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Gustav Delle
© Bezirksamt Wandsbek

Gustav Delle * 1880

Schloßstraße 60 (Wandsbek, Wandsbek)

KZ Neuengamme
verstorben 1945 an Haftfolgen

Gustav Delle, born on 20 Sept. 1880, in 1933 detention in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, in 1944 detention in the Neuengamme concentration camp, died of the effects of imprisonment on 25 Apr. 1945

Schlossstrassse 60 (Wandsbek District Office)

The local politician Gustav Delle is the only non-Jewish politically persecuted person whose life story the author of this contribution dealt with in her study. In 1933, he was imprisoned because of his membership in the SPD as a politically intolerable opponent, removed from office, and eventually taken to the Neuengamme concentration camp.

Born on 20 Sept. 1880 in the Württemberg town of Botnang/ Stuttgart District, Gustav Delle took up the trade of a painter after his school days. He married Luise, née Nobes, who was of the same age and a native of the Württemberg region as well. In 1905, daughter Grete was born, followed by two other siblings: Hans and Hilde. In 1911, Delle joined the SPD. According to the residents’ registration card, in 1913 the family moved from Stuttgart to Wandsbek-Gartenstadt, living at Erikastrasse 34 until 1916. After another ten years at Rosenstrasse 71, the family moved to Bramfelderstrasse 168, probably into a house of their own, which they called home until 1934.

Gustav Delle’s career moved forward steadily: He was a member of the city council, and since 1919, he held the position of a salaried city councilor and department head of the welfare system in Wandsbek. In this office, he earned a good reputation, being competent, industrious, and popular alike. In 1931, he successfully ran for second mayor of the City of Wandsbek.

Immediately after assuming power, the National Socialists began eliminating the opposition and filling offices and posts with their own people. Delle also felt the force of this development, as he was arrested together with three other Social Democrats from Wandsbek on 6 Mar. 1933 and detained as a so-called "protective custody prisoner” ("Schutzhäftling”) in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp for 14 days. Delle’s son-in-law was also dismissed from service for the City of Wandsbek in 1933 because of "political unreliability.”

When the office of second mayor was up for election in late Apr. 1933, the SPD was passed over and NSDAP district leader Eggers maneuvered into the post. However, since Gustav Delle had not (yet) been dismissed from office, the search was on for a pretext to chase him out of his position using legal tricks, in the course of a dishonorable dismissal, as it were. The person taking overall control of this process was First Mayor (Oberbürgermeister) Ziegler. He had been second mayor for years until succeeding First Mayor Rodig in 1931 – with support from the SPD. Ziegler had weathered the change of political power intact. In the course of Delle’s dismissal, the trained jurist already demonstrated his Nazi convictions. He tackled the issue by applying the lever of the notorious Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums).

However, Ziegler happened to choose the incorrect grounds, i.e. Sec. 2. This section of the law stipulated dismissal without eligibility for pension if the staff member in question had insufficient educational background or suitability for the office. But that did not apply to Gustav Delle, as a result of which the Prussian Ministry of the Interior intervened in the matter and raised its objection against the reasoning. The City of Wandsbek was obliged to pay Delle a pension. The refusal to Ziegler’s request pointed out that Delle’s integrity of convictions and actions, his impeccable discharge of office, and his achievements for the city during 13 years was not to be called into question.

Thus disabused, the First Mayor now applied Sec. 4 of the above-mentioned law. According to this, anyone was to be dismissed whose previous political activities did not guarantee that person’s unreserved support for the national state.

Delle’s case and the way in which he was treated continued to agitate some Wandsbek residents with an intact sense of justice. In 1934, the long-standing former First Mayor Rodig started one last attempt, speaking out for Delle’s reinstatement to some post in the civil service. In his letter to the Prussian Minister of the Interior, he testified to Delle’s outstanding professional competence and the skill, despite personal kindness, of motivating his subordinates to deliver their utmost work effort. In this context, Rodig added, it had proven an asset that he came from a trade job.

Rodig’s efforts not only were unsuccessful but they evoked a mocking counter statement from First Mayor Ziegler. Passages of this read, "If mayor Delle (retired) wishes to volunteer for collaborating in the welfare work of his current place of residence in Ahrensburg, he will be offered ample opportunity to do so in the Winter Relief [Winterhilfe] organized by the National Socialist People’s Welfare authority [Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt – NSV].”

The charged political climate accompanying his dismissal forced Delle to leave his long-standing sphere of activity, Wandsbek, in 1935. Together with his family, he moved to Ahrensburg, where they occupied the upper floor with three rooms at Am Tiergarten 16. Delle had leased the house with the right of first refusal, and the plan was to buy the house at a later date.

In 1944, after the failed attempt on Hitler’s life on 20 July, former opposition politicians, too, were detained in the course of raids and waves of arrests dubbed "Operation Thunderstorm” ("Aktion Gewitter”) [actual name: "Aktion Gitter,” i.e. "Operation Bars”]. Gustav Delle was arrested at his place of residence on 22 Aug. 1944. The head of the municipal police, Gramm, and the policeman Claussen handed him over to the Gestapo, which committed Delle to the Neuengamme concentration camp on 27 Aug. There he was forced to undergo experiments with pure salicylic acid, the active agent of the painkiller Aspirin. In case of higher doses and long-term administration, the substance could result in stomach troubles and gastric hemorrhages. The side effects caused a previously existing stomach ailment of Delle to worsen. Moreover, physical mistreatment brought him to the brink of collapse. Due to the intervention of an acquaintance who regarded him highly, he was dismissed from the concentration camp on 1 Nov. 1944. It was already too late, however. Gustav Delle did not recover anymore. He died in Bad Oldesloe on 25 Apr. 1945.

The Social Democrat Heinrich Wichelmann was one of Delle’s political companions from his Wandsbek days. He too had been arrested in 1933. After the war, he worked as an editor for the Hamburger Echo, the daily newspaper published by the SPD. In 1955, he printed an article in recognition of Delle on the tenth anniversary of his death.

Delle’s place of work, the municipal administration of the Wandsbek city council, had been located in Wandsbek’s city hall at Königstrasse 12 (Wandsbeker Königstrasse), as had the offices of the two mayors Rodig and Ziegler. Consequently, a working relationship lasting many years had been in place not only with Delle’s supporter Rodig, but also with the latter’s successor, Ziegler. However, since Mar. 1933, former alliances meant nothing any longer.

Since the city hall of that period no longer exists, the Stolperstein for Gustav Delle was laid directly in front of the entrance to the Wandsbek District Office at Schlossstrasse 60.

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Astrid Louven

Quellen: StaHH Meldewesen 332-8 K 4412; AfW 200980; AB VI 1924, 1930, 1931; Herbert Fuchs, Aufzeichnungen anlässlich der Verlegung des Stolpersteins für Gustav Delle (Manuskript), September 2004; Astrid Louven, Juden, S. 190; SPD Wandsbek, S. 40–43.

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