Holke, Artur Paul(1883-1940)

Der Anarchist
Der Anarchist

A short biography of the German anarchist Artur Holke, murdered by the Nazis.

Submitted by Battlescarred on October 24, 2011

Holke is to be regarded as an incurable anarchist.” - German police report.

Artur Holke was born in Leipzig-Eutritzsch on 12th January 1883. He worked as a plumber in Leipzig.

Holke edited the Leipzig paper Der Anarchist from 1909-1913. It was subtitled Organ for Anarchism and Socialism and indicated a development towards anarchist communism. Its early print run was 2,000 subsequently falling to 1,000. He became an active and important member of the FAUD.

In 1929 he was instrumental in founding an anarchist book club in Leipzig and was a co-founder with Rudolf Michaelis ( see libcom biography of Margaret Michaelis) of the Gilde Freiheitlicher Bücherfreunde (the Corporation of Libertarian Book Lovers) the same year. Writing about the work of the local book club Holke stated that it would be more than a book agency and that “We wanted to participate in the cultural work of the Leipzig working class ". The Leipzig book club initiated public activity with a lecture by Rudolf Rocker on the Russian writer Maxim Gorky.

Holke was put in charge of the FAUD national archive in 1930 (this was later destroyed by the Nazis). He was imprisoned from March to May 1933 by the regime.

With Karl Becker and Robert Runki he was one of the architects of the underground organisation of the FAUD in Leipzig under the Nazi regime. He was probably one of the anarchists that the Swedish anarchist Rudolf Berner (see libcom biography of Berner) met in Leipzig on his secret mission through Germany in 1937. Arrested with many other militants on 13th April 1937, he was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for “high treason” and subsequently deported to Buchenwald concentration camp. On 22nd January 1940 his partner Liesbeth Holke received news of his death supposedly of pneumonia. Liesbeth was to report to the anarchist movement in 1946 that he had;

... suffered terribly. The worst for him was when he had to be present at floggings and executions. One day he cried in the presence of his torturers: ”It is not me whom you wish to destroy, it is my ideas!”. (Freedom, 15th February 1947)

Like Erich Muehsam and so many others, Artur Holke was one of the courageous German anarchists prepared to risk everything for their ideas. They deserve to be remembered.

Nick Heath