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Paul Seeger * 1910
Luruper Chaussee 119 (Altona, Bahrenfeld)
GEDEMÜTIGT / ENTRECHTET
FLUCHT IN DEN TOD
Paul Adolf Michael Seeger, born on 30 July 1910 in Hamburg, suicide on 21 Feb. 1939 in Hamburg
Luruper Chaussee 119
On 21 Feb. 1939 at 9.50 p.m., the 92nd Police Station at Bahrenfelder Marktplatz 8 was informed by phone that a strong smell of gas was emanating from an apartment at Luruper Chaussee 119 on the second floor. After local police had arrived, the janitor forcibly opened the apartment, which was locked from the inside. The tenant, Paul Seeger, was lying unconscious on a sofa in the kitchen. His wife, Sophie Seeger, also present at this time, had probably been unable to get into their joint apartment and one may assume that her husband had turned on the gas on the kitchen stove with the intention of taking his life. He passed away at about 10.25 p.m. while being transported to the Allee Municipal Hospital in Altona.
According to testimony given by Seeger’s wife to the criminal investigation department, which always investigated "cases of unnatural death,” since 15 February her husband had no longer shown up at his job as a mechanic with the Hamburg Hochbahn AG (the Hamburg public transit system) – overhead cable department – located at Schützenhof station in Altona. It seems that during the night of 15 to 16 Feb. 1939, he had already committed a first suicide attempt using gas, which she had noticed in time and prevented. Afterward, she locked access to the gas main when leaving the apartment at noon the next day. Following this event, her husband did not come home anymore until 21 February. However, she had not reported him missing. To police, the widow remarked, "… I suspect, though, that he had fallen into the hands either of unscrupulous women or even homosexuals.” She backed her first conjecture with the fact that her husband was "seen frequently with elegantly dressed women” and that he had been giving her less housekeeping money since the beginning of the year. The second conjecture was based on her husband’s acquaintance with a man named Paul Fuß, who was known to be a homosexual. Born in 1890, this merchant from Missundestrasse 26 had been sentenced by the Altona Regional Court (Landgericht) to an 18-month prison term pursuant to Sec. 175 [of the Reich Criminal Code] in Apr. 1937, from which he was released in Sept. 1938.
What could have driven 28-year-old Paul Seeger, who had never been imprisoned or convicted for homosexual activities before, to this act of desperation?
Paul Seeger was born in Hamburg in 1910, the illegitimate son of a musician by the same name and the tobacco worker Emma Tauber. The parents had two additional children out of wedlock and then married in Hamburg in 1914, though getting a divorce in 1922. After attending the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule), Paul Seeger did an apprenticeship as a car mechanic. As a youth, he lived with his mother in modest financial circumstances in an apartment on the raised ground floor at Marktstrasse 133. The mother made her living as a tobacco and factory worker, seeking to earn some extra income as a fortune-teller reading cards. In 1941, it became known that she had also carried out illegal abortions, which resulted in her being sentenced to four years in prison in 1942. In Oct. 1945, the remainder of the sentence was remitted.
In 1929, at the age of 18 years, Paul Seeger was sentenced to a fine of 5 RM (reichsmark) in lieu of two days in prison for violation of the "Law for the Protection of the Republic” (Republikschutzgesetz) as well as noise disturbing the public peace. At the time, he was a member of the Nazi Party and in the early hours of 30 Jan. 1929, he returned, together with the electrician Kurt Wegner, who was three years his senior, drunk from a Nazi meeting in his residential street. Both were singing anti-Republican and anti-Jewish songs at the top of their voices. Reportedly, Kurt Wegner also shouted slogans like "Down with the Jews’ republic and with Rathenau” as well as "Rathenau, this old sow,” and he was deemed the actual instigator.
In 1938, Paul Seeger entered into marriage with Sophie, née Sonntag, born in Hamburg in 1904, a union that produced a daughter born that same year. Possibly, he also met homosexual men because of this marriage, discovering an interest in same-sex relationships and being blackmailed as a result of this. At any rate, his wife’s brother, Walter, called "Walti,” Sonntag dealt with his own homosexuality relatively openly, which caused the electrician born in Altona in 1916 to receive a three-month prison term from June to Sept. 1937 in accordance with Sec. 175. He was the lover of Gunthard von Pechmann, the owner of a flower shop in Kiel 23 years his senior, whom he had met on a train journey. Because of this relationship, Walter Sonntag was in prison a second time, from Nov. 1937 until Feb. 1938.
Possibly, Paul Seeger already attracted the attention of the criminal investigation department at this time. In any case, he also got together with friends of his homosexual brother-in-law, a circumstance at which his wife only hinted at to police after her husband’s death – as described above – perhaps also because she wished to protect her brother. The continued relationship of her brother to the older man from Kiel was the subject of another trial in Hamburg in 1941, after one of Pechmann’s female employees had denounced the love affair to the criminal investigation department in Kiel. Parallel to this, Walter Sonntag was also named as a sexual partner by the known male prostitute Paul Kühnapfel. After detentions in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camps and the pretrial detention center, Walter Sonntag was sentenced to a one-year prison term in Jan. 1942. Drafted into the German Wehrmacht after his release in Aug. 1942, he has been considered missing since Dec. 1943. His partner Gunthard von Pechmann survived the Nazi terror against homosexuals, but at a high cost: He had himself "voluntarily” castrated in Nov. 1942 during his sentencing to a two-year prison term with subsequent preventive detention.
All of these later measure of the Nazi apparatus of persecution, which began to emerge as early as 1939 though, perhaps also the increasingly apparent objections against a system with which he had sympathized as a young person, may have suggested to Paul Seeger the flight to death. A Stolperstein located at Luruper Chaussee 119 commemorates him and his fate not untypical for a homosexual. Approx. 25 percent of victims of the persecution of homosexuals took their own lives, thus often preempting the Nazis by only a few months.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: April 2018
© Bernhard Rosenkranz (†) / Ulf Bollmann
Quellen: AB Hamburg 1939; StaH, 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, A06393/30, 5541/42 und 3604/43; StaH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferungen 13 (jeweils zu Paul Fuss); StaH 331-5 Polizeibehörde – Unnatürliche Sterbefälle, 408/39; StaH 332-5 Standesämter, 3245 (Eintrag Nr. 113) und 5416 (Eintrag Nr. 353); Rosenkranz/Bollmann/Lorenz, Homosexuellen-Verfolgung, S. 256.