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Ernst Hampel * 1919

Quickbornstraße 31 (Eimsbüttel, Hoheluft-West)

JG. 1919

Ernst Hampel, born 16 June 1919 in Hamburg, executed 20 Apr. 1945 at the Brandenburg Penitentiary

Quickbornstraße 31

Ernst Hampel’s father, Carl Hampel, was a lathe operator and had been a member of the Metalworkers’ Union since 1900. His mother was Franziska Hampel. The family lived in Eimsbüttel at Quickbornstraße 31. Ernst was the youngest of three brothers – Karl was born in 1909 and Richard in 1910.

Ernst apprenticed as a painter, then attended the Hamburg State School of Decorative Arts. According to information from his family, he studied there under Johann Bossard, and worked on Bossard’s Gesamtkunstwerk in the Lüneburg Heath. The Gesamtkunstwerk was a three-acre plot of land on which Bossard and his wife Jutta spent many years, until the mid-1950s, building numerous structures according to his designs. The structures, along with their interiors and furnishings, and the grounds were designed to reflect humanity’s needs: protection and housing in the residence, creativity and labor in the atelier, nourishment and work in the garden, and stillness and reflection in the temple. Ernst Hampel helped design one of the doors.

Hampel was Protestant, and was a member of the Young Communist League of Germany. After 1933 he joined a group of young people who refused to be a part of the Hitler Youth (HJ, Hitler-Jugend) and Band of German Maidens (BDM, Bund Deutscher Mädel), and who chose to follow their own paths. He knew some of them from before 1933 from activities with the Friends of Nature movement or the Scout movement, where they would often go on long hikes, during which they had the freedom to discuss political issues. They continued this tradition after 1933, and often met with members of other, like-minded groups. One member of the group, Karl Hellbach, later described their activities: There were ten young men, including Ernst Hampel, who formed the core of the group. They were "all from workers’ families, and most of them had been active in children’s groups of the Friends of Nature, the Young Pioneers, or a workers’ sports association. The group’s goal was to uphold the form and spirit of the Youth Movement, especially that of the Communist Youth and the Socialist Workers Youth, both of which had been prohibited, and to arouse and maintain the spirit of opposition to Hitler’s regime.”

Most of the group’s members were also members of sports clubs: "The handball team at the Eppendorfer Sportverein (1934–36) or the Alemannia-Stern Sportverein (1936–37), or the Monday folk dancing circle of the Ring für Heimattanz in the auditorium of the school on Ericastraße (1935–39). We also had connections to the youth division of the Good Templars, to the Volksheim movement, to the Niederdeutschen Singschar and to the Armin sports club. We used our activities in these clubs to meet as many young people as possible, to have discussions with them and to influence them to our views. In the early days of our activities we always took other young people with us on our trips (hikes in the region around Hamburg). We were able to convince many of them to join our cause and the Youth Movement, and to join the political opposition to the Hitler Youth and National Socialism. These young people then formed new underground groups, which worked in clubs, factories, schools, etc., for as long as it was possible for them to do so. Some of them joined our group for a while, so our membership was constantly changing in the early days. It was only later, when the threat of being discovered by the Nazis was too great, that we stopped accepting new members.”

They disrupted training programs organized by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labor Front, the Nazi trade union organization) for those young people who had not yet joined the Hitler Youth or the Band of German Maidens. Karl Hellbach described their activities further: "Besides our trips, where we constantly had the opportunity to establish contact to other underground groups, we met regularly in our apartments. We had discussions with older friends and comrades, read banned anti-fascist publications and listened to foreign radio stations in order to get as much information as possible.”

The young people tried to remain in contact through the years. Ernst Hampel was called up to do his compulsory service with the Reichsarbeitsdiesnt (Reich Labor Service) from November 1938 until February 1939, and was drafted into the Wehrmacht at the end of August 1939. The young men forced into the dilemma of serving in the Wehrmacht and, at the same time, being opposed to National Socialism, continued their opposition activities within their units, and, according to Karl Hellbach, "were able to convince some soldiers, in secret discussions and by making them aware of the facts, to join the opposition or at least to encourage their conviction for freedom and liberty. They kept in contact with each other and with those who remained in Hamburg with coded letters.” These letters were to be the group’s undoing.

After his basic training and artillery training, Ernst Hampel was deployed to the Western Front in 1940. On 1 December 1940 he was promoted to sergeant and was "in the East until 1942” – in other words, he was with the troops invading the Soviet Union. After being treated for a frostbitten foot, he was "sent home to be an instructor.” From Rendsburg, where he was stationed, he got in touch with his friends in Hamburg.

According to the bill of indictment filed against him in 1944, Ernst Hampel had never broken the contact to Max Kristeller, one of the leaders of the youth group. Kristeller had been a member of the group since 1936, although he kept a certain distance because he was fairly sure he was under Gestapo observation as a former member of the Communist Party. Hampel and Kristeller began to meet in 1940, and these meetings were especially important for Hampel because he could speak openly about his plight as a soldier and about the war, and they helped him gain a clearer perspective of the progress of the war. Both were of the opinion that Germany could not win the war, and thus spoke of the topic – in the words of the bill of indictment – "in a defeatist manner.” The men were convinced that "Bolshevism would prevail in the end.” Kristeller advised Hampel to listen to British radio in order to learn more. These facts could only have become known through an informant.

A New Year’s Eve party on 31 December 1942 in Max Kristeller’s apartment was the beginning of the end for the group. Naturally the war was the main topic of conversation. The bill of indictment later quoted Ernst Hampel as having said "You wouldn’t believe how many people try to get out of going back to Russia, what kind of excuses they come up with.” Later in the evening a letter from Karl Hellbach was read aloud, and the group answered it collectively. According to the bill of indictment, both Hellbach’s letter and the collective reply were "overflowing with long, shrouded Communist statements.” In the reply, Ernst Hampel allegedly wrote: "We send heartfelt greetings from Hamburg. Let’s hope that we are now marching into the arms of victory.”

The letter never reached its destination. It was handed over to the Gestapo by Herbert Lübbers, who had also been at the party. Arrests followed quickly. The Gestapo was able to establish that the group had connections to the Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen resistance group through Max Kristeller. The Gestapo agent Alfons Pannek played a decisive role in uncovering this organization. Kristeller was arrested on 5 May 1943. Suspects in the case continued to be arrested until January 1945.

Ernst Hampel was arrested on 2 June 1943 in Rendsburg, where he was stationed, and sent to the Fuhlsbüttel prison in Hamburg. He was transferred to the pre-trial detention center on Holstenglacis on 29 March 1944. His records from the detention center state that he had no permanent residence, and that his closest relative, his mother Franziska Hampel, lived in Bönningstedt in Holstein. This is an indication that his family’s apartment at Quickbornstraße 31 no longer existed – it had been destroyed during the air raids in July and August 1943. Ernst Hampel’s father was not mentioned in the records. On 28 July 1943 he had received permission from the Gestapo to visit his son in the Fuhlsbüttel prison, and was then arrested himself. He described this situation on 27 January 1946 in a deposition to the Hamburg Committee for Former Political Prisoners: "On this occasion he [Ernst Hampel] secretly pressed a folded piece of paper into my hand. This was observed. My son was immediately taken away. On the order of superior officers I was taken into a room where I was forced to undress. When I was searched they found this thimble-sized piece of paper. I was beaten by an officer so badly that I bled. One of the officers told me that if he were permitted, I would be shot immediately.”

Carl Hampel was laid across a table and beaten with a rod, then hung up by his feet and beaten. "When this was over, the officer told me that he knew that I belonged to a secret organization, which I had to deny. Then I was put in solitary confinement.” Carl Hampel was held in the Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp until 7 April 1944.

The Gestapo prepared their case against Ernst Hampel, who was charged with intention to commit high treason, subversion of the war effort, giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and listening to enemy broadcasts. The Hamburg Gestapo agent Henry Helms was especially avid in his investigation of the case. Among those arrested and charged was Amanda (Ada) Löwe (*5 July 1921). According to the bill of indictment, Ernst Hampel had met her at a folk dancing class, and she was a "half-Jew.”: "Nevertheless he became engaged to her in September 1939. He is the father of the child Karin, born on 12 April 1943.” It continues laconically: "He could not fulfill his intention to marry her.” "Those of German blood” could only marry "first-degree Mischlinge” if permission was granted, which was practically never the case. For this reason the couple had not applied for a marriage license.

Because the case was tried before the Volksgerichtshof in Berlin, Ernst Hampel was transferred to the Stendal regional court prison on 19 May 1944. His case, along with those of three of his friends, was tried on 4 and 5 January 1945. The State’s Attorney’s bill of indictment against Ernst Hampel read: "The painter (Sergeant) Ernst Hampel from Hamburg is accused of intention to commit high treason, giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and subversion of the war effort. In Hamburg, after the beginning of the war, and especially in 1942 in the company of the half-Jew Max Kristeller and others, he discussed the political situation and the war situation in a defeatist and communistic manner, wished for the defeat of Germany, and called for solidarity with regard to the expected communist overthrow.”

Hampel and his friends were thus not on trial for their resistance activities in their youth groups. But with the testimonies of the witness for the prosecution Lübbers and of the Gestapo agent Helms, the Volksgerichtshof declared a verdict of guilty for all three defendants, and, on the second day of the trial, 5 January 1945, sentenced them to death.

Ernst Hampel said good-bye to his parents and brothers in a letter dated the same day:
"My dear parents and brothers,
As the saying goes, I’ve made my bed and now I must lie in it. I have now, unfortunately, transferred the heavy burden that I took on my shoulders to yours. I beg your forgiveness for the heavy and terrible blow I have dealt you, under which my father also had to suffer for eight months. Please do not blame yourselves, and do not believe you have done anything wrong. I thank you with my whole heart for all of the good you have done me and the great love you have shown me. Even when we disagreed, you always wanted the best for me. For that I have always respected and honored you from the bottom of my heart. I thank Karli and Richard for all the help they have given me, especially during my long detention.”

Ernst Hampel was executed on 20 April 1945 at the Brandenburg Penitentiary.

His fiancée and partner Amanda Löwe and her father Max Löwe were arrested at the same time as Ernst Hampel, on 1 June 1943. She and other members of the youth group were accused of high treason (membership in the prohibited Young Communist League) and subversion of the war effort, but the case never came to trial. Amanda Löwe was liberated from the Fuhlsbüttel prison, where she was forced to work as a prisoner trustee. Her relationship to Ernst Hampel was legalized after the war, and their daughter now bears his name. Amanda later married Max Kristeller, who survived Auschwitz and several other concentration camps.

Her father, Max Löwe, did not live to see the end of the Nazi regime – he was murdered in the Stutthof Concentration Camp.

Translator: Amy Lee

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2016
© Peter Offenborn

Quellen: StaH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Abl. 1998/1; FZH 11/O 1 (Geert Otto): Gemeinschaftsbriefe der Turnerschaft Armin von 1893 e.V.; FZH 13-3-2-2 (Widerstand in Hamburg 1933–1945; Prozesse/Hinrichtungen); Informationen der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme; Ab; Sammlung VVN-BdA (Hamburg), Hinterbliebenenkartei und H 16; Ernst Hampel (Informationen der Familie Hampel vom 19.8.1909); Ursel Hochmuth/Gertrud Meyer, Streiflichter aus dem Hamburger Widerstand 1933–1945, S. 431f.; Peter Offenborn, Jüdische Jugend in Hamburg 1933–1941, S. 285/286.

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