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Robert Finnern
© Privatbesitz

Robert Finnern * 1894

Im Tale 27 (Hamburg-Nord, Eppendorf)

JG. 1894
ERMORDET 22.4.1940

Robert Finnern, born 13 Mar. 1894, died 22 Apr. 1940 in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Im Tale 27

Robert Finnern was born in Hamburg-Alsterdorf. After his confirmation and the end of his primary schooling, he apprenticed as a metalworker. During his apprenticeship (1908-1912) he attended a metalworking training school and was involved in the Workers Youth Movement. After finishing his apprenticeship he travelled through the Harz region, Westphalia, and the Rheinland, then to Baden and Switzerland, where he took part in the funeral march for August Bebel in 1913. He served in the First World War on the Western Front, and was awarded the Iron Cross on 15 October 1916.

After his return to Hamburg, Robert was the leader of the Eppendorf group of the Workers Youth, and was elected as the chapter leader in 1919. He married Hilda Pingel on 13 March 1920. They had two sons, Gerhard and Günther. In 1920 he was also elected the leader of the Eppendorf chapter of the SPD. He continued to be involved in the Workers Youth. He and his wife led hiking trips and participated in Youth Days. He became the district leader of the SPD for the Eppendorf-Winterhude chapter, and remained in office until the party was banned in June 1933.

He began working at the Meinhard Studio and Metalworking Shop in 1919. He was well-liked among his co-workers and a valued employee. While he was working there he became a master metalworker. After the examination for his master craftsman’s certificate in 1926 he left the company and went to work for the Konsum-, Bau- und Sparverein in the technical department. He was let go from this job in 1932 due to the lack of work. In order not to be listed as unemployed, he and his wife Hilda opened a grocery store in Eppendorf at Im Tale 27. On 16 June 1933 he took part in the SPD party executive committee and board meeting in the "Hamburger Echo” publishing house on Fehlandstraße. Robert and other SPD leaders were arrested at the meeting and held in "protective custody” for five weeks. When the police searched his residence they found books by authors such as August Bebel, Karl Frohme, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Walter Rathenau and Walter Mehring.

After his release from prison, Robert Finnern organized a political resistance group. According to his court record, Finnern’s group received banned publications like "Neuer Vorwärts” and "Sozialistische Aktion” from Walter Siering. Later Wilhelm Bock, who was tried and convicted together with Finnern, travelled to Copenhagen to pick up material to bring to Hamburg.

On 3 March 1938 at 7:30 p.m., Oskar Nielsen, a Social Democrat from Kiel, was scheduled to hand over an illegal shipment from Denmark to Walter Siering. Since Siering was in the midst of planning his flight to Denmark, Robert Finnern took his place. Both Siering and Finnern were under observation at this point. The suitcases from Denmark contained several thousand copies of the flyer "Let Facts Speak!” Nielsen and Finnern were arrested the same evening. After their arrest the Gestapo searched Finnern’s residence and took Hilda Finnern into custody for four days. Oskar Nielsen died after two days in prison, from unexplained causes. While she was being detained, Hilda hired the lawyer Dr. Martin, who gathered character references from the Meinhard company, among others, for her husband’s defense case.

Robert Finnern and Wilhelm Bock were tried at the Volksgerichtshof in Berlin. The bill of indictment quoted copiously from the confiscated publications. They were sentenced to eleven months in prison on the charge of high treason. Robert Finnern was to serve his sentence in Fuhlsbüttel. Hilda had the lawyer Dr. Martin enter a plea of pardon every month, but with no success. The Gestapo transferred Robert to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, where he allegedly died of pneumonia on 22 April 1940. His ashes were interred in the family grave at the Ohlsdorf Cemetery on 17 August 1940, in the presence of a large group of mourners. The Berlin District Court officially overturned the verdict of the Volksgerichtshof on 6 February 1950. In 1985 the Hamburg-Alsterdorf district named a street after him, Robert-Finnern-Weg. He is also memorialized by the stele at the Ohlsdorf Cemetery in memory of the victims of Nazi persecution.

Translator: Amy Lee

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Beate Reis, geb. Finnern

Quellen: StaH 351-11 AfW Abl. 2008/1, 13.03.1894 Robert Finnern; StaH 351-11 AfW Abl. 2008/1, 09.02.1918 Wilhelm Bock, Junior; Martens, Für Freiheit und Demokratie, 2003, S.223; Martens, Holger: Widerstand, in: "Alles für Hamburg", o.D. [2008], S. 47ff.
Zur Nummerierung häufig genutzter Quellen siehe Recherche und Quellen.

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