Peter Buchholz was born in 1888 into the large family of a cabinet-maker in the village of Eisbach, near Bonn. Following a theological education, he was ordained a Catholic priest in 1911. During the First World War, he was division chaplain from 1915 and served directly on the frontline. From 1918, Buchholz first spent many years working as a chaplain in Essen before he became a prison chaplain in 1926. In May 1943, he was transferred to Berlin, where his responsibilities as a Catholic priest also included attending to inmates of the prison at Berlin-Plötzensee, where one of the central National Socialist execution sites was located. At this point in time, more than a hundred death sentences handed down by the National Socialist judiciary were being carried out every month. Buchholz ministered to those German and foreign prisoners who had resisted the National Socialist regime and were awaiting execution. From August 1944, these mainly consisted of people who were arrested as a result of their involvement in the attempted coup of 20 July and murdered in Plötzensee. In close cooperation with the protestant priest Harald Pölchau, he passed on final messages to or from relatives of the prisoners or secretly delivered food or letters. After the war, he was briefly made commissioner for church affairs in the newly formed municipal authorities of Berlin, before he returned to the Rhineland in 1946. In addition to resuming his work as a prison chaplain, he also gave numerous lectures and radio interviews in which he called for the commemoration of the men and women of the resistance who were executed in Plötzensee. Peter Buchholz died at the age of 75 on May 4, 1963, in Bonn.
Paul Hertz was born in 1888 in Worms and came from a Jewish family. In 1903, he began training as a merchant and became active in a trade union. In 1908, he formally abandoned the Jewish faith. From 1910, he began studying national economics at Munich University, which accepted him despite his failure to complete his school education, and completed his studies with a doctorate in 1914. In 1917, he joined the Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei (USPD – “Independent Socialist Party of Germany”) and became business editor of the party newspaper “Freiheit” (Freedom). He began his political career in 1920 in Berlin, where he became councillor for nutrition, finance and taxation in the district of Charlottenburg. A short time later, the Weimar Republic’s first elections to the Reichstag were held. Paul Hertz was elected a member of parliament on behalf of the USPD. After the right wing of the party re-joined the SPD, he represented the SPD in parliament from 1922.
Shortly after the National Socialists seized power, he travelled in his capacity as SPD politician to Denmark and Sweden to inform fellow Social Democrats there about the situation in Germany. On his return, he was able to avoid arrest thanks to a tip-off and fled to Prague via Zurich. He continued to remain active in the SPD while there, working for the exiles’ newspaper “Die sozialistische Aktion” (The Socialist Action) and served on the advisory board of the League of Nations. In 1938, Hertz and his family fled to Paris. A year later, they emigrated to the US.
In 1949, at the request of the mayor, Ernst Reuter, Hertz returned to Berlin. In part because of the expertise and contacts he had acquired in the US, he was made Senator for the Marshall Plan and Banking, with responsibility for the emergency programme in Berlin. Later, he became Senator for Economics and Finance, which included responsibility for residential construction in the city. His work represented a major contribution to rebuilding efforts in post-war Berlin. Paul Hertz died on October 23, 1961, in Berlin.
Richard Hüttig was from Bottendorf in Thüringen and moved to Berlin in his youth. He worked as a brick-layer, lived in a working-class neighbourhood of Charlottenburg and joined the Rote Jungfront (Red Youth Front) of the German Communist Party, the KPD. From 1930, he led the Häuserschutzstaffel (House Protection Squadron) of the newly founded “Kampfbund gegen den Faschismus” (Combat Alliance against Fascism) in his neighbourhood, “Kleiner Wedding”. The aim was to protect the houses and their residents from attack by SA Stormtroopers. In the early months of 1933, there were numerous street battles between SA members and the communists of the Combat Alliance, during one of which, on February 17, 1933, the SS Scharführer (Squadron Leader) von der Ahé was shot dead.
On the advice of friends, Hüttig left Berlin for a short while. In June 1933, he returned and tried to re-organize the House Protection Squadron, which had been decimated by arrests. He and other members were arrested in a raid in September and taken to the Gestapo prison Columbiadamm – later to become Columbiahaus Concentration Camp – and badly beaten. With the declared intention of having a deterrent effect on resistance activities by means of a death sentence against the main defendant Hüttig, he and 16 other men were put on trial on February 1, 1934. Although the court acknowledged in its verdict that there was no evidence against Hüttig, he was sentenced to death for “severe breach of the peace and attempted murder”. The other members of the Charlottenburg House Protection Squadron received lengthy prison sentences. On June 14, 1934, Richard Hüttig was executed in Plötzensee Prison. He was the first political prisoner to be put to death there.
Born in the Saxon town of Dahlen, east of Leipzig, Richard Teichgräber grew up in a working-class family. Following his apprenticeship as a metalworker, he became increasingly involved in the trade union Deutscher Metallarbeiterverband (DMV) and began a career there: from 1918, he was a full-time trade union official, and went on to become district leader for Saxony. At the same time, he was active politically and served as city councillor in Leipzig from 1919 to 1925, representing the Social Democrats, the SPD/USPD.
On May 2, 1933, just a few weeks after the seizure of power by the National Socialists, the free trade unions were broken up and their members persecuted. A network emerged, aimed at establishing contact with the international trade union movement. This network also included Teichgräber. Through contacts abroad, information gathered in German firms was relayed to Social Democratic exile organisations. Exile newspapers such as the “Neuer Vorwärts” (New Forwards) and other publications were distributed in an attempt to circumvent censorship in Germany and counter National Socialist propaganda.
Teichgräber increasingly put himself in danger through his trade union activities: on December 15, 1934, he was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to Sachsenburg Concentration Camp near Chemnitz in 1935. He was released several months later but arrested again shortly afterwards and given a lengthy prison sentence by the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court) in 1937 for “making preparations for high treason”. In 1938, he was deported from prison to a series of concentration camps, first to Buchenwald, then in January 1944 to Majdanek, and following its evacuation, to Auschwitz. Not long before the end of the war, he and other prisoners were transported to Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria. He was murdered in the sub-camp at Melk on February 25, 1945 (presumably).
Ernst Heilmann came from a Jewish family and joined the SPD at the early age of 17. He studied law and political science but first worked as a journalist and parliament reporter. In the First World War, he was badly wounded in action at the frontline. In 1919, he married Magdalena Müller, with whom he had four children. He resumed his activities as a writer and campaigned on behalf of war veterans. However, he devoted most of his time to the SPD: First, as parliamentary party leader in the Landtag of Prussia, and then from 1928 to 1933 as a member of the Reichstag. He wrote numerous articles well in advance against the National Socialists and their plans. Shortly after the SPD was banned, Heilman was arrested by the Gestapo in June 1933. It was the beginning of seven years of abuse, humiliation and torture in various prisons and concentration camps. On April 03, 1940, he was murdered in Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
Erich Gloeden was the son of the distinguished Jewish bronze foundry owner, Siegfried Loevy. The workshop of the Loevy brothers produced, for example, the inscription “Dem deutschen Volke” on the Reichstag building in Berlin. Born Erich Loevy, he had himself adopted in 1918 by a friend of the family to dispose of his Jewish name. During the war, he worked as an architect in Berlin.
Elisabeth “Lilo” was born in Cologne and was a doctor of law and judicial trainee. She and Erich Gloeden married in 1938. The couple, along with Lilo’s mother, Elisabeth Kuznitzky, who lived with them, helped persecuted Jews. She mainly supplied food to friends and relatives who had gone underground.
In late July 1944, they allowed the general of the artillery, Fritz Lindemann, to go into hiding in their apartment. He was one of the leaders of the failed assassination and coup attempt of July 20 and had first gone underground in Dresden. The general’s location was betrayed through a denunciation: on September 3 the Gestapo stormed the apartment. Fritz Lindemann was seriously wounded during the raid. Elisabeth and Erich Gloeden, along with Elisabeth Kuznitzky and other helpers, were arrested and badly beaten. Fritz Lindemann was taken to a police hospital, where he died on September 22,1944. Elisabeth Gloeden, Erich Gloeden and Elisabeth Kuznitzky were sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court) on November 27 and executed in Plötzensee prison three days later, on November 30, 1944.
Nikolaus Christoph von Halem began studying law in Heidelberg in 1922. There, he became a member of the “akademischer Corps” student league, where he first met subsequent resistance fighters. In 1931, he married Victoria Maria Grabe; the couple had two sons. In the summer of 1933, he resigned from his judicial training because he did not want to swear the oath of allegiance to Hitler and took up work as a freelance economic consultant. He made contact with other dissidents, such as Karl Ludwig Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg, Henning von Tresckow and Herbert Mumm von Schwarzenstein. In 1939, he met the communist resistance fighter Joseph Römer and together, they started plotting to assassinate Hitler. Römer was arrested and tortured and is thought to have revealed the names of his co-conspirators, von Halem and von Schwarzenstein.
In February 1942, von Halem was arrested. Although he was severely tortured in a total of ten prisons and concentration camps, he did not divulge the names of any fellow resistance activists. On June 16,1944, the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court) sentenced von Halem and von Schwarzenstein to death. Von Halem was executed on October 09, 1944, in Brandenburg prison.
Kurt Schumacher studied law and politics from 1915 to 1919 and obtained his doctorate in 1920. He joined the SPD as a student in 1918. As politics editor for the Schwäbische Tagwacht in Stuttgart from 1920 to 1930, he became a prominent representative of the city’s Social Democracy. He was a passionate supporter of the threatened Weimar Republic and opponent of anti-democratic forces. He was chairman of the Stuttgart local organization of the Reich Banner Black-Red-Gold for several years. Kurt Schumacher became a member of the Reichstag in September of 1930. When Joseph Goebbels called the SPD a “party of deserters” in the Reichstag on February 23, 1932, he responded with a spontaneous speech honored as one of the sharpest attacks on National Socialism to this day. Placed on wanted lists, Schumacher was arrested in Berlin on July 6, 1933. Following brief spells in prisons in Berlin and Stuttgart, he was then sent between various concentration camps for almost ten years. On his release from Dachau concentration camp, he was forced to stay in Hannover. He was imprisoned again for several weeks after the attempted coup of July 20, 1944, this time in Neuengamme concentration camp, near Hamburg. From Hannover, the undisputed leading figure of Social Democracy began rebuilding the SPD. In 1946 the SPD party congress voted him party chairman. He retained this office until his death in 1952.
Dorothee Ziegele was born in Steinkirchen in 1902, the second daughter of the pastor Paul Eugen Ziegele and his wife Berta. She was influenced by the youth movement. In the winter semester of 1921/22, she began studying German literature in Leipzig. In parallel, she trained at the Leipzig librarian school, where she qualified for the mid-level library service in 1923. She obtained a post at Tübingen university library that year. While working there, Dorothee Ziegele met Harald Poelchau. In 1926 she took a post in the library of the Reich Statistics Office in Berlin. Dorothee and Harald Poelchau married in Herrenberg/Württemberg on April 12, 1928. Both of them were against the Nazi regime from the very beginning. Their son Harald Stephan junior was born in 1938. Dorothee Polechau was actively involved in her husband’s covert aid for Jews in hiding and the relatives of political prisoners. She obtained food and looked after people, whom the couple took into their own home. She also made various contacts on behalf of those in need of accommodation. She prepared meals, which her husband managed to send to inmates in the various prisons. In the last weeks of the war she left Berlin with her son Harald, but returned to the city in the summer of 1945.
The agriculturalist Ulrich-Wilhelm Graf von Schwerin von Schwanenfeld was born in Copenhagen. He studied agriculture in Munich, Berlin, and Breslau. He witnessed the “Hitler putsch” in Munich in 1923, prompting him to reject National Socialism. He married Marianne Sahm in 1928, and the couple later had five sons. His active resistance activities began in 1938, in close collaboration with his friends Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg and Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg. He became an important link between the civilian and military opposition during the 1938 “Sudetenland crisis” due to his contacts to the Foreign Office and the Office for Foreign Affairs/Counterintelligence in the Armed Forces High Command. Called up as a reserve officer on the outbreak of war, he worked on the staff and in the direct personal vicinity of the later Field Marshal and Commander in Chief West Erwin von Witzleben from November 1939 on. He heard of mass shootings of Polish Christians and Jews in the gravel pit on his Polish estate of Sartowitz as early as 1939. After Witzleben’s transfer, he was posted from Paris to Utrecht in 1942 as “politically unreliable.” In March 1943, Hans Oster had him transferred to Berlin, where he was involved in the preparations for the coup in various ways. He was associated with the Kreisau Circle via his friend Yorck, advocating a political renewal of Germany on the basis of Christian and social principles like his friend. In Berlin, he made friends with Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg in September 1943. Planned as the undersecretary of state to the designated head of state Ludwig Beck, he remained in the innermost circle of conspirators until the very end. On July 20, 1944, he waited for news of the assassination in the “Wolf’s Lair” in his office, along with Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Yorck, and Schulenburg. He was arrested in the Bendler Block late that evening, sentenced to death by the People’s Court on August 21, and murdered in Berlin-Plötzensee on September 8, 1944.