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Otto Schneider * 1903

Bahrenfelder Straße 170 (Altona, Ottensen)

JG. 1903
ERMORDET 13.2.1945

Otto Heinrich Schneider, born on 18 Mar. 1903 in Hamburg, died on 13 Feb. 1945 in the Neuengamme concentration camp, Bremen-Farge subcamp

Bahrenfelder Strasse 170

Otto Schneider’s history of persecution as a homosexual came to a head due to denunciations in his social environment – as was the case in many comparable instances. It was not necessarily the investigative skills of the officers working in the 24th Office of the Criminal Investigation Department (24. Kriminalkommissariat), a section responsible for investigating homosexual "offenses” in Hamburg and after 1937 also in Altona, that resulted most frequently in the arrests of gay men but above all the accusations by neighbors, colleagues at work, friends, sexual partners, or relatives, either reported intentionally to police or made thoughtlessly in testimonies. In this way, too, Otto Schneider’s life ended shortly before the Second World War, after he had already suffered a prison term in 1938/1939 as well as a second prison sentence in a concentration camp from 1940 to 1942.

He was born in Hamburg in 1903 as the son of Franz Schneider, a state official working at Hamburg’s Schlachthof (slaughterhouse), and his wife Catharina, née Oellerich. Otto Schneider was baptized as a Lutheran. The father’s first marriage had produced a half-brother and a half-sister, Sophie, married name Wagner, who lived at Glashüttenstrasse 1 in Altona; Otto maintained contact with her until the very end. He grew up in a respectable family, though he suffered from a skin disease in childhood, thus missing school quite often. He left the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule) already in 1917 after completing grade 3 [translator’s note: in the reverse way of counting grades common at the time, i.e., grade 6]. At first, he worked as an unskilled laborer without any vocational training at the Blohm & Voss and the Vulkan shipyards, before starting an apprenticeship as a plumber in 1918. Out of frustration at having to fix only plugged toilets during this time, he left his apprenticeship again after two years without any final qualification. Afterward, he found work in the food service industry, as a domestic servant, glass washer, barman, a page, and cigarette vendor, jobs he performed not only in Hamburg but also in hotels and cafés in Westerland on the Island of Sylt and in Niendorf on the Baltic Sea. In addition, he worked as a waiter on pleasure boats to Cuxhaven. As a cigarette vendor, he was employed for many years by the Wilhelm Hesselbein Company, which valued him as a conscientious and reliable employee during this time, especially since he was considered one of the most successful sales representatives there.

As a waiter at and "regular customer” of the gay bar "Zu den drei Sternen” on Hütten in Hamburg-Neustadt, Otto Schneider was on record with the criminal investigation department as a homosexual since 1926 and he was even deemed an "old male prostitute.” The guests jokingly called him "Ottilie.” In mid-Feb. 1938, his fellow waiter Wilhelm Dose (born in 1901, died on 31 Aug. 1942 in the Dreibergen-Bützow penitentiary and prison, with a Stolperstein laid in Hohenfelde at Lübecker Strasse 72), whom he knew since 1921, mentioned him to police as a former partner. According to the police files consulted as a result, he had been arrested at a public restroom at the Botanical Gardens for the first time in July 1926 on suspicion of having performed sexual acts. On the occasion of an interrogation in 1937, he admitted a homosexual contact dating from 1928. He was summoned to police headquarters for questioning on 16 Mar. 1938 and confronted with the recent accusations. However, initially he protested having "normal dispositions,” though having been seduced by a guest only in 1930 during his work as a waiter. In order to be able to counter his "great impertinence” of denying homosexual acts, he was initially taken into police custody at the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp from 17 until 22 Mar. 1938, before being transferred to regular pretrial detention. The more severe prison conditions in the Gestapo prison in Fuhlsbüttel, officially called a "police prison,” were applied on a regular basis against homosexuals as a deterrent and for extorting far-reaching confessions. After only two days of this type of detention, Schneider admitted in a kind of "lifetime confession” several sexual contacts to men since he was 18, men he had met in dance halls like the "Flora,” at the "Rheingold,” and in public restrooms at the Sternschanzen train station and around the Christ Church (Christuskirche) in Eimsbüttel. The confessions by Otto Schneider dating far back to the years 1921 until 1930 fell under the statute of limitations, but for the remaining homosexual acts he admitted, the Hamburg District Court (Amtsgericht) sentenced him to ten months in prison in accordance with Sec. 175 of the Reich Criminal Code (Reichsstrafgesetz – RStGB) on 2 May 1938. The tenor of the first judgment by District Court Director Erwin Krause contained stereotypical prejudices toward homosexuals: "The accused must be considered a personality dangerous to the public since due to his disposition and the indiscriminate way in which he made acquaintances one may readily assume that he is also dangerous to Germany’s younger generation.” He served his sentence from 4 May onward in the Glasmoor penitentiary, from which he was released on 14 Jan. 1939.

Following his release from prison, he found employment as a cigarette vendor with his former company again, until such work was done exclusively by women. In July 1939, the unemployment office placed him with the Maschinenfabrik Alfred Gutmann AG, engineering works located at Ottensener Völckersstrasse 14/20. For good conduct, he was quickly promoted to more lucrative positions, from yard worker and gatekeeper all the way to semi-skilled arc welder, receiving increasingly favorable evaluations. However, when it became known in the company that he had made sexual advances on three younger colleagues aged 15 to 17 years, company management informed the criminal investigation department by phone on 5 Apr. 1940. After questioning his fellow workers, the police arrested Otto Schneider on 8 April and had him committed to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp again. He stayed there until 17 April before being transferred to the Holstenglacis pretrial detention center. During his legal proceedings, the "Investigative Assistance for Criminal Justice” ("Ermittlungshilfe für Strafrechtspflege”) made extensive inquiries about Otto Schneider, coming across quite positive qualities, though describing the homosexuality he lived as "completely unrestrained,” and concluding that this had "to be treated vigorously.” Thus, it was not surprising that, despite the sexual acts having been performed with the adolescents not against their will, in the verdict passed by the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht) on 22 July 1940, he was sentenced in accordance with Secs. 175 and 175 a Item 3 to three years in prison. He served the sentence in the Fuhlsbüttel penitentiary from 27 Aug. 1940 until 29 May 1943, though remaining in the penal institution "as per decree by the Reich Ministry [of Justice].”

During his prison term, the police became aware of another, one-time contact with the young male prostitute and subsequent blackmailer Theodor Gehring (born in 1918, executed on 9 July 1942). This contact came about in June 1938 near the Christuskirche, where Otto Schneider went for a walk with his dog. He took the young man to his apartment on Eppendorferweg (today Eppendorfer Weg). At this location, a sexual experience took place for which Theodor Gehring received about 2 RM (reichsmark). The male prostitute who was well known for his excellent memory revealed this in a trial in 1940, after having indicated approx. 200 other contacts to the police already.

On 2 Aug. 1943 Otto Schneider was transferred from Fuhlsbüttel to the Rendsburg "security institution” and then to the Waldheim penitentiary in Saxony, from which he was transported to "Hamburg police prison” on 1 Oct. 1943. His half-sister wished to take him in again but one can assume that he – without ever gaining his freedom anymore – arrived from the criminal investigation department via the inner-city Hütten police prison or the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp in the Neuengamme concentration camp in Feb. 1944. Classified in the prison category of "homo,” he received prisoner number 26,464 in the camp. No documentation exists regarding the date of his transfer from the main camp to the Bremen-Farge subcamp. Since Oct. 1943, up to 3,000 prisoners from Neuengamme and another 7,000 forced laborers and prisoners of a "labor reeducation camp” ("Arbeitserziehungslager”) were used for building the submarine bunker designated as "Valentin” in Bremen. The prisoners were quartered in an underground fuel depot. Otto Schneider lived through these ordeals for almost exactly one year, perishing shortly before the end of the war on 13 Feb. 1945 at the age of 41. The official cause of death was "nephritis” or, respectively, "myocardial insufficiency due to uremic intoxication.”

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: April 2018
© Ulf Bollmann

Quellen: StaH, 213-8 Staatsanwaltschaft Oberlandesgericht – Verwaltung, Ablieferung 2, 451 a E 1, 1 b und 451 a E 1, 1 e; StaH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 5584/38, 3834/40 und 4601/40; StaH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, 25945 und Ablieferung 13; 332-5 Standesämter, 10732 (Eintrag Nr. IX/10); Auskunft der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme, Alyn Beßmann, vom 1. und 2.10.2014, mit Hinweis auf eine Abschrift eines Totenbuches, das bei den Bergungen der Thielbek gefunden wurde, vol 00420261, und auf eine Hollerith-Vorkarteikarte des SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungs-Hauptamtes Amtsgruppe D. Konzentrationslager vom Sommer bis Herbst 1944, Bundesarchiv Berlin NS 3/1577, file 057165; Rosenkranz/Bollmann/Lorenz, Homosexuellen-Verfolgung, S. 254–255.

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