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Robert Abshagen * 1911
Wachtelstraße 4 (Hamburg-Nord, Barmbek-Nord)
Robert Carl Albert Abshagen, born on 12 Jan. 1911, executed in remand prison Hamburg-Holstenglacis on 10 July 1944
Robert Abshagen – son of the journeyman baker Albert Abshagen and his wife Adelheid, neé Heidenreich – was brought up together with his three sisters Louise, Agnes, and Elfriede in a socialist home. Having finished the laboratory school (Versuchsschule) "Telemannstraße" and attended the junior high school "Hohe Weide" until sixth form, Robert Abshagen began a commercial apprenticeship. Besides that, he went to sea for a short time, worked for an insurance company, and as a worker at building sites.
In 1931 he joined the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands [KPD]). Since 1932 he worked at the party´s department for "subversion of the police" (Polizeizersetzungsapparat) and the party´s intelligence service, and since 1933 he was functionary of the illegal "Red Front Fighters´ League" ("Rotfrontkämpferbund", RFB). Because of this, he was arrested for this first time in autumn of the same year.
One year later – in Sept. 1934 – he was arrested for the second time, being accused of "preparation of high treason". This time, the disciplinal senate of the higher regional court of the City of Hamburg sentenced Robert Abshagen to two years and six months in prison. He served this sentence in the prison Bremen-Oslebshausen. Instead of releasing him afterwards, he was transferred to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp where he met Franz Jacob and Berhard Bästlein for the first time.
In Sachsenhausen, Robert Abshagen worked as foreman at the auxiliary prisoners' hospital and took care of the sick and the weak. He then acquired some medical knowledge and passed it on to his fellow prisoners. On New Year´s Eve 1937 the song "Hamburger Jungs" composed by him was performed in the camp as a "crossing the line ceremony". In April 1939 Robert Abshagen was released from Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. He nevertheless stayed in contact with some fellow prisoners, among others with Hein Bretschneider and Hans Christoffers. The three of them worked together as building workers for the Crone company at Wandsbek. The three men were known under the name "A-B-C-gang"("A-B-C-Kolonne") and became a talking point because of their Anti-National Socialist propaganda.
In Mar. 1941 Robert Abshagen married his fiancée Manja (Minna) Hildebrandt and they moved to Wachtelstraße. Since having been released from Sachsenhausen, Robert had lived with his parents in their appartment. Manja Abshagen had initially been an actress and worked at the theatre Deutsches Schauspielhaus until the 1933/34 term. Her health condition, however – she suffered from cardiac and circulatory insufficiency – made it impossible for her to continue this or any other job.
When the Germans attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 the Communists (not only in Hamburg) changed their activities and extended their illegal work compared to the time of the Molotov-Ribbentrop-Pact. In early Dec. 1941 a meeting took place at Robert Abshagen´s apartment. This was going to mark the start of a new resistance group. From then on the so-called Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen-Group started to operate under the organization of Bernhard Bästlein, Franz Jacob, Oskar Reincke, and Robert Abshagen. They established so-called operation-cells in more than 30 factories and shipyards. In addition, they stayed in contact with several other resistance groups in Northern Germany and Berlin. Especially among the workers of the Blohm & Voss shipyards a big group emerged; these about 100 contact persons supported the resistance. One of their most important tasks was to support the forced labourers and the prisoners of war; they often worked on shipyards or in factories, thus the group could contact them well there. Robert Abshagen initially was leader of the illegal group at the factory "Vereinigte Deutsche Metallwerke" (VDM) at Groß Borstel.
In the middle of 1942 the "Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen-Group" organized a huge leaflet-action. Based on a draft written by Robert Abshagen, Franz Jacob wrote the "handout for construction workers". It especially aimed at those construction workers in Hamburg who had been conscripted to the "Organization Todt" (Organisation Todt", OT) in Norway and the Soviet Union in spring 1942. Among others, the leaflet claimed:"Hitler´s defeat is not our defeat, but our victory!".
In autumn 1942 the Gestapo Hamburg managed to uncover the resistance group surrounding Bernhard Bästlein, Franz Jacob, and Robert Abshagen "from the top to the bottom"; one reason was a Gestapo-informer who had managed to creep into the group. It was in this context that Robert Abshagen was again arrested by the Gestapo on 19 Oct. 1942 and sent to Fuhlsbüttel prison. There, the officer brutally tortured him during the interrogation, as his friend Roger Fridman later reported:"I particularly remember Robert Abshagen, whose face I did not recognize after the interrogation at the Gestapo" (speech at an event organized by the advisory board at the memorial "Ehrenhain Hamburger Widerstandskämpfer on 19 Sep. 1962 in Hamburg). First, Robert Abshagen was transferred from solitary confinement to "Hall II", and later – in Mar. 1943 – to the detention centre Hamburg-Holstenglacis.
When the Allies shelled Hamburg in July 1943 the Abshagens flat was completely destroyed. Manja had to move to live with Robert Abshagen´s parents. One month later, Robert Abshagen and Bernhard Bästlein were transferred to Berlin-Plötzensee in order to witness in court against Martin Weise. Shortly afterwards – in November – Robert Abshagen, Bernhard Bästlein, Oskar Reincke, Gustav Bruhn, and Walter Bohne were accused of "preparation for high treason" and "supporting the enemy" by the chief prosecuter of the people´s court. On 6 Mar. 1944 the first so-called "Hamburg Communist-trials" – and in their context also the lawsuit against Robert Abshagen – began.
For the main trial Robert Abshagen was taken back to Hamburg. The counselor of the people´s court Löhmann convicted Oskar Reincke and Robert Abshagen on 2 May 1944. He sentenced them to death penalty by decapitation. Two months later – on 10 July – the sentence was carried out in the Hamburg detention centre. The co-defendants Gustav Bruhn and Walter Bohne were then already dead. Bernhard Bästlein had escaped prison and was again active in the resistance in Berlin together with Franz Jacob. Until the last moments of his life Robert Abshagen stayed in contact with his wife Manja and she supported him in Berlin with 20 RM every month.
After the execution, Robert Abshagen´s mortal remains were given to the institute of anatomy of Kiel University. There, they were hastily buried in a mass grave together with professional and dangerous criminals. In summer 1947 his body was found in the mass grave of the Kronshagen community cemetery and cremated in Kiel. On 14 Sep. 1947 his urn was buried a Ohlsdorf cemetery during a commemoration event at the memorial for Hamburg’s resistance fighters. In addition to that, a border-regiment in the GDR was named after him.
Translator: Paula Antonella Oppermann
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Carmen Smiatacz
Quellen: StaHH 351-11, AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 12.01.11 Abshagen, Robert; VVN, A2 Abshagen, Manja; Bästlein: "Hitlers Niederlage ist nicht unsere Niederlage, sondern unser Sieg!", S. 55ff., S. 65f.; Hochmuth: Niemand und nichts wird vergessen, S. 18ff.; Hochmuth: Illegale KPD und Bewegung "Freies Deutschland", S. 25, S. 45f., S. 72, S. 112, S. 156, S. 164f., S. 188; Puls: Die Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen Gruppe, S.179ff.; Sparr: Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Winterhude, S. 46f.; Suhlig: Der unbekannte Widerstand, S.38f., S.160f., S. 177; Weber/Herbst: Deutsche Kommunisten, S. 51f.