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John Franz * 1885

Kroosweg 32 (Harburg, Harburg)

JG. 1885
ERMORDET 11.3.1945

John James Franz, born 21 May 1885 in Hamburg, multiple incarcerations in Fuhlsbüttel, died 11 Mar. 1945 in the Celle prison

Kroosweg 32, Harburg-Altstadt

John Franz was the son of the machinist Henry Franz and his wife Katharina, née Franz. He had one older sister. He grew up on the island of Helgoland, where he attended school until the age of 14. He then apprenticed as an engine fitter, and was certified as a machinist’s mate. Until the outbreak of World War I, he worked for the Hamburg-Süd shipping company on their cape-class steamers. He then worked as a stoker at the Hamburg Water Works, until he was called to serve in the Imperial Navy. He returned to this job after the war, and stayed there until 1934, when he was pensioned off for reasons unknown. He then did odd jobs, like guiding tourists around the Port of Hamburg and working at the F. Thörl oil factorty in Harburg.

In 1915 he married Grete Rademacher. They had three sons, born in 1915, 1917, and 1923. According to John Franz’s statement to the Hamburg police, they divorced in 1940 because his wife was dissatisfied with his income. In fact it was probably his increased homosexual activity after 1936 and his worsening alcoholism that led to the divorce. The couple had already separated in 1936, when he moved into his own apartment at Reimarusstraße 5. On 16 May 1939 he was taken into "protective custody” by the 24th criminal division, which was in charge of combatting homosexuality in Hamburg, and sent to the Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp. His arrest was possibly based on a statement made to the police by Karl Baumgart, a rent-boy. After John Franz was transferred from the concentration camp to regular prison, the district court judge Eduard Hartert sentenced him to two years and six months in prison for violation of Section 175 of the Reich Criminal Code (homosexuality laws), and in his ruling called the accused a "public enemy.” John Franz served his term in the Fuhlsbüttel Men’s Prison until 16 January 1942.

On 20 January 1944, John Franz, who had been known since before his arrest as "Gay Franz” around the port, propositioned two youths (aged 14 and 16) at Großneumarkt. Obviously under the influence of alcohol, he "relayed” a supposed offer by another man of 20 cigarettes and 10 Reichsmarks for a hand job. In the darkness he had assumed the boys were older than they actually were. One of the youths pretended to accept, but reported the incident to the police, whereupon John Franz was arrested. At the trial in March 1944 before the Hamburg Regional Court, the judge and the public prosecutor both assumed that it was Franz himself who wanted to seduce the youths, as he had, earlier in the evening, also posed salacious questions. Although the incident was only an attempt, the court determined that he was a "dangerous repeat offender” and sentenced him to two years and six months in prison for violation of Section 175 a sub-section 3. Judge Hollburg threatened the death sentence, should he repeat the offence, regardless of the fact that the conditions in the Nazi prisons were more or less the equivalent of a postponed execution. John Franz died in prison in Celle on 11 March 1945, aged 59. The official cause of death was "weakness of the heart muscle in a condition of exhaustion.”

The Stolperstein for John Franz is at Kroosweg 32 (formerly Karlstraße) in Harburg. He had moved there from Rothesoodstraße 17 in Hamburg in August 1943 after the bombing raids on Hamburg’s city center.

Translator: Amy Lee

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Bernhard Rosenkranz (†)/Ulf Bollmann

Quellen: StaH, 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 1171/44; StaH, 213-8 Staatsanwaltschaft Oberlandesgericht – Verwaltung, Abl. 2, 451 a E 1, 1 d; 242-1II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Abl. 13, 16; Rosenkranz u. a., Homosexuellen-Verfolgung, S. 210–211.

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