Schumacher, Kurt Ernst Carl .

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Schumacher, Kurt Ernst Carl, born 13-10-1895 in Chełmno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland,  the son of a small businessman who was a member of the liberal German Free-minded Party and deputy in the municipal assembly. The young man was a brilliant student, but when the First World War broke out in 1914, he immediately abandoned his studies and joined the German Army.

In December, at Bielawy west of Łowicz in Poland, he was so badly wounded that his right arm had to be amputated. After contracting dysentery, he was finally discharged from the army and was decorated with the Iron Cross Second class.  Schumacher returned to his law and political studies in Halle, Leipzig and Berlin from which he graduated in 1919.

Inspired by the German social democratic Marxist theorist and politician. Eduard Bernstein, Schumacher became a dedicated socialist and in 1918 joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). He led ex-servicemen in forming Workers and Soldiers Councils in Berlin during the revolutionary days following the fall of the German Empire but opposed attempts by revolutionary left-wing groups to seize power. In 1920, the SPD sent him to Stuttgart to edit the party’s newspaper there, the Schwäbische Tagwacht.

Schumacher was elected to the state legislature, the Free People’s State of Württemberg Landtag in 1924. In 1928, he became the SPD leader in the state. To oppose the emerging Nazi Party, Schumacher helped organise socialist militias to oppose them. In 1930, he was elected to the national legislature, the Reichstag. In August 1932, he was elected to the SPD leadership group. At 38, he was youngest SPD member of the Reichstag.  Schumacher was staunchly anti-Nazi. In a Reichstag speech on 23-02-1932, he excoriated Nazism as “a continuous appeal to the inner swine in human beings” and stated the movement had been uniquely successful in “ceaselessly mobilizing human stupidity”. Schumacher was arrested in July 1933, two weeks before the SPD was banned, and was severely beaten in prison. Schumacher was given the opportunity to sign a declaration in which he renounced any political activity if released, but unlike Fritz Bauer a German Jewish judge and prosecutor. He was instrumental in the post-war capture of former Holocaust planner Adolf Eichmann and played an essential role in beginning the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials. Bauer and seven other political prisoners, refused to sign it. He spent the next ten years in Nazi concentration camps at Heuberg, Kuhberg, Flossenbürg,  and Dachau. The camps were initially intended for exploitation of those deemed by the Nazis to be undesirable people, such as socialists, communists, and criminals. Beginning in 1940, the prison camps were overcrowded with transports from the eastern front, leading to disease outbreaks and starvation. Beginning in 1941, the Nazis initiated Action 14f13 to mass execute prisoners who were deemed unfit to work, and Schumacher and some other disabled veterans were granted leniency from the executions after they proved with their war medals that they had been disabled in service of Germany during World War I. The conditions in the camps continued to worsen and by 1943, nearly half of the prisoners died, in particular in Neuengamme of 106,000 inmates almost half died.

In 1943, when Schumacher was near death, his brother-in-law succeeded in persuading a Nazi official to have him released into his custody. Schumacher was arrested again in late 1944 and was in Neuengamme when the British arrived in April 1945.

Death and burial ground of Schumacher. Kurt Ernst Karl.

Schumacher was determined to lead the SPD again and turn Germany into a socialist state. As early as May 1945, he started founding the SPD in Hanover, without the permission of the British occupier. Within a short time, Schumacher had major conflicts with Otto Emil Franz Grotewohl, the German politician who served as the first prime minister of the German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany), who led the SPD in the Soviet occupation zone. Grotewohl wanted the SPD to merge with the KPD, while Schumacher would not cooperate with the KPD under any circumstances. In August 1945 Schumacher was elected leader of the Western SPD.

In January 1946, the British and American occupiers allowed the SPD to organize on a national basis. Schumacher, the only SPD leader who had been in Germany throughout the Nazi period and who had not collaborated, became chairman.

Schumacher’s main political opponent was Konrad Adenauer, who managed to unite the German conservatives in the CDU. Schumacher wanted to nationalize heavy industry, an idea opposed by both the CDU and the western occupying powers. When drafting the new West German constitution, Schumacher’s ideas for a strong national state were not implemented; West Germany became a federal republic with great power for the states.

His ill health affected Schumacher: in September 1948 his left leg had to be amputated. Despite this, he was the leader of the SPD in the first West German elections in 1949. These elections were lost by the SPD. A large part of the former SPD electorate came from the territory of the later GDR and could not participate in the elections. Moreover, the dictatorial actions of socialists and communists in East Germany led many West Germans to vote conservative.

Kurt Ernst Karl, Schumacher died on 20-08-1952, age 56, in Bonn, Stadtkreis Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, and buried at the Stadtfriedhof Ricklingen, Hanover, Region Hannover, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany.

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