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Camillo Friede * 1902
Ferdinandstraße 14 (Hamburg-Mitte, Hamburg-Altstadt)
1944 ZUCHTHAUS CELLE
Camillo Paul Eugen Friede, born on 2 Sept. 1902 in Dresden, imprisoned in 1933, detained in the Celle penitentiary in 1942, died on the transport Bützow-Dreibergen on 13 Apr. 1945
Camillo Friede was born in Dresden on 2 Sept. 1902 as the son of the unmarried sales clerk Emma Friede. Two years later, his mother had married the printer Eugen Steltzer. Camillo first attended Volksschule (elementary school) and Bürgerschule [a secondary school for the middle classes] for six years and then began an apprenticeship as an upholsterer and decorator. Until 1927, he spent his first years as a journeyman on his travels, and from 1928 to 1931, he went to sea as a steward.
Early on, Camillo Friede joined the SAJ, the "Socialist Young Workers” (Sozialistische Arbeiterjugend). During a two-year period of unemployment, he became a member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1932 and even after it was banned, he continued his political activities in illegality. Among other things, he distributed Communist leaflets among members of the Nazi party (NSDAP).
The historian Ursel Hochmuth described Camillo Friede in "The Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen-Group” as a very well-read, music-loving person who wanted to get to know life and the world. Obviously, he was linguistically gifted, as he spoke five foreign languages and was interested in a wide range of topics. Whenever he could, he attended concerts and the opera.
When he was first arrested at the end of 1933, he lived at Capellenstrasse 14 (today Ellmenreichstrasse) in the St. Georg quarter. On 2 Nov. 1933, the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court (Hanseatisches Oberlandesgericht) sentenced him to two years and six months in a penitentiary on charges of "preparing a treasonous undertaking.” After serving his sentence in Fuhlsbüttel, he remained in the Esterwegen concentration camp and in Sachsenhausen in so-called protective custody (Schutzhaft) for another three years.
After his release at the end of 1937, he was able to regain a foothold in the trade in which he was trained and passed his master’s examination in 1941.
Together with his friend Kurt Albin Friedrich (born on 30 May 1903 in Hildburghausen), Camillo Friede then gathered a circle of anti-Fascists around him. In Sachsenhausen, he had met and remained in contact with the Communists Bernhard Bästlein, Robert Abshagen, and Franz Jacob (see corresponding entries), who were also held in "protective custody.” When, after the invasion of the Soviet Union by the German Wehrmacht on 22 June 1941, the latter decided, together with other Communists, to establish an illegal resistance group, Camillo Friede took part as a "counter-intelligence man” ("Abwehrmann”). He was to provide important military information, as he occasionally had access to barracks and official buildings as an upholsterer and decorator. Over time, conspiratorial cells were built up in more than 30 shipyards and plants and connections were established with other resistance groups. Their goal was to overthrow the Hitler regime and end the war as quickly as possible.
When members of the resistance organization known as Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen were arrested by the Gestapo, at first only Franz Jacob was able to evade arrest; he fled to Berlin. There he built up a new organization with Anton Saefkow (see corresponding entry). Later Bernhard Bästlein also joined them. He had been arrested in Hamburg on 17 Oct. 1942 and had been able to escape from the Berlin-Plötzensee prison after an intense air raid. Robert Abshagen had been in custody at the Fuhlsbüttel police prison since 19 Oct. 1942.
Camillo Friede lived in Hamburg’s historic downtown at Ferdinandstrasse 14 with Timm when he was arrested on 25 Nov. 1942. To learn the names of others, he was severely mistreated and tortured during interrogations. He did not betray his friend Kurt Albin Friedrich, who was able to continue his activities at first. However, later, on 13 June 1944, he was arrested by the Gestapo for "supporting illegal Communist groups in preparation to high treason” based on details from a Gestapo informer. Kurt Albin Friedrich died on 13 Aug. 1944 in the Fuhlsbüttel police prison, "allegedly [of] suicide after intensified interrogation.” It is more likely that he died because of the torture, since the aim was to extort other names from him.
In Mar. 1943, Camillo Friede, like the other members of the Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen Group who had been arrested, was transferred from the Fuhlsbüttel police prison to the Holstenglacis pretrial detention center, where they waited for their trial to begin. Since the pretrial detention facility was also among the buildings damaged during the heavy air raids on Hamburg in July/Aug. 1943, some of the prisoners not expected to receive a death sentence were granted prison leave for several weeks. Camillo Friede’s detention card was marked "released 4 Aug. 1943” and "returned from leave 1 Oct. 1943.” He did not seize the opportunity to disappear after the deadline.
On 6 Mar. 1944, the first so-called Communist trials began before the Hamburg Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht), which lasted until May 1944. Camillo Friede was sentenced to death in the main trial on 5 May 1944, before the 2nd Senate of the People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof) in the criminal justice building in Hamburg. Since his father and two brothers had been killed as soldiers in the same year, the death sentence was commuted to a six-year prison sentence. Two of his co-defendants were sentenced to death, the carpenter Heinrich "Hein” Bretschneider (born on 12 Dec. 1904) and the construction worker Richard Heller (born on 26 Oct. 1908). On 26 June 1944, their sentences were executed in the pretrial detention center in Hamburg.
On 26 May 1944, Camillo Friede and the others, who had been sentenced to long prison terms, arrived at the Celle-Mühlhausen penitentiary. On 10 Apr. 1945, the prison in Celle was evacuated from the approaching Allies, and the prisoners came to Bützow-Dreibergen in Mecklenburg.
Ursel Hochmuth quoted the account of a fellow prisoner who reported on Camillo Friede’s time in Celle and his death on 13 Apr. 1945 during the transport:
"After our conviction, Camillo and I had landed in the saddlery of the Celle penitentiary in May 1944. There I was fortunate to be entrusted soon with the management of the materials store. This made it possible for me to request that Camillo work in the camp on Sundays. Those were really special days for us. We discussed, prophesied, and forged plans for the future until being confined again in the afternoons, because we were alone during this time and completely undisturbed. Since I also had some freedom of movement, it was possible for me to get something to eat in addition, so that almost every day, I could make sure Camillo got an edge of bread or a net of boiled potatoes. It went well until the fall. But then Camillo fell ill with a phlegmon [bacterial skin infection]. He had to spend a few days in hospital and then two weeks in a ‘rest cell.’ There the prisoners were at the mercy of the ruthless arbitrariness of the trusty [Kalfaktor], a professional criminal in preventive detention. For some political prisoners, the treatment they received there spelled death. During the ‘rest period,’ Camillo had contracted pneumonia, so that he returned in an extremely weakened state. Soon thereafter, he was detailed to the upholstery department, which completely tore us apart. Once we passed each other on the stairs. I was shocked by his weakened physical state. But his eyes shone as always, and he whispered to me: ‘Soon that will be it. I want to hang on.’ Then he pulled himself further up the railing. When the British had advanced as far as 100 kilometers [approx. 62 miles] toward Celle, the elements (political and foreign) that were dangerous in the eyes of the judiciary were removed by freight cars. On 8 Apr. 1945, 450 prisoners, including Camillo and myself, were loaded into open cars and we traveled for five days and nights through Hannover, Braunschweig, and Mecklenburg without a plan, without food, without water, without a place to sleep. For we were put in a railway car with 70 people, including dysentery patients and half-frozen people. It had not been possible for the two of us to get into the same car. Thus, we could see each other only a few times over the edge of the car and wave to one another. I believed Camillo to be in a half-decent state. However, when we left the cars in Bützow (near Rostock) to march to the Dreibergen penitentiary, Camillo was not among the staggering characters. I ran to his car and found him lying on the ground. When I took him out, he was already in agony and no longer recognized me. I was ordered to lay him on the ground with the sick. When a cart came by to take the sick to the hospital, I ran to him and lifted him onto the vehicle. I guess he did not even weigh 90 pounds anymore. As I carried him, his arms fell limply and I saw that his eyes were already glazed in death. He probably died of dysentery and exhaustion, as did the other 150 comrades, too, in the following three weeks of starvation, including comrades Anasch, Kerpel, Dreibrodt, Möller, Götzke, and Quest. When we were liberated by the Red Army on 3 May, I tried to find out where Camillo’s body was buried. It was impossible for me, because there was no official at all to be found, and in addition, the dead of our transport had neither been identified nor registered. Camillo ranks among the many, many nameless victims. Even today, I see the horrible scenes in front of me and feel the deep tragedy of our brave Camillo.”
For Kurt Friedrich and Robert Anasch (born on 22 Dec. 1907, died on 15 Apr. 1945) Stolpersteine were laid in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst at Höltystrasse 15 and at Schenkendorfstrasse 25 (see Stolpersteine in Hamburg-Uhlenhorst).
For Paul Dreibrodt (born on 19 July 1905, died on 28 May 1945) and August Quest (born on 28 Feb. 1886, died on 28 Apr. 1945), Stolpersteine are located in the Wilstorf quarter at Heinrich-Heine-Strasse 30 and at Kapellenweg 15 (see Stolpersteine in Harburg). Richard Heller is commemorated by a Stolperstein in front of his last place of residence in Bremen, at Hansestrasse 201.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: April 2020
© Susanne Rosendahl
Quellen: StaH 242-1II Abl. 1998/1 U-Haft Männer; StaH 242-1II Abl. 13 Gefangenenkartei; StaH 351-11 AfW 38425 (Friedrich, Gerda); Gedenkstätte Ernst Thälmann Hamburg-Eppendorf, Archiv, Anklageschrift des Oberreichsanwalt beim Volksgerichtshof in Berlin vom 26.2.1944; Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg, Männer im Widerstand 1933–1945, Akte A-F, 13-3-3-1; Buck: Widerstand; Puls: Bästlein-Jacob-Abshagen-Gruppe, S. 198, S. 132; Hochmuth/Meyer: Streiflichter, S. 342, S. 357, S. 386; http://www.spurensuche-bremen.de/5057/widerstandskampfer-richard-heller/ (Zugriff 1.6.2015); www.ancestry.de (Geburtsregister von Camillo Friede, Zugriff 8.3.2017).