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Christoph Bever * 1860
Karl-Theodor-Straße 5 (Altona, Ottensen)
’HEIL- UND PFLEGEANSTALT’
Johann Friedrich Christoph Bever, born on 1 Mar. 1860 in Schwansee/Mecklenburg, died on 29 Apr. 1943 in the Langenhorn "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt”
Christoph Bever, born in 1860 in Schwansee, District of Wismar/Mecklenburg, ranks among the oldest victims of the persecution of homosexuals in Hamburg. He was the youngest child of the farmer Johann Bever and his wife Margarethe, née Qualmann, and grew up in modest circumstances. He probably had eight siblings, including three half-siblings. His father passed away in the year of his birth; his mother reached more than 90 years of age.
Until age 14, he attended the village school in Schwansee, and subsequently, until he was 20 years old, he worked as a farmhand in Mecklenburg. He did not learn a trade. Starting in 1880, he lived in Hamburg and Altona, no longer maintaining any contact to his family since then. Initially, he found only casual employment as, among other things, a bricklayer; later he got a job at the Blohm & Voss shipyard and with the Maschinenfabrik Menck & Hambrock engineering works. In about 1890, he sustained a burn to the left eye, as a result of which he did not fight in World War I. Since 1914 until his retirement in 1926, he worked as a street cleaner in Altona.
Christoph Bever never got married, though according to his own information dating from 1941, he had sexual relationships with many women over the course of his life. However, this may have been a self-serving declaration, because since 1937, he was under police observation and before court due to homosexual contacts.
For the first time, Altona police committed him to the Altona court prison on 14 May 1937, at the age of 77, on charges of sexual acts. In the course of criminal proceedings, the Hamburg-Altona court of lay assessors (Schöffengericht) sentenced him on 5 July 1937 to five months in prison due to "continued unnatural sexual offenses [widernatürliche Unzucht]” in accordance with Sec. 175 [of the Reich Criminal Code]. This penalty was considered as served by 20 Oct. 1937.
On 10 Jan. 1941, the Hamburg District Court (Amtsgericht) sentenced him a second time for "continued sexual offenses” with a 20-year-old man in accordance with Sec. 175, this time to three months in prison, though the sentence was suspended. The court was of the opinion that in the case of the accused there was "a certain degree of diminished capacity due to senility.” In July of the same year, Christoph Bever was recognized by an adolescent office messenger, who himself faced pending criminal proceedings for working as a male prostitute, in the photograph card file of the 24th Office of the Criminal Investigation Department (24. Kriminalkommissariat), a section responsible for investigating "homosexual offenses.” When interrogated by the criminal investigation department, Christoph Bever confessed that homosexual contacts had taken place between the two in the public washrooms on Blumenstrasse and on Fischmarkt in Altona. As result, despite his advanced age, he was taken into custody at the Hamburg-Stadt pretrial detention center on 26 July 1941. During the proceedings, it turned out that the man, by then 81 years of age, suffered from early dementia and that in his case, the preconditions of Sec. 51 of the Reich Criminal Code (Reichsstrafgesetzbuch – RStGB) applied, i.e., that he had to be deemed "incompetent [unzurechnungsfähig]” with respect to his "deeds.” The expert’s report by the forensic pathologist was prepared by Senior Medical Officer (Obermedizinalrat) Hans Koopmann, who in this case too came up with stereotypical formulations: "Consequently, B. is a personality driven by physical urges, uncritical, feebleminded in senility, with a tendency to homosexual acts. He has completely lost the ability to steer his sexual drives. … The criminal-biological [kriminalbiologische] prognosis is definitely unfavorable. … Therefore, protective measures are absolutely necessary.” In contrast to this, Christoph Bever’s last landlady described him as a "very solid man, extremely well-liked in the entire house,” who had always "conducted himself very properly” and had "not attracted anyone’s attention at all in terms of sexuality.” However, on 10 Dec. 1941 the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht), presided over by Judge Adolph Gernet, followed Koopmann’s expert’s report and sentenced Christoph Bever, despite contradictory testimony and the established dementia, for "unnatural sexual offenses” in the state of "incompetency” ("Zurechnungsunfähigkeit”) to admission according to Sec. 42b of the RStGB to a "sanatorium and nursing home [Heil- und Pflegeanstalt]”.
On 16 Sept. 1941, his committal from the pretrial detention facility to the Langenhorn "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt” was put on record. Nursing staff noted in Oct. 1941: "Pat[ient]. … orderly and calm, always in a good mood, and hoping for release soon.” From 4 until 13 May 1942, Bever was transferred one more time to the pretrial detention center on Holstenglacis, possibly for a medical examination in the central prison hospital. Before his first appointment regarding review of the admission in Nov. 1944, Christoph Bever passed away at Langenhorn on 29 Apr. 1943 at the age of 83. The official cause of death was "carcinoma ventric[uli],” i.e., gastric cancer.
In front of the house of his last landlady at Karl-Theodor-Strasse 5 in Ottensen, a Stolperstein commemorates the history of his persecution.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: April 2018
© Bernhard Rosenkranz (†)/Ulf Bollmann
Quellen: StaH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 1036/42; StaH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferungen 13 und 1998/1; StaH 352-8/7 Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn, Ablieferung 1995/2, 29003; Rosenkranz/Bollmann/Lorenz, Homosexuellen-Verfolgung, S. 60–61, 200.