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Johannes Bremer * 1885

Grumbrechtstraße 62 (Harburg, Heimfeld)

KZ Buchenwald
ermordet am 1.12.1937

Johannes Bremer, born 10 Mar. 1885 in Harburg, murdered 1 Dec. 1937 in the Buchenwald concentration camp

Heimfeld district, Grumbrechtstraße 62

Johannes Bremer was a copper smith and in 1903 had become a member of the SPD and its metalworkers’ association, a trade union that was affiliated with the General German Trade Union Federation. He married the dressmaker Else Walz (*10 Aug. 1883 in Berlin) on 14 April 1908. They had two children: Paul, born on 28 July 1909, and Heinz, born on 19 May 1914, both in Harburg. The family lived at Grumbrechtstraße 62 from December 1918 onwards.

On 13 March 1920, monarchist military officers and politicians attempted a coup to overthrow the Weimar Republic. President Friedrich Ebert and the government left Berlin. The Kapp-Putsch, as this coup is called, failed after large parts of the population joined a general strike. There were armed conflicts in several cities during the coup, including Harburg. On the night of 15 March 1920, the Baltikumer, troops who had fought the Bolsheviks in Latvia in 1919, under the command of Captain Rudolf Berthold, entered Harburg and took up position in the Heimfeld Middle School on Woellmerstraße. The building was besieged by union workers, some of whom were armed, and shots were fired. The putschists were finally forced to surrender and were taken prisoner. Captain Berthold attempted to flee and was lynched by the angry crowd.

Johannes Bremer and his fellow party member Otto Noack took part in the siege. Both were accused of complicity in the killing of Berthold, but both denied their participation. They were tried before a jury in Stade in February 1921. 67 witnesses testified, and they were acquitted for lack of evidence. Attempts to reopen the case in 1925 and 1926 failed. No one has ever been convicted for Berthold’s death.

Johannes Bremer later no longer worked as a copper smith, but as an inspector at the Harburg Empolyment Agency from 10 June 1926 to 30 September 1928, and then in the Hamburg Employment Agency until his arrest.

After the Nazis came to power, Berthold’s death became a favorite theme in the cult of death surrounding the "Martyrs of the Movement.” There were Berthold Ceremonies in Harburg every March. The Nazis also wanted revenge for the "Harburg scandal” of March 1920. Although Johannes Bremer and Otto Noack had been acquitted, they were both taken into "protective custody.” Bremer was arrested on 16 March 1933. They were sent to the police prison on Wetternstraße, and transferred to the court prison on Buxtehuder Straße in August (Bremer on 29 August). The police wanted to force Bremer to confess to Berthold’s murder, but they did not seek a retrial.

Bremer was sent the the Esterwegen concentration camp on 19 October. When he learned that he was to be deported from Harburg, he said to his Communist fellow prisoner Leo Kunkolewski: "Maybe you’ll be lucky and you’ll get out. There’s no hope left for me.” On 20 July 1934 at the Esterwegen concentration camp, an attempt was made on Johannes Bremer’s life. It was to look as if he had been shot while attempting to escape. A guard ordered him to fetch a shovel, then shot at him from four or five meters. Bremer was not fatally wounded, and was sent to the hospital ward and then to the "bunker,” the punishment cell. There he was badly abused. At that time not all courts saw themselves as agents of the Nazi Party, and the crimes in Esterwegen, including those committed against Bremer, were recorded when the Osnabrück district attorney began investigations. Some of the torturers were arrested, but the proceedings were suppressed in November 1934 "by order of the Führer and Reich Chancellor.”

Johannes Bremer was sent from Esterwegen to a camp in Torgau, and then to the Buchenwald concentration camp. He was murdered there on 1 December 1937. The District Attorney’s Office of Stade initiated proceedings against his wife for "spreading atrocity propaganda,” because she allegedly said that Bremer had been "shot from behind while trying to escape.” The district attorney’s office also interviewed the Harburg Gestapo, and Agent von Holt confirmed that Bremer had been "shot while trying to escape the Buchenwald concentration camp on 1 December 1937.” In fact he was shot in retribution for the successful escape of another prisoner.

Bremer’s son Heinz was killed in the Battle of Danzig in March 1945. In 1988 a street in Hamburg was named after Johannes Bremer – Johannes-Bremer-Weg in the Langenbek district.

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Hans-Joachim Meyer

Quellen: VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.), Die anderen, s. Personenverzeichnis; VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.), Stumme Zeugen, s. Personenverzeichnis; StaH, 351-11, AfW, Johannes Bremer; StaH, 430-54 Amtsgericht Harburg, II B 25; Perk, Willy: Hölle im Moor. Zur Geschichte der Emslandlager 1933-1945. Frankfurt am Main 1979, S. 27f.; Sta Stade, Staatspolizeistelle Harburg-Wilhelmsburg, Tagebuch-Nr. 1378/38; Heyl/ Maronde-Heyl, Abschlussbericht; Totenliste VAN.

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