Life and Family of Lothar Erdmann
Lothar Erdmann was born on 12th October 1888 in Breslau (nowadays Poland) but grew up in Bonn where his father, Prof. Dr. Benno Erdmann, had become a university professor. Young Lothar studied history, philosophy, national economics and German literature at university. After spending a year in England where he met George Bernard Shaw and his Fabian Society, he became a socialist. This totally changed his own plans; despite a deep conflict with his father, he interrupted his PhD. studies and decided to be a journalist.
Erdmann spent a part of the First World War as an officer on the western front. Two years after death of his best friend August Macke (1916), a famous painter, he got married to Macke’s wife as he had promised him to do it. After a nerve collapse, he did not return to the front and left the army as a reserve lieutenant. He worked as a foreign correspondent for the “Wolf‘sches Telegraphenbüro” in Amsterdam. Since 1918 he was a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Later he was entrusted by the International Trade Union to lead the press division. He was persuaded to leave the Netherlands and go to Berlin to lead a new journal “Die Arbeit” by the president of the General German Trade Union (ADGB) in 1924. His wife and 4 children lived in Bonn till 1925 and then his family moved into a house in Berlin/Tempelhof.
Erdmann and National Socialism
The crucial year 1933 had for Erdmann and his comrades as well as for many other ones very adverse consequences: when Hitler had taken over control, the attention of national socialists was turned to their opponents. At 10 in the morning on 2nd May 1933, the house of the ADGB as well as many other of their buildings were occupied by Nazis. Erdmann’s colleagues were arrested “on the spot”; fortunately for Erdmann, he himself was released after one hour. Having lost his work, he was no more able to find any job because of his bad reputation of a former social democrat. The only income he found was created by writing of book reviews and about artists for journals and newspapers or by selling of Macke’s paintings.
That fact that he claimed himself to be an politically inactive man (in fact only with occasional contact with other SPD members) seems not to have a big impact for Nazis who created a special list – so called document “Kartei A” – with names of social democrats and communists as well as „less dangerous“ opponents of the NS regime. Lothar Erdmann is supposed to have been one of them. In a period after the German army had attacked the Polish territory (all three Erdmann’s sons were at that time in the first line), the police stations were ordered to intern all people from that list “as soon as possible”. Erdmann was arrested in the prison in Alexanderplatz and sent into concentration camp probably on 6th September 1939.
Erdmann propagated a symbiosis of nationalism and socialism to make a revolution of the union movement successful. According to this opinion, the similarity to the national socialist idea is not a coincidence: he appealed the Nazis to integrate the trade union movement into the new regime. However, he never was a nationalist. He declared the humanity as the highest value. From this point of view, his relationship to National Socialism was very ambiguous. He always disassociated himself from all terror against political opponents, in-a-different-way-thinking people, from antisemitism and “race fever” as well. On the other hand he agreed with Hitler’s revision of the Treaty of Versailles by annexing the Saarland and reimplementing general conscription.
In KZ Sachsenhausen
Lothar Erdman was arrested on 6th September 1939 and taken to KZ Sachsenhausen, where he got prison number 1667. In the camp he was nicknamed “Officer”, because he tried to defend himself with words, that he was a lieutenant during the First World War and three of his sons were fighting on the front of the Second World War at that time. He fell very fast into disfavour of SS guards when he tried to protest against mistreatment and cruelty against the prisoners. For this he was punished by penalties and forced to do exhausting physical exercises, which were made every day one hour longer. That led to nervous breakdown after a couple of days. Then he was hung on a post and beaten heavily for a few hours by SS guards. Afterwards he was not allowed to go to the hospital and died on 18th September 1939 because of internal injuries. His funeral took place on 21st September 1939.
Former SS officers, Wilhelm Schubert and Gustav Sorge, who were responsible for the death of Erdmann and many other prisoners in KZ Sachsenhausen, were sentenced for life imprisonment. Sorge died in prison in 1978, Schubert was released in 1987 for good behaviour and died in 2006.
In 1961 Lothar Erdmann was honoured in GDR by putting his picture on a series of post stamps. In 1988 a commemorative plate was put on the wall of the house in Berlin Tempelhof, in which he lived with his family before he was arrested.