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Walter Bunge * 1898
Pusbackstraße 38 (Wandsbek, Rahlstedt)
BRANDENBURG / GÖRDEN
Walter Bunge, born 28 Feb. 1898 in Halle an der Saale, executed 27 Nov. 1944 in the Brandenburg-Görden prison
Walter Bunge and his three brothers and sisters were raised by their mother Emilie Bunge in Halle. After his compulsory schooling he apprenticed with his uncle as a butcher. When the uncle was killed in the First World War, Walter Bunge moved to Hamburg and volunteered for military service. He returned to Hamburg from Belgium after the armistice, disillusioned and an outspoken opponent of war. A shot to the head had destroyed his right eye, and he suffered headaches as a result of this injury for the rest of his life.
In 1919 Walter Bunge met Anna Zucker (*1898 in Altona). A deeply loving relationship developed, which lasted their entire lives. They shared the same pacifistic ideals, and joined the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany). In 1923 they left the SPD for the KPD (Communist Party of Germany). Walter Bunge became the KPD party representative in Rahlstedt.
Anna and Walter Bunge bought a plot of land at Pusbackstraße 38 in Meiendorf-Rahlstedt, which at that time belonged to the Stormarn administrative district. There they raised chickens. Walter Bunge acted as an advisor for fellow war invalids who faced bureaucratic complications with their pensions, and continued his political activities. He became a board member of the International Union of Victims of War (Internationalen Bund der Opfer des Krieges). In 1931 he took part in a study tour of the Soviet Union, which deeply impressed him. After his return he considered establishing a chicken farm with 150,000 laying hens on Meiendorfer Weg, based on the model of a Soviet kolkhoz (collective farm).
The long list of Walter Bunge’s stays in prison began shortly before the Reichstag election on 5 March 1933. He was well-known as an active Communist and was detained "preventively” by the police. He read Communist publications and organized their distribution in Rahlstedt and the surrounding areas. In 1935 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for harboring a member of the resistance who he refused to name.
Anna Bunge also spent time in prison during these years. She was sentenced to 16 months for "conspiracy to commit high treason.”
When Walter Bunge’s veteran’s pension was cut in half, he established a cider mill to ensure his income. The mill became well known in Berne, Volksdorf and Rahlstedt. The number of customers increased and he was soon able to buy more modern equipment.
Since Anna Bunge worked in an office in Hamburg, Walter hired schoolgirls from Meiendorf to help out in the mill. His opposition to the Nazi regime was not a secret – he spoke freely about his political stance at work and to neighbors and family members. When his nephew Otto Hirsch, who had been assigned to the Eastern Front, visited the Bunges in 1941, Walter openly told him that he would be better off if he defected to the Russians. This remark eventually got back to Walter’s older brother Ernst, who was an Amtsleiter (the highest-ranking position in the Nazi Party political organization) in Berlin and a training officer and public speaker for the Propaganda Ministry. Ernst denounced his brother to the Gestapo. His arrest in July 1942 sealed his fate.
The Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court – a special Nazi court that operated outside the bounds of constitutional law and had jurisdiction over a broad array of "political offenses”) in Berlin accused him of "conspiracy to commit high treason” and "subversion of the war effort.” Walter Bunge was sentenced to death in February 1943.
While her husband lay bound day and night in a cell at the Brandenburg-Görden prison, Anna Bunge ran the cider mill herself. She also put everything in motion to push the lawyer who represented her husband’s case at the Volksgerichtshof to obtain a retrial. The retrial was finally allowed, since it could be proved that the nephew’s statement was not accurate in all details, which cast doubt on his credibility.
Anna Bunge submitted 65 character references for her husband, one of which was written by a staunch Nazi from Rahlstedt who spoke in Bunge’s favor.
The second trial was postponed to 20 October 1944 because of the bombing raids over Berlin. By this time the nephew had been killed in the fighting. Walter’s brother Ernst testified as the prosecution’s key witness.
In 1965, Anna Bunge reported that all counter arguments, witnesses for the defense and the character references were simply ignored, and Walter Bunge was again sentenced to death. The trial, before the President of the Volksgerichtshof Roland Freisler, is a textbook example of the Nazi judicial system. The ruling, written by the senior public prosecutor Wittmann, states that Bunge’s guilt was not proved, but could be assumed on the basis of his political history.
Walter Bunge was beheaded on 27 November 1944, aged 46, in Brandenburg-Görden.
Anna Bunge lived in their home on Pusbackstraße until her death on 11 August 1967.
In the 1980s, when a new owner of the property tore down the last building, a chicken coop, from the time that the Bunges lived there, he found a large number of political and personal documents that Walter Bunge must have hidden there under the floorboards. Among the documents were his membership card for the Communist Party, press clippings, architectural designs for the chicken kolkhoz, and letters he had written to Anna during his trip to the USSR.
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Eva Lindemann und Ursula Pietsch
Quellen: FZH Akte 11 B 29 Bunge, Anna/Walter; Materialfund Pusbackstraße 38 (inzwischen im HIZ archiviert); Ursel Hochmuth/Gertrud Meyer, Streiflichter aus dem Hamburger Widerstand 1933–1945, Frankfurt/Main 1980; Ursel Hochmuth, Niemand und nichts wird vergessen. Biogramme und Briefe Hamburger Widerstandskämpfer 1933–1945, Hamburg 2005.