J The Gestapo Headquarters and the Hannemann Group
A neo-baroque building with the address Scharrnstraße 59 fills the entire area between Große Scharrnstraße, Regierungsstraße, Priestergasse and Logengasse in Frankfurt (Oder) and today serves as the main building of the European University Viadrina. Between 1935 and 1945, in what was originally a Prussian government building at Große Scharrnstraße 59, we find the Secret State Police - The Gestapo. It has its offices on the second floor. The building was constructed from 1898 to 1903 for the administrative district of Frankfurt an der Oder, which included large parts of today's East Brandenburg and almost the whole of what is today Vojvodship Lubuskie in Poland. In GDR times the Frankfurt district is administered from here. Since the 1990s the building serves as the main building of the re-founded European University Viadrina. It has the labyrinthine shape of an eight, with two inner yards. One of the yards houses the university library.
The Gestapo is one of the most important means of realising the National Socialist goals of state terrorism. Besides the radical suppression of any resistance, it is also there to persecute the Jews. Together with Party sections, it organises the so-called "Crystal Night", registers Jews in lists, carries out arrests and organises the deportations to ghettoes and extermination camps. Every Gestapo headquarters has at its disposal subordinate offices for purely local procedures. In Frankfurt, these are located at Jüdenstraße 7, in the aryanised Meyer department store. The Gestapo can also make use of the resources of the whole police apparatus, from that of the constabulary to that of the criminal police, to realise state-political targets.
From 1936 it reports to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and from 1939 it functions as Department IV in the Reich Security Head Office. A merging of the German police and the SS is planned. However, it remains an independent authority until 1945. Its assignments, such as preventive or provisional arrest, imprisonment in camps, mostly over months or years, leading to increasingly immediate executions towards the end of the war, are not contestable and are often carried out in local police concentration camps such as the so-called labour education camp Oderblick.
In 1945 the Gestapo and German police are very thorough in covering their traces. In Frankfurt, the files for the final days of war are burned. Many crimes, such as the deportation of the last Frankfurt Jews from the "Jews' House" - the former Jewish hospital - can no longer be reconstructed. However, they are partly known about from police correspondence with other authorities, or from the memories of surviving victims. The Gestapo precedes schematically following bureaucratically compiled lists or relies on frequent denunciations from the populace. The Gestapo systematically uses torture in interrogations. During the war, its capacities are largely taken up with the repressive maintenance of the foreign forced labour system. But the so-called final solution of the Jewish question still remains one of its main focuses. In 1944 it turns to the much discriminated against, but not yet deported, Jews in mixed marriages with Christians. One documented case in Frankfurt is the murder of the former lawyer Hammerschmidt from Cottbus during a spurious provisional arrest.
As an example we will take a closer look at one local state-police instance, namely the destruction of the covertly operating Hannemann group. Here we leave the Jewish context. This is about communist political resistance in Frankfurt, in the first years of the National Socialist regime.
Matthias Diefenbach of the Institute for Applied History
(Institut für angewandte Geschichte e.V.)
The Hannemann Group
Max and Helene Hannemann get married in 1927, one day before Christmas. They come from a simple proletarian background and work at the Frankfurt stoneware factory Pätsch. Max is an affable person. He loves nature and singing in a choir, he likes to go hiking and he is good at chess. He is a respected worker and his colleagues trust him and vote him into the works council. During a strike in 1930 he is one of the strike leaders and is therefore not reemployed after a lockout.
Now unemployed, Max and Helene go to a meeting of the German Communist Party (KPD). They make use of the party's educational opportunities and become members. When her son Konrad is born on 27 January 1933, Helen is women's leader of the KPD. The comrades elect Max to be their political leader in Frankfurt (Oder) when the leading functionaries are arrested, immediately after the Nazis take power.
With organisational skill and responsible vigilance, Max leads the Frankfurt KPD into illegality. An effectively-working resistance organisation develops, to which up to sixty people belong. Organised in small groups, they distribute leaflets with calls to resist the Nazis; they paint anti-fascist slogans, put up posters and disseminate illegal material. Max Hannemann maintains his connection to the Party leadership in Berlin through his wife Helene. She goes to the meetings in Fürstenwalde as a messenger. In 1985, Helen writes for her son Konrad:
"This work under the eyes of the Gestapo […] went on until the end of November 1934, when the first arrests [from] our group took place. The area headquarters in Berlin, with whom we again had contact, were immediately informed of the situation by your father and all operations were discontinued. Measures were also taken to avoid further arrests.
On 5th September  at about 6 in the evening, your father was arrested and taken from the flat. Two house searches followed […] The next morning I was […] forced to bring you to your sick old grandmother. […] You were not yet two years old.
I was interrogated for two days in the Gestapo administration office […] and in the evening of the second day I was also, as I hadn't said anything, brought to the police prison. […]At the first confrontation with your father I already saw that he had been mistreated. In the severe cold they had thrown him between the ice floes in the Oder […] After about ten days we were […] put into custody in the prison."
Max Hannemann and his captured comrades are brought before court on 26 April 1935 for preparing high treason. As main defendant, he is sentenced to five years' imprisonment. Helene has to go to the women's prison in Berlin, Barnimstraße for one year.
Their son Konrad is sent to a children's home and from there to foster parents. The separation of mother and child will last three years.
Max Hannemann serves his sentence in Luckau prison and in the concentration camp at Aschendorfer Moor. After the sentence is served, he is not released. The Gestapo at first sends him back to the prison in Frankfurt (Oder). A visitor's permit is given - and Helene and the now six-year-old son visit him in the prison on the Oder. In February 1940 he is moved to the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, near Berlin. A political prisoner marked with the red triangle, he is number 17460 in this concentration camp. News of the horror in the camp only becomes public after the liberation. The last news of Max Hannemann is dated Sunday, 28 January 1945. From block 67, he sends belated greetings to his son Konrad on his twelfth birthday. The son will never see his father again.
After the war, Helene Hannemann marries a former concentration camp prisoner. As Helene Papke, she involves herself in forming the GDR. But rivalry among the Frankfurt anti-fascists makes the honouring of the resistance group around Max Hannemann difficult. The SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany) autocratically decides that one may no longer speak publicly about the illegal work and the trial of Hannemann. Helene shows resistance to this decision. Then the ban turns around completely. She is asked to speak about the Nazi period, especially to young people.
A largely objective account of the happenings around the Hannemann group only happened in 1995. Helene Papke did not experience it. She died in 1990.
Gerd Hoffmann, of the Association of those persecuted in the Nazi Regime (Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes), Anti-fascist Association (Bund der Antifaschisten) Frankfurt (Oder)