Rüttenscheider Str. 43, 45130 Essen | 51.440647, 7.006270 | +51° 26′ 26.33″, +7° 0′ 22.57″
There was a printery inside of this building during the first years of the Nazi reign, producing the communist paper Elektrowärme im Haushalt (engl.: „electric warmth in the household“). The title of the magazine had been chosen carefully as a cover name, with regard to the emphatical persecution each party except for the NSDAP suffered from. Besides other appeals and exclamations, the paper contained a famous speech dating from Georgi Dimitroff, a well-known Bulgarian communist notorious because of his view on the relation between fascism and social democracy. The speech was held in 1933, when Dimitroff was accused of taking part in the burning of the Reichstag, the German parliament during the Weimar Republic. He had to answer to the court for allegedly planning the assault on the Reichstag. The trial ended up with an acquittal.
Reidi Lorenz, working in front of a case. This photograph was taken in 1933 and was kindly offered by the Essener Haus der Geschichte / Archiv Ernst Schmidt
The burning of the Reichstag took place in the night 27th-28th February 1933. Its reason was arson. Marinus van der Lubbe – a Dutch communist – was accused of being the offender. Nevertheless, his fault could not be proved entirely. Despite that, the Nazis took advantage of the burning through blaming the communists. As a consequence of their apparent crime, the fascists arrested hundreds of communist party members. Those detainees were put into improvised camps, showing already resemblance with the concentration camps founded soon after. On 28th February 1933, the Nazis implemented an edict called Reichtagsbrandverordnung, which abrogated the basic rights of the Weimar Republic. From now on, the fascist’s opponents still referring to these rights in order to criticize and force back the Nazis could easily be arrested by the latter. Especially the SA as a paramilitary formation benefited from this edict, bothering its foes without a cumbersome feeling of being blamed for it later on. Ironically, the Nazi’s opponents were put into „protectice custody“ (Schutzhaft, an euphemism used by the Nazis to divert the public from their crimes). During their time in jail, many opponents were tortured or even eliminated by Hitler’s thugs.
Back to the printery: the persons who ran it tried therefore to establish a counterweight against the Nazi regime through informing the public about the pernicious deeds of the fascists. In the same time, they were eager for spreading the communist perspective throughout the city. Georgi Dimitroff – whose speech was published with the printery’s cooperation – was known for the following contentious thesis: social democracy and fascism were allegedly twin phenomenons. Both were fighting the working class claim to power, particularly in times of capitalist crises. Regarding today’s situation, this may sound outrageous, but in former Weimar Republic, one could get an impression like that, taking into account that a communist paramilitary organization – the Rotfrontkämpferbund – was forbidden by the SPD while the fascist SA – at least in Berlin, 1929 – was allowed to run further. Due to the fact that the social democrats identified themselves heavily with the Weimar Republic, for the most part and in the majority of cases, they took a stand against communist organizations eager for replacing „Weimar“ with a political system following the example of the Soviet Union. To be fair, not all communists embraced what was going on in Russia. Many of them instead criticized the authoritarian way communism ran under Lenin’s aegis. For that reason, the communist movement itself was divided into several branches, each struggling for different kinds of socialism.
A pennant of the Revolutionäre Gewerkschaftsopposition (RGO) (engl.: revolutionary unionist opposition), exhibited in the Essener Haus der Geschichte. The RGO was founded in 1928/29, meant to be a revolutionary alternative to the established unionist joined together in the Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (ADGB, engl.: general German trade union association). The RGO was backed by the communist party of Germany (KPD). As mentioned above, the leftist voters had been devided into those supporting social democratic ideas, identifying with the Weimar Republic and those wishing for a communist system, either based on Lenin’s approach launched in the Soviet Union or another branch of socialism. In sum, the division of the left just served the Nazis, who were therefore enabled to impose their fascist regime in 1933. As a consequence, a terror reign enduring 12 years was established. In the very first years of Hitler’s aegis, social democratic and communist people notably agitated for another society, distinguishing from the one the Nazis implemented.
1) Today, nothing points to the fact that there was a printery out here struggling once against the Nazi regime. Try to sketch a sign remindung pedestrians of Reidi Lorenz and his comrades, dedicated to their risky engagement. Formulate a brief text able to introduce people to what occured out here many years ago.
2) June 1933. For half a year, the Nazis are in charge, terrorizing further and further the remaining democratic forces. As their fascist reign gathers pace, Reidi Lorenz decides to work on a flyer, accusing the Nazis of their outrageous deeds. Write a short text and ponder when and where the flyers are to be spread in the best way.