Introduction, Timelines, Glossary
A brief introduction to persecution
by Suzanne von Engelhardt, translator
To understand the fate of persecuted people and the decisions they made under the National Socialist regime requires some knowledge of what these individuals were up against, what understanding they had of their situation, and the financial and emotional means they had at their disposal to act. The timelines provide a chronological reference for political events taking place around these people and explain how legal protections and an individual’s autonomy were systematically eroded, leaving them vulnerable and desperate, unable to save their own lives.
Names, dates, neighborhoods, and places of imprisonment, dry as they might seem, tell us a great deal about the suffering, chances of survival and ultimate death of a person persecuted by National Socialists. Here we address the circumstances affecting four distinct groups of victims. The government targeted them by introducing laws, decrees and orders to successively restrict their freedom, livelihood and ability to survive in ways specific to each group: Jews, mentally ill/ mentally or physically disabled people, political dissidents and gay men. Whether they escaped abroad or perished in a concentration camp depended on their financial means, courage to leave their homeland and family members, and luck. This introduction and the timelines below briefly explain the increasing persecution individuals faced which influenced their actions and decisions, decisions made without the benefit of understanding the overall system, policies being pursued by the government, or the benefit of hindsight.
The biographies tell about the lives and fates of people who died at the hands of the NS regime and the stories of their families and surviving family members. Other groups subjected to persecution – Jehovah’s Witnesses, deserters and criminals ̶ are not addressed here. Further information is available in the glossary. Roma and Sinti groups have elected not to take part in the Stumbling Stone project, therefore the glossary does not address the persecution of this group.
German Jews living under the Weimar Republic were fully assimilated and patriotic members of German society. A great number of Jewish men had fought for their country during World War I and erroneously believed that their service would protect them when antisemitism became enshrined as state doctrine through laws aimed at successively stripping German Jews of freedoms, shutting them out of commerce and public life. At the time the National Socialists came into power in 1933, roughly 19,000 Jews lived in Hamburg. Over half fled the country while they still could. Those who fled to Belgium or the Netherlands found their safety short-lived when the Nazis invaded, captured them and sent them to their death. No matter how well integrated into society, how infirm or elderly, no one was exempt from the repressive measures, as evidenced by Siegfried S. Korach’s ordeal, one of Hamburg’s most highly regarded medical professionals. Approximately 9,000 of Hamburg’s Jews lost their lives through persecution.
Under National Socialist rule, harassment of Jews became commonplace and antisemitism systematically institutionalized. Jewish professionals were banned from practicing as medical doctors and lawyers, veterinarians and teachers. Jewish children were forced to attend Jewish schools, young people forced to break off training and degree programs. At the start of 1939, all Jewish girls and women had to adopt the name "Sara”, boys and men the name "Israel”, by having the name added to their official documents and using it in their signature. Failure to use the name was cause for NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party) members to denounce Jews, as happened to Sibylla Körppen in Dec. 1939 because she had not had her local police authority add the name Sara to her Reich Clothing Card. The denunciation led to a trial, her conviction and a prison sentence. As of September 1941, all Jews had to externally identify themselves by wearing the "yellow star” in a prominent place on their clothing and were banned from using public transportation, except for authorized forced laborers.
Public calls to boycott Jewish businesses early in the 1930s severely impacted their owners’ ability to earn a living and provide for their families. The authorities closely monitored public reaction to each repressive measure upon introduction. On 9 November 1938, members of the SA, SS, NSDAP and Hitler Youth as well as "every day” citizens responded to government incitement by breaking windows of Jewish shops and setting synagogues on fire. The events of that night, called Kristallnacht, were deeply unpopular in the general population and the government backed off from such highly visible, violent measures on German streets. The violence of Kristallnacht further weakened Jewish businesses which shortly thereafter were forced to be "Aryanized”, meaning sold to non-Jewish Germans at a price far below market value, or be closed.
Repression also invaded Jewish homes. As early as April 1938, Jews had to register personal assets in excess of 5,000 Reich Marks. Newly created instruments like the levy on Jewish assets and the "atonement payment” made it possible for authorities to seize the wealth of well-off individuals under the pretext of "safeguarding” their money in the event the owner should attempt to flee the country and take their money with them. If a person did manage to obtain all the necessary documents to emigrate, he or she had to pay the so-called Reich Flight Tax on top of all the other fees and levies. Wealthy property owners were reduced to receiving a meager monthly allowance, severely curtailing their living standards. The state, on the other hand, was authorized to deduct taxes and levies from frozen accounts, effectively liquidating and stealing Jewish citizens’ assets. The Foreign Currency Office, in collusion with banks and the Gestapo, financially paralyzed Jews and delayed issuing travel authorization, rendering emigration nearly impossible after the outbreak of war, until Jews were entirely banned from emigrating in October 1941. That same month, Jews were required to surrender a range of their possessions such as typewriters, bicycles, cameras, woolen goods, furs and mountain boots, among other items. As the Jews were deported, the authorities then robbed them of the wealth they had left behind.
The Nuremberg Laws passed in September 1935 banned marriage between Jewish and non-Jewish partners and criminalized extramarital sex between them, referred to as "racial defilement”. As of the winter in 1938, couples already in a so-called privileged mixed marriage received certain rights: A non-Jewish husband protected his wife and children from deportation and, for a time, from forced labor. However a non-Jewish wife could only protect her Jewish husband from deportation if they had children and the children were being raised as Christians. This meant that if the non-Jewish partner died of illness or in bombing raids, his or her Jewish spouse was immediately in danger of being deported. The Gestapo and NSDAP exerted severe pressure on non-Jewish partners to divorce their spouse.
The Jewish Community provided assistance to members in needs, including welfare payments for the destitute, orphanages for children and care homes for the elderly, and Community records provide valuable information about the fates of their members. However the communities and the Jewish Councils in particular were forced to collaborate with the National Socialists in manifold ways, including by moving Jews into so-called Jewish houses owned by the Jewish Community, a step taken to uproot and consolidate Jews prior to their deportation. Home owners were forced to sell their homes at a fraction of their value and move into Jewish houses in preparation for impending deportation, euphemistically referred to as "resettlement”. Systematic deportation from the "Old Reich” began in October 1941. Deportees received letters indicating the date and place they were to report for their so-called resettlement. Their onerous journeys took them to ghettos and work camps in the East which most often turned out to be way stations before being carried off to the extermination camps, Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec, whose sole purpose was killing.
Mentally ill, mentally and physically disabled people
The National Socialist government adopted existing eugenic notions to purge genetic disease from society by means of euthanasia, so-called mercy killing, into their ideology and were quick to pass the Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases in July 1933, a mere half year after coming to power. This law provided the legal basis for doctors to register and sterilize patients with hereditary defects or diseases, physical or mental disabilities and later to justify killing these individuals for having "lives unworthy of living”.
The euthanasia measures were conducted under the auspices of Operation T4, named after the address of the main office in Berlin at Tiergartenstraße 4. When preparations began for the mass killing of incurably ill patients in autumn 1939, six German mental and nursing facilities were turned into killing centers. The victims were temporarily housed in several collection points near the extermination site while they awaited their ultimate death. The move from local care facilities to collection points served to keep family members in the dark as to the location and condition of their mentally ill or disabled child.
Anna Maria Buller, for instance, was admitted to the Friedrichsberg Mental Hospital in 1931 and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Following months of unsuccessful treatment, she was transferred to Langenhorn Mental and Nursing Home where she stayed for nearly three years and was considered incurable. As her mental and physical state deteriorated, her psychiatrists decided to sterilize her. Despite her parents’ vehement opposition, the psychiatrists carried out the sterilization by ignoring all legal deadlines. Following brutal, experimental psychiatric treatment and brief stays with her family outside of hospitals, she was rendered a shell of a human being, at times showing violent and resistant behavior which likely led to her name being placed on a list for transport to Hadamar State Mental Institution, 45 miles northeast of Frankfurt. Patients admitted to Hadamar typically received a standard diagnosis and were killed in the hospital’s own gas chamber, often on the same day. At the time of Anna Maria Buller’s death in June 1943, that gas chamber was no longer in operation, however patients continued to be killed by fatal injection or by starvation.
In August 1941, the "euthanasia” program was officially ended due to its deep unpopularity in the populace, but the killing continued more discretely, mainly by administering overdoses of medication and withholding food, leading to starvation. At Hadamar and other killing centers like Mainkofen in Lower Bavaria, the true cause of death was rarely given on the death certificate, fictitious causes were noted instead. In many cases the death was not reported to patients’ families or state authorities until months later. An estimated 200,000 German patients were killed throughout the Reich. At the start of the "euthanasia” program, Jewish patients were killed alongside non-Jewish patients or taken separately to killing centers, like that in Brandenburg where 136 people from Hamburg and northern Germany were killed. Other Jewish mentally ill people were collected at Bendorf-Sayn Hospital and deported from there in 1942, most to be killed in Sobibor.
In 1939, following the German invasion of Poland and outbreak of war, several hundred of the same personnel who ran the killing centers within Germany were transferred to the department responsible for implementing Operation Reinhardt, to set up extermination camps in eastern Poland for the mass killing of Europe’s Jews, Roma and Sinti.
As soon as the NS came to power in 1933, they quickly cracked down on all political opposition. They banned demonstrations by the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and targeted activities of the Social Democrats. By July 1933, after passage of a law prohibiting new political parties, the NSDAP was the only authorized party in Germany. The first concentration camps, referred to as "wild” concentration camps, were set up expressly to house political opponents of the NS regime. Only later would the regime change the purpose of the camps to provide forced labor. Groups of resistance fighters formed among members of the banned communist and social-democratic parties. They held secret meetings, reported on conditions in the concentration camps holding their comrades, and drew attention to preparations for war. Small groups produced and distributed flyers decrying the treatment of protesters and military build-up, at great risk to their own safety. From March 1933 to October 1934, roughly 2,400 KPD members were temporarily detained in "protective custody” in Hamburg, many of them maltreated, driven to death or killed.
In August 1939, Hitler and Stalin signed the Nazi German-Soviet Pact which meant that the Soviet Union no longer regarded Germany as its enemy. The Russian government urged emigrated communists to return to Germany, but those Germans fell into the hands of the Gestapo. After Germany declared war on the Soviet Union, new communist resistance groups began to be founded. Hamburg’s best-known resistance group was organized around Bernhard Bästlein, Franz Jacob and Robert Abshagen with cells in Hamburg’s shipyards and other large enterprises. Bernhard Bästlein was driven by two factors: the seven years he spent in prison where he "experienced, saw and heard terrible things. That solidified my conviction that we had to get rid of a social order in which such things were possible. The second factor was the Second World War which began in 1939. ... Hence my work was destined to effect peace and put an end to the, in my opinion, senseless bloodshed as fast as possible."
Members had to carefully sound out new recruits as the Gestapo had spies infiltrate resistance strongholds. After the outbreak of war, the subversive groups undermined the war effort by slowing down their work and sabotaging the manufacture of goods and machinery necessary for war. They helped forced laborers and the prisoners of war who had to work at mills, supplying them with food, items for washing and radios. By October 1942, an organization of roughly 200 men and women had formed in Hamburg which grew to about 300 over the following years.
The National Socialists tried to create an atmosphere of fear in the blue-collar neighborhoods through raids. In October 1942, the Hamburg Gestapo succeeded in apprehending Abshagen, Bästlein and about 90 other members of the resistance group in a large-scale arrest operation. Of the roughly 200 members, about 150 were arrested and tortured at the Gestapo detention center. The Hamburg Gestapo had succeeded in identifying a majority of the group through the aid of an undercover agent. In a strange twist of fate, Hamburg’s remand prison was heavily damaged during Allied bombing raids in the summer of 1943. In an unusual step for the National Socialist regime, the Attorney General granted 56 detainees leave from detention on condition that they report back in two months. Many of those released did not return and went into hiding. However most were brought back into custody and put on trial for "preparations for high treason". Approximately 100 were executed or killed.
From 1942 to 1944, 28,000 "unrespectable” men were drafted into service in so-called parole battalions, including an estimated 30% who had been detained in prisons and camps for political offenses. They were sent to the front as "cannon fodder” where many lost their lives.
Heinrich Himmler saw homosexuality as a threat to the nation and set up a registry in the Secret State Police Office (Gestapo) in October 1934 to identify and persecute gay men, above all those working for the government and the NSDAP party. The Berlin office of the Gestapo created a special department for homosexuality which pursued gay men throughout all parts of society. In June 1935 the NS government amended the law used to sterilize individuals with hereditary diseases, the Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases, to provide a legal footing for castrating gay men. That same month the Criminal Code of the German Reich was made harsher so that proof of a homosexual act was no longer necessary to prosecute. After the Gestapo conducted a series of raids in which they arrested gay men and sent them directly to concentration camps where they were harassed and beaten. From then on, fear led many convicted gay men to choose sterilization to avoid being carried off to a concentration camp.
Many gay men conformed to societal expectations and concealed their sexual preference by marrying women. That act of self-deception often led to agony for themselves, their partners and their families and indeed was not enough to protect them from persecution under National Socialism. Neighbors and colleagues would denounce gay men if they suspected their inclination. The Gestapo and police concentrated on apprehending male prostitutes, pressuring them during interrogation to divulge the names of their customers. That was how the marriage of convenience between Irma Fischer and Adolf Großkopf came to light. A judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison for "perverse fornication”.
In prison gay men had to wear a pink triangle, pointing downward, to identify them as gay. This made them a target for abuse by prison guards and other prisoners who subjected them to beatings, some so severe they led to death. Many gay men committed suicide as they saw death as their only option. In November 1941, Hitler, in a decree intended to "maintain the cleanliness of the SS and police”, ordered the death penalty for members of the SS and police convicted of homosexual acts.
Section 175 of the Criminal Code of the German Reich was aimed exclusively at gay men. However, when lesbians fell under the scrutiny of the agencies responsible for persecution, due to their alternative lifestyle, they were also punished with penal measures and sent to concentration camps, like Mary Pünjer from Hamburg who was Jewish and sent from Ravensbrück concentration camp to Bernburg extermination center and killed, and Erna Kisch, also Jewish, who was deported to Lodz Ghetto and killed at Chelmno extermination camp.
by Beate Meyer
Timeline of the measures and action taken against Jews*
*This list only includes part of the measures taken against Jews. Further information can befound in Joseph Walk, Das Sonderrecht für die Juden im NS-Staat. Eine Sammlung der gesetzlichen Maßnahmen und Richtlinien, Heidelberg 1981.
1 Apr. 1933
Boycott of Jewish businesses and action against doctors and lawyers.
7 Apr. 1933
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service makes it possible to dismiss "non-Aryan”civil servants.
Adoption of the "Aryan paragraphs” in professional associations, in legislative bodies, gymnastics and sport clubs, military and degree programs, etc. leads to Jews being shut outof professional work, branches of industry and prohibits them from attaining training in trades and advanced degrees.
15 Sept. 1935
The Nuremberg Laws ban marriage between Jewish and non-Jewish partners and make extramarital sexual intercourse between Jewish and non-Jewish partners a punishable offense ("racial defilement”); they prohibit Jews from employing non-Jewish women under the age of 45 as domestic help and raising the Reich flag or national flag. The implementation decrees deny Jews the right to vote and the capacity to hold public office. Other rules apply to "half-breed Jews of the 1st and 2nd degree” (see glossary).
1936, 1937, 1938
Further exclusion of Jews or Germans married to Jews from professions, training programs, etc.; emigration is impeded through stricter financial regulations.
26 Apr. 1938
Jews are forced to register any assets in excess of 5,000 RM.
During the "June Operation”, "asocial elements” are arrested throughout the Reich and taken to concentration camps, including several thousand Jews (in Hamburg 200 of 700 arrested in total).
23 July 1938
From 1 Jan. 1939 Jews are obliged to carry an identity card with them.
25 July 1938
Jewish doctors are denied their license to practice medicine as of 30 Sept. 1938, in exceptional cases they are authorized as "sick person medical personnel” to treat Jewish patients.
5 Oct. 1938
Passports are revoked. Authorized passports are re-issued and marked with a "J”.
28 Oct. 1938
Between 12,000 and 17,000 Jews of Polish descent are deported from Germany and left in Poland along the border.
7 Nov. 1938
17-year-old Herschel Grynszpan, whose parents were deported in the group of Polish Jews, shoots the Geman diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris.
9–10 Nov. 1938
The NSDAP uses vom Rath’s death as an excuse to incite a nationwide pogrom which is presented as "spontaneous public anger". Roughly 30,000 Jewish men are arrested and sent to concentration camps.
12 Nov. 1938
Göring orders all Jews collectively to raise 1 billion Reich Marks as an "atonement payment”. In addition, Jews have to pay for the damage done during the pogrom.
15 Nov. 1938
Jewish children have to go to Jewish schools.
Jewish shops and businesses have to be "Aryanized” or shut down.
30 Nov. 1938
Jewish lawyers are banned from their profession. Only in exceptional cases are they authorized to represent Jewish clients as "Jewish consultants”.
1 Jan. 1939
Jews are forced to use the name "Israel” or "Sara” (if their given name is not one of the authorized "Jewish names”).
17 Jan. 1939
Jewish dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians lose their license to practice.
30 Apr. 1939
The law regulating tenancy arrangementsfor Jews strips Jews of tenant protectionand paves the way for consolidating themin "Jewish houses”.
Due to the outbreak of war, a night-time curfew is imposed on Jews, they can only shop at special grocery stores, they have to surrender their radios and perform forced labor; Polish Jews are imprisoned in concentration camps.
1940 to spring 1941
First deportations of Jews from Szczecin (Stettin), Pomerania, Baden, the Palatinate region and the annexed country of Austria.
1 Sept. 1941
Decree: As of 19 Sept., Jews 6 years of age and older must wear the "Jewish star”; they are no longer allowed to use public transportation, except by permission granted to Jewish forced laborers.
Systematic deportations start from the "Old Reich”, at the same time Jews are banned from emigrating; an order is issued declaring that the assets of deported Jews become the property of the German Reich; non-Jewish people who help Jews are threatened with "protective custody”, a decree from the Reich Main Security Office.
Oct. 1941 to Jan. 1942
Jews not yet deported have to continue doing forced labor; they have to surrender their typewriters, bicycles, cameras, woolen goods, furs, skis and mountain boots, among other belongings. Jews are forced to move into "Jewish houses”.
20 Jan. 1942
At the Wannsee Conference – which should have taken place in Dec. 1941, representatives of the Reich authorities and the SS plan the extermination of Europe’s Jews.
13 Mar. 1942
Jewish residences have to be marked by a star on white paper.
2 June 1942 to Apr. 1945
Jews over 65, widowed or divorced Jewish partners from mixed marriages, Jews who received medals during World War I, and celebrities are deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, which for many turns out to be a way station along their journey to an extermination camp. Thousands die of starvation, illnesses and from the cold in Theresienstadt itself.
Start of the"Factory Operation” (Fabrik-Aktion) during which approximately 11,000 Jewish forced laborers and other Jews remaining in the "Old Reich”are arrested and – if not living in a mixed marriage – are deported. After that operation, no more "full-blooded Jews” officially remain in Germany (except those in mixed marriages).
Jan. to Apr. 1945
Protections provided by mixed marriage are removed: Over 2,000 individuals are deported to Theresienstadt, even though Soviet troops have already liberated Majdanek(20 July 1944), Auschwitz (27 Jan.1945) and US troops Buchenwald (11 Apr.1945).
8 May 1945
The German Wehrmacht surrenders.
Timeline of "euthanasia”*
*Compiledfrom: Ernst Klee, "Euthanasie” im NS-Staat. Die "Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens”, Frankfurt am Main 1983; Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide – FromEuthanasiatothe Final Solution, University of North Carolina Press 2001; Klaus BöhmeandUwe Lohalm (eds.), Wege in den Tod. Hamburgs Anstalt Langenhorn und die Euthanasie in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Hamburg 1993.
14 July 1933
The "Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases” is adopted and will come into effect on 1 Jan. 1934. Doctors and other members of the medical profession are to register and perform forced sterilization on individuals determined by a hereditary health court to be"imbeciles”, schizophrenics, manic depressives, epileptics, individuals diagnosed with genetically related blindness, deafness, shortness of stature, spastic palsies, muscular dystrophy, deformity of the fingers, feet or hips, and individuals accused of suffering from severe alcoholism– without the consent of the patient.
18 Aug. 1939
Decree requiring disabled children to be registered.
21 Sept. 1939
Registration of mental and nursing homes.Killing commences of several thousand patients in West Prussia.
Hitler signs the "euthanasia” authorization and backdates it to the start of the war (1 Sept. 1939); the arranged "Operation T4” begins (named after the address of the organizing institution: Tiergartenstraße 4).
Children and adult patients all across the country are registered and killed.
Dec. 1939–June 1940
Gassing trucks are used, killing centers are set up in Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Hartheim and Sonnenstein.
Jewish mentally ill patients are gathered separately and the first of them are killed in Brandenburg; later Jewish patients are concentrated at the Bendorf-Sayn Mental and Nursing Home.
July/Aug. 1940 to Aug. 1941
A number of clergy and the physicianSauerbruch protest against the patient killings; the Bishops Conference forbids people working for the church from actively aiding in deportations; churches negotiate which group of people "euthanasia” should be restricted to; at the same time the killing centers are re-organized: Bernburgtakes over from Brandenburg, Hadamar replaces Grafeneck.
24 Aug. 1941
Official end of the "euthanasia” program for domestic and foreign policy reasons. Killing by gassing is stopped, but the killing continues, chiefly by administering overdoses of medication and by starvation (for instance in Tiegenhof and Meseritz-Obrawalde, a total of 16,000 are killed). In addition to disabled people from mental asylums and nursing homes, victims also include concentration camp prisoners (Operation "14f 13”).
Nov. 1941–July 1942
Personnel from the killing centers, trained in mass killing, are transferred to the extermination camps Belzec, Sobibórand Treblinka.
Spring to autumn 1942
Jewish mentally ill patients from Berlin and Bendorf-Sayn are added to the systematic deportations; all psychiatric patients have to be registered.
Mass transfer of sick people to regions in the East and to Austria for killing.
27 Apr. 1943
Operation "14f 13” is concluded, remaining potential victims are to be deployed as forced laborers instead; doctors continue to receive permission on an individual basis to kill sick individuals.
Second phase of Operation "14f 13” begins, sick people are killed until Mar./Apr. 1945.
Throughout the Reich, about 200,000 German patients were killed, the number from the occupied eastern regions is not known (estimates are as high as 300,000). Around 4,000 patients were transferred from Hamburg’s only state asylum for the mentally ill in Langenhorn, more than 70% of whom were killed.
Timeline of political persecution*
*For more detailed information see Ursula Büttner and Werner Jochmann (eds.), Zwischen Demokratie und Diktatur. Nationalsozialistische Machtaneignung in Hamburg – Tendenzen und Reaktionen in Europa, Hamburg 1984.
30 Jan. 1933
Appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor.
2 Feb. 1933
Communist Party of Germany (KPD) banned from demonstrating in Prussia and five other German states.
27 Feb. 1933
28 Feb. 1933
Ordinances issued by the Reich President for the "protection of the people and country”, against "treasonous activities”: The persecution of the KPD begins.
1 Mar. 1933
Five Hamburg KPD functionaries are arrested; their publications, meetings, etc. are banned.
2/3 Mar. 1933
First steps are taken against Hamburg’s social democrats, the social-democratic chief of police and social-democratic police officers are suspended, the Hamburger Echo is banned for 14 days.
5 Mar. 1933
Reichstag elections, the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei– National Socialist German Workers’ Party) wins 38.8% of the vote in Hamburg and its allied party the DNVP (DeutschnationaleVolkspartei– German National People’s Party) wins 8%.
8 Mar. 1933
Hamburg Parliament elects a coalition to the senate (six members from the NSDAP, four from the "Kampffront Schwarz-Weiß-Rot” (Battle Front Black-White-Red), three from the DVP (Deutsche Volkspartei – German People’s Party) andthe State Party.
14 Mar. 1933
Appointment of Hans Nieland, the Reichstag Parliamentarian from the NSDAP, as Police President, ban on the newspaper the Hamburger Echo is extended first by 14 days then for an indefinite period of time.
20 Mar. 1933
An auxiliary police is established, drawn from members of the SA, SS and the "Stahlhelme” (steel helmets), more than 300 men.
23 Mar. 1933
The "enabling act” is passed.
24 Mar. 1933
The squad "Kommandoz.b.V.” (– zurbesonderenVerwendung – for special use) is created to carry out operations against political opponents (it is dissolved on 4 Jan. 1934).
29 Mar. 1933
The senate forbids all civil servants, employees and laborers working at Hamburg’s agencies from joining "Marxist” parties.
31 Mar. 1933
The "wild” Wittmoor concentration camp is established.
Parties and associations bring themselves into line with National-Socialist regulations or disband.
10 May 1933
The assets of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold are seized; in protest the SPD does not attend the parliamentary session.
11 May 1933
The SPD Reichstag Parliamentarian from Hamburg, Adolf Biedermann, is found dead near Recklinghausen.
16 May 1933
NSDAP Region Director (Gauleiter) Karl Kaufmann is appointed Reich Governor of Hamburg. Over the following days, the senators ofthe state party and DNVP step down or change over to the NSDAP. Six social-democratic parliamentarians quit their parliamentary group and sit in on the NSDAP.
16 June 1933 onwards
The state police arrest 30 leading SPD members; a Reich-wide ban on SPD activities follows on 21 June; on 26 June the State Party disbands, followed by the DNVP on 27 June, the DVP and the Center Party on 4 and 5 July; approximately 2,400 communists have been arrested in Hamburg by July 1933.
14 July 1933
After passage of the law prohibiting the formation of new political parties, the NSDAP is the only authorized party in Germany.
4 Sept. 1933
Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp is set up in a former women’s prison; SA Colonel (Standartenführer) Paul Ellerhusen is appointed Commandant.
17 Oct. 1933
Wittmoor concentration camp is closed, prisoners are transferred to Fuhlsbüttel.
20 Oct. 1933
SS Sturmbannführer(assault unit leader) Bruno Streckenbachis appointed Director of the Hamburg State Police.
Jan. to July 1934
The Gestapo breaks up the newly organized KPD resistance groups and detains 650 people; 3000 more are thought tobe active in Hamburg; the KPD structures are largely dismantled by 1936.
Former members of the Reichsbanner form resistance groups that are broken up in 1934 and 1935; only one manages to remain active until 1937, then over 100 of its members are arrested. Younger Social-Democrats around Walter Schmedemann organize in a number of working-class districts. 150 of those involved go on trial in 1934 and 1935, the members of their successor organizations are also quickly arrested so that by mid 1935 the social-democratic resistance is by and large crushed. The conspiratorial groups of the Militant Socialist International are able to conduct their resistance work until 1936, then they are arrest throughout the Reich by 1937, in Hamburg this includes about 30 people.
After their release from Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the communists Bernhard Bästlein, Robert Abshagenand Franz Jacob establish contacts that lead to new KPD resistance groups in which roughly 300 people are involved.
Timeline of the persecution of gay men*
*Further details can be found in: Bernhard Rosenkranz, Ulf Bollmann, Gottfried Lorenz: Homosexuellen-Verfolgung in Hamburg 1919–1969, Hamburg 2009.
by Bernhard Rosenkranz(†) and Ulf Bollmann
Heinrich Himmler issues an order to all police stations instructing them to prepare a "list of names of all persons who have in any way taken part in homosexual activities” for the Secret State Police Office (Gestapo) in Berlin. That office creates a special department for "homosexuality” in late Oct. 1934.
26 June 1935
Changes to the Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases pave the way for the "castration indicated by criminal policy” of gay men. From that time on, many convicted gays choose so-called voluntary emasculation to escape being carried off to a concentration camp.
28 June 1935
Tightening of § 175 and addition of § 175a to the Criminal Code of the German Reich: Proof of a homosexual act is no longer necessary (see glossary). After §175a,homosexual acts between a man over the age of 21 with a male under the age of 21 and male prostitution, among others, can be prosecuted with up toten years of imprisonment.
The Reich Central Office to Combat Homosexuality and Abortion is set up "to centrally register” and "effectively combat” both "epidemics in the community”.
The Berlin Gestapo Special Unit, based in Altona, pursues gay men in Hamburg and carries out "cleansing operations” in bars and large companies, like the Hamburg Electricity Works (HEW) and the Tietz Department Store (renamed Alsterhaus by the National Socialists in 1935).
12 July 1940
Heinrich Himmler orders that homosexuals convicted under §175 and who have "seduced” more than one partner are "to be held in police preventive detention following their release from prison”. That means they are carried off to concentration camps where they usually have to wear the "pink triangle” pointing downward.
15 Nov. 1941
In his decree for "maintaining the cleanliness of the SS and police”,Hitler orders that the death penalty be imposed for homosexual acts performed by members of the SS and police.
Forced castration is permitted in concentration camps.
19 May 1943
General Keitel, Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, issues the "Guidelines for handling criminal cases of unnatural fornication”, according to which the death penalty can be imposed in "particularly severe cases”.
In Buchenwald concentration camp, the Danish SS medical doctor Carl Vaernet carries out medical experiments on gay men.
8 May 1945
The war ends. Concentration camps are liberated. §175 of the criminal code is not repealed until 1998; on 17 May 2002 only convictions from the National-Socialist period made under §175 and §175a are pardoned.
by Beate Meyer
As a rule, "Aryanization” designates the process of removing Jews from professional and economic life and the forcible transfer of their assets from Jews to non-Jews. For economic reasons, because Hamburg was classified as an economically depressed area, the city of Hamburg was not very energetic in pursuing this process down to 1938. But after the 9/10 November 1938 pogrom, what developed was a veritable "scramble for enrichment” (Frank Bajohr). By 1939, 1,500 Jewish companies in Hamburg had been forcibly liquidated or had been sold to non-Jewish buyers at prices far below their assessed market value. In most instances, the Jewish owners were only remunerated for a portion of the value of the property; after 1935, the so-called "good will,” of a firm in particular, i.e. the non-material value of a company, its established clientele, reputation, connections, etc. were no longer taken into account. In addition, hundreds of real estate properties changed owners or were placed in receivership. In the broader sense, Jewish private assets were also "Aryanized” by means of taxes and compulsory levies. Finally, the National Socialist state also seized the assets and property left behind by Jews who had emigrated or been deported, confiscating this for the benefit of the German Reich.
"Atonement payment” ("Sühneleistung”), Levy on Jewish Assets (Judenvermögensabgabe)
After the November pogrom 1938, Hermann Göring imposed a collective penalty of one billion RM on the German Jews as an "Atonement Payment” ("Sühneleistung”) for the damages incurred during the pogrom. On the basis of their declarations of assets, all Jews who possessed more than 5,000 RM were required to make a payment in 1939 in four (later five) instalments, and the sum actually accumulated and paid in came to a total of 1.2 billion RM.
Auschwitz (concentration and extermination camp)
The Auschwitz camp was built at the edge of the Polish town of Oswiecim and comprised an area of approximately 40 km2. It consisted of three sections: the main camp or Stammlager (Auschwitz I), Auschwitz-Birkenau, the later extermination camp (Auschwitz II) and the forced labour camp Monowitz (Auschwitz III), to which Buna Monowitz and 45 additional camps were linked as affiliates or satellite camps. Initially, local Jews and Polish political prisoners were confined in Auschwitz I; later a section for women was added, although it was subsequently transferred to Auschwitz II. Most of the prisoners were housed in Auschwitz II, principally Jews, for a time also the so-called family camps for the "Gypsies” and for Czech Jews were located there. Beginning in the autumn of 1941, experimentation commenced in Auschwitz II with the poisonous gas Zyklon B (hydrogen cyanide), and the industrial murder of the Jews commenced in March 1942. Up until November 1944, between 1 and 1.5 million Jews were murdered in the four gas chambers. Two transports were dispatched from Hamburg to Auschwitz: one with 300 persons on 11 July 1942, and another with 24 deportees on 12 February 1943, sent to Auschwitz via the central Berlin transit camp. Additional Jews from Hamburg were transported from the various ghettos to Auschwitz. In Auschwitz III, the prisoners were deployed as slave labourers in the Buna Werke plant (synthetic rubber), IG Farben or the Upper Silesian Synthetic Petrol Works (Hydrierwerke). If their condition declined and they became unfit for work, they were sent to Birkenau and murdered.
Chelmno (German: Kulmhof), extermination camp
This first extermination camp was located some 70 km from Lodz. It is estimated that between 152,000 and 320,000 Jews were murdered there, including the inmates of the Lodz Ghetto. The Chelmno camp consisted of two parts: 1) The "Castle” served as a reception point, and then inmates were murdered in gas vans at the end of a ramp. The murdering personnel also resided here. In December 1941, three gas vans were "in operation.” 2) In the "Forest Camp,” selected deportees, who later were shot to death, were forced to dig mass graves and bury the corpses or later burn them in two crematoria.
Communist Party of Germany, Communist Youth Federation of Germany, revolutionary Trade Union Opposition and other subsidiary organisations (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands [KPD], Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands [KJVD], Revolutionäre Gewerkschaftsopposition [RGO] und andere Unterorganisationen)
The German Communist Party (KPD), founded in December 1918, fought for the establishing of a "dictatorship of the proletariat” in accord with the Soviet model. Armed insurgencies in the 1920s proved abortive. In July 1920, the KPD participated for the first time in elections to the Reichstag with the goal of using the parliament as a political stage. It continued to fight against the democracy of the Weimar Republic.
The centres of support for the KPD were in the industrial regions in northern, western and central Germany. At the end of the 1920s, the KPD grew into a mass organisation. In 1930 it had 120,000 members, by the end of 1932 this had surged to some 300,000.
There is no space here to deal with the leading personalities in the party; and we can only mention a few of the subsidiary organisations or associations close to the KPD, through which the party sought to reach as many members, supporters and adherents as possible. The paramilitary defence association, formed in 1924, the Red Front Fighters’ Alliance (Rotfrontkämpferbund, RFB), protected meetings from attacks and engaged in street battle with the SA. The Red Aid (Rote Hilfe), founded in 1924, supported communists behind bars, trade unionists and other prisoners. The Communist Youth Federation of Germany (Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands, KJVD), estalished in 1925, offered young people political discussions, along with attractive leisure time activities. The Red Womens’ and Girls’ League (Roter Frauen- und Mädchenbund, RFMB) campaigned inter alia for the abolition of §218 restricting abortion, to name but a few such organisations.
In 1929, the KPD, using the concept of "social fascism,” declared the battle against Social Democracy as the main goal of its future politics. The party wanted to try to win over the great mass of Social Democratic workers, whose leadership the party regarded as "traitors of the working class.” They saw them as "traitors” among other things because to protect the Weimar Republic, they called in the police to suppress striking workers. The German Communist Party propagated the "united front” of the workers under their own leadership. In order to lead the unionized workers away from the Social Democrats and toward class struggle, KPD activists founded the Revolutionary Trade Union Opposition (Revolutionäre Gewerkschaftsopposition, RGO). Its subsidiary organisations, such as the Syndicate of Oppositional Teachers (Interessengemeinschaft Oppositioneller Lehrer) sought to win over the members of the individual trade unions to the politics of the KPD, although these unions viewed this approach as the politics of splitting and division. In the meantime, by the end of the 1920s, the KPD had become more the party of the unemployed. The KPD pooled together left-leaning protest voters and was able to emerge in the Reichstag election on 6 November 1932 as the third largest party, garnering almost six million votes. The chair of the KPD, Ernst Thälmann from Hamburg, now proposed to the SPD that they set up a joint "anti-fascist action,” but this offer contained joint action under the direction of the KPD. For that reason, it found little support among the Social Democrats. After the NSDAP takeover of state power, the KPD unsuccessfully called for a general strike.
Once they had seized power, the National Socialists outlawed the KPD, its organisations, meetings and publications, declaring the party an enemy of the state on the basis of the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February 1933. On 3 March 1933, Ernst Thälmann was taken into "protective custody.” Nonetheless, in the Reichstag poll on 5 March 1933, the KPD gained 12.3 percent of the vote. Yet the communist deputies were unable to take up their seats in the Reichstag. They like other members of the KPD were systematically persecuted, hounded into exile or sent to concentration camps. In exile, the KPD abandoned the fateful theory of social fascism, propagating a politics of the united front and cooperation with the SPD. But due to the deep sense of mutual distrust that rarely succeeded. Many of the communists who had remained on in Germany organised themselves in resistance groups whose members were arrested in large numbers, so that by the end of 1936 the groups had large been destroyed. The centralistic structure of the KPD served as a barrier to successful resistance activity, and the high level of turnover in personnel before the Nazi takeover of power also made it possible for the Gestapo to infiltrate the groups, sending in their informers and spies.
In 1940/41, the released concentration camp prisoners Bernhard Bästlein and Franz Jacob were successful once more in building up a resistance network; it is thought to have encompassed some 300 persons.
During the 1940s, further communist resistance groups were formed in several German cities. Shared experience in the concentration camps now facilitated a partial cooperation between communists, Social Democrats and other insurgents. The new groups became known under the name Red Chapel (Rote Kapelle), the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack circle or the Baum group, who had gathered around the young Berlin Jew Herbert Baum. Many members of these groups were betrayed or identified, arrested, tortured and executed. The communists also organised resistance groups in the concentration camps.
KP leader Ernst Thälmann was confined 11 years without a court trial in prisons and concentration camps until he met his death, shot on 17 August 1944 in the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Confiscation of assets
Already with the Law on the Revocation of Naturalizations and the Deprivation of German Citizenship (Gesetz über den Widerruf von Einbürgerungen und die Aberkennung der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit) of 14 July 1933 and the Law on the Seizure of Unpatriotic and Anti-State Assets (Gesetz über die Einziehung volks- und staatsfeindlichen Vermögens) of 26 May 1933, it became possible to expropriate the assets (not only of Jews) for the benefit of the German Reich. With the 11th Ordinance Pursuant to the Law on Citizenship of the Reich (11. Verordnung zum Reichsbürgergesetz) of 25 November 1941, the procedure was simplified: if the "customary place of stay” of a Jew was abroad, the German state could expropriate his or her assets in Germany. This applied both to emigrants and deportees.
Between 1933 and 1941, more than half of the 525,000 Jews living in Germany emigrated. From Hamburg, between 10,000 and 12,000 Jews emigrated. They left Germany in several waves: after the National Socialist takeover of power, after the promulgation of the Nuremberg Laws and in the wake of the November pogrom 1938. Between 1933 and 1935, emigration was still possible, and comparatively speaking, did not entail huge losses in assets. Beginning in 1935, taxes and levies on emigration were increased, and from 1938 on, a sizable number of regulations were introduced that rendered leaving the country difficult. Emigrants were only permitted to take along the cash sum of 10 RM. Potential emigrants had to be in the possession of a valid passport and visa and present proof of having paid the so-called Reich Flight Tax (Reichsfluchtsteuer). The emigrant also had to provide evidence he or she had paid a departure levy for money transferred abroad (the so-called Dego-Abgabe, in 1934 amounting to 65 percent of the total sum, increased by September 1939 to 96 percent [Dego = Deutsche Golddiskontbank]). The departing emigrant had to have a packing permit, and had to present a list of goods being moved that had been approved (newly purchased items entailed a levy of up to 3x the price of purchase). The baggage and freight of the emigrant had to have been properly checked by the authorities; in addition, the individual had to present a tax clearance certificate (Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung) from the Tax Authority certifying that all taxes and levies had been paid. Naturally, the emigrant had to be in possession of a ship or train ticket purchased with one’s own means or with the assistance of an aid organisation, and had to fulfil some other requirements. If even a single one of these required formalities had been delayed and not yet met, a person was often not permitted to depart. A portion of the Jewish emigrants went to Palestine, at the time a British-controlled mandate. Others sought to obtain an entry permit to the U.S. or Great Britain, or fled to neighbouring countries in Europe where they were later seized by the occupying German troops. In the period from 1939 to 1941, the only possible destination for emigration was an ensemble of countries in South America or the city of Shanghai, which did not require a visa. On 23 October 1941, simultaneous with the beginning of deportations, emigration was henceforth prohibited.
Deutsche Golddiskontbank Levy
When they emigrated, Jews who wanted to take their financial assets with them had to exchange their Reichsmarks (RM) for foreign currency. A levy, called the Dego-Abgabe, was charged on this exchange. This fee was one of the measures designed to plunder Jews’ assets. The name is derived from the Deutsche Golddiskontbank, to which the levy was paid. The levy rose from 20% in 1934 to 96% in 1939 and the following years – i.e., for every 1,000 RM that an emigrant took out of the country, he or she had to pay a fee of 960 RM and received only 40 RM worth of the desired foreign currency. This levy also applied to personal belongings purchased after 31 Dec. 1932 – the fee was set at 100% of the purchase price. In 1940 an edict was issued that expanded the scope of the items upon which the fee was levied to include goods purchased before 31 Dec 1932, as well as to other financial transactions with which emigrants attempted to protect their assets, for example by means of a land swap.
The Deutsche Golddiskontbank (German Gold Discount Bank) was founded in 1924 in order to finance export transactions, and was partly state-owned. During the era of the state-sanctioned persecution of Jews in the 1930s, it liquidated the (frozen) securities held by Jews, for which a fee, credited to the Deutsche Reich, was also charged. The remaining proceeds were deposited in frozen accounts, to which the account holders had no access. The bank also financed the German re-armament, and granted the SS loans in the amount of the value of the items robbed from prisoners in concentration and extermination camps. The bank was non-operational after 1945, and was dissolved and liquidated in 1961.
Since the end of the 19th century, the killing of "life not worthy of living” had been discussed by racial hygienicists in a number of countries. The Nazi takeover of power in Germany facilitated the promulgation of a number of laws for registering and elimination of persons with hereditary defects and diseases or physical or mental handicaps. In connection with the so-called "children’s euthanasia” in 1939, at least 5,000 infants and children were murdered. The "adult euthanasia” that followed soon thereafter (termed "Operation T4” ("Aktion T4”, named after the address of its main office at Tiergartenstraße 4 in Berlin) had a total of some 70,000 victims. In August 1941, this "operation” was officially halted after protests were mounted from circles in the church. Nonetheless, the murder of the sick and concentration camp inmates no longer able to work continued under the canopy of "Operation 12f13” down to the end of the war; it was implemented in three killing facilities (Bernburg, Sonnenstein and Hartheim)and affected some 20,000 inmates.
From 1943 on, the so-called "wild euthanasia” or "Operation Brandt” was launched, named after Hitler’s personal physician. Mental asylums were cleared of patients, who were concentrated in special facilities, where they were put to death by an overdose of medication or by administration of a starvation diet. This involved some 30,000 individuals. Jews in state nursing homes were murdered along side others in the framework of the first two phases of euthanasia. Jewish mental patients were concentrated in a facility in Bendorf-Sayn and included in the systematic deportations.
It is estimated that a total of 150,000 non-Jewish and Jewish patients from Germany were murdered in connection with these operations.
Fuhlsbüttel police prison, concentration camp "Kolafu” ("Kola-Fu”)
After the National Socialists took power, 400-600 political opponents were confined in the Fuhlsbüttel prison, and more than 100 others in the "wild concentration camp” Wittmoor, dissolved in October 1933. From that point on, the state police under the command of Bruno Streckenbach made use of parts of the Fuhlsbüttel prison, the so-called "Kolafu” (abbreviation for Konzentrationslager Fuhlsbüttel), as a detention facility for some 700-800 "prisoners in protective custody” (Schutzhäftlinge). Under commandant Paul Ellerhusen and captain of the guard Willi Dusenschön, Fuhlsbüttel was considered to be one of the most brutal camps in the German Reich. After several instances of death had created an unpleasant stir, the camp direction was replaced; in 1936,the concentration camp was renamed the Fuhlsbüttel Police Prison. It was subordinate to the Gestapo, which mainly seized and imprisoned political prisoners, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. During the November 1938 pogrom, the Gestapo confined a large proportion of the Jews in the Fuhlsbüttel Police Prison, who were then transported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Later some 400 so-called "Swing youths” opposed to the Nazi regime were sent to the prison. The "Kolafu” facility was marked by great fluctuation in its prison population, because as a rule inmates were soon transferred to other camps. During World War II, the Gestapo increasingly confined Jews at "Kolafu” who were in mixed marriages and had been convicted of a crime, as well as foreign forced labourers.
German-Israelitic Community Hamburg (DIGH, Deutsch-Israelitische Gemeinde Hamburg = Jewish Community), Jewish Religious Organisation, Branch Office Northwest Germany, Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Jüdischer Religionsverband e.V., Bezirksstelle Nordwestdeutschland der
Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland)
The German-Israelitic Community Hamburg adopted a constitution of tolerance in 1867: under the administrative canopy of the Community (Gemeinde), responsible for schooling, general welfare and burials, there were two (later three) religious societies (Kultusvereinigungen) that cared for the spiritual needs of the Community members. Every Hamburg Jew could decide whether he or she wished to belong to the Community and to a religious society. The three religious societies were the Orthodox Synagogue Association, the Liberal (Reform) Temple Association and the moderate Orthodox Synagogue Neue Dammtor Synagoge, established in 1894. During the Weimar Republic, the Community had some 20,000 members and was thus the fourth largest Jewish community in the German Reich. Only approximately 40 percent of the Community members belonged to one of the religious societies. Beyond the perimeters of the city of Hamburg, Jewish Communities had formed in Altona, Wandsbek and Harburg-Wilhelmsburg. When these cities were assigned to the Hamburg metropolitan area in keeping with the Greater Hamburg Law (Groß-Hamburg-Gesetz) of 1937, their own Jewish Communities were absorbed in early 1938 into the Hamburg Jewish Community, and had to call themselves the Jewish Religious Organisation (Jüdischer Religionsverband). Later, when the Jewish Communities were only permitted to exist as organisations or clubs (Vereine), they had to add "e.V.” (registered organisation) to their name. After the November pogrom 1938, the Gestapo appointed the previous Community lawyer, Max Plaut, the sole responsible official for the Religious Association. The Religious Societies (Kultusvereinigungen) had to cease all activity in the spring of 1938.
In 1939, after the first waves of emigration, the Jewish Community of Hamburg still had 10,131 members. In July 1939, the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland) was legally founded; Plaut now also headed its Branch Office Northwest Germany. Every member of a religious society and the Community, which had been dissolved, had to become a member of the Reich Association, with the exception of Jews in a "privileged mixed marriage.” Plaut’s area of responsibility extended beyond Hamburg to include large parts of today’s federal states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony. The Jewish Religious Organisation remained as a section responsible for the Hamburg Jews inside the Reich Association until it was finally incorporated completely into the compulsory organisation of the Reich Association in the period August/November 1942. In June 1943, the National Socialist state dissolved the Reich Association, but left a Residual Reich Association to continue dealing with matters pertaining to mixed marriages down to the war’s end. Its Hamburg office was headed by the physician Dr. Martin-Heinrich Corten.
Hachshara (Hebrew, ‘preparation’)
This term designates the mental-psychological and physical training and preparation necessary for a future life in Palestine. The movement developed at the end of the 19th century. In Germany, after the Nazis took over the reigns of power, given the distressing situation, it was in the main young adults who flocked to the so-called hachshara centres. While at the centres, they lived in dorms or residential groups, preparing in training workshops or other facilities for emigration and a later activity in Palestine (Eretz Israel, the Promised Land) in agriculture, the artisan crafts or as a household or dining hall worker, where they wished to establish and develop kibbutzim. To that end, they also studied Jewish history intensively while learning modern Hebrew. The providers of this training were largely Zionist organisations, especially the Hechalutz (Pioneer). This leftwing association had been founded in 1917 and set up a federation across Germany in 1922.
In Hamburg, there were facilities for adult hachshara (aged 18 and over) and mid-teen hachshara (youngsters 14 to 17 years old). Young men were also able to complete a hachshara course as a sailor on the ships of the Fairplay Shipping Co., and later also with the Bernstein and Schindler Shipping Lines. Until 1938, 800 young adults in Hamburg had completed this preparation period. Between 1938 and 1941, most of the hachshara centres in Germany were forcibly shut down, and a few were allowed to continue as forced labour camps. From 1938 on the Hechalutz continued to operate in the framework of the Palestine Office, an aid organisation for assisting emigration to Palestine. The Palestine Office was dissolved in 1941.
Hechalutz, see hachshara and Zionist movement
Homosexuals, persecution of
From 1871 to 1994, homosexual acts between males in Germany were punishable by law (§175 of the Criminal Code). From 1871 to 27 June 1935, for criminal proceedings to be initiated, a sexual act similar to intercourse had to be proven. The National Socialists described homosexual males as "antisocial parasites” ("Volksschädlinge”), "dangerous habitual criminals,” "enemies of the state,” and a "losers posing a threat to population policy” ("bevölkerungspolitische Blindgänger”). In their eyes, it was important to combat them and to "eradicate” them from the "healthy folk community.” Many Germans evidently shared this view, because a substantial proportion of homosexuals fell into the hands of the Gestapo and criminal police after informers reported them to the authorities. On 28 June 1935, the penal code was made more severe (§175, §175a), so that just a lascivious glance or suggestive touching of the body were sufficient to be charged under the law: proof of a sexual act was no longer necessary. The assigned task of police and justice system was to prevent "seduction” of heterosexual males so as to keep the people "clean and pure.” In the Nazi period, a total of some 54,000 men were sentenced to imprisonment based on §175 and/or §175a or confined in institutions (such as the asylum Langenhorn). This almost always went hand in hand with a destruction of a person’s social existence (loss of job, apartment and possessions, withdrawal of a license to practice medicine, withdrawing of an academic degree). Many of those so accused chose to elude conviction before or during proceedings by suicide. The men were not only pursued and indicted under criminal law but also confined in concentration camps, murdered in killing facilities there or forced into undergoing "voluntary castration.” The collapse of the National Socialist regime did not bring any end to the persecution of the homosexuals. The more severe version of §175 continued to be valid in the occupation zones and later in the Federal Republic of Germany. From 1949 to 1969, some 100,000 homosexual men were identified and registered. In half of the cases, the procedure ended with a conviction and sentence. Not until 1969, 24 years after the end of WW II, were same-sex sexual acts between adult men (then aged 21 and older) deemed exempt from punishment.
Female homosexuality was not under threat of punishment, yet it could result in a stiffer sentence for a lesbian if such females had attracted attention due to other criminal offences.
"Jewish Affairs Department” of the Gestapo ("Judenreferat”)
The Jewish Affairs Department ("Judenreferat”) of the Hamburg Gestapo, headed by the Consultant on Jewish Affairs ("Judenreferent”) Claus Göttsche, had developed in 1938 as an independent department from the Department for the Affairs of Jews, Free Masons and Lodges (II B). Later it was given the designation IV B 4. The staff working there under Göttsche included Fritz Beck, Walter Wohlers, Hans Stephan, Ferdinand Amberger, Walter Mecklenburg, Hermann Kühn and two civil servants, Götze and Hammerschlag. The Security Police remodeled the Jewish Community Centre at Rothenbaumchaussee 38 and housed the offices of the Jewish Affairs Department there. Formerly it had been located in State Police HQ Hamburg within the Municipality. Located inside the Grindel quarter, Göttsche now organised the supervision, control and ultimately the deportation of the Hamburg Jews. In the autumn of 1943, he returned to the Municipality and took over the Intelligence Dept. The Department for Foreigners of the Gestapo relocated to the former Jewish Community Centre. In May 1945, Claus Göttsche committed suicide, his subordinate Walter Mecklenburg followed him in 1947, while other Gestapo personnel disappeared. The officials of the Jewish Affairs Dept. were never brought to justice for their actions in Hamburg. It becomes clear from the preliminary investigations later halted that these officials had repeatedly enriched themselves individually and as a group. That and more: they had tricked and harassed Jews, extorted money, had driven them to their death or had placed their names on the deportation lists solely because of minor infractions.
Jewish Religious Organisation, see German-Israelitic Community Hamburg
"Jews’ houses” ("Judenhäuser”)
The Reich Law on Renting to Jewish Tenants (Reichsgesetz über die Mietverhältnisse mit Juden) promulgated on 30 April 1939 cancelled tenant protection for Jews and significantly restricted their right to free choice in residence. The authorities were now given the possibility to concentrate Jews in specific urban neighbourhoods. In the eyes of the Gau direction in the NSDAP, "Jews’ dwellings” ("Judenwohnungen”) were a sphere that they could utilise for implementing measures in social policy and urban development, and later as substitute housing for citizens who had been bombed out of their homes. In Hamburg, in 1941 the Gestapo ordered Max Plaut to give up some of his living space. In the main, the Religious Organisation assigned those affected to residential homes, homes for the elderly and nursing homes, which the Religious Organisation had power to dispose over as communal property (or as property of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany). Most of the residential homes were located in Grindel, Eimsbüttel-South and Altona. Initially the order to move out and relocate was directed at unprotected "full Jews,” and then those in a "non-privileged” mixed marriage; finally, it came to affect Jews in a "privileged” mixed marriage as well. The heavy bombing raids on Hamburg in July/August 1943 intensified the shortage of living space in the city. The Religious Organisation had to vacate further rooms to house those who had been bombed out of their apartments. Some 600 of the 1,257 Jews still remaining in Hamburg in the summer of 1943 had themselves been bombed out. This could only be implemented in part, despite the threat as an alternative of relocating the Hamburg Jews to makeshift barracks in the Jewish cemetery. Many Jews lived only a short time in a "Jews’ house” until they received the order for deportation. The living space they were allotted became ever smaller and more confined. The "Jews’ houses” were visibly marked and were under the supervision and control of the Gestapo. For that reason, after the war the Supreme Administrative Court in Hamburg ruled that the forced residential confinement of "star-bearers” (i.e. Jews) in such dwellings should be recognized as tantamount to imprisonment.
"Jews’ star” ("Judenstern”)
The police decree on marking of the Jews, promulgated 1 September 1941, obligated all Jews aged six and older, with effect from 19 September 1941, to wear a yellow "Jews’ star” visible to the eye on their left chest. They had to purchase the star for 10 Pfennig from the Reich Association, and in Hamburg from the Jewish Religious Organisation. They were obligated to cut the star out, and then hem and sew it onto their garment. The Jews in "privileged” mixed marriages and the so-called "Mischlinge of the 1st degree” were exempted from the requirement to wear the star ("Sternpflicht”). To leave one’s house without the "star” or to conceal it was a punishable offence, and this often led to quicker deportation of the offender.
Jungfernhof, see Riga
This resistance group formed in 1940 bears the name of its meeting place, the Kreisau estate in Lower Saxony, which belonged to Helmuth James Graf von Moltke. The circle consisted of approximately 20 activists and an equal number of sympathizers. Among them were people from the nobility, the middle class, Social Democrats, Protestants and Catholics. They discussed the fundamental new social and economic order in Germany after the overthrow of the Nazi dictatorship. Thy sought a close bond between church and state. "Small communities” such as families, factory communities or church congregations should form a bulwark against a mass society prone to manipulation. They envisioned direct election of individuals instead of a party system in the political sphere. Members of the Kreisau Circle sought contact with other resistance groups, such as military resistance and organisations in occupied Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands. From 1943 on, members were even more ready to participate in a coup. When H. J. Graf von Moltke was arrested in January 1944, some joined the group around Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and participated in preparations for the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944. After its failure, some of them were executed.
Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums)
The law promulgated on 7 April 1933 allowed the National Socialist rulers to dismiss (or force into early retirement) civil servants who were politically questionable or "non-Aryan,” if they had been civil servants already before August 1914. Combat veterans ("Frontkämpfer”) were exempted from such dismissal. Whoever was forcibly retired received a pension that later was substantially reduced. In the subsequent period, every civil servant had to present an "Aryan certificate” ("Ariernachweis”), proving with documentation that there was no Jew among his forebears. Several implementation decrees extended the law to general white-collar office staff (Angestellte), blue-collar workers in government service and those employed in semi-public enterprises. Later, not only employers, schools and universities requested such "Aryan certificates” from job applicants, but clubs and other associations as well.
Levy on Jewish assets (Judenvermögensabgabe), see "Atonement payment” ("Sühneleistung”)
Lodge (Masonic Provincial Lodge, Lower Saxony), Moorweide 36
This building belonged until 1941 (and again after the war) to the Provincial Masonic Lodge of Lower Saxony. The Free Mason Association was forced to disband during the Nazi period and from 1937 on included the phrase "in liquidation” in its name. Yet until 1941. it remained listed as the owner of the property in the land register; not until 1942 did the city of Hamburg appear as the legal owner. Nonetheless, the Gestapo used the building from October to December 1941 as a collection point for the first four deportations, in which more than 3,100 Hamburg Jews were transported to Lodz, Minsk and Riga. Gestapo and tax officers processed the deportees there, who were ordered to appear a day before transport at the Lodge. They and their baggage were inspected, they spent the night at the Lodge, and the next day were taken to the Hannoverscher Bahnhof train station, where they boarded the train to the ghetto or extermination camp. The name of the area there today, "Square of the Deportees,” as well as a memorial stone designed by the artist Ulrich Rückriem in 1982, recall these events.
Lodz, Ghetto (Ghetto "Litzmannstadt”)
The German occupiers renamed the Polish city of Lodz after General Litzmann, who had conquered it in World War I. They set up a ghetto 4 km2 in size for 164,000 local Jews in the impoverished Jewish quarter of Baluty. In October and November 1941, some 20,000 German, Austrian and Czech Jews arrived on 20 large-scale transports, including the 1,034 Hamburg Jews who had been given orders for deportation on 25 October 1941. Fewer than 20 Hamburg Jews are believed to have survived. The 96 workshops where over 90 percent of the population worked, were mostly involved with textile manufacture, principally for the Wehrmacht. The living and working conditions in the wooden houses in the ghetto, which had no plumbing, were beneath human dignity. Hunger, cold and epidemics led to thousands of deaths in the first months, not only among the German inmates. In addition, the ghetto proved to be a transit station for the extermination camp Chlemno/Kulmhof located 70 km away. Initially, more than 4,000 "Gypsies” and some 45,000 Polish Jews were murdered there, and up to May 1942 likewise approximately 10,000 Jews from the Altreich (Germany in 1937 borders) who were deemed unfit for labour. After the dissolution of the ghetto in August 1944, the remaining German Jews were transported to Auschwitz, where most were murdered in the gas chambers. A small number of them were transferred to slave labour camps.
In Minsk, the capital of White Russia, the German occupiers established a ghetto some 2 km2 in size for the approximately 200,000 local Jews. Shortly before the arrival of the first transport of Jews from the Reich on 11 November 1941, the SS shot some 12,000 Jews in order to "make room” for a special ghetto for the Jews from the Altreich. There was little connection between the special ghetto and the main ghetto in Minsk. Two deportations to the ghetto in Minsk departed Hamburg: on 8 November 1941 with 968 persons, of whom 952 were murdered, and on 18 November 1941 with 407 Jews, 403 of whom were murdered. The new arrivals from the German Reich worked for the SS or the Organisation Todt in workshops, military hospitals or external camp detachments (Außenkommandos). Almost all who survived the hunger, cold and infectious diseases in the subsequent 18 months were murdered in a massacre on 8 May 1943, shot during the dissolution of the ghetto on 14 September 1943 or murdered in gas vans. A small number deemed fit for labour were transported to other slave labour or concentration camps.
"Mischlinge” ("mongrel Jews”, half-Jews)
According to the implementation decrees of the Nuremberg Laws, "half-Jews” who had not been brought up as Jews were classified as "Mischlinge of the 1st degree.” But if they belonged to a Jewish Community, they were subject to all anti-Jewish measures and were classified as "Geltungsjuden”, literally "persons considered to be Jews.” As "Mischlinge of the 1st degree,” special laws applied to them: they were banned from entering the educational, medical, legal and artistic professions and could not be employed in the civil service. But technical and commercial professions were open to them. Initially, it was made more difficult for them to obtain a school diploma or university degree, and then this too was denied them. The National Socialist state initially inducted them into the Wehrmacht, but then released them from service unless they had distinguished themselves by exceptional bravery. "Mischlinge” were not deported unless after October/November 1942 they had been interned in a jail or concentration camp.
In 1939, there were some 8,000 "Geltungsjuden” and 64,000 "Mischlinge of the 1st degree” in Germany, of these 4,428 resident in Hamburg.
In the NSDAP, especially in the SS, the racial fanatics repeatedly sought to introduce the same treatment for "Mischlinge of the 1st degree” as was stipulated for Jews, thus making them equivalent. The looming threat to mixed marriages and to "Mischlinge” reached a high point at the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 and at two subsequent "Final Solution conferences.” It was proposed that mixed marriages should be forcibly dissolved by divorce and the Jewish partner should be deported; "Mischlinge” should either be sterilized or deported. But a final decision was postponed until the period after the war’s end, which saved their lives. From 1942 on, "Mischlinge of the 1st degree” of school age were dismissed from secondary schools. From 1943/1944 on, those over 17 years of age were deployed in forced labour, a number in camps distant from their home localities.
Mixed marriage, "privileged” and "non-privileged”
When civil marriage was introduced in the 19th century, Jews were then also able to marry non-Jewish partners. At the beginning of the 1930s, some 35,000 Jews (members of Jewish Communities/Gemeinden) in the German Reich were in mixed marriages, the majority of which were comprised of Jewish husbands and non-Jewish wives. Down to 1938, the anti-Jewish measures applied to them as well as other Jews. In December 1938, Hitler created the categories of "privileged” and "non-privileged” mixed marriage; these categories were never clearly established in legal terms.
"Privileged” couples comprised marriages where (1) the wife was Jewish (now not dependant on membership in a Jewish Community but in the "racial” sense of the National Socialist regime) and her husband a non-Jew, if they were childless or had children brought up as non-Jews; and couples where (2) the husband was Jewish, the wife non-Jewish, and they had children raised as non-Jews. Families in this category were permitted to remain in their previous apartment, and their assets could be transferred to the non-Jewish spouse or to their children. Later the Jewish partner in a "privileged” mixed marriage was not required to wear the "Jews’ star” and was exempted from deportation (until January 1945).
"Non-privileged” couples comprised mixed marriages where the husband was Jewish and there were no children; or couples where one spouse was Jewish and the children were raised as Jews; or couples where the non-Jewish partner had converted to Judaism upon marriage. These couples did not have the above-mentioned rights and in the case of emigration, they were treated as Jews. The Jewish partner was required to wear the obligatory "star,” and was "deferred” from deportation.
If a mixed marriage was dissolved by divorce or death, the Jewish partner was deported, in most cases to Theresienstadt. Quite apart from the state of the marriage union, protection from deportation was cancelled if the Jewish partner was in the meantime convicted of a criminal offence. The "prisoners in protective custody” were then deported to Auschwitz. At the end of the war, there were some 12,000 Jews living in mixed marriages in Germany, 631 of these in Hamburg.
November Pogrom 1938 ("Reichskristallnacht” 9/10 November 1938)
In the night of 9/10 November 1938, innumerable Jewish businesses, doctors’ and lawyers’ offices and at least five synagogues and prayer halls were demolished in Hamburg. Across the German Reich, some 30,000 Jews were arrested. In Hamburg, arrests numbered between 800 and 1,000, who were then transported via the "Kolafu” detention facility, the Hütten Prison or smaller collection points on to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. An undetermined number of Jewish prisoners died during their brutal treatment at the camp. Most were released by August 1939 if they could prove they had preparations ongoing for emigration.
Penal Battalions 999 (Bewährungsbataillone 999) and SS Penal Unit Dirlewanger (SS-Sonderkommando Dirlewanger)
Beginning in 1942, based on a so-called Führer Order, political prisoners or men who had originally been classified as ineligible for military service due to a prior conviction for criminal or military offences were forcibly inducted into the Penal Battalions 999 (Bewährungsbataillone 999) of the Wehrmacht (excluding Jews and so-called "Mischlinge”). The new units were intended to relieve the personnel shortage in the Wehrmacht after the heavy losses on the Eastern front, and were principally deployed on other fronts. From October 1942 to August 1944, a total of some 28,000 men from the German Reich and the newly annexed areas and ineligible for military service were drafted into the Penal Battalions. Most had already served their jail sentence, 30–40 percent came directly from prisons, jails and penal camps of the criminal justice system, and a small minority were inmates from the concentration camps. 30 percent of those inducted were political criminals, the others convicted criminals in the sense of National Socialist criminal law. The Penal Battalions were deployed for action in particular in North Africa, the Balkans and Greece, a few also served on the Western and Eastern fronts and as engineering corps units (Pioniertruppen) inside Germany itself. Predominant among the political prisoners were members of the workers’ parties. They endeavoured in many units to continue with their resistance activities, and above all else, to persuade penal unit personnel (Bewährungssoldaten) to desert to the side of Allied troops, or in some cases even to organise an armed rebellion in their own ranks.
Another Penal Unit (Bewährungseinheit), with the name of its commander Oskar Dirlewanger, was attached to the Waffen-SS as a "volunteer section,” the Sonderkommando Dirlewanger. This unit was created in the summer of 1940 and was exclusively made up of convicted poachers of wild animals. Their commander Dirlewanger had served a sentence and had to "prove himself” after conviction for a morals offence. From 1942 to the autumn of 1944, the unit was deployed in the Generalgouvernement to combat resistance groups, guard labour camps and forced labourers or fight against partisans in White Russia. Ukrainian and Russian "volunteers” brought the strength of the unit up to 1,000 to 1,200 men. In May 1943, concentration camp inmates, "professional criminals” and so-called "asocial elements,” along with convicted SS men and court-martialed soldiers were conscripted into the Sonderkommando Dirlewanger, which now expanded to a force of 6,500 men. The brigade earned itself the reputation of a brutal butcher deployed in the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising and the insurgency movement in Slovakia in the autumn of 1944. Some 1,000 political prisoners in concentration camps were now forcibly inducted into the unit. They were given rudimentary basic training and weapons, and sent in early December 1944 to the Slovak-Hungarian border area in order to fight against the advancing Red Army. Hundreds of former political prisoners now fled to the Soviets from the Dirlewanger brigade, where several companies were comprised exclusively of such "politicals.” Of these, an unknown number were interned in Soviet POW camps due to the SS uniforms they were wearing, and later perished while working as slave labourers. – Benedikt Behrens
"Polen-Aktion” Operation Poland
From 27 to 29 October 1938, approximately 17,000 Polish Jews living in the German Reich were arrested and deported to the German-Polish border towns of Bentschen (Zbaszyn), Konitz (Chojnice), and Beuthen (Bytom). This mass expulsion was the German government’s reaction to the Polish government’s revocation of citizenship for Poles living outside the country. When Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, Poland feared that it would face an influx of Jewish emigrants. As a preventative measure, on 31 March 1938 it revoked the citizenship of all Poles who had lived outside of the country for more than five years. In October the measure was tightened: All Polish citizens living abroad who had not renewed their passports by 30 October 1938 would be declared stateless, and Jews were not granted a renewal. The German Reich, of course, didn’t want thousands of hated "Eastern Jews,” who would soon be stateless, living inside its borders.
The operation came as a surprise for those affected by it. The approximately 1000 Hamburg Jews spent their last hours in the city in a prison or in a guarded gymnasium. Sometimes whole families were deported, sometimes only the men. After a number of those expelled had entered Poland, the Polish government closed its borders to all who could not prove that they had family members living in the country. Those who had not yet entered the country were forced to remain in no man’s land in Bentschen, where they were housed in an old barracks and in stalls. Many were still there in 1939, where they were provided for by JOINT, a US-Jewish relief organization. Some were granted permission by the German government to return for a limited amount of time in order to settle their affairs.
Among those deported were the parents of Herschel Grynszpan, who later assassinated the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris. Grynszpan was arrested, but escaped. He was apprehended and sent first to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and then to the Magdeburg penitentiary, where all trace of him is lost. The Nazis used the assassination as a pretext for the Reich-wide November Pogrom in 1938.
Only a portion of the 50,000 to 72,000 Polish Jews living in the German Reich (the numbers vary from source to source) were victims of this expulsion. When the war broke out, thousands more were arrested and sent to concentration camps, where they died en masse. Most of those who had been expelled to Poland fell victim to Nazi persecution after German troops invaded Poland.
Protective custody ("Schutzhaft”)
Already before 1933, police had the power to detain an individual for 24 hours, purportedly for that person’s own protection. From 4 February 1933, an Ordinance on the Protection of the German People (Verordnung zum Schutze des deutschen Volkes) permitted taking a suspect into detention for three months, and two weeks later this temporal limit was dropped. "Protective custody” was an instrument that from 1938 on was the sole prerogative of the Gestapo, in order, without resorting to legal proceedings, to confine undesirables in concentration camps and to determine the time of their release. After the National Socialists came to power, this measure initially targeted political opponents, and was later increasingly employed against Jews, homosexuals, "slackers” and loafers on the job, foreign forced labourers and others. Especially after the war broke out, innumerable decrees issued from the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA) in Berlin instructed Gestapo offices in connection with which "offences” they should take the suspect into custody. The Department of Protective Custody at the RSHA coordinated the measures, i.e. it authorized arrests and ordered transfers of those detained.
If the "protection custody cases” involved Jewish prisoners, they were processed in Eichmann’s Jewish Affairs Department. If a Gestapo officer arrested a Jew, the detainee was initially confined in the local police jail or concentration camp (in Hamburg at the "Kolafu” facility). Then the head of state police in Berlin (Stapostellenleiter) ordered detention in one of the large concentration camps, which as a rule was approved. In November 1942, a decree ordered that concentration camps in the German Reich should be rendered "free of Jews,” and Jews confined there should be transferred to Auschwitz. Since at this point a large proportion of the German Jews had already been deported, this regulation affected Jews in mixed marriages in particular. It gave the Gestapo the possibility to take hundreds of Jews into "protective custody” and to send them to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Exact figures for such victims are not known.
Racial defilement ("Rassenschande”)
The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour (Gesetz zum Schutze des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre) promulgated on 15 September 1935 prohibited Jews from entering a mixed marriage and made extra-marital sexual intercourse between a Jew and non-Jew a crime punishable by imprisonment. According to Hitler’s instructions, the participating male should be penalized. The law triggered a wave of informers accusing others of such crimes, and thousands of court cases were initiated. Between 1935 and 1945, some 2,000 Jewish and non-Jewish men were found guilty. After serving a sentence, the Jews among them were often taken into "protective custody” and then deported. An undetermined number of Jewish women were sent without a court trial to concentration camps, and after October/November 1942, were transported from there to extermination camps.
Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland), see German-Israelitic Community Hamburg
After the German Wehrmacht occupied Riga on 1 July 1941, it murdered thousands of Latvian Jews. In August 1941, the German occupiers established a ghetto 9,000 m2 in size in the Moscow quarter of the city to house some 30,000 local Jews. Before the first transport arrived with Jews from the Reich, 27,500 Ghetto residents were shot to death on "Riga bloody Sunday” (30 November 1941) and 8 December 1941, ostensibly in order to "make room” for the new arrivals.
A total of 20 transports with German, Austrian and Czech Jews arrived in the area around Riga between November 1941 and February 1942. On 6 December 1941, a transport left Hamburg with 753 persons (of whom 726 died), actually initially bound for Minsk, but it was then sent to Riga. When the Hamburg Jews, among them Chief Rabbi Joseph Carlebach, arrived in the destination area, the second shooting operation had not yet been brought to a close. For that reason, the deportees were taken to the estate Jungfernhof, located 6 km from the city. This dilapidated property consisted of an estate house, three wooden barns, five small houses and sheds for cattle, where just under 4,000 persons (aside from the Hamburg Jews, also transports from Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Vienna) were cramped together. Between 1,700 and 1,800 of these Jews were shot to death in March 1942 in the "Operation Dünamünde.” Gradually over time, some 200 women and a portion of the others were sent on to the Riga Ghetto. A number of the men between 16 and 50 years of age were transported to the forced labour camp Salaspils located 18 km from Riga, where only a small number of slave labourers survived. From the summer of 1944, the Jewish prisoners were relocated from the Baltic area back toward Germany; the main destination was the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig. From there women were sent on to Neuengamme near Hamburg, and male prisoners to Buchenwald, while others were transported to Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Mauthausen and Natzweiler. Some prisoners from Riga were then placed in the columns of the death marches that departed from these camps in April 1945.
Security order (Sicherungsanordnung)
From January 1937, the foreign currency offices at the Chief Finance Administrator (Oberfinanzpräsident) were given the authority to block the accounts of Jews who were suspected of shifting assets. Disposition over these accounts was only possible with the approval of the Chief Finance Administrator. This principle was later expanded. While taxes and special levies could be directly deducted, Jews affected had to provide detailed evidence on their regular expenses for maintenance and gain specific approval for permission to have access on a monthly basis to this sum from their account. Permission for special expenses had to be applied for separately.
Special courts (Sondergerichte)
Special courts were in existence even before the Nazi period in order to be able to conduct proceedings involving certain punishable offences more speedily and efficiently. This was done by means of time-limit reductions, simplifying of procedures and restriction of the rights of the defendants. The National Socialists built on this instrument and in March 1933, they established a special court in every Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht, OLG) district. Their number, initially 26, later rose to 74 across the entire Reich. Initially they were competent for trying criminal political acts in accordance with the Reichstag Fire and Treachery Ordinance (Reichstagsbrand- und der Heimtückeverordnung), while serious criminal political offences continued to be adjudicated at the Higher Regional Court. Once the war erupted, the Ordinance on Anti-social Parasites (Volksschädlingsverordnung) expanded the competence of the special courts at the expense of the ordinary courts, extending it to virtually all spheres of middle-range and more serious criminal offences. The number of crimes for which the death penalty could be handed down also rose. The special courts are believed to have imposed some 11,000 death sentences, 218 of these in Hamburg. Persons convicted by the special courts could not appeal the judgment. The presiding judge and two associate judges had to be qualified as judges. According to one study (Can Bozyakali, Das Sondergericht am Hanseatischen Oberlandesgericht, Peter Lang 2005), the lawyers at the special court in Hamburg belonged to the "political elite” of their professional guild.
The People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof, VGH) was also part of the National Socialist (in)justice system. It developed from a special court, and from 1936 on, now transformed into a regular court, it dealt with cases of high treason, treason and other offences later on. Its judges’ commissions consisted of two professional judges and three "people’s judges” appointed by Adolf Hitler and deemed "reliable” in the sense of the Nazi Party. Under its president Roland Freisler (in office 1942–1945), the VGH convened not only in Berlin but in a number of cities. Up to 1945, 5,900 death sentences handed down by the VGH were carried out.
Members of the military generally were subject to the military justice system, but in 1943 here too, a special summary court-martial (Sonder-Standgericht) was created to try those serious political offenders who had to expect being sentenced to many years imprisonment or the death penalty. In September 1944 (as a direct consequence of the assassination attempt on 20 July 1944), this special military court was dissolved. Political criminal acts by members of the military were now assigned to be dealt with by the SS or police, the VGH or the special courts.
T4, see "Euthanasia”
Already in connection with the first deportation from October to December 1941, the RSHA stipulated that Jews over the age of 65, the frail age 55 and older, those with combat medals from World War I, foreign Jews, Jews in mixed marriages or "half-Jews,” who because they were members in a Jewish (religious) Community were treated as so-called "Geltungsjuden”, should for the time being all be deferred from deportation. For them, the Ghetto Theresienstadt, actually planned for Czech Jews, was to be expanded into a "Ghetto for the Elderly.” Later on, Dutch and Danish Jews, and some German and Austrian prominent personalities who were under the protection of high-ranking National Socialists were also sent to the Theresienstadt camp. Thus, a total of some 141,000 persons were sent to the small fortress city, and of these approximately 88,000 were later transported onward to the extermination camps. Some 33,000 died in Theresienstadt, about 16,800 survived there to see their liberation. Among the 50,000 German ghetto residents, there were 2,490 Jews from Hamburg. They had been sent to Theresienstadt on 11 transports between 15 July 1942 and 14 February 1945. The predominantly elderly persons, who before their departure had been obligated to surrender their remaining assets in a so-called home purchase contract for their maintenance in Theresienstadt, generally met a quick death there due to hunger, the cold, sickness or epidemics. In Theresienstadt, only for younger, stronger deportees was the chance for survival greater than in other deportation destinations. From the transports until 1944, some 220 Jews from Hamburg survived, and of the 213 Hamburg Jews from mixed marriages who arrived there at the beginning of 1945, 209 lived to see the day of liberation.
Treblinka, extermination camp
Between May and July 1942, the SS built the extermination camp, measuring 400 m wide and 600 m in length, in a sparsely settled, heavily wooded area near the railroad line Warsaw-Bialystok. In a separate part of the camp, there was a brick building equipped with three gas chambers 4 x 4 meters each in size. In an attached shed, a diesel motor produced the carbon monoxide that was then pumped through pipes into the gas chambers, camouflaged as shower rooms. The corpses were buried in two large pits. It is estimated that a total of some 870,000 Jews from various countries were murdered here, including 8,000 who had been deported from Theresienstadt to Treblinka.
USPD (Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany [Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands])
In 1917, based on opposition to the pro-war direction of their party, Social Democratic deputies founded the USPD. Within this heterogeneous group, Marxists worked side by side together with reformists and a left, revolutionary wing around Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. The main goal that united them was an end to the war. Their alliance was short-lived. While the USPD together with the SPD took over responsibility for the government, the left wing together with other socialist groups founded the Communist Party, the KPD, in January 1919. The USPD garnered its largest share of electoral support in the Reichstag election of 1920, with 17.1 percent of the vote. In 1920, most members of the USPD left the ranks of the party to join the KPD or return to the SPD. The remnant of the USPD continued to exist as a splinter group. The number of members reflected this process: in November 1918, it was some 100,000, surging then until September 1920 to circa 894,000. It then plummeted in 1922 to 291,000 and by 1925 had shrunk to approximately 10,000. At the polls, it garnered only 0.33 percent of the vote in 1924, and finally only 0.03 percent in 1930.
Westerbork, transit camp in the occupied Netherlands
The camp was set up in 1939 by the Dutch government in order to house illegal Jewish refugees who had entered the Netherlands. After the German occupation, it served from 1941 to 1944 as a transit camp for Jews slated to be deported to the East. From July 1942, a total of some 98,000 Jews were deported via Westerbork to Auschwitz, Sobibor, Theresienstadt and Bergen-Belsen, also including German Jews who had fled to the Netherlands.
The principal goal of the Zionist movement, whose German branch was established in 1897 (ZVfD = Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland, Zionist Organisation of Germany), was the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Inside the Zionist movement, religious and secular currents existed side by side. Their groups proposed candidates for election to the committees of the Jewish Communities, and they engaged in work with children and youth. This included hiking and gymnastics groups, such as Blau-Weiss and Bar-Kochba, literary associations and a women’s society. After the National Socialists came to power, the Zionist groups experienced a strong influx in membership. They promoted emigration to Palestine through hachshara centres, fund raising and language courses. In Hamburg, about 1,000 persons were members of Zionist groups. The ZVfD was disbanded in 1938. But it was able to continue its work until 1941, since the emigration of the German Jews was in keeping with the goals of National Socialism.
Translated by Bill Templer