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Heinrich Roth * 1907
Steindamm 91 (Hamburg-Mitte, St. Georg)
Cap Arcona versenkt, tot 03.05.1945
Heinrich "Heinz” Peter Roth, born on 17 Mar. 1907, detained in 1936 and 1938, died on 3 May 1945 in the sinking of the Cap Arcona
Steindamm 91/97 (formerly Steindamm 93)
The photographer Heinz Roth was born in 1907 in St. Ingbert. In 1927, he had arrived in Hamburg, where he first worked as an assistant checkroom attendant at the known gay bar "Goldene 13.” There he met the merchant Carl Bruns (born on 10 Feb. 1885 Hollerdeich/Kehdingen, died after 21 Apr. 1945 on the Sachsenhausen concentration camp death march, Stolperstein: Papenhuder Strasse 32), with whom he had a relationship from 1929 until early 1935.
In 1934, Heinz Roth had met a man in the "Zillertal” bar, having sex with him once. On 2 Nov. 1934, the Hamburg District Court (Amtsgericht) sentenced him for these charges to three months in prison in accordance with Sec. 175 of the Reich Criminal Code (Reichsstrafgesetzbuch – RStGB) – and pardoned him on 29 May 1935. Since as a "175er” he did not find any employment after his release, he started up his own business as a photographer.
On 9 June 1936, Carl Bruns and he stood trial before the Hamburg District Court because of their relationship. They had the same lawyers, Karstens & Wehner, based at Hermannstrasse 31, represent them. Roth was sentenced to eight months and two weeks in prison for "continued unnatural sexual offenses” ("fortgesetzte widernatürliche Unzucht”) in accordance with Sec. 175; Bruns was sentenced to four months and two weeks in prison.
After his release from prison in Dec. 1936, Heinz Roth moved to his hometown of St. Ingbert in the Saarland; however, he already returned to Hamburg in Jan. 1937. For fear of being arrested again, he did not frequent any of the known gay bars for several months. At Pentecost of 1937, he became engaged to his Lesbian acquaintance Rosetta "Rosi” Sophie Kersten (born on 31 Jan. 1910 in Liverpool) – probably with the idea of entering into a companionate marriage later. However, their connection lasted only until Christmas of that year.
In Aug. 1937, Roth met the cabinetmaker Adolf Spehr in the bar operated by Johanna Gräpel (also called Miele) in the St. Pauli quarter. The two had a relationship until Oct. 1937. After Heinz Roth had been in freedom for about a year and three months, the 24th Office of the Criminal Investigation Department (24. Kriminalkommissariat) resumed investigations against him. From 18 Feb. until 12 Apr. 1938, he was detained in the Hamburg-Stadt pretrial detention center on charges of "unnatural sexual offenses.” For lack of evidence, he was released. However, a short time afterward, his name was mentioned by his former partner Adolf Spehr during an interrogation, prompting police to investigate Roth once more. Spehr also testified on 23 May 1938 that Rosetta Kersten maintained homosexual relationships. Questioned about this, Heinz Roth responded: "If Spehr states that I had told him Kersten was homosexual and had a female lover and that I did not have sexual intercourse with her, I say that this cannot be correct. I did have normal sexual intercourse with Kersten. It is true that Kersten had a girlfriend who was in hospital, her name being Emmi or Miele Andersen. She had alcohol poisoning and is now paralyzed. Moreover, she has a girlfriend named Elli Maio. These women may have seemed peculiar to me, and in the past, they frequented the ‘Goldene Dreizehn’ bar. I cannot say that the women performed sexual acts among each other.”
One week after the interrogations, on 31 May 1938, the 24th Office of the Criminal Investigation Department prepared a report stating that the 20th Office of the Criminal Investigation Department (formerly Female Criminal Investigation Department) was investigating the hairdresser Rosetta Kersten (born on 31 Jan. 1910 Liverpool, died on 11 Dec. 1963 in Hamburg) on charges of "Lesbian activity” ("lesbische Betätigung”). Although homosexual acts between women were not punishable by law, the criminal investigation department did everything in its power to question suspected women about the most intimate details and to learn the names of their female partners.
Heinz Roth was taken into police "protective custody” ("Schutzhaft”) in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp from 25 until 31 May 1938. On 28 July 1938, the Hamburg District Court sentenced him to two years in prison for continued offenses in accordance with Sec. 175 RStGB. A passage from the verdict reads, "Whether the defendant will improve through serving the sentence to be imposed on him now is more than questionable. In this case, the idea of reform must take a back seat. The essential criterion for determining the penalty must be safeguarding the general public from the defendant, who has not known how to rein in his homosexual drive. … The only effective means to save the defendant from repeating his criminal offense will be castration. Should the defendant have himself castrated now and should the physician favor the defendant’s release after the period of observation deemed necessary, then the court will also support a conditional pardon for the remainder of the sentencing period.”
Starting on 16 Sept. 1938, Heinz Roth served his sentence in the Wolfenbüttel penitentiary as well as the Emsland camps V Neusustrum and VI Oberlangen. From there, he was handed over to the Hamburg Criminal Investigation Department, which took him into "criminal investigation department preventive detention” in the Hütten police prison. From 3 until 16 May 1940, he was detained in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp and then – the exact date is unknown – transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
He was on file there under prisoner number 26,909. For 21 Aug. 1940, the records document his committal by the criminal investigation department to the Neuengamme concentration camp (prisoner number 1722, "B.V. H.O” for "homosexueller Berufsverbrecher,” i.e., "homosexual professional criminal”). He was used there as "hairdresser & police records department [worker], Political Section with [the head of the Political Section] Naeve as a photographer.” According to an eyewitness, Heinz Roth was killed on 3 May 1945 during the sinking of the "Cap Arcona.”
In 1951, his parents and siblings applied unsuccessfully in the Saarland for recognition of their relative Heinz Roth as a victim of National Socialism. In 1969, the Hamburg Senator of Social Affairs, Ernst Weiss, a member of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), also refused restitution by way of the hardship allowance ("…the file reveals furthermore that the deceased had been sentenced several times since 1934 for offenses in accordance with Sec. § 175 of the [R]StGB and spent time in prison. In the year 1940, he was – probably for this reason as well – in police preventive detention").
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: October 2018
© Bernhard Rosenkranz(†)/Ulf Bollmann
Quellen: StaHH, 213-11 Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht – Strafsachen, 8740/38; StaHH, 242-1II Gefängnisverwaltung II, Ablieferungen 13 und 16; StaHH, 213-8 Staatsanwaltschaft Oberlandesgericht – Verwaltung, Ablieferung 2, 451 a E 1, 1 c und 451 a E 1, 1 e; StaHH, 351-11 Amt für Wiedergutmachung, Ablieferung 2008/1, 170307 Roth; Hans Georg Stümke: Hamburg: Gestapo jagt "Volksschädlinge". Zur Verfolgung der Homosexuellen im 3. Reich, in: Hamburg von hinten, Berlin 1982, S. 60.