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Willi Hans Miersch * 1907

Unzerstraße 10 (Altona, Altona-Altstadt)

erschossen 18.7.1932

Willi Hans Miersch, born on 26 Feb. 1907, fatally wounded on 17 July 1932 during "Altona Bloody Sunday” ("Altonaer Blutsonntag”), died on 18 July 1932

At the age of 25, Willi Miersch was shot during the street fighting that took place in the course of "Altona Bloody Sunday.” A propaganda march of uniformed and armed SA and SS men through "Red Altona” had provoked Socialist and Communist counterdemonstrations. Willi Miersch was caught between the two sides.

Willi Hans Miersch was born in Magdeburg as the son of the building contractor Robert Emil Miersch and Ida Marie Miersch, née Klösser. Willi Miersch had learned the trade of a milker and lived married to Käthe Marie, née Bredow, in Altona. The couple had two sons. In 1929, Günter was born, and one year later Werner. Willi Miersch worked as a dairyman ("Schweizer”) on a farming estate near Steilshoop, where he drove cows to pasture and also administered veterinarian treatment to cows and horses. Only on weekends, he stayed with his family who lived at Holstpassage 12, a small street running through from an archway at Grosse Johannisstrasse 73 to Unzerstrasse, in the middle of the working-class neighborhood of Altona’s historic downtown.

On Sunday, 17 July 1932, Willi Miersch, informed by acquaintances about the unrest in Altona, returned home. On Saturday harvesting work had still kept him in Steilshoop. In the immediate vicinity of Holstpassage, the confrontations had escalated, with police giving orders to fire. On Unzerstrasse, Miersch saw people fleeing into basements from the shoots. Afraid of the shots, his wife and the children stayed in the rear sections of the apartment. According to his wife’s testimony, when the police order resounded that everyone close their windows, Willi Miersch stepped toward the open window of his apartment, leaning out to close the casements, but shots were already fired. A police bullet hit him in the head. Seriously injured, Willi Miersch was transported by a medical crew of the fire department to the municipal hospital, where he died the following day.

During a meeting of a non-partisan investigating committee taking place at Altona’s Hotel Kaiserhof in Sept. 1932 and a summons before the Senior Prosecutor’s Office in October of that year, his 22-year-old wife reported that she was just able to catch that security police officers had fired the shots. Other witnesses stated that a police officer in bent knee position had aimed at Miersch. An autopsy also found that the projectile could have come from a military rifle.

The Hamburg and Altona police had made use of firearms on the narrow alleys of the quarter in an irresponsible way, and 16 persons died of shots from police guns, some apparently as a result of being specifically targeted, others due to ricocheting bullets. Whether, as was argued, Communists gunmen had fired shots on the Nazi propaganda march from windows and roofs beforehand was never settled. Moreover, police claimed that shots had been fired on the nearby police station from Holstpassage. In the course of a house search at the Miersch family’s home, the police did not find any firearm; however, they did seize a knife from Willi Miersch’s working bag, with which he used to cut the ropes of cows, and declared it a weapon.

The "Red Aid” ("Rote Hilfe”), a support organization of the KPD, covered the costs of Miersch’s burial, which was attended by 200 people. Käthe Miersch did not get any state assistance, since her husband was considered a Communist and she was also alleged to have engaged in activities hostile to the state. Only for the two children, she received a modest orphan’s allowance. The oldest son Günter, three years old at the time, suffered all his life from the traumatic memories of his father’s death throes, attempting in vain to clarify his father’s shooting.

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2017
© Birgit Gewehr

Quellen: Interview mit Günter Miersch von Astrid Matthiae und Stefan Lasch-Abendroth am 8.11.2002, im Bestand StO; Akten aus dem Landesarchiv Schleswig, Landesakten der Staatsanwaltschaft über Zeugenaussagen vom 6. Oktober 1932, als Kopie im Besitz von Günter Miersch; Leon Schirmann, Der Altonaer Blutsonntag 17. Juli 1932. Dichtungen und Wahrheit, Hamburg 1994; Leon Schirmann, Jus- tizmanipulationen, Der Altonaer Blutsonntag und die Altonaer bzw. Hamburger Justiz 1932–1994, Berlin 1995; Die Wahrheit über den Altonaer Blutsonntag in Altona. Tatsachenschilderungen von Augenzeugen und Verwundeten, hg. von der Roten Hilfe Deutschlands, Berlin o. J., im Bruno-Tesch-Archiv im StO; Gespräch mit Günter Miersch am 23.5.2007.

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