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Carl Burmester
© KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme

Carl Burmester * 1901

Wiesendamm 20 (Hamburg-Nord, Barmbek-Nord)

JG. 1901
TOT 17.9.1934

Carl Burmester, born 12 Mar. 1901, died 17 Sep. 1934 when he fell down the steps in Gestapo headquarters after being tortured

Wiesendamm 20

The Communist Carl Burmester grew up in Hamburg in a family of Social Democrats. After elementary school he attended trade school and apprenticed as a ship’s carpenter and boat builder, following in his father Franz Burmester’s footsteps. Carl Burmester became a member of the Ship’s Carpenters’ Association (Schiffszimmerverband) in 1917, and in 1918 joined the Freie Sozialistische Jugend, a Marxist-influenced youth organization.

In early 1924, Carl Burmester married Charlotte Clausen. She was from Flensburg and had trained as a gardener. Their daughter Greta was born on 4 Mai 1926 in Harxbüttel, and their son Jens Peter on 31 October 1924 in Hamburg. Carl and his wife joined the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) in 1922, and were actively involved in political and union issues. He became the vice-chairman of the International Port Workers’ and Seamen’s Association and a committee member of the regional chapter of the KPD, the Wasserkante. He ran for the Hamburg Parliament in 1932. He was also in close contact to the painter Heinrich Vogeler, who ran a holiday camp for children of Communist families in Worpswede.

After the Nazis came to power in January 1933 and the KPD was banned, Carl and Charlotte Burmester continued to be involved in the party’s underground organization. For this reason, the building cooperative that owned their apartment at Wiesendamm 20 cancelled their rental agreement in the spring of 1933. The family moved to Schlettstadter Straße 5.

The Gestapo arrested Carl Burmester on 1 April 1933 for conspirative activities and he was taken into "protective custody.” He was released on 30 November 1933. Charlotte was also in "protective custody” from 11 July to 21 November 1933. After they were released, both returned to their underground political activities, and were again arrested in the summer of 1934. Charlotte was taken into "protective custody” on 17 June, and Carl was taken to Gestapo headquarters for questioning. The reason for their arrest was their participation in the re-establishment of union groups.

The Burmesters had divorced before the Hamburg Regional Court on 9 July 1933.

While Charlotte was in "protective custody,” her husband was severely tortured during an interrogation by the Gestapo in the Stadthaus (Gestapo headquarters). According to testimony given by his father Franz Burmester, Carl fell down the stairs at the Stadthaus on 17 September 1934 during or after the interrogation. The Gestapo allegedly pushed him. He was taken to the Hafenkrankenhaus, but died of his injuries during the transport. The time of death was registered as 6:09 p.m.

Charlotte Burmester learned of the death of her ex-husband while she was in prison. On the advice of her lawyer Paul Nevermann, she applied for a furlough on 20 September in order to take her children to live with relatives. On 11 December the Hamburg Higher Regional Court sentenced her to one year in prison on the charge of "conspiracy to commit high treason.” She served her sentence in the Lübeck-Lauerhof prison.

Charlotte Burmester was released from prison on 12 August 1935 due to her severe asthma. She was admitted to the hospital in Lübeck and declared unfit for imprisonment. Shortly thereafter she returned to Hamburg, and she and her children moved to an apartment at Dehnhaide 11. Despite all of the threats and persecution she had suffered at the hands of the Nazis, she continued to aid political prisoners, for which she was once again was in danger of being arrested in 1937. Shortly before she was to be sent to prison, in July 1937, she fled with her children Greta and Jens Peter to Sweden.

Charlotte again worked for a Communist organization in Sweden, sorting care packages for the families of political prisoners. She was also involved in the campaign to save the life of Liselotte Hermann, who had been sentenced to death. The children finished their schooling in Sweden. In 1944, Richard Herbert Wehner moved in with the Burmester family. He had been in the Swedish internment camp Smedsbo. In Germany he had been a KPD representative in the Parliament of Saxony, and was under a Nazi arrest warrant.

The Burmester family and Herbert Wehner returned to Germany on 1 July 1947. Wehner and Charlotte married on 2 February 1953 in Hamburg. At that time Herbert Wehner was already a member of the Federal Parliament, representing Hamburg for the SPD.

There is a Stolperstein for Carl Burmester at the Stadthausbrücke at the entrance to the City Planning and Environmental Authority (BSU).

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

© Carmen Smiatacz

Quellen: StaHH 242-1 II, Gefängnisverwaltung II, Abl. 16, Untersuchungshaft; StaHH 314-15, OFP, FVg 7718; StaHH 351-11, AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 12.03.01 Burmester, Carl; StaHH 351-11, AfW, Abl. 2008/1, 20.08.03 Wehner, verw. Burmester, geb. Clausen, Charlotte; Zugriff am 14.03.2009; VVN, B50 Burmester, Greta; Diercks: Gedenkbuch "KOLA-FU", S. 16f.

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