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Leo Otto Wilhelm Freyer * 1898

Mülhäuser Straße 5 (Hamburg-Nord, Dulsberg)

JG. 1898
ERTRUNKEN 3.5.1945

Leo Otto Wilhelm Freyer, born 5 Aug. 1898 in Kiel-Gaarden, arrested and sentenced 1944 for insubordination, died 3 May 1945 aboard the Cap Arcona

Mülhäuser Straße 5

Leo Freyer was the son of Auguste, née Lenz, and Hermann Freyer. Nothing is known about his childhood and youth, but he apparently spent most of it in Kiel. He is thought to have worked there for several years in an office, until 1931, when he dedicated himself to painting. He evidently moved to Hamburg in the 1930s. His name first appears in the Hamburg Address Book in 1940, at the address Mülhäuser Straße 5. In October 1938 he married Anna-Elisabeth Hartmann. She was born in 1903 in Wiedenest (Gummersbach administrative district), and worked as a postal assistant. They had a daughter, Barbara, in 1940.

Leo Fryer was conscripted to emergency duty in August 1943. He served as a guard at the Fuhlsbüttel prison. On 21 January 1944 the Gestapo arrested him and held him in the Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp, then transferred him to the Harburg jail. His duty as a guard evidently put him under the jurisdiction of the SS and police courts, which, after eight months in prison, on 10 October 1944, ruled that he had "attempted to impair or corrode the German people’s will to persevere.” This was considered an infringement of Section 5 Paragraph 1 Number 1 of the Wartime Special Penal Code. According to the bill of indictment, Leo Freyer had been denounced by neighbors, some of whom were members of the Nazi Party. Reports collected by the Dulsberg local party chapter since 1941 about comments made by him, "indicate an attitude antagonistic to the state and the party.” The previous investigation had not provided conclusive evidence, however, so that the "process ended with a general warning of the accused.”

In October 1943, a fellow guard reported Leo Freyer again, accusing him of "shirking his duty, … sabotaging air raid defense procedures, … and making subversive comments.” He allegedly told an air raid defense warden that he only occasionally visited his family in Dulsberg, since he lived primarily in Kiel and thus should not be called upon to do air raid defense duties in Hamburg. He had asked a neighbor ironically if she was one of those who "still believed in a glorious victory.” When she said she did, he countered that he "thought she was smarter than that.”

Other women of the neighborhood testified that they had overheard a conversation between Leo Freyer and a baker, in which Freyer had said "if the Russians were here, it wouldn’t be any worse,” and in which both "rhapsodized about social democracy.” Leo Freyer denied the accusations and disputed having made the comments attributed to him. He claimed he had always been a "thoroughly patriotic man” and since the end of World War I had "constantly been involved in patriotic associations.” He was a member of the von Löwenfeld Marine Brigade, and, for a short time, also of the Ehrhardt Brigade, with which he "fought against Spartacists and Polish insurgents in Berlin and Upper Silesia.” From 1927 to 1929 he had been chairman of the Reich Association of former Militia Members in Kiel, but had "given up all political activities” in 1931 to dedicate himself to his painting. But even after 1933 he had published articles in newspapers in Kiel, Hamburg, and Dortmund.

In the indictment by the SS and police court it was conceded that Leo Freyer "was highly involved in patriotic associations in previous years,” but it was held against him that there was no evidence of political activity in favor of the Nazi regime. The Nazi investigators thus came to the conclusion that "the accused had, at least in the past three years, acted seditiously.” That Leo Freyer had not been an active supporter of the Nazi regime can be deduced from an inquiry with the Berlin Document Center in 1961, which confirmed that he had at no point been a member of the National Socialist Party or any other Nazi organization.

The sentencing memorandum of the special court is no longer existent, but it is known that he was sentenced on 3 November 1944 to three years in prison on charges of treachery. He was transferred to the Hütten jail in January 1945, and from there to the Neuengamme Concentration Camp on 24 March. When the main camp was evacuated in late April and early May 1945, he was among those prisoners who were crowded aboard three ships in the Bay of Lübeck. Leo Freyer was aboard the Cap Arcona, which was sunk in a Royal Air Force bombing raid. After the war, his wife Anna-Elisabeth reported that she had also been harassed by the regime, in that in November 1944, "a party member and his family” were assigned to live with her in her apartment.

Translator: Amy Lee

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Benedikt Behrens

Quellen: StaH 351-11 AfW, Abl. 2008/1, Freyer, Leo; Archiv der VVN (Angaben der Ehefrau); AB 1940–43; VAN (Hrsg.), Totenliste Hamburger Widerstandskämpfer und Verfolgter 1933–1945, Hamburg 1968.

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