stumbling blocks Hawes, Hansjosten, van der Mee

Alte Bottroper Straße, Bushaltestelle | 51.489186, 6.957080‎ | +51° 29′ 21.07″, +6° 57′ 25.49″

Helmut Hawes was born on April 6, 1927. The stumbling block reminding of him was installed on January 24, 2006. The Social Democrat party (SPD) and the Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO) are its godparents.

Helmut Hawes I

Hawes fought as a soldier in the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany’s official army. At the beginning of the year 1945, he and his friends Johann Hansjosten and Hans van der Mee – who lived in Borbeck as well – decided not to return to their units after their vacation had passed by. On April 4, the three deserters were accused by one of their neighbours who knew unfortunately that they didn’t travel back to the front lines. As a result of that, the three young men were arrested and sentenced to death by a summery court martial. A commando, consisting of Wehrmacht soldiers, shot the three men nearby Essen-Werden. Helmut Hawes was just 18 years old.

Johann Hansjosten Porträt

Johann Hansjosten was born on May 15, 1927. At the time of the shooting, he was 17 years old. This portrait was offered by the Essener Haus der Geschichte / Archiv Ernst Schmidt.

Hans van der Mee Porträt

Hans van der Mee saw the light of day on April 20, 1923. When the Nazis shot him dead, he was 23 years old. We received this picture likewise from the Essener Haus der Geschichte / Archiv Ernst Schmidt.

Historical background

Already on January 1, 1934, the Nazis had established military courts. In 1935 and in 1940, the punishments in case of desertion were made even more severe. For instance, the duration of prison sentences affecting soldiers who deserted after being conscripted into the army were lengthened. According to projections concerning death penalties, the legal authorities of Nazi Germany reached all in all 30.000 verdicts of that kind. 23.000 of these verdicts were executed. It is said that between 350.000-400.000 soldiers deserted during the Nazi era. Taking into account a total number of 18,2 millions of soldiers, this means a desertion proportion of around 2%.

Soldiers who refused their further commitment regarding the ongoing World War II were often arrested in concentration camps or killed. Towards the end of the war – when the Nazi regime was dependent on every single soldier – deserters had the chance to become „reprieved“, assuming they were able to fight in special military units which had to face complicating conditions. Missions of that sort were known as Selbstmordkommandos („suicide commandos“ – literally translation). In many cases, they were a kind of a death sentence itself.


1) Read attentively the facts given on this site. In a next step, each of you choose one of the boys. Try to put yourself into the current boy’s place.The day before the desertion, you entrust your plans solely your diary. Write the entry. For which reasons do you want to quit the Wehrmacht? What has persuaded you to make this courageous decision? Is there anything you are afraid of? What do you think about the war high-ranking Nazis had triggerend off?

2) The firing squad is taking place. One more time, put yourself into one of the victims. Scornfully, the executioner demands from you to speak your last words. What do you reply to him? Do you follow his request? If so – which are actually your last words?

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