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Paul Styrnal * 1907

Horner Landstraße 204 (Hamburg-Mitte, Horn)

JG. 1907

Paul Styrnal, b. 5.29.1907 in Wilhelmsburg, death on 6.26.1945 in the Mainkofen/Niederbayern mental institution

Horner Landstraße 204

Johann Paul Styrnal was born on 29 May 1907 in Wilhelmsburg into a Catholic family of four children. After completion of elementary school, he spent the time until his 18th birthday, when he acquired a driver’s license, doing agricultural labor, among other things. He found a position with the Hamburg-Amerika Line as a driver: from 1928 to 1929, he drove trucks; in 1931 he earned wages as a private chauffeur for ship captains. Because of the world economic crisis he was let go and was not able to find a new position. He lived with his family in Horn, at Horner Landstrasse 204. On 11 April 1931, he married Wally Lavrenz, who share his communist political convictions. She later described him as contented, cheerful, sociable, and eager to learn.

On 6 November 1931, their first daughter was born. In the same year, Paul Styrnal joined the KPD (German Communist Party). Together with his wife, he was active from 1931 to 1933 in the "Red Aid” and worked in the KPD as a courier under the then political leader of the Horn city district, Johannes Schäfer. On 24 October 1933, Paul Styrnal was arrested by the Gestapo for illegal activity and taken to the Gestapo headquarters at Stadthausbrücke. Because he refused to sign the interrogation protocol, he was severely mishandled, suffering injuries to his head and neck and to his nervous system, which resulted in Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

Nine days later, John Trettin, his party comrade, from Horner Landstrasse 492, was also arrested. Four days later he was found hung in his cell at Stadthausbrücke with signs of serious physical abuse. Having learned of this, Paul Styrnal could slough off all the charges against him onto John Trettin. The Hanseatic Special Court, in the "Dose and Associates” trial, sentenced him on 13 April 1934 to one year in jail on account of "preparation for high treason,” by means of the distribution of communist pamphlets. He served his sentence in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp. With a reduction for time in investigative detention, he was released on 25 October 1934. Despite the relatively short time in prison, his health was broken as a result of the severe abuses; this substantially limited his ability to work. Instead of driving a truck, he was placed by the director of a durum wheat mill, where his sister had obtained a job for him, on doorman’s duty because of his nerve damage; nevertheless, he had to give this job up after a few weeks. From 1941, he was on disability relief. He increasingly withdrew into himself.

On 4 October 1935, a second daughter was born. In 1938, Paul Styrnal caught a heavy cold. Although he recovered from the infection, his nerve damage worsened. In 1939, he was placed in the Königin-Elena-Klinik in Kassel; the treatment brought no lasting relief.

Full of hatred for the Nazi regime, Paul Styrnal moved with his family from Horn to Wichernsweg 28 in Hamm (Westphalia), where he hope to be able to again engage in illegal activity. Because his health continued to worsen, all that remained to him were discussion evenings in his home; even this was limited by his speech impediment. Participants in these discussions was the political leader of the KPD in Hamm, Oswald Laue, who lived at Döhnerstrasse 44, and Max Blaeser, who lived at Eiffestrasse 543, and who eventually moved in at Wichernsweg 28. They, too, were victims of persecution because of their political resistance.

During "Operation Gomorrah" in July 1943, the Styrnal Family was bombed out in Hamm and subsequently evacuated to Bavaria, where they were until the end of the war. Paul Styrnal’s condition required the help of his wife for all everyday tasks; he could communicate only through eye movements and could no longer move himself without assistance. On 12 June 1945, he was committed to the mental hospital at Mainkofen in Lower Bavaria, where "euthanasia" had been practiced a short time before. There, Paul Styrnal died from pneumonia two weeks later.

Research at that institution revealed that Paul Styrnal, while incarcerated in Fuhlsbüttel, had suffered an inflammation of the brain which, because of inadequate treatment, worsened and developed into a Parkinson’s-like condition from which he could not recover. His wife never freed herself from the suspicion that he was murdered because, even after the war ended, patients at Mainkofen died in the same circumstances as before; they had been murdered insidiously by meager rations, withholding of medical treatment, or lethal medications. The causes of death were reported mostly as "pneumonia.

Wally Styrnal returned to Hamburg with her children in April 1946.

Translator: Richard Levy
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: January 2019
© Stolperstein-Initiative Hamburg-Horn

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