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Kurt Erich Cäsar Schill * 1911
Bartelsstraße 53 (Altona, Sternschanze)
Kurt Erich Cäsar Schill, born 7 July 1911 in Schiffbek near Hamburg, arrested 6 Jan. 1944, hung on 14 Feb. 1944 at Neuengamme concentration camp
Kurt Schill was born on 7 July 1911 as the son of the social-democratic laborer Cäsar Friedrich Schill and his wife Magdalena Johanna Schill, née Brusch, in Schiffbek. In 1913 the family moved to Hamburg’s Neustadt where his father ran a greengrocer shop. After finishing elementary school, Kurt Schill completed training at Friedrich Heitgres Engravers in Neustadt and passed the chemography printer’s exam.
At an early age, Kurt Schill became interested in social and political issues, frequently visiting the Hamburg State Library and the World Economic Archives of Hamburg. Along with his future wife Hilde Pfeiffer, he attended evening classes on Marxism at Hamburg University and took part in events of the German Communist Party (KPD). Schill and his girlfriend joined the KPD in 1928. They helped distribute brochures and other party material in an effort to disseminate communist ideas and objectives. As a well-read and articulate comrade, Kurt Schill is said to have written speeches for party functionaries.
In 1933 Kurt Schill and Hilde Pfeiffer wed. Two years later their son Barnabas was born.
Soon after the National Socialists took power, the first communists were arrested. From Mar. 1933 to Oct. 1934 alone, around 2,400 KPD members were at least temporarily detained in "protective custody” in Hamburg. Quite a few of them were maltreated, driven to death or killed. Kurt and Hilde Schill initially remained untouched. Even when the comprehensive party library of the Kolhöfen District Office, which was secured in their apartment, was seized by the Gestapo, still no measures were undertaken against the couple. They made a living doing embroidery work which they ran, in the beginning, through the business belonging to Kurt’s mother-in-law.
The Pfeiffer Embroidery Company, however, was boycotted after fulfilling a contract for the Jewish businessman Hermann Tietz, but even after Kurt Schill was registered as the new owner, the company could not stay afloat much longer. Schill had refused to become a member of the NSDAP, a condition which would have led him to receive larger contracts. As a result, Kurt and Hilde Schill had to get by in the following years on small embroidery jobs from acquaintances and neighbors.
After the KPD was banned, Kurt Schill continued working illegally with his best friend Bruno Endrejat and other comrades in a so-called group of five, which existed all over the Reich. Starting in 1935, his wife Hilde occasionally travelled to the Erz Mountains with her son, ostensibly to visit relatives, and took flyers and brochures from there which she transported safely across the border in her son’s baby carriage which was fitted with a false bottom. By using a duplicating machine hidden in the Schill Family home, they made numerous flyers, usually written by Kurt Schill.
They reported on the conditions in the concentration camps and referred again and again to the preparations for war. While they were duplicating flyers, they also ran the embroidery machine so that its rattling would cover up the noise of the duplicating machine. The group around Kurt and Hilde Schill also took part in the poster action protesting the impending execution of the communist Etkar André in Nov. 1936.
In 1939 Kurt Schill was pressed into service, working for the Reich Railway. That same year the family moved out of Neustadt, where they had lived at various addresses, to Bartelsstraße 53 in the Schanzen District. They also produced flyers in that apartment, albeit only a small amount.
Early in 1943, Kurt Schill was drafted and deployed to the occupied territories of the Soviet Union. During a "leave from bombs” in July 1943, Bruno Endrejat put him in touch with the Bästlein-Jacobs-Abshagen Organization. Some members and supporters of that group were home on leave from prison due to the heavy bombing of Hamburg which also struck the remand prison. Many of them did not return to prison and instead decided to carry on their resistance activities from hiding. Among them was Walter Bohne, the former industry team leader of the Bästlein Organization at the Peute Shipyard who first found illegal accommodation with Bruno Endrejat.
At the end of 1943, Kurt Schill offered him and his wife Änne refuge in his apartment and supplied them with food since "illegals” did not own ration cards. When Walter Bohne was shot at Klosterstern on 5 Jan. 1944 for resisting arrest, a ration card for milk belonging to Kurt Schill was found on him. The following day Kurt Schill was apprehended in his apartment on Bartelsstraße and taken to Neuengamme concentration camp on 14 Jan. 1944 without any judicial proceedings. He was hung there the same day in the execution bunker along with the communists Hans Hornberger and Elisabeth and Gustav Bruhn. Their liquidation was ordered by Heinrich Himmler himself by express letter. His wife Hilde Schill was informed by the Gestapo that her husband had been killed by a bomb during his hearing at the People’s Court in Berlin.
Hilde Schill initially remained untouched but was surveilled and arrested at a meeting with Walter Bohne’s widow Änne in Mar. 1944. She stayed at the Fuhlsbüttel Police Prison for nearly a year until she was transferred, along with Änne Bohne, to the remand prison at Holstenglacis in Mar. 1945. There she waited for her sentencing at the People’s Court, which never came about, as it turned out, because the war ended. Her son Barnabas was cared for by relatives in the Erz Mountains while she was in prison.
Hilde Schill had her husband’s urn interred in Feb. 1944 at the Niendorfer Cemetery. During the 1960s it was moved to the "Field of Honor for Hamburg’s Resistance Fighters” at the Ohlsdorfer Cemetery. As of 1981, a street also commemorates the communist resistance fighter Kurt Schill. His grandson Ronald Barnabas Schill was a co-founder of the "Party of the Constitutional Offensive” and from 2001 to 2003 was Hamburg’s Senator of the Interior.
Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: January 2019
© Gunhild Ohl-Hinz
Quellen: StaH 351-11 AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 210112 Schill, Hilde; Bästlein, "Hitlers Niederlage", 1988; Diercks, Gedenkbuch, 1987; Schüler des Gymnasiums Ohmoor informieren, Gedenken heisst: Nicht Schweigen. 11 neue Straßen in Niendorf zu Ehren von Frauen und Männern des Widerstands, Hamburg 1984.