Otto and Elise Hampel

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Memorial plaque at the site of the Hampels' former residence, Amsterdamer Straße 10 in Berlin

Otto and Elise Hampel were a working-class couple who created a simple method of protest while living in Berlin during the early years of World War II. They composed postcards denouncing Hitler's government and left them in public places around the city. They were eventually caught, tried, and beheaded in Berlin's Plötzensee Prison in April 1943. Shortly after the end of the war, their Gestapo file was given to German novelist Hans Fallada, and their story inspired his 1947 novel translated into English and published in 2009 as Every Man Dies Alone (Alone in Berlin in the UK).

Life and resistance[edit]

One of the Hampels' postcards; in the middle is a postage stamp bearing Hitler's face, scrawled with the words "worker murderer"

Otto Hampel (June 21, 1897 – April 8, 1943) was born in Mühlbock, a suburb of Wehrau, now in Poland, but then part of Germany. He served in World War I and was later a factory worker.[1]

Elise Lemme (October 27, 1903 – April 8, 1943) was born in the Bismark area of Stendal. Her education lasted through elementary school only. She worked as a domestic and was a member of the National Socialist Women's League.[2]

The couple married in 1935.[2]

After learning that Elise's brother had been killed in action, the Hempels undertook efforts to encourage resistance against the Third Reich.[2] From September 1940 until their arrest in autumn 1942, they hand-wrote over 200 postcards, dropping them into mailboxes and leaving them in stairwells in Berlin, often near Wedding, where they lived. The postcards urged people to refuse to cooperate with the Nazis, to refrain from donating money, to refuse military service, and to overthrow Hitler.[2] Although nearly all the postcards were immediately brought to the Gestapo, it took two years for the Gestapo to find them.[3] The Hampels were denounced in autumn 1942 and were arrested.

Otto declared to the police that he was happy to be able to protest against Hitler and the Third Reich. At trial at the Volksgerichtshof, the Nazi "People's Court", the Hampels were convicted of Wehrkraftzersetzung and of "preparing for high treason".[4]


Their life is fictionalized in the Hans Fallada novel, where they are called Otto and Anna Quangel and it is their son who is killed, rather than the wife's brother.[5] The American version of the book published by Melville House Publishing includes an appendix containing some pages from the actual Gestapo file, including mug shots, signed confessions, police reports, and several of the actual postcards used in the protest.

There have been four screen adaptations of the novel: Jeder stirbt für sich allein, directed by Falk Harnack in West Germany in 1962;[6] a television miniseries directed by Hans-Joachim Kasprzik[7] and produced by DEFA in East Germany in 1970; a film version directed by Alfred Vohrer in 1975, released in English as Everyone Dies Alone in 1976;[8] and it was made into a three-part television miniseries in the Czech Republic in 2004, directed by Dušan Klein.[9] Hildegard Knef won an award for best actress for her portrayal of Anna Quangel.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biographies under "H": click on Hampel Otto Hermann German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved March 5, 2012
  2. ^ a b c d Biographies under "H": click on Hampel Elise German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved March 5, 2012
  3. ^ Johannes Groschupf, "Das Ehepaar Hampel allein in Berlin" Die Zeit (April 16, 2011), p. 2. Retrieved March 8, 2012 (German)
  4. ^ German version German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved March 5, 2012
  5. ^ Liesel schillinger, "Postcards from the Edge" The New York Times (February 27, 2009). Retrieved March 5, 2012
  6. ^ "Programm vom Donnerstag, dem 19. Juli 1962" TV Programme. Retrieved March 4, 2012 (German)
  7. ^ "Mein Vater Erwin Geschonneck" Retrieved March 4, 2012 (German)
  8. ^ "Everyone Dies Alone" Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 4, 2012
  9. ^ "Dobro a zlo u Dušana Kleina" Hospodářské Noviny (February 16, 2004). Retrieved March 4, 2012 (Czech)
  10. ^ Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, 1976 Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 5, 2012