Bruno Hermann Weyl was born on 10 July 1881 in Erlangen. His father, Prof. Dr. Theodor Weyl (1851-1913) was a renowned doctor and chemist from Berlin, who worked as a lecturer at Erlangen University. He was the editor of the first handbook for organic chemistry and a multi-volume standard reference work on hygiene. Bruno’s mother Elise Weyl (née Weinberg) came from Danzig and was a cousin of his father’s. In 1883 the family moved to Berlin where Bruno’s father worked at the technical college’s hygiene institute and, from 1888 on, at the Robert Koch Institute, before opening his own practice. On 20 December 1886, Bruno’s brother Erich was born in Berlin.
After gaining his Abitur school-leaving certificate, Bruno Weyl studied engineering at the Berlin technical college, graduating with a diploma. On 9 May 1913, he married Marie-Luise Fraentzel, a native of Berlin. Three years his junior, she was the granddaughter of the famous Jewish doctor Ludwig Traube (1818-1876) and a niece of the philologist of the same name. On 5 January 1915, the Weyls’ son Heinrich Theodor Max Horst (known as Heinz) was born; their daughter Sabine Käthe Elise was born on 4 March 1920. They lived at Hohenzollern Straße 19 (now Hiroshima Straße) in Tiergarten. In late 1933 the street was renamed Graf Spee Straße.
For almost 30 years, Bruno Weyl worked for Siemens-Schuckert as an electrical engineer. Holding the rank of an ‘Oberbeamter’ (senior public servant), he was entrusted with managerial and administrative tasks. On 1 October 1938, aged 57, he was forced to take early retirement due to his Jewish background. At around the same time, he moved with his wife and 18-year-old daughter into a 3½-room apartment at Dortmunder Straße 6. In 1941 or 1942 he was made to perform forced labour at the Petrix works in Schöneweide, making batteries for the Germany army.
In mid-1942, Richard Freudenberg, an employee of the Schenker haulage company and a Gestapo agent, approached the Weyls with a deal. He claimed he had the necessary contacts to protect Bruno Weyl and his wife, who was classified as a ‘half Jew’, from deportation, or at least to ensure they were ‘only’ sent to Theresienstadt ghetto, where living conditions were better, so the Nazi propaganda maintained. He also hinted that if they did not pay, they would be taken away very soon. He wanted 6000 Reichmarks for his services. For fear of imminent deportation, Bruno and Marie-Luise Weyl agreed to the deal – despite being warned against it by their lawyer. They gained a partial release on the mortgage of a house they owned in Skalitzer Straße and paid two instalments of 2000 Reichmarks to Richard Freudenberg. As it transpired, his promises had been false. In late February 1943, during the Nazis’ ‘factory campaign’, Bruno Weyl was arrested at his workplace. Richard Freudenberg then called on the Weyl family to say that everything was going to plan. He sent them Bruno Weyl’s regards, took a case of clothing for him, and reminded them that they owed him another 2000 Reichmarks. Following her husband’s arrest, Marie-Luise Weyl fled Berlin and lived illegally in Würzburg until Germany’s liberation by the Allies. Despite many misgivings, Bruno Weyl’s son eventually paid Richard Freudenberg the last instalment. It was not until much later that he found out that his father had already been deported to Auschwitz on 1 March 1943 and murdered there.