Hedwig Pachter was the daughter of a Protestant missionary in German East Africa

Hedwig Pachter was the daughter of a Protestant missionary in German East Africa

Hedwig Pachter, the wife of Henry and mother of Renee, was the daughter of a Protestant missionary who served for 20 years in German East Africa, the German colonial possession consisting of present-day Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. He was posted in first at the Bethel Mission in Wuga in the Usambara Mountains, where Hedwig was born in 1905, the second of six children, and later in Hohenfriedberg (present-day Lushoto). 

Although colonial administration passed from Germany to England after World War I, the Bethel Mission remained in business and the Rösler family remained in Tanganyika into the 1920s. 

Hedwig entered her university studies in Berlin in the mid-1920s. There she met Heinz Pächter, a Jewish doctoral student and journalist, in 1928. Their romance may have been retarded by family objections to a mixed-religion union. 

Pächter earned his degree and a higher profile with his public lectures and contributions to the socialist journal Die Gesellschaft. In December 1933, he fled Nazi Germany for Paris, where he continued his political activities and wrote under a pseudonym, Henri Rabasseire.

Hedwig joined him there in 1936. He published his essays Spain, Political Crucible in 1938. Quoting next from his biography

In September 1939, Pachter was interned in France, and began efforts to immigrate to the United States. Finally, having married Hedwig in 1940, they fled over the Pyrenees into Spain and eventually sailed from Portugal, arriving together in New York in April 1941.

I believe I have found that their escape from Europe was aided by the Varian Fry committee that helped many intellectuals and artists, but I need to track down the details.

Hedwig helped Henry with his work, doing research and organizing his materials. At first he got work with government think tanks and agencies. When his "Dictionary of Nazi Terms," compiled for the Office of European Economic Research, was revised and expanded in 1942 into his first American publication, Nazi-Deutsch, a Glossary of Contemporary German Usage, Hedwig was credited as a contributor. 

Renee was born the next year. The family lived on the Upper West Side at West End and 101st Street. In her oral history, Renee describes growing up in an intellectual emigre household with parents not attuned to American culture. 

I won't go further with Henry's career here and I don't have much on Hedwig's American life. I know that in 1980 she translated a biography of the anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl. Henry died that same year, and she organized his papers for donation to the State University of New York. 

Hedwig died in at age 82 in 1988 and is buried together with her husband in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.