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John Trettin * 1892

Horner Landstraße 416 (Hamburg-Mitte, Billstedt)

JG. 1892
ERMORDET 6.11.1933

further stumbling stones in Horner Landstraße 416:
Jonni (Jonny) Rummel

John Trettin, born 5/30/1892 in Hamburg, died 11/6/1933 at Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp

Horner Landstrasse 416 (formerly number 492)

John Trettin’s father Carl Trettin was a metalworker by trade, and married to Maria Friederike, née Haeseler. Both belonged to the Lutheran Protestant church. On May 30th, 1892, Maria Trettin gave birth to her son John at home in Hohlerweg 17. John Trettin grew up in Hamburg Neustadt and St. Pauli with five siblings, an adopted sister among them. He attended elementary school, where he met Wilhelm Zwanziger, who was to become a lifelong friend. After finishing school, John Trettin absolved an apprenticeship as a lathe operator.

His experience as a soldier in World War I was decisive for his future life. He first fought for the Kaiser in France, then in Russia, where he was wounded. Impressed by the October Revolution in Russia, he deserted in 1918. Due to the end of the war and the subsequent political upheaval in Germany, this had no judicial consequences. Due to his battlefield wound and the resulting handicap, he received a small annuity. John Trettin joined a communist group called "Red October.” It is not documented whether he took part in political combat.

He found work as a stone porter and moved to Bauerberg 12 in Horn, where he met Katharina Rummel, née Janzen, born January 20th, 1895 in Chordata, Ukraine, a divorced mother of two children, Else and Jonny. John’s parents Carl and Maria Trettin lived in Boberger Strasse 9.

Katharina Rummel and John Trettin married on September 15th, 1928. Else, born February 20th, 1922, already went to the school in Pachthof, her brother Jonny, born December 15th, 1924, was still at home. The house in Bauerberg had a large garden that supplied the family with vegetables and flowers. The couple’s two sons were born at home there, Walter on December 9th, 1928, Karl-Heinz on December 29th, 1929. In 1932, the family moved to a more modern apartment in Horner Landstrasse 492, which, however, had no garden. A friendly family allowed them to use part of their garden plot. Later, the Trettins bought an allotment of their own in Weddestrasse. In spite of their partial self-supply, the Trettin family suffered need, especially after John lost his job and got welfare payments. The solidarity in the family, the neighborhood and the party made life a bit easier.

John Trettin was engaged in the KPD until the party was banned in March 1933; he was the treasurer of the Hamburg-Horn chapter. He had a gun, which he hid by burying it in the allotment garden of his friend Wilhelm Zwanziger, but without telling him about it. On September 10th, 1933, Trettin and Zwanziger were arrested And accused of illegal possession of firearms. Trettin could not be convicted, because he was found dead in his cell at 11:15 on November 6th, 1933, allegedly because he "had committed suicide by strangulation”, as the death certificate stated. When Wilhelm Zwanziger learned of his friend’s death, he is supposed to have shifted the blame for the offense he was accused of on Trettin. The proceedings against Zwanziger were terminated due to insignificance. The facts of the case were never cleared because Trettin could no longer stand trial. According to the testimony of witnesses, this is what happened:

After the ban of the KPD, there were several operations against the Communists in Horn. They originated from the local NSDAP chapter V in Blohms Park and from Oskar Hoops’ pub "Zur Rennbahn" in Bauerberg. The story goes that Gauleiter and Reich district governor Karl Kaufmann was a regular at that Nazi hangout. In the fall of 1933, there is supposed to have been an attempt to assassinate him at Hoops’.

The following Sunday, the Gestapo rang the bell at John Trettin’s home, but he wasn’t there. The terrified children hesitating opened the door and explained the situation, whereupon the Gestapo agents left. When John Trettin came home and was told about the visitors, he immediately reported to the Billstedt police station, where he was told that there were no charges against him. Nonetheless, Trettin’s home was searched a few days later, and a few more days later, he was arrested and taken to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp.

John Trettin was tortured to make him extort the names of possible as accomplices from him. He betrayed no one. It is unclear if he was tortured to death, killed because of his silence or took his own life in order to not to betray his comrades.

Katharina Trettin was summoned to pick up her husband’s belongings from the depot of the penitentiary H 1 Suhrenkamp 98: one new suit, a watch, a golden wedding ring, a silver cigarette case, and underwear. But she received nothing but a pair of shoes, one sock and a handkerchief. The coroner’s report that the concentration camp sent her mentioned bloodshot spots on his face, neck and body. This report and statements and testimony from fellow prisoners made turned Katharina Trettin’s assumption that her husband had been murdered into a certainty. John Trettin’s stepdaughter Else Wulf later said that she did not recognize her father when she stood before his body as an eleven year old girl, disfigured as he was by blood-encrusted hands, broken fingers and marks of strangulation around his neck.

John Trettin was buried at the Schiffbek cemetery with the public excluded. The family managed ,to pass off a few friends and party comrades as relatives, so that they could attend the funeral.

Katharina Trettin received less and less in support payments for herself and the children. Her daughter Else was the first able to contribute to the family income from Easter 1941, with Jonny following on July 1st, 1942. Katharina Trettin tried to fulfill the family’s direst need by selling clothing and household items. At the end of 1941, she was drafted to work in a factory. Her daughter married and moved to Bad Kreuznach. Jonny Rummel was drafted and served in the Wehrmacht. On February 8th, 1945, a courts-martial in Königsberg sentenced him to death for demoralization of the troops. He was shot at the age of twenty.

Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: March 2019
© Jürgen Starcken

Quellen: VAN-Totenliste 1968; Kola-Fu Gedenkbuch; StaH, 332-5 Standesämter, 2286+2322/1892, 3586+756/1928; 332-8 Meldewesen, A 51/1; 351-11 AfW, 14375 und 17499; mündl. Mitteilungen von Rolf Trettin u. Else Wulf am 23. u. 29.12.2009;, Zugriff am 13.2.2010.

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