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Richard Bähre * 1906
Billhorner Mühlenweg 19 (Hamburg-Mitte, Rothenburgsort)
further stumbling stones in Billhorner Mühlenweg 19:
Richard Bähre, born on 25 Feb. 1906 in Hannover, death on 1 Jan. 1945 at the Brandenburg penitentiary
Billhorner Mühlenweg 19c, entry toward the playground (Hardenstraße 6)
"Im Ausland war ich mit Fahrrad und Pass.
Denn Land und Leute studieren macht mir Spass.”
["Abroad I was with bike and passport,
For studying country and people is my greatest sport.”]
These verses, which Richard Bähre conveyed to his wife Paula as a secret message from jail, speak to his joy in crafting verses and his openness to new and foreign things alike.
Richard Bähre was born in Hannover on 25 Feb. 1906. His mother, Karoline Bähre, remained unmarried. He attended middle school [Mittelschule – a practice-oriented secondary school up to grade 10] and went in for commercial training. Upon completing the apprenticeship, he moved to Hamburg in 1929. There he joined Rotsport Fichte [a workers’ sports club], the Salaried Employees’ Union (Gewerkschaft der Angestellten), and the KPD [Communist Party of Germany] in 1931. In 1933, he married Paula Lepin, the daughter of the "state employee” Gustav Lepin and his wife Sabine Maria Caroline from Hardenstrasse 6 in Rothenburgsort, and moved in with her. No details are known about their children.
Following the ban of the KPD in Feb. 1933, Richard Bähre acted as a functionary of illegal KPD groups in St. Georg and Barmbek, as well as collecting assistance funds for the families of political prisoners. In 1934, he was sentenced to three months in prison for "defamation” of the Nazi Horst Wessel. After his release from prison, Richard Bähre began establishing personal contacts with the KPD in exile. First, he cycled to Copenhagen in 1935, where he went and saw the emigrated Section Leadership North (Emigrationsleitung Abschnitt Nord), formerly Wasserkante. From there he brought back to Hamburg illegal newspapers for circulation. He managed to procure a duplicating machine, which enabled him to distribute the flyer entitled "Sturmfahne” he had authored himself for 1 May 1936. His next journey abroad led him to Basel to see the Section Leadership South (Abschnittsleitung Süd) of the KPD, again by bicycle, where he met Valerie Bodenschatz, a Swiss anti-Hitlerite. She forwarded to the Central Office of the KPD in Paris a letter by him whose contents are unknown.
On his return trip, Richard Bähre took back, in addition to newspapers, Walter Korodi’s book Ich kann nicht schweigen ("I cannot remain silent”). In this volume, Walter Korodi, a Berlin journalist, gives an account of the so-called "Night of the Long Knives” (Röhm-Putsch) and published parts of the Braunbuch ["Brown Book”] (a publication by the KPD in exile) about the Reichstag fire. When Richard Bähre traveled to Basel again in Aug. 1936, he declared vis-à-vis members of the party leadership abroad that he intended to go to Spain as a volunteer. Making reference to an article in Die Weltbühne magazine, however, he first produced a new issue of the "Sturmfahne,” in which he reported on the struggle for freedom in Spain and published a parody on the Horst-Wessel-Lied [the Horst Wessel song] in the guise of an obituary.
A further delay to his intended mission in Spain arose from his contact to Herbert Michaelis, a Jewish lawyer banned from his occupation (see corresponding entry). He had also received a copy of Korodi’s book and thought about publishing it together with Richard Bähre in small print and sending it, disguised as a promotional calendar, to Hamburg jurists. The project did not make any headway beyond the idea. Richard Bähre put Herbert Michaelis in contact with the Section Leadership South (Abschnittsleitung Süd) of the KPD in Basel, who acted to convey information abroad about German war preparations, German support for the Spanish general Francisco Franco, and the mood among workers, especially shipyard workers.
On 28 Oct. 1936, Richard Bähre was arrested in Hamburg and interrogated by the Gestapo in the Stadthaus, the headquarters of the Hamburg Gestapo. After nearly one year of "protective custody” ("Schutzhaft”) in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, he was transferred to the pre-trial detention facility at Holstenglacis. At Easter 1937, Paula Bähre was imprisoned and released from "protective custody” ("Schutzhaft”) only two years later. One day earlier, on 14 Feb. 1939, the "People’s Court” ("Volksgerichtshof”) in Berlin had sentenced her husband to life imprisonment for preparation of high treason, the distribution of illegal writings, and the transmission of secret messages with warnings to comrades "participating in subversion of the NSDAP.” He served the sentence at the Bremen-Oslebshausen, Waldheim, and Brandenburg penitentiaries. He condensed his experiences in prison into doggerels that he conveyed to his wife as secret messages. He died in the Brandenburg penitentiary on 1 Jan. 1945, supposedly of "pneumonia and cardiac insufficiency.” His body was cremated and the urn transported to Hamburg in 1946, where it was installed in the Memorial Grove for Hamburg Resistance Fighters (Ehrenhain der Hamburger Widerstandskämpfer).
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Hildegard Thevs
Quellen: AB 1933; VAN-Totenliste 1968; Archiv der VVN, B 4; StaH 332-5 Standesämter, 3186+207/1911; dies./Gertrud Meyer, Streiflichter; Ditt, Sozialdemokraten, S. 76, 87, 91; Holtz, Adalbert/Horst Homann, Die Straßennamen von Harburg.