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August Schmidt * 1884

Rathausmarkt 1 (links vor dem Rathaus) (Hamburg-Mitte, Hamburg-Altstadt)

MDHB 1928 – 1931 KPD
JG. 1884

further stumbling stones in Rathausmarkt 1 (links vor dem Rathaus):
Kurt Adams, Etkar Josef André, Bernhard Bästlein, Adolf Biedermann, Gustav Brandt, Valentin Ernst Burchard, Max Eichholz, Hugo Eickhoff, Theodor Haubach, Wilhelm Heidsiek, Ernst Henning, Hermann Hoefer, Franz Jacob, Friedrich Lux, Fritz Simon Reich, Otto Schumann, Theodor Skorzisko, Ernst Thälmann, Hans Westermann

August Friedrich Schmidt, born 7/13/1884 in Königsaue near Quedlinburg, died on 8/3/1939 in Hamburg of the effects of imprisonment.

For four years, August Schmidt was a Communist member of the Hamburg City Council. Born in Königsaue near Quedlinburg, he absolved elementary school and then worked as a farm hand. In 1906, he moved to Hamburg, where found work at a shipyard; later, he found a job at the State Docks. In 1907, when Hamburg was a stronghold of the Social Democrats and the labor unions, he joined the SPD; he was also a member of the Union of Port Workers, one of Hamburg’s largest trade unions.

At the end of World War I, August Schmidt switched to the USPD, the Independent Social Democratic Party an organization that had seceded from the Social Democrats in protest against their support of Germany’s war effort. For a time, August Schmidt was a regional leader of the USPD. At the end of 1920, Schmidt and the majority of the Hamburg USPD members switched to the KPD, the Communist party lead by Ernst Thälmann. From 1927 to 1931, August Schmidt represented the KPD in the Hamburg City Council, where he was a devoted advocate of the interests of the port workers. A member of the Port Expansion Committee, he worked on planning construction projects. In addition, he belonged to the grievance committee for the housing agency.

August Schmidt had been engaged in the Rote Hilfe ("Red Aid”), a KPD-oriented organization that supported imprisoned members of the Communist party, trade unionists and other political prisoners and their dependents. At the end of 1920s, Schmidt helped organize the Revolutionäre Gewerkschaftsopposition (RGO) – "Revolutionary Trade Union Opposition. Together with the newly founded "United Organization of Seamen, Stevedores and Inland Sailors of Germany”, August Schmidt joined in organizing strikes in the Port of Hamburg.

When Rudolf Wissel, Prussian cabinet minister and member of the Universal German Trade Union (ADGB), declared the labor dispute terminated after 14 weeks without the strikers having achieved any results, a part of the workers continued the strike, whereupon the police took hard action against the strikers. In the city council, August Schmidt harshly attacked Social Democratic Chief of Police for this.

After the Reichstag Fire in February 1933, Reich President Hindenburg’s "Emergency Decree for the Protection of the People and the State” the Communist Party was suppressed. August Schmidt continued working in the now illegal KPD; until his arrest on September 17th, 1935, he was head of the Winterhude district chapter. After months of remand, Schmidt was sentenced to two years in prison in 1936. The circumstances of his death remain unclear. He is said to have been severely marked when he was released from prison and died on August 3rd, 1939.

The original building at Geibelstrasse 24 no longer exists, but the adjoining old houses give an impression of how August Schmidt might have lived. In 1995, the Hamburg city council published a brochure in memory of the "victims of totalitarian persecution”, wherein the author Frank Müller portrayed Schmidt’s life and work.

In the staircase leading to the plenary chamber of Hamburg’s town hall, there is a memorial plaque for the "victims of totalitarian persecution” It makes no mention of the names of the members of the town council who fell victim to the National Socialist persecution.

"Red” Geibelstrasse

Like quite a few other streets in working-class neighborhoods, "red” Geibelstrasse was a thorn in the side of the Nazis. On May 1st, 1933, the women there displayed their red bedticks as flags by airing them in the windows. Contemporary witnesses recall that Nazi storm troopers repeatedly raided apartments in Geibelstrasse to search them and abduct suspects.

Translation by Peter Hubschmid 2018
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: January 2019
© Christine Meier

Quellen: Frank Müller, Mitglieder der Bürgerschaft – Opfer totalitärer Verfolgung, 2. Auflage, Hamburg 1995; Ursel Hochmuth/Gertrud Meyer, Streiflichter aus dem Hamburger Widerstand 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main 1980.

August Friedrich Schmidt, Member of the Hamburg City Council

August Friedrich Schmidt was born on July 13th, 1884 in Königsaue near Quedlinburg in Saxony-Anhalt. After finishing elementary school, he worked there as a farmhand. He came to Hamburg in 1906, where he found work at a shipyard in the port; later, he got a job at the state docks.

In the city that had become a bastion of the Social Democrats in the course of the industrialization during the second half of the 19th century, he joined the SPD in 1907. In addition, he was a member of the Port Workers’ Union, one of Hamburg’s largest trade unions, along with the Transport Workers’ Union and the Sailors’ Association of Sailors. We know next to nothing about the following ten years of Schmidt’s life. It seems that he split with the SPD leadership during World War I over the issue of war bonds. At the end of the war, August Schmidt joined the USPD and for a time was one of its local leaders alongside Ernst Thälmann. At the end of 1920, Schmidt and most of the Hamburg USPD members followed Thälmann into the new communist party KPD.

The twenties were characterized by his engagement for the stevedores’ union and, from 1924, in the Rote Hilfe ("Red Aid”), an organization devoted to the material and moral support of imprisoned Communists and their families.

From 1927 to 1931, August Schmidt was a member of the Hamburg City Council, where he persistently campaigned for the improvement of the working conditions in the port and belonged to the Port Expansion Committee. He devoted most of his effort to the concerns of the port workers, advocated the increased use of modern equipment, better ventilation of the sheds, the development of staff canteens and sanitary facilities. In addition, he was a member of the grievance committee for the housing agency, which became a further focus of his parliamentary activity.

From the end of the 1920s, Schmidt was one of the main organizers of the "Revolutionary Trade Union Opposition” (Revolutionäre Gewerkschaftsopposition, RGO) who aimed to restore the influence of the KPD in the works councils and the workers’ associations lost during the period of economic and political stabilization by a radical "leftist” policy. On orders from the "Red Trade Union Internationale”, they tried to widen the base for the battle against the "Social Democratic main enemy”, with the object to split the Social Democratically oriented trade unions with their 4.8 million members joined in the ADGB, the General Association of German Trade Unions.

With the newly founded "United German Association of Seamen, Stevedores and Inland Sailors” (Einheitsverband der Seeleute, Hafenarbeiter und Binnenschiffer Deutschlands) Schmidt helped organize spontaneous strikes in the Port. After the hard crackdown by the police, Schmidt fiercely attacked Adolph Schönfelder, the Social Democratic Police Chief, in the City Council.

After the de facto banning of the KPD by the decree of February 28th, 1933 in the aftermath of the burning of the Reichstag building, Schmidt continued his political work underground. Until his arrest on September 17th, 1935, he headed the illegal KPD district chapter in Hamburg-Winterhude. After several months of remand, he was sentenced to two years in prison in 1936.

The exact circumstances of Schmidt’s death on August 3rd, 1939 remain unclear. According to oral reports, he died from the results of mistreatment suffered in prison following his release.

Translation by Peter Hubschmid 2018
© Text by courtesy of the Hamburg City Council, excerpted from: Jörn Lindner/Frank Müller: "Mitglieder der Bürgerschaft – Opfer totalitärer Verfolgung", 3rd revised and augmented edition, Hamburg 2012

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: January 2019
© Text mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Bürgerschaft der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg (Hrsg.) entnommen aus: Jörn Lindner/Frank Müller: "Mitglieder der Bürgerschaft – Opfer totalitärer Verfolgung", 3., überarbeitete und ergänzte Auflage, Hamburg 2012

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