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Already layed Stumbling Stones
Henry Heitmann * 1903
Sillemstraße 10 a/b (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)
1937 KZ Fuhlsbüttel
Flucht in den Tod 23.10.1938
further stumbling stones in Sillemstraße 10 a/b:
Henry Alfred Heitmann, born on 10 Sept. 1903 in London, and his mother,
Catharina Amanda Friederika Baumgarten, née Kraese, widow of the late Mr. Heitmann, born on 27 Feb. 1872 in Hamburg, joint suicide on 23 Oct. 1938 in Hamburg
Sillemstrasse 10 a/b (Sillemstrasse 22)
"Just this moment, I was at the front door of Mrs. Baumgarten. Since the door was not opened despite my repeated ringing and knocking, I assume that Mrs. Baumgarten and her son, Henry Heitmann, have committed suicide. I was together with the two for the last time on 23 Oct. 1938. Both already expressed their intention to commit suicide at that point. They were in a very depressed mood because Heitmann had received a summons from the Kriminalsekretär [a rank equivalent to detective sergeant or master sergeant] Finnern of the 24th Office of the Criminal Investigation Department. I left the apartment at about 9 p.m. and Heitmann accompanied me to get sleep-inducing medication from a pharmacy.”
Providing these details, the commercial clerk and actor Heinz Ihnen, who was a friend of Henry Heitmann, reported the incident to police station 23 on Fruchtallee with jurisdiction over Sillemstrasse on 25 Oct. 1938. The police officers were only able to establish the deaths of Amanda Baumgarten and her son, who were found lying on mattresses in the kitchen in front of the gas stove. The cause of death was poisoning with city gas.
The cause of this double suicide was the identification of Henry Heitmann on 11 Oct. 1938 in a photo index of the criminal investigation department by the young male prostitute and blackmailer Theodor Gehring (born in 1918, executed on 9 July 1942). The latter lived on Gneisenaustrasse in Hoheluft-West, and in the years around 1936, he had looked for his johns mostly around the Christ Church (Christuskirche) in Eimsbüttel. In the mid-1930s, the "loo” ("Klappe”) at the Christ Church and the area around this public restroom was a popular and well-frequented meeting place of men looking for male sex partners, and of young male prostitutes offering their services there. Henry Heitmann, too, had met Theodor Gehring there in 1936 or 1937, getting together with him four or five times. The sexual acts (masturbation) were carried out in stairwells on, among other locations, the streets named Am Gehölz and Weidenallee. For the services rendered, Theodor Gehring initially received 2 to 3 RM (reichsmark), and later, after threats to report Henry Heitmann to police unless he received more money, an additional 5 RM. As a result of these occurrences, Kriminalsekretär Heinrich Finnern (born in 1900, died in 1980), who was among the most severe interrogators, summoned Henry Heitmann.
Possibly, Henry Heitmann had unpleasant memories of the police officer from previous proceedings: In the homophobic climate of Nazi rule, the 16-year-old male prostitute Carl-Heinz Dellin (born in 1921; a Stolperstein is planned in Hammerbrook at the intersection of Heinrich-Grone-Stieg and Sachsenfeld) had taken his own life on 3 July 1937. As in comparable cases, this suicide prompted large-scale police investigations in the deceased’s milieu, particularly because the mother also expressed to police suspicions of criminal homosexual offenses based on a love letter addressed to her deceased son. Carl-Heinz Dellin was the youngest participant in a recreational canoeing group on the Elbe River, to which Henry Heitmann belonged as well. In the course of the investigations, the statements of various men made it clear that this circle of friends was comprised mainly of homosexual men who maintained relationships in diverse constellations or had merely had one-time sexual experiences with each other. Their number also included a neighbor directly adjacent to Henry Heitmann’s apartment on the fourth floor at Sillemstrasse 22, Hans-Heinz Ankerstein (born in 1913).
Henry Heitmann must have been known to the police as a homosexual already, since during an interrogation, his canoeing buddy Werner Bechler (born in 1901) testified about him in July 1937, "that he had been in trouble with the police before in terms of sex offenses.” On 27 July 1937, Henry Heitmann was transferred into "protective custody” ("Schutzhaft”) to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp. He remained there until 3 Sept. 1937 before being committed to pretrial detention. The charges brought by the public prosecutor’s office, to have committed "unnatural sexual offenses” ("widernatürliche Unzucht”), resulted in his sentencing before the Hamburg District Court (Amtsgericht) in accordance with Sec. 175 [of the Reich Criminal Code] to four months in prison on 10 July 1937, a penalty he served in the Fuhlsbüttel men’s prison until 23 Nov. 1937.
Even though the case record of Henry Heitmann has not been preserved, the proceedings against his canoeing comrade Werner Bechler contained statements concerning Heitmann’s biography important to researchers and especially private photographs only rarely passed on that had been confiscated by the police in 1937. They show a man standing at five foot eleven (1.8 meters) with light brown hair, who according to the young male prostitute Theodor Gehring supposedly had had a "strange, almost limping gait.”
Henry Heitmann was born in 1903 in the London district of Clapham as the son of the bank employee Heinrich Heitmann, who also died there, and Amanda, née Kraese. He had no siblings. The mother was born in 1872 in Hamburg-St. Pauli as the daughter of the police subofficer Ernst Kraese, a native of Malchow in Mecklenburg, and Therese Juliane Amanda, née Behrens. The family lived at Amandastrasse 28.
After the death of her husband Heinrich Heitmann, the mother got married again in Hamburg in 1910, to the plant foreman Hinko Filip Baumgarten, who was born in Agram, today’s Zagreb in Croatia in 1880. In 1938, she lived apart from this man.
Henry Heitmann had done a commercial apprenticeship. In 1937, he worked as a salaried employee at the owner-operated Guttmann und Widawer importing and exporting firm at Gerhofstrasse 3/5. At this company, among other things, he also trained apprentices. One of these apprentices, Helmut Schrader (born in 1917), also participated in the trips on the Elbe River.
The person mentioned at the outset, Heinz Ihnen, who had reported the suicide to police, was also among the canoeing comrades. Due to his previous criminal record, Henry Heitmann was probably aware that in new proceedings, he was threatened with a higher penalty, if not even commitment to a concentration camp or recommendation to undergo "voluntary” castration. He and his mother, who empathized with him, did not want to subject him to this agonizing ordeal, choosing, like some quarter of all homosexual victims of National Socialism in Hamburg, the "flight to death.” The farewell letters not on record went to the nephew or, respectively, the cousin, Hans Altvater from Altona.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: October 2016
© Bernhard Rosenkranz(†)/Ulf Bollmann
Quellen: StaH 213-8 Staatsanwaltschaft Oberlandesgericht – Verwaltung, Abl. 2, 451 a E 1, 1 b; 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 584/38 u. 3834/40, Blätter 41 u. 43; 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferungen 13 u. 16; 331-5 Polizeibehörde – Unnatürliche Sterbefälle, 1786/38; 332-5 Standesämter, 6480 (Eintrag Nr. 379) u. 8160 (Eintrag Nr. 220); 332-3 Zivilstandsaufsicht, A 239, wg. Eintrag Nr. 306; 352-5 Gesundheitsbehörde – Todesbescheinigungen, 1938 Standesamt 20 a Nr. 221; Rosenkranz/Bollmann/Lorenz, Homosexuellen-Verfolgung, S. 97–98, 199, 217.