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Wilhelm Güttler * 1884

Mühlenberger Weg 18 (Altona, Blankenese)

JG. 1884
ERMORDET 15.5.1938

Dr. jur. Wilhelm Hermann Paul Güttler, born 9/18/1884 in Reichenstein, died 5/15/1938 at the Langenhorn Mental Hospital

Mühlenberger Weg 18

The fate of the industrialist Wilhelm Güttler is representative for many bi- and homosexual men who died during their detention at the mental hospital "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Langenhorn.” Wilhelm Güttler was born in 1884 in Reichenstein, Silesia as the son of the Kommerzienrat Hermann Güttler and his wife Gertrud, née Zucker. His father, born 1857, already died in Reichenstein in 1906, his mother, born 1864 in Ratibor, from 1934 lived in Munich-Grosshadern and died 1947 in Bad Tölz in Bavaria. Wilhelm Güttler had two sisters and a brother.

The wealthy family owned the arsenic mine and smelter "Reicher Trost”("Rich Solace”) in Reichenstein, Germany’s only arsenic production site. Wilhelm Güttler’s youngest brother Fritz (born 1902, died 1967) held no shares of the company. He is said to have "gotten into conflict with the penal code” around 1922 and was considered "sick” following sojourns at the Hamburg insane asylum Friedrichsberg and a similar institution in Paris in the 1930s.

His other brother, Dr. Gerhard Güttler born 1889, died 1966), temporarily held a share in the company, but was then paid off by Wilhelm Güttler and lived in Berlin-Zehlendorf. Following his law studies that he completed in 1908 with his dissertation, he absolved his military service before entering the family company. Having lost a leg in a rockfall as a youth, he nonetheless participated in World War I, where he was decorated several times. In 1918, the mining company originally base only in Silesia opened a branch in Hamburg for its export business, which was headed by Dr. Wilhelm Güttler.

In 1922, he turned the general partnership into a public corporation, the "W. Güttler Aktiengesellschaft” and moved the company headquarters to Neuhöfer Brückenstrasse 69 in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg. Purpose of the company was the manufacture and sales of gunpowder, fuses, hunting ammunition, paints and pottery. After World War I, Güttler had married Luisa Behrens, twelve years his junior, a friend of his sister. The couple had two sons, Hans-Wolfgang (born 1919) and Peter (born 1923).

It is reported that Wilhelm Güttler had become a morphine addict due to the use of the drug to treat the pains of his amputated leg. At the beginning of June, 1919, he suffered a nervous breakdown, allegedly caused by his wife when she injected him another substance instead of morphine. In the aftermath, Güttler was admitted to the university hospital for nervous disorders in Breslau. One week later, his wife and his mother submitted an application for Wilhelm to be placed under guardianship, suggesting an executive of the company as guardian. About a year later, Wilhelm Güttler is said to have regained his legal capacity. In 1922,. The family moved from the Gross-Rinnersdorf Estate in the Lower Silesian county of Lübben to Mühlenberger Weg 18 in Blankenese. It remains unclear to what extent Wilhelm Güttler himself ran the company, or if these functions had passed on to employed executives.

Erich Fidyka, an executive who had been with the company for 25 years, in 1938 told doctors that he himself had trouble to realize his boss’s erratic, often also unfeasible ideas. The physician described Wilhelm Güttler as an eccentric addicted to alcohol, drugs and gambling at horse races. In the early 1930s, his wife had fallen ill with a serious case of tuberculosis; she died in September of 1936 at a sanitarium in Chur, Switzerland. From then on, his sons lived with his brother in Berlin, and Güttler’s household in Blankenese was run by servants.

At the beginning of 1937, he hired Otto Pätzold as a travelling companion for a cruise to Mexico. Pätzold, born 1914, later became Güttler’s valet and chauffeur, which he needed because he, according to Pätzold, "had trouble with is artificial leg.” On December 20th of that year, Pätzold filed a complaint with the police against his employer, accusing him of "homosexual activities” and morphine addiction. The same day, detectives arrived to search Wilhelm Güttler’s home. As they fond syringes and morphine, they arrested Güttler and took him into "protective custody” The next day, he was taken to the Hamburg city remand center. At his interrogation, he admitted having had occasional sexual contacts with men, among them his valet. He gave no further names.

Otto Pätzold later testified that he had been warned of Güttler as a "queer” aboard the steamer to Mexico. Güttler described the sexual actions with his valet as consentient. On February, 18th, 1938, Wilhelm Güttler was examined at the central hospital of the Hamburg remand center. The doctor Hans Löffler diagnosed "mental feebleness”, possibly caused by withdrawal symptoms. The same day, Wilhelm Güttler was admitted to the Langenhorn mental hospital on account of Art. 81 of the Penal Code. The diagnosis recorded there was "disorders of a detained psychopath and morphine addict.” The Langenhorn psychiatrist Wigand Quickert did extensive research on Wilhelm Güttler’s possible homosexual tendencies. Erich Fidyka, for example, told Quickert that "there were several indications that he had devious inclinations. At the office, a young man had to take his dictation, not the girl whose job it was.”

Hardly three months, on My 15th, 1938, Wilhelm Güttler, aged 55, died at the hospital; the official cause given on his death certificate was pneumonia following meningitis ("pachymeningitis haemorrhagica, bronchio pneumonia.) His body was buried in the family tomb in Reichenstein. The local historian Helmut Seifert reported that Wilhelm Güttler had not been given a great funeral in his home town, in contrast to his fathers, when a whole week of public mourning had been declared in the town. The rumor came up that Wilhelm Güttler hadn’t gotten over the death of his wife, and his grief had caused his death. The company run by the Güttler family for several generations was liquidated in Hamburg in 1955. At the former mine in Reichenstein, now Polish and named Złoty Stok, there is now a mining museum that also documents the history of the Güttler family as businessmen and owners of the mine.

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

Stand: April 2018
© Bernhard Rosenkranz (†)/Ulf Bollmann

Quellen: StaH 231-7 Amtsgericht Hamburg – Handels- und Genossenschaftsregister, A 1 Band 114 (Eintrag HRA 25934) und B 1979-89 Band 1 bis B 1979-89 Band 5; 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, 15923; StaH 332-5 Standesämter, 9893 (Eintrag Nr. 396); StaH 332-8 Meldewesen, A 34/1 (= 741-4 Fotoarchiv, K 4439); StaH 352-5 Gesundheitsbehörde – Todesbescheinigungen, C II 1938 Standesamt 19 Nr. 104; StaH 352-8/7 Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn, Ablieferung 1995/2, 24731; Mit Dank an Helmut Seifert, Chemnitz, für Auskünfte 2008 an Bernhard Rosenkranz, an Dr. Manfred Paetzold, Kessin, für Auskünfte 2013/2014 und an Michael Schubert, Haldensleben, für Auskünfte 2014; Vgl. Beitrag von Eugeniusz Salwach, Złoty Stok, 2012 unter [abgerufen am 5.12.2014]; Dr. Hans-Henning Zabel: Schlesien und seine Wirtschaftsgeschichte (1). In: Schlesische Nachrichten 11/2008, S. 11; Rosenkranz/Bollmann/Lorenz, Homosexuellen-Verfolgung, S. 60–61, 214.

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