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Otto Schumann (o. J.)
Otto Schumann (o. J.)
© StaH

Otto Schumann * 1888

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

MDHB 1931 – 1933 SPD
JG. 1888
TOT 3.5.1945

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, August Schmidt, Theodor Skorzisko, Ernst Thälmann, Hans Westermann

Otto Schumann, Member of the Hamburg City Parliament

Otto Schumann was born on 5 Nov. 1888 in Magdeburg-Buckau. Initially, he attended the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule) in his hometown and subsequently learned the trade of molder.

Otto Schumann took up residence in Hamburg even before the First World War. The active labor unionist joined the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) as early as 1907, at the age of 19. In 1908, he found employment with the Blohm & Voss shipyard.

Following the First World War, which Schumann spent as a soldier on the western front, he held a position as a functionary in the "Union of Molders and Foundry Workers” ("Gewerkschaft der Former und Giessereiarbeiter”) in Hamburg and after 1925 also in the Social Democratic "Banner of the Reich” ("Reichsbanner”), where he served as an auditor. In addition, he headed the "Neustadt” district of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Schumann practiced the molder’s trade until 1926. Afterward, he changed jobs to become a salaried employee at the employment office, working as a placement officer, in the very end at the "Nordmark” regional employment office.

Otto Schumann won a seat in the Hamburg City Parliament during the "disaster elections” ("Katastrophenwahlen”) in 1931. The increase of the Communist parliamentary party from 27 to 35 members and that of the Nazi party (NSDAP) from 3 to 43 members rendered the City Parliament unable to govern in light of the blocking minority of the radical parties that existed henceforth. This constellation forced the coalition senate comprised of the SPD, German State Party (Deutsche Staatspartei – DStP), and German People’s Party (Deutsche Volkspartei – DVP) to fall back on the emergency decree legislation. Thus, in Hamburg, too, the economic crisis and mass unemployment had resulted in the radical parties being able to unhinge parliamentarianism. Under these circumstances, it was barely possible for Schumann to set any trends as a new deputy and to become active in shaping politics. Due to the numerous motions by the National Socialists and the Communists, solely aiming at propaganda effects, issue-related work was no longer feasible anyway. The new elections taking place in Apr. 1932, in which Schumann once again gained a seat, did not bring any change in the ongoing constitutional state of emergency.

Otto Schumann barely distinguished himself as a speaker for his party. He dedicated himself to work in the committees, devoting his attention to, among other things, questions of transport policy. The Social Democratic member of parliament lost his seat in connection with the "forcible coordination” ("Gleichschaltung”) of the Hamburg City Parliament at the end of Mar. 1933.

From the very beginning, Schumann ranked among the critics of the strict course of legality followed by the SPD party leadership. Under the circumstances of dictatorship, he did not deem it sufficient to do opposition work from the "basis of legality.” When the party assets were seized on 10 May 1933, the day the "forcibly coordinated” Hamburg city parliament convened, Schumann ultimately realized that the time had come to organize illegal party work. Since he deemed a party ban inevitable, he joined members of the parliamentary group and district leaders in advocating abandonment of the previous tactic of keeping a low profile. He rejected the "willingness to engage in practical cooperation,” announced by Hans Podeyn [a Hamburg SPD politician] as late as the day on which the city parliament went into session.

Following his departure from the Hamburg city parliament, Schumann was hit by the Nazis’ "purge” of the civil service in 1933: Immediately after the ban of the SPD, the Social Democrat was dismissed from the civil service based on the so-called "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” ("Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums”). Shortly afterward, he started a business of his own operating a laundry.

Schumann maintained contact with former fellow party members and was involved in the attempts at building up an illegal party organization, carried in particular by functionaries of the mid-level organizational tier. Under the direction of Schumann’s fellow party member and former colleague in the parliamentary party, Walter Schmedemann, it was possible to cover the individual SPD districts and coordinate them in terms of personnel. For his part, Schumann headed the "Hamburg-Neustadt” district for some time.

In keeping with the guidelines of the Social Democratic leadership in exile ("Sopade”), attempts were made to do political informational and educational work. For instance, this involved distributing newspapers smuggled in from abroad and brochures with political content produced under innocuous titles. The "Schmedemann Group” regarded another focus of their illegal work to be the so-called "prisoner welfare.” By collecting dues and monetary donations smuggled into Germany from abroad, it became possible to provide financial support for needy relatives of political prisoners. In this context, Otto Schumann’s assignment was coordinating the collection and distribution of the funds. It was Schumann who organized a room at a female acquaintance’s place for the illegal meetings that he himself attended on a regular basis. In Oct. 1934, the Gestapo smashed the "Schmedemann Group” and Otto Schumann, too, was arrested. In Nov. 1934, the Hamburg Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) sentenced him to a 21-month prison term.

Little is known about Schumann’s political activities following his release from prison. Some evidence suggests that he continued to participate in illegal political work. Immediately after the assassination attempt [against Hitler] on 20 July [1944], Otto Schumann was arrested in the course of the so-called "Operation Thunderstorm” ("Aktion Gewitter”) and taken to the Neuengamme concentration camp.

At the end of Apr. 1945, when the "evacuation” of Neuengamme began in the face of imminent capitulation, Otto Schumann was among the approx. 10,000 prisoners sent on the death march to the ships CAP ARCONA and THIELBEK lying in the roads in the Bay of Lübeck. During a raid of British fighter planes on numerous ships in the Bay of Lübeck on 3 May 1945, aimed at preventing the escape abroad of German war criminals, the CAP ARCONA and the THIELBEK were attacked as well, killing 7,000 prisoners, including Otto Schumann.

To commemorate Otto Schumann, streets in Lohbrügge and Ahrensburg were named after him.

Translator: Erwin Fink
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

Otto Karl Schumann, born 5 Nov. 1888 in Magdeburg-Buckau, imprisoned in 1935, 1944 at Neuengamme concentration camp, perished 3 May 1945 when the Cap Arcona Ship sank in the Bay of Lübeck

Karpfangerstraße 20
Rathausmarkt 1 (left in front of Hamburg City Hall)

Otto Schumann, a native of Magdeburg-Buckau, was raised with two siblings. His father August Schumann was a laborer, his mother’s name was Emma, née Buro. After elementary school, Otto Schumann learned the trade of a molder and joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1907.

That same year on 11 Sept. 1907, his son Otto August Arnold was born in in Fermersleben. On 31 Dec. 1910 Otto Schumann married the mother of his child Meta Götze (born 21 Nov. 1888 in Magdeburg-Fermersleben, died 2 Oct. 1954). At that time Meta lived at Margarethenstraße 23, Otto was still living with his parents at Schulterblatt 156. He worked at the shipyard of Blohm & Voss. Their second child, daughter Hildegard Meta Emma, was born on 25 Dec. 1917.

After the end of World War I, in which Otto Schumann served on the western front, he became a union official of molders and foundry workers. As of 1924 he was among the founding members of the group "Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold” which formed to defend parliamentary democracy. A training program for "union and party educational work” enabled him to get a job at the Nordmark regional employment office, Neuer Jungfernstieg, in 1926 where he worked as a clerk. Otto Schumann also worked as a youth welfare worker and lay judge. In 1927 he and his family lived in a third-floor apartment at Karpfangerstraße 20. In 1931 he was registered at Schaarsteinweg 22 and that same year was elected to the Hamburg Parliament as a representative of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). As a representative he took part in an assembly in the editorial building of the Hamburger Echo, the Hamburg SPD’s daily newspaper, rich in tradition, on Fehlandstraße where the overall political situation was discussed. Since all social-democratic and communist meetings had been banned as of Apr. 1933, the state police stormed the assembly and arrested all of the participants. After six weeks in detention, Otto Schumann was dismissed with immediate effect from his job for being a social democrat in accord with the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.

In Jan. 1934, he took over a laundry at Brauerknechtgraben 36, which provided excellent cover for rebuilding the SPD which by then had been banned. As a leading member of the "Schmedemann Group” (Walter Schmedemann, 1901-1976, led the social democrat resistance in Hamburg), he oversaw the collection of money to support imprisoned comrades and their relatives and was responsible for funding their political work. In his last role, he headed the political activity in the district Hamburg-Neustadt before he was arrested once again in Oct. 1934 along with others from his organization. He was charged with "preparations for high treason”. The Hanseatic Regional Court sentenced him on 18 June 1935 to one year and nine months in prison. He served his sentence at Fuhlsbüttel Penitentiary. Immediately afterwards he was held in "protective custody” for an additional year at Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Oranienburg.

We do not know whether Otto Schumann returned to his political activity after his release. In July 1943, the Schumann’s were bombed out of their home on Brauerknechtgraben and found refuge in Ahrensburg. It was there that Otto Schumann found a job on 13 Sept. 1943 working for the General Local Health Insurer.

He was again apprehended on 20 Aug. 1944 within the framework of "Operation Gewitter” (also called Operation Gitter): Well-known former Hamburg parliamentarians, social democrats, communists and liberals were arrested, likely as a result of the failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, in order to remove all opposition leadership should a future attack succeed.

Meta Schumann was placed under police supervision following her husband’s arrest. She received his last letter from Neuengamme concentration camp, dated 26 Mar. 1945. Neuengamme was cleared out on 19 Apr. 1945, ahead of the approaching Allied troops. Over the course of that evacuation, part of the prisoners were herded towards the Bay of Lübeck where they were forced to board the Cap Arcona, a former luxury steamship which recently had transported East Prussian refugees to Schleswig-Holstein and now was moored in the Baltic Sea at Neustadt because engine damage had rendered it unable to maneuver. Other prisoners boarded the freight ships Thielbek and Athen.

On 3 May 1945 British fighter bombers targeted the ships because they thought they were troop transporters and set them on fire. The Thielbek sank within a few minutes, the burning Cap Arcona capsized. Most of the 4300 to 6000 prisoners (descriptions vary) from different concentration camps (Neuengamme, Stutthof and Auschwitz) burned to death on board, drowned in the icy Baltic or were shot to death by members of the Navy or SS as they tried to reach land. Among them was the social democrat Otto Schumann.

In June 2012, 20 Stumbling Stones were laid to the left, outside the entrance to city hall in honor of the parliamentarians who were killed. Streets in Ahrensburg and Hamburg-Lohbrügge have been named after Otto Schumann.

Translator: Suzanne von Engelhardt
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: June 2020
© Susanne Rosendahl

Quellen: StaH 332-5 Standesämter 3156 u 792/1910; StaH 332-5 Standesämter 9976 u 975/1946; StaH 351-11, AfW 10785 (Schumann, Meta); StaH 242-1 II, Abl.13, ältere Gefängniskartei Männer Strafgefängnis Fuhlsbüttel; StaH 242-1 II, Abl. 16, Untersuchungshaft; StaH 121-3 Bürgerschaft I A 17; Auskünfte von Herbert Diercks, Archiv der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme, Bestand VVN; Bauche/Eiber/Wamser/Weinke: "Wir sind die Kraft", S. 286–287; Müller: Bürgerschaft, S. 55; Hochmuth/Meyer: Streiflichter, S.253; Goguel: Cap Arcona; (Geburtenregister Otto Carl Schumann am 5.11.1888 (Zugriff 5.8.2017).

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