Search for Names, Places and Biographies

Already layed Stumbling Stones

Hugo Meier-Thur
© Staatsarchiv Hamburg

Dr. Hugo Meier-Thur * 1881

Lerchenfeld 2 (Kunsthochschule) (Hamburg-Nord, Uhlenhorst)

ermordet 05.12.1943
KZ Fuhlsbüttel

further stumbling stones in Lerchenfeld 2 (Kunsthochschule):
Prof. Friedrich Adler

Hugo Meier-Thur, born on 26 Oct. 1881, died on 5 Dec. 1943 in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp

The painter and graphic artist Hugo Meier-Thur taught as a professor at today’s Hochschule für Bildende Künste (College of Fine Arts) at Lerchenfeld 2, which during the period of National Socialism was still called Hansische Hochschule für bildende Künste (Hanseatic College of Fine Arts). After the end of the First World War, Hugo Meier-Thur had to struggle for a job at the art college and suffered from financial straits. His former instructors showed envy and resentment toward him because they viewed him as a competitor at the art college. Therefore, they complained about his teaching methods to the college director at the time, Prof. Richard Meyer. His biggest rivals were Prof. Carl Otto Czeschka and Prof. Paul Helms. However, at this time, Hugo Meier-Thur was still able to defend himself against the hostilities.

By way of a successful exhibition, in 1932 Hugo Meier-Thur was also able to counteract accusations by what was then the League of German Commercial Artists (Bund deutscher Gebrauchsgrafiker). However, after the Nazis assumed power, a few changes in personnel took place, and Paul Helms became the new director of the art college. At that time, it became increasingly difficult for Hugo Meier-Thur to pursue his work. His drawings and works of graphic art were deemed "degenerate” ("entartet”) and he lost more and more students. He found support from his colleague Walter Funder, who had already spoken out against National Socialism in his paper Der Zeitungshändler in the early 1920s.

At Hugo Meier-Thur’s place, a cozy and pleasant atmosphere prevailed. He lived with his wife Lina and the two children Annemarie and Hans Hugo in an apartment at Wagnerstrasse 72. Hugo Meier-Thur did not have a studio of his own, instead drawing in the apartment while family life was bustling around him. In the 1930s, Annemarie married and moved away from home. His son Hans studied architecture and worked for the architect Langenmaack. During this time, he continued to live in the apartment on Wagnerstrasse.

In the spring of 1939, Hans Meier-Thur was enlisted for compulsory labor duty and to this end, he had to separate, at least in geographical terms, from his girlfriend Malve Wilckens. As a result of this, she left Hamburg and found employment at the studio of Eva Danielzig in Lasdehnen (East Prussia). This location also saw the celebrations to mark the engagement of Hans and Malve in 1940. Malve Wilckens returned to Hamburg in that summer and moved in with Hugo and Lina Meier-Thur. She describes Hugo Meier-Thur as a caring and considerate, though at the same time reserved and shy man.

Actually, Hans and Malve’s wedding was to be celebrated in June 1941 but then the wedding leave for Hans, who was stationed as a soldier at the eastern front at this time, was cancelled. At the end of June 1941, the Meier-Thur family received news that Hans had been killed in action in Lithuania on 25 June. After this shock, Malve returned to the Hamburg art college and began working as Hugo Meier-Thur’s assistant.

Over the years, a close friendship developed between Walter Funder and Hugo Meier-Thur, since both of them rejected the National Socialist regime and tried to distance themselves from teaching staff at the art college who for the most part were loyal to the regime. They wrote joint articles and Walter Funder published a Festschrift to mark Hugo Meier-Thur’s sixtieth birthday.

However, in Dec. 1942, the Meier-Thur family suffered another heavy blow. Lina died in early December while returning from a hairdresser’s appointment when she was hit by a streetcar. The day after, Hugo Meier-Thur was summoned to the Gestapo, where it was made clear to him that he would have to expect immediate arrest if he continued to present himself as an opponent of the Nazi conception of art. He was to take Lina’s death as a distinct call to order. This threat nourished in him suspicions that Lina’s death had not been an accident and that she had been pushed in front of the streetcar.

During the bombing of Hamburg in the summer of 1943, the apartment at Wagnerstrasse 72 was obliterated. Hugo Meier-Thur was buried in the rubble but he survived with only minor injuries. He merely sustained partial deafness. However, his entire art collection of nearly 30 years and the works of his deceased son were destroyed.

Since Hugo Meier-Thur and Malve Wilckens were bombed out, they moved to Klein Borstel into the apartment of Gerda Rosenbrook, Walter Funder’s life companion. Funder also moved there because his apartment on Bismarckstrasse had also been flattened.

On 1 Aug. 1943, fate took its course. Hugo Meier-Thur and Walter Funder visited a former friend and neighbor, Alexander Freiherr [Baron] von Seld. Both felt safe at his place and Walter Funder spoke openly about his disapproving attitude toward National Socialism. At this time, Alexander von Seld’s son, Alexander Jr., happened to be home on leave from the front. He did not know his father’s friends and when Hugo Meier-Thur and Walter Funder left the house, he followed the two armed with his rifle, a "heroic deed” for which he was awarded special leave later.

There was shouting on the street, as a result of which Gerda Rosenbrook sent Malve Wilckens outside to see what was going on. When she caught sight of Hugo Meier-Thur and Walter Funder, they were both sitting hands raised on a model "Tempo” automobile, with an armed mob mocking them as "English agents” airdropped over Klein Borstel. The car drove to the Gestapo. Malve Wilckens had to return alone and after that, the two women made efforts to find out what had happened to the men. Hugo Meier-Thur and Walter Funder were taken to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp where Gerda Rosenbrook and Malve Wilckens were allowed to visit them once a month.

In early September, both men were transported to Berlin and charged before the People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof). The women followed them to Berlin and after five weeks, they saw each other again. Hugo Meier-Thur and Walter Funder were tired, exhausted, and starved. Whereas Walter Funder was charged, Hugo Meier-Thur was sent back to Hamburg as a "protective custody prisoner” ("Schutzhäftling”) into the hands of the local Gestapo. This was tantamount to his death sentence.

Malve Wilckens was informed of Hugo Meier-Thur’s death over the phone by the Gestapo officer Heyen. She and Hugo had actually intended to get married. In her despair, Malve ran to the Gestapo office at Dammtorstrasse 25 and blamed the officers present for Hugo Meier-Thur’s death.

Hugo Meier-Thur’s dead body was handed over to the relatives for burial and a few days later, Malve Wilckens was allowed to pick up his estate from the Gestapo. It is impossible to establish to what extent former foes at the art college played a role in Hugo Meier-Thur’s death. It is an established fact, however, that the art college had almost all of Hugo Meier-Thur’s documents destroyed.

Walter Funder was released from detention in Mar. 1945 and he survived the Nazi regime. However, the torture during his imprisonment left its marks. After his release, Walter Funder suffered from a severe walking impairment; his health and livelihood were ruined for good.

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2017
© Carmen Smiatacz

Quellen: StaHH 622-1, Familienarchiv, Meier-Thur, Hugo; Heisig: Der Mord an Hugo Meier-Thur; Bruhns: Kunst in der Krise, S. 414f.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Recherche und Quellen.

print preview  / top of page