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Gustav Wagner * 1896

Fraenkelstraße 6 (Hamburg-Nord, Barmbek-Nord)

JG. 1896
VERHAFTET 20.3.1940
ERMORDET 11.11.1943

Gustav Wagner, born 28.3.1896 in Hamburg, deported to Auschwitz, perished 11.11.1943

Fraenkelstraße 6 II (Schaudinnsweg)

Gustav Wagner was born on March 28, 1896 in Hamburg, his Jewish parents were Moritz Wagner and Mary, née Nathan. The couple had six children.

Gustav attended elementary school in Hamburg and was dismissed from the first grade. After completing an apprenticeship as a tailor, he worked in his trade until he volunteered for military service in 1914. In that year his mother had died. Gustav Wagner went through the whole war and was discharged at the end of the war with the Iron Cross, 2nd class and the Hanseatic Cross. Afterwards he worked again as a tailor.

On November 6, 1920, he married Marie Elise Frieda Helene Schnee, a Protestant born in Magdeburg on March 30, 1892, who had worked in a bookbindery after elementary school. She had come to Hamburg in 1910 and married shortly thereafter; their son Franz was born in November 1911. As Frieda Note, she was divorced in 1919 and brought two children from this first marriage; her marriage to Gustav Wagner remained childless.

Frieda worked as a seamstress, Gustav was employed as a tailor until 1928 and then - until 1938 - at the Hamburg city cleaning service. When he lost this job, he found work as a janitor and machinist at the Jewish Hospital. His weekly wage was 46.69 Reichsmark (RM), and he was also granted a monthly rent allowance of 40 RM. As early as October 9, 1922, Gustav Wagner had declared his resignation from the Jewish Community, which he was forced to rejoin as a member on October 16, 1939, because as a "full Jew" he had to belong to the Reich Association of Jews in Germany, of which the Jewish Community of Hamburg was the active branch.

Earlier he had belonged to a kind of union, the Staatsarbeiterverbund, since 1933 to the Arbeitsfront. With his - certainly forced - resignation from the civil service at the city cleaning service, he also ended his DAF membership. His wife Frieda left the Lutheran church in 1932.

The "mixed couple" Gustav and Frieda Wagner and their neighbors Otto and Franziska Schulze were indicted in 1940 "in the name of the German people" by the Hanseatic Special Court and sentenced to penal servitude or imprisonment for "continued eavesdropping on enemy broadcasts" and violations of the broadcasting ordinance.

The events can be reconstructed from the criminal record: The families lived at Schaudinnsweg No. 6, today's Fraenkelstraße, Gustav and Frieda Wagner since 1932 on the second floor, one floor up Otto Schulze and his Jewish wife Franziska, née Wolfsberg, married since 1924.

Otto Schulze, born in Havelsberg on June 29, 1898, also a WK I veteran and holder of an Iron Cross, 2nd class, was employed at the Sparkasse von 1864, which terminated his employment in 1937 because he had a Jewish wife. His wife Franziska, born on February 24, 1894, had worked in various companies after completing a commercial apprenticeship and had left the Jewish religious community in 1933. The Schulze couple had no children.

From the end of August to the end of September 1939, Otto Schulze was drafted into the railroad guard. During this time, his wife established closer contact with their neighbor Wagner, which also introduced the two husbands to each other after Otto Schulze's return. The couples visited each other, and until the end of the year they often met on Saturdays in the Schulzes' apartment, talked to each other, listened to the radio. There was no longer a radio in the Wagner household because all Jews were now forbidden to own one. Mrs. Schulze was also Jewish, but her "Aryan" husband, as head of the household, was still allowed to own a radio. It turned out that news was also listened to, including - possibly at Gustav Wagner's suggestion - the station Radio London with its German-language news.

The defendants admitted that it had happened three or four times, the last time shortly before New Year's Eve 1939. They had only learned of the ban in December and had not known what heavy penalties were involved. On March 28, 1940, the Gestapo filed a criminal complaint against the couple; in the later verdict, the police and pre-trial detention suffered was credited against the sentence recognized, so the arrests had already taken place some time before.

At the trial, all of them testified that they had neither been politically active nor belonged to a party. After the confessions, it was determined that the defendants had been guilty of a misdemeanor or "continued crime against §1 of the Broadcasting Ordinance of September 1, 1939, §47 StGB." The Hanseatic Special Court, Chamber 3, consisting of Oberlandesgerichtsrat Haack as presiding judge, Landgerichtsrat Ehlers and Assessor Rodowinsky as associate judges, First Public Prosecutor Jauch and Justice Inspector Kister, sentenced the husbands involved to one and a half years in prison each and the wives to nine months in prison each. There was no doubt as to the question of guilt, the ban had been communicated in all newspapers and also on the radio.

In contrast to the prosecution, which alleged "preparation for high treason", the court did not assume that the defendants had met primarily for the purpose of listening to enemy broadcasts. Rather, it assumed personal visits during which the London station had occasionally been listened to. The court also distinguished between the actions of the wives and the husbands and considered the former to be secondarily involved and politically indifferent, while their partners "must be subjected to the full rigors of the law," since they were "politically mature people who had to and did recognize the meaning and purpose of the law without further ado." It was taken into account that the two defendants had previously been unpunished and were not known to be politically disadvantaged; their participation in the World War was also appreciated. The sentence was considered appropriate, and the crediting of police custody and pre-trial detention was justified by the fact that all of them had "confessed on the whole".

According to recent archival findings, Gustav Wagner's ordeal can be reconstructed as follows: After the verdict was pronounced on March 20, 1940, he initially remained in the remand prison, from where he was sent to the Fuhlsbüttel penitentiary on April 25. Prison documents state that he was of sturdy build, 1.72 m tall, dark blond, and had blue eyes. As to his suitability for work, he was noted to be "capable of working in the moor" and "capable of working outside”. Under normal circumstances, his sentence would have ended on November 19, 1941. However, by letter of August 4, 1940 from the Chief Public Prosecutor, Hamburg District Court, a decree of June 11 of the same year was referred to, which called this sentence into question: for offenses committed in wartime, the period of execution falling within the wartime period was not to be included in the sentence period.

Gustav Wagner was busy in the penitentiary with bag gluing. A management report dated January 6, 1941, contains remarks by three supervisors. A guard rated his behavior as "very good" and the hope for improvement as "yes." The foreman thought his conduct was decent, and the work was being done to his satisfaction. A welfare officer merely remarked "is Jew!".

In January, Frieda Wagner had submitted a petition for clemency to the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office for remission of her husband's remaining sentence or commutation to a prison sentence, to which she received a negative decision.

On January 25, 1941, Gustav Wagner was transferred to a prison camp near Papenburg (at river Ems). After another petition for clemency by Frieda, the camp administration was asked to comment, in which it referred on March 7, 1941, to the aforementioned decree according to which an end of sentence could not be calculated. Referring to Wagner's short period of imprisonment in the camp, the camp administration did not see itself in a position to pass judgment on his mercy.

Frieda Wagner was not deterred, submitted another petition for clemency and at the same time asked for her husband's repatriation to Hamburg. The chief public prosecutor's office refused on May 28, 1941. The commander of the prison camp judged Gustav Wagner to be healthy and fully fit for work and saw no reason for repatriation. According to a note in the files, Gustav Wagner was engaged in well construction at the time. Another application submitted in August was also ultimately rejected. At least the couple was allowed a personal "parley" in June, so Frieda traveled to Papenburg to see her husband for half an hour. On a fourth request for clemency on August 19, 1941, the rejection did not come until November.

In the meantime, an incident had occurred. In October 1941, it was discovered that Gustav Wagner had received packages from his wife through an intermediary - possibly used as an informer - and had smuggled out a letter to her. The packages had contained food and smoking materials. It is not clear from the documents what tightening of custody was the result. What is known, however, is Gustav's transfer to another camp in Neu Sustrum, which was under the command of the Papenburg prisons.

On January 11, 1942, Frieda Wagner successfully requested permission from the camp administration there to visit her husband on March 29 - Gustav Wagner turned 46 on March 28. Another visit permit was received for June 7, 1942. A short time later, the camp administration received an order on June 20, according to which Gustav Wagner was to be transferred again as part of an "assignment of professionally trained prisoners," this time to the Brandenburg (Havel)-Görden penitentiary. The transfer took place on June 25.

Gustav Wagner’s physical condition can be seen in the weight of the formerly strong man. As his prisoner sheet noted, he weighed only 54 kilos. He had edema on both legs and suffered from a general state of weakness. On July 2, the Brandenburg prison administration responded to another request for clemency from Frieda, dated June 4, by stating that Wagner, a prisoner, had been punished with four weeks' confinement for behavior contrary to the house rules. Although his work performance gave no cause for complaint, there were no grounds to justify a reprieve.

We know nothing about the nature of Wagner's work. Perhaps he was in demand as a tailor; at least he was granted the procurement of eyeglasses in October 1942. Since his own cash assets of 7.38 RM were not sufficient, his wife was supposed to cover the costs, but had to refer to her own hardship.

In December 1942, Frieda asked for a visitation permit for January 19, 1943, and to inform her husband about the death of their son Lothar, who, like his brother Franz, had been drafted into the Wehrmacht. Frieda received permission with the condition that she not bring her husband any food. Apparently she disregarded this additional harassment, because a note reports a "house punishment" against Gustav Wagner, who "yesterday received chewing tobacco and cigarettes from his wife." The punishment consisted of three months of aggravated imprisonment. Before the end of this period, Gustav Wagner was deported to Auschwitz. There he died - according to a copy of death certificate 146/1943 - in Kasernenstraße at 10:25 p.m. on November 11, 1943, of "cardiac insufficiency."

Frieda Wagner also began her prison sentence on March 20, 1940. She suffered from diabetes and had suffered a bout of illness as a result of the psychological stress of the trial and imprisonment, but as the wife of a Jew, she was not granted the right to a special diet. It was only after her release from prison on October 20, 1940, that she received insulin treatment after a medical examination. In 1942, myomas were found in the uterus and treated with X-rays at the university hospital. A later medical report speaks of "X-ray castration." Her overall health was severely impaired; worries about her husband and sons stationed in Russia, a total bombing of the apartment, the struggle for prison relief for her husband, and finally the news of his death contributed to the steady deterioration. Heart and nerve ailments troubled her, and with a constant state of exhaustion, a regular living was hardly possible. She was able to earn some money as a house seamstress; otherwise she used up her modest savings and had to borrow money in order to exist.

After the end of the war, Frieda Wagner received a special pension of 140 RM. In addition to compensation for imprisonment, from which she was able to pay debts, she received a small compensation for being bombed out. She tried to get her allotment garden in Steilshoop returned so that she could grow vegetables there, which she urgently needed as a diabetic. The successor had promised to return the garden after the end of the war, but now refused on the grounds that he had bought the garden from her son. Son Franz was in Russian captivity and could not help.

As of 1947, Frieda Wagner was considered "invalidized" and received a small disability pension of 50 RM. At this time, she lived in the Laeisz-Stift in St. Pauli. Various efforts to increase the pension as compensation for the damage to her health caused by the wrong treatment during her imprisonment failed. Although employees of the Social Welfare Office interceded on her behalf, several medical reports, the last one from a professor at AK St. Georg, would not recognize any connection between her complaints and the persecutions she had suffered and the prison sentence, so that the pension application was rejected. Frieda Wagner died on March 28, 1954.

In the 1950s, Otto Schulze was again employed in a bank and lived with his wife Franziska on Schedestraße in Eppendorf. In August 1957, he asked the public prosecutor's office at the Hamburg Regional Court to examine whether he was considered to have a criminal record because he had been a prisoner for political reasons in 1940-42. The answer was that he could consider himself unpunished. The conviction by the Special Court had been annulled and erased in accordance with §§1, 5 + 7 of the Ordinance on the Granting of Immunity from Punishment of June 3, 1947 - Ordinance Gazette for the British Zone, p. 68. The criminal file was destroyed; according to a note of June 21, 1951, an emergency file was opened in February.

Translation by Beate Meyer
Stand: January 2022
© Eva Acker/Erika Draeger

Quellen: 1; 5; 8; StaHH 213-11, Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafakten, 2087/40; StaHH, 351-11, AfW, Abl. 2008/1 300392, Wagner, Frieda IST-Archieves, Copy of doc. No. 1187958 #1, No. 12021625#1 bis 12021703#1, No. 12030103#1, No. 625193#1, Meyer: Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden, S. 68.
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