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Emil Göthel * 1878
Menckesallee 23 (Wandsbek, Eilbek)
Emil Oscar Göthel, born on 20 Feb. 1878 in Oberschöna near Freiberg in Saxony, died on 3 May 1942 in Hamburg due to the effects of imprisonment
Like Wilhelm Krüger (see corresponding entry), the Social Democrat Emil Göthel belonged to the resistance group around Walter Schmedemann, then a male nurse and subsequently Hamburg senator of health, in Hamburg-Eilbek. Emil Göthel suffered severe harm to his health during detention. The effects of imprisonment resulted in his death.
Emil Göthel was born as the fourth of eight siblings and ten stepsiblings in Oberschöna in Saxony on 20 Feb. 1878. His father, the bricklayer Paul Hermann Göthel, had a house of his own. His mother, Caroline Bertha Göthel, née Hoyer, came from the neighboring village of Kleinschirma. Emil Göthel remained unmarried.
After attending the eight-grade elementary school (Volksschule), he worked as a bricklayer like his father. It appears that he continued in this line of work even after his move to Hamburg in 1915. Later, he must have changed occupations, as a prisoner file card dating from 1936 indicates his occupation as a molder. Molders work in foundries producing molds required for casting work pieces made, e.g., of iron and steel. Starting in 1930, Emil Göthel shared the fate of millions of workers: He become unemployed. He then earned his livelihood as a canvasser for the SPD party newspaper Hamburger Echo and the "Volksfürsorge” insurance company that had originated with the labor movement. Like so many others, he could not afford renting his own apartment, living instead as a subtenant at Menckesallee 23.
There is no record as to when Emil Göthel joined the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). At the time the Nazis assumed power, he was already a district leader and thus ranked among the political functionaries. Obviously, he was in Walter Schmedemann’s confidence, who had taken over the SPD’s district leadership in Eilbek.
The first time Emil Göthel was arrested for his political activity was on 16 June 1933. On 15 and 16 June 1933, a meeting took place of leading functionaries of the Hamburg SPD – according to Walter Schmedemann they comprised the SPD party committee – in the editorial offices of the Hamburger Echo party newspaper at Fehlandtstrasse 11–19, pretending to assess the possibility of continuing the Hamburger Echo under the conditions of the Nazi dictatorship. In fact, the persons attending used the meeting to engage in a discussion concerning the illegal continuation of the SPD. Those present also included Walter Schmedemann and Emil Göthel. Late at night on 16 June 1933, police and auxiliary police forced their way into the meeting and arrested about 30 persons, including Emil Göthel. At the time of the police raid, Walter Schmedemann had already left the meeting because of another appointment, and Emil Göthel was deputizing for him.
The majority of those attending the meeting, among them Emil Göthel, were released in mid-July 1933 on the orders by SA-Standartenführer [a rank equivalent to colonel] and Police Senator Richter to abstain from any political activities.
Disappointed by the defensive stance of the SPD leadership toward the Nazi assumption of power, even before the arrests in the Echo building some SPD members in Eilbek had shown growing resistance activities, in which Emil Göthel was apparently involved as well.
After the arrests in the Echo building, upon which followed on 22 June 1933 the designation of the SPD as a party hostile to the state and the people by Nazi Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick, the SPD comrades in Eilbek headed by the district chairman Walter Schmedemann took measures toward continuing the illegal work. These included, e.g., procuring carbon paper for an existing printing press, colors for the copying machine, sheets of waxed paper and, in particular, proof paper. The outstanding role of Schmedemann and the SPD comrades from Eilbek is portrayed in more detail in the contribution entitled "Zur Geschichte des Hamburger Stadtteils Eilbek” in the volume Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Eilbek. Biographische Spurensuche, 2014.
Emil Göthel was arrested again on 3 Oct. 1933. The charge was that he had been involved in illegal political activities in Eilbek with Walter Schmedemann, who had fled to Denmark, and with Paul Marczinski. However, it was impossible to prove anything against him. After some two weeks in "protective custody” ("Schutzhaft”), he was released again on 19 Oct. 1933. Since about that time until the fall of 1934, Emil Göthel "received one copy each of treasonous, incendiary newspapers at intervals of one to four months” – thus the subsequent verdict of the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht – OLG). He passed these writings on to several SPD comrades in the Eilbek district and other parts of the city. Occasionally, he collected small contributions from the recipients going toward the SPD working underground.
When Walter Schmedemann, who had returned from Denmark, as well as other SPD resistance fighters were arrested in Oct. 1934, and others, such as Walter’s brother Willi Schmedemann, were able to flee to Denmark in time, Emil Göthel appears to have taken over the leadership of the Social Democratic organization together with John Kienow. In Aug. 1934, John Kienow had been won over to support the illegal resistance work by Emil Auhagen, another close comrade-in-arms of Walter Schmedemann. To the extent that Social Democratic resistance groups still existed, they were gradually uncovered in the first half-year of 1935. In Aug. 1935, Emil Göthel, John Kienow, and other active resistance fighters from the Eilbek milieu were taken into police custody.
The trial against Emil Göthel and five other former SPD functionaries (John Kienow, Arthur Jessen, Franz Trummer, Wilhelm Krüger, and Paul Bartnick) because of "preparation to high treason” ("Vorbereitung zum Hochverrat”) took place before the "Second Criminal Senate” (II. Strafsenat) of the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court on 30 June 1936. In the course of the trial, Emil Göthel complained to presiding judge Rothe that he had been mistreated by the Gestapo and clapped in irons for 12 weeks. Rothe replied, "It was necessary to carry out these measures on you because otherwise you would not have confessed.” Emil Göthel was convicted for passing on illegal writings, collecting small amounts of cash, procuring a conference room, and participating in three to four illegal meetings, but not for his prominent role in the Eilbek resistance. Nevertheless, sentenced to four years and six months in prison, Emil Göthel was given the highest penalty of all six persons accused.
To serve his prison term, Emil Göthel was transferred to the Bremen-Oslebshausen penitentiary. He was imprisoned there starting on 6 Aug. 1936. In consideration of the ten months spent in pretrial detention, he was released on 29 Feb. 1940.
Emil Göthel died on 3 May 1942 at Hamburg-Altona General Hospital. His death certificate records the following causes of death: pneumonia, pleurisy, circulatory weakness. Probably these conditions were effects of the imprisonment.
His activities in the resistance are mentioned or described in several publications by Social Democratic suborganizations in Hamburg. In this context, repeatedly the year 1941 (correct: 1942) is given as his date of death. The same error also appears on a memorial stele for Social Democratic victims of National Socialism on the Hamburg-Ohlsdorf Cemetery (burial and memorial site of the Hans and Sophie Scholl Foundation [Geschwister-Scholl-Stiftung]). Regrettably, this mistake is repeated as well in the text on the Stolperstein for Emil Göthel in front of the house at Menckesallee 23 in Hamburg-Eilbek.
Status as of Feb. 2014
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Ingo Wille
Quellen: AB; StaH 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II Abl. 13, Abl. 16 (U-Haft); 332-5 Standesämter 5428-616/1942; Staatsarchiv Bremen 4,80 II.5; 4,80 II.25; Stadtarchiv Freiberg/Sachsen, Geburtseintrag Oberschöna Nr. 4/1878; Ev.-luth. Kirche in Oberschöna, Taufregister; Deutschland-Berichte der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands (SoPaDe) Dritter Jahrgang 1936, S. 1612; Kutz-Bauer/Martens: "Dass die Frage der Wiedergutmachung ... zu einem öffentlichen Skandal geworden ist", S. 34f.; Martens, Auf dem Weg in den Widerstand – die "Echo"-Versammlung der Hamburger SPD 1933, S. 43f.; Schmedemann, Walter: Die Tätigkeit der Eilbeker Genossen in der Widerstandbewegung nach dem Verbot der SPD im Jahre 1933, in: Karl Ditt, Sozialdemokraten im Widerstand, S. 142ff.