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Wolf-Heinrich Helldorf : Nazi Germany

Wolf-Heinrich Helldorf : Nazi Germany

Wolf-Heinrich Helldorf was born in Germany in 1896. He fought in the German Army during the First World War and in 1919 became a member of the Freikorps.

Helldorf joined the Nazi Party in 1925 and later became a member of Prussian state assembly. In 1931 he became a Sturm Abteilung (SA) leader in Brandenburg.

In 1935 Helldorf was appointed the Berlin prefect of police. During the Second World War he had growing doubts about Adolf Hitler and became involved in the July Plot.

Wolf-Heinrich Helldorf was arrested by the Gestapo on 20th July, 1944. After being convicted of treason he was executed in Plotzensee prison on 15th August, 1944.

Wolf Heinrich von Helldorf was born in Merseburg, Saxony-Anhalt, in the German Empire on 14 October 1896 to a noble landowner. Helldorf became a Lieutenant in the Reichswehr in 1915 and served in World War I, and in 1924 he joined the Nazi Party. In 1931 he became an SA leader in Berlin, and in 1935 he was appointed as the President of Police in the German capital. He used his office for personal enrichment and withheld information that proved that Werner von Blomberg's wife did not have a criminal record for posing for pornographic photos, as well as the fact that Werner von Fritsch did not hire homosexual male prostitutes (another cavalry captain with a similar surname did). After Fritsch was dismissed as commander-in-chief, Helldorf leaked the news to the Wehrmacht, guilting them on their accusations. 

As early as 1938, Helldorf was involved in the German Resistance against Adolf Hitler. He allied with Hans Gisevius (German vice consul for Switzerland) and Claus von Stauffenberg's conspirators, and on 20 July 1944 his goal in Operation Valkyrie would be to prevent the police from stopping the plotters. He suggested that Stauffenberg and the others go into hiding if Heinrich Himmler took power, and they could try the coup again, saying that they would live to fight another day rather than be killed by the Gestapo. On 15 August 1944, Gestapo agents broke into his house to arrest him after Himmler ordered a purge of all Resistance members. Helldorf rose from bed after his wife screamed, and he informed the guards that he needed to get his glasses before he left. However, he grabbed a gun and killed one of the Gestapo men before being slammed with three shots and killed.

The Men Who Planned the July Plot

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini inspect the meeting room in the guest house that was destroyed during the assassination attempt against Hitler on July 20, 1944.

ullstein bild/Getty Images

Many of the July plot’s participants were, like Stauffenberg, high-ranking military officers of aristocratic descent. “They were often the traditional elite, the best educated, with foreign connections, and with a sense of obligation to the idea of Germany,” says Roger Moorhouse, an historian who has written several books on Nazi Germany, including Killing Hitler: The Third Reich and the Plots Against the Führer. He adds that the aristocracy tended to view the Nazis “with distaste, not least on class grounds.”

Some of the main plotters, as Moorhouse points out, were “principled opponents of the Nazis from the outset.” Henning von Tresckow, for instance, privately disavowed the regime as early as 1935, following the passage of the Nuremberg race laws.

Then, in July 1941, Tresckow learned of the mass killing of Jews. At that moment, Hoffmann explains, he dedicated himself to deposing Hitler, forming a cell that initiated several assassination attempts, culminating in Operation Valkyrie. “It was a question of personal honor,” Hoffmann says, 𠇊nd the need to prove to the world that there were Germans who had tried for years to bring the killing and destruction to an end.”

Stauffenberg likewise came to view Hitler as a monster. Yet he was among those who joined the resistance late, having apparently been seduced by the initial successes of the Nazi war machine. During the 1939 invasion of Poland, he wrote that the “inhabitants are an unbelievable rabble” who would surely only be 𠇌omfortable under the knout,” and that “the thousands of prisoners-of-war will be good for our agriculture.” In a tacit sign of support for the regime, he even wed in a steel military helmet and honeymooned in Fascist Italy.

A few of the plotters committed horrific war crimes. Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorf, Berlin’s police chief, was notorious for harassing and extorting Jews Arthur Nebe commanded a mobile death squad that murdered tens of thousands of Jews in territory conquered from the Soviet Union and Georg Thomas was a driving force behind the so-called Hunger Plan, which aimed to starve to death millions of Soviet civilians.

Eduard Wagner, who provided Stauffenberg with a plane for the July 20, 1944, assassination attempt, was perhaps worst of all. Christian Gerlach, a professor of modern history at the University of Bern in Switzerland, who writes about the Holocaust, describes him as 𠇊 leading mass murderer,” responsible for 𠇊ll sorts of atrocities,” including the “ghettoization of Jews” and the starvation of Soviet prisoners. Wagner moreover advocated for the siege of Leningrad, Gerlach says, “in which at least 600,000 civilians died, mainly of hunger and cold.”

Post by David Thompson » 07 May 2003, 16:16

cptstennes -- There is a report of Count von Helldorf's corruption in regard to German Jews at p. 302 of the affidavit of US Consul Raymond Geist, posted at:

As for Wilfried Abenaschon's comments:

(1) "What is a Nazi gangster ? I find this a bit overstated ! A gangster is an individual who's against the establishment ! Don't you agree ?"

(2) "It's seems a vision of Holliwood ! A criminal conspiracy ? I thought that the elimination of Jews for example was announced publicaly ! Using force illegally ? It's the sens of this ideology to define that laws come after the strengh of guns (no doubt about it). A gang ? It was a kolossal gang . Normal political movements . It smells politicaly correct . Where are you from . "

I can only observe that gangsters are rarely, if ever, "against the establishment." There are frequent instances in European and American history of gangsters working hand-in-hand with or for national governments and far-right political elements.

For a number of examples of the SA using illegal force, I refer Mr. Abenaschon to these posts in the Holocaust and War Crimes section of this forum:

"Nazi Attacks on US Citizens Mar 1933" at:

"An American Diplomat in Germany 1929-1939" at:

American Consul in Berlin 1930-1934 at:

There are many other documents on SA crimes, which I'd be happy to scan and post in the H & WC section. I invite Mr. Abenaschon to discuss them there, since they're off the topic of Axis biography in general and the life of Count von Helldorf in particular.

The Nazi Party: The “People’s Court”

Since its founding, the National Socialist German Workers Party fought against the rule of law. The National Socialist takeover also represented a victory of authoritarian criminal law over liberal criminal law. The creation of Special Courts (Sondergerichte) in 1933 and the “People’s Court” (Volksgerichtshof) in 1934 were important milestones.

With Roland Freisler’s appointment as president of the “People’s Court” in 1942, the trials lost their last semblance of legitimate legal proceedings. Freisler humiliated and ridiculed the defendants. The wording of statues was systematically misinterpreted death sentences were “justified” on grounds presented on less than two pages of text. The “People’s Court” committed judicial murders.

After 1938, all criminal acts and, after 1939, all minor offenses could be prosecuted before the Special Courts. These courts consisted of three professional judges, and the verdict they rendered were the first and final stage of appeal.

Wartime criminal law allowed the death penalty for nearly every criminal act. Most important were sections 2 and 4 of the ordinance on “antisocial parasites,” which allowed the death penalty for acts committed during a blackout or while “exploiting wartime conditions.” The Special Courts interpreted wartime criminal law so liberally that even petty criminals, first-time offenders, and infrequent offenders were sentenced to death in large numbers.

According to section 1 of the ordinance on “antisocial parasites,” “looters” who committed thefts during or after air raids received mandatory death sentences. Each Special Court formed what were known as “looter” tribunals in 1942. These tribunals convened after severe air raids and handed down death sentences in summary proceedings, and the executions that took place immediately after the raids were announced on red posters as a deterrent. The defendants had no opportunity to prove their innocence or otherwise defend themselves.

The July Plot

The attempted coup of July 20, 1944, was the pivotal event in the resistance against National Socialism and also marked the last major turning point in the domestic policy of the National Socialist regime. The terror in Germany was intensified after the failure to assassinate Hitler.

On July 30, 1944, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and Chief of Armed Forces High Command Wilhelm Keitel reported for a meeting with Hitler at his headquarters in the “Wolf's Lair.” They established a “court of honor” of army generals and field marshals to take action against the conspirators. Between August 4 and September 14, 1944, a total of 55 army officers were forcibly removed from the Wehrmacht and another 29 were discharged at the request of the “court of honor.” Their forcible removal from the Wehrmacht was required so that they could be sentenced by the “People’s Court” and not the Reich Military Court, which would otherwise have jurisdiction.

On August 7 and 8, 1944, the first trial was held against Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, First Lieutenant Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg, Colonel-General Erich Hoepner, Lieutenant General Paul von Hase, Major General Hellmuth Stieff, Captain Karl Friedrich Klausing, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bernardis, and First Lieutenant Albrecht von Hagen. All of the defendants were sentenced to death. They were murdered that same day in Plötzensee prison. Some of them were able to receive spiritual comfort from prison chaplains Harald Poelchau and Peter Buchholz.

This marked the beginning of a series of more than 50 trials that resulted in more than 110 death sentences. From October 1944 on, these trials also included persons aiding fugitives and persons providing support to those involved in the attempted coup. Roland Freisler, the president of the “People’s Court,” presided over most of these trials himself. Surviving films, photographs, and sound recordings provide an impression of the hate-filled manner in which he conducted these proceedings. The defendants were not allowed to choose their own legal counsel they and the public defender were permitted to review the charges and specifications only shortly before the proceedings. The first trial was given extensive coverage in the government-controlled press, and passages of the proceedings were quoted in full.

The second trial on August 10, 1944, ended with death sentences against officers Erich Fellgiebel, Fritz-Dietlof Graf von der Schulenburg, Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Alfred Kranzfelder, and Georg Hansen, who were murdered that same day in Plötzensee. This trial and the two that follow were also highly publicized.

On August 15, 1944, the “People’s Court” sentenced Bernhard and Johannes Georg Klamroth, Egbert Hayessen, Wolf Heinrich Graf von Helldorf, Adam von Trott zu Solz, and Hans Bernd von Haeften to death.

Between August 21 and September 29, 1944, 30 people were sentenced to death in another seven trials. In contrast to the initial trials, these later proceedings received no publicity so as not to contradict the National Socialist assertion that the conspirators comprised a “small clique of traitors without any conscience” and expose the broad base of the resistance movement.

Between August 8, 1944, and April 9, 1945, a total of 90 people were murdered in Plötzensee who were either thought to belong to the resistance circles involved in the attempted coup of July 20, 1944, or who had supported them.

On September 7 and 8, 1944, the proceedings focused on the civilian leaders of the coup attempt as Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, Wilhelm Leuschner, Josef Wirmer, Ulrich von Hassell, and Paul Lejeune-Jung wenton trial. Social Democrats Julius Leber, Hermann Maaß, and Adolf Reichwein were sentenced on October 20, 1944. In late November 1944, Erich and Elisabeth Gloeden, Elisabeth Kuznitzky, Hans Sierks, and Carl Marks were sentenced to death for aiding fugitive artillery general Fritz Lindemann, who died of gunshot wounds shortly after his arrest. Others received penitentiary and prison sentences.

The major trial against the members of the Kreisau Circle took place between January 9 and 11, 1945. Helmuth James Graf von Moltke wrote to his wife Freya: “We are being executed because we thought together.” Moltke was sentenced to death together with Franz Sperr and Alfred Delp a few days later Freisler sentenced Theodor Haubach, Theodor Steltzer, and Nikolaus Gross to death.

On February 2, 1945, the circle around Klaus Bonhoeffer was prosecuted. He, his brother-in-law Rüdiger Schleicher, Hans John, and Friedrich Justus Perels were sentenced to death. This is the last trial that Roland Freisler conducted. On February 3, 1945, he was crushed by a falling beam in the building of the “People’s Court” during an air raid.

For almost a month there were no more trials. Fritz Voigt, Franz Leuninger, and Oswald Wiersich were only sentenced to death on February 26, 1945. The verdicts were somewhat more lenient after Freisler’s death several defendants received prison sentences. In March 1945, Arthur Nebe and Friedrich Fromm were sentenced to death later death sentences can no longer be documented.

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How Hitler’s Top Nazi Commander Werner von Blomberg Was Disgraced in a Sex Scandal

Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg (far right) found himself in love and in scandal, causing a political fallout with his Führer.

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-01817A

The unusual marriage of high-ranking Nazi official Werner von Blomberg possibly changed the course of the German army in World War II

Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg. (Presse Illustration Hoffmann)

In January 1938, the 60-year-old defense minister of Nazi Germany, Werner von Blomberg, seemed on top of the world. Less than two years before, German Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler had made him the first of the Third Reich’s field marshals in reward for his successful rebuilding of the German armed forces under the Nazi regime. His role as military commander and adviser to the Führer soon came to an abrupt end, however, when the scandalous details of his new marriage were revealed.

Blomberg’s rise to power in the Third Reich had begun in 1932, when German Chancellor Heinrich Brüning had asked Defense Minister Wilhelm Gröner to relieve Lieutenant General Blomberg of his East Prussian duty station. Soon Blomberg was named chief of the German military delegation to the International Disarmament Conference at Geneva, where he had direct access to President Paul von Hindenburg. Blomberg spoke his mind to the Reich leader about the chancellor’s disarmament policies. Brüning’s government fell in June, followed by a Franz von Papen chancellorship and still another, led by Major General Kurt von Schleicher. Blomberg was then ordered to Berlin from Switzerland by presidential fiat on January 29, 1933, to avert an army coup.

By accepting an appointment by Hindenburg in Hitler’s first cabinet as defense minister in 1933, Blomberg in fact ensured that there would be a Nazi regime. He forestalled the army plot to kidnap the president, launch a military coup and thus prevent Hitler from taking office in a coalition government.

Blomberg and Hitler got on rather well, despite a showdown in June 1934 over whether or not the Führer was willing to suppress his own 2-million-man-strong storm trooper battalions, whose leader, Sturmabteilungen Chief Ernst Röhm, wanted to take over the army. A deal was reached, however, whereby Hitler would strike down Röhm and his cronies before the army did, and in return he would be named president at Hindenburg’s death. Both sides of this bargain were kept in the summer of 1934. Hindenburg died on August 1, and Hitler was proclaimed head of the German state the following day.

On Heroes’ Memorial Day in March 1935, Hitler announced to the world that he was ignoring the Versailles Treaty, which Republican Germany had been forced to sign in 1919, and was immediately expanding the German armed forces. A year later, although Blomberg annoyed Hitler by advising against it, the Führer sent his troops to reoccupy the former German Rhineland opposite hostile France.

A few weeks later, on his own 47th birthday, April 20, 1936, the Führer presented the tall, handsome general with a field marshal’s baton, making Blomberg the most powerful peacetime commander in German military history. This was a tacit acknowledgement of how well the two men had worked together in the expansion of the country’s military forces, and in particular during the creation of its new armored corps and reborn Luftwaffe. Because Blomberg pretended put on such a tough demeanor with others but was so amenable to Hitler’s wishes, his rivals secretly called him “The Rubber Lion.”

The next glitch in their relationship came in July 1937, with Hitler’s decision to send German “volunteers” to fight in Spain on the side of Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War, another move that his defense minister had cautioned against. Finally, on November 5, 1937, Hitler hosted a top-secret meeting of his service chiefs at the old Reich Chancellery in Berlin to announce that he planned to launch the nation into a general European war by 1943 at the latest. Blomberg opposed this as well, asserting that the Third Reich simply was not ready to take on France and Britain, let alone the Soviet Union. Again, Hitler was not pleased by the attitude of the man he had made a field marshal.

Blomberg had other difficulties at the time aside from the Führer’s disapproval. In 1931, Blomberg had suffered a serious concussion as the result of a riding accident. Historian Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., has speculated that his injury, coupled with the death of his first wife, may have led to an increase in Blomberg’s emotional instability. Charlotte von Blomberg, his wife of 28 years, died in 1932.

Six years later, in January 1938, Blomberg sought the Führer’s permission to remarry. Wilhelm Keitel, chief of the German high command and Blomberg’s former deputy, wrote of the episode from his jail cell at Nuremberg in October 1946, while he was awaiting execution as a war criminal.

“From his adjutants I learned that the wedding, a civil one, was to take place very privately towards the middle of January, in a hall at the War Ministry Building, and that Hitler and [Hermann] Göring had accepted invitations to attend as witnesses,” Keitel wrote. “I myself received no invitation to the ceremony, which was not followed by any religious wedding service….” According to Keitel: “Towards the end of the month, the Chief of Police in Berlin, Count [Wolf Heinrich Graf] von Helldorf, called on me in my office, having urgently asked for an interview. He was very agitated and began at once to ask me what the young bride had looked like….Finally, he pulled out of his pocket a change-of-address registration card with a passport-style photograph of one Fraulein Erna Grühn. This police file card reported her move to Blomberg’s flat in the Ministry Building on Tirpitzufer it had been sent up to him by her local police station….The Fraulein Erna Grühn, who had in her new name as Blomberg’s wife checked out with the police authorities where she had lived, had in fact a criminal record for immorality. It would be indecorous of me to expand upon the details, which I was able to read for myself on her police record card.

“The Field Marshal’s wife was indeed a convicted prostitute. She had been under surveillance by the Morals Squad for years before she got her typing job at the War Ministry. Not only that, but her mother was also a notorious prostitute and madam, and had operated a bordello disguised as a massage parlor in a Berlin suburb. Erna had learned her ancient profession, so to speak, at her mother’s knee.

“What made the situation all the more shocking and intolerable was that in addition to selling her body for cash, which was at least a somewhat private transaction, Erna had also posed for pornographic pictures, which made her disgrace a far more public matter. The pictures had been widely sold and circulated, so that hundreds of Berliners now possessed photographs exhibiting the War Minister’s wife in a variety of obscene, shameless poses.

“The record further disclosed that she had been arrested in connection with the pictures and brought to court. She had testified that her lover and partner in the poses [who was said to be a 41-year-old Czech Jew] had run off, leaving her with only 60 marks as her share of the proceeds. The court had sympathetically given her a light sentence.”

Keitel sent Count von Helldorf with the dossier to Blomberg’s greatest rival, Hermann Göring, who not only coveted the field marshal’s baton but also resented being subordinate to Blomberg in the formal chain of command. Ironically, Blomberg himself—even though he was well aware of Göring’s rapacious ambitions—had secretly confided to Göring that Erna was a “child of the people,” to which the latter said that in the Nazi state this would be no obstacle to their wedlock. There was also another lover to be gotten rid of (possibly the Czech Jew?), but Göring had secured a job for him in South America as well as passage there.

Now an enraged Göring read the Helldorf dossier and took it to an equally enraged Hitler. The wedding had taken place on Göring’s own birthday—January 12, 1938—and both men felt they had been used by the field marshal. He had managed to marry Erna as well as retain his post, baton, flat and private railroad car, in which he had ridden exactly once—to see Fraulein Grühn at Oberhof in late 1937.

Göring confronted Blomberg with the Führer’s demand that his marriage be annulled, but the field marshal refused. Said Keitel in his postwar memoirs: “He justified this stand to me later by saying that he was deeply in love with his wife and claimed that had Hitler and Göring only wanted to help him he would have been able to stand firm on ‘the position he had taken’ in the affair.

Fellow officer Hermann Goring resented Blomberg and coveted the field marshal's position. When Blomberg disclosed the truth about his wife before the wedding, Göring later revealed the information to an enraged Führer in hopes of a possible power grab. (Bundesarchiv Bild)

“The fact was, however, that neither Hitler nor Göring believed Blomberg’s protestations that he had embarked innocently upon this adventure they were beside themselves with rage at having been exploited as witnesses at his wedding. Both were convinced…that Blomberg had wanted to compel them in this way to hush up and stamp out any rumors and after-effects that might follow this step….He was absolutely shattered and near to collapse. He repeated to the Führer his disinclination to dissolve his marriage, and their long interview ended in his resignation.

“Afterwards Blomberg confided to me that he laid the blame squarely on Göring if Göring had not entertained hopes of becoming his successor they would very easily have been able to cover up the whole affair with the mantle of true love. He had known all along that his wife had lived loosely in the past, but that was no reason for casting a woman out forever in any case, she had for some time now been employed by the Reich Egg [Marketing] Board and earned her keep like that, though her mother was only an ironing-woman.”

Although Hitler initially blessed Blomberg's union, he was later outraged when he found out one of his highest-ranking officer had chosen a woman with a pornographic past. (mymilitaria.it)

Besides being devious about his affair, was the field marshal also naive? After all, King Edward VIII had abdicated the English throne for the sake of a controversial marriage in 1936, and Blomberg himself had been the Führer’s delegate to the coronation of King George VI. That event should have been a warning to him that such an alliance would have serious consequences.

The reactions of his fellow officers were summed up by then Colonel Alfred Jodl in his private diary: “What an influence a woman can exert on the history of a country, without even knowing it! One has the feeling of witnessing a decisive hour for the German people….The situation with regard to the wife of the Field Marshal affects the whole upper echelon of the Wehrmacht….One cannot tolerate the highest-ranking soldier marrying a whore. He should be forced to divorce the woman or else be taken off the list of officers, he could no longer be the commander of even a regiment….”

In his memoirs, Keitel says of his former boss, “I had always known how thickheaded and obstinate he was, once he had set his mind on a course of action,” but admitted later that maybe his chief had been right about Göring after all. “Göring was telling me that he had known of Blomberg’s wedding plans for some time in advance….In the meantime, Göring had ascertained all the details of the lady’s earlier character and he told me everything.”

Blomberg tried to bluff his way through the scandal, only to have his bluff called by Göring, who was apparently enraged by the whole thing. Whether Hitler was offended or only pretended to be, subsequent events served his ultimate purpose. Hitler took over the war ministry himself, renamed it Oberkommando der Wehrmacht—the high command of the armed forces—and appointed Keitel as his deputy. Göring was named a field marshal, but of the Luftwaffe, not the army in which he had been a general for the past four years. The army commander in chief was next forced out, as was the foreign minister, and both the military and the foreign and diplomatic services were reshuffled in time for the start-up of the war.

Hitler promised to recall Blomberg to active duty once the war began, although he never did. But he kept him on at full pay throughout the life of the Third Reich, and in the heady days of 1940 he acknowledged the debt he owed to the organizing genius of his once-vaunted Rubber Lion.

Blomberg (here in 1938 with wife Erna) refused to annul the marriage despite Hitler's demands and ultimately resigned, staying married until his death in 1946. (Photo: mymilitaria.it)

While enjoying an all-expenses-paid, round-the-world honeymoon from the Führer, Blomberg was offered a pistol with which to shoot himself by a German naval officer. He declined and survived the war to testify as a witness before the International Tribunal at Nuremberg.

Werner von Blomberg died of cancer on March 14, 1946, at the age of 67. At first he was buried in an unmarked grave at the Nuremberg jail, but his remains were later disinterred and reburied near his home in Bavaria. As for Erna Grühn von Blomberg, in 1952 she passed a state examination as a masseuse and announced her intention of taking over her mother’s massage parlor.

Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 &ndash 1 May 1945) was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.

Kristallnacht (lit. "Crystal Night") or Reichskristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, Reichspogromnacht or simply Pogromnacht, and Novemberpogrome (Yiddish: קרישטאָל נאַכט krishtol nakt), was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9&ndash10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians.

Garbáty Zigarettenfabrik

The story behind the Garbáty&rsquos Zigarettenfabrik is one of Nazi persecution, East German indifference, and shameful greed bringing the systematic destruction of a family enterprise.

It may not be abandoned anymore, but for a time the former cigarette factory In Pankow was allowed wallow in neglect and decay, home only to tragic memories.

Everything was long gone by the time I stumbled up the steps to where a huge expansive room greeted me, a cavernous hall lit by a thousand sunny windows, bereft of any furnishings or curiosities. It was 2010 and I was too late. It was industrial without the industry.

I found more of the same on each floor as I made my way up. Brick walls, pillars, smooth clean floors and disconcertingly clear windows providing no clues to its turbulent past, nichts.

Instead there were just the tell-tale signs of &ldquoprogress&rdquo &ndash a glut of diggers, construction paraphernalia and scaffolding scattered around, evidence of the poor building&rsquos fate.

Josef Garbáty-Rosenthal began producing tobacco products with his wife Rosa Rahel at home in 1879, opening a factory on Linienstraße in Mitte two years later.

They later expanded to facilities on Schönhauser Allee before moving to a more suitable factory on Berlinerstraße in Pankow in 1906. Pankow was an independent town at the time.

The factory had had 800 employees the following year, with both the Kurmark and Königen von Saba brands proving very popular, according to Beate Meyer in her book Jews in Nazi Berlin.

She writes that Josef transferred the company to his sons Eugen and Moritz in 1929, and the former sold his 50 per cent share to the big-shot Reemtsma brand, which controlled more than 60 per cent of the market at the time.

Following the Nazis rise to power in 1933, Der Stürmer, repeatedly denounced Kurmark cigarettes as a &ldquoJewish product&rdquo before the Nazi newspaper proclaimed: &ldquoThe Garbáty cigarette factory is a purely Jewish firm.&rdquo

Moritz Garbáty received threatening letters and was then accused of smuggling foreign currency. Cue a dreaded Gestapo investigation.

Reich economics minister Hermann Göring instructed Jewish firms&rsquo import quotas to be reduced. Garbáty&rsquos quota dropped by ten per cent in January 1938.

Competitors jumped on the bandwagon, breaking the company&rsquos regular supply to customers. Turnover practically halved between 1937 and 1938.

Moritz Garbáty saw no option but to sell the firm, and his lawyer opened negotiations with interested Aryan parties.

Dr. Jakob Koerfer&rsquos consortium included Emil Georg von Stauss, prominent Nazi supporter and director of Deutsche Bank with excellent connections, including Göring himself. It was simply a matter of how little the Garbáty family would get.

Reemtsma didn&rsquot dare rock the boat and sold his 50 per cent to Koerfer for six million Reichsmark. Various institutions were pushing for the rapid Aryanization of the firm, which was losing value by the day as the political climate worsened. Anti-Semitism was sending the value of Jewish companies plummeting.

Moritz Garbáty signed over the firm &ndash valued at RM 31.6 million on Dec. 31, 1937 &ndash to Koerfer and his Aryanizers on Oct. 24, 1938.

The contract stated that he was to be given for RM 6 million in compensation, with his brother Eugen to get one million. The Aryanizers were to pay a further RM 1.74 million for the factory premises in Pankow.

Meanwhile, the Reich economics ministry had to finalize the transaction, allowing Judenreferent Alf Krüger to peremptorily lower the RM 6 million payment to RM 4.11 million.

Koerfer transferred the funds on November 8th into a middleman&rsquos bank account, a loophole to get around the German foreign exchange&rsquos blocking order, which would have blocked Moritz from accessing his account if the payment had been made directly, according to Meyer.

The contract was concluded around the days of the November pogrom, which saw the violent persecution, arrests and beatings of Jews. At least 91 were killed on the nights of November 9-10. Moritz Garbáty had to go into hiding. His wife and 8-year-old son found refuge in a taxi traveling through Berlin:

&ldquoMy mother rang home (from a friend&rsquos house) to see what the situation was like,&rdquo Thomas Garbáty told Meyer in an interview in 1999.

&ldquoOur housekeeper Elise answered the phone. &lsquoElise, how are things at home?&rsquo asked my mother. The answer was, &lsquoI&rsquom sorry but Mrs. Garbáty is not here.&rsquo Then we knew that the Gestapo were in the apartment. They were looking for us. It was Kristallnacht.&rdquo

Jews with money could obtain exit visas by making a compulsory &ldquodonation&rdquo to the chief of police. Moritz and Eugen Garbáty paid Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf RM 1.15 million in total. He was involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler some years later and consequently hanged.

Jews were also forced to pay &lsquocompensation&rsquo for the pogrom damage through another compulsory voluntary donation. Moritz Garbáty coughed up RM 20,000. A property levy accounted for RM 1.12 million, an emigration tax RM 1.43 million. A further RM 830,000 went on extortionate foreign exchange rates. He was left with 861 Reichsmark. This too was confiscated for the German Reich.

Moritz Garbáty, his wife Ella and son Thomas managed to escape to New York via Amsterdam and Bordeaux, arriving finally on June 9, 1939.

Josef Garbáty-Rosenthal, 87-years-old, had stayed behind. He died three weeks later, on June 29, shortly before the outbreak of the war.

The Königin von Saba and Kurmark cigarettes were replaced with inferior &lsquowar brands&rsquo in 1942. There was very little quality tobacco available anymore.

The factory was badly damaged in the Battle of Berlin in April 1945. Its new owner, Jacob Koerfer, had already fled to Switzerland in 1944.

The business was appropriated after war&rsquos end by the East German regime. The factory continued to produce cigarettes, was renamed VEB Garbáty in the 1950s when it began producing the Club brand, and it merged with VEB Josetti to form the Berliner Zigarettenfabrik in 1960.

The fall of the Berlin wall spelled the end. The factory was taken over by the infamous Treuhand agency set up to oversee the privatization of East German companies, assets and enterprises.

The Club brand was sold off to the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company for just 10 million marks on October 2nd, 1990, a day before German reunification when it would have been illegal. The last cigarettes rolled off the production lines in September 1991 and all the furnishings, machines and fittings were sold to the Lübecker Zigarettenfabrik. The workers were all let go. The Garbáty Zigarettenfabrik was no more.

There were techno parties in the heady years following reunification, but it was only so long before Berlin&rsquos building boom took its toll. Now the Garbáty Zigarettenfabrik is home to luxury apartments. The builders used the nice side of its history as a selling point. A final insult.

  • What: Garbáty Zigarettenfabrik (cigarette factory).
  • Where: Berliner Straße 120/121 and Hadlich Straße, 13187, Berlin-Pankow.
  • How to get there: Get the S2 S-Bahn from Friedrichstraße to Pankow, or the U2 (say hello to Bono if he&rsquos driving) from Alexanderplatz. It&rsquos just a two-minute walk north from the station, on the right hand side. Here&rsquos a map in case you get lost.
  • Getting in: You won&rsquot be able to get in now unless you&rsquore one of the residents, unless you are one of the residents, or unless you plan on breaking in and stealing something from the residents. There are still abandoned places nearby you can visit instead, such as the Iraqi embassy, Güterbahnhof Pankow, or Pankow Schwimmhalle.

UPDATE &ndash January 15, 2012: This place is no longer suitable for any exploration, unless you like exploring people&rsquos kitchens (feeds the belly instead of the soul) and freaking people out in their homes. I did warn you in 2010 that the place wasn&rsquot &ldquoactually abandoned anymore, but being converted to apartments,&rdquo but thanks to those who left comments to let us know the transformation is complete.

UPDATE &ndash August 17, 2020: Updates with new photos, both from &ldquodamals&rdquo and now, as well as additional details to the story above.

Twisted fortune

In the early 1930s, Erik Jan Hanussen was Germany’s most highly acclaimed mentalist. But while Hanussen could hypnotize women into “the throes of orgasm” and use handwriting to discern intimate details of a person’s life, his greatest trick was luring the Nazis into a deep, dependent alliance with a Jew.

Hanussen was a poor Viennese Jewish boy who joined the circus as a teen, serving as a gymnast, zookeeper, bareback rider, tightrope walker, and “the unbelievably funny clown, Mr. Clapp-Trapp.”

As an adult, he founded a tabloid reporting on people who were “gay, had venereal diseases, frequented prostitutes, or used drugs,” and wrote “serialized novels describing actual people in compromising situations,” then blackmailed the stories’ subjects to pay him to conceal their identities.

After a mentalist wrote an article for him outlining the secrets of his trade, Hanussen became a mindreader, and was so successful that he was soon beguiling the Austrian emperor, who rewarded him with gold cufflinks adorned with the royal crest.

Fending off detractors and even a fraud arrest — he performed at his trial, with the judge proclaiming his abilities “beyond doubt” — his fame continued to rise. Soon, he owned a 40-foot party yacht, several homes and a publishing empire.

Moving to Berlin, he threw his support behind the Nazi party, publicly predicting Hitler’s rise in glowing, obsequious terms, and developing a friendship with a drunken, power-mad sadist named Count Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorf.

Helldorf had been named head of Berlin’s Sturm Abteilung, or “Storm Division,” after leading a thousand of them down a posh street on Rosh Hashanah, beating and terrorizing Jews. Several years later, when Hitler became Germany’s chancellor, Helldorf was promoted to head of Berlin’s police force.

But as their power rose, the SA’s finances were such a mess that they had to work out sponsorship deals, endorsing products such as brass knuckles, daggers, swastika armbands, margarine and cigarettes, the latter deal including having them “discourage tavern owners from selling competing brands.”

Helldorf was always in debt, and Hanussen lent him money, for which Helldorf would write out IOUs.

Hanussen also made his newspaper a pro-Nazi propaganda organ, with blaring front-page headlines like “Hitler Will Win!” and “Hitler Will Defeat Communism.”

He needed these powerful allies, since a Communist newspaper launched a campaign against him, believing him to be part of Hitler’s inner circle. They thought that if they could discredit Hanussen, they could take down Hitler as well.

(In reality, it’s most likely that Hanussen and Hitler never met.)

Meanwhile, Hanussen plied his powerful friend Helldorf with women, drugs and other salacious activities.

At one harrowing party on his yacht, Hanussen — at Helldorf’s “suggestion” — had a 14-year-old boy tied up and (falsely) accused of inappropriately touching the ship’s female guests, so that Helldorf could beat the boy into unconsciousness with a riding crop.

But in his arrogance, Hanussen made key mistakes. He announced he was changing his newspaper from a weekly to a daily, thereby making him a competitor to Der Angriff (“The Attack”), the paper owned by Joseph Goebbels. To retaliate, Der Angriff revealed that Hanussen was a Jew.

Helldorf was furious. Hanussen quickly told him that he had been adopted by Jews, but was actually of noble Danish blood. The Nazis claimed to be satisfied, and Der Angriff ran a retraction. But the word was out, and the Communist paper kept the story alive, revealing that Hanussen’s uncle was a famous rabbi.

In 1933, four weeks after Hitler became chancellor, Hanussen threw a party to celebrate. Performing for his guests, he did a mind reading for one actress where he spoke at length about seeing fire, a vision that proved irrelevant to his subject. The newspapers covered the party at length, including his obsession with fire.

The next day, the German Reichstag — the house of parliament — went up in flames. At one point, Hanussen called the editor of a liberal newspaper — a man he did not know personally — and asked, “How much of a fire is there in the Reichstag?”

The editor asked Hanussen — who lived miles away — how he knew about the fire. Hanussen ignored the question, declaring that “the Communists have set fire to the Reichstag.” That Hanussen knew about the fire early led some to believe it was a Nazi plot to which he was privy.

While the Nazis used the fire as an excuse to nullify civil liberties and round up thousands of “communists, socialists, and liberals,” they were “furious” with Hanussen for calling into doubt their denial of responsibility.

When Hanussen told a friend about Helldorf’s IOUs — and that “friend” immediately told Helldorf — that was strike three. (Four, actually, as Hanussen had once told a Nazi friend, about Hitler, that “Adolf looks more like an unemployed hairdresser than a Caesar.”)

Hanussen was arrested and taken to a makeshift prison, where Nazi storm troopers fired three bullets into his body and brain.

German Resistance to Hitler

The government of Adolf Hitler was popular with most Germans. Although the Gestapo (secret state police) and the Security Service (SD) suppressed open criticism of the regime, there was some German opposition to the Nazi state and the regimentation of society that took place through the process of "coordination" (Gleichschaltung)—the alignment of individuals and institutions with Nazi goals.

Opposition ranged from non-compliance with Nazi regulations to attempts to assassinate Hitler. Among the earliest resistance to the regime was the political opposition organized by leftist parties such as the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party of Germany. However leftist opposition within Germany proved ineffectual, as the Security Police (Sipo) crushed the leftist political organizations by force.

Efforts to "coordinate" religious life also followed the Nazi rise to power. Although the Concordat between the Vatican and the Third Reich in July 1933 regulated relations between the Reich and the Catholic church, the Nazis went on to suppress Catholic groups and sought to defame the church through a series of show trials known as the priest trials. While officially silent about the persecution of Jews, the church played a role in the opposition to the killing of mentally or physically handicapped individuals ("euthanasia"). Moreover, individual clergymen sought to protect or help Jews.

Opposition to the Nazi regime also arose among a very small number of German youth, some of whom resented mandatory membership in the Hitler Youth. In Munich in 1942, university students formed the White Rose resistance group. Its leaders, Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie Scholl, and professor Kurt Huber were arrested and executed in 1943 for the distribution of anti-Nazi leaflets.

A group that included conservative military officers and diplomats believed that Hitler's violent death should signal a general anti-Nazi revolt. Military officers attempted to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944, in his East Prussian headquarters at Rastenburg. Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg left a bomb in a briefcase near Hitler during a military briefing about the eastern front. In this plot, Karl Goerdeler, a traditional right-wing conservative politician, was to replace Hitler as chancellor. The group even included on its fringes some disillusioned Nazis such as Berlin police president Wolf Heinrich Count von Helldorf and Criminal Police (Kripo) chief Arthur Nebe. Hitler survived the blast, the coup attempt failed, and Roland Freisler, chief justice of the People's Court in Berlin, presided over the trial of those implicated in the plot. Invariably, Freisler convicted the defendants. Most were executed at Berlin's Ploetzensee prison.