-by and pasted them on the shop windows. Along.

She was proud to stock only the books she knew and approved, but she ordered almost anything online from her suppliers to her customers.

As she told interviewers over the years, one of her favorites was Thomas Mann’s daughter, Erica Mann, about a boy hiding in Zeppelin and trying to visit his American uncle. It was a 1932 children’s book called “Stoffel Flying Over the Sea”. ..

“It was probably the last bookstore in Germany where you could buy a copy of the book at any time,” Langsch said.

The storyline of the book appealed to her personally. Weiye’s uncle Arhard lived in Manhattan and ran his bookstore at 794 Lexington Avenue near East 61st Street. His obituary at the New York Times in 1972 described him as “the last of the great art book dealers.” An old sign with the address of Lexington Avenue was hung on one of the shelves in Mr. Weihe’s bookstore.

“She dreamed of going to America from an early age, but had to wait for adult life until she reached retirement age,” said Rem, the artistic director of her grandmother’s theater in the 1980s. Said.

Helga Weyhe was born on December 11, 1922 in Walter and Elsa (Banse) Weyhe. Her mother also worked in the store. She graduated from high school in 1941, attended college for the first time in her family, studied German and history at an educational institution in Vienna, then Königsberg and Breslau.

She went to work in a bookstore in 1944 as the war shortened her study.

Mr. Weihe had never been married and no one survived immediately. Her extended family wants to find a new manager for the bookstore.

Germany’s oldest bookstore, Helga Weihe, dies at age 98

Source link Germany’s oldest bookstore, Helga Weihe, dies at age 98

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