> Adler­wer­ke His­to­ri­cal Site (Foy­er)
> Geschichts­ort Adler­wer­ke (Foy­er)

> A crime that beca­me a part of ever­y­day life
> Zwangs­ar­beit – ein Ver­bre­chen mit­ten im Alltag

> The for­ced labour system
> Sys­tem Zwangsarbeit

> The con­cen­tra­ti­on camp in the factory
> Das Kon­zen­tra­ti­ons­la­ger in der Fabrik

> Clearan­ce and death march
> Räu­mung und Todesmarsch

> Con­flicts over labour, remem­bran­ce, compensation
> Kon­flik­te um Arbeit, Erin­ne­rung, Entschädigung

 Con­flicts over labour, 

 remem­bran­ce, compensation 

Des­pi­te the cri­mi­nal pro­se­cu­ti­on and den­azi­fi­ca­ti­on acti­vi­ties, the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp sank into obli­vi­on. The memo­ry of the for­ced labou­rers was repres­sed. For­ty years later, grass roots initia­ti­ves bro­ke the silence.

When the Adler­wer­ke was threa­tened with clo­sure after 1990, the­re was resis­tance from the work­for­ce. It was around the same time that the factory’s histo­ry during the Nazi peri­od was brought to light. The sur­vi­vors’ strugg­le for com­pen­sa­ti­on drag­ged on for decades.



After 1945, the memo­ry of the “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp or the for­ced labou­rers was not an issue at the Adler­wer­ke. When the com­pa­ny cele­bra­ted the 90th anni­ver­s­a­ry of its foun­ding in 1970, the­re was only brief men­ti­on of the Nazi peri­od, and only becau­se the fac­to­ry had been par­ti­al­ly des­troy­ed by bom­bing in 1944. Things only began to chan­ge in the 1980s. It was Adler­wer­ke employees and the local advi­so­ry coun­cil 1 that took the initiative.

Acti­ve citi­zens saw to making the cri­mes and the com­pa­ny management’s respon­si­bi­li­ty known to the public. It would be 2022 befo­re the com­me­mo­ra­ti­ve and edu­ca­tio­nal cent­re was founded.

“The­re will be not­hing left at all! A void will fill this gap. Of that I am con­vin­ced. I know the­re are initia­ti­ves to this end, but I don’t real­ly belie­ve the docu­men­ta­ti­on will ever be suc­cess­ful­ly car­ri­ed out or a memo­ri­al will be erec­ted at the Adlerwerke.”

Wla­dys­law Jaro­cki, “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp survivor
in: Joan­na Skibins­ka, Die letz­ten Zeu­gen: Gesprä­che mit Über­le­ben­den des KZ-Außen­la­gers “Katz­bach” in den Adler­wer­ken Frank­furt am Main , p. 95

Silence and cover-up—exposure and pressure

In 1986, the Adler employee Lothar Rei­nin­ger asked some of his older col­leagues what they knew about the con­cen­tra­ti­on camp in the fac­to­ry. They war­ned him that this ques­ti­on could cost him his job. It took a long, slow pro­cess to over­co­me the silence. The muni­ci­pal advi­so­ry coun­cil 1 pro­po­sed the instal­la­ti­on of a com­me­mo­ra­ti­ve plaque. At the Paul Hin­de­mith School, Ernst Kai­ser and Micha­el Knorn car­ri­ed out a histo­ry pro­ject on the Nazi peri­od in the Gal­lus district with their pupils. That pro­ject mar­ked the begin­ning of the rese­arch. The semi­nal book about the “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp was one result. Camp sur­vi­vors were con­ta­c­ted and rela­ti­ons­hips evolved.

The LAGG asso­cia­ti­on, the Gal­lus-Thea­ter, and the Clau­dy foun­da­ti­on joi­ned with various other groups, church­es, and indi­vi­du­al resi­dents of Gal­lus to form the “Initia­ti­ve Gegen das Ver­ges­sen” (IgdV; “Initia­ti­ve against Obli­vi­on”). Over a peri­od of many years, they pres­su­red the decisi­on-makers to erect a memo­ri­al for the “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp. They put up a new tomb­stone on the gra­ve of the con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes in the city’s main ceme­tery. They invi­ted sur­vi­vors to Frank­furt. The IgdV orga­ni­zed initi­al com­pen­sa­ti­on payments.

In 2015, a sup­port asso­cia­ti­on took over the task of unit­ing the play­ers on many levels. Along with other sup­por­ters it ulti­mate­ly suc­cee­ded in estab­li­shing the Adler­wer­ke His­to­ri­cal Site.

Taking action

It was in the autumn of 1993 that the LAGG asso­cia­ti­on first laid a wreath on the memo­ri­al stone in the city’ main ceme­tery. Near­ly every year sin­ce 1995 it has cal­led for a memo­ri­al pro­ces­si­on on 24 March. That is the date on which the death march depar­ted for Buchen­wald in 1945.

Events regu­lar­ly take place at the Gal­lus-Thea­ter. Actions along the rou­te of the death march con­vey its spa­ti­al dimen­si­ons to the public.

Sin­ce 2013, the Office of the Mayor in Char­ge of Cul­tu­re and Sci­ence of the City of Frank­furt has orga­ni­zed three artis­tic actions revol­ving around the con­cen­tra­ti­on camp once exis­ting in the Gal­lus district.

Visits from for­ced labou­rers and for­mer con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inmates

The Tri­umph-Adler works coun­cil and the aut­hors Kai­ser and Knorn joi­ned in an effort to get the City of Frank­furt to invi­te sur­vi­vors to visit. Ulti­mate­ly it was the com­mit­tee “Aus­ge­grenz­te Opfer” (“Ost­ra­ci­zed Vic­tims”) that orga­ni­zed and finan­ced the visit. In Decem­ber 1993, nine sur­vi­vors came to Frank­furt from Poland.

The visits were extre­me­ly moving for the old men from Poland and their hosts. Friendships evol­ved. The pro­gram­mes also inclu­ded dis­cus­sions in schools and public events. The­re were several visits from sur­vi­vors over the years that followed.

“When I look back over my life today, I find that the inju­ries to my soul have never hea­led com­ple­te­ly, des­pi­te all my efforts to attain normality.”

Zyg­munt Świstak, “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp survivor
in: Joan­na Skibins­ka, Die letz­ten Zeu­gen: Gesprä­che mit Über­le­ben­den des KZ-Außen­la­gers “Katz­bach” in den Adler­wer­ken Frank­furt am Main , p. 161

Visits from sur­vi­vors, 1997
Front row l. to r.: Else Grom­ball, Kajetan Kosiń­ski, Gise­la Hand, Anna Szc­zy­plew­s­ka-Görtz, Bea­ta Kum­a­row, Frau Madej, Sta­nisław Madej, Jan Kozłow­ski, J.H. Kil­ka, Lothar Rei­nin­ger, Ulla Diek­mann – back row l. to r.: Andrzej Cies­lin­ski (son of Jan Cies­lin­ski), Rolf Hei­ne­mann, Die­ter Bahn­dorf, Heinz Mey­er, Andrzej Bran­ecki, Rys­zard Olek, Fried­rich Raden­bach, Hen­ning Kühn
LAGG e.V.; pho­to: Kar­lo Müller

Sites of remembrance

Remem­bran­ce of cri­mes needs visi­ble signs. For near­ly 50 years, the­re was not­hing to remem­ber the “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp or the mur­de­red inma­tes by. It was not until the mid-1980s that the public began to learn about the sites of the cri­mes. Various actions have cal­led atten­ti­on to them. Citi­zens’ initia­ti­ves have been respon­si­ble for erec­ting com­me­mo­ra­ti­ve mar­kers and sites.

Reco­gni­ti­on and compensation 

Reco­gni­ti­on and compensation

From around 1990 onwards, initia­ti­ves asked ever lou­der ques­ti­ons about industry’s respon­si­bi­li­ty for the cri­mes com­mit­ted during the Nazi peri­od. Deman­ds were made for com­pen­sa­ti­on for the for­ced labour per­for­med. Ger­man com­pa­nies were sued in the U.S. Public pres­su­re grew so strong that insti­tu­ti­ons and com­pa­nies slow­ly began to seek com­pro­mi­ses. Final­ly, in the year 2000, the Ger­man par­lia­ment pas­sed a reso­lu­ti­on to estab­lish the foun­da­ti­on “Remem­bran­ce, Respon­si­bi­li­ty and Future”. This orga­niz­a­ti­on collects money from pri­va­te Ger­man enter­pri­ses to enab­le pay­ments to sur­vi­vors. Many for­mer for­ced labou­rers began to recei­ve a bit of com­pen­sa­ti­on. Nevertheless the com­pa­nies never took direct respon­si­bi­li­ty for their invol­ve­ment in the crimes.


Invi­ta­ti­ons and mee­tings with school clas­ses give the sur­vi­vors the fee­ling of being heard in Ger­ma­ny. During their visits to Frank­furt, a num­ber of the “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp sur­vi­vors took part in demons­tra­ti­ons. Others remai­ned cau­tious. For all of them, public reco­gni­ti­on of the injus­ti­ce they were sub­jec­ted to is more important than money.

They dis­tin­guish very clear­ly bet­ween the Ger­mans they join in pro­test with and tho­se respon­si­ble for the crimes.

Andrzej Bran­ecki in con­ver­sa­ti­on, Frank­furt 2009
Pho­to: Maciej Rusinek

Com­pen­sa­ti­on for survivors

The Adler­wer­ke works coun­cil and the LAGG asso­cia­ti­on con­ta­c­ted “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp sur­vi­vors. Ernst Kai­ser and Micha­el Knorn had found out the addres­ses during their rese­arch. In late 1993, ele­ven for­mer inma­tes came to Frank­furt on invi­ta­ti­on from the city. It was then that LAGG publicly deman­ded compensation.

Adler­wer­ke employees made dona­ti­ons to make sym­bo­lic com­pen­sa­ti­on pay­ments pos­si­ble. A dona­ti­on from the Phil­ipp Holz­mann con­struc­tion com­pa­ny (co-owner of the Adler­wer­ke for a brief peri­od) and the Frank­furt Jugend­ring as well as indi­vi­du­als bols­te­red the avail­ab­le funds. In 1997, 5,500 deutsch­marks were trans­fer­red to each sur­vi­vor. It was a sym­bo­lic sum. In 1998, the Dresd­ner Bank was per­sua­ded to pay 8,000 deutsch­marks to each of the ele­ven sur­vi­ving for­mer “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes known at the time.

“Emer­gen­cy aid” for for­ced labourers

Sin­ce about 1980 the­re have been initia­ti­ves for the remem­bran­ce of for­ced labou­rers in Frank­furt. Bet­ween 1941 and 1945, they num­be­red some 50,000. In the year 2000, the city coun­cil assem­bly adop­ted a reso­lu­ti­on to pay “emer­gen­cy aid” in the amount of appro­xi­mate­ly 1,000 euros to each for­mer for­ced labou­rer. The rese­arch to deter­mi­ne who was eli­gi­ble took several years. The pay­ments got under­way in 2000. Several for­mer for­ced labou­rers visi­ted Frank­furt in this con­text. The last group came from Bela­rus in 2007.

The owners’ responsibility

In 1993, the Adler­wer­ke works coun­cil and the LAGG asso­cia­ti­on call on Tri­umph-Adler and the Dresd­ner Bank to pay ele­ven sur­vi­ving con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes’ ade­qua­te com­pen­sa­ti­on. From 1939 onwards, the chair­man of the company’s super­vi­so­ry board had come from the Dresd­ner Bank. The lat­ter was also a majo­ri­ty share­hol­der of the Adler­wer­ke after 1945.

A demons­tra­ti­on in 1995 ends with the deli­very of an open let­ter to the Dresd­ner Bank. Howe­ver, the bank denies bea­ring any spe­ci­fic responsibility.

In July 1998, the Dresd­ner Bank pays tho­se of the for­mer Adler­wer­ke con­cen­tra­ti­on camp’s for­mer inma­tes still ali­ve at the time a total of 80,000 deutsch­marks. The bank repre­sen­ta­ti­ves insist that the money is not com­pen­sa­ti­on but “huma­ni­ta­ri­an aid”. They refu­se to ack­now­ledge the bank’s share of the blame.

“I would like to empha­si­ze that I did not demand anything the­re. It was uni­on peop­le who deman­ded repa­ra­ti­on for our slave labour. I would not have men­tio­ned anything of the kind in any of my spee­ches. I even said: ‘We come here not as sup­pli­cants to ask for some­thing …’ Becau­se we didn’t want to. That’s why the LAGG fought that fight.

Rather, I thought about what form of com­pen­sa­ti­on the­re can even be when you’ve lost your fami­ly, your home, your huma­ni­ty, and been trea­ted like a slave, like scum.”

Wla­dys­law Jaro­cki, “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp survivor
in: Joan­na Skibins­ka, Die letz­ten Zeu­gen: Gesprä­che mit Über­le­ben­den des KZ-Außen­la­gers “Katz­bach” in den Adler­wer­ken Frank­furt am Main , pp. 92/93

“No, I didn’t go to Frank­furt. I don’t like demons­tra­ti­ons. But after­wards I got 8,000 deutsch­marks from the Dresd­ner Bank … By the way, that amount was sub­trac­ted from the compensation.”

Kajetan Kosin­ski, “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp survivor
in: Joan­na Skibins­ka, Die letz­ten Zeu­gen: Gesprä­che mit Über­le­ben­den des KZ-Außen­la­gers “Katz­bach” in den Adler­wer­ken Frank­furt am Main , p. 110



After 1945, the Adler­wer­ke manu­fac­tu­red two-whee­led vehi­cles and office machi­nes. Appro­xi­mate­ly 3,000 per­sons worked here. The com­pa­ny chan­ged hands several times. Around 1990, “Tri­umph Adler” owned the Oli­vet­ti office machi­ne com­pa­ny. At that time, the­re were still some 600 jobs. Howe­ver, spe­cu­la­ti­on with real esta­te pro­ved more pro­fi­ta­ble for the capi­tal owners than pro­duc­tion. The fac­to­ry buil­dings were sold and the fac­to­ry clo­sed. Whe­re the “Adler” buil­dings once spread out over many kilo­me­tres in the Gal­lus working-class district the­re are now housing esta­tes and office buildings.

The works coun­cil and the work­for­ce began pro­tes­ting the job cuts and the com­ple­te shut­down of Tri­umph-Adler in 1980. Their suc­ces­ses would not last.

From around 1960 onwards, the Gal­lus district was shaped by the immi­gra­ti­on of “guest workers”. The indus­try nee­ded labou­rers. It was not long befo­re the district was as diver­se as the Adler work­for­ce. But it also long ran­ked as a social hotspot.

Life and Work in Gal­lus and Gries­heim: The LAGG association

The LAGG asso­cia­ti­on is foun­ded by TA Tri­umph-Adler com­pa­ny employees in 1992 as a self-help pro­ject. It first suc­cess is to secu­re com­pa­ny housing for the ten­ants in Bin­gels­weg in the Gries­heim district.

Tri­umph-Adler has sold the flats belon­ging to the com­pa­ny and the “Adler­wer­ke” public limi­ted com­pa­ny in a sin­gle packa­ge. By exer­ting poli­ti­cal pres­su­re, the LAGG enab­les the purcha­se of the esta­te with 42 flats by the ten­ants and LAGG.

Befo­re shut­ting down the Adler­wer­ke, Tri­umph-Adler cuts social bene­fits. LAGG takes over the ope­ra­ti­on of the cafe­te­ria and the fac­to­ry bus for non-resi­dent employees (among other ser­vices) for several years. It also orga­ni­zes fur­ther trai­ning for employees and founds an employ­ment association.

Sin­ce its incep­ti­on, LAGG has play­ed a decisi­ve role in the strugg­le for the reas­sess­ment of, com­pen­sa­ti­on for, and remem­bran­ce of the atro­ci­ties com­mit­ted in the Adlerwerke’s Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp.


The Gal­lus district evol­ved around 1900 as an indus­tri­al loca­ti­on whe­re fac­to­ry and rail­way workers lived. They had come to Frank­furt from the sur­roun­ding regi­ons. The district is cha­rac­te­ri­zed by migra­ti­on to this day. Star­ting in the 1960s, incre­a­sing num­bers of workers came from Ita­ly, Spain, Greece, and Tur­key. Until into the 1970s, the­se “guest workers” often lived in collec­ti­ve accom­mo­da­ti­ons. They remai­ned in com­mu­nities that spo­ke their nati­ve lan­guage, hard­ly ent­e­ring into con­ta­ct with other groups. The social wel­fa­re office and the church­es orga­ni­zed care ser­vices. The Ger­man government expec­ted the “guest workers” to return to their coun­tries of ori­gin when they were no lon­ger nee­ded on the labour mar­ket. Most Ger­mans kept a distance or were actively xenophobic.

In the poli­ti­cal strug­gles for work and housing, the immi­grants play­ed an ever grea­ter role. In 1981 the­re was a “for­eig­ners’ list” in the Adler­wer­ke works coun­cil elec­tion. Cul­tu­ral acti­vi­ties, church­es, and child­ca­re beca­me pla­ces of encoun­ter. Today the term “for­eig­ner” is no lon­ger appro­pria­te. The Gal­lus district thri­ves on the diver­si­ty of its residents.

Gal­lus Cent­re and Gal­lus Theatre

Around 1970, the Gal­lus was shaped pri­ma­ri­ly by labour in indus­tri­al enter­pri­ses. Many migrant workers lived here. In 1973, left-wing stu­dents and “guest workers” foun­ded the “Inter­na­tio­na­les Soli­da­ri­täts­zen­trum” (Inter­na­tio­nal Soli­da­ri­ty Cent­re). Two years later it went into ope­ra­ti­on in a work­shop space at Krifte­ler Stras­se 55. Abo­ve all “for­eign” teens and child­ren gathe­red at this “Gal­lus­zen­trum”, as it was cal­led for short. In 1978, the “tea­tro sici­lia­no” deve­lo­ped out of edu­ca­tio­nal work. It was the first “guest worker” theat­re group in the then Federal Repu­blic of Ger­ma­ny. The group soon cal­led its­elf “I Macap” and beca­me inter­na­tio­nal­ly successful.

After several years, the “tea­tro sici­lia­no” dis­ban­ded. Some of tho­se acti­ve in it beca­me pro­fes­sio­nal actors; others foun­ded shops or restau­rants. The Gal­lus­zen­trum split into two insti­tu­ti­ons: The Gal­lus-Thea­ter beca­me an important sta­ge for free theat­re groups and the old Gal­lus­zen­trum devo­ted its­elf to media edu­ca­ti­on work with young people.

Pro­tests against the Adler­wer­ke shutdown

Again and again, pro­tests pre­vent the factory’s shut­down. In a six-week strike, the work­for­ce once again pre­vails in 1991. Nevertheless, the fac­to­ry faci­li­ties in the old Adler­wer­ke are aban­do­ned. Fac­to­ry ope­ra­ti­ons con­ti­nue only in Griesheim—with half the work­for­ce. Final­ly, in 1998 Tri­umph-Adler ends the pro­duc­tion of office machi­nes, in which around 100 employees were still working. The Frank­furt fac­to­ry is thus clo­sed once and for all.

The labour dis­pu­te hel­ps a lar­ge pro­por­ti­on of the employees to make the tran­si­ti­on to reti­re­ment. For many other Adler employees, howe­ver, the­re are few oppor­tu­nities on the labour market.

The strugg­le for jobs is clo­se­ly asso­cia­ted with the expo­sure of the histo­ry of “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp. The works coun­cil publicly decries the respon­si­bi­li­ty of the com­pa­ny manage­ment and the Dresd­ner Bank as the Adlerwerke’s majo­ri­ty shareholder.

Legal proceedings 

Pro­se­cu­ti­on for the cri­mes com­mit­ted in the Adlerwerke

U.S. Army jurists began inves­ti­ga­ting the cri­mes com­mit­ted in the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp on 22 July 1945.

The judi­cial aut­ho­ri­ties of the Federal Repu­blic of Ger­ma­ny con­ti­nued inqui­ries into the actions of the Adler­wer­ke com­pa­ny manage­ment, the SS camp com­mand, and the guard units until the 1990s. The camp had been dis­sol­ved in gre­at has­te in March 1945. The­re were accord­in­gly few writ­ten docu­ments. That made it dif­fi­cult for the Ame­ri­can and later the Ger­man inves­ti­ga­tors to deter­mi­ne the names of the SS men sta­tio­ned at the Katz­bach camp.

The SS camp com­mand and the Adler­wer­ke com­pa­ny manage­ment went unpunished.

SS camp command

Alrea­dy the Ame­ri­can inves­ti­ga­tors had iden­ti­fied camp com­man­dant Erich Franz as the per­son chief­ly respon­si­ble for the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp. Becau­se his whe­rea­bouts were unknown, they were unab­le to char­ge him with war cri­mes. The Hes­si­an Sta­te Cri­mi­nal Inves­ti­ga­ti­ons Office final­ly tra­cked Franz down in Vien­na in 1963. The case was then tur­ned over to the Aus­tri­an aut­ho­ri­ties. They dis­con­ti­nued the pro­cee­dings in Febru­a­ry 1967 becau­se several of the key wit­nes­ses were no lon­ger alive.

The depu­ty camp com­man­der SS Ober­schar­füh­rer Emil Lend­zi­an went under­ground. Neit­her the Ame­ri­can nor the Ger­man inves­ti­ga­tors were able to loca­te him. He died in 1956 befo­re the Hes­si­an Sta­te Cri­mi­nal Inves­ti­ga­ti­ons Office was able to learn his whereabouts.

Not a sin­gle mem­ber of the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp com­mand had to ans­wer for the cri­mes com­mit­ted in the camp.

SS guard units

The Ame­ri­can inves­ti­ga­tors’ efforts to find the for­mer SS guards were not crow­ned with suc­cess. Star­ting in 1959, the Hes­si­an Sta­te Cri­mi­nal Inves­ti­ga­ti­ons Office pur­sued pro­cee­dings against the guards Otto Rog­ge, Karl Neu­mann, Artur Malz­keit, Wer­ner Fischer, Som­mer, and Soko­low­sky for their cri­mes in the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp and on the death march to Hün­feld. It rare­ly pro­ved pos­si­ble to find the suspects. Not a sin­gle one of them was sen­ten­ced. Mar­tin Weiss was con­vic­ted of mur­der on two counts. He was tra­cked down in his home­town in Roma­nia in 1959. Howe­ver, the Ger­man judi­cia­ry did not request his extradition.

Only the two auxi­li­a­ry guards Hein­rich Kie­fer and Karl Faust were char­ged with mis­hand­ling inma­tes; in 1946 and 1947 courts in Frank­furt sen­ten­ced them to pri­son terms of bet­ween seven mon­ths and three years.


In the ear­ly years, for­mer inma­tes mana­ged to initia­te cri­mi­nal inves­ti­ga­ti­on pro­ce­du­res. Ita­li­an mili­ta­ry internees were the first to report on the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp to Ame­ri­can inves­ti­ga­tors. After their libe­ra­ti­on, most of the for­ced labou­rers and con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes had tried to return to their home coun­tries. They were no lon­ger in Frankfurt.

A num­ber of the sur­vi­vors were able to sup­port the pro­cee­dings by giving tes­ti­mo­ny or filing com­p­laints. The for­mer inma­tes Johann Kopec and Gott­lieb Sturm had remai­ned in the vicini­ty of Frank­furt. They hel­ped dis­in­ter the bodies of the per­sons mur­de­red on the death march.

Sur­vi­vors incri­mi­na­ted SS guards, the SS camp com­mand, and indi­vi­du­al Adler­wer­ke fore­men with their tes­ti­mo­ny. They also ack­now­led­ged the good deeds and help pro­vi­ded by indi­vi­du­al com­pa­ny employees.


Inves­ti­ga­tors lear­ned about the explo­ita­ti­on of for­ced labou­rers at the Adler­wer­ke from the for­mer Ita­li­an mili­ta­ry internee Gino Righi. He gave them the names of nine com­pa­ny employees who had been invol­ved in the labour deploy­ment acti­vi­ties. They were arres­ted by the U.S. Army in late July 1945. Among them were the fac­to­ry secu­ri­ty offi­cer Georg Lip­tau and the head of the “alle­gi­an­ce” office Ernst Wer­ner Sporkhorst. Howe­ver, neit­her of them was clas­si­fied as a per­pe­tra­tor and both were released from cus­to­dy in Sep­tem­ber 1945. They were heard as witnesses.

The inves­ti­ga­ti­ons shed light on board chair­man Ernst Hage­mei­er and the for­mer head of per­son­nel and aut­ho­ri­zed signa­to­ry Franz Engelmann’s share of the bla­me for the for­ced labou­rers’ life-threa­tening situa­ti­on and the cri­mes com­mit­ted at the Katz­bach camp. The U.S. Army arres­ted both men on 3 August 1945. They both dis­avo­wed any bla­me and the char­ges against them were even­tual­ly dis­mis­sed. In the sub­se­quent den­azi­fi­ca­ti­on pro­cee­dings, Hage­mei­er was clas­si­fied as a “Mit­läu­fer” (“fol­lower”). Engel­mann was arrai­gned as a major offen­der, but the case was ulti­mate­ly abandoned.

Com­pa­ny employees

After the libe­ra­ti­on, sur­vi­vors of the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp repor­ted several Adler­wer­ke employees to the U.S. Army. Nine employees were arres­ted in late July 1945, among them the “labour deploy­ment engi­neer” Vik­tor Heit­lin­ger. He had nego­tia­ted with the SS and selec­ted 1,000 Dach­au con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes for labour in Frank­furt. Howe­ver, the Ame­ri­can inves­ti­ga­tors were con­cen­tra­ting on the camp com­mand. Heit­lin­ger and two other com­pa­ny employees were the­re­fo­re ran­ked not as per­pe­tra­tors but as wit­nes­ses. Heit­lin­ger was released from cus­to­dy in Sep­tem­ber 1945.

In the frame­work of “den­azi­fi­ca­ti­on”, all Ger­mans were requi­red to appe­ar befo­re a spe­cial court known as a “Spruch­kam­mer”. Serious alle­ga­ti­ons were made against Heit­lin­ger. In May 1947, 24 Adler­wer­ke employees had signed a decla­ra­ti­on. They repor­ted that he had mistrea­ted and bea­ten for­eign workers and pri­so­ners of war. They had also wit­nessed Heit­lin­ger describ­ing hims­elf as an “aggres­si­ve Nazi”.

Yet the­re were also exo­ne­ra­ti­ve state­ments. The for­mer inma­te Gott­lieb Sturm testi­fied that Heit­lin­ger had given food to inma­tes. On 30 April 1949, the mana­ger was clas­si­fied as a “Mit­läu­fer” (“fol­lower”). The Ame­ri­can aut­ho­ri­ties infor­med the Polish judi­cia­ry about the char­ges against gene­ral direc­tor Ernst Hage­mei­er and other respon­si­ble per­sons in the Adler­wer­ke. Only the worker Karl Grass was tur­ned over to Poland. He was accu­sed of having mistrea­ted Polish for­ced labou­rers. On 21 Decem­ber 1949 he was com­mit­ted to three years’ impr­i­son­ment in War­saw. He was released after two years.

The­me box: Ernst Hage­mei­er (1888–1966) Mana­ger in the age of the eco­no­mic miracle 

Den­azi­fi­ca­ti­on pro­cee­dings, 1947/48

In Novem­ber 1947, the seni­or public prosecutor’s office in Frank­furt drop­ped its inves­ti­ga­ti­ons into Ernst Hage­mei­er. He had often exhi­bi­ted “a huma­ni­ta­ri­an under­stan­ding of the inma­tes’ situation”.

Inde­pendent­ly of that decisi­on, den­azi­fi­ca­ti­on pro­cee­dings against him were initia­ted bare­ly two mon­ths later. His lawy­er had pre­pa­red tho­rough­ly and was able to sub­mit some 46 writ­ten tes­ti­mo­nies to the court. The wit­nes­ses for the defence inclu­ded aut­ho­ri­zed Adler­wer­ke signa­to­ries, simp­le employees, a Gesta­po offi­cer, the chair­man of the works coun­cil, and even a dean. They all unders­cored Hagemeier’s rejec­tion of Nazi ideo­lo­gy and the Nazi par­ty NSDAP, his efforts to ensu­re the good care of the for­ced labou­rers, and his loyal­ty towards Jewish employees. Incri­mi­na­ting wit­ness state­ments hard­ly play­ed a role in the ver­dict. He was clas­si­fied as a “Mit­läu­fer” (“fol­lower”).

Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main, inv. S2, no. 2216
B/w pho­to, later colouration

Intern­ment camp (1946/47)

Ernst Hage­mei­er plan­ned to recon­struct the Adler­wer­ke. On 3 August 1945, howe­ver, he was arres­ted by the U.S. mili­ta­ry admi­nis­tra­ti­on. Fol­lowing initi­al inter­ro­ga­ti­ons he was trans­fer­red to the intern­ment camp for suspec­ted war cri­mi­nals in Dach­au in August 1946. He staun­ch­ly denied all respon­si­bi­li­ty for the mal­tre­at­ment of for­ced labours. In 1947, the U.S. mili­ta­ry admi­nis­tra­ti­on orde­red that only more major cases with clear evi­dence were to be pur­sued fur­ther. That hel­ped Hagemeier.

He was released from the intern­ment camp on 17 April 1947. In the court pro­cee­dings that would fol­low, his dischar­ge papers with the wor­d­ing “Clea­red by War Cri­mes” ser­ved him as an important docu­ment in his exo­nera­ti­on strategy.

Chair­man of the board of direc­tors after 1947

No soo­ner had he been released in 1947 than Ernst Hage­mei­er retur­ned to the Adler­wer­ke board of direc­tors. The­re he pushed for chan­ges in the company’s pro­duct ran­ge. The Adler­wer­ke aban­do­ned auto­mo­bi­le pro­duc­tion and began manu­fac­tu­ring bicy­cles, motor­cy­cles, office machi­nes, and machi­ne tools ins­tead. From the pre­sent-day per­spec­ti­ve it was a bad eco­no­mic decision.

In ear­ly 1953, Hage­mei­er was awar­ded the Order of Merit of the Federal Repu­blic of Ger­ma­ny for his achie­ve­ments in the rebuil­ding of the Hes­si­an eco­no­my. At his own request, Hage­mei­er resi­gned from his post as chair­man of the board of direc­tors in 1955. Two years later, the Adler­wer­ke was taken over by the Grun­dig company.