Franziska Gerstlohner HAMMER was born in Eggelsberg in Upper Austria (near the town of Braunau am Inn) on January 20, 1888.
She was a Roman Catholic and married a master upholsterer named Rupert Hammer. The couple had four Salzburg born children, Leopoldine, Margaretha, Mathilde and Rupert. The entire family had local citizenship rights in Salzburg and lived on the second floor of the building at 6 Linzer Gasse. Rupert Hammer died in 1942 at age 56. At that point two of his children were still minors.
Through all the political twists and turns of the inter-war years the devoted Catholic, Franziska HAMMER had maintained a close connection to the St. Andrä parish where she had gotten married. She continued to do so under the Nazi regime and enjoyed the trust of her pastor Franz ZEISS and his co-pastor and youth chaplain Franz WESENAUER. At their request she took in some people whose lives were in danger.
Franz WESENAUER, who was later the pastor at St. Elisabeth’s, said in retrospect:
Sometime around 1940/41 an unknown woman came to us in the vicarage [of St. Andrä] with a blond boy of about thirteen who, although Catholic, was completely Jewish by ancestry. She asked for our help as his parents had already disappeared. I was faced with the question of either rescuing this boy or allowing him to be killed. I couldn’t hide him myself as the Gestapo was constantly going in and out. So at first I brought him to a family named Hammer in the Linzer Gasse …
The boy, who his rescuers called »Jussi«, could only find shelter with any one family for a short time. In order to reduce the risk of discovery he had to be moved frequently from one reliable family to another. And »Jussi« wasn’t the only one whose life could be saved this way.
After the liberation of Austria the rescuers didn’t make a fuss about their lifesaving activities. They realized that those they had saved, mostly converted or baptized »Jews« [that is individuals who were Christians in their own eyes and those of the Christian churches, but who were still Jews according to the Nazis and other racial Antisemites], generally wanted to keep their backgrounds hidden given the continued Antisemitism of many Austrians.
It can be assumed that Frau Hammer never knew the full name of the »Jussi« whose life she had helped save. He did come back to Salzburg once to thank those who had helped him flee and who had saved him.
Franziska HAMMER was one of the courageous women who sheltered people from their Nazi persecutors for a while and who put themselves and their families in danger of persecution by doing so. Franziska HAMMER was also a close friend of Olga ZWEIG, a cousin of the author Stefan ZWEIG, who also lived at 6 Linzer Gasse and who was able to save the life of her vulnerable foster child by keeping the authorities from ever learning about his ancestry.
It is worth noting that the 2nd floor at 6 Linzer Gasse where Frau Hammer lived with her children had served as a Jewish prayer center near the end of the 19th century. The very small Jewish community of the time rented the apartment for the use of visiting rabbis, religion teachers, and cantors as they had no synagogue before the construction of the Lasserstrasse synagogue in 1901.
Frau Franziska HAMMER died in Salzburg at age 85. Her children and grandchildren honor the memory of their mother/grandmother with great respect.
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 25.09.2018 at Salzburg, Linzer Gasse 6