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Margarethe Baalhorn (née Weinert) * 1894
Forsmannstraße 7 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)
Haft 1937 - 1939 KZ Fuhlsbüttel
verstorben an Haftfolgen 12.11.1945 in Lüneburg
Margarethe Baalhorn, née Weinert, born on 16 Aug. 1894 in Neubrandenburg, detained in 1935, 1937–1939, died on 12 Nov. 1945 in Lüneburg as a result of the imprisonment
Margarethe Frieda Maxi Weinert was born in Neubrandenburg. Her father, Wilhelm Weinert, worked there as a basket weaver. The family belonged to the Lutheran Church. In Apr. 1904, the Weinert couple moved with their children, by then numbering five, to Lüneburg, where two more children were born. As of Apr. 1910, Margarethe Baalhorn lived in Hannover, though moving back to Lüneburg again one year later. On 1 July 1913, she informed the authorities she was moving to the village of Büllhorn near Stelle (Harburg District). In Dec. 1914, Margarethe Weinert relocated to Hamburg again after working as a domestic help in Gotha (Thuringia), and from there to Lüneburg in Mar. 1916.
On 6 July 1918, she married in Lüneburg the accountant and native of Altona, Friedrich Baalhorn, who joined the SPD and the trade union that same year (his father had been a member of the SPD since 1890). In Mar. 1919, their first son was born in Lüneburg. In 1921, the family initially moved to Hamburg-Barmbek, before finding a new domicile in 1922 in the five-storey apartment building at Forsmannstrasse 7, constructed in 1909/1910. The Baalhorns lived there until they were bombed out in 1943. In 1926, their second son was born. Both boys attended the elementary school (Volksschule) located at Forsmannstrasse 32. In terms of religion, the Baalhorns were a divided family.
Since 1928/29, Margarethe Baalhorn (known as Grete) was a member of the International Bible Students Association (Internationale Bibelforschervereinigung – IBV), which went by the name of "Jehovah’s Witnesses” as of 1931. In Hamburg, about 400 believers belonged to it. In 1931, Margarethe was baptized. Her husband, by then working as a commercial clerk, was not a member of this religious community. Shortly after the Nazis came to power, the IBV was banned in Hamburg as well on 15 July 1933, which made activity on its behalf a punishable offense, for the Jehovah’s Witnesses resisted the National Socialists’ universal claim to power. Thus, for religious reasons, they refused the Nazi salute, the oath of allegiance to Hitler, military service, and membership in any Nazi organizations. In the spring of 1934, the State Police in Hamburg arrested the first Jehovah’s Witnesses because of alleged violation of the IBV ban. Delegates at an international congress of the association in Basel in Sept. 1934 decided, among other things, to fully resume preaching work in Germany as of 7 Oct. 1934. Margarethe Baalhorn said about her attitude back then in 1945, "For religious reasons and based on my insights, I put up staunch resistance to the Nazis.” On 7 Oct. 1934, she participated in a coordinated protest event throughout the Reich against the ban of the IBV and against the Nazi state. Participants sent a massive number of letters and telegrams containing the protest by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the "leader and Reich Chancellor” Hitler. Hamburg saw the formation of 24 district groups, the appointment of group leaders, and the organization of meetings generally held on a regular weekly basis. By means of monitoring mail, house searches, and arrests, the Hamburg State Police succeeded by early Dec. 1934 in apprehending a large number of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mar. 1935 saw the first mass convictions. Margarethe Baalhorn was arrested in Oct. 1935 and sentenced by the Hamburg "special court” (Sondergericht) to two months in prison on 4 Nov. 1935.
Even after her release, she continued to meet with two other Jehovah’s Witnesses, taking turns for the gatherings at their private apartments in Winterhude. They distributed brochures and flyers published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in mailboxes. The Gestapo reacted to these coordinated protest activities with a wave of arrests. On 27 Oct. 1937, Margarethe Baalhorn was arrested once again and committed in accordance with a Gestapo directive to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, where she was detained in "protective custody” ("Schutzhaft”) until 3 Feb. 1938. Afterward, she was transferred into pretrial detention. The judgment by the Hanseatic special court (Hanseatisches Sondergericht) handed down on 23 Apr. 1938 against her was relatively harsh, despite her low rank in the hierarchy, because she showed herself to be unbending. In its verdict, the court argued: "The defendant, Mrs. Baalhorn, is extraordinarily fanatical and therefore particularly dangerous. According to her statements at the trial, she is not willing to adhere to state orders in the future, instead intending to remain active as a Jehovah’s Witness. The Special Court has deemed this an aggravating reason for punishment. Whereas most defendants realize that their fight against the National Socialist state is pointless and intend to give up this hopeless struggle – doing so at least out of rational considerations if not conviction – Mrs. Baalhorn is fanatical and obstinate to the extent that she wants to continue the battle for her false doctrine. For this reason, the Special Court has deemed the minimum penalty of one year and three months in prison as insufficient to achieve the purpose of punishment, instead considering a sentence of one year and six months in prison as necessary.” Moreover, a secret Gestapo decree dated 22 Apr. 1937 authorized the State Police stations to "immediately take into protective custody” Jehovah’s Witnesses even after they had served their sentences. According to her younger son, Margarethe Baalhorn apparently renounced her faith in prison.
The younger son was put into an uncle’s care, and he continued to attend the school in Forsmannstrasse. On 28 Apr. 1939, Margarethe Baalhorn was released from the Fuhlsbüttel prison. The older son received his draft papers and had to stay in the Wehrmacht right away upon completing his compulsory military service in 1939, thus taking part in the war from the beginning.
Following the first air raids on Hamburg in the summer of 1943, Margarethe Baalhorn fled together with her younger son Werner to her parents in Lüneburg. Her husband stayed in Hamburg, where he was bound to work in the air defense system, with a chance to visit his family only on weekends. The son used his bicycle to bring a few pieces of clothing and suitcases from Hamburg to Lüneburg at the last minute. A few days later, the house at Forsmannstrasse 7 was hit hard and burned out. After completing his six-month compulsory labor service, the younger son, too, was drafted as a seventeen-year old into the Wehrmacht in the summer of 1944. After the war, he was in French captivity for an extended period – he never saw his mother again.
In Nov. 1945, Margarethe Baalhorn was involved in a car accident, sustaining fractures to an ankle and in the leg region as well as a concussion, all of which were not life-threatening by themselves. Nevertheless, she died in the Lüneburg Municipal Hospital on 12 Nov. 1945. The senior physician of the surgical department attributed the death to the consequences of imprisonment: "Mrs. Baalhorn came to us in a very poor general state of health, which must have been caused beforehand by prolonged imprisonment in a concentration camp. From a medical perspective, one has to assume as well that she did not survive these injuries because of her condition, weakened by the concentration camp internment. Possibly, the accident also occurred because of it in the first place.”
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Björn Eggert
Quellen: AfW 030294; KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme, Akte Margarethe Baalhorn, Bestand Komitee ehemaliger politischer Gefangener (Landesverband VVN Hamburg); Archiv der Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg (FZH), 35363 Fuhlsbüttel Häftlingslisten; Bezirksamt Hamburg-Nord, Bauamt/Bauprüfabteilung, Akten Forsmannstraße 7 und Barmbeker Straße 76; Standesamt Neubrandenburg, Geburtsurkunde (1894); Stadtarchiv Lüneburg, Einwohnermeldeeinträge zu Margarethe Weinert; Stadtarchiv Lüneburg, Sterberegister Standesamt Lüneburg (Nr. 2521/45); StaHH 741-4, Alte Einwohnermeldekartei 1892-1925 (Margarethe Weinert); Telefongespräch mit dem Sohn W.B. am 14.11.2007; Detlef Garbe, Gott mehr gehorchen als den Menschen, in: Projektgruppe für die vergessenen Opfer des NS-Regimes (Hrsg.), Verachtet – Verfolgt – Vernichtet. Zu den vergessenen Opfern des Nationalsozialismus, 1986, S. 198; Johannes Wrobel, Die nationalsozialistische Verfolgung der Zeugen Jehovas in Frankfurt am Main, Sonderdruck 2003; Geschichtsarchiv der Zeugen Jehovas, Verfolgungszettel vom 20.10.1945, ausgefüllt von Margarethe Baalhorn; ebd., Urteil des Hanseatischen Sondergerichts 11 Js. Sond. 297/38 vom 23.4.1938; AB 1922, 1928, 1939, 1943.