August Kahrmann 1900 - 1940
Born 19.5.1900 in Plankstadt
Died 3.2.1940 in Mauthausen
August Kahrmann was born on 19 May 1900 in Plankstadt to the ‘unmarried cigar worker Anna Gund’. That year she married the cigar-maker Christian August Kahrmann from Schwetzingen, who recognised the child as his own. With this Schwetzingen became August’s home town. But his mother Anna died in 1903. He attended primary school until 1914 then worked first in the Neuhaus cigar factory before serving as a soldier until the end of 1918. Kahrmann was subsequently employed as a worker by the Pfaudler firm, by Heinrich Lanz in Mannheim and from 1922 to 1929 by Hermann Müller in Schwetzingen. Due to chronic bladder trouble and a hernia on his right side, his final job was as a (car park) attendant for the municipal tourist office; in 1934 he received unemployment benefit. His father had died in 1931. Kahrmann lived alone in a railway carriage on the town’s Scheffel estate. He was single and had no children, only step-siblings. He had been sentenced for offences such as disorderly conduct and profanity especially during the Nazi era. At that time he liked to stand at a large crossroads in the centre of town, the ‘hub’, and make good-natured and astute comments about the passers-by and the goings-on.
On 20 May 1936 the Baden State Criminal Police Station in Karlsruhe imposed ‘police preventative custody’ on Kahrmann and he was imprisoned at the behest of the Mannheim local authorities. The reason given for locking him up was that he was ‘a work-shy and antisocial person given to drink, whose behaviour [presented] an immediate danger to his surroundings’. Up to his point he had been considered a harmless original but now it seemed he had ‘frivolously disregarded all official measures and failed to recognise state authority in any way’. The Nazi regime in particular was not going to stand for that and at the same time feeling was stirred up against him in the Nazi journal Hakenkreuzbanner. The 36-year-old August Kahrmann was taken ‘for an indefinite period’ to the Kislau ‘state workhouse’, his place there paid for by the town of Schwetzingen at the pauper’s rate. Since early 1933 there had been a concentration camp in the buildings of Kislau Castle, which was run by the Baden Interior Ministry. Kahrmann was 1.76m tall, of slim build, with blonde hair and blue-grey eyes. From a medical point of view he was deemed capable of carrying out ‘light work’, and in addition: ‘is sterilised!’ This tells us Kahrmann was obviously among those forcibly sterilised by the Nazis. During imprisonment he was assigned to mend clothes and darn socks and is reported as having once encouraged his fellow prisoners to refuse to work. At the beginning of 1937 it was found that Kahrmann had ‘behaved well’ and could be released on a trial basis, preferably with support from organisations for the welfare of alcoholics. But from February 1937 he first had to serve three months in District Jail II in Bruchsal, a sentence handed down by the Schwetzingen district court for insulting an official.
Persons declared ‘antisocial’ could, with the help of a Nazi decree, be sent to concentration camps from 1937 onwards as ‘protective custody prisoners’. In general, German society during the Nazi period considered the isolation and even annihilation in the camps of lives which deviated from the political or social norm as justified. In January 1939 Kahrmann became prisoner number 32201 in Dachau concentration camp. On 27 September 1939 he was transferred to Mauthausen. August Kahrmann died on 3 February 1940 in Mauthausen concentration camp, according to the death register at 5am. Kahrmann died there on the same day as Friedrich Schweiger. The alleged causes of death were given as ‘pleurisy’ and ‘cardiac and circulatory insufficiency’.
Translation into English: Joanna White
Archive of the Mauthausen Memorial (AMM), Totenbuch des SS-Standortarztes Mauthausen [Death Register of the Mauthausen SS chief camp physician], AMM Y/46.
Gemeinde Plankstadt, Geburtsregister [Register of Births].
Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe (GLAK), 521 Zugang 1982-48 Nr. 3471, Handwritten biography of August Kahrmann.
Stadtarchiv Schwetzingen, “Hakenkreuzbanner” dated 27.5.1936..
The painter Heinz Friedrich, Schwetzingen: Drawing, sketches and a letter with memories of Kahrmann.
Frank-Uwe Betz: Schwetzingen im Nationalsozialismus – Gespräche mit dem Zeitzeugen Erwin Knapp [Schwetzingen during National Socialism – Conversations with the witness Erwin Knapp]. In: “rund um” Regionalzeitung, vol. 4 (1990), p. 6f.
Frank-Uwe Betz: Sterilisiert, weggesperrt und im KZ gestorben. Die Geschichte des Schwetzinger Arbeiters August Kahrmann [Sterilised, locked away and killed in a concentration camp. The history of the Schwetzingen labourer August Kahrmann]. In: “Schwetzinger Zeitung” dated 29.10.2014, p. 33.
Detlev Peukert: Volksgenossen und Gemeinschaftsfremde. Anpassung, Ausmerze und Aufbegehren unter dem Nationalsozialismus [Fellow Germans and Community Outsiders. Conformity, eradication and protest under National Socialism] (Cologne 1982), p. 248 and p. 255.