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Heinrich Bode * 1910
Stellinger Weg 2 (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)
1933 KZ Buchenwald
Heinrich Bode, born on 19 June 1910 in Hamburg, died on 13 Sept. 1943 in the Buchenwald concentration camp
Stellinger Weg 2
Heinrich Bode was born in Hamburg in 1910, the child of the unmarried ironing lady Elsa Bode. According to the information provided by his mother, his father, one Heinrich Fritsche whom he never met, was working as an "artist (female impersonator)” at the time. He evaded his obligation to pay alimony by returning to Austria. As Elsa Bode was employed as a factory worker, her son did not grow up with her, being raised instead by his grandmother, since 1915 tenant of a one-room apartment at Stellinger Weg 2 on the fifth floor. The mother lived in "concubinage,” as the "Investigative Assistance for Criminal Justice” (Ermittlungshilfe für Strafrechtspflege) would subsequently formulate it, with the painter Otto Sack at Bachstraße in Barmbek. The half-brother Alfred Bode, about 14 years Heinrich’s junior, was an offspring of this union. Following the death of the grandmother in 1938, Heinrich’s Aunt Margarethe Bode took over the apartment. While sleeping in the kitchen on the chaise longue when he was a child and adolescent, as an adult Heinrich Bode shared the bedroom with his aunt. His mother reported that he danced and did "theater stuff” even when he was only a year and a half old.
Even while still attending school, Heinrich Bode worked as an office messenger in order to augment the family budget. After dropping out of elementary school (Volksschule), he continued to work in this occupational field. His aspiration to become a dancer was not feasible due to financial straits. After six years of performing messenger services, he traded in fruits, flowers, and sweets for two years. In his leisure time, as a 17-year old he was already frequenting places known to be gay bars such as "Zu den 3 Sternen" and the "Stadtkasino,” where he became fascinated by men in women’s clothes, secretly wearing such apparel himself. From 1931 until 1935, he allegedly engaged in prostitution wearing women’s clothes. In 1933, he appeared as a "female dancer” at the "Hamburger Dom,” a large funfair. In 1934, he claimed to have received official permission to appear in public as a transvestite in women’s clothes. However, his engagement at the "Hamburger Dom” was not extended, resulting in Heinrich Bode finding work at a laundry and later, until his last arrest in 1939, at a cabinetmaker’s workshop.
In 1927, Heinrich Bode had first attracted the attention of the criminal investigation department as a homosexual transvestite. This recurred in subsequent years, though it did not result in any legal consequences until 1933. The situation changed in the fall of 1933, after he had performed consensual sexual acts on a man in the park near Eppendorf Church while wearing women’s clothes. The man in question afterwards reported him to police, allegedly after realizing that Heinrich Bode was a man. As a result, on 4 Oct. 1933 Heinrich Bode was sentenced by the Hamburg District Court (Amtsgericht) to a two-month prison term for "assault and battery.” During the trial, he stated "to be well known in the neighborhood for this type of activity.” Even though the court demanded of him to give up "this type of activity,” he continued to be out in dance halls wearing women’s clothes, often accompanied by his aunt. That he really would have been issued a permit in 1934 even after the court sentence appears unlikely, especially since documentation is available for another arrest because of "unnatural prostitution” on 9 Jan. 1934. Possibly, he still had this certificate called a "transvestite license” in his possession from the days of the Weimar Republic, or he had received such permission for his engagement at the "Hamburger Dom” dating from 1933. Due to the lack of surviving police records in Hamburg, it is difficult today to reconstruct the circumstances. At the time, police in Altona and Hamburg considered Heinrich Bode "a young male prostitute,” and he had been given the condition to avoid "hom[osexual] bars.” In Mar. 1935, his public appearance in women’s clothes apparently provided grounds for "protective custody” in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp as well. Because of "sexual offenses” he was in pretrial detention from 27 Sept. 1935 until 3 Jan. 1936 and was then "released” to the custody of police authorities. No charges were brought against him at the time.
In mid-October 1936, however, police became aware of his relationship, dating from the summer of 1934, with Kurt Hahn (born in 1912), whom he had met at the "Monte Carlo” bar in St. Pauli. The employment office had sent both him and Kurt Hahn to help with the harvest in villages around Mölln in Aug. 1936. From 16 Oct. 1936 onward, Bode was initially detained as a "protective custody prisoner” at the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp and subsequently transferred to the pretrial detention facility at Holstenglacis. For a second time, Heinrich Bode now faced a court trial for his homosexual tendencies. Before court, he stressed that the Gestapo had coerced him into statements regarding the type of his sexual acts that were not true. For example, he stated he had only masturbated but not performed any oral sex. On 7 Jan. 1937, the Hamburg District Court (Amtsgericht) sentenced him to 18 months in prison for repeated offenses against Sec. 175 of the Reich Criminal Code (Reichsstrafgesetzbuch – RStGB) (old and new version). Judge Friedrich Bertram emphasized in delivering his judgment, "… the penal provisions of Sec. 175 StGB do not primarily protect the strictly personal legally protected rights of the individual but predominantly the interest of the national whole in keeping the people pure and healthy in moral and physical terms.” Heinrich Bode served the prison term in a Hamburg penal institution until 12 Apr. 1938; a petition for clemency submitted during this time was not approved.
About a year later, his passion for going out dressed "in drag” proved disastrous to him once again in May 1939. He was committed to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp from 31 May to 8 June 1939 and then convicted to a three-month prison term for "public nuisance” one month later. Heinrich Bode had gone to a dance hall in women’s clothes together with his aunt.
On 12 Nov. 1939, around 7:30 p.m., three soldiers of the Wehrmacht handed over a man in women’s clothes to the police officer on duty at the Fish Market, commenting, "This fellow is a faggot.” The person was Heinrich Bode who, dressed in women’s clothes, had gone to the pub at Kleine Elbstraße 19, once again together with his aunt. He got talking to the three soldiers about the campaign in Poland, buying them a round of beer. Since he seemed suspicious to them, they grabbed him as he headed for the bathroom and took him to the police officer. Since the police officer suspected him of having "engaged in homosexual activities again,” he arrested Bode.
During an interrogation at the end of 1939, he described his feelings as follows: "[I] already wore women’s clothes when I was twenty years old. In the past, I had a permit to wear such. I enjoyed wearing women’s clothes at the time because I enjoyed dancing by myself in such outfits. In a sensual respect, such garments do not hold any attraction to me. I simply feel good when I get a chance to dance in women’s clothes.”
From a police report: "Over his naked body, Bode wore a bra that he had stuffed with socks. He did not wear any underwear but a dress with floral design, with a woman’s scarf wrapped around. Furthermore, he wore a pair of women’s low shoes and long stockings. He had on him a black purse, which contained one pair of women’s gloves, one woman’s scarf, one brooch, powder, a powder puff, and an empty bottle of wine. Bode’s eyebrows were shaved and his eyelashes dyed.” The report continues: "… Bode is an effeminate person who apparently feels happy only when he can wear women’s clothes … That Bode has extremely effeminate tendencies is evident simply due to the fact that in his woman’s purse he carried along only things women carry in purses, e.g. powder, makeup, a woman’s brooch, etc.”
Two days after Bode’s arrest, the Kriminalsekretär [a rank equivalent to detective sergeant or master sergeant] Albert Gaier reached the following advance condemnation of Bode: "Bode is a weak-willed human, who will certainly wear women’s clothes again as soon as he is set free. Since Bode is only 28 years old, there is the possibility of bringing him back on a good track yet; however, to that end, prolonged preventive custody is probably necessary. Under today’s governance, it is not admissible that men in women’s clothes move freely on the streets, frequenting bars on top of that.”
For the fourth time in his life, Heinrich Bode was committed to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, from 14 until 21 Nov. 1939. What followed was his transfer to the pretrial detention facility on Holstenglacis and the preparation of expert’s reports about him, including a forensic pathologist’s report by senior medical officer (Obermedizinalrat) Hans Koopmann. As expected, the report did not turn out favorable for Heinrich Bode, serving up stereotypical formulations: "Hence Bode is a mentally limited, weak-willed, hysterical, passively homosexual (bisexual) psychopath craving recognition, with tendencies toward carrying out transvestitism.” The expert gave an unfavorable "criminal-biological” (kriminalbiologische) prognosis for Heinrich Bode, proposing as initial "protective measures” his legal incapacitation and castration. With respect to criminal law, he deemed him accountable, even though he attested him to be suffering from "feeblemindedness” in accordance with "Sec. 6 Par. 1 of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch – BGB).”
On 25 Apr. 1940, Heinrich Bode was sentenced by the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht) to two years in prison and a six-week custodial sentence for violation against Sec. 175 in five instances and for public nuisance pursuant to Sec. 360. The latter term was considered served due to the pretrial detention period. Bode was given the "urgent advice” to have himself castrated. One month after sentencing, he was transferred from the pretrial detention facility to the men’s prison in Wolfenbüttel. From there, he was "released” into the custody of the criminal investigation department at the police prison in Hütten on 2 Feb. 1942. As in many comparable cases, what began for Heinrich Bode now was the "parallel justice” with fatal outcome involving his commitment to the Buchenwald concentration camp that took place on 10 Apr. 1942. While he was there in "preventive custody” as prisoner no. 3,966 in Block 30, the associate judge at the Hamburg District Court (Amtsgerichtsrat), Heinrich Ohlrogge, agreed to his legal incapacitation in June 1942 because of "feeblemindedness” on the following grounds: "He requires strict supervision and guidance in order to suppress his deviant tendencies, which have repeatedly brought him in conflict with penal law, and in order to enable him to lead a rational life.”
The "strict supervision” ended on 13 Sept. 1943 with Heinrich Bode’s death in the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Bernhard Rosenkranz(†)/Ulf Bollmann
Quellen: StaHH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 3496, 846/37 u. 2413/40; 213-8 Staatsanwaltschaft Oberlandesgericht – Verwaltung, Abl. 2, 451 a E 1, 1 a u. Abl. 2, 451 a E 1, 1 d; 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferung 16; Auskünfte von Rainer Hoffschildt, Hannover und Dr. Gottfried Lorenz, Glinde; zur Frage der Ausstellung von Transvestitenscheinen vgl. auch Stefan Micheler, Selbstbilder und Fremdbilder der "Anderen", S. 285ff. sowie die geplante Veröffentlichung von Rainer Herrn, Berlin, zum "Forschungsdesiderat" der "Transvestiten in der NS-Zeit"; Rosenkranz/Bollmann/Lorenz, Homosexuellen-Verfolgung, S. 66–67, 201.