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Contemporary witness Wolfgang Breckheimer

»I want to report from my life and the life of my parents and the entanglement with the events and traditions of the struggling working class under fascism.«

Wolfgang Breckheimer

Subtitles in German and English can be activated in the video at the bottom right via the video player settings.
Interview: History working group of the »Faites votre jeu!« initiative at May 17, 2009.

Curriculum vitae Wolfgang Breckheimer

Wolfgang Breckheimer was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1926. He grew up in the working-class district of Riederwald in a social democratic home. In 1922 his father, the woodworker Wilhelm Breckheimer, had married the Jewish woman Cäcilie Segalowitsch. She had grown up as an orphan in an SAJ children‘s home and was a self-confident young woman. Wolfgang Breckheimer completed an apprenticeship as a book printer. When the Nuremberg Laws came into force, this was only possible for him as a »Jewish half-breed« through his mother‘s secret friendly contacts with the »Führsorgeamt«.

During this time, Wolfgang Breckheimer came into contact with the »Edelweiss Pirates« in his vocational school class, a group of young people who categorically rejected coercion and drill as practised in the uniformed Hitler Youth (HJ). They liked to wear colourful scarves and long hair, and met in their free time to hike, discuss, make music, and dance the tango. It was in 1942 that they noticed him because of his critical statements on the war and his long hair, and he was invited to join them. The group often went to the Taunus, where they organised their tent camps in hiding. Wolfgang Breckheimer writes about his time as an »Edelweiss Pirate«: »Here I lost the otherwise prevailing feeling of powerlessness. In the community of the group, strength and hope flowed to me for a time without concentration camps and for personal happiness.« Twice, with a lot of luck, he only narrowly managed to escape arrest by the SA. His mother Cäcilie Breckheimer received a summons to Lindenstrasse in Frankfurt, the Gestapo headquarters, one day after Wolfgang‘s 17th birthday, on so-called »own business«. She was arrested in February 1943, first taken to the police prison »Klapperfeld« and then deported to the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, where she allegedly died of »general physical weakness« in July 1943.Wolfgang Breckheimer had remained outside the prison for days, always whistling the secret family whistle, hoping to receive a sign of life from his mother.

Time and again, the group of »Edelweiss Pirates« to which Wolfgang Breckheimer belonged and the HJ patrols had minor confrontations. In the winter of 1944, the house at Raiffeisenstraße 25 was hit by an aerial bomb. Wolfgang Breckheimer survived in the cellar. In January of the following year (1945), he was called up as a »Jewish half-breed of the first degree« to the »Organisation Todt« (The Organisation Todt (OT) was a uniformed technical unit that organised and supervised the use of »foreign workers«, prisoners or also »half-breeds« and »Versippten« during the war) and later deported to Osterode in the Harz mountains for forced labour. There he helped the Lappe brothers escape from the camp. Because of this he was transferred to Halberstadt prison. There he experienced liberation by American troops.

Wolfgang Breckheimer became involved in the FDJ after the war. There he also met his future wife Ria Breckheimer. In the first years after the war, he was once again affected by state repression and was imprisoned in the »Klapperfeld« detention centre on the Römer during a demonstration against the FRG‘s handling of the past.

Wolfgang Breckheimer died after a long and serious illness on. 12 June 2011. Until the end, he was active as a contemporary witness, committed to coming to terms with the history of National Socialism and the fight against today‘s neo-Nazis.