Gültig, Karl, 1906-1992

A short biography of the German anarchosyndicalist Karl Gültig.

Submitted by Battlescarred on October 6, 2010

Karl Gültig was born on 20th November 1906 in the city of Offenbach am Main near Frankfurt in Germany. As a teenager he joined the Communist Youth (KJ) youth organisation of the Communist Party (KPD).

Later he met Georg Usinger (1900-1990), in 1923 , who was the founder of the local branch of the anarcho-syndicalist union Free Workers Union of Germany (FAUD). Through him he came into contact with the anarcho-syndicalist movement and became active in it, in particular in the Anarcho-syndicalist Youth of Germany (SAJD). He also became involved with the atheist organisation Proletarian Feidenker.

The Offenbach libertarian movement met on a weekly basis, organising public meetings, readings, and lectures addressed by the likes of Rudolf Rocker, Emma Goldman, Augustin Souchy, Erich Muhsam, and the libertarian writerTheodor Plievier, the publication of a SAJD magazine Young Anarchists, anti-militarist activity, campaigns, for example around the death sentence against the Italian-American anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. There were close links with anarcho-syndicalists in Darmstadt via Gustav Doster), Frankfurt via Anni and Georg Hepp, Mannheim via Karl Schild, and Ludwigshafen, Münster and Wiesbaden. Karl was a skilled carpenter and roofer. He quickly became known as a gifted debater. He debated with Communists, Social Democrats, the clergy - even making interventions at Nazi meetings. He travelled to meetings beyond Offenbach, addressing meetings for example in cities like Heidelburg. He was also an important activist within the FAUD attending the national congress in 1927 and speaking for Cologne, Münster and Offenbach. Within the movement he emphasised class struggle, speaking out against individualist and disorganising tendencies.

The coming to power of the Nazis meant the repression of the anarcho-syndicalist movement. Karl was involved in organised resistance after 1933, helping with underground publications and attending secret meetings. Following denunciations in 1934 and 1935 seven anarchists were tried at the People's Court in Darmstadt (Anni and Georg Hepp, Karl Schild, etc.) and given long prison sentences. Karl was lucky, arrested in 1935 he was only in jail for a few weeks and released with no evidence against him.

At the end of the war he was arrested by Soviet troops. He ended up at the labour camp of Karaganda in Kazakhstan alongside other libertarians, Spanish members of the CNT-FAI. He was released from there in late 1949. Libertarian organisation hardly existed in Germany in the 1950s and whilst Karl remained a libertarian he joined the Communist Party and the Association of Victims of the Nazi Regime (VVN). From 1960 he was involved in the Easter Marches for peace. As Siegebert Wolf wrote: “His open-minded humanism saved him from parochialism and dogmatism.” He took a lively interest in the emerging youth revolt and the new social movements.

Wolf met with Karl and his wife Elise in early 1988 to discuss the history of the libertarian movement in Germany. Karl’s renewed contact with the movement came at a late date. Despite all the appalling experiences he had lived through he still maintained a powerful optimism, urging his younger friends to continue the struggle. He died on the night of 3rd -4th April 1992 after a short illness.

Nick Heath
Sources : article by Siegbert Wolf at http://www.syndikalismusforschung.info/gueltig.htm