Elisabeth Schumacher

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Elisabeth Schumacher

Elisabeth Schumacher (née Hohenemser; April 28, 1904 – December 22, 1942) was an artist and resistance fighter during the Third Reich. She belonged to the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle) resistance group.


Elisabeth was born in Darmstadt to the engineer Fritz Hohenemser, who came from a Jewish family of bankers from Frankfurt am Main. Her mother was from a Christian family and came from Meiningen. In 1914, the family moved from Strasbourg (then part of Germany) to Frankfurt am Main. Shortly thereafter, Fritz Hohenemser died in action in the First World War.[1] Elisabeth then moved to Meiningen with her mother and siblings.

Living in Frankfurt again in 1921, she attended the School of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) in Offenbach on and off until 1925. She worked at a crafts studio until 1928, so that she could later study art in Berlin, which she did until 1933. After completing her studies, she was active at the German Labour Museum (Deutsches Arbeitsmuseum). Owing to the Nuremberg Laws, she was deemed to be a "half-Jew" ("Halbjüdin"), and therefore could not expect to hold a steady job, but could only freelance.[1]

Resistance activities[edit]

In 1934, Elisabeth Hohenemser married the sculptor Kurt Schumacher, a staunch Communist. The couple became part of the circle of friends that included Libertas and Harro Schulze-Boysen, and Mildred and Arvid Harnack, which the Gestapo later dubbed the "Red Orchestra" (Rote Kapelle). The group was active giving out handbills and documenting the Nazi régime's crimes.

Schumacher wanted to protect Jewish relatives from deportation. Moreover, she believed there were possibilities of negotiating peace with the Soviet Union. Early in 1941, the Schumachers were involved in the attempt to warn the Soviet Union by wireless about the forthcoming German invasion (Operation Barbarossa). In August 1942, they took in the Communist Albert Hößler (or Hoessler), who had lived in the Soviet Union since the 1930s.[2] He parachuted into Germany to support the resistance group's transmission of information to the Soviet Union.

Arrest and death[edit]

Memorial plaque for Elisabeth-Schumacher in Frankfurt

In 1942, after a wireless message was decoded, many members of the Red Orchestra were arrested. On 12 September of that year, Schumacher was arrested at her flat. Like her husband, she was sentenced to death on 19 December 1942 at the Reichskriegsgericht ("Reich Military Tribunal") for "conspiracy to commit high treason", espionage, and other political crimes. Schumacher was beheaded on 22 December 1942 at Plötzensee Prison, forty-five minutes after her husband was hanged there.[1]

Quotes from Elisabeth Schumacher[edit]

"This war takes on ever crazier forms."[3]
— March 1941
"There is a dreadful amount of hopelessness and misery here at every turn. Typhus has broken out in the Jewish barracks."[4]
— from a letter to her family, 1941

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Short biography of Elisabeth Schumacher German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved March 28, 2010
  2. ^ Adam, Ursula (1998). Lexikon des Widerstandes, 1933-1945. C.H.Beck. p. 179. ISBN 978-3-406-43861-5.
  3. ^ Original German: Dieser Krieg nimmt immer wahnwitzigere Formen an.
  4. ^ Original German: Es gibt hier entsetzlich viel Trostlosigkeit und Elend auf Schritt und Tritt. Im Judenlager ist Flecktyphus ausgebrochen.