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Heinz Leidersdorf * 1906

Grubesallee 21 (Wandsbek, Rahlstedt)

1943 Auschwitz
ermordet 18.2.1943 in Auschwitz


further stumbling stones in Grubesallee 21:
Adele Leidersdorf

Adele Leidersdorf, née Heymann, born 22 Jan. 1878, deported 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga
Heinz Leidersdorf, born 26 Feb. 1906, held 1935-36 in the Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp, 1937-43 in the Bremen-Oslebshausen Penitentiary, deported 14 Jan. 1943 to Auschwitz, murdered there 18 Feb. 1943

Grubesallee 21, Rahlstedt

Adele Leidersdorf was originally from Essen, where she was born on 22 January 1878 to Julius and Regina Heymann. In 1927 she was living with her husband Hugo Leidersdorf (*1867) at Wilhelmstraße 71 in Rahlstedt. Their eldest son had been killed in the First World War, and their second son Heinz lived with them. In 1928 the family bought the house at Grubesallee 21 in Rahlstedt. The property had belonged to the master mason Conrad Salow, and the deed was transferred to Adele Leidersdorf.

In late 1933, Adele’s husband committed suicide. Hugo Leidersdorf, who had been awarded the Cross of Honor for his service in the First World War, could no longer bear the financial losses he had suffered as a result of the Great Depression, or the emotional distress, which was probably related to the political situation. The widow’s financial situation was precarious, and she had to rely on her son for support. When he was arrested and could no longer support her, the Jewish Welfare Agency stepped in.

Heinz Leidersdorf stood up for his political beliefs and was persecuted for it. His death was not the result of a court sentence, however. He was deported to an extermination camp because he was a Jew.

Heinz Leidersdorf was born on 26 Febuary 1906 in Neuhaus on the Elbe. He attended private elementary and secondary schools there. In 1918 he transferred to a college preparatory school in Lübeck, and four years later to one in Lüneburg, from which he graduated in 1924. He then studied biology and chemistry at the universities in Cologne, Marburg, and Hamburg.

In 1928 he joined the KPD (German Communist Party), and became a member or the Red Student Group at the university in Hamburg in 1931. Later the same year he was expelled from the group because of his critical stance. In 1932 he turned to a Trotsky group, which had split from the KPD in 1928. Leidersdorf felt drawn to Leo Trotsky’s political positions and his criticism of Stalin. Trotsky had been expelled from the Politburo and the Soviet Communist Party. He and other opponents of the Soviet regime had been banned and expelled from the country. Shortly before Leidersdorf joined the group, Trotsky’s Soviet citizenship had been revoked and he was placed on the Soviet secret service’s most-wanted list.

Heinz Leidersdorf, along with Erich Kohn and Georg Jungclas, soon became the leading members of the Trotsky group.

1933 saw not only the coming to power of the National Socialist regime, but also dramatic changes in Heinz Leidersdorf’s personal life. He finished his studies in biology and chemistry. His banned political activities led to his arrest on 25 July 1933. He was placed in "protective custody” in the Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp on suspicion of seditious activities.

A fellow prisoner, Curt Bär, a member of the International Socialist Militant League, told of this time in the late 1970s: "There we sat, three political prisoners, first in a kind of preventive detention in a cell in Fuhlsbüttel. None of us had done anything illegal. Besides me there was Heinz Leidersdorf, a member of the Communist Party and Trotskyite, who was just finishing his studies as a biologist. He was a Jew. I’ve got more to say about him. We had long whispered conversations. … Like Leidersdorf I was also interested in problems in biology and other natural sciences.”

Leidersdorf was released on lack of evidence in September 1933. According to Gestapo reports he resumed his illegal activities. He attended group meetings in the Wandsbek Forest, in his mother’s home in Rahlstedt, and in his apartment on Hansastraße.

His plans to emigrate to South Africa with the help of relatives had failed. When his father committed suicide on 27 November, he realized that he would have to care for his mother. He attempted to resume his teacher training, but, as a Jew, he was no longer allowed to do so. With the help of the Jewish Employment Agency he found a job at the Talmud Tora school on Grindelhof in October 1934. There he taught biology and received a salary of 40 Reichsmarks per month. He rented a room near the school, at Hansastraße 82 III, and joined the German Israelite Community.

In January and in the summer of 1935, he visited his comrades Kohn and Jungclas in Copenhagen, where they had emigrated (see also: Biography, Liselotte Schlachcis). It is possible that he considered emigrating to Denmark, but saw himself confronted with the difficulty of obtaining a work permit or a job he was qualified for.

In October 1935 he was again living with his mother at Grubesallee 21, probably for financial reasons.

Heinz Leidersdorf was arrested again on 2 November 1935. The Gestapo had had the Trotsky group under observation for about six months, on suspicion of intent to commit high treason. Leidersdorf, Walter Munter and a few others were arrested while handing over a suitcase full of banned publications in front of the Art Museum, and taken to the Fuhlsbüttel police prison. Leidersdorf was held there from 4 November to 30 April 1936 in pre-trial detention, and again from 4 to 24 June 1936 as a prisoner of the Gestapo, during which time he was interrogated. His appearance is described in the prison files: he was 170 cm tall (5’7”), thin, had an oval-shaped face and brown hair. He did not have a beard.

Curt Bär was also arrested in June 1936, and accused of supplying the Trotsky group with banned materials, which they then took to the meetings with Munter and Defert. Wilhelm Defert, who was arrested at the same time, confessed. "One of Leidersdorf’s security arrangements wasn’t kept!” wrote Bär, who until then had denied all accusations.

When they met in the prison yard, Bär urged Leidersdorf to retract his testimony, and say that he had gotten the banned publications from a courier, whom he didn’t know, and that he only assumed it was from Bär because of the content. But Leidersdorf was not able to exonerate Bär, since the Gestapo had information from another source about Bär’s work with the International Socialist Militant League, and denying his involvement was futile.

The People’s Court in Berlin set a date for the trial in 1937. Leidersdorf’s mother tried to visit him at the Hamburg pre-trial detention center about a month before he was to be transferred to Berlin. She wrote the following letter to the court in Berlin:

Rahlstedt, 17 Jan. 1937
Grubesallee 21
To the Reich Attorney at the Berlin People’s Court
I request a pass to visit my son Heinz. In the upcoming weeks I must have another operation on my eye, and would like to see my son as often as possible. Would it be possible to receive a visitor’s pass in Hamburg? My son will not be there in the pre-trial detention center for much longer.
Frau Adele Leidersdorf

She was granted the visitor’s pass. After her visit, she was even more concerned about her son. She had probably recognized how hopeless his situation was, since he did not have an adequate defense. She then appealed to the prosecutor.

3 Feb. 1937 (date received)
To the Reich Attorney at the People’s Court in Berlin
Since my son Heinz Leidersdorf will be transferred tomorrow to the pre-trial detention center in Berlin, I would like to request permission to send him a pair of trousers and a vest, as well as a food packet – possibly the last one for a long time. Is it permissible that I write to him? My son is very concerned about my illness, and is very attached to me, as am I to him.
My son is a very noble, upright person. He has gone through hard times with us. Circumstances influence people. Adversity and desperation have driven him to this political doom. My sons were raised in a spirit of patriotism. The eldest went directly from school to the field, fought bravely in Ypres, and later went missing in Galicia. A terrible destiny. Now I only have Heinz. My late husband, who also had a Cross of Honor and served bravely in the war, chose to take his life.
My son Heinz was a conscientious, diligent student. He passed his state exam with honors. We were happy to make the sacrifices necessary to allow him to study, we cut back gladly. After my husband’s death he shared his small income with me, he did not yet have a full-time position at the Talmud Tora school. I don’t know how he had the time to be politically active. I ask the honorable Reich Attorney with all my heart not to punish my son too harshly. He is not a dangerous person. Who knows how he got involved in this situation. If only my son, the only thing I have left, remains in good health, it would make me happy. I will not be able to bear it if he receives a long prison sentence.
I beg of you to be a merciful judge,
With deepest respect, Frau A. Leidersdorf

Heinz Leidersdorf was transferred to Berlin-Moabit on 5 February 1937. He prepared for his trial in the following two weeks. He was given a public defender. The trial began on 17 February 1937. Heinz Leidersdorf, Walter Munter, and Wilhelm Defert were accused of intent to commit high treason. The judges were Senate President Engert as chief judge, with the Regional Court Director Dr. Zieger, the former agricultural leader Bredow, Major General Bock von Wülfingen, and SA Brigade Leader Walch. The prosecuting attorney was State’s Attorney Dr. Brenner. Sentencing took place on 19 February. Leidersdorf was sentenced to nine years in prison and the loss of his rights as a citizen on one count of intent to commit high treason. (As a Jew, his civil rights had already been revoked by the Nazi government in 1933 and 1935.) The sentence was reduced by 15 months spent in pre-trial detention. Munter and Defert were sentenced to ten and six years respectively. The confiscated publications – estimated value 1 Reichsmark – were withheld. The defendants had to pay the court costs.

The sentencing memorandum read: "The actions were directed against the security of the German Reich, a legally protected interest. The accused, Leidersdorf, was not involved as long or as intensively as Munter, but travelled to Copenhagen twice to negotiate with the Jewish emigrés Kohn and Jungclas about the prohibited Trotsky organization. Even if Leidersdorf also used these journeys for private purposes, that does not negate the fact that he was involved in treasonous activities. If Leidersdorf was driven to these prohibited activities by unfortunate financial and domestic circumstances, as he maintains, it remains the conviction of the senate that his deeds were primarily a result of the hateful and hostile opinion toward the Third Reich that he, as a Jew, held. A prison sentence of nine years is thus recognized. …
Through their activities, the accused have attempted in an insidious manner to damage the Führer’s great, peaceful construction, and have thus consciously disassociated themselves with the national community. Their rights as citizens are therefore revoked.”

The animosity of the Nazi regime toward the Jewish population was, however, not an issue in the trial.

The prisoners were transferred from the pre-trial detention center to the Plötzensee Penitentiary in Berlin on 22 February 1937. Two days later they were transferred to the Oslebshausen Penitentiary in Bremen.

Adele Leidersdorf would have liked to have visited her son, but her eye problems and her strained finances did not allow her to travel to Bremen. She thus sent a request to Berlin to have her son transferred to a prison in Hamburg. The State’s Attorney General of the Hanseatic Regional Court denied her request. He sent a letter with his reasons to the State’s Attorney’s office in Berlin. "I cannot approve a transfer of the prisoner Heinz Leidersdorf … to Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel, as the reasons listed do not justify the completion of his sentence, contrary to the current sentencing plan, in Hamburg. Should Leidersdorf’s mother not have the necessary means to travel to Bremen, she should be advised to submit an application for financial support to the penitentiary in Bremen. Should her eye complaint prevent her travelling to Bremen, I give my consent to allowing Leidersdorf to be transported between Bremen and Hamburg so that his mother may visit him. In this case, the penitentiary in Bremen should be contacted.”

This reply shows that there was room for a margin of discretion within the Nazi justice system, even in the case of political prisoners.

There is no evidence that the mother and son were able to see each other.

Heinz Leidersdorf was taken to Berlin for ten days on 2 April 1937, and then returned to Bremen.

From 21 January 1939 to 22 January 1940, his mother lived at Brahmsallee 21. Thereafter she returned to Grubesallee 21. In 1940 she received welfare benefits and care from the Jewish Community. According to a memorandum from the office of Senator Wilhelm von Allwörden, dated October 1939, she still owned her lot, although it was heavily mortgaged. She paid 70 Reichsmarks per month in mortgage payments. After payment of her bills, she had only 46 Reichsmarks per month for living expenses.

She lived in Rahlstedt until she was deported to Riga on 6 December 1941. There all traces of her were lost.

Two days before she was deported, her assets were confiscated and credited to the German Reich. The 605m² lot in Rahlstedt became property of the state in February 1942, and was sold in the summer of 1942. The purchaser was a city inspector who had rented rooms in the house, possibly while Adele Leidersdorf still lived there.

It can be assumed that Heinz Leidersdorf, who was still in prison in Bremen-Oslebshausen, was informed of his mother’s deportation. When it was ordered that all Jewish prisoners be evacuated from the prisons in Germany, he was "transferred elsewhere” – to Auschwitz – on 14 January 1943. He was murdered there on 18 February 1943, a few days before his 37th birthday. His prison sentence was due to end on 19 November 1944, about 18 months later.

Heinz Leidersdorf was the last surviving member of the family. There is a gravestone for his father Hugo at the Jenfelder Straße cemetery. His original grave was either destroyed when houses were built on the cemetery grounds in 1943, or it was moved in 1955.

Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: March 2017
© Astrid Louven

Quellen: 1; 2 R 1939/1417; StaHH 241-1 I Justizverwaltung I, Signatur 2911 Schutzhaftzeiten; StaHH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Abl. 16, Untersuchungsgefangene-Männer, alte Kartei: Auskunft Hr. Stukenbrock vom 29.4.2004; StaHH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Abl. 13, Gefangenenkartei Männer, jüngere Kartei; StaHH 213-9 Staatsanwaltschaft Oberlandesgericht – Strafsachen, Verfahrensregister 1936 Az. OJs 78/36 Verfahren wg. Vorbereitung zum Hochverrat 17.02.1936 eröffnet, vom Reichsanwalt beim Volksgerichtshof zum Az. 15 J 544/36 übernommen; Bundesarchiv Strafakten des Volksgerichtshofs, Anklageschrift des Reichsanwalts in der Strafsache Munter und andere betr. Leidersdorf Az. 15 J 544/36 vom 24.6.1936 und 26.11.1936 sowie Vollstreckungsbd. 2; Grundbuchakte Altrahlstedt 2087; AB 1931 VI; Wikipedia, Stichwort Leo Trotzki am 28.9.2007; Curt Bär, Göttingen, S. 74, 84, 92, 96; Naphtali Bar Giora Bamberger, Memorbuch Bd. 2, S. 48; Gertrud Meyer, Nacht, S. 147, 233, 236, 271; Thomas Pusch, Exil, S. 208f.; Ursula Wamser, Wilfried Weinke, Studienreferendar, in: dies., Jüdisches Leben, S. 262ff.
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