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Emil Theodor Hans Wendt * 1895

Scheplerstraße 80 (Altona, Altona-Altstadt)

JG. 1895
ERMORDET 26.10.1944

Emil Wendt, born on 6 Dec. 1895; detained from 17 Nov. 1932 onward, murdered on 26 Oct. 1944 in the Waldheim penitentiary in Saxony

Scheplerstrasse 80 (Adlerstrasse)

"I am opposed to any kind of terror.” Emil Wendt inserted this sentence into the questionnaire he had to fill out at the start of his detention in the Rendsburg penal institution on 14 June 1933. Because of his participation in the street fighting on "Altona Bloody Sunday” ("Altonaer Blutsonntag”), he had been sentenced to ten years in prison. Regarding the question as to why he had committed the offense of which he was accused he wrote, "I cannot answer this question because open-heartedly I feel innocent.”

Emil Theodor Hans Wendt was born on 6 Dec. 1895 in Hamburg, the son of Augustine Wendt. She was unmarried and apparently, Emil never met his biological father. Eventually, his mother married the trained ship’s carpenter and captain Johann Ludwig Weidmann, whom Emil later indicated as his father. On 11 Oct. 1906, Augustine Wendt gave birth to another son, Georg Ludwig Fritz Weidmann, Emil’s half bother.

After attending the 9th Boys’ Elementary School (9. Knabenvolksschule) at Adolphstrasse 9 (today Bernstorffstrasse), Emil Wendt did an apprenticeship as a baker with Ernst Crull on Hamburgerstrasse (today Max-Brauer-Allee) from 1910 until 1913, working as a journeyman baker until 1914. In the First World War, he volunteered as an infantryman and he was assigned to the "Hussars 15” in Hamburg-Wandsbek. He was wounded at the front three times. With several decorations but also with war wounds, he returned from the war in 1919. His family had emigrated to the USA during the war; Augustine Weidmann along with son Georg had traveled aboard the "SS Imperator” from Hamburg to New York, where her husband was apparently waiting for her already. Emil Wendt tried to find out their address in the United States. In 1921, the Reich Office for German Immigration, Return Migration, and Emigration informed him that the New York directory indicated a Louis Weidmann. Whether Emil Wendt did actually attempt to establish contact is not known.

After the war, Emil Wendt once again made a living as a baker. In Jan. 1920, he moved from Hamburg to Nachtigallenstrasse 15 (today Lerchenstrasse) in Altona and on 27 Apr. 1920, he married the Hamburg native Frieda Mathilde Caroline Toelle, widowed name Hanssen, born on 8 Feb. 1891. She brought into the marriage her daughter Erika Hanssen, born on 16 June 1915. On 1 Oct. 1920, their son Alfred was born. That same year, Emil Wendt had to serve a short prison term in Fuhlsbüttel for trading in stolen goods. On 17 Aug. 1921, the family moved to Adlerstrasse 80 (today Scheplerstrasse), a street located in a working-class neighborhood in Altona-Altstadt. The backyard was enclosed with stepped buildings; the Wendts lived there on the third floor of house no. 11 in the so-called Adlerterrasse.

On 20 Aug. 1925, Emil Wendt passed his exam as a master baker before the Chamber of Trades in Altona, working as a master baker since then, his last job being at Harrys Brotfabrik ("Harry’s bread factory”) in Altona-Bahrenfeld. In Mar. 1927, he took his motorcycle driving test. In the summer of 1932, he became unemployed; the economic crisis and the inflation had caused general unemployment to rise dramatically.

In terms of politics, Emil Wendt was on the left; he belonged to the Alliance of Red Front Fighters (Rotfrontkämpferbund – RFB), a paramilitary association of the German Communist Party (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD) banned several times during the Weimar Republic, and he joined the KPD in 1930.

In the summer of 1932, the political crisis of the Weimar Republic deepened. The Nazis relied on street mobilization, with SA units patrolling as so-called "protection troops” ("Schutztruppen”) in the streets. Large-scale promotional rallies were part of Nazi propaganda. Street fighting between the National Socialists and the Communists in the working-class neighborhoods of Altona were the order of the day. In Altona’s historic downtown, a stronghold of the KPD, the "Anti-Fascist Action” ("Antifaschistische Aktion”) and protection units for houses ("Häuserschutzstaffeln”), neighborhood networks of the KPD, opposed Fascism and tried to maintain their influence in the working-class residential areas. Emil Wendt belonged to one of the protection units for houses.

On 17 July 1932, the SA held a huge police-protected rally in Altona that escalated in Altona-Altstadt. By launching brutal assaults on bystanders, SA men provoked bloody clashes. Two members of the Altona SA storm unit 2/31 (Altonaer SA-Sturm 2/31) were shot dead. An additional 16 persons died, some of them apparently through deliberately aimed police bullets, some through ricochet shots fired in the uncontrolled gunfight. It was never possible to establish whether Communist gunmen were involved. This day went down in history as "Altona Bloody Sunday” ("Altonaer Blutsonntag”).

According to the account by Gerd Wendt, the great-grandson of Emil Wendt, family tradition has it that on that Sunday, Emil Wendt had been apprehended by police on Allee [today Max-Brauer-Allee] in front of the building of the Altona Spar- und Bauverein, though initially he was set at liberty again. Arrested once more four months later, on 17 November 1932, he was imprisoned in the Altona pretrial detention facility.

After the Nazis assumed power, 8 May 1933 saw the first trial against 15 defendants before a tribunal specially instituted at the building of the Altona Regional Court (Landgericht). Obviously, the new rulers wished to set a warning example to deter political opponents.

The chief witness of the prosecution against Emil Wendt was Alex Kuhlmann, a KPD party member. During the trial, Emil Wendt prepared a record of the testimony:
"Alex Kuhlmann: … Saturday 16 July at 3 o’clock consultation at the office involving Wendt, Sengespeik, Switalla. At 5 p.m., Wendt came by and put us high alert … Wendt explained to me that the column of the Nazi Party would definitely be broken up. The main dispersal action would take place at Lerchenstrasse and Adolfstrasse. I was also to assemble an armed unit on Dennerstrasse and then fire toward Schauenburgerstrasse. Wendt also explained to me that reinforcements comprised of 30 men from Hamburg would come to Schauenburgerstrasse (this was supposed to be an armed unit posted in [house] no. 12). Like the SA, they had the shoulder straps in their hands. There was no actual shooting at the Nazi Party column. In addition, Wendt instructed me to put glass bottles in the bags and throw them. … Moreover, a meeting took place in the basement of the building at Dennerstrasse. During this meeting, Wendt burnt a letter saying, this cannot get into the wrong hands because it was high treason. I said that this carried a high penalty, to which Wendt replied that a few years in a penitentiary must not deter a proletarian. … The letter that Wendt burnt contained orders concerning the occupation of public buildings, places, and moorings. It also contained the states of alert.”

Before court, Emil Wendt stated that Kuhlmann’s testimony was a pack of lies.

Furthermore, he was also incriminated by the Hamburg sailor Friedrich Baerwardt, whose testimony he recorded as well: "I was in the committee of the Antifa [translator’s note: the Anti-Fascist Action] … He [Wendt] was introduced to me as the technical head of the units, before 17 July.”

Police did not find a firearm on Wendt and it was also impossible to establish whether he had fired any shots. However, the court considered it proven that he, as the technical head of the protection units for houses, had issued the alarm and the order to form a "sharp” ["scharf”] unit, i.e., one equipped with firearms. The press made him up to be the "highest military commander” of the Altona anti-Fascists.

In the 1950s, his son Alfred Wendt stated before the Restitution Office (Amt für Wiedergutmachung) that his father had been involved as a KPD functionary in preparations toward disruptive action against the SA rally but that the protection unit for houses led by his father had not used any weapons. He added that the defendant Kuhlmann had been unreliable, as he kept contradicting himself, being at enmity with his father, and intending particularly to exonerate himself as well.

The passing of the verdict against the 15 defendants took place on 2 June 1933. In the trial, the special court with the Altona Regional Court pronounced four death sentences against Bruno Tesch, August Lütgens, Karl Wolff, and Walter Möller. Other defendants were sentenced to long prison terms. Emil Wendt was sentenced to ten years in prison and loss of his civil rights for ten years on charges of being an accessory to murder of the two SA men in coincidence with aggravated breach of the peace and aggravated sedition (Aufruhr). The period of pretrial detention was calculated against the sentence, thus he faced a term in a penitentiary until 18 Nov. 1942.

After Wendt’s arrest, the family ran into financial straits. Frieda Wendt was also detained for a few days after 30 Jan. 1933, as she was accused of distributing political magazines. Accordingly, she encountered problems with the welfare office. Plain-clothes officers conducted several searches in their apartment. This was one of the reasons why the family moved from Adlerstrasse to Schauenburgerstrasse (today Schomburgstrasse) that same year. However, in Aug. 1934 a house search took place there as well.

After attending the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule), in 1935, aged 14 by then, Alfred Wendt began an apprenticeship with the master mechanic Wilhelm Gössel on Friedensallee. When Gössel learned that his father was in prison, he beat Alfred and picked on him. When his mother called to complain, he threw her out. In 1950, Alfred Wendt described events as follows before the Restitution Office: "In 1937, my master at the time, Willi Gössel, confronted me with the choice of either terminating my apprenticeship or joining a Nazi organization. Since my mother had a hard time getting me trained at all (welfare assistance), I then joined the National Socialist Motor Corps [Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrzeugkorps – N. S. K. K.], resigning from it again after completing my apprenticeship in 1939.” He also described that he was warned and eventually beaten up by storm troop leader Andresen for absences from evening training sessions. The decisive point for Alfred Wendt continued to be, however, that "my father had been put behind bars by these people. It was impossible for me to sympathize with these people.”

Initially, Emil Wendt was detained in the Rendsburg penal institution starting on 14 June 1933. In 1934, he and his lawyer Otto Schmieder explored legal avenues to reopen the case. However, Wendt would have had to prove that another person had been the technical leader of the protection units for houses.

On 21 Jan. 1937, he was committed to the Emsland camps. As early as the summer of 1933, the so-called Emsland camps, the Börgermoor, Esterwegen und Neusustrum concentration camps, had been completed as the "Papenburg State Concentration Camp” and filled with 4,000 prisoners, predominantly politically persecuted persons. The prisoners called themselves the "peat bog soldiers” because they were used to perform hard forced labor in connection with the cultivation of the Emsland peats. Emil Wendt was imprisoned there as a criminal convict in the category of "professional criminal” ("Berufsverbrecher”) in Prison Camp VII in Esterwegen.

In the meantime, his marriage had run into trouble. On 21 July 1936, his wife had given birth to a child from another man, a daughter by the name of Karin Toelle. In 1937, the petition for divorce was underway, but the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht), Altona Section, suspended the divorce for the time being, because the wife wished to visit her husband and because reconciliation seemed possible. Apparently, the petition for divorce was then withdrawn. At the time, Mrs. Wendt lived with her mother, A. Schmitz, at Annenstrasse 35 in Altona (the street no longer exists).

Due to his war wounds, Emil Wendt proved "unfit for the peat” ("moorunfähig”) and was transferred from Papenburg to the Fuhlsbüttel penitentiary on 13 Nov. 1937. The certificate of committal issued by the Hamburg Penal Institutions indicates 16 Nov. 1937.

In Oct. 1939, Wendt himself and his 24-year-old stepdaughter Erika, married by then, filed a petition for clemency: The sentence was to be suspended. The "senior institutional teacher” attested to Wendt’s good conduct, stating that he was family-oriented, even though his relationship to his wife was marred. Wendt, he went on, was "no uprooted human being” and did not want "to abandon himself to Communism” anymore. He added, "The length of the penalty depresses him very much.”

The senior administrative inspector (Verwaltungsoberinspektor) supported a pardon, though for a later date. "Wendt proved himself to be very disciplined and industrious. The years in prison have made him earnest and caused him to mature.” The petition for clemency was repeated in Nov. 1942. By then, Wendt worked as a foreman in the bakery, and he was credited with industry and discipline. However, the pleas were ignored. Emil Wendt stayed in prison.

The end of his term of imprisonment was set for 18 Nov. at 6 p.m. but on the day before, someone noted on the back of his prisoner card, "Remains in the institution for the time being in accordance with the decree by the Reich Ministry [of the Interior].” Since Sept. 1942, all persons sentenced to more than eight years in prison were transferred as "asocials” ("Asoziale”) to concentration camps. Emil Wendt was considered a "ringleader.” Before the Restitution Office, family members described that a fellow prisoner whom the Gestapo had brought to heel testified that Wendt was still an anti-Fascist and that this was the reason why he had not been released at the end of his prison term.

The administrative inspector of the Fuhlsbüttel penitentiary informed the Hamburg Gestapo on 16 Nov. 1942 that Wendt would initially stay in the penitentiary and that he would not be transferred to the Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel police prison. From the Fuhlsbüttel penitentiary, he was transferred to the Rendsburg penal institution on 31 July 1943 and one week later, on 8 Aug. 1943, to the Waldheim penitentiary in Saxony, about 30 kilometers (some 18.5 mi) north of Chemnitz, where many political prisoners were detained.

In early 1943, Emil Wendt had already complained about stomach trouble. In Dec. 1943, four months after his transfer to Waldheim, the institutional physician certified that he had a tumor in the gastro-intestinal tract. Emil Wendt was transferred to the invalids’ ward. The relationship to his wife, who had been living on Weidenallee in Hamburg since Oct. 1940, was still tense. Apparently, he maintained regular correspondence with his daughter-in-law Elfriede Wendt, who raised her sons, Gerhard and newborn Horst Emil, by herself at the time; her husband, Alfred Wendt, was stationed as a soldier in France. In a letter from Emil Wendt from the Fuhlsbüttel penitentiary dated 9 May 1943, his trust in her becomes clear: "Well, this is the way it is, I am a convict and thus I can be judged, but I know that you don’t take much exception to it.”

On 15 Feb. 1944, the wife and daughter-in-law both came to visit. Frieda Wendt talked to the doctor. She also documented that she herself was a victim of bombing. Both women asked for his release. However, all attempts to have the seriously ill Emil Wendt released failed.

The patient form kept as of 1 Oct. 1944 contained a note that Emil Wendt was suffering from diarrhea. A note dated 3 October indicated, "Wendt is so seriously ill that he will not live much longer,” on 4 October that he was "progressively frail.” He was administered opium and "cholera drops.” On 12 October, a "substantial deterioration” was diagnosed. By then, Emil Wendt received Phenobarbital (Luminal), a sleep-inducing and analgesic medication, twice a day and as of 19 October three times a day in 0.3-gram doses. On 19 October, he had a visit one more time. On 21 October, he was administered "Luminal 20 %-1.0 s. c.” and "Luminal 0.3 Jodkali [potassium iodide] 20 %-1.0 s.c.,” i.e., directly into the tissue under his skin. On 26 Oct. 1944, the entry in the patient file read, "exitus letalis” at 7 a.m. Emil Wendt had died. The patient file does not contain a clinical diagnosis. The death certificate issued by the Waldheim penitentiary indicated as cause of death "cancer of the pylorus.”

Gerd Wendt, Emil Wendt’s great-grandson, recalls that in his childhood grandmother Elfriede told him with tears, "Granddad was starved to death.” The long prison term and, respectively, the extension of detention beyond the end of the sentence, the prison conditions, and the medical care provided only inadequately in the Waldheim penitentiary had resulted in his death.

One can also not rule out that in the prison hospital, Luminal was used for specific killing of prisoners not fit for work. Located adjacent to the "Waldheim” penitentiary was the "Waldheim” mental institution, which did not belong to the prison but was located on its premises. During the Nazi period, mentally ill or mentally disabled criminals were killed in the ward using the "Luminal scheme.” A slight overdosing of this sleep-inducing and analgesic medication caused patients weakened to begin with to die inconspicuously. Between 1940 and 1945, more than 800 patients perished, probably by a combination of starving and lethal administration of drugs.

One year later, Emil Wendt’s urn was buried in Döbeln/Saxony and in 1953, it was taken to Ohlsdorf Cemetery in Hamburg on the initiative of the "Association of [Political] Persecutees of the Nazi Regime” (Vereinigung der [politisch] Verfolgten des Naziregimes – VVN). In 2013, Emil Wendt received a symbolic grave there in the Memorial Grove for Hamburg Resistance Fighters (Ehrenhain der Hamburger Widerstandskämpfer).

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

Stand: April 2018
© Birgit Gewehr, auf Grundlage der Recherchen von Gerd Wendt (Urenkel)

Quellen: StaH 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, 13033 (Erbengemeinschaft Wendt); StaH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferung 13 (Strafhaftzeiten); Sächsisches Staatsarchiv, Staatsarchiv Leipzig, Bestand 20036 Zuchthaus Waldheim, M 43115; KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme, handgeschriebenes Protokoll von Emil Wendt vom Prozess Altonaer Sondergericht 8.5-2.6.1933; Breloer, Blutgeld, S. 51-54; Jachertz, Die Waldheim-Story; Gespräch mit Gerd Wendt, 11.7.2013.

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