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Adolf Biedermann
© Maren Münchow

Adolf Biedermann * 1881

Jarrestraße 27 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)

JG. 1881
TOT 11.5.1933

Adolf Albert Bertram Biedermann, was born on 30.3.1881 in Hamburg, and found dead near Recklinghausen on 11.5.1933 after falling from the night train from Köln-Hamburg. The reason for the fall was never determined.

Adolf Biedermann entered the world on 30.3.1881 at Eppendorfer Weg 12 in Eimsbüttel . He was the son of a master painter Alfons Adolf Arthur Biedermann (born on 21.12.1845 in Kempen) and his wife Adele Sophie Louise, nee Gehrz (born on 7.8.1863 in Hamburg).

When his father died on 10 July 1888 from appendicitis Adolf’s mother could not support him and his brothers and sisters. On 21 November 1888 Adolf and his brothers Bruno (born 24.10.1886) and Paul (born 6.3.1888) were put into the care of the orphanage on Averhoff Stree. Their brother Alfons (born 17.11.1883) followed them on 5 December 1888. The siblings Arthur (born 15.9.1882) and Bertha (born 24.9.1885) continued to live with their mother in Block 3, 36 Schäferkamp. Adele Biedermann trained as a midwife. As a result she was able to have her sons, Bruno and Paul, returned to her on 1 April 1893.

The Guardianship Court approved the "care” of the children after Adele Biedermann as well as her fiancé Franz Otto Wilhelm Bushow,, a carpenter’s journey, had been thoroughly checked by the police authorities. The sons, Alfons and Adolf were not permitted at this juncture to return to their mother. After they had married, Franz Bushcow asked the orphanage to release his step-son Alfons on the day that Alfons’ brother, Adolf, took confirmation., 7 April 1895. This was intended to be a surprise for his wife.

Adolf Biedermann finished the Volksschule or elementay school and completed in Eckernförde from 17 April 1895 to 1899 an apprenticeship as a metal worker and mechanic. He was then given his certificate as a journeyman. After a short period with his teacher he travalled in Germany and overseas and became a union member. Between October 1901 and September 1903 he did his military service in the 4th Company of the von Manstein Infantry Regiment.

In 1903 Adolf Biedermann settled again in Hamburg. On 1 October 1904 he married Clara Julia Sternberg, who had been in the same orphanage as him.

She was born on 8.2.1881 in Barmstedt, District of Pinneberg. Her parents were the skipper and later beer merchant, Johann Julius Peter Sternberg, who was born 13.1.1839 in Kiel, and Johanna Elisabeth Josephine, nee Gade, born on 5.6.1846 in Hamburg. A widower, Johann Sternberg, brought to his marriage in 1878, two children: Ferdinand (born 1870) and Wilhelm (born 1875). When he died on 30 August 1890 from a heart attack the children remained with their step mother, who earned money by giving piano lessons. The brothers and sisters, Julius (born 1882), Elisabeth (born 1883), Theodor (born 1885), Friedrich (born1886) and Robert (born 1889) were put into the orphanage on 1 October 1890. Special permission had to be obtained so that Elsa (born 1879) and Clara could be cared there from 15 October 1890 as the regulations only allowed widows to put half their children into orphanages. From 1895 Clara entered "service” in domestic households.

When he married Adolf Biedermann lived at Winterhuder Weg 2a. He then moved with his wife to Schmalenbekerstraße 25, Barmbek, where the family lived until 1913. The son, Helmut Adolf Arthur Franz was born on 6.3.1905. The daughter Adele Hildegard Elisabeth was born on 3.2.1907 and on 7.11.1909 Gertrud Berta Elsa. Two other children died young. Between 1914 and 1929 the family lived at 11 Flurstraße 11, today named Saarlandstraße. Adolf Biedermann worked for a machine building company. He joined the SPD in 1907.

On 11 September 1908 Adolf Biedermann took the Hamburg Citizen’s Oath. In doing he obtained the right to vote and to be elected in Hamburg. The then constitution guaranteed male citizens of Hamburg with good incomes the majority.

Adolf Biedermann was an active member of the SPD and the Deutschen Metallarbeiterverbandes [German Metal Workers’ Union](DMV). Between 1912 to 1914 he was the SPD District Leader for Barmbek and from 1914 to 1919 he was chairman of the Barmbek District SPD. He was, at first, a work shop delegate for the DMV and later active in the Hamburg District Office. He had the reputation of being a good speaker and wrote articles for the "Hamburger Echo" and the metal workers’ paper. While doing all of this he continued his education. He completed 12 semesters studying history under the auspices of the workers’ education programme as well as studying economics. He was allowed to attend general lectures at the University of Hamburg. In 1914 he was admitted to the SPD Party School in Berlin. He was not able to attend as the First World War began.

In August 1914 Adolf Biedermann was called up to the army. He was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class on 18 September 1916. He had the rank of a Deputy Sergeant in the 4th Company of the 84th Reserve Infantry Regiment. He served at the front as a non-commissioned officer until 1917. He was then transferred to a Field Recruitment Depot. In 1918 muntineering soldiers elected him as chairman of his unit’s Soldier’s Council.

On 3 November 1918 rumours circulated in Hamburg of a sailors’ revolt in Kiel. In the night of 5 / 6 November armed rebellion broke out in Hamburg. It was started by sailors who were in transit on the the way to Kiel. Torpedo boats anchored in the harbour were seized without any resistance; the Elb Tunnel was occupied. A Provisional Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council was formed, which was recognised by the Hamburg Senate on 6 November. On 18 November the Executive of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council was elected, which in turn made preparations for the election of a citizens’ council for 16 March 1919. The council would have the power to make a constitution. The SPD won the majority with 50.5% of the vote; the USPD received only 8.1% of the vote (the newly formed KPD did not contest the elections). The Workers’ Council, which was dominated by the SPD, and which, from on limited its activities to economic matters, transferred political power on 26 March 1919 to the citizens’ council, which had been elected by secret ballot in a free and equal election. Adolf Biedermann was a member of the citizens’ council.

He returned to Hamburg on 15 December 1918, working at first in the Labour Office. In February 1919 the SPD appointed him Party Secretary and in March 1919 he began his duties as a deputy. He was also a member of the Authority for the Public Youth Welfare, the Administrative Court and the Childrens’ Office. Between October 1919 and 1925 he was head of the Hamburg and Bremen State Offices of the "Reichszentrale für den Heimatdienst", the forerunner of the Landeszentralen für politische Bildung (State Authority for Political Education).

On 27 January 1922 administered the oath of allegiance to the Hamburg public servants. From May 1924 he was a member of the District Committee of the non-party "Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold; Bund Deutscher Kriegsteilnehmer und Republikaner", which was founded in February 1924. It established in 1929 the so-called Schufos (Schutzformationen), to protect Social Democratic events from being disturbed and attacked by the Communists and National Socialists.

In November 1926 Adolf Biedermann became a Social Democrat deputy in the Reichstage and resigned as a Hamburg deputy so that he could devote all of his time to his work in Berlin. He was a member of the right wing of the SPD and was highly regarded by the conservatives. Press reports from 1926 in Hamburg provide confirmation of his reputation. Matthias Loose compiled them for the SPD City Paper the following: "Not only has the "Hamburger Echo” praised Biedermann but the conservative press as well. The "Hamburger Stimmen” describes him as one of the "more positive members” in the Council, and has a leading role in a number of committees and who has constantly argued for co-operation between with the two conservative parties in the government coalition in Hamburg ."

Adolf Biedermann recognised the danger from the right. He emphasised in a speech on 28 September 1930 that the SPD must act responsibly in the government during emergencies in the Republic.

In 1930 he moved with his family into an apartment at 27 Jarrestraße 27. The newly built area between Wiesendamm and Barmbek Straße was soon called "Jarrestadt".

Adolf Biedermann was re-elected by Hamburgers to the Reichstag on 5 March 1933. On 23 March he courageously voted "No” to Hitler’s "Ermächtigungsgesetz", which shifted the responsibility for passing laws from the Parliament to the Reich Government. At this point the Communists were either being hunted down or had been arrested. Of the SPD only 94 deputies were present, the remainder having been arrested. The Parliament, which assembled in the Berlin Kroll Opera House, was "protected” by the SA.

On the night of 10-11 May 1933 Adolf Biedermann fell from the sleeping car of the night train 91 between Köln and Hamburg. He was returning from Bonn. His body was found close to Recklinghausen next to the railway tracks. He was wearing only his trousers and a vest. His shoes, luggage and the rest of his clothes were later found in his compartment. There were much speculation about the cause of his death: murdered by the SA, suicide, an accident…....

What really occurred was never explained. Adolf Biedermann died at a time when many of his friends and acquaintances were being held in the newly established concentration camps. According to statements by friends he returned from the sitting of the Berlin Reichstage in a very depressed mood to Hamburg. When he arrived at Bonn he was given the news about the arrests and the seizure of the property of the SPD and the Reichsbanner.

His son-in-law, the medical practitioner Dr. Paul Lichtenstein, examined the body in Recklinghausen. He came to the conclusion that Adolf Biedermann had been murdered, as the injuries did not support an accident. However, there was no official autopsy. His widow, Clara Biedermann, for commercial reasons, argued that there had been an accident against the Reichsbahn. If she had not the insurers would not have paid the insurance money.

The Hamm Superior State Court stated the following in its judgement on 21 July 1934: "The Senate regards it as improbable that the claimant’s husband fell out of the compartment’s window, and in particular that he fell out with a view to committing suicide. There are no circumstances which conclusively point in the direction of suicide. The complainant’s husband was returning from Bonn to Hamburg and his family. [...]The complainant’s husband was an experience traveller on the railways and there are no particular grounds suggesting negligence."

Several thousand citizens in Hamburg honoured the popular Adolf Biedermann at a ceremony at the Ohlsdorf Cemetery, silently demonstrating against the National Socialists. In 1933 the National Socialists removed his tomb stone which was inscribed with the words "A Fighter for Freedom and Socialism” ("Ein Kämpfer für Freiheit und Sozialismus"). Photos of the same would later serve as a receipt from the illegal SPD whereby the dates on the stone corresponded with the contributions made. On 10 May 1934, Himmelfahrtstag, the Social Democrats assembled again at his grave (some sources speak of hundreds, others of thousands), despite strict surveillance. Due the nature of the day it was not possible to prevent visits to the cemetery.

Paul Hellmuth Lichtenstein, who was born on 27.2.1894 in Neuwied, had married Adolf Biedermann’s daughter Hildegard. From 1922 he had worked as a practising doctor and obstetrician in Hamburg. He operated a private medical practice (Kassen-, Wohlfahrts- und Privatpraxis) at first at 19 Mühlenkamp and from 1927 to 1929 at 3 Mühlenkamp. When his rooms became too small he moved, in 1930, to 22 Barmbek Straße 22, where he aquired three new apartments. It was here that he set up his home and practice.

Paul Lichtenstein was of Jewish origin, a speaker for the SPD and the Chief Medical Officer for the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold. In February, he and his brother-in-law, the law graduate Helmut Biedermann, were arrested for a short period of time. Friends warned him after that of a renewed threat of arrest. He immediately went to his parents in Bonn and from there fled to Paris.

At the end of October 1933 Paul Lichtenstein travelled to New York on a visitor’s visa so as to seek permission to emigrate. Hildegard Lichtenstein also fled to Paris. Her husband returned there one more time in February 1934 and both then immigrated after receipt of their travel papers on the ship "Manhattan” travelling from Le Havre to New York. They were naturalised as Americans in October 1939 and shortly thereafter changed their surnames to Le Paige.

Adolf Biedermann’s daughter, Elsa, joined the SPD in 1927. She lost her job as a saleswoman at the Hamburger Echo in 1933 as the Social Democrat paper was no longer allowed to be published. She married on 4 July 1935 the lawyer Friedrich Kreye who was born on 2.1.1908. Their son, Peter, was born on 12.9.1936 and their son Niels followed on 18.5.1942. Friedrich Kreye, who was also active in the SPD Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold, was imprisoned from 1938 to 1940 for preparing to commit high treason the camp at Schölpermoor (near Neumünster) and the Police Prison Fuhlsbüttel. He had been denounce for financially supporting the parents of one of his comrades in the Reichsbanner. The conviction meant that he lost his rights as a citizen, his right to practise as a lawyer and to serve in the army. Friedrich Kreye again lost the right to serve in the army in November 1942 and sent to the Punishment Division( Bewährungsbatallion Division) 999 in Africa. He died on 28 November 1943 in Marocco while a French prisoner-of-war from a gastric infection. He is buried there.

A memorial plaque in honour of Adolf Biedermann is to be found on the house at the corner of Jarrestraße/Jean-Paul-Weg and Biedermannplatz in Barmbek-Süd, which is named after him. As with other Reich deputies murdered by the National Socialists there is a slate plaque with his name on the former Reichstag, today Federal Parliament House.

Translator: Dr. Stephen Pallavicini

© Maike Bruchmann

Quellen: AfW 080281; AfW 270294; AfW 071109; Frank Müller (Hrsg.), Mitglieder der Bürgerschaft, Opfer totalitärer Verfolgung, Hamburg 1995, S. 19–20; (eingesehen am 25.1.2006); Arbeitsgemeinschaft ehemals verfolgter Sozialdemokraten (AvS) (Hrsg.), Wegweiser zu den Stätten von Verfolgung und sozialdemokratischem Widerstand in Hamburg, Teil I: Die innere Stadt, Hamburg 2005, S. 7–8; Matthias Loose, Adolf Biedermanns Schicksal, in: unsere jarrestadt, Stadtteilzeitung der SPD-Jarrestadt (Hrsg.), Mai 1993, S. 1–3; Matthias Loose, Was wissen wir heute vom Leben Adolf Biedermanns?, in: unsere jarrestadt, Stadtteilzeitung der SPD-Jarrestadt (Hrsg.), S. 2–3; Matthias Loose, Das politische Wirken Adolf Biedermanns, in: unsere jarrestadt, Stadtteilzeitung der SPD-Jarrestadt (Hrsg.), S. 4; (eingesehen am 04.12.2005); Informationen und Dokumente aus dem Privatbesitz von Maren Münchow (Lehrbrief, Arbeitszeugnis, Bürgereid, Militärpass, Diensteid); Personenstandsbuch Standesamt Eimsbüttel, Geburtsurkunde Nr. 1182/1881; BallinStadt, am 01.12.2007; Amtliche Fernsprechbücher Hamburg 1912–1940; AB 1903–1908, 1913, 1914, 1920, 1925, 1929, 1930; Heinrich Erdmann, Der "Wahlrechtsraub" von 1906 als Traditionsbruch. Zum Verhältnis von Senat und Bür- gerschaft nach den Verfassungen von 1860 und 1879, 1906, 1919, in: Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Hamburg (Hrsg.), Hamburg im ersten Viertel des 20. Jahrhunderts: die Zeit des Politikers Otto Stolten, Hamburg 2000, S. 31–41; Richard Evans, Der "rote Mittwoch", aaO, S. 57, 58; Volker Ullrich, Weltkrieg und Novemberrevolution: Die Hamburger Arbeiterbewegung 1914 bis 1918, aaO, S. 117–121; Ursula Büttner, Errichtung und Zerstörung der Demokratie in Hamburg: Freie Gewerkschaften, Senatsparteien und NSDAP im Kampf um die Weimarer Republik, Hamburg 1998, S. 11–21, 35, 72; Andreas Klaus, Gewalt und Widerstand in Hamburg-Nord während der NS-Zeit, Hamburg 1986, S. 81, 83; Bernd Jürgen Wendt, Das Nationalsozialistische Deutschland, Opladen 2000, S. 38–40; politische_Bildung, am 16.03.2008; StaHH: 354-1 Waisenhaus IV. Die Waisenkinder, daraus: A.I., B.IV.1., C.I.7.a., C.I.9.b., C.II.3. 1888-45-47, C.II.3. 1888-52, C.II.3. 1890-37, C.II.3. 1890-38, C.II.3. 1890-44, C.II.3. 1890-45, C.II.3.c., C.II.4.x., Schreiben Standesamt Hamburg-Barmbek/Uhlenhorst v. 29.07.2008.

Adolf Biedermann MdHB

Adolf Biedermann wurde am 30. März 1881 in Hamburg als Sohn des Malers Arthur Biedermann geboren. Er verlor bereits im Kindesalter seine Eltern und wurde ab 1888 in einem Hamburger Waisenhaus erzogen.

1895 verließ er nach achtjähriger Schulzeit die Hauptschule, um in Eckernförde eine fünfjährige Schlosser- und Mechanikerlehre zu absolvieren. Montagereisen führten den jungen Gesellen anschließend an verschiedene Orte im In- und Ausland. 1901 leistete Biedermann seinen Militärdienst ab und ließ sich anschließend in Hamburg nieder – damit hatten seine Wanderjahre ein Ende gefunden. Mit einer früheren Schulfreundin gründete er eine Familie, beruflich etablierte er sich in einer Hamburger Maschinenbaufirma.

Biedermanns politische Heimat war die SPD, seine gewerkschaftliche der "Deutsche Metallarbeiterverband" (DMV). Die Arbeit in Gewerkschaft und Partei verschmolz für Biedermann zu einer Einheit: für die SPD leitete er den Distrikt Barmbek, für die Metaller übernahm er nach einigen Jahren als Werkstattdelegierter die Hamburger Bezirksführung.

Biedermann machte sich schon bald als Redner und im "Hamburger Echo" sowie in der Metallarbeiterzeitung auch als Redakteur einen Namen. Daneben besuchte er Kurse im Arbeiterbildungswesen und Allgemeinen Vorlesungswesen – u.a. zwölf Semester Geschichte und Nationalökonomie. 1914 folgte die Zulassung für die SPD-Parteischule in Berlin.

Mit Beginn des Ersten Weltkrieges wurde die so angebahnte Parteikarriere vorerst beendet: Im August 1914 erfolgte die Einberufung des Reservisten Biedermann zum Heeresdienst. Bis 1917 war er als Unteroffizier an der Front, wurde dann in ein Feldrekrutendepot versetzt, wo ihn seine Kameraden im November 1918 zum Vorsitzenden des Soldatenrates wählten. Nach Kriegsende kehrte er nach Hamburg zurück und fand eine Anstellung beim Arbeitsamt.

In der Hansestadt gehörte Biedermann zu den Politikern, die hier den Übergang zu demokratischen Verhältnissen in der neu gegründeten Republik auf den Weg brachten und vollendeten.

Bei den ersten Bürgerschaftswahlen nach dem Krieg 1919 wurde er, der inzwischen SPD-Parteisekretär geworden war, in die Bürgerschaft gewählt. Seine langjährige Abgeordnetentätigkeit im Hamburger Landesparlament erstreckte sich auf viele unterschiedliche Felder. Er wurde u.a. zum Mitglied der Behörde für öffentliche Jugendfürsorge, des Verwaltungsgerichts und des Jugendamtes bestellt, war tätig im "Eingabenausschuß" und in der "Vertrauenskommission für die Groß-Hamburgfrage".

Weitere Ämter kamen hinzu: Seit Oktober 1919 leitete er die "Reichszentrale für den Heimatdienst" in Hamburg, im Mai 1924 kam er zusammen mit Theodor Haubach in den Bezirksvorstand des neugegründeten "Reichsbanners Schwarz-Rot-Gold". Als am 31. Oktober 1926 der Hamburger Reichstagsabgeordnete Fritz Paeplow sein Mandat niederlegte, rückte Adolf Biedermann nach und wirkte fortan in der Sozialdemokra-tischen Reichstagsfraktion. Sein Hamburger Abgeordnetenmandat legte er 1927 nieder, um sich ganz seinen Verpflichtungen in Berlin widmen zu können.

Adolf Biedermann zählte zum rechten Flügel der SPD-Reichstagsfraktion. Er war ein zäher Befürworter einer Regierungsbeteiligung der SPD auf Reichsebene und bezog wiederholt Stellung gegen den Flügel seiner Partei, der eine Zusammenarbeit mit den bürgerlichen Parteien ablehnte. Aber genau hierin sah Biedermann die Chance, sozialdemokratische Inhalte politisch umzusetzen. Für ihn lag politisches Handelns nicht allein in der Parteidoktrin:

"Oppositionelles Fensterscheibenwerfen" werde – so Biedermann im April 1930 vor einer Versammlung von Betriebsvertauensleuten – den Interessen der SPD-Wähler nicht gerecht; vielmehr sei es notwendig, "unter höheren Gesichtspunkten auch Unangenehmes, nicht immer mit der Theorie Übereinstimmendes" hinzunehmen. Kritisch betrachtete Biedermann im März 1930 die starre Haltung seiner Fraktion in der Frage einer Erhöhung der Arbeitslosenversicherungsbeiträge, die den Koalitionspartnern den Vorwand zur Auflösung der Großen Koalition unter dem sozialdemokratischen Reichskanzler Hermann Müller lieferte und so den im Präsidentenpalais und in der Reichswehrführung lange geplanten Übergang zum Präsidialregime auf den Weg brachte. Es war Biedermanns dezidiert regierungsfreundliche Haltung, die ihn nach den Reichstagswahlen vom September 1930 zum Befürworter einer Tolerierung des Kabinetts Brüning werden ließ.

Ähnlich wie Otto Braun, der als preußischer Ministerpräsident Garant des Brüningschen Tolerierungskonzeptes auf sozialdemokratischer Seite war, sah er hier die Möglichkeit, wenigstens teilweise die Notverordnungspolitik der Reichsregierung beeinflussen zu können. Der von Biedermann geforderte Eintritt von SPD-Ministern in die Reichsregierung war weder vom Reichskanzler selbst noch von den eigentlichen Trägern des Brüning’schen Präsidialkabinetts erwünscht.

Auch bei den nicht mehr freien Wahlen vom 5. März 1933 wurde Adolf Biedermann in seinem Hamburger Wahlkreis noch einmal in den Reichstag gewählt. Am 23. März 1933 wandte er sich in einem von SA "geschützten" Parlament als Abgeordneter einer schon lange nicht mehr vollzähligen SPD-Fraktion mit einem mutigen "Nein" gegen das "Ermächtigungsgesetz".(46 Gut zwei Monate später fand man seine Leiche neben den Bahngleisen in der Nähe von Recklinghausen. Auch wenn die näheren Umstände seines Sturzes aus dem Nachtschnellzug Köln-Hamburg am 11. Mai 1933 nicht abschließend geklärt werden konnten, so kann davon ausgegangen werden, dass er von SA-Leuten aus dem fahrenden Zug gestoßen wurde.(47 Bei der Trauerfeier auf dem Ohlsdorfer Friedhof erwiesen mehrere tausend Hamburger Adolf Biedermann das letzte Geleit. Hans Podeyn, der damalige Fraktionsführer der SPD-Bürgerschaftsfraktion, hielt die Gedenkrede. Noch ein Jahr später fanden sich trotz strengster Überwachung und trotz Versammlungsverbots mehrere hundert – einige Berichte sprechen gar von tausenden – Sozialdemokraten an seinem Grab ein und setzten damit ein mutiges Zeichen gegen staatliche Unterdrückung und Gewalt.

Heute erinnert an der Ecke Jarrestraße/ Jean-Paul-Weg, dem Standort des früheren Adolf-Biedermann-Hauses, eine Gedenktafel an den früheren Bürgerschafts- und Reichstagsabgeordneten.

In Barmbek, dem Ausgangspunkt seines langjährigen und bedeutenden politischen Wirkens, ist heute ein Platz nach ihm benannt.

© Text mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Bürgerschaft der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg (Hrsg.) entnommen aus: Jörn Lindner/Frank Müller: "Mitglieder der Bürgerschaft – Opfer totalitärer Verfolgung", 3., überarbeitete und ergänzte Auflage, Hamburg 2012

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