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Etkar André ca. 1925
© Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte Hamburg

Etkar Josef André * 1894

Adlerstraße 12 (Hamburg-Nord, Barmbek-Nord)

JG. 1894
VERHAFTET 5.3.1933

Etkar Josef André, born 17 Jan. 1894 in Aachen, executed 4 Nov. 1936 in Hamburg

Adlerstraße 12

Etkar Josef André was born on 17 January 1894 in Aachen at Friedrichstraße 73. His father Bernhard André was a businessman, and his birth certificate indicates that he was Jewish. Etkar André’s mother, Sophie (née Koch) converted to Judaism. He had one brother. After his father‘s death in 1899 of pulmonary tuberculosis, his mother took the children to live with relatives in Liège, Belgium. Sophie also suffered from tuberculosis, so the children were sent to a children’s home for several years to avoid the risk of infection. After finishing his schooling, Etkar André began a commercial apprenticeship, but it didn’t suit him. He transferred to a trade school and became a metalworker.

In 1911 he became an active member of the Belgian Socialist Party; later he was secretary of the Socialist Workers Youth in Brussels. Since he had retained his German citizenship, he volunteered for military service in 1914 in the Rhineland, even though he spoke little German at first. He took part in the battles on the Flanders Front with the 236th Reserve Infantry Regiment Cologne-Deutz. He was taken prisoner by the French in 1918 and released in 1920. He later regretted having taken part in the war. After his release in 1920 he lived in Koblenz, where he became a member of the Socialist Workers Youth and the SPD (Social Democratic Party). In search of a job he moved to Hamburg in 1922, where worked as a longshoreman and occasionally as a construction worker. He became a member of the German Construction Workers’ Union, and later of the German Transport Workers’ Union. His party and union activities focused on the concerns of the unemployed, but he became increasingly dissatisfied with SPD policies, and left the party in 1923 to join the KPD (German Communist Party), which he considered to be more politically effective.

Soon he was part of the inner circle around Ernst Thälmann. His open and companionable nature, his willingness to help and his commitment to social issues made him very popular – he lent an ear to everyone. He continued to focus on the interests of the unemployed and their families, whose material hardship appalled him. Etkar André was the leader of the jobless workers movement in Hamburg until 1925. In 1924 he co-founded the Waterfront (Wasserkante), the Hamburg group of the Alliance of Red Front-Fighters (Roter Frontkämpferverbund, RFB). Ernst Thälmann called the RFB the "proletarian anti-fascist protection and defense organization.” André was also a member of the Red Navy (Rote Marine), which was founded in Hamburg in 1925. The Red Navy was the counterpart at sea to the local RFB groups on land. It offered aid and support for the families of crew members on seagoing and merchant vessels, just like the RFB did for the families of factory workers. The RFB and the Red Navy also supported the KPD’s protest against the government’s purchase of new armored battleships for the Imperial Navy, and acted as a security service for various functions and at polling places. Both organizations were banned in 1929. Many of the members remained active underground, including André, who organized the successor group "Protest Committee Against the RFB Ban.”

As the political head of the KPD’s Wasserkante District, he received a small salary of about 100 Reichmarks a month. After attending the KDP’s party school, he was active as an instructor and propagandist for the International Union of Seamen and Harbor Workers. In this capacity, he was often sent to Belgium and France because of his knowledge of French. André was more of an activist than a party functionary, and saw himself as a "man from the streets.” He treated his fellow human beings as equals and with respect. He was considered vigilant, bold, and resolute, he lent a hand wherever it was needed and always remained fair. For these reasons he was held in high regard. He did not stand out within the party apparatus, as he belonged to neither the Central Committee nor the politburo. He did not participate in debates about the party platform or in party infighting.

André’s partner, Martha Berg (née Schmidt), was active in the KPD women’s group. They became acquainted as party members, and began a relationship in 1926, although Martha was not yet divorced. This led to a charge of adultery, which prevented them from obtaining a marriage license and legalizing their partnership. They moved from their apartment on Grindelalee to Adlerstraße 12 in Barmbek, where they lived until 1933. "Frau Berg, Martha” was listed as the main tenant in the Hamburg address book.

André was elected to the Hamburg parliament as a KPD representative in 1928. In 1931 he was again elected, this time as a member of the Cuxhaven city council (Cuxhaven was a part of the state of Hamburg until 1937). He had a second residence in Cuxhaven at Poststraße 8 (c/o Wesel). By this time André’s name was well-known not only within the KPD and in the workers’ movement, but also among opponents of the KPD. The RFB was involved in various street fights, and there were confrontations both with members of the SA and with the police and Reichsbanner groups (the SPD counterpart to the left’s RFB and the right’s SA). Recriminations and acts of revenge between the Nazi Party/SA and the KPD/RFB resulted in injuries and deaths. Occasionally there were exchanges of gunfire. As one of the best-known and most charismatic labor leaders in Hamburg, Etkar André was held to be the instigator and ringleader of nearly all incidents in which the KPD was involved.
In March 1931 an attack occurred that was, in all likelihood, intended for André, but which killed his fellow party member Ernst Henning. Henning was also a representative in the Hamburg parliament. After a party function in the Vierlande area, he was returning to his home in Bergedorf on a night bus full of people. SA-men approached him and asked "Are you André?” Despite his denial, they shot him. Several other passengers were wounded, some severely. The shooters fled, but some later turned themselves in to the police while others were arrested and charged. The shooting was a retaliation for the violent disruption by Communists several months earlier of a Nazi Party rally in Geesthacht. Two SA-men were killed in the fighting. It is unknown whether André had anything to do with this incident, but it contributed to the enmity felt toward him. Etkar André attended the funeral services for Ernst Henning, as is documented by testimonies and photos.

The funeral was a huge event, with approximately 35,000 participants. It began on Jarrestraße in front of a mortuary. 30 members of the RFB, with their fists raised in the typical RFB salute, marched behind the hearse, which was accompanied by guards on horseback. Etkar André was in the first row. 120 wreath-bearers and 150 flags and banners of Communist groups from Hamburg and all over the Reich followed. Behind them came the mourners, most of them clad in black, accompanied by a brass band and a shawm band. The mourners sang protest songs and chanted slogans. It took over an hour for the parade to reach the crematorium at the Ohlsdorf cemetary. In addition to family members, the president and vice-president of the Hamburg parliament took part in the funeral service. Ernst Thälmann delivered the eulogy. The room was not big enough to hold most of the mourners who had taken part in the funeral march, but they remained outside the building in solidarity.
After the service, the crowd dispersed, but small groups gathered on Fuhlsbüttler Straße. They unrolled their flags and marched to the Barmbek train station. It was later reported that André was the chief organizer. The crowd chanted slogans and gathered steam, until the situation escalated just before the railroad bridges. Participants gathered boards and stones from a nearby construction site, built a barricade, stopped the streetcars, and sang "The Internationale.”

Twenty policemen had accompanied the march. They felt increasingly threatened, and eventually several of them drew their guns and first fired warning shots, then fired into the crowd. An uninvolved 20-year-old was shot in the head and died immediately, which escalated the situation further. Police backup arrived and a riot ensued. It lasted for hours, stretching from the Barmbek train station to Barmbeker Markt. Both sides suffered many injuries.

The trial of the three Henning assassins, aged 20 to 25, was held in November 1931. The murder was incited by a Nazi Party functionary, but a declaration made by the party stated that he was not a party member. Two of the three men were sentenced to seven years in prison, one to six years. They served their sentences until 9 March 1933, when they were released under the terms of the Hindenburg Amnesty.

Etkar André was arrested a few days before their release, on 5 March 1933. André had been in grave danger since the Nazi takeover on 30 January of that year. Friends advised him to leave the country, but he refused. On 1 March, he and Martha moved from Adlerstraße to an apartment at Zeughausstraße 4. He was active in the campaign for the Reichstag elections in Cuxhaven on 5 March, and gave a speech there on 4 March. On the next day he took the train back to Hamburg, where he was arrested by the Gestapo, despite his diplomatic immunity as a member of parliament. He was charged with conspiracy to commit high treason in conjunction with the murder of SA Troop Leader Heinrich Dreckmann in September 1932 and with seven counts of attempted murder in the Geesthacht incident in January 1931.

He spent the next three-and-a-half years in solitary confinement, in prison cell 122. His sentence stipulated that he was "to be held in strict separation from all persons being held for high treason.” Officials evidently feared his influence on his fellow prisoners. In order to bear the isolation, André requested permission to borrow newspapers and books. He enjoyed solving crosswords and chess puzzles, and asked for newspapers that contained them. He also requested pencils, and once a set of dominos. A request to wear his own undergarments was approved. His fiancée Martha Berg visited him as regularly as she was allowed – twice each month for thirty minutes. Otherwise his only visitors were the District Attorney and his defense lawyer Dr. Grisebach. His other family members did not live in Germany, and friends were not allowed to visit. He exchanged letters with his brother, a dentist in Belgium. There is evidence from early in 1935 that Martha wanted to publish the marriage banns. Etkar requested the necessary documents, but there is no mention of a marriage in the prison records.

André suffered abuse and brutal torture while in prison. At times he was only able to walk with the help of crutches. When he was no longer able to lie down due to severe injuries, a waterbed was provided so that he could recover before the next interrogation and the new abuse it would bring. Head injuries led to temporary losses of hearing. The torture sessions indicate that he refused to make statements that would be useful to the prosecution, that he refused to betray friends, fellow party members, or internal party matters, and that he was not prepared to distance himself from his convictions. He remained true to his principles and challenged the National-Socialist system and thus his accusers.

After three years in prison, the trial finally began on 4 May 1936, and lasted for 32 days until the verdict was handed down on 10 July 1936. Because the Olympic Games in Berlin were due to begin on 1 August, there were many foreign journalists in Germany, and several of them followed the trial closely. Martha Berg was also arrested, on 7 May, one day before she was to be called as a witness. Were officials afraid of riots on her behalf? She was later released.

The prosecution was unable to present sufficient evidence of André’s guilt. Nearly 100 witnesses were called, for the most part Nazi Party/SA members. Fellow prisoners from Fuhlsbüttel who agreed to testify against André were later scorned by other prisoners, or were so clearly bullied that prison officials decided to transfer them to other prisons. Despite the lack of evidence, the prosecution requested the death penalty. Etkar André spoke in his own defense, and his speech was a denouncement of the Nazi regime: "Your honor is not my honor. We are separated by convictions, we are separated by class, we are separated by a deep abyss. Should you make the impossible possible and send an innocent fighting man to the block, then I am prepared to walk that difficult path. I want no mercy. I have lived as a fighter and I will die as a fighter, with the final words "Long live Communism!”

The court, presided over by Judge Otto Roth, who had sentenced the Communist Friedrich (Fiete) Schulze to death in the previous year, granted the prosecution’s request and handed down the sentence: death by beheading and the revocation of all civil rights.

Etkar André was determined to fight for his rights. He refused to request a pardon, and wrote, in his last letter to Martha on 12 July: "The verdict is wrong on all points. It is therefore my task to use the few legal means left to me. I’m speaking of legal means, not a pardon. I will not request a pardon, because I do not want to be pardoned. I want my rights to be upheld.” He saw a retrial as his only option. There was very little time, but he had to wait for the written verdict and the files, which took weeks. He was not allowed any visitors during this time. In letters he tried to convince Martha that he was well, even "…excellent, I’m holding up well, my appetite is as good as always … and as far as sleep goes, I truly can’t complain…”. A man sentenced to death, trying to ease the mind of his worried partner. Martha was finally allowed to visit him on 1 August, after she was searched for weapons. This was possibly the last time they saw each other, since Martha was also in grave danger and emigrated shortly thereafter to Paris – possibly on the advice of Etkar André.

On 19 August he asked for paper to request permission from the District Attorney’s office to write a letter to the Chancellor of the Reich. The District Attorney approved. If and how he wrote the letter cannot be determined from the records. A letter from the District Attorney’s office on 3 October, however, states "… that, according to the instructions of the Reich Minister of Justice, André is to be treated no better than a prisoner who has been sentenced to a fixed prison term, until the time that the Führer and Chancellor presents a decision on the question of the execution of the pronounced sentence. I request that André continue to be permitted to write letters pertaining to this subject. In addition, I also request that all letters be forwarded to me for monitoring.”

André was required to make an official request for paper for every letter, and to prove that he had used every sheet. He drafted the request for a retrial, which was to concentrate on the points "1. Wrongful conviction” and "2. Statutory violations that occurred during both the proceedings and the trial.” An international protest movement demanding a retrial took to the streets. There were demonstrations in Paris, Prague, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Stockholm.

It was futile. If an answer from the "Führer” was received, then it was a clear one. On the afternoon of 3 November, Etkar André was notified that his execution was scheduled for the next morning. A fellow prisoner, who was doing repairs in André’s cell that day, said later that André had shown no fear, and had said "Be confident. It will all go our way.” His lawyer Dr. Grisebach spent the night with André in his cell. He wrote letters to his brother and to Martha. He told his brother how much he loved him and thanked him for the time they had spent together. He also comforted him: "Lamenting is not for me, and that is why I will stand straight and unbroken until the last second.” He wished to be buried in Belgium with his family. The difficult letter to Martha Berg, written in the early morning at 3:45, expresses his thanks for the ten years they spent together. He urges her not to be despondent, not to remain alone, and to find a good friend for support. He also writes: "Until the end I will remain an honest guy. I have defended myself until the end and will return to the void with no qualms.”

Joachim Szodrzynski writes: "Unbroken until the very end, his composure during his time in prison and his dauntless demeanor during the trial makes it possible for the international press to unmask the Nazi regime. For his part, it was probably the knowledge that he stood for a ‘just cause’ that kept him from breaking down (…). He was spared the knowledge that many of his comrades (Willy Leow, vice-chairman of the RFB, and Hermann Schubert, a close associate of Thälmann, among others), who he thought been lucky enough to escape the Nazis and flee to the Soviet Union, were liquidated there a few months after his execution – in the name of the ideal that he held so high. This knowledge may have caused him to break.”

On 4 November 1936 at 6:00 in the morning, Etkar André, aged 42, was beheaded with an axe by the executioner Carl Gröpler of Magdeburg in the Holstenglacis detention prison in Hamburg, under the supervision of District Attorney Dr. Erich Drescher. It was the last execution of this type in Hamburg. Thereafter a guillotine was used, which is now on display in the Hamburg Museum.

Etkar André had already become a legend during his lifetime. Millions of people all over Europe mourned his death. There were protests and funeral marches. In the Fuhlsbüttel prison in Hamburg, 5000 inmates took part in a protest strike. He earned his fame not as a politician or a "party big-wig,” but as an upstanding man who went to his death for his compassion and his convictions and as an opponent of the Nazi regime. He became a symbol of the anti-fascist resistance movement, the stuff of which legends are made. The text of this biography is an attempt to trace the real Etkar André using surviving documents and publications as well as the statements of contemporary witnesses.

In fear of more riots, the Gestapo arranged his burial "quietly and in strict secrecy.” The urn was buried at a secret location. It was found ten years later, only because the administration at the Ohlsdorf cemetery had refused to follow the order to destroy all of its records. The Committee of Former Political Prisoners reinterred his urn, together with 26 others from Brandenburg, in September 1946 in the Memorial for the Victims of the 1918 Revolution near the entrance to the Ohlsdorf cemetery. With the permission of the British city commander, the urns were brought in a silent march in the pouring rain from the Committee’s headquarters in Maria-Luisen-Straße to a memorial service at the Hamburg City Hall and then to Ohlsdorf. Contemporary witnesses say that it was an impressive demonstration.

Today Etkar André’s grave is located in the Memorial Grove for the Hamburg Resistance Fighters at the Ohlsdorf cemetery. His urn, together with those of other Resistance fighters, was transferred there in 1962. Martha, who had taken Etkar’s name and was now called Berg-André, was present at the memorial service.

She had learned of his death in 1936 in Paris, where she was living with friends and involved in the Resistance. She was arrested in 1940 by the German occupation forces and spent several years in Camp Gurs. She later moved to East Berlin and was the Director of the Society of the Victims of Fascism. In East Germany, streets, schools and squares were named in honor of Etkar André. In 1974, in honor of his 80th birthday, a postage stamp with his likeness was printed.

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

© Erika Draeger

Quellen: StaHH ZC1, Kasten 11, Strafakte André, Etkar; StaHH 433/1a, Mitgliederverzeichnis der Hamburger Bürgerschaft 1921–1931; StaHH, Handschriftensammlung DCIII (603); Gedenkstätte Ernst Thälmann, Hamburg: Personenarchiv, Etkar André; Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg: Männer im Widerstand 1933–1945, Akte A-F, 13-3-3-1; Szodrzynski, Joachim in: Arbeitskreis zur Erforschung des Nationalsozialismus in Schleswig-Holstein; Hochmuth, Ursel/Meyer, Gertrud: Streiflichter aus dem Hamburger Widerstand, S. 248, 504, 529; Ebeling, Helmut: Hamburger Kriminalgeschichte 1931–36, Band 2; Ebeling, Helmut: Schwarze Chronik einer Weltstadt, S. 275ff., 281f., 294ff.

Etkar André MdHB

Etkar Joseph André wurde am 17. Januar 1894 als drittes Kind einer in Aachen lebenden jüdischen Handwerkerfamilie geboren. Der Verlust seines Vaters im Alter von fünf Jahren bedeutete den Beginn einer Kindheit am Rande der Subsistenz. Eine schwere Lungenerkrankung der alleinerziehenden Mutter zwang die Familie zu Verwandten im wallonischen Lüttich überzusiedeln.

Durch ihren Tod 1907 wurde Etkar André noch im Kindesalter Vollwaise und zog in ein Brüsseler Waisenhaus. Hier erhielt die französische Sprache nunmehr den Charakter einer Muttersprache.
Nach seiner Schulentlassung und einer nicht abgeschlossenen Buchhändlerlehre erlernte André den Beruf des Schlossers. Das in diesen Jahren beginnende starke Engagement in der sozialistischen Arbeiterjugend bedeutete eine wichtige Weichenstellung für seinen späteren Werdegang. Als 17jähriger trat er der Sozialistischen Partei Belgiens bei und war bereits zwei Jahre später Sekretär in der Brüsseler Sektion der "Jungen Sozialistischen Garde". Welch hohes Ansehen André schon bald in seiner Partei genoss, zeigt sich nicht zuletzt an seiner Wahl zum Delegierten für den Parteitag der Belgischen Sozialisten 1914.

Bei Kriegsbeginn geriet der gebürtige Deutsche, inzwischen politisch wie sozial in seiner Wahlheimat Belgien Verwurzelte, zwischen die Fronten europäischer Machtpolitik: Nach dem deutschen Einmarsch in Belgien im September 1914, sah sich André einer starken antideutschen Stimmung in der Bevölkerung gegenüber. Der junge Sozialist versuchte sein Gefühl der Entwurzelung zu kompensieren, indem er sich – obwohl der deutschen Sprache kaum mächtig – freiwillig zum Kriegsdienst im Kaiserlichen Heer meldete. Seine militärische Grundausbildung erhielt er in Koblenz. Zum Einsatz kam er als Mannschaftsdienstgrad in verschiedenen Abschnitten an der Westfront. Er nahm u.a. an der Schlacht bei Langemarck teil und geriet kurz vor Kriegsende in französische Kriegsgefangenschaft.

Nach seiner Entlassung und anschließenden Demobilisierung fand André zunächst Arbeit im Koblenzer Hafen. Auch politisch suchte er in der Stadt am Deutschen Eck Fuß zu fassen: 1920 trat er hier der SPD bei, wo er sich zunächst besonders in der Arbeiterjugend engagierte. Es war der Verlust seiner Arbeitsstelle, der den Deutsch-Belgier schließlich nach Hamburg führte.

Die Aufhebung der Seeblockade ließ André hoffen, im Überseehafen der Hansestadt eine Arbeit zu finden. Doch war ihm eine feste Stellung auch hier nicht beschieden. So sah er sich im Zeichen von Hyperinflation und Wirtschaftskrise gezwungen, seinen Lebensunterhalt durch eine unregelmäßige, immer wieder von Arbeitslosigkeit unterbrochene Tätigkeit als Schauermann zu bestreiten. Schon bald machte sich André einen Namen in der Hamburger Erwerbslosenbewegung, die ihn wegen seines Rede- und Organisationstalents 1922 zu ihrem Vorsitzenden wählte. Über seine dortige Tätigkeit lernte André auch seine langjährige politische Weggefährtin und spätere Frau, die Itzehoerin Martha Berg kennen.

Als im Winter 1922 Demonstrationen der notleidenden Bevölkerung losbrachen, stand André – wie so oft in den kommenden Jahren – in vorderster Linie. Auf dem Rathausplatz formulierte er die Forderungen der Erwerbslosen, wurde, als die Schutzpolizei unter Einsatz von Waffen eingriff, als "Rädelsführer" festgenommen und für kurze Zeit inhaftiert. Dass ein sozialdemokratischer Polizeisenator für den harten Polizeieinsatz, bei dem zahlreiche Demonstranten ums Leben kamen, verantwortlich war, mag André endgültig dazu bewogen haben, der SPD den Rücken zu kehren.

Anfang 1923 trat er der KPD bei, zu der sich über die Arbeit in der Erwerbslosenbewegung ohnehin intensive Kontakte entwickelt hatten. 1923 war André führend am Hamburger Aufstand beteiligt. Im Zuge der Verhaftungswelle nach dem schnellen Zusammenbruch der kommunistischen Erhebung wurde auch er zunächst in Gewahrsam genommen, allerdings nach drei Monaten "Schutzhaft" wieder auf freien Fuß gesetzt.

Das Jahr 1926 markiert den Aufstieg Etkar Andrés in die Führungsspitze des Bezirks "Wasserkante", einem von insgesamt 27 KPD-Bezirken auf Reichsebene. Seine Tätigkeit hier konzentrierte sich vor allem auf die Führung der 1924 gegründeten kommunistischen Wehrorganisation, den "Roten Frontkämpferbund" (RFB). Daneben war er gewerkschaftlich im "Internationalen Seeleute- und Hafenarbeiterverband" und im "Hamburger Internationalen Seemannsclub" tätig.

Etkar André war alles andere als ein theoretisch geschulter Parteiideologe. Auch nach seiner Wahl in die Hamburger Bürgerschaft 1927 blieb er ein "Mann der Straße", der die Vorgaben der Parteiführung vor Ort umzusetzen suchte. Es ist in diesem Zusammenhang bezeichnend, dass sich André von 1928 bis Ende 1932 insgesamt elf Anträgen der Strafverfolgungsbehörden an die Bürgerschaft ausgesetzt sah, seine parlamentarische Immunität aufzuheben. Das Abgeordnetenmandat bewahrte André jedoch in den meisten Fällen vor einer Strafverfolgung. Strafverbüßungen – etwa eine 15monatige Gefängnisstrafe wegen Beteiligung an einem Überfall auf Teilnehmer einer NSDAP-Versammlung bei Sagebiel – wurden ausgesetzt.

Nach dem Verbot des "Roten Frontkämpferbundes" im Mai 1929 durch Reichsinnenminister Carl Severing wirkte André entscheidend an der Überführung der etwa 80 000 Mitglieder zählenden Organisation in die Illegalität mit. Die Verlagerung der Arbeit in den Untergrund mag André bewogen haben, sich im Oktober 1929 in das abgelegene Cuxhaven zurückziehen. Hinzu kam, dass die Radikalisierung der politischen Auseinandersetzung ab 1929 den "Roten General" – wie ihn Anhänger und Gegner gleichermaßen nannten – in zunehmendem Maße zur Zielscheibe nationalsozialistischer Nachstellungen und Anschläge werden ließ. Einem eigentlich Etkar André geltenden Mordanschlag Hamburger SA-Leute fiel im März 1931 der kommunistische Bürgerschaftsabgeordnete und André-Vertraute Ernst Henning zum Opfer.

André, der in Cuxhaven in der Nordersteinstraße bei dem KPD-Mitglied Heinrich Weseloh zur Untermiete wohnte, kandidierte 1930 bei den Wahlen zur Cuxhavener Stadtvertretung auf Platz eins seiner Parteiliste.(36 Die KPD errang 3,82 % und konnte ihren Spitzenkandidaten ins Stadtparlament entsenden. Ein Blick in die Sitzungsprotokolle der Cuxhavener Stadtvertreterversammlung zeigt allerdings, dass Andrés Wirken hier im Schatten sowohl seiner Verpflichtungen als Hamburger Bürgerschaftsabgeordneter als auch seiner außerparlamentarischen Parteiaufgaben blieb. Einmal abgesehen von der Eröffnungssitzung am 31. Oktober, in der André mit mehreren Anträgen auf Außenwirkung zielte, nutzte er die parlamentarische Plattform kaum zur Darstellung kommunalpolitischer Ziele der Cuxhavener Kommunisten. Er beschränkte sich vielmehr auf die Unterstützung bzw. Ablehnung von Anträgen anderer Fraktionen. Mit der Fraktion der NSDAP gab es einen Berührungspunkt, als André den Antrag der Nationalsozialisten auf Streichung der für die Cuxhavener Verfassungsfeier 1931 bereitgestellten Gelder unterstützte. Ab Mitte 1931 nahm Etkar André nur noch selten an Stadtvertreterversammlungen teil und gab sein Mandat schließlich zugunsten von Heinrich Weseloh am 30. Juni 1932 zurück.

Die beginnenden dreißiger Jahre waren gekennzeichnet durch eine intensive Reisetätigkeit. Als Leiter einer Arbeiterdelegation reiste André im November 1930 in die Sowjetunion, wo er sich bis Anfang 1931 aufhielt. 1932 lebte er für kurze Zeit in Paris, wo er Kontakte zur Kommunistischen Partei Frankreichs herstellte und die bereits zu diesem Zeitpunkt in Betracht gezogene, illegale Arbeit deutscher Kommunisten im Untergrund vorbereitete. Nur wenige Tage nach Erlass der sog. "Reichstagsbrandverordnung", die im Reich den permanenten Ausnahmezustand etablierte, wurde Etkar André am 3. März 1933, mit dem Zug von Cuxhaven kommend, in Harburg-Wilhelmsburg festgenommen. Interventionen des damaligen Bürgerschaftspräsidenten Ruscheweyh unter Hinweis auf die Immunität Andrés und die fehlende rechtliche Grundlage der Verhaftung blieben ohne Erfolg.

Nachdem schließlich der am 5. März 1933 vom Reichsinnenminister zum "Reichskommissar für die Polizeibehörde" ernannte Bürgerschaftsabgeordnete und Nationalsozialist Richter Haftbefehl gegen alle männlichen Mitglieder der kommunistischen Bürgerschaftsfraktion erlassen hatte, ließ Bürgermeister Krogmann den protestierenden Bürgerschaftspräsidenten wissen: "Der Polizeiherr verfährt, wie es im Interesse des Staates richtig ist, und seine Maßnahmen werden vom Senat gebilligt." Auch Andrés Ehefrau wurde im Oktober 1933 vorübergehend festgenommen, nach zahlreichen Verhören aber wieder auf freien Fuß gesetzt. Sie verließ Deutschland und arbeitete später in kommunistischen Emigrantenzirkeln in Paris. Nach dem Krieg lebte sie bis zu ihrem Tode 1966 als Trägerin der Clara-Zetkin-Medaille und Veteranin der SED in Berlin.

Während seiner mehr als dreijährigen Haft war André schwersten Folterungen und Misshandlungen ausgesetzt. Immer wieder wurde er, der schon auf Krücken ging und seiner Verletzungen wegen im Wasserbett liegen musste, seinen ebenfalls in Haft befindlichen früheren Parteifreunden vorgeführt.

Am 4. Mai 1936 begann vor dem Strafsenat des Hamburgischen Oberlandesgerichts der sog. "André-Prozeß". Es war nach dem Prozess gegen Fiete Schulze, in dem André bereits als Zeuge vernommen worden war, der zweite und zugleich letzte große Hamburger Schauprozess gegen frühere KPD-Funktionäre.

Nachdem in den Jahren 1933-1935 etwa 60 000 KPD-Mitglieder festgenommen waren und die Organisationsstruktur innerhalb Deutschlands als zerschlagen gelten konnte, sollte das bewusst auf mehrere Wochen angesetzte Verfahren der Öffentlichkeit die Liquidierung der Kommunistischen Partei dokumentieren. Angeklagt wegen Hochverrats und der angeblichen Beteiligung am gewaltsamen Tod mehrerer SA-Angehöriger in den Jahren 1930/32, erging am 10. Juli 1936 das von Anbeginn feststehende, angesichts des Zögerns einiger Richter aber doch noch einmal von höchster Stelle geforderte Todesurteil. Darauf und auf den Umstand bezugnehmend, dass damals bei Todesurteilen der Verlust der bürgerlichen Ehrenrechte üblich war, soll André das folgende, vielzitierte Schlusswort vorgetragen haben:

"Meine Herren, wenn der Oberstaatsanwalt auch Ehrverlust beantragt hat, so erkläre ich hier: Ihre Ehre ist nicht meine Ehre. Denn uns trennen Weltanschauungen, uns trennen Klassen, uns trennt eine tiefe Kluft. Sollten Sie hier das Unmögliche möglich machen und einen unschuldigen Kämpfer zum Richtblock bringen, so bin ich bereit, diesen schweren Gang zu gehen. Ich will keine Gnade! Als Kämpfer habe ich gelebt und als Kämpfer werde ich sterben mit den letzten Worten: ‚Es lebe der Kommunismus!‘". (39

Internationale Proteste gegen das Urteil blieben unbeachtet: Wenige Monate später wurde Etkar André am 4. November 1936 im Alter von 42 Jahren um 6 Uhr morgens im Untersuchungsgefängnis Holstenglacis durch Enthauptung hingerichtet. Entgegen der bewusst gesuchten Öffentlichkeit des Prozesses und der Tatsache, dass von dem abgeschlagenen Kopf ein Gipsabdruck gemacht wurde, (40 fand die Beisetzung in aller Stille statt, der Ort des Grabes wurde mit peinlicher Genauigkeit geheimgehalten.

Es war deutlich, dass der Schauprozess entgegen der ursprünglichen Intention die Stilisierung
Andrés zum Symbol des vermeintlich ungebrochenen, tatkräftigen kommunistischen Widerstandes gegen das faschistische Regime wesentlich gefördert hatte. Die propagandistisch auch vor dem Hintergrund des beginnenden spanischen Bürgerkriegs zu betrachtende Mythisierung Andrés war aber angesichts der endgültigen Zerschlagung der kommunistischen Parteiorganisation in Deutschland wohl eher ein Reflex der Ohnmacht und hatte wesentlich kompensatorischen Charakter. Dies nimmt nichts von der hohen Popularität, die Etkar André wegen seiner Unerschrockenheit und Volksnähe insbesondere in der jungen Hamburger Arbeiterschaft genoss.

© 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

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