Hans Beimler (politician)

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Hans Beimler
Stamps of Germany (DDR) 1966, MiNr 1198.jpg
Image of Hans Beimler on 1966 GDR stamp
Personal details
Born2 July 1895
Munich, German Empire
Died1 December 1936 (aged 41)
Madrid, Spain
Cause of deathKilled in action (gunshot wound to the back)
Political partyCommunist Party of Germany
Spouse(s)Magdalene Müller (1919–1928)
Centa Dengler (1930–1936)
ChildrenRosemarie Beimler-Schober (1919)
Johann Beimler (1921)
  • Rosina Beimler (mother)

Hans Beimler (2 July 1895 – 1 December 1936) was a trade unionist, Communist Party official, deputy in the 1933 Reichstag, an outspoken opponent of the Nazis and a volunteer in the international brigades fighting for the Spanish Republic.[1]

Early life[edit]

Johannes Baptist Beimler was born on 2 July 1895 in Munich to Rosina Beimler, an unmarried cook and a farm worker. As a three-week-old infant, he was sent to the village of Waldthurn in the Oberpfalz region of Northeastern Bavaria to be raised by his maternal grandparents.[2] His grandfather had a locksmith's business and Beimler followed the family tradition into this trade. In 1913 he joined the German Metal Workers Union (DMV). In 1914, he was conscripted and joined the Kaiserliche Marine serving on minesweepers and rising eventually to the rank of "Mate". In 1917 he was awarded the Iron Cross. In 1918 took part in the November Revolution at Cuxhaven. Returning to Munich, Beimler joined the Spartacus League and in the chaotic period following the armistice, during which there were several revolutionary governments in Germany, he supported the Munich Soviet ("Räterepublik").
In July 1919 Beimler married Magdalene Müller in Hamburg with whom he had a daughter, Rosemarie (1919), and (after moving back to Bavaria) a son, Johann (1921). Following a series of Beimler's extramarital infidelities, Magdalene committed suicide in 1928.[3] In 1930 Beimler married Centa Dengler, who worked at the KPD's Neue Zeitung in Munich.

Political career[edit]

After the overthrow of the Munich Soviet ("Räterepublik") by the right-wing Freikorps, Beimler settled in Munich where he joined the Communist Party and became chairman of the local branch in the Munich suburb of Nymphenburg. In 1921 he was arrested for attempting to sabotage troop transports and was jailed for 2 years, just months after the birth of their second child. After his release, he worked in the locomotive factory of Krauß & Co, where he became a trade union leader. In 1925 he was nominated by the congress of Munich trade unions to represent them in the first delegation of German workers to visit the Soviet Union.

In 1928 the KPD requested him to re-organize the party in Augsburg in Southern Bavaria, where he was elected to the City Council (Stadtsrat).[4] A fervent Communist and anti-Nazi, he was elected as a KPD deputy to the Reichstag in the German federal election in July 1932. In the same year he was elected to the Bavarian Landestag and succeeded Albert Buchmann as leader of the KPD in Southern Bavaria.[5]
In February 1933, during the election campaign for the Reichstag, Beimler addressed the crowd at the last public meeting the KPD were able to hold at Circus Krone in Munich. With the battle cry "We shall all meet again at Dachau!" he rallied the crowd to resist the growing Nazi threat, referencing one of the few victories the Red Army of the Munich Soviet ("Räterepublik") had over the right-wing Freikorps at Dachau in 1919.[6][7]

Internment in Dachau[edit]

Hitler came to power in January 1933 and with the Reichstag Fire Decree for the Protection of People and State, one month later, began interning political rivals, including KPD and SPD members, in concentration camps. Beimler and his wife Centa were both arrested in April 1933 and never saw each other again. Already known as an outspoken and defiant anti-Nazi voice in the Reichstag, Beimler and his party colleagues were subjected to two weeks of beatings at the Munich police Praesidium on Ettstraße before being sent to Dachau concentration camp, where the SS guards taunted him with his Dachau remark made ten weeks prior.[7][8] Hilmar Wäckerle, Dachau's first camp commandant, boasted that he would kill Beimler himself. Indeed, several Communist prisoners of Jewish heritage had already been murdered under his regime. However, with the suspicious deaths of Dachau prisoners[9] already under investigation,[10] Wäckerle decided that, with sufficient physical and mental abuse, Beimler could be encouraged to commit suicide.[7] After four weeks, however, in May 1933 Beimler managed to escape, possibly with the help of some renegade camp guards.[7][11] He managed to cross into Czechoslovakia and on to the Soviet Union.

His wife, Centa, was trapped in Nazi Germany and was imprisoned in Moringen women's concentration camp and other prisons until 1945.[12] His children Rosi and Hansi were taken in by relatives in the Oberpfalz until Beimler organized their escape to the Soviet Union in 1934.[13]

Beimler wrote an account of his experiences at Dachau which appeared in the Soviet Union in August 1933: Im Mörderlager Dachau: Vier Wochen unter den braunen Banditen.[14][7] It was one of the first published accounts of life inside a Nazi concentration camp and was translated into several languages, including English, Spanish, French and Yiddish. In 1934, Germany revoked Beimler's citizenship.[15]

Spanish Civil War[edit]

After short periods in France and Switzerland, working for the International Red Aid (Rote Hilfe) organisation, Beimler arrived in Barcelona in August 1936 at the head of the first brigade of German anti-fascist volunteers, fighting alongside the Republican troops under the name "Thälmann's Centurians". He was subsequently appointed as commissar of all International Brigades supporting the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War. In November 1936, while helping to defend Madrid from the Nationalists, he was shot and fatally wounded during the Battle of Madrid. Rumours subsequently spread that he was shot from behind by an agent of the NKVD, the secret service of the USSR.[2][16][17]

Over 2 million people paid their respects as his body was transported from Madrid to Montjuïc Cemetery, Barcelona, where he was buried.[2]He was celebrated in a song of Ernst Busch (after a melody by Friedrich Silcher), which was then recorded by the radio station in Barcelona. The XI International Brigade was named in his honour.

Members of the Hans Beimler Battalion at the Guadalajara front in 1937

In Ernest Hemingway's novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, the American protagonist Robert Jordan meets with a German revolutionary, Hans, who is based on Beimler.[2]
A week after the fall of Barcelona in January 1939, the Nationalists desecrated the graves of Beimler and his adjutant Luis Schuster (aka Franz Vehlow), burned their corpses and leveled the graves.[17]

His son, Hans Beimler Jr. was arrested in Moscow in the NKVD Hitler Youth Conspiracy. He was later released, along with the son of Max Maddalena, another prominent Communist, and two others.[18]
His grandson Hans Beimler is a well-known American screenwriter.


Commemorative bust of Hans Beimler in Rostock

Hans Beimler was granted national hero status in the German Democratic Republic, with military divisions, ships, factories, schools and streets named in his honour.
The Freie Deutsche Jugend (FDJ), the Communist Party's youth movement, dedicated their paramilitary exercise tournament to him.[19]
His legend grew and he was even spoken of as a left-wing intellectual.[3]
In 1956 the GDR instituted the Hans Beimler Medal which was awarded to citizens who had fought for the Spanish Republic in the civil war.

Film and TV[edit]

  • Han Beimler: Comrade 4-part Mini-Series (1969) Dir:Rudi Kurz[20]
  • Spanien im Herzen – Hans Beimler und andere (1986) – 45 minutes – Dir:Karlheinz Mund[21]
  • Die Sprungdeckeluhr (1990) – DEFA – Dir:Gunter Friedrich[22]
  • Clash of Futures (Krieg der Träume) Episode 1: Hans Beimler (2014) – ARTE – Dir:Jan Peter, Frédéric Goupil[23]


  • Beevor, Antony (2006). The Battle for Spain. ISBN 9780143037651.
  • Simkin, John (2015). "Spartacus Educational: Hans Beimler". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  • "Memorial Sheet 9: Hans and Centa Beimler" (PDF). German Union of Anti-fascists (Augsburg branch). 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  • Beimler, Hans (2012). Im Mörderlager Dachau: Vier Wochen in den Händen der braunen Banditen (1933) (in German). Köln: PapyRossa Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8943-8480-7.
  • Wachsmann, Nikolaus (2015). KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps. London, UK: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-1-4087-0556-8.
  • "Hans Beimler Timeline" (PDF). PappyRossa Verlag Köln. 9 December 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2019.


  1. ^ McLellan, Josie (2004-10-07). AntiFascism and Memory in East Germany: Remembering the International Brigades 1945–1989. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 101. ISBN 9780199276264.
  2. ^ a b c d Baron, Bernhard M. (1 December 2016). "Antifaschistischer Freiheitskämpfer". Literatur Portal Bayern. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  3. ^ a b Völkl, Franz (3 December 2016). "Waldthurn enthüllt Gedenktafel für Widerstandskämpfer Hans Beimler". Onetz.de. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  4. ^ Völkl, Franz (25 November 2016). "Erinnerungen an Hans Beimler aus Waldthurn Kämpfer gegen die Nazis". Onetz.de. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  5. ^ Mühldorfer, Friedbert (11 July 2007). "Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD), 1919–1933/1945–1956". Historisches Lexikon Bayerns. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Der Schlacht um Dachau: Revolution einst und jetzt". Münchner Merkur. 10 April 2019. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Wachsmann, Nikolaus (2015). KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps. London, UK: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-1-4087-0556-8.
  8. ^ Beimler, Hans (2012). Im Mörderlager Dachau: Vier Wochen in den Händen der braunen Banditen (1933) (in German). Köln: PapyRossa Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8943-8480-7.
  9. ^ Beimler, Hans (2012). Im Mörderlager Dachau: Appendix: 50 Todesfälle in Dachau (1933) (in German). Köln: PapyRossa Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8943-8480-7.
  10. ^ Ryback, Timothy W. Hitler’s First Victims: The Quest for Justice, Vintage, 2015. p. 17
  11. ^ Ryback, Timothy W. Hitler's First Victims: The Quest for Justice, Vintage, 2015. p. 114,121,122
  12. ^ Distel, Barbara (1 January 2002). "Dachau and the Nazi Terror 1933–1945: In the shadow of heroes. Struggle and survival of Centa Beimler-Herker and Lina Haag p.143-178". Verlag Dachauer Hefte GmbH..
  13. ^ *"Hans Beimler Timeline" (PDF). PappyRossa Verlag Köln. 9 December 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  14. ^ Beimler, Hans (2012). Im Mörderlager Dachau: Vier Wochen in den Händen der braunen Banditen (1933) (in German). Köln: PapyRossa Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8943-8480-7.
  15. ^ "Memorial Sheet 9: Hans and Centa Beimler" (PDF). German Union of Anti-fascists, Augsburg. 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  16. ^ Scherrer, Lucien (10 April 2018). "Der mysteriöse Tod eines Helden". Neue Zuricher Zeitung. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  17. ^ a b Fisch, Dr. Peter (10 April 2009). "RotFuchs Issue 135, Readers Letters p30" (PDF). RotFuchs. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  18. ^ Hans Schafranek, Natalia Musienko, "The Fictitious 'Hitler-Jugend' of the Moscow NKVD" in: Barry McLoughlin, Kevin McDermott (Eds.), Stalin's Terror: High Politics and Mass Repression in the Soviet Union. Palgrave MacMillan (2003), pp. 217-218 ISBN 1-4039-0119-8. Retrieved December 1, 2011
  19. ^ FDJ (27 September 1977). "Hans Beimler Wettkämpfe der FDJ". Archived from the original on 2021-12-25. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  20. ^ Hans Beimler: Kamerad on IMDB.com
  21. ^ Spanien im Herzen – Hans Beimler und andere (1986)on IMDB.com
  22. ^ Die Sprungdeckeluhr (1990) on IMDB.com
  23. ^ Clash of Futures: 14 Diaries of the First World War (2014) on IMDB.com

External links[edit]