Remarks about Asta Friedrichs
By Kurt Friedrichs on December 25, 1981
[Note by Liska Friedrichs Snyder, February 2001: Our Aunt Asta was the only sister of our father. She was born in Germany on June 25,
1898, and died in New Rochelle, New York on December 18, 1981. These remarks were made at a family gathering in New Rochelle.]
I should like to talk to you about my sister Asta, who died some days ago, a few weeks after she had been in a state of only partial consciousness.
For quite some time she had felt that she was ready to die. We can only be glad that she has not suffered longer.
Asta's early life was not completely happy, mainly since her relationship to our father was, somehow, not very good. Still, on occasion, they did
something together quite well. I may tell you a story to indicate that.
When Asta was 16 years old, she was sent to a boarding school, partly to separate her from her father. After less than a year, the first world war
started. Then all students and teachers had to get home. Asta and the English teacher, who was British, managed to get to our house in Duesseldorf.
The next day, our father, Asta, and the English teacher took a train to Holland, which was not very far. On the train, they tried not to let anybody
know that the lady was British, since England had declared war on Germany (after Germany had declared war on France and Russia). Our father
had strong feelings about being fair to one's enemies.
Asta's later life was quite involved. She was never really settled. Up to her last days, she had to move from one place to another. She has had very
many positions; most of them I shall mention; a few of them I shall leave out.
After Asta had finished school - or rather gymnasium - she wanted to work in bookstores since our grandfather had been a book dealer. She had
read most of the current books and, in particular, English books. She thus had acquired a tremendous knowledge. In particular, however, she was
interested in what she called "useless information." In fact, her letters written home from her travels were always full of peculiar stories and strange
Sometimes it happened that Asta told somebody a peculiar fact, which she found very interesting, but which was offensive to that person. Asta just
did not realize that it was offensive; she certainly did not mean to hurt the other person's feelings. This trait of hers has often caused difficulties in her
When our father consulted various book dealers to find out about possibilities for Asta, the answer was always "there are no chances in the book
field." Then Asta gave up the idea of becoming a book dealer. This, I think, was a great mistake. She should have stuck to the book-dealing trade
Instead of staying with books, Asta tried to acquire a teacher's certificate, but that did not work out. Then she went to a university in order to study
economics, a field which was a great fashion at that time, but in which Asta really was not interested. This she gave up a few years later when our
father had given up being an active lawyer and had moved to a small town, mainly to do writings.
Asta now took various positions. I will just mention a position as a teacher of German and Latin at an American missionary school in Bulgaria,
where she spent quite a few years. She loved it there. Still she gave this up and spent two years in Paris teaching English at the Berlitz school there.
But, staying in Paris got to be risky because of the situation in Germany. So she went back to Germany and took a job of decoding for some
department of the German government in Berlin. This she could handle very well, as she told me.
After the war, Asta got a very attractive teaching position at a rather prestigious girls' school in a small town near Stuttgart. She got this job even
though she had no teacher's certificate, since teachers were in great demand and many of them had had Nazi affiliation and were not allowed to
teach. She was happy in that school and would have liked to stay forever. Her great disappointment was that she lost her job when the de-nazified
teachers returned and claimed their former positions.
After that disappointment in 1947, Asta did not want to stay in Germany. She asked me for an affidavit, which would allow her to come to the
United States. She spent the waiting time in London, where she had some friends who owned a boarding house. There she acted as a housekeeper.
About a year or two later, Asta came to us in America. There she first helped me with my family history. Somewhat later, she took positions as a
housekeeper in some preparatory schools, somewhere north of here. After four years, she took a position at the St. Barnabas House in New York
City. (Note from Liska: This was some kind of home for children. Orphans? ) Finally, in 1966, she was run over by a truck while Nellie and I were
After a long and painful recovery, Asta stayed for some time in the St. Barnabas House and then moved into a very pleasant apartment, which she
shared with our cousin Hanna Brandt. A number of years later, Asta moved into the Flushing House, a retirement home, where she had a nice
apartment. There she was completely on her own, for the first time in her life.
In October 1980, Asta underwent a severe operation. The attempts to live in her apartment did not work out. Therefore, she was moved to the
Bayberry Nursing Home in New Rochelle, early in 1981. There she was rather happy. After a fall, she was transferred to New Rochelle Hospital.
There she died on December 18.
Asta had many years ago joined the Society of Friends. She is buried at the Quaker Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, New York.
Summary of Remarks by Asta's Nephews in New Rochelle
David recalled how, especially before her accident in 1966, Aunt Asta had been a person of wide interests and enthusiasm for good books, good
films, and good conversation, and he recalled her ability to share her enthusiasm with others.
Martin spoke about how, as a boy, he had always looked forward to Aunt Asta's visits, and he spoke about the excursions she had taken him on
and the games she had taught him and played with him.
Walter described Aunt Asta's gifts as a conversationalist, and pointed out that, while she did not enjoy "small talk," if one discussed matters of
interest and importance, she always had fascinating things to say.
Christopher said that although Aunt Asta had had many disappointments in her life, she had also had a very positive influence on many people, and
he recalled in particular her ability to recommend books or activities that would interest her nephews.
Liska was not at the gathering, but would like to add that she attributes her great love for word games and word puzzles to Aunt Asta, who got her
interested in them. She also remembers Asta's amusing stories about unusual names of people and her advice on what constitutes "good" and "bad"
names. She has vivid and fond memories of the many games she played with us.