A short account of the Fichtmann family, active in the KAPD and AAU
Leo Fichtmann addressing the unemployed: “What separates us from the food? Only the window panes”.
Leo Fichtmann was born in Elbing in West Prussia on August 16th 1873 into a German Jewish family. He worked as a locksmith and stonemason. Before the First World War he moved to Berlin where he was active in the anarchist and radical left movements.
He was sentenced on several occasions for political activity, including criminal trespass and riot. On one occasion he was committed to a mental asylum because of his fierce opposition to the World War. Invalided from work (probably as a result of a work injury?) he took an active part in unemployed agitation. He was apparently very popular among the unemployed.
He probably attended the founding conference of the KPD in under the pseudonym of Sicius, as delegate of Berlin-Mitte in December 1918.
He supported the armed actions of Max Hoelz and Karl Plättner. He was a founder member of the KAPD and equally took an active part in the AAU. He was an active distributor of the KAPD paper Kommunistische Arbeiter-Zeitung'(KAZ).
He spoke at the September 1921congress of the KAPD on the action committees of the unemployed. "When we look at what we have to do as action committees of the unemployed, we we should not go begging,,but to demand full existence for all and if they do not give it to us, we must fight for it. And we want to achieve the takeover of production, not the control of production. For if we have the power of control, then we have the power for the takeover of production”. He did not rule out expropriations.
From May 1923 he published Der Arbeiterlose (The Unemployed). He also addressed public meetings, often speaking in the park at Friedichshain, where he developed his ideas on a society without a state and political parties, based on grassroots organisation. In 1933 with the rise of the Nazis he was abducted and badly mistreated.
He married Clara Fuchs who was born on 6th April 1877 at Neudorf in Poznan (now Nowa Wieś) and they had six children.
The family lived in extreme poverty as they were unable to pay for water, gas and electricity. They lived at 2 Raupachstrasse until 1929. The last reported address of the family was at the Kolonie Lindenhof on a parcel of land at Adlershof where they lived in a shed.
Max, the eldest son, was born on 22nd November 1898. He was a member of the Spartakusbund and then the KPD. He was tried in October 1919 for involvement in the murder of the police spy Karl Blau but was acquitted. From 1922 to 1930 he together with the rest of the family were members of the KAPD-KAI, Essen Faction. Alter this he may have re-joined the KPD. After his release after the trial Max had married the seventeen year old Lydia Laube. She joined the Nazi party in February 1933. Following their divorce in 1934 and Lydia’s relationship with a Nazi, she denounced Max as a Jewish Communist who planned on sending their two children to Russia. Max was arrested and between February 1937 and September 22nd 1938 was interned in the Dachau Concentration Camp. After this he was sent to the hard labour prison at Bremen (1).
Hugo, born on 10th December 1902 also took an active part in the KAPD and was probably also an editor of Der Arbeiterlose. With his father he penned an article on anti-Semitism within the unemployed movement. "The Jews are to blame for everything! You can hear this call today wherever you are. The Jews are to blame for the war, the Treaty of Versailles, the occupation of the Ruhr area, the taxation of livelihoods, unemployment, the dwindling of the workers' groups, the Unions, in short every misfortune, every event is the fault of the Jews! If someone slips and breaks a leg, A Jew is to blame for it. …We suffer no matter what race or nationality we are, under the same conditions and can only free ourselves together. So do not be deceived; your enemy is not the Jew, but capital.” From 1922 he was a member of the KAPD/KAI, Essen Faction together with his father and other members of the family. From 1924 until 1930 he edited its correspondence sheet.
Minna was born on August 17th 1900. Together with her sister Gerda, born in 1915, she was involved in the activities of the Herbert Baum group, a resistance network which was predominantly Jewish and which had been set up in 1941.
Following the attack by the group on the Nazi exhibition The Soviet Paradise on 27th May 1942 Leo and others not involved in the action were arrested and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he was immediately shot on 28th May. Clara was deported to Theresienstadt camp on 6th June of the same year. From there she was sent to Auschwitz where she was murdered on 18th May 1944. Hugo allegedly committed suicide on 5th December 1942 although he was probably murdered by the Nazis. Max was gassed in a concentration camp in October 1943. Minna was deported to Auschwitz on 4th March 1943 where she was murdered. The only survivor of the family was Gerda who was interviewed by Eric Brothers for his book on the Herbert Baum group published in 2012.
(1) A warrant of arrest was issued against Lydia Laube-Fichtmann on 22nd June 1948 under the charge of "crimes against humanity", for her involvement in the arrest of Max. On May 3, 1949 she was sentenced to just 9 months imprisonment.
Bourrinet, P. The Dutch and German Communist Left