Otto and Elise Hampel

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Elise and Otto Hampel

Otto and Elise Hampel were a working class couple who created a simple method of protest against Nazism in Berlin during the early years of World War II. They wrote 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). The story was filmed in 2016 as Alone in Berlin.

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"

The couple married in 1935.[2] After learning that Elise's brother had been killed in action, the Hampels 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 the couple.[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] They were both decapitated (guillotined) on 8 April 1943 in the Plötzensee Prison, Berlin.[5]


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

Their life was 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.[6] The English language 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.[7]

There have been five screen adaptations of the novel: Jeder stirbt für sich allein, directed by Falk Harnack in West Germany in 1962;[8] a television miniseries directed by Hans-Joachim Kasprzik[9] 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,[10], in which Hildegard Knef, who won the award for best actress at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, portrayed "Anna Quangel".[11] It was made into a three-part television miniseries in the Czech Republic in 2004, directed by Dušan Klein [cs].[12] A 2016 film Alone in Berlin, starring Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson as Anna and Otto, was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Otto Hermann Hampel". German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Elise Hampel". German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  3. ^ Johannes Groschupf, "Das Ehepaar Hampel allein in Berlin" (pg. 2) Die Zeit, 16 April 2011; retrieved 8 March 2012. (in German)
  4. ^ German version,; retrieved 5 March 2012.(in German)
  5. ^ Andreas Mix (2011-05-14). "Das Fallbeil zerschlug auch ihre Ehe". Berliner Zeitung (in German) (112, Magazin). p. 8.
  6. ^ Liesel Schillinger, "Postcards from the Edge" The New York Times, 27 February 2009; retrieved 5 March 2012.
  7. ^ See the appendix in the English language version of the book published by Melville House Publishing.
  8. ^ "Programm vom Donnerstag, dem 19. Juli 1962",; retrieved 4 March 2012. (in German)
  9. ^ "Mein Vater Erwin Geschonneck"; retrieved 4 March 2012.(in German)
  10. ^ Everyone Dies Alone; retrieved 4 March 2012.
  11. ^ Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, 1976,; retrieved 5 March 2012
  12. ^ "Dobro a zlo u Dušana Kleina" Hospodářské Noviny, 16 February 2004; retrieved 4 March 2012. (in Czech)