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Rudolf Klug * 1905
Curschmannstraße 39 (Schule) (Hamburg-Nord, Hoheluft-Ost)
Rudolf Klaus Klug, born 8 Oct.1905 in Hamburg, executed on 28 Mar. 1944 in Beistfjord near Narvik, Norway
The communist teacher’s Rudolf Klug running for the Hamburg city parliament in 1932 was an issue for the press even before the Nazis came to power. Manifestations by parents and students of the Telemannstrasse School caused excitement at the school authority. After the change of power, Rudolf Klug continued his political activity underground – disguised as a coffee provider, in the resistance group of Bernhard Bästlein (q.v.) Franz Jacob (q.v.) and Robert Abshagen, and, finally in the Wehrmacht.
Who was this man?
Rudolf Klug came from a worker’s family with three children; his father Ernst Klug was active in the trade union. At home in Vogtland, Ernst Klug had chosen to apprentice as a butcher, in spite of the fact that he could have become a teacher, because, as he used to say, "a butcher never has to go hungry.” Coming to Hamburg as a journeyman, he fell in love with Emma Lucht, who came from Albersdorf. The couple had to save for seven years before they could afford to marry and make a home.
The family lived in Eimsbüttel. Rudolf was born in 1905, his sister Kati two years later. From his job as a stevedore, Ernst Klug just managed to pay the rent, so that he did double shifts whenever possible. His wife had several cleaning jobs. But in 1916, when his father was at the front and the third child Ernst-Otto was born and the family could no longer make ends meet, Rudolf decided he had to contribute to the budget. His mother had to fake his year of birth, so that her son could get a job as an errand-boy at the age of eleven.
Rudolf Klug went to elementary school in Bismarckstrasse. When he wanted to go to high school in order to be able to study and become a teacher, his father refused for financial reasons; but his mother stated: "If he wants that, he’ll become that”, and worked at night to pay for Rudolf’s studies. In 1923, he started his studies as a working student, and in his vacations, he accepted any possible kind of work to help finance his education.
With his sister, Rudolf frequented the Volksheimjugend, a meeting-place for working-class youngsters, where her interest in politics was roused and he in 1927 joined in founding the "Proletarische Volksheimjugend”. Together with the Communist Youth Association (KJVD), they travelled in groups and organized political discussion evenings. In 1928, Rudolf Klug joined the KJVD and the Communist Party KPD.
In spite of the family’s financial distress – his father was killed at work in the port in 1927 – Rudolf successfully completed his studies, with psychoanalysis and individual psychology as course specializations.
In 1928, he was appointed to the reform school in Telemannstrasse, where he joined a progressive, predominantly social democratic teaching staff. Coeducation had been introduced and the rigid three-section school system was broken up. The boys and girls were "to learn discerningly in order to acquire the power of autonomous sound judgment.” Rudolf Klug won the children’s confidence and achieved success by individually fostering each child’s talents, giving them the confidence "that they were just as smart and competent as the others, so that they could suddenly do things of which they had been afraid before”, as his sister recalled. He succeeded in being firm and forceful and also understanding and companionable. At parents’ evenings and in the school newspaper he passed on the "latest perceptions of progressive and proletarian educational science and psychology.” Klug had excellent contact to parents”, his colleague Dietrich Rothenberg remembered.
In politically difficult days when the Social Democrats ruled Hamburg, but the Nazis gained more and more influence, Rudolf Klug came into conflict with the school authorities. In May 1930, a hearing was held because he had been denounced; he was accused of having organized "school squadrons” to combat fascism at the schools, at the school in Rellinger Strasse – a school where he had never worked. His dismissal was prevented by the intervention of the social democratic school superintendent Fritz Köhne; however, the senior school authority asked the police to keep observing Klug.
Rudolf Klug was active in the "Interessengemeinschaft Oppositioneller Lehrer" (IOL), a teachers’ organization founded in 1931 to "oppose the eroding of the civil rights and achievements in the educational system and the increasing fascist threat” (quoted according to Burgard). In 1932, Klug ran for the Hamburg parliament in the elections of April 24th, although he was aware of the decree forbidding all civil servants to support or join the KPD as well as the NSDAP. Actually, two teachers who were members of the Nazi party held seats in parliament, without the decree being applied to them.
When the Nazi newspaper "Hamburger Tageblatt” denounced the Telemann School and Rudolf Klug’s running for parliament on the day before the election, demanding his dismissal, Klug neither withdrew his candidateship, nor did he keep silent about his talks with school authority. The communist paper "Hamburger Volkszeitung” ran an article about Klug’s threatened dismissal. On account of parent protests, School Superintendent Köhne ordered Klug to be displaced instead of fired. When his colleagues also joined in supporting him, the government decree was no longer given as the reason for his displacement, but rather the claim that "partisan political tactics and practices meant more to him than the integrity and the fundamental ideas of the School in Telemannstrasse” (Burgard et al., S. 24).
The teacher’s conference of the Telemann School finally withdrew its solidarity with Klug, but parents and students continued to support him: parents organized a collection of signatures, which was promptly forbidden by the principal; students and parents went on strike and pciekted the school for three days before the summer vacations. The pickets were watched by the police and finally dispersed. After the vacations, 15 students were displaced to other schools, and two fathers sentenced to five resp. 15 days in jail. Rudolf Klug went to work as subject teacher at the school in Breitenfelder Strasse.
On April 27th, 1933, the Hamburg teachers’ association "Society of the Friends of the Patriotic School and Education System” voted to collectively join the Nazi teachers’ union "Nationalsozialistischer Lehrerbund” (NSLB). Rudolf Klug and the communist teachers failed with their motion to at least hold a discussion about this motion. The IOL colleagues, however, had already made preparations to continue their organization underground following the burning of the Reichstag building on February 27th /28th, 1933.
The Nazis’ repressive actions continued to increase. The "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” not only served to remove Jewish teachers, but also politically undesirable colleagues from school service. Rudolf Klug was dismissed on June 17th, 1933. An advertisement in several Hamburg newspapers announced that he and other teachers, including a female colleague, had been "granted leave from school service.”
The Gestapo had already searched his home in May, having arrested him at school; he was, however, released for lack of evidence. In late summer, he was again arrested for "preparation of high treason” and sentenced to one year in jail on October 4th, 1933. He served his term in Wolfenbüttel until August 11th, 1934, and was then sent to the island of Sylt for forced labor.
On returning to Hamburg, he found work in Kurt Adam’s coffee distribution service from the end of 1934. Adam, a former SPD member of the Hamburg parliament and president of the Hamburg adult education center, himself victim of an occupational ban, used his business to aid former Jewish and politically persecuted colleagues. This job not only assured Rudolf Klug’s livelihood, but also enabled him to keep in contact with political friends, teachers from the IOL and parents of Telemann students. With his motorcycle, he not only delivered coffee, but also illegal printed material.
In April, 1937, Rudolf Klug was arrested by the Gestapo in a special operation and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp with 100 other "political” offenders. He was detained for three months. At the same time, his marriage to his wife Ilse failed; they had got married two years before and lived at Desenissstrasse 28 in Barmbek.
Klug resumed his political activities soon after his release, making his living from odd jobs. Later, he found work as a dunning accountant for Christiansen & Co. in Lurup, manufacturers of abrasive materials. In 1938, he was questioned at Gestapo headquarters about the illegal activities of teachers. He succeeded in warning his friend and colleague Dietrich Rothenberg by sending his mother, Emma Klug to him to advise him a way that the charges against him were dropped.
In a "hiking club” that served as a guise for meetings of politically like-minded people, Rudolf met the bookseller Margaretha Kubicki. They married in 1940 and moved to Barmbeker Strasse 93. Their daughter Anja was born on April 18th, 1942.
When the communist resistance group around Bernhard Bästlein (q.v.), Franz Jacob (q.v.) and Robert Abshagen was formed, Rudolf Klug joined them. As he was considered "unworthy for military service” on account of his political record, he had not been drafted at the beginning of the war in 1939. In agreement with the group, he in 1941 applied for "restitution of worthiness for military service” (cf. Ernst Stender), to offer resistance within the Wehrmacht, according to his sister. His wife, however, opinioned to the compensation agency after the war that he had not made the application of his own accord. In any case, he was inducted into the landsturm, where he was employed to guard prisoners of war, last in 1943 near Narvik in Norway. There, he made contact with prisoners and a group of Norwegian resistance fighters of the "home front.” A couple of prisoners were preparing to flee from the camp; Rudolf Klug had given a confiscated pistol that had been at the office to a Soviet officer. The missing of the pistol was noticed, and Rudolf Klug arrested on February 26th, 1944. He was able to escape, was betrayed by members of his unit and again arrested. On March 15th, 1944, the court-martial sentenced him to death twice for treason in times of war and desertion. On March 28th, he was shot in Beistfjord near Narvik.
The court-martial informed the widow that Kluge had been buried "on site”. She was forbidden to publish death notices or obituaries.
At the end of 1945, Margaretha Klug wrote to the compensation agency: "As the civil servants dismissed by the national socialists are now being reinstated, I had applied to the school administration for a pension and an orphan’s allowance; if my husband had not been dismissed from service, we would now have a pension.”
Only in 1962 did Margaretha Klug and her daughter receive compensation, a lump sum as the result of a settlement. In 1961, Margaretha Klug had been on the verge of withdrawing her application. The records contain a note from a responsible official that he had encouraged her not to give up.
In 1982, Margaretha Klug endeavored to have the remains of her husband moved to the grove of honor at Hamburg’s Ohlsdorf cemetery. With the help of a Norwegian friend, the Hamburg section of the VVN (the organization of people persecuted by the Nazi regime) located his grave at the German war cemetery in Narvik; the Norwegian supported the project, because he thought that Rudolf Kluge did not belong among the "heroes of Narvik” and SS men (quoted according to Hochmuth 2005). Rudolf Kluge’s remains were not moved, however, as his widow would have had to assume the whole cost. The German war graves’ care organization wrote her: "Please also consider that your husband has the right to eternal rest in an area and a country where he did humanitarian work based on his conviction” (quoted according to Hochmuth 2005).
With her memoirs published in the 1970s, Rudolf’s sister Kati von der Reith made a substantial contribution to the book "Rudolf Klug – Ein Lehrer passt sich nicht an" (Rudolf Klug – a Teacher Refuses to Conform). She was married to Willi von der Reith, the communist member of the Hamburg parliament, who fought for the Republic in Spain, a cousin of Dietrich von der Reith (q.v.).
In memory of Rudolf Klug, a school in Rostock was named after him on his 50th birthday.
Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: October 2016
© Christine Meier
Quellen: AfW 081005; Edith Burgard et al., Rudolf Klug – Ein Lehrer passt sich nicht an, Antifaschistische Reihe, Heft 2, Hamburg 1982; Dietrich Rothenberg, Kompromisslos gegen die Barbarei, in: Ursel Hochmuth, Peter de Lorent (Hrsg.), Schule unterm Hakenkreuz, Hamburg 1985, S. 239–243; Ursel Hochmuth/ Gertrud Meyer, Streiflichter aus dem Hamburger Widerstand 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main 1980; Ursel Hochmuth, Niemand und nichts wird vergessen, Biogramme und Briefe Hamburger Widerstandskämpfer 1933–1945, Eine Ehrenhain-Dokumentation in Text und Bild, Hamburg 2005, S. 78–81.