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William Dabelstein (o. J.)
William Dabelstein (o. J.)
© Privatbesitz

William Robert Dabelstein * 1898

Kurze Straße 31 (Hamburg-Mitte, Neustadt)

tot 30.1.1943 nach Mißhandlung
inhaftiert 1936–37 Börgermoor

further stumbling stones in Kurze Straße 31:
Wilhelm Dengler

William Robert Dabelstein, born 7/15/1898 in Hamburg, imprisoned 1936, died at the Eppendorf University Hospital on 1/30/1943

Kurze Strasse 31 (Kurze Strasse 30)

William Dabelstein was born into a Hamburg workers’ family in Steinstrasse 33 on July 15, 1898. When his father Johannes Friedrich Dabelstein (born 7/11/1857 in Garding) died at the Hamburg Port Hospital on January 8, 1906 at the age of 48, Wilhelm was not even eight years old, his younger brother Jonny (born 11/4/1900) was five, and their mother Franziska, née Nabein (born 7/9/1870) was heavily pregnant. Her daughter Franziska Anna Helene, called Lene, was born on March 28, 1906, two months after the early death of her father.

The siblings, including their half-brother Detlef Diedrich Dabelstein (born 11/7/1893), grew up at Brüderstrasse 25. On May 18, 1915, their mother Franziska married Heinrich Georg Zell, a ship’s cook who later turned boatswain (born 2/21/1883, died 9/16/1942). At the time of their marriage, the couple already lived together at Elbstrasse 83 (now Neanderstrasse). Later, the family moved to Osterstrasse 162 in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel.

It is likely that William Dabelstein attended the primary school at Poolstrasse in the vicinity of the family’s home. After finishing school, he absolved an apprenticeship as "driller.” Shortly after the beginning of World War I, he volunteered for military service and was sent to the western front. Wilhelm Dabelstein was decorated for his merits as an infantryman and promoted to private. After the war, in the age of the world economic crisis and general unemployment, he worked as a riveter and engine mechanic, and went to sea as a stoker. After two years of unemployment, he found work at a fish processing plant.

William Dabelstein engaged in the Hamburg labor movement. Having first joined the Social Democratic Party SPD, he switched to the Communist KPD in 1922 and was also active in the Rote Hilfe, an organization close to the KPD that supported political prisoners and their families. His brother Jonny was also politically active.

On June 2, 1928, William Dabelstein married Franziska Margarete Henriette Lotter. At the time of their marriage, the couple lived at no. 17, house 5 of the street called Kohlhöfen. Franziska, called Zissi, was born May 21, 1900 as the daughter of Konrad Lotter, a tailor by trade, and his wife Rosine, née Hofmeister, at Valentinskamp 96 in Hamburg, who sewed coffee bags in the harbor. Their son Konrad Ernst Eduard had already been born on July 11, 1920 before their marriage and remained the couple’s only child.

Already on November 22, 1932, before the KPD was outlawed by the Nazis in 1933, William Dabelstein was arrested under suspicion of "highly treasonous activities.” He was, however, released after two months.

After the Nazis’ rise to power, William Dabelstein joined a so called group of five that included the political activists Kurt and Hilde Schill (cf. Stolpersteine in Hamburg-St. Pauli), Bruno Endrejat (cf. there) and Heinrich Matz. They distributed leaflets they had produced themselves in the residential areas of the Grossneumarkt neighborhood and collected money for persecuted friends and comrades.

On April 15, and again on December 3, 1933, William Dabelstein was taken into "protective custody” and released after a short time, without an indictment following; the cases were dropped.

Until his arrest on April 17, 1936, William Dabelstein was the head of the KPD defense system in Hamburg’s old town district. His detainment was said to have been caused by the denunciation by an informer from Peterstrasse named Erich Wachsmuth from Peterstrasse.
The Dabelstein family had only recently moved to Kurze Strasse 30.

On January 5, 1937, the Hanseatic Court of Appeals sentenced William Dabelstein to 3 ½ years at hard labor for "preparation of high treason.” On January 25, he was taken to the Börgermoor labor camp west of Bremen, one of the first camps in that region where prisoners were deployed to cultivate the moor. In the scope of transferals of political prisoners, Dabelstein was temporarily assigned to camp II Aschendorfermoor. Because he had allegedly continued his political activities there and made derogatory remarks about the Nazi party, the court of appeals in Hamm sentenced him to an additional five years at hard labor in the Bremen-Oslebshausen penitentiary.

According to a report related in the family, William Dabelstein’s brother Jonny Dabelstein is supposed to have seen William at the jail in Bremen-Oslebshausen; Jonny Dabelstein had already been sentenced to 14 ½ years at hard labor by the Hanseatic Special Court in February 1934 for "jointly committed attempted murder” and "high treason” and was serving his sentence a Bremen-Oslebshausen since April 6, 1934. Jonny Dabelstein had been detailed to dig peat and tried to attract his brother’s attention by calling and waving to him, whereupon a guard hit him on the head with the butt of his rifle.

Since that incident, Jonny complained about continuous pain in his right ear. On June 10, 1941, he collapsed during work in the moor and was taken to the prison hospital ward at Oslebshausen, where he died after an operation on June 26, 1941. The officially given cause of his death was meningitis caused by an ear infection.

A Stumbling Stone at Osterstrasse 162 in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel commemorates Jonny Dabelstein (cf. Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel und Hamburg-Hoheluft-West).

After five years of detention, William Dabelstein fell ill with cancer of the lymphatic gland and was transferred to the central hospital of the Hamburg remand jail on December 29, 1941. The official diagnosis was metastases in the lung. An application for interruption of detention on account of illness was turned down by first district attorney Keseböhmer from Hamm/Westphalia on March 2, 1942: "Dabelstein was sentenced to five years at hard labor for preparation of high treason on May 19, 1938 and is serving this sentence until October 21, 1944. He is a traitor not suitable for punishment in a camp. When serving his sentence of January 5, 1937 at the Emsland camp, he made communist word of mouth propaganda among the inmates, for which he was sentenced to a further five years by the Hamm court of appeals. On account of his political history and his dangerousness to the public, the prisoner cannot be recommended for parole as it must be feared that he would resume his communist activities.”

William Dabelstein’s imprisonment at the Fuhlsbüttel jail was only interrupted by his stays at the Eppendorf University Hospital for medical treatment. On January 30, 1943, he died there, allegedly of lung cancer. His family, however, also reported severe mistreatment and traces of strangulation by an iron chain around his neck.

His son Konrad Dabelstein, an automobile mechanic, was drafted into the Wehrmacht and reported as missing since the end of 1945 in Russia. He was officially declared dead in 1958.

Franziska Dabelstein lived on in Kurze Strasse until the old buildings there were torn down in 1976, when she moved to Böhmkenstrasse 14. She died on April 9, 1988 at the Oberaltenallee nursing home in Hamburg.

William’s sister Helene, since 1937 married Reinke, was a streetcar conductor and, at least officially, not considered to be politically active – unlike her husband, the tram depot worker Peter Klaus Thomas Reinke (born 10/17/1903). From March 29 to June 29, 1934 he served a three months’ term at Glasmoor jail north of Hamburg for having threatened a Nazi storm trooper on the street. On November 30, he was again arrested and on December 1, 1934 sentenced to 18 months in prison for "preparation of high treason”, which he served until May 30, 1936. Initially considered unworthy for military service”, he was drafted in March 1943 and was taken prisoner by the British in Egypt, and only released in 1947. Thomas Reinke died in a traffic accident on September 11, 1953.

Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: May 2020
© Susanne Rosendahl

Quellen: StaH 351-11 AfW 1570 (Dabelstein, Franziska); StaH 351-11 AfW Abl. 200/1, 31828 Dabelstein, Rolf; StaH 351-11 AfW 27432 (Reinke, Thomas); StaH 731-9 NS-Archiv des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit der DDR 165; StaH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Abl.16 Untersuchungshaftkartei und Abl. 13 Gefangenenkartei und Abl.1998/1 Untersuchungshaftkartei; StaH 242-1II Gefängnisverwaltung, Abl. 12,81 Dabelstein, Jonny Eduard; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 2452 u 1585/1898; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 13403 u 1483/1900; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 569 u 35/1906; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 3576 u 354/1928; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 1155 u 1134/1942; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 9938 u 144/1943; VVN-Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes, Bund der Antifaschisten e.V., Auskunft von Anne Harden; Totenliste Hamburger Widerstandskämpfer und Verfolgter, S. 21; Buck: Widerstand, S. 36f.; Mitteilungen und Dokumente von Birgit und Werner Dabelstein am 1.4.2010.

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