BERLIN — After Helga Weyhe locked up her bookstore in the town of Salzwedel, Germany, each evening, she would make her usual commute — a trudge to the apartment upstairs. She had been making the same trip since World War II, just as her father had before then, and as her grandfather had before him.
The H. Weyhe Bookstore is one of the oldest bookstores in Germany. It was founded in 1840, before Germany was a country. Ms. Weyhe’s grandfather Heinrich Weyhe bought it 31 years later. It endured through World War I, the Weimar Republic, the Nazi regime. Ms. Weyhe took over the store from her father in 1965, four years after East Germany built the Berlin Wall, and guided it through Communist rule and reunification with West Germany.
She locked up for the last time one day in December. She died at 98 sometime before Jan. 4; her body was found in her home, said Ute Lemm, a grandniece.
“With her life, she closed a circle,” Ms. Lemm said. “She died where she was born.”
Helga Weyhe (pronounced VIE-eh) became an anchor in Salzwedel, about 110 miles west of Berlin. The town was in the former East Germany, and during Communist rule she stocked religious books that were unavailable in state-run bookstores, frowned on as they were by the regime. It was a boon to the faithful, and for her a quiet act of defiance.