Translation of German Website Printout
(By Markus Hofmann)

The History of Schönebeck and its districts from 1932 to today

Schönebeck 1932 to end of war 1945: Economy crisis, National Socialism, and 2nd World War
 
The radical right forces gained ground in Germany. Germany was the loser of the 1st World War and had to bear the burden of the treaty of Versaille. An increasing propaganda and the weakness of the Republic of Weimar made it fairly easy for the National Socialist to make themselves heard. The world economy crisis of which two thirds of all Germans were affected - over 6 million people were unemployed, in addition there were 3 million short-time workers - allowed Hitler and his henchmen to make great promises to the "man on the street". The membership in the NSDAP grew, the leading person was Adolf Hitler; the cult around the "Führer" expanded. In Schönebeck and vicinity there were 6,500 unemployed people registered in 1932. The majority did not receive any unemployment support and they lived rather badly than well from the municipal welfare. The city attempted to organize work urgently needed.
 

The "Leipziger Street" in the district Salzelmen owed its founding to this fact. In common parlance this street was called "1/4 Pound Sausage Street" or "Sausage-End Street", since the unemployed who worked here were daily paid in kind. In case you didn't show up for work you were not paid any support/welfare. Government employees and teachers were fired; partially there were more classes existent than teachers which resulted in incredibly bad conditions.

The danger of Fascism became common everywhere. Only very rarely joint appearances by the SPD and KPD happened. As everybody knows, on January 1933 the National Socialists seized power in Germany. The Communists, Social Democrats, and everyone who resisted the enforced conformity were pushed into illegality. With the "law for creation of the Professional Civil Servants" many civil servants lost their job, among them the manager of the local health insurance, Gustav Kuntze, who was a Social Democrat. His son, Guenther Kuntze, described that in a book which discusses the history of the Jews in Schönebeck. On March 3, 1933 the SPD in Schönebeck organized a demonstration in light of the upcoming "Reichtags-Election" on March 5 and the local election on March 12. Their path lead from the soccer club "Weitstoss" behind the courthouse through the Krause-, Schiller-, and Bahnhof-Street. In the Friedrichstreet, at the corner of the Krausestreet, the march was attacked by the infamous "SA-Sturm" under the leadership of Karpe. On both sides people were critically wounded. One SA-supporter died. Karl Jaenicke, a member of the "Reichsbanner", was, in spite of being innocent, sentenced to death and executed. On the day of the "Reichtsags-Elections" trucks of the SA sped through the town and black-red-yellow flags were torn down by the SA Sturm.
In the night of the 10th of March, the branch of the "Volksstimme" (People's Voice) was ravaged by the Nazis. On March 12, SA-supporters shot the Union Representative and city council Otto Krese in the Feldgeleber Kulturhaus (House of Culture). On March 15, several businesses and residential homes of people who were not in agreement with the new system, mainly Communists and Social Democrats, were destroyed. The shoe store of the former city council Becher in the Welsleber Street was destroyed by the Karpe-Sturm as well as the restaurant "Burgschaenke" of Wilhelm Kuehle at the corner of Breiteweg/Burgstrasse. The restaurant was the "Reichsbanner-pub"; here on the second floor also the "Workers Choir" convened. Everything was destroyed, the sheets of music and the piano were thrown onto the street. Also, the store in the Broettcherstrasse was looted and destroyed. The residence of the Social Democrat, Union member and city representative Wilhelm Hellge in the former Roonstrasse (now Karl-Marx Strasse) was also looted by the SA-mob. Of course, the complaints of the ones who suffered damages did lead nowhere. The ones who were accused were cross-examined not as defendants, but as witnesses. The SA-members turned the facts up side down and maintained that they felt threatened by the Communists and the Social Democrats. None of the victims received appropriate compensation.

The terror was also directed against the Jewish residents of Schönebeck. Towards the end of 1932 Schönebeck had a population of about 35,000, of which 87 were Jewish. In 1877, the Jewish Synagogue Community had opened a new synagogue in the now-called Republikstrasse, after the previous church in the Steinstrasse fell victim to the devastating flood of 1876. Originally, the Jewish cemetery was located on Nicolaistrasse, but it had to give ground to the new Elb-Bridge. It was relocated to the now-called Dorotheenstrasse, close to the Welsleber Bridge. The department stores of Conitzer (Salzer Street) and Schlesinger (Market) were well known, and among others there were the shoe stores Tack and Fliess, the clothing store Bartl and the textile store Lubranschik in Salzelmen. The physicians Dr. Wilmersdoerfer and Dr. Jeruchem had their office in the Bahnhofstrasse, the lawyer Dr. Haspp had his office in the Friedrichhstrasse. On April 1, 1933 the residents of Schönebeck were vehemently prevented by SA-Posts to enter Jewish businesses or get treatment by Jewish physicians. Everywhere you could hear anti-Semitic slogans. The citizens, who still frequented Jewish businesses, were slandered in public.

However, some Jewish families, among them the Conitzers, thought that it "wouldn't get that bad". A sad culmination of the Anti-Semitism decreed by the government was the "Progronacht" from the 9th to the 10th November of 1938. Homes and businesses of the Jewish citizens were devastated beyond description, the Synagogue was destroyed and desecrated. The report about these events which the district management of the NSDAP sent as ordered to Berlin by telex read as follows: "Confidential - District Management NSDAP Schönebeck (Elbe) to Reichsfuehrer SS, Berlin - Gestapo 11 - Heydrich - as ordered, nowhere did the NSDAP appear as the instigator - Synagogue and Jewish cemetery destroyed - a department store and four stores vandalized - 19 Jewish residences searched - 10 Jewish transferred to KZ (concentration camp) Buchenwald. Moehle, District Manager".
 
But among the population there was also anger about the destruction and the harassment. Particularly the old Mr. Conitzer during the hard times of the economic crisis had given away merchandise cheaply or on open account. In more than a few cases the citizens of Schönebeck assisted the Jewish with the clean up of their damaged possessions. These citizens were then "worked over" accordingly by the Nazis. Slowly the Jewish population was pushed out of all areas of public life, their property was taken away, businesses and homes were "arisiert", children were not allowed to attend any "arische" schools, the display of the "Davidstern" (star of David) and other harassment became mandatory, everything just a preclude to the cruel proceedings, which the Nazis called the "Endloesung", the Holocaust. Early 1943 the town was "free of Jews".
Those who didn't escape in time were deported to the concentration camps; few survived. Today there is no more Jewish population; however, there are contacts to former Jewish residents of Schönebeck. For instance, the Urmanns resided here - Jenny Urmann is the sister of the murdered Jewish citizen of Schöenebeck, Ruth Luebschuetz (today a place is named after her). The synagogue was used up until the end of the war as a warehouse for the "Junkerswerke" (airplane production) which were built in the 30s on Barbyer Street. After 1945 with the approval of the Jewish community of Magdeburg it served for a while as a museum. A plaque inside reminds about the destruction of the Jewish community of Schoenebeck. After the museum had been moved to the civil house in Salzelmen, the Synagogue was used, among other things, as furniture warehouse and gym. 1983 the "Freikirchliche Gemeinde" (community without church) bought the building from the Synagogue Community of Magdeburg and refurbished it completely. Today it serves again as church; deliberately, the still existent Jewish elements were left intact. The Jewish cemetery in the Dorotheenstrasse became a memorial site after 1945.
 
But the Nazi regime also had an impact on the day-to-day life of everyone else. At the latest after the outbreak of the war and especially after the announcement of the "totalen Krieges" (total war) by Goebbels everyone experienced it first-hand. Food stamps, blackouts, and bomb alerts dominated the pace of life. Since all men had been drafted, women had to perform their jobs in the factories; mostly they produced arms products.
This was called "Heimatfront" (home front). Forced laborers and prisoners of war filled the gaps, which were a result of the recruitment of the male part of the population. In 1943, in immediate proximity of the Junker aircraft factory, the largest arms factory of Schönebeck, a concentration camp was established, a branch of Buchenwald with the code name " Julius". In 1968, a memorial was established in front of the main entrance of the then tractor factory in the Barbyer Street. In addition, at "Junkers" there were two more labor camps; the "Jagdpatronen- and Metallfabrik" (cartridge and metal factory), the furniture factory Held, the lumber factory Grobe, the Lignose factory, the "Weltrad", and some smaller factories also maintained camps. The local newspapers were filled with obituaries placed by family members of casualties of war. Phrases such as "Heroic death for the Fuehrer and Fatherland" or "tragic faith at an air strike" could be read more and more often. The more hopeless the war became, the more reckless and brutal the regime dealt with people who resisted them in spoken words and actions. Over 50 resistance fighters from the district of Calbe were sentenced to prison and transferred to concentration camps. Summary proceedings were nothing unusual. Statements that the war was lost were enough to get put into a labor camp. Twelve hours work every day, no rest on Sundays, and only seldom school classes since the middle school in Salzelmen and the Pestalozzi-school on Wesleber Street were hospitals - as well as the health resort and towards the end of the war even the city park - that was the daily life. All articles of basic needs were rationed among the population. Among all these bad things Schöneberg was even somewhat lucky since the town did not suffer significant air-raid damages, however Magdeburg, Zerbst and Halberstadt were totally destroyed.
 
Just before the end of the war, in the "Patrone- and Zuendhuetchenfabrik" (munitions factory) preparations were underway to transport some hundred women over there from the concentration camp Ravensbrueck to establish another branch camp. However, that never happened. The Red Army was already preparing at the Oder for the last battle, the attack on Berlin
From the west American troops approached our area. On the opposite side, the fascist 12th army Wenck, just formed on April 5, 1945, was supposed to secure the defense at the Elbe. Part of that army were also the German units which were located in Schönebeck. The Elbe Bridge was an important crossing for the German military on its way to the east for strengthening the attack against the Red Army. The blasting of the bridge had already been prepared.
The end of the war, Schöenebeck after 1945
On the morning of April 11, 1945, the roll call in the camp "Julius" came out to 1,536 prisoners. Upon hearing the news that the American troops were approaching, the guards fled and left the prisoners to their fate.

On the afternoon of April 11, 1945 the American tank troops approached the town from Welsleben. The leaders of the Nazi party were hiding or were preparing for a last senseless battle with Hitler-Youths at the Saline site. There are several versions of the events which took place from then on. That always happens then when no undisputed records are existent: Legends are formed. The report of the curate from Schönebeck, Jaeker, about the events on April 11 and April 12 is described in edited and shortened format in the following. It can be assumed that it is authentic since Jaeker was directly involved in the events:

On Wednesday, April 11, 5:00PM the clergyman returned from a funeral in Biere to Schönebeck. He found out that in Magdeburg and Calbe an alarm about the approaching enemy was triggered. Rumors, that the Americans were approaching, caused him to ride his bike to the police station of Schönebeck. There he ran into Mayor Dr. Brauer, the major of the police force, Angenendt, and the police lieutenant Puhl. Then, Jaeker returned again to St. Marien church in Friedrich Street. During the following hours the curate became the mediator between the Americans, who had moved in at Friedrich Street 68, and the Mayor. According to the records of Jaeker, the main goal of the Mayor, as well as Major Angenendt and Lieutenant Puhl, was to allow the Americans to take over the town in a short battle without bombs. The German troops, which were ordered to ensure the senseless defense of the city, were stationed in the city hall under the leadership of a First Lieutenant.
Lieutenant Colonel Ringelbrand was positioned at the tank blockage on the ramp of the Elbe Bridge. Jaeker attempted to convince the Americans that a bomb raid on the city would have horrible implications due to the civilian and evacuated population present in the town. He spoke as instructed by the Mayor and also was constantly in contact with him. The Mayor tried to obtain for the NS- Military Commander per telex the permission to surrender. In the morning of April 12 the Elbe Bridge had been destroyed, and therefore there was no sense in trying to defend it. The Mayor asked for a cease-fire for two hours so that the civilian population could be evacuated in case that the Americans nevertheless would decide to use bombs. But apparently the Americans had decided not to use bombs since they assured the curate that the people could stay in their basements and that nothing would happen to them.
 
Meanwhile Dr. Bauer received the order to see the Military commander. Major Angenendt and Captain Puhl escorted him to the city hall. First Lieutenant Graf Stollberg welcomed the Mayor with a weapon in his hand; an intense dispute followed. The Military commander accused the Mayor to make contact with the enemy. Since the mayor was accompanied by Major Angenendt and First Lieutenant Puhl, he was able to act with the necessary firmness. Dr. Bauer then left the headquarter in the city hall. He went to the Elbe Bridge where he got into a brief verbal exchange with the lieutenant colonel. Then he went to his residence at Streckenweg 1. Around noon of April 12 - curate Jaeker had also returned to his residence - the Americans started their attack. Quickly, any resistance was broken, and they overcame one tank blockage after the other. In close to two hours the entire city on the west side of the Elbe was in the hands of the Americans. The lieutenant colonel who was in charge of the resistance at the Elbe bridge, escaped across the Elbe. In Gruenwalde he - according to reports - was killed in the last battles. The first lieutenant from the city hall took his own life with a bazooka.

Curate Jaeker thought the main reason why it was possible to save Schönebeck from destruction was that Mayor Dr. Bauer was willing to surrender. Dr. Bauer didn't even think about sacrificing the city in a senseless battle. Major Angenendt also prevented further damage when he, in spite of being instructed otherwise, did not trigger the alarm. As a result the tank blockages remained open and the "Volkssturm" (the Military) was not ready for a defense.

As final reason the Curate stated the fortunate cooperation of all parties involved through which it was possible to play the city into the Americans' hands and thus basically eliminate the NS-commanders.

 
Other recordings state that the Mayor, the Curate, and a social democrat from Felgeleben drove out to meet the Americans. If you believe the reports of Jaeker, this was not the case. You can also find some information about the invasion of the Americans into Schönebeck in the novel by Cornelius Ryan with the title "Die letzte Schlacht" (The Last Battle), even though in the novel fiction and facts are probably somewhat intertwined.
The population felt uneasy since there were rumors that the Americans would withdraw and the Russians would arrive. In the files of the city administration you can find only following notice in that regard:

"The rumor about the occupation of the city by the Russians does not reflect the facts. The spreading of this rumor will be prosecuted. June 7, 1945. On behalf of the military commander. The local police office. Dr. Bauer."

Apparently the city administration assumed that the Elbe would represent the borderline.

Since the main part of Schönebeck was located on the west side of the river, it was assumed that the Americans would stay. However, on July 1, 1945 the Russian troops marched into the city. The British division which had relieved the American division for a short while, had marched off during the night. Fliers were distributed which called for the population to welcome the Russians in a friendly manner.

 
In the efforts to normalize the day-to-day life in the first days and weeks after the war, men like the social democrat Wilhelm Hellge and the communists Willi Koenig made themselves available. Important political issues of our city were decided by representatives of all admitted democratic parties which were active in the newly formed Antifa-committee (I think Antifa means anti-fascist) and in the city council. Questions over questions had to be settled by these honorary bodies. The issues ranged from providing food, coals, clothing, and medication to the civilian population to obtaining a license for a business or obtaining a permit for relocating to the city, just to name a few examples.
The streets had to be cleared from rubble and in the factories "peaceful" production had to be brought into gear. In the Metallindustrie-AG (metal industry), later on the tractor factory, eight colleagues took up work. Others followed; eventually they were 80 people who worked there for three months without pay and under greatest difficulties. From the former management they didn't receive any support. Then the first production began with pokers, hinges, handcarts, and pipe wrenches. Other businesses converted gas mask cans to milk cans and electric appliances of the former air force were converted to "Elbia-Radio", candles were casted from kerosine holdings, coal containers were made from grenade containers. Under orders from occupation officials, schools were reopened on October 1, 1945. A ferry was put into service on December 19 of the same year to allow access to the city districts Gruenewalde and Elbenau. On November 16, 1946, an assembly of city representatives, which emerged from the first free elections, continued the work of the city committee. On February 1, 1946 Schönebeck became an independent city. Until then our community was part of the district Calbe. In the same year the state Sachsen-Anhalt was founded.
 
In July of 1950, as a result of the city's increasing size and importance, the former district Calbe was renamed to the district Schönebeck; Schönebeck became a district city. Eventually, after the dissolution of the states in 1982, the development resulted in the district of Schönebeck as part of the region Magdeburg. Schönebeck became an economic, political, and administrative center of the region.