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Karl Kock * 1908
Am Mühlenfeld 107 (Harburg, Wilstorf)
hingerichtet am 26.6.1944 (Wiederstandskämpfer)
Karl Kock, born 16 June 1908 in Harburg, sentenced to death, executed 26 June 1944 in Hamburg
Wilstorf District, Am Mühlenfeld 107
Karl Kock was a skilled worker specializing in rubber. His parents were Jakob Kock and Pauline, née Gräfe. He had two brothers, Hans and Arnold, and grew up in a socialist family. A further brother, Jakob, only lived a little more than a year.
His father Jakob Kock joined the German Communist Party (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD) in 1918. His friends called him Jonny or Jolly (for the skull and crossbones flag Jolly Roger flown by pirates). His home addresses were (1904) Eißendorfer Straße 68 and (1934) Bremer Straße 165. The Kocks later purchased property (before 1933) in Klecken to live there. Due to the political situation, they were unable to fulfill this desire.
Karl Kock probably attended the boys’ elementary school on Elisenstraße (today: Baererstraße) and began an apprenticeship as a coppersmith, which he had to stop in order to earn money due to an accident his father had in 1924. After a long period of unemployment, he was hired as an unskilled worker by the Harburger Oelwerken Brinckmann & Mergell (Hobum). In 1926 he joined the KPD, the Revolutionary Trade Union Opposition (Revolutionäre Gewerkschafts-Opposition – RGO) and the "Red Young Storm" (Roten Jungsturm), the youth organization of the "Antifascist Operation". In 1931 he married Elfriede Müller (born on 27 Mar. 1912 in Harburg), one year later (on 7 Apr. 1932) their daughter Renate was born. The family moved several times, living at Kasernenstraße 5 and from 13 July 1933 in Wilstorf near the Außenmühlenteich (Am Mühlenfeld 117), later in the same street at no. 107. From 1936 his brother Hans Kock lived very close by at Am Mühlenfeld 113 with his wife Sophie and their sons Hans-Werner and Uwe.
Karl Kock had already been taken into custody several times before 1933, in 1931 for "unlawful assembly" and in 1932 for resisting the authority of the state. Since he was known to be a communist, only rarely did he stay at home once the National Socialists had come to power. In July 1933, he was arrested and in November sentenced to one year and one month in prison for "preparations for treason". A search was also put out for his father, however he was able to flee (see below).
After his release from prison in 1934, Karl Kock worked at the Phoenix Rubber Works. That was surprising for communists generally had a hard time being hired there. From 27 to 31 Dec. 1935, he found himself back in custody at the Harburg court jail. The reasons are not known. In 1940 he was once again arrested, accused of forming a communist factory cell in Phoenix’ mixing mill. The Hanseatic Higher Regional Court stopped the proceedings in 1941 for lack of evidence.
From 1937 to 1940, the National Socialist regime was at the height of its power. During this time, a number of Hamburg’s communists were released from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, including Bernhard Bästlein, Franz Jacob and Robert Abshagen. They soon convened for illegal discussions and decided to set up a new resistance organization in 1940.
Bernhard Bästlein explained his motivation in 1942 thus: "My illegal activities during the past years were primarily driven by two factors. The first factor was my seven years of imprisonment, ... during which I 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."
During consultations at Adolf Wendt’s in Harburg on Talstraße (today: Steinikestraße) in late summer of 1940, it was decided to establish cells in Hamburg’s large enterprises. Their methods of resistance included: flyers, discussions after carefully sounding out others, demands, slowing down working, and also acts of sabotage in factories crucial to the war effort. By Oct. 1942, an organization of roughly 200 men and women was established and grew to about 300 over the following years.
Groups were also established in several of Harburg’s large enterprises from Dec. 1941, including inside Phoenix. Karl Kock and his fellow worker Wilhelm Milke belonged to the Phoenix cell. They helped male and female forced laborers and the prisoners of war who had to work at the Phoenix mill, supplied them with food, items for washing, articles of daily use and a radio.
Herbert Bittcher, a social-democrat, also worked at Phoenix. In the summer of 1942, he gave shelter to his cousin Wilhelm Fellendorf who had escaped Soviet exile and first gone to Berlin then fled to Hamburg, on the run from the Gestapo (see Herbert Bittcher). Bittcher informed Karl Kock about Fellendorf showing up. Kock passed the news on to the leader of the resistance organization. Bernhard Bästlein met with Wilhelm Fellendorf, the organization wanted to take him out of the country.
In Oct. 1942 the Gestapo arrested numerous members of the Bästlein Organization, including Wilhelm Milke and Herbert Bittcher, while they were at work at Phoenix. Karl Kock was off sick and not at the mill. He was warned in time and was able to leave his apartment. Grete Dreibrodt and Grete Glißmann helped him flee. The latter wrapped him in a rain coat. Arm in arm like a married couple, they walked to the tram stop at Heckengang, from there he rode to Hamburg. He hid with relatives and like-minded friends, including Martin and Dorothea Pappermann (Banksstraße 53) and Käthe Neumann (Poßmoorweg 17), finally with August Quest am Kapellenweg in Harburg. The authorities were searching for him, with his photo on a wanted poster, and other "fugitive criminals in the Reich" (all were members of the Bästlein Organization). In Lübeck Paul Dreibrodt explored means of escaping to Scandinavia and obtained a Swedish dictionary. Yet all was in vain.
The house at Am Mühlenfeld 107 received repeated "visits" from the Gestapo. The Gestapo put Berthold Bormann, who had already been arrested, on to Elfriede Kock to discover Karl’s hiding place. He refused. She probably did not even know his whereabouts. When he was to return to detention, Bormann killed himself on 23 Nov. 1942 at her apartment. On 6 Mar. 1943, Karl Kock was traced by the Gestapo to the house at Kapellenweg 15 and arrested along with August Quest. On 8 Mar. he was transferred to a Gestapo detention facility in Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel, then on 12 May 1943 to remand prison at Holstenglacis. After the "Gomorrah" attacks in July 1943, several political prisoners were sent on "detention leave". Karl Kock was not one of them. In the trial of "Kock and others" on 8 May 1944, the "People’s Court" (presiding judge: Günther Löhmann) sentenced him to death for "preparation for treason". Together with nine other resistance fighters, he was executed on 26 June 1944 in the remand prison.
On 24 Feb. 1945, an air raid completely destroyed the house at Am Mühlenfeld 107. Elfriede Kock and her daughter Renate died in the attack.
Karl Kock’s father Jakob was able to escape the manhunt in 1933 by fleeing to Norway via Denmark. The social-democrat Gesa Schneider, a distant relative of the Kocks, purchased the tickets for passage on a ship. Later, Jakob Kock fought in Spain with the International Brigades and from there returned to Scandinavia. After 1945 he again became active in the Communist Party of Germany in Harburg and in the 1960s moved to the German Democratic Republic.
Karl Kock’s brother Hans died from blood poisoning during the war. His other brother Arnold survived the Nazi period and died in Oct. 1960.
Karl Kock’s body was found near the University of Kiel after 1945 and identified by his father Jakob Kock (see Wilhelm Stein). In 1947 his urn was buried during a ceremony at the Ohlsdorf Cemetery in the grove of honor for Hamburg’s resistance fighters. On 24 Nov. 1984, the office of the German Communist Party of Harburg (Hohe Straße 26) was given the name "Karl Kock Center" (no longer in existence today). Since 1988 there is a street in Wilstorf with the name Karl-Kock-Weg (at the junction of Radickestraße).
Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: October 2016
© Hans-Joachim Meyer
Quellen: VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.), Die anderen, S. 291ff.; Hochmuth, Niemand, S. 84ff.; VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.), Stumme Zeugen, s. Personenverzeichnis, Hochmuth/Meyer, Streiflichter, S. 341ff.; StaH, 242-1-II Gefängnisverwaltung; StaH, 331-1-II Polizeibehörde II; StaH, 332-8 Meldewesen, A44, A46; StaH,, Adressbücher Harburg-Wilhelmsburg; StaH, Adressbücher Hamburg; StaH, Mitteilungen des StaH; Heyl/Maronde-Heyl, Abschlussbericht; Totenliste VAN.