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Elise Augustat, geb. Queck
© Steinburger Jahrbuch 2000

Elise Augustat (née Queck) * 1889

Naumannplatz 1 (Hamburg-Nord, Dulsberg)

JG. 1889

Elise Augustat, née Queck, born 20 July 1889 in Waldkeim, East Prussia, incarcerated in the Ravensbrück concentration camp September 1939, died 12 Mar. 1940 of health problems contracted during imprisonment

Naumannplatz 1

Elise Augustat was born into an East Prussian farming family. Her parents, Auguste and Karl Queck, had eight children, and left their home soon after Elise’s birth for Lägerdorf near Itzehoe. The town, which had a population of about 4000 at the turn of the century, was emerging as a center for chalk quarrying and cement production. Its residents were predominately industrial working families. Auguste Queck died when her daughter Elise was eight years old.

Elise had a typical childhood for the daughter of a manual laborer. During her school years she worked in the fields of the big farms in the area. She finished her schooling in 1904, and shortly thereafter suffered a long period of illness due to "profitless child exploitation,” as the German Communist Party (KPD) newspaper Hamburger Volkszeitung wrote 25 years later when she ran for a seat in the Reichstag. After she recovered she worked as household help, first for farming families and later in town. She had her first daughter Gertrud when she was still very young. In 1909, when she was 20, she married Friedrich Buchholz and had a second daughter, Elfriede. The couple divorced after only a few years – an unusual step, especially among women of the poorer classes, that often led to their stigmatization. It thus fell to Elise to see herself and her two daughters through the difficult times of the First World War and the crisis-ridden post-war period. She supported her family by working in the large cement factory in Lägerdorf.

Possibly influenced by her experiences, and certainly by the political climate in Lägerdorf, where the SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands –Social Democratic Party of Germany) was the dominant party even before the war (it won 88% of the votes in the 1912 Reichstag elections), Elise Queck joined the USPD (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands – German Independent Social Democratic Party) in 1919. It soon replaced the SPD as the dominant local political power. In November 1920 a majority of USPD members voted to leave the party and join the KPD – Elise Queck was one of them. In this early phase of her political activity she married Wilhelm Augustat (*1895), who was also active in the KPD.

Both partners soon belonged to the local party leadership. When the KPD attempted an uprising in Hamburg in 1923, there was also social unrest in Lägerdorf. Some members of the local party organization wanted to join the uprising and win over the local action committee of the General German Trade Union Federation, of which Elise Auguste was a member, to their cause. Although the KPD had a majority on the committee (four of the seven members), it decided against an armed uprising – in addition to the three Social Democrats, Elise Augustat and one other KPD-member voted against it.

Despite this decision, there were still violent clashes in Lägerdorf, in which one policeman and two residents were killed. Elise Augustat was charged with disturbing the peace, but was found not guilty when the case went to trial.

She was thus able to run on the KPD ticket in the local election in May 1924, in which she won a seat on the city council. The KPD was the strongest party in the 1927 local elections in Lägerdorf, and wanted to elect Elise Augustat as mayor, but the District Administrator banned her candidacy. In 1929 she was appointed to the council of the KPD Wasserkante district in Hamburg, where she was put in charge of the women’s section. The women’s section concentrated on campaigns for equal pay for women workers and against abortion laws. In that same year, Elise Augustat was elected to the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament. At that point her political activities seem to have shifted to an inter-regional level, which may explain her move to Hamburg in 1930. She and her husband Wilhelm lived at Naumannplatz 1 in the Dulsberg district of Hamburg.

In the Reichstag elections two months earlier she had won a seat in the KPD faction – she was in the second spot on the party list directly after Ernst Thälman. Beginning in July 1932 she represented Hamburg’s 34th district. In the last years of the Weimar Republic she seems to have lessened her previously strong connection to her hometown of Lägerdorf, since she not only lived in Hamburg and Berlin, but also attended "political training courses” in the Soviet Union. Relatives later reported that when she returned from these courses she was disillusioned by the "oppressive material living conditions there.”

After Hitler was appointed Chancellor and a large portion of the KPD Reichstag representatives were arrested, Elise Augustat moved to Osterstraße 4 at the end of March 1933. This was possibly a cover address. She was nevertheless denounced and arrested two months later in Itzehoe, and was put into provisional detention in Hamburg. Her trial for "conspiracy to commit high treason” before the Hamburg Higher Regional Court opened on 20 April 1933, but the arraignment did not take place until December of that year. The trial ended on 15 January 1934 with an acquittal. This verdict leads to the assumption that no active resistance work could be proven against her.

After her release from prison she and her husband returned to Lägerdorf. Since his affiliation with the KPD prevented him from being hired, the couple was dependent on the income that Elise earned by running a boarding house. The Lägerdorf Nazi Party District Group Leader (Ortsgruppenleiter) monitored her and forced her to participate in Nazi Party functions, and to shout "Sieg Heil!” and raise her arm in the Nazi salute. In April 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the war, her husband was conscripted to help build the Westwall (known in English as the Siegfried Line) in the Eifel region. Elise visited him that summer, and spent a four-week vacation with him there. The Second World War broke out shortly after her return to Lägerdorf, and she, along with many other "political suspects,” was arrested and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp on 23 September.

In December 1939 she was granted a "probationary release” – probably because of a severe illness – and was able to return to her home. Her husband had come home for Christmas, and she told him and one of his close friends about the terrible situation at Ravensbrück, and that she would rather kill herself than go back there. Evidently her health, which had been ruined by the conditions at the concentration camp, did not improve while she was home. She died there on 13 March 1940. According to her family the cause of death was pneumonia.

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

© Benedikt Behrens

Quellen: StaH 213-9 Staatsanwaltschaft OLG – Strafsachen, Abl. 2003/1 Verfahrensregister O IV 4/33; Mitteilung der Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück v. 4.6.2010; Hamburger Volkszeitung v. 10.9.1930; AB 1932–1935; Reichstags-Handbuch VII Wahlperiode 1932, hrsg. vom Büro des Reichstags, Berlin 1933, S. 220; Schumacher, Martin (Hrsg.), M.d.R. Die Reichstagsabgeordneten der Weimarer Republik in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Politische Verfolgung, Emigration und Ausbürgerung 1933–1945, Düsseldorf 1994, S. 15; Wentorp, Reimer, Lägerdorfer Chronik, Lägerdorf 1976, S. 113,115,206; Suhling, Lucie, Der unbekannte Widerstand. Erinnerungen, Frankfurt/Main 1980, S. 85f.; Reschke, Wolfgang/R. Möller, Elise Augustat, komunistische Reichstagsabgeordnete aus Lägerdorf. Eine Spurensuche, in: Steinburger Jahrbuch 2000, 44. Jg., Itzehoe 1999, S. 271–279; Weber, Hermann/Andreas Herbst, Deutsche Kommunisten. Biographisches Handbuch 1918–1945, Berlin 2008, S. 75.

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