About Werner Abernau

Werner Abernau was born in 1901 in Berlin and was a member of the family of Wilhelm Abramczyk and Gertrud Arnheim. Wilhelm Abramczyk, born at Potsdam in 1864, married Gertrud Arnheim of 1877 in Berlin, but it never has become clear whether Werner was their own child or an adopted son, who later changed his name. In documents he was mentioned as “family member” and mid 1920, he resided at the same address as the Abrahmczyk family.

Werner Abernau was a merchant and in 1925 he founded a company that was engaged in paint. Five years later he invested in the industry, and was involved in the organization of deliveries of steel components for the repair industry to France and finally he started supplying on order catalogs for the industry.   

In 1937 Abernau was put in contact with Raoul Wallenberg in Sweden. Abernau possessed numerous patents that Wallenberg could possibly interested in. As German refugee however, he was allowed in Sweden no longer than three months so he always travelled back and forth between Sweden and Switzerland, where he had emigrated from Germany at the end of 1934. Still he managed to set up a company in Stockholm which he led together with a Swedish lawyer, named Svensk-Schweiziska Industrisyndikatet (Swedish-Swiss Industrial Syndicate)

During spring 1937 Raoul Wallenberg showed interest in a patent which Abernau had obtained during a stay in Switzerland, a nifty removable cork for glass bottles. Machines for production had already been purchased and installed in a mechanical shop in Western Stockholm. The idea was to sell the “quick corks” both in Sweden and abroad. Negotiations were already started with buyers from Austria, Hungary, Tjecho-Slowakia and Switzerland.

In July 1937, during a trip to Austria, Werner Abernau was arrested by the Salzburg police and imprisoned. He would have committed fornication with a minor. Wallenberg then wondered if perhaps Abernau was gay but he also knew that Abernau also met women. After three weeks, Abernau fortunately was released from prison and completely restored in his honor.

Back in Stockholm Abernau got another chance with his corks when he met two Americans to whom he demonstrated his “quick corks”. One of them was given the assignment to send over some American bottles once he got back home so that Wallenberg could test the corks on them.

In the meantime the company of Abernau and his Swedish compagnion grew to a multifaceted venture. Together Abernau and Wallenberg tried the most varied business ideas. One time it was concrete tiles, another time some remarkable substance to clean wall paper. The latest project Abernau touched was a Swiss production method for brass armature components for which he had acquired the sole rights. However, by that point the German refugee was already living on “borrowed time”.

During the autumn, the foreign bureau of the National Board for Health and Welfare received a complaint against Abernau. A Swedish firm wanted to tip off the authorities about the “inappropriate” fact that the German citizen Abernau could live in Dalarö and led a company in Sweden without having so much as a residency or working permit. One thing led to another. 

On Friday, January 21, 1938 two police constables were waiting at the busstop when Werner Abernau turned up to take the afternoon service to his hostel. He was taken to the police station for questioning. Abernau tried to point out that he had not broken any rules, that he had never stayed longer than three months at the time and that he was in the midst of a large international deal in which even the Enskilda Bank might participate. All of this was true but the police do not appear to have believed him. Three days later, on 24 January 1938 the National Board for Health and Welfare determined that Abernau should be deported, effective immediately.

The new iteration of the Aliens Act had just taken effect. Now the anti-semitic clerks at the foreigners’ department gained real power over the fates of Jewish refugees. Werner Abernau was one of the first to be deported under the new system. So, his fate was sealed.

Werner Abernau then arrived in The Netherlands and settled at Sitiopark 3 in Doorn (province of Urecht).The Sitiopark, south of the village, were eight villa’s have been built near the villa Sitio, was one of the various villa parks in the province of Utrecht which were built between 1890 and 1914. (source: website Sitio Doorn, de Utrechtse Heuvelrug).

However, as a German refugee Werner Abernau got interned in Camp Westerbork. On his registration card he is listed as “old camp inmate”. He stayed there from 26 February 1942 till 17 March 1943.

When the construction of Camp Westerbork began in 1938, which was ready in 1939, only German Jews lived in the camp, with a German camp commander and some SS-guards. Since July 1942 the camp was formally tranformed to a “transit camp”, Westerbork applied its own system of exemptions and in particular those of the “Alte Kampfinsassen” (old camp inmates) and especially upon the German Jews who had been living there before July 1942, wich was the strongest exemption list. This was also true for Werner Abernau, who was interned there from 26 February 1942.  (Source: book Walter Süssking, chapter Westerbork/old camp inmates).

Old camp inmate Werner Abernau stayed in Camp Westerbork in barack 45 till he was deported on 17 March 1943 to Sobibor, where he has been killed immediately upon arrival there on 20 March 1943.

Biography Wilhelm Abramczyk,; Biography Raoul Wallenberg by Ingrid Carlberg, ISBN 978 0 85705 328 2; website Sitio Doorn- de Utrechtse Heuvelrug,; Gedenkbuch, Abernau; Archive of the file cabinet of the Jewish Council, registration card of the old camp inmate Werner Abernau and the certificate of death nr.78 dated 8 December 1949 issued by the Civil Registry of the Municpality of Doorn.

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