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Herbert Bittcher * 1908

Lönsstraße 35 (Harburg, Wilstorf)

hingerichtet am 22.4.1944

Herbert Bittcher, born on 6 Feb. 1908 in Harburg, sentenced to death, suicide on 22 Jan. 1944

District of Wilstorf, Lönsstraße 35

The father of the worker and subsequent foreman Herbert Bittcher was Johann Bittcher, a worker born on 23 Feb. 1863 in Gross-Taroschnitz in the former Prussian Province of Posen. The wife of the latter, Emilie Hastmann, was born on 17 Mar. 1871 in Hamburg.

Herbert Bittcher was a Social Democrat. In 1925, he joined the youth organization of the Banner of the Reich (Reichsbanner), and in 1928 the SPD. On 22 June 1933, Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick (NSDAP) prohibited the SPD and all Social Democratic suborganizations from engaging in any political activities. The SPD’s deputies’ seats lapsed and the party’s assets were confiscated. Herbert Bittcher remained true to his convictions even after the SPD was banned. Some of the Social Democrats in Harburg went into the resistance; whether Herbert Bittcher was among them is not known. In 1941, he joined the NSDAP, probably in an effort to avoid losing his job.

Herbert Bittcher’s addresses were (in 1922) Werderstraße 79 (today: Grupenstraße) and from 1926 in Wilstorf at Lönsstraße 35. This was also home to two of his brothers, Alfred Bittcher, born on 14 July 1903, and Georg, born on 5 July 1909.

On 14 Oct. 1933, he married Olga Skreb, born on 8 Aug. 1908 in Harburg. In November, they moved to Dürerstraße 56 (today: Flebbestraße), then, on 10 May 1935 to Claus-Groth-Straße 6 (today: Freudenthalweg). The marriage produced two children. The first son, Herbert Johann Bittcher, was born on 26 Feb. 1936. When they were expecting another baby, they moved to Lönsstraße 35 again in 1942 or 1943. On 13 Dec. 1942, their daughter Margret was born.

In May 1942, one female and three male Communists living in exile in the Soviet Union parachuted into Eastern Prussia. Their mission was to establish contact to the Berlin resistance organization grouped around Harro Schulze-Boysen and Arvid Harnack. One of the parachutists sustained severe injuries, committing suicide when police closed in. Another one was arrested.

Only Wilhelm Fellendorf and Erna Eifler reached Berlin, although the Gestapo was frantically looking for them. The contacts they were supposed to go see in Berlin, however, were already in custody. Therefore, they struggled to get to Hamburg, where Wilhelm Fellendorf had relatives. Katharina Fellendorf, his mother, hid the two. Herbert Bittcher, who worked as a foreman at the Phoenix-Gummiwerke, a rubber plant, was a cousin of Wilhelm Fellendorf. He took Fellendorf and Erna Eifler in for a time as well. At the Phoenix plant, there was also a cell of the resistance organization around Bernhard Bästlein, Franz Jacob, and Robert Abshagen. Among the members were Wilhelm Milke and Karl Kock (see entry for Karl Kock). With their help, it was possible to establish contact with the Hamburg leadership of the resistance organization to bring Wilhelm Fellendorf out of the country to Scandinavia. Bernhard Bästlein met up with Fellendorf in person as well. In connection with the major wave of arrests directed against the Bästlein organization in Oct. 1942, the Gestapo also arrested Herbert Bittcher and Wilhelm (Willy) Milke at the Phoenix plant.

Herbert Bittcher was sent to the Fuhlsbüttel Gestapo prison on 17 Oct. 1942 and to the pretrial detention facility at Holstenglacis on 30 Mar. 1943. The Gestapo and SS man Henry Helms beat Bittcher so brutally that he lost consciousness. After the Gomorrah bombing raids in July 1943, Bittcher was granted parole, but he was arrested again soon. He was not able to go underground because in that case, the Gestapo would have persecuted his wife on the principle of "kin liability” ("Sippenhaft”).

The "People’s Court” ("Volksgerichtshof”) in Berlin launched court proceedings against nine resistance fighters overall who had helped the parachutists. Herbert Bittcher and Wilhelm Milke were among the defendants, too. They were transferred to Berlin for this purpose, Herbert Bittcher on 12 Nov. 1943 to Alt-Moabit and then to the Berlin-Tegel penitentiary. Roland Freisler, the Nazi "blood judge,” presided over the court trial against Herbert Bittcher, Wilhelm Milke, and Wilhelm Fellendorf’s mother Katharina on 12 Jan. 1944. All three were sentenced to death. Wilhelm Milke was found dead in his cell at Tegel on 12 Jan., the evening of the sentence, and Herbert Bittcher on 22 Jan. The prison chaplain had urged in a letter to Olga Bittcher that her husband petition for clemency. He was buried at the Marzahn Cemetery in Berlin. Katharina Fellendorf was executed in Berlin-Plötzensee on 31 Mar. 1944.

In 1984, a street in Wilstorf was named after Herbert Bittcher (Bittcherweg).

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Hans-Joachim Meyer

Quellen: VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.), Die anderen, s. Personenverzeichnis; Hochmuth/Meyer, Streiflichter, s. Personenverzeichnis; VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.): Stumme Zeugen, s. Personenverzeichnis; Hochmuth, Niemand, s. Personenverzeichnis; StaH, 242-1-II Gefängnisverwaltung II; StaH, 332-8 Meldewesen, A46; StaH, 339-1-II Polizeibehörde II, Abl. 18.9.1984 Bd. 3; StaH, Adressbücher Harburg-Wilhelmsburg und Hamburg; VVN, Komitee-Akten; Anklageschrift Herbert Bittcher, Privatbesitz; Heyl/Maronde-Heyl, Abschlussbericht; Totenliste VAN.

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