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Friedrich Erich Ehlert * 1883
Tornquiststraße 5 (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)
1940 'Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Meseritz-Obrawalde' (Tötungsanstalt); vermutlich 1944 ermordet
Friedrich Erich Ehlert, born on 9 Feb. 1883 in Berlin, died probably in 1944 at the Meseritz-Obrawalde euthanasia killing center
On the evening of 10 Oct. 1940, Friedrich Ehlert was reported to police by a resident of Hamburg-Neustadt because he had allegedly approached a boy in a street called Hütten, attempting to lure him into a staircase. After his arrest, Friedrich Ehlert stated that he had only asked the boy for directions, giving him 20 pfennigs in return. Even though the charge of seduction was not substantiated before court, the denunciation nevertheless caused a chain of fateful events for the man suffering from intellectual debility due to an accident, at the end of which stood his transfer to a euthanasia killing center in Brandenburg.
Friedrich Ehlert was born in Berlin in 1883 as the fifth of six children of the established merchant Franz Ehlert and his wife Hedwig, née Rauch. In Berlin-Mitte, he initially attended the Königstädtische Realgymnasium [a high school focused on science, math, and modern languages]. At the age of nine, however, he suffered a severe accident involving a fractured skull, which caused him to experience learning difficulties. His parents took him out of school, and until the age of 15, he went to a special school in Plötzensee from his residence in a supervised home. Whereas his siblings, for the most part, obtained advanced educational qualifications (one brother was a chemist, another studied music), Friedrich Ehlert began a variety of apprenticeships as a grocer, commercial clerk, and cook, all of which he did not finish due to lack of talent or possibly also because of his homosexual tendencies. For even as early as his stay in the supervised home, apparently he was entangled in an investigation concerning "secret sins” and had committed "transgressions on children” during his training. One of his brothers, too, was considered a convicted criminal by 1940, having been sentenced to one year in prison "because of homosexual transgressions.” This was possibly viewed as a hereditary predisposition.
From 1903 onward, Friedrich Ehlert was initially employed in agriculture outside of Berlin, until he had an accident at work in 1911, requiring the amputation of his right leg above the knee. Since then, he received a small pension from the agricultural trade association. With his artificial leg, he was regarded as the "poor village cripple” from then on. In a home for the blind, he learned the brush maker’s and basket-weaver’s trade. The stay at the institution ended after three years because, as a "feebleminded element,” he was an annoyance and suspected of having stolen and having been "homosexually active” with pupils of the home. Afterward, he did menial work, such as peeling potatoes, for a farmer. Since he had thrown smoldering ashes into straw manure, he was sentenced to pay a fine of 25 RM (reichsmark) for arson.
In 1917, Friedrich Ehlert had to stand trial for the first time on charges of homosexual acts. The three-year prison sentence was reversed in the retrial because due to "acquired feeblemindedness” in accordance with Sec. 51 of the Reich Criminal Code (Reichsstrafgesetzbuch – RStGB), he had not been capable of "free determination of will.” After the acquittal, he was accommodated at the Heilanstalt Lübeck-Strecknitz, a mental home, from 2 May 1918 to 3 May 1920. His brother, Franz Ehlert, took him in to live with him in Hamburg. Until 1923, Friedrich Ehlert topped up his pension by trading postcards. A forensic pathologist’s report dated 9 Dec. 1940 stated, "While trading postcards, he also frequented gay bars for some time in order to sell indecent images (especially depictions of homosexual acts). In these locations, he himself in turn met partners with whom he had homosexual intercourse, at intervals of approx. once every two to three weeks. Even when he was no longer able to procure any indecent postcards, he went to these homosexual places to seek acquaintance with homosexual partners. He continued to do so as long as such bars existed. In particular, he frequented the area of Hütten street, also meeting young male prostitutes on the street whom he already knew by sight from the bars in question.” After giving up the postcard trade, he found employment as a messenger, restroom attendant in a café in St. Pauli, and as a dishwasher at the Reichshof Hotel. From approx. 1929 onward, he lived exclusively from his pension before finding a post as a restroom attendant again at the Ratsweinkeller restaurant in Jan. 1939. From 21 Feb. to 31 Mar. 1936, he was in pretrial detention on suspicion of having performed homosexual acts with a 33-year-old man. However, it was not possible to prove him guilty of such a deed.
After being interrogated by police on 10 Oct. 1940, the date mentioned at the outset, on suspicion of having seduced a minor, he was taken, due to risk of suppression of evidence, into police custody for further questioning and transferred to the Holstenglacis pretrial detention facility on 16 Oct. In the trial before the Hamburg Regional Court (Landgericht), Regional Court Director (Landgerichtsdirektor) Paul Groth acquitted the defendant Friedrich Ehlert of the charge of having seduced a boy less than 14 years of age on 25 Feb. 1941. In the same criminal proceedings, however, he was found guilty of having committed "indecent acts” with two other men. He had admitted these homosexual contacts under the pressure of the interrogations. Although Ehlert was responsible for his actions only to a substantially diminished degree, he was sentenced to nine months in prison for offenses pursuant to Sec. 175 of the Reich Criminal Code, with the period of pretrial detention calculated against his prison term. The court also took the view that due to his "sexual compulsiveness and existing weakness of will,” Friedrich Ehlert, "as a typical homosexual, represents a great danger to the public, particularly to male youths,” prompting the court to order his committal to a sanatorium and nursing home in accordance with Sec. 42 b of the Reich Criminal Code after the prison term. He served his sentence from 15 Mar. 1941 onward in the Fuhlsbüttel men’s prison. Even during the trial, he was urged to undergo "voluntary castration,” and after approval by the senator of health, Friedrich Ofterdinger, the procedure was already carried out in the central military hospital on 18 June 1941. At the regular end of the prison term, Friedrich Ehlert was committed to the "Heil- und Pflegeanstalt” Langenhorn on 10 July 1941. After he had been there for approx. one and a half years, 16 Apr. 1943 saw his transport to the Meseritz-Obrawalde euthanasia killing center "in the course of a general transfer operation.” On the occasion of a routine check by the public prosecutor’s office concerning the period of custody there, the responsible provincial senior medial officer (Provinzialmedizinalrat) Theophil Mootz confirmed in stereotypical fashion on 27 June 1944 that "the purpose of committal had not yet been achieved.” Whether Friedrich Ehlert had already been murdered at that point is not exactly known. In 1946, the surviving inmate Karl Tiedjen (born in 1899) made a statement on seven men known to him as to whether these were still alive when the Meseritz-Obrawalde institution was evacuated on 29 Jan. 1945 as the Soviet frontline edged closer. He remembered Friedrich Ehlert as follows: "leg amputated, died in 1944.” Incidentally, Karl Tiedjen only named men who had been convicted before, as he had, for homosexual offenses, including the three additional victims, Lothar Schreiber (Stolperstein in Berlin, Grosse Hamburger Strasse 38), Helmut Nehrig (Stolperstein in Hamburg-Neustadt, Wolfgangsweg 12), and Carl Sievers (Stolperstein in Hamburg-Bergstedt, Kastanienweg 5). Possibly, a kind of "solidary community of shared fate” existed there; at least he knew these men. To the Hamburg public prosecutor’s office, the statement about the death of Friedrich Ehlert did not suffice, despite the witness described as credible. Due to the possible clearing of a criminal record, the note in the file read "notification to the police record not undertaken in this case because there is no ultimate certainty that Ehlert actually died.” Friedrich Ehlert never again registered with the authorities in Hamburg and, according to the findings of the historian Thomas Beddies, the physician Mootz established in the case file was the person "conducting the selections of the victims in Meseritz-Obrawalde, subsequently signing off on the supposed causes of death in the medical histories.” Moreover, "lethal injections were administered by nursing staff on his instructions.” In light of this evidence, we are assuming that unfortunately Friedrich Ehlert did not survive either. Today, a Stolperstein in front of the last residence of his free choosing at Tornquiststrasse 5 commemorates his fate.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
© Bernhard Rosenkranz(†)/Ulf Bollmann
Quellen: StaHH 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 1721/41; 242-4 Kriminalbiologische Sammelstelle, 205; 242-1 II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferungen 13 u. 16; 352-8/7 Staatskrankenanstalt Langenhorn, Ablieferung 1999/1 Zentralkartei; Rosenkranz/Bollmann/Lorenz, Homosexuellen-Verfolgung, S. 58–60, 208; Thomas Beddies 2006, in: http://www.deathcamps.org/euthanasia/obrawalde_de.html (eingesehen am 1.11.2012).