Adolf Lemke, Hamburger blacksmith and seaman
Adolf Lemke 21. januar 1904 in Hamburg – 4. juli 1955 in Potsdam
Born in Hamburg in 1904, Lemke learned the blacksmith’s trade. He worked from 1922 to 1923 at the Blohm & Voss shipyard, but was dismissed because of his participation in the general strike and the Hamburg uprising. Lemke then became a sailor and stayed in Canada from 1927 to 1930. He returned to Germany in 1930.
Lemke was an excellent athlete. He was a wrestler and in Antwerp defeated among others, the then European champion. In 1931 he represented Germany at the European Championships in Budapest.
Adolf Lemke was politically active in Hamburg in the international club of the International of Sailors and Harbour Workers (ISH). On the basis of his English language skills, he became a port propagandist in the Anglo-American section.
After Hindenburg’s handover of power to Hitler in 1933, Lemke was illegally active, was arrested by the Gestapo on March 8, 1934 and taken to the Konzentrationslager KoLaFu. He was tried, after 14 months of imprisonment and torture, with high treason. However, it was only possible to prove against him possession of Communist literature, and they had to drop the accusation of treason.
The punishment for this was 9 months, which Lemke had already served whilst under interrogation, but the Gestapo was not interested in releasing him. He was immediately transferred to Dachau concentration camp and put in an unlit cell for 6 weeks. For 22 months, Adolf Lemke was kept in Dachau, where he was tortured and severely mistreated.
On 22 April 1937, he was brought back by the Gestapo to Hamburg. He was placed under police supervision and taken to hospital.
It took Lemke four months to achieve a partial level of recovery. Shortly after his release from the hospital, he fled to Holland with the intention of going to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil war. He succeeded.
In November 1937 Lemke was assigned to the Argument Dimitrov battery in Spain.
Over this time he kept a diary. His notes make clear how unequal the struggle was; here are some examples:
March 27. 1938 The enemy must have discovered the position of our battery. 51 German bombers shower our position with bombs. We shoot down 4 aircraft. Two of our comrades are killed by the bombs and several are wounded.
March 29. 1938 Change of position. No sooner are we in our new posts than we are attacked by 82 Heinkel and Junkers bomber aircraft. … But when one of our ammunition cars with 160 crates of grenades is hit by a bomb, we jump into our trenches. Witches Cauldron. We have 3 dead and 4 wounded comrades. We shoot down a bomber and 2 other aircraft collide and crash.
May 18. 1938 Our battery is bombarded twice by 36 Heinkel and 60 Junkers bomber aircraft … Also dive bomber aircraft attack us. Ammunition deficiency. It is said that we have only 1400 shells in Valencia. With what we shall shoot?
June 9. 1938 Non-stop bombardments. It is unbelievable what enormous amounts of material the Fascists on the Levante Front have at their disposal … 90 fascist cannons are constantly shooting day and night for 14 days. – 3 anti-aircraft batteries against hundreds of fascist bombers …
In this year 1938, on May 1, Adolf Lemke became a member of the Communist Party.
Until February 1939, he was always in the front line in Spain. Then he was interned in France.
Until 1941, Lemke was imprisoned in various camps in France and thereafter in North Africa until his liberation by Anglo-American troops in 1943. The Soviet Embassy enabled him to depart to the Soviet Union, where he remained until June 1945.
After his return to Germany, Adolf Lemke lived in Potsdam until his death on July 4, 1955.