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Wilhelm Witzel * 1895

Friedensallee 94 (Altona, Ottensen)

JG. 1895
VERHAFTET 20.11.1943

Wilhelm Ludwig Adolf Witzel, born 24.12.1895, arrested 20.11.1943, executed 28.3.1944 in Holstenglacis remand prison

Friedensallee 94, Altona

Wilhelm Ludwig Adolf Witzel was born in Nordhausen on December 24, 1895, as the child of Louis Wilhelm and Minna Margaretha Witzel, née Kurzer. His parents had married in Altona on February 7, 1891. His father worked as a machine operator at the Blunk paper factory in Altona.

Wilhelm Witzel was the only natural child of his parents, but grew up together with several foster children whom his parents looked after for the Youth Welfare Office in Hamburg. Wilhelm Witzel finished elementary school early in Altona in 1909. He then worked in the shipyard without ever having completed an apprenticeship. He was a Lutheran.

He was drafted in 1915 into Infantry Regiment 31 in Altona for the Customs Border Guard. He did his war service on the Western Front and then was discharged as a musketeer in 1918. (The musketeers were a branch of the infantry that had originally been armed with muskets).

After WWI, he worked for various companies, including Kiesler & Wesseloh, Allgemeine Transport A.G., in long-distance port transport, and then for five years in long-distance freight transport as a driver of tractor-trailers. A driver's license was not yet required at this time.

On June 16, 1923, he married Martha Henriette, née Raulfs, born on December 13, 1898, in Hamm, Westphalia. Her parents were the innkeeper Heinrich and Christine Raulfs, née Bade. Martha Raulfs had attended elementary school in Altona and then worked as a cleaning lady. She also helped her father in the inn. She had been married in her first marriage to Peter Robert Hinrich von Bergen (born July 22, 1889), from whom she had divorced on April 9, 1921.

From 1916 to 1923, Wilhelm and Martha Witzel lived at Große Brunnenstraße 68 in Altona, then in 1934 they moved to an apartment at Carl-Theodor-Straße 10. From 1935, the address was Friedensallee 94, because they were now living in the basement of the HJ home for which they had been assigned as caretakers. In return for this work, the Office for Sports and Youth Care in Altona offered them rent-free living and let them use the heating material at a lower price.

Wilhelm Witzel's parents lived in the immediate neighborhood, which benefited both Wilhelm Witzel when he stayed there during his frequent quarrels with his wife and his parents when they needed assistance in dealing with authorities.

At the beginning of 1939, Wilhelm Witzel passed his class 2 driver's license test and then worked as a long-distance truck driver. With the beginning of the WWII he was classified as indispensable. That is, he was considered a skilled worker who was not drafted into the Wehrmacht because he performed "Reich defense duties in the war economy of transportation or administration" in accordance with Section 5 (2) of the law (Wehrgesetz), i.e. Wilhelm Witzel was not drafted because of his work as a caretaker of the HJ home.

From 1940 to 1943, Wilhelm Witzel was employed as a driver for the Organisation Todt. He transported documents of the NSDAP that could not be sent by mail. (The Organisation Todt was actually a paramilitary construction group in National Socialist Germany and the occupied territories, which was subordinate to the Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition from March 1940).

Wilhelm Witzel was deployed to Russia until March 1943, where he contracted the infectious disease Q-fever, also known as Wool Hygiene fever, and was therefore transferred to Hamburg. (This bacterial disease is transmitted to humans through contact with cattle, sheep, goats, or dogs, e.g., by ticks).

Apparently recovered, he took a job as a long-distance truck driver for the Karl Arndt company in May 1943, which he filled until he and his wife were arrested for "plunder" on November 20, 1943.

What had happened? During the air raids on Hamburg on July 25, 1943, a bomb destroyed a house at Friedensallee 107 at night. Its occupants salvaged their household goods, which they took out into the street. They were still there the following day. Wilhelm Witzel, who as caretaker of the HJ-home had been responsible for the objects from the surrounding houses that had been destroyed by "enemy action," stored the objects in his cellar.

In the meantime, two of the bombed-out people were looking for their furniture and valuables, which they thought had been stolen. They filed a complaint. One of them had asked Martha Witzel if she had taken any jewelry. These had been in a buffet cupboard, which had stood on the street. Martha Witzel had answered no.

After a complaint was filed, the police conducted a house search at the Witzel couple's home on November 20, 1943. There, detectives seized parts of valuables, including a wedding ring and a wristwatch, which one of the two bombed-out victims recognized as her property. The other recognized one of her bed covers.

Police also came across a suitcase containing cutlery, jewelry, clothing, a rapier and a folder of documents. The Witzel couple had deposited further furniture, including a complete bedroom, tables and cupboards, in the cellar. Food and spirits were also there, still carrying dust residues from the bomb explosion.

Martha Witzel was provisionally arrested on November 20, 1943 for complicity and danger of collusion and transferred to the Hütten police station. On November 21, 1943, she stated for the record: "I would like to emphasize that I had nothing to do with the whole affair. The things found in our apartment were brought to us by my husband alone. I did not help with it. I certainly can't give any further information on the matter."

Two officers from the Justice Investigation Squad were now posted in front of the Witzel couple's apartment to wait for Wilhelm Witzel to return. He appeared the next day, November 23, 1943, and was immediately taken to the police station. Wilhelm Witzel testified that about 15 - 20 people had instructed him to deposit their furniture in his cellar. The residents would then gradually retrieve their belongings.

On November 27, 1943, Wilhelm Witzel asked for a two-day detention break so that he could organize the care of his animals. He wanted to hand over his 18 chickens and rabbits to the military hospital, because he feared that they might otherwise starve to death. He also wanted to return the guinea pigs he had taken over for breeding purposes.

On December 3, 1943, Wilhelm Witzel stated for the record that he had witnessed the night of the attack from July 24 to July 25, 1943, at home. There had been no serious damage to the house. The apartment of his (foster) sister Martha Risch had been completely burned out. Martha Risch, some French prisoners and several neighbors, whose apartments had also been damaged, had carried things into his basement apartment. One by one, the persons concerned would have taken them away again. As for the jewelry, he stated that if no one came forward, he would have kept it. He continued that he and his wife had had special advantages due to their party membership in the NSDAP (neither of them are listed in the NSDAP membership file), and that they owed both the position as caretaker and his work for the Todt organization to this. The prosecution called seven witnesses against Wilhelm Witzel, including a criminal inspector Joost, who was related to two of the witnesses.

Wilhelm Witzel was sentenced to death for plunder by the Special Court (Sondergericht) on February 22, 1944. Martha Witzel received a sentence of 2 1/2 years, which she was to serve in the Dreibergen women's prison in Bützow. (Her release took place on December 17, 1944).

On March 8, 1944, the lawyer W. Butenschön asked the special court in advance to release Wilhelm Witzel's body after the execution so that it could be buried: "The parents had already lost a foster son in the First World War. In July 1943, two more foster sons and a foster daughter died in the bombings. Wilhelm Witzel was the last son they had left. Since Wilhelm Witzel's condemnation, his parents had become completely broken and partially bedridden. They wanted at least to be able to visit his grave later."

On March 20, 1944, the Reich Minister of Justice ordered that Wilhelm Witzel's execution be carried out with "the greatest possible speed." It was assigned to executioner Hehr. He executed him in the Criminal Justice Building on March 28, 1944 at 4:00 p.m. with the guillotine.

The firm of Lütcke & Wulff was commissioned to print notices announcing the execution, as was customary at the time.

Wilhelm Witzel was buried on April 3, 1944 at the main cemetery in Altona in grave 29.XIV.2.201.

On August 24, 1950, Martha Witzel submitted an application for recognition of a widow's pension to the Landesversicherungsanstalt. The pension payment was refused.

Martha Witzel, married to Jürgen August Karl Habermann since December 23, 1952, again instructed a lawyer on August 1, 1953, to apply for a pension on her behalf, because the arrest of her former husband had been for political reasons. Again the pension was refused. Martha Habermann died on January 12, 1989.

Translation by Beate Meyer
Stand: February 2022
© Bärbel Klein

Quellen: StaH, 213-11_69701; 242-1 II_Ablieferung 4, Nr. 84, 351-11_20711; 424-15_657; 332-5_161/1989; 332-5_97/1918; 332-5_88/1891; 332-5_608/1921; 332-5_658/1023; 332-5_193/1944; 332-5_22/1952; 741-4_K2386; 741-4_K4585; 741-4_5377; 741-4_7192; 741-4_K2374; Unterlagen vom Hauptfriedhof Altona;

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