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Carl Bruns * 1885
Papenhuder Straße 32 (Hamburg-Nord, Uhlenhorst)
Todesmarsch, Tot 1945
Carl August Bruns, born 10 Feb. 1885, imprisoned 1936, 1942–1943, last place of imprisonment Sachsenhausen concentration camp, died sometime after 21 Apr. 1945 on a death march
Papenhuder Straße 32
"He got sent to jail because, as a textile merchant, he had so many contacts to Jews,” was his relatives’ explanation of why Carl Bruns didn’t survive the Second World War. The family wanted to hide the truth. After all, homosexuals were still treated as criminals (until 1969). It was decades later when Wolfgang Schreiber learned the true fate of his homosexual great-uncle: "My Grandma, Martha Busse, was Carl Bruns’ younger sister. When I was little she tried to warn me about ‘men with gold neckchains’ at the train station, but I was just a little boy, I didn’t understand what she meant. I think she wanted to spare me the fate of her brother.” It was only after his grandmother died in 1985 and Wolfgang Schreiber acknowledged, in a letter to his aunt, Ursula Becker, Carl Bruns’ niece, that he was gay, that she broke the silence and told him about his great-uncle. "My curiosity was aroused, and I started to track down what happened to him. I found the criminal records in the Hamburg State Archives. Today I live as an openly gay man in Amsterdam, and I feel a strong connection to my great-uncle, even though I know very little about his life.”
Ursula Becker, born in 1924, who had come to Hamburg for the dedication of her uncle’s Stolperstein on 19 June 2006, had last seen him when she was ten years old. "He was very elegant, and an art lover. An aesthete, you could say. There were several lodgers in the apartment on Pappenhuder Straße, who lived there with my grandmother, who kept house, and Uncle Otto and Uncle Carl. Carl sewed the curtains and made rugs. He was one of seven siblings, some of whom were Nazis. That was probably also the reason that the family kept quiet about what happened,” she remembers. Her mother was ashamed of her brother. "She told me the truth when I was 25. My mother suspected that Wolfgang was going to be like his great-uncle. But she didn’t want to talk to him about it, so I did. I’m very happy that there is a Stolperstein as a memorial to my uncle. I can’t understand how so many people don’t want to admit the horrors of the Nazi years. We have to do everything possible to never forget.”
Carl Bruns was born on 10 February 1885 in Hollerdeich in the Kehdingen district (today Oederquart in the Stade district). Of his eleven siblings, five died early of childhood diseases. After attending the village school he entered a commercial apprenticeship, worked as a textile merchant and moved to Hamburg. He served in the First World War from 1915 to 1918. His last assignment was as a cannoneer in the Hamburg-Altona Foot Artillery Regiment 45. He was awarded the "Iron Cross 2nd Class, the Wound Badge, and the Honor Cross of the World War 1914/1918.” In a police interrogation in 1942, Carl Bruns stated: "My homosexual tendencies first developed during the war. … After my military service I no longer approached women.” It is not known whether he met his later business and life partner Otto Schildt (*1882) during the war. In 1919 the two men became business partners, and in 1927 co-owners of the textile warehouse Welzien & Co. at Graskeller 3 (at that time Neue Wall 103). Both buildings were destroyed by bombs in World War II.
In 1929 Carl Bruns met the photographer Heinrich Roth (*1907) in the "Goldene 13,” a bar that was well known as a meeting place for homosexuals, on the Koppel in St. Georg. They had a relationship for several years. Photos indicate that Heinrich Roth and Bruns’ partner Otto Schildt got along well. On 1 April 1933, Otto Schildt, Carl Bruns and his mother moved into an 8-room apartment on the third floor of the building at Papenhuder Straße 32. In 1936 Carl Bruns was sentenced to a prison term of four weeks and two months, for an offense against Section 175 of the Reich Criminal Code, which criminalized homosexual acts between males. Heinrich Roth received a sentence of eight months.
Carl Bruns again fell into the clutches of the police on 27 March 1942. A former sex partner named him during an investigation, and officers of the Criminal Commisariat 24 arrested him the same day. He denied the charges, but admitted to having had sexual contact with an unknown man in the summer of 1941. He was held in "protective custody” in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp from 4 to 13 April 1942. He was able to keep his partner Otto Schildt out of the investigation. His trial before the Hamburg District court took place on 6 July 1942. Judge Friedrich Bertram sentenced him to one year in prison for an offense against Section 175 of the Reich Criminal Code. Bruns served this term in the Fuhlsbüttel men’s prison and the Altona prison. But his suffering did not end with his release on 9 March 1943. He was transferred into the custody of the Hamburg Police and held in "precautionary imprisonment.” He was then transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in April 1943, and died at the end of the month on the death march from Sachsenhausen to Parchim.
Otto Schildt died of natural causes in 1943. After two years of forced labor in the Emsland labor camps, Heinrich Roth was transferred first to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and then to the Neuengamme concentration camp. He died on the prison ship Cap Arcona, when she was sunk on 3 May 1945. There is a Stolperstein in his name at Steindamm 91/97 in St. Georg (see www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de).
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Bernhard Rosenkranz (†)/Ulf Bollmann
Quellen: B. Rosenkranz/U. Bollmann/G. Lorenz: Homosexuellen-Verfolgung in Hamburg 1919–1969, S. 118–119; Wolfgang Schreiber, Biographie Carl Bruns (1885–1945), unveröffentlichtes Manuskript sowie Gespräche zwischen Wolfgang Schreiber bzw. Ursula Becker und Bernhard Rosenkranz am 19.6.2006; StaHH, 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 5209/42; StaHH 331-1 II Polizeibehörde II, Ablieferung 15 Band 2; StaHH, 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferungen 13 und 16.