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August Querst
© Privatbesitz

August Quest * 1886

Kapellenweg 15 (Harburg, Wilstorf)

ermordet am 28.4.1945

further stumbling stones in Kapellenweg 15:
Emma Quest

Emma Quest, née Rehm, b. 4.4.1881 in Otterndorf, d. 10.9.1957
August Quest, b. 2.28.1886 in Essen-Altenessen, killed on 4.28.1945 in the Bützow-Dreibergen penitentiary

District Wilstorf, Kapellenweg 15

Emma Rehm was the daughter of a farm worker. After finishing school she worked at home, then moved to Harburg in 1910 and learned tailoring. On 15 October 1918, she married August Quest and then no longer practiced her trade. On 11 June 1920, they had a son, Karl. He became a machinist and lost his life fighting in Northern Italy on 18 March 1945. Another son, from an earlier relationship, Alfred Rehm, was born to Emma Quest on 10 January 1906.

In 1919 she became a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), then went over to the Independent Socialists (USPD), and soon thereafter to the Communist Party (KPD). In 1923 she joined the free-thinking Monist Association, a federated organization similar to the Wandervogel movement. In 1929 she became a member of the communist "Red Aid.”

The metal worker August Quest was the son of Karl Quest and Auguste Fischer. He had several siblings: Fritz, b. 1 May 1894, and Johanna, b. 29 June 1899, both in Altenessen. A further brother Karl (b. 30 March 1889) later lived in Elmshorn and then from 1914 in Harburg at Feldstrasse 2 (today, Kalischerstrasse). He was killed in the war on 19 September 1915.

Prior to World War I, August Quest joined the SPD. He was a soldier from 1915 to 1917. Until his arrest in 1943, he lived with his wife Emma in the vicinity of the artificial lake Aussenmühlenteichs at Haus Kapellenweg 15. In 1929 he became a member of the KPD. In the Great Depression he became jobless and remained so until his arrest in 1934.

After the crushing of the KPD following the Reichstag Fire of 27 February 1933, both took part in the communist resistance. In the fall of 1933, a new subregional directorate of the KPD for Harburg-Wilhelmsburg was formed under the leadership of Erich Meyer. In Harburg the illegal KPD was organized in city district groups and cells of three to five members. August Quest was the organization leader of the Wilstorf city district. Members sold the illegal "North German Newspaper” for Harburg-Wilhelmsburg, as well as other materials; they also collected money for "Red Aid.” In the summer of 1934, there began a great wave of arrests against the illegal KPD in Harburg-Wilhelmsburg. August Quest was seized on 30 July 1934; the Gestapo confiscated financial contributions in his possession. According to statements by both his fellow-prisoners, Johannes Stodolny and Theodor Sylvester, he was brought to the Schwarzenberg police barracks.

From there he went on 7 August to the Harburg court prison on Buxtehude Strasse; on 19 February 1935 he was placed in the Altona court interrogation prison. In the spring of 1935, there were nine trials (indictments A-J) before the Third Criminal Division of the Berlin Court of Appeal, which convened in the district courts of Altona and Stade. August Quest, along with 16 fellow-fighters from Wilstorf, stood before the Altona court (Indictment B) on 28 February 1935. On the grounds of "preparation for high treason” he was condemned to the penitentiary for two years and nine months. He was confined to the Rendsburg penitentiary until 23 March 1937 and thereafter to Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel.

In 1935 a new sub regional directorate of the KPD was established under the leadership of Felix Plewa. The city district groups were reorganized. In Wilstorf Emma Quest and Otto Dreyer assisted.

In 1936 Emma Quest got to know Karl Nieter who offered to work in her garden, as long as her husband was in jail. He indicated that he worked for the illegal "Red Aid.” Disguised as a Danish citizen, he operated as a courier for the KPD-North Section between Harburg-Wilhelmsburg and Copenhagen (see biographical entry for Felix Plewa). Emma Quest let him stay with her overnight as long as he was in Harburg. Karl Nieter brought with him a false-bottomed trunk that held illegal KPD pamphlets which he distributed in Harburg. He gathered reports of personal experience from Harburg and from Harburg factories to be used in the publications put out by the KPD-North Section. Up until the beginning of the war in 1939, he stayed at Emma Quest’s eight to ten times. Work in the garden was his cover.

Following the occupation of Denmark by the German armed forces in 1940, the Gestapo seized several members of the former KPD-North Section and their contact people in Germany. On 22 October 1941, Emma Quest was caught. Her oldest son Alfred Rehm remained in the dwelling at Kapellenweg 15.

Emma Quest arrived in the Gestapo Fuhlsbüttel prison and on 12 November was held for interrogation in the Holstenglacis prison. There, according to her file, she was to be kept strictly separated from all other political inmates. On 8 May 1942, she was condemned by the Hanseatic Superior Court to three years in the penitentiary on account of "preparation for high treason.” From 15 May to 4 August 1942, she was in the women’s prison at Fuhlsbüttel; from there she was briefly sent back to Holstenglacis, then on 8 September 1943 to the Kiel penal institution, then to the Lübeck-Marstall prison on 8 July 1944, then back to Fuhlsbüttel on 24 January 1945, and finally on 1 March 1945 to the Gestapo’s work reeducation camp at Langen Morgen in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg.

On 22 March 1945, the camp was hit in a heavy bombing raid and then disbanded. The prisoners who survived were transported to other camps and prisons. A few days before this, Emma Quest suffered a stroke and was paralyzed on one side of her body. In the bombardment she also received a head wound and was unconscious. She was sent at first to the police hospital at Langenhorn, later, on 28 June 1945, to the Eilbeck General Hospital, and finally to the Lübeck-Steckwitz hospital. On 10 October 1945, Harburg friends fetched her back home. She never regained her heath, contracted heart disease, and died after a second stroke on 19 October 1957.

August Quest, despite his long incarceration, again joined the resistance, supporting, together with Paul Dreibrodt, Berthold Bormann, and others in the Harburg district, the Hamburg-based resistance organization around Bernhard Bästlein, Franz Jacob, und Robert Abshagen (see biographical entry for Karl Kock). From 24 October 1941, he was held at the Fuhlsbüttel Gestapo prison in "protective custody” until 12 November.

In 1943, he hid in his house on Kapellenweg his friend, Karl Kock, who was running from the Gestapo. On 6 March 1943 he, together with Karl Kock, was arrested and taken to the Fuhlsbüttel Gestapo prison and then on 11 May to the Holstenglacis interrogation center. After the fire-bombing of Hamburg in July 1943 (the Gomorrah Attack), several inmates received a "prisoner furlough.” But August Quest was not among them.

On 8 May 1944, he, Karl Kock, and others stood before the Second Division of the "People’s Court” that had convened in Hamburg. Karl Kock was condemned to death and executed. The others, among them August Quest and Paul Dreibrodt, received lengthy prison sentences they served in the penitentiary at Celle. August Quest was sentenced to four years and transported to Celle on 27 May 1944. As Allied troops moved closer, the political prisoners were loaded on to open freight cars on 8 April 1945. The transport with August Quest and his Harburg fellow-prisoner Paul Dreibrodt left on 10 April; the next day the Americans were already in Celle. After several days of travel between Celle and Lüneburg without food, the prisoners arrived at the Bützow-Dreibergen penitentiary in Mecklenburg. They were locked in a stable where the manure stood four inches deep. Here, too, they were fed insufficiently or not at all. For "cutlery” they used empty tin cans.

Around 250 men died here of hunger and exhaustion – August Quest on 28 April 1945. On 3 May the prison was liberated by Soviet troops. The survivors were taken to an infirmary. In spite of the care they received many more died from the effects of imprisonment, among them Paul Dreibrodt. Only 70 men from the transport survived.

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

Stand: February 2018
© Hans-Joachim Meyer

Quellen: VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.), Die anderen, s. Personenverzeichnis; Hochmuth/Meyer, Streiflichter, s. Personenverzeichnis; VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.), Stumme Zeugen, s. Personenverzeichnis; StaH, 242-1-II Gefängnisverwaltung, Abl. 13; StaH, 331-1-II Polizeibehörde II; StaH, 332-8 Meldewesen, A44, A46; StaH, 351-11 AfW, Emma Quest; StaH, 430-64 Amtsgericht Hamburg; StaH, Adressbücher Harburg-Wilhelmsburg und Hamburg; Anklageschrift Generanstaatsanwalt HOLG 20.1.1942, Privatbesitz; Anklageschrift Karl Kock u. a., Privatbesitz; VVN, Komitee-Akten; Heyl/Maronde-Heyl, Abschlussbericht; Totenliste VAN.

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