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Willi Bröckler * 1897
Humboldtstraße 122 (Hamburg-Nord, Barmbek-Süd)
Willi Ferdinand Bröckler, born 6 Mar. 1897, imprisoned 1937, 1938-1940, died 22 Oct. 1941 in the Gross-Rosen concentration camp
Willi Bröcker was born in 1897 in Hamburg-Hammerbrook, one of the five children of the loading master Heinrich Bröckler and his wife Maria, née Greve. After he finished his primary schooling, he apprenticed as a sales clerk in a hardware store, and worked there until he was drafted in 1916. In late 1920, after he had returned from the First World War, he opened a tobacconist’s at Harburger Chaussee 119, which his wife Christine, née Lüsing, took over in late 1924. They had married in 1923 and had one son. In 1925 Bröckler was sentenced by the Hamburg district court to two months in prison for fraud. The marriage fell apart in 1927 because of his homosexuality and financial problems, and he also had to give up his shop. After 1927 Bröckler found work as a manual laborer for the Department of Electricity and Port Construction, and later as an office worker. He was employed here until 1931, when he lost the job during the Great Depression. After 1933 he did odd jobs at the Winter Relief Agency for the German Nation (Winterhilfswerk des Deutschen Volkes - WHW), but he lost this job in 1937 after his first conviction for homosexuality.
Unfortunately no records of his first trial have survived. The facts known are that he was held at the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp from 9 January to 19 February 1937, and that the Hamburg district court convicted him on two counts of "unnatural fornication,” one of them on a regular basis, on 20 February 1937 and sentenced him to seven months in prison. He served this term until 7 August 1937, but it is unknown in which prison.
His second trial was prompted by the confession of a former sexual partner, who had met Willi Bröckler in 1935 at the WHW, to the Wilhelmshaven police in October 1938. When he was questioned by the police at Gestapo headquarters, he admitted to being bisexual, and that he generally met his partners randomly on the street in St. Pauli or in bars like the "Grenzfass” (see Stolpersteine in Hamburg-St. Pauli, p. 214) or the "Anker.” One of these random partners was Karl Baumgart, a young male prostitute (*1916) who recognized Bröckler in a catalogue of police photos during the investigation in late November 1938 and identified him.
Bröckler was held in pretrial detention in Hamburg from 29 November 1938 until his trial before the district court began on 1 February 1939. He was convicted for various offenses against Section 175 of the German Criminal Code, which criminalized homosexual acts between males, and sentenced to two years in prison. In his ruling, the presiding judge Günther Riebow proposed a definition of homosexuality that today seems more than absurd: "It remains doubtful whether the accused is a pure homosexual or not. He is, without a doubt, not an ur-homosexual, since he was married and fathered a child. It seems as if he has become a pure homosexual over time.”
On 24 February 1939, Willi Bröckler was transferred from pretrial detention to the Wolfenbüttel prison to serve his term. He remained there until his release on 27 November 1940. Bröckler’s final certificate of conduct, written by the Wolfenbüttel prison warden Linder, attests to his good behavior and diligence. With the words "Whether Bröckler, once released, will repress his homosexual predisposition, seems doubtful, in light of the fact that he did not heed the advice given him to have himself castrated,” however, it was also a death sentence. Three days after his release, on 30 November 1940, he was taken into custody at the Hütten police prison. He was likely held there until 22 February 1941, when he was transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In Sachsenhausen his prisoner number was 36268. On 25 April 1941 he was transferred to the "workcamp,” at Gross-Rosen. It was in reality a prison, and it officially achieved the rank of concentration camp on 1 May 1941. Willi Bröckler was on the list of the first 722 prisoners. He died there on 22 October 1941. The death certificate at the Gross-Rosen registry office lists the cause of death as heart failure and poor circulation.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Bernhard Rosenkranz (†)/Ulf Bollmann
Quellen: StaHH, 376-2 Gewerbepolizei, Gewerbeanmeldungen 1915–1930; StaHH, 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 1561/39; StaHH, 213-8 Staatsanwaltschaft Oberlandesgericht – Verwaltung, Abl. 2, 451 a E 1, 1 a; StaHH, 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferung 16; Staatsarchiv Wolfenbüttel 43 A Neu 4 Jg. 1938 Nr. 744; B. Rosenkranz/U. Bollmann/G. Lorenz: Homosexuellen-Verfolgung in Hamburg 1919–1969, S. 202–203. Auskünfte Janusz Barszcz, Muzeum Gross-Rosen, Monika Liebscher, Archiv der Gedenkstätte Sachsenhausen, Rainer Hoffschildt, Hannover und Christian-Alexander Wäldner, Ronnenberg-Weetzen, alle aus 2009 und 2010.