Mary Spiegelhalter 1884-1945

Wedding photo
Wedding of Mary and Martin Peter Pley

Mary Spiegelhalter was born on 7 August 1884, almost certainly at 75 Mile End Road. With a sister Annie some 18 months older and a sister Edie just over a year younger, Mary would have had plenty of playmates but probably not a great deal of parental attention.

On 6 October 1910 Mary married Martin Peter Pley. He was the son of Johann Pley and wife Helena Metternich, born on 21 September 1880 in Duren in the Rheinland. Peter had come to England only a few years previously, seeking a change from Germany. His business was office supplies.

Mary and Peter stayed in England for a year or so (they attended the wedding of her sister Annie in 1911) but then decided to live in Berlin. On 20 March 1912 they had their first child, a daughter Maria known as Mitzi. It was to be another 14 years before the birth of their younger daughter.

Nazi rule in the late 1930s meant that all German citizens needed an ID card to prove who they were and whether they were Jews. The process for this in Mary's case involved commissioning a five generation pedigree. Life in wartime Berlin was hard, especially for Mary because of her British birth. Several times the family had to bribe the Nazis to avoid trouble for her. Food was in short supply and, towards the end of the war, fresh water supplies became unreliable. The deprivations took their toll on Mary, who died in 1945. Her husband Martin died in 1944.

At the end of the war Mary's two daughters found themselves in opposite halves of the now divided Berlin. Fortunately the story has a happy ending. Her younger daughter managed to get across to West Berlin, marry and later emigrate to Canada. She and her husband are due to celebrate their diamond wedding in the fall of 2009.