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Kurt Vorpahl * 1905
Snitgerstieg 3 (Hamburg-Mitte, Horn)
Kurt Vorpahl, born 5/7/1905 in Krempe, executed at the jail in Holstenglacis 3 on 6/26/1944
"The accused Vorpahl is a mentally alert person, but totally infested with communist ideas. He met the co-defendant Reber at work at B+V and often discussed politics with him in the communist sense. Whereby both continuously expressed their discontent with the State leaderships and their conviction that Germany would lose the war … Also, Vorpahl once gave bread and fat ration coupons to Reber for use in the food coupon fund” are the words the prosecutor used to characterize Kurt Vorpahl, a 37-year-old welder. Vorpahl’s crime: communist thinking, which after the ban of the KPD was considered equally subversive as the membership in the party, support comrades materially, opposition to the government or doubts in the "final victory.” Kurt Vorpahl wasn’t born with these opinions. He came from a conservative family from Krempe in Holstein.
His father Emil Vorpahl was a dentist, married to Frieda, née Bauer. Kurt was May born 7th, 1905 in Krempe. He went to elementary school and then eight years of high school. He began an apprenticeship as a machine builder, but aborted it when his parents got into financial troubles. In the following years, he did various metal-working jobs such as bicycle mechanic or welder at a number of companies. In 1923, he joined the "Edelweiss Club", and in June 1927 applied for membership in the NSDAP. He was registered as a candidate with the number 12818, but never received a membership card. On June 30th, 1927, he was struck from the Reich register as "resigned.” His alienation from the Nazi party was probably due to his friendship with Gertrud Knickelbein, daughter of a Wandsbek Social Democrat. The first step that marked his change of mind was joining the trade union. In 1926, aged 21, he married 17-year-old Gertrud Knickelbein, who now lived in Wendenstrasse in Hamm, whereas his home was in Spaldingstrasse in Hammerbrook. Their first daughter was born April 1st, 1927 – a son and two further daughters were to follow until 1935. The family moved to a residential cooperative apartment for large families at Snitgerstieg 3 in Horn. Hannelore Glaser also lived there, who married Helmut Schmidt, who was to become chancellor of a new Germany.
From 1927, Kurt Vorpahl worked on and off at the Blohm+Voss shipyard, where he became acquainted with communist ideas. In 1930, he took part in a strike and was fired. Together with his wife, he joined the KPD, the Rote Hilfe ("Red Aid”) and the Revolutionary Traded Union Opposition. It remains unclear if and to what extent he actually assumed functions in the organizations. In 1932, he resigned from the KPD. After another year without a job, he was again hired by Blohm +Voss. During World War II, the shipyard became a center of workers’ resistance. On February 26th, 1944, the Chief Reich Prosecutor at the "People’s Court” in Berlin indicted Kurt Vorpahl and three other men from Hamburg, Walter Weber, Erich Heins and Alwin Baasch) an, "for having formed a communist workshop cell organization at Blohm+Voss in the years 1941 and 1942 and thus prepared high treason and benefited the enemy.”
Kurt Vorpahl belonged to the "Hornberger” resistance group, whose eponym Hans Hornberger had formed a communist workshop cell at the shipyard in the years 1941 and 1942. Kurt Vorpahl was arrested at his worksite and initially detained for five months at the Fuhlsbüttel police prison, and a further fifteen months at the remand jail in Holstenglacis. After the heavy bombings of July 27th/28th that had also damaged the jails, he was seat free from July 30th to September 9th, 1943. His home in Horn had also become uninhabitable by the bombings. He and his family found shelter in Lohbrügge, Moltkestrasse 10. On March 22nd, 1944, his wife and the two middle children moved in with John Trettin at Horner Landstrasse 492, while the eldest daughter was evacuated to Kulmbach in Bavaria; the youngest girl lived with a foster family. Gertrud Vorpahl no state support payments whatever. While other prisoners went underground, Kurt Vorpahl reported back to the penitentiary on the prescribed date. His trail was held in Berlin, where the First Senate of the People’s Court sentenced him to death for preparation of high treason” and "benefitting the enemy” on May 4th, 1944. On June 26th, 1944, Vorpahl and nine other resistance fighters, among them Karl Otto Mende and Ernst Mittelbach, were guillotined at the Hamburg remand prison at Holstenglacis. All the executions were performed within half an hour. Kurt Vorpahl died at 4:22 p.m.at the age of 39.
Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: March 2019
© Stolperstein-Initiative Hamburg-Horn
Quellen: VAN-Totenliste 1968; StaH, 332-5 Standesämter, (StA 23) 3542+562/1926, (3a/Neustadt) 1203+632/1944; 351-11 AfW, 070507; Hochmuth, Niemand und nichts ...