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Oswald Kanzler
© Hans-Joachim Meyer

Oswald Kanzler * 1883

Hoppenstedtstraße 53 (Harburg, Eißendorf)

KZ Fuhlsbüttel
ermordet am 16.9.1944 KZ Fuhlsbüttel

Oswald Kanzler, born on 18 Apr. 1883 in Oebishausen (District of Weimar), perished on 16 Sept. 1944 in the Fuhlsbüttel Gestapo prison

Eissendorf district, Hoppenstedtstrasse 53

Oswald Kanzler learned the trade of a molder (producing molds required for casting work pieces made of metal) and went off on his travels after his apprenticeship. From 1905, he worked in his vocation at the Georg Niemeyer engineering works in Bostelbek. He fought as a soldier in World War I. After the war, he became chair of the employee representative committee at the Niemeyer Company. He married Emilie Bademann, born on 9 Jan. 1886 in Harburg. On 25 July 1908, their daughter Gertrud was born. The family also included the foster son Hans Bademann, born on 28 Oct. 1912 in Harburg. He went to Kassel as an apprentice in 1927.

Starting in 1924, Oswald Kanzler was full-time party secretary of the Harburg SPD (German Social Democratic Party) until its ban in June 1933. His workplace was located in the Volksblatt building at Grosser Schippsee 8, which accommodated not only the Social Democratic daily newspaper Volksblatt für Harburg-Wilhelmsburg und Umgegend but also the local party headquarters, the trade unions of the General German Trade Union Federation (Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund – ADGB) and the General Free Federation of Employees (AfA-Bund). In addition, Oswald Kanzler served as a member of the city parliament (deputy) of the Harburg and Harburg-Wilhelmsburg city parliament, respectively, from 1926 onward, and starting in 1928, as a member of the Prussian State Council [the upper chamber of the Prussian legislature]. At first (in 1914), he lived at Grumbrechtstrasse 32, after the war at Lindenstrasse 65 (today: Julius-Ludowieg-Strasse), and later, from Oct. 1927 onward, at Hoppenstedtstrasse 53. In the neighborhood along this street, many leading Social Democrats lived, and thus their opponents contemptuously called it the "bigwig neighborhood.”

On 29 May 1933, Oswald Kanzler held his last speech in the assembly of city parliamentarians (Bürgervorsteherkollegium) in a budget debate. He defended himself against the charge of "SPD mismanagement." He argued that unemployment and indebtedness were the results of the economic crisis and not of the SPD’s policies. Nevertheless, the budget of the Nazi majority was adopted unanimously, i.e., also with Kanzler’s vote as well as the votes of the remaining SPD deputies. After the ban of the SPD on 22 June 1933, Oswald Kanzler was unemployed. The Volksblatt building, Kanzler’s workplace, had been taken over by the "German Labor Front” ("Deutsche Arbeitsfront”) as early as 2 May, as had the trade union buildings.

On 29 June, he was taken into "protective custody” ("Schutzhaft”) in the Harburg court prison on Buxtehuder Strasse for one day. In July 1933, he was arrested again and this time detained for several weeks. Afterward, the Gestapo observed him as a leading politician of the Harburg SPD. He attempted to make ends meet by selling laundry detergent and soap to acquaintances. Then, he worked as an agent for an insurance company.

In order to eliminate the leading minds from any possible opposition, after the attempt on Hitler’s life on 20 July 1944, the Nazis carried out "Operation Thunderstorm” ("Aktion Gewitter”) [actual name: "Aktion Gitter,” i.e., "Operation Bars”] in Aug. 1944. Across Germany, mass arrests took place, directed especially against former municipal politicians and deputies of liberal, leftist, and middle-class parties. On 18 Aug. 1944, the chairman of the German Communist Party (KPD), Ernst Thälmann, detained since 1933 already, was shot dead, and the former SPD member of the Reichstag, Rudolf Breitscheid, was murdered in the Buchenwald concentration camp on 24 Aug. 1944.

The persons arrested now also included Oswald Kanzler; he was apprehended on 22 Aug. 1944 and committed to the Fuhlsbüttel Gestapo prison. He had a serious heart condition and required medication, which he did not receive while imprisoned, however. He survived for nearly one more month, before dying on 16 Sept. 1944. His fellow prisoner, the Harburg Social Democrat Alfred Höhlein, wrote, "The worst kind of victimization that the prison administration and the prison doctor exercised (!) on Mr. Kanzler was withholding from him the preparation he always took for strengthening. All of us, who were locked up in one hall with him, had to stand by and watch how Mr. Kanzler had to struggle, and we all take the view that not his heart condition but the harassment committed against us and the withholding of the medication were the cause of his death.”

Oswald Kanzler’s daughter Gertrud participated in the Communist resistance in Altona, and in 1936, she was sentenced to four years in prison. After serving her sentence, she was released. She married the Communist Otto Nehring. After 1945, Gertrud Nehring was a KPD member (chair of the parliamentary group for a time) in the Harburg District Committee (Bezirksausschuss), today’s District Parliament (Bezirksparlament).

Since 1988, there is a street called Oswald-Kanzler-Weg (in Wilstorf, turnoff from Radickestrasse).

Translator: Erwin Fink

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: October 2016
© Hans-Joachim Meyer

Quellen: VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.), Die anderen, S. 314f.; StaH, 332-8 Meldewesen, A46; StaH, 430-64 Amtsgericht Harburg II B 25; StaH, Adressbücher Harburg-Wilhelmsburg; VVN, Komitee-Akten; Diercks, Gedenkbuch; Notizen Gertrud Nehring, geb. Kanzler; Heyl/Maronde-Heyl, Abschlussbericht; Totenliste VAN.

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