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Karl Danker * 1883
Buxtehuder Straße 38 (Harburg, Harburg)
Verstorben an Haftfolgen
Karl Danker, born on 28 May 1883 in Bönebüttel near Neumünster, in prison because of "undermining military strength” ("Wehrkraftzersetzung”), died on 12 July 1945 as result of prison conditions
Harburg-Altstadt quarter, Buxtehuder Strasse 38
The metalworker Karl Danker married Margarethe Gohr, born on 20 Apr. 1879 in Züllichau. They had four children: Justus, born on 28 Aug. 1899; Elfriede, born on 12 July 1904 and deceased in 1929; Bruno, born on 15 Aug. 1905; and Gertrud, born on 9 July 1906. For a long time, the family lived in Harburg at Buxtehuder Strasse 38. By 1931, all of the children had left home and since then, the couple lived there alone.
The Social Democrat Karl Danker joined the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands – USPD) during the First World War. This party had formed in Apr. 1917 at its Reich party conference in Gotha in opposition to the SPD’s support for the war and policy of party truce (Burgfriedenspolitik). According to the stipulations of the military, the USPD party conference was permitted to meet only behind closed doors.
In Nov. 1918, revolution broke out in Germany. The German emperor Wilhelm II abdicated and went into exile in the Netherlands, and Germany became a republic. All over the country, workers’ and soldiers’ councils formed, doing so as well in Harburg and in what was then still the independent municipality of Wilhelmsburg. Karl Danker represented the USPD in the Harburg workers’ and soldiers’ council. Initially, the councils had all the power formally, though nevertheless leaving the imperial officials in their posts, including the Harburg lord mayor, Heinrich Denicke, who had been a member of the extreme nationalist and annexationist Fatherland Party (Vaterlandspartei). Step by step, the councils were forced to cede political power to the elected parliaments, as happened in Harburg also. Where they refused, they were suppressed by armed force through imperial troops and counterrevolutionary Free Corps commanded by the Defense Minister Gustav Noske (SPD).
After food riots, a state of siege was imposed in June 1919. In Harburg, Major Hueg from the engineer battalion stationed in the barracks at Schwarzenberg, was given executive power. Representatives of all three workers’ parties, the SPD, USPD, and the German Communist Party (KPD) convened in the "Kaiserhof” hotel (Bremer Strasse). On 27 June, they declared that they alone were able to ensure peace and order, electing to this end a twelve-member committee that included also Karl Danker.
In Oct. 1920, the USPD split at its party conference in Halle. The larger part merged with the KPD, the smaller part later rejoined the SPD. Karl Danker became a member of the KPD. In 1923, he was a delegate at the KPD’s Leipzig party conference.
Following the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship, 21 Mar. 1933 saw the enactment of the law for the "defense from treacherous attacks against the government of the national uprising” ("Treachery Act”) as decreed by the Reich President. According to this, practically any public criticism of the Nazi state became a statutory criminal offense. During the war, other grounds for criminal prosecution were added, including "aiding the enemy,” "undermining military strength ("Wehrkraftzersetzung”),” and listening to "enemy radio stations.”
It is not known whether Karl Danker was a member of the resistance during the Nazi dictatorship. In any case, we know nothing of arrests or convictions. During the Second World War, he worked at the Tempo Works in Bostelbek, the production site of the legendary three-wheeled cars (today Mercedes). He was not drafted, as the plant was deemed "essential to the war effort.” He said to an adolescent [in a play on words on the German word for lower back: "Kreuz,” literally, "cross”], "You always have to keep in mind your own lower back [Kreuz], not the Iron Cross [Eiserne Kreuz].” This comment was overheard by an informer. On 12 Nov. 1944, Karl Danker was arrested and initially taken into police custody, and on 22 Nov. placed in pretrial detention in Hamburg. The public prosecutor’s office at the Hanseatic special court (Hanseatisches Sondergericht) initiated legal proceedings against him for "undermining military strength ("Wehrkraftzersetzung”) and offense against the "Treachery Act.” Apparently, no trial was opened against him. Karl Danker fell seriously ill while in detention. On 12 July 1945, he died in a military hospital of the Soviet army in Fürstenwalde and was buried on the local cemetery.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Hans-Joachim Meyer
Quellen: VVN-BdA Harburg (Hrsg.), Die anderen, S. 246; Hans-Joachim Meyer, Rote Fahnen über Harburg, Hamburg-Harburg 1998, S. 21; Reinhard Kühnl, Der deutsche Faschismus in Quellen und Dokumenten, Köln 1975; StaH, 332-8 Meldewesen, A44; StaH,, Adressbücher Harburg-Wilhelmsburg; VVN, Komitee-Akten; Heyl/Maronde-Heyl, Abschlussbericht; Totenliste VAN.