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Erich de Giske * 1904

Chemnitzstraße 92-98 (Altona, Altona-Altstadt)

JG. 1904

Erich de Giske, born 5/3/1904, sentenced to death for desertion, executed at Neuengamme concentration camp on 8/5/1944

Chemnitzstrasse 92-98 (Matthäus-Chemnitz-Strasse 108, Ehlbeckterrasse Haus 20)

Erich de Giske was born on May 3rd, 1904 in Schwerin. He grew up with his mother, his stepfather and two sisters in Wittenberge, where he attended elementary school and then absolved an apprenticeship as a metalworker at the Reich railway workshop. Around 1927/28 he came to Hamburg and work at the Vulkan Shipyards, later at the Blohm & Voss and H.C. Stülcken shipyards, interrupted by five years of unemployment from 1930 to 1935. In August of 1935, he was hired by the Menck & Hambrock GmbH in Altona-Ottensen as a metalworker. In 1932, Erich de Giske had married Margarete Mathissen. His wife brought a son, Heinz, into the union. Margarete was killed in an air raid on July 10th, 1941. Erich de Giske lived in the now longer existing Ehlbeckterrasse (also: Ehlbecksterrasse) 20 in the old town of Altona, an alley that was accessible via a passage from number 108 Matthäus-Chemnitz-Strasse, now Chemnitzstrasse. In March, 1940, Erich des Giske had his military physical exam for the Wehrmacht. As he worked at an arms manufacturing plant and was rated as indispensable, he was not drafted in spite of the fact that he had been classified as "eligible for war service.”

In July, 1943, Erich e Giske spent a two weeks’ vacation with his sister Luise Uhl in southern Germany, during which he and his sister was travelled to the German-French border. Under the pretext of visiting war memorials, they explored the terrain until Erich Giske took the opportunity of illegally crossing into occupied France to visit a lover he had met in Hamburg, a former foreign civilian worker then living with her parents. At the end of his vacation, de Giske did not return to Hamburg. Later, after his arrest in December, 1943, he testified that he had fallen ill and thus been unable to meet the deadline for returning and then had been afraid of returning late because he feared to be punished. So, he had looked for work in France, also at German-owned companies.

In the meantime, his employer in Hamburg had reported his absence. The Wehrmacht District Command V in Hamburg notified the Gestapo, whose search led to the arrest of Erich de Giske. Previously, his sister had been stopped and her ID checked and recorded by a customs patrol. In the subsequent questioning, she had given contradicting testimony, especially in view of the fact that she had been seen near the border with her brother and then returned alone. She confessed her complicity in helping her brother cross the border illegally and in October, 1943 was sentenced to a year in jail by a special court in Metz (in Lorraine, then annexed by Germany). The Gestapo considered Erich de Giske’s behavior as politically motivated desertion – and de Giske’s sister supported their arguments by saying her brother had wanted avoid military service as he feared he was going to be drafted; in the case he was sent to the eastern front, he was going to defect to the Red Army. The background of this and further untenable accusations by which Luise Uhl severely incriminated her brother is irreproducible. Perhaps she was embittered by having been punished herself. In fact, the Gestapo had determined at the Wehrmacht District Command V that Erich de Giske had not been marked for the draft as he was "UK” – indispensable at his job. His flight” was considered as a crime according to Art. 5 of the special wartime criminal code ordinance of August 7th, 1938.

At its session of June 20th, 1944, the Hanseatic Special Court assessed Erich de Giske’s behavior as politically motivated desertion and also insinuated that he had a subversive attitude. Erich de Giske was sentenced to death. As the remand center had been bombed and was not available for executions, the sentence was carried out at the Neuengamme concentration camp on August 5th, 1944.

Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: April 2018
© Herbert Diercks

Quellen: StaH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 254/45 (de Giske, Erich); AB Altona; Diercks, Stadthaus, S. 44 f.

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