BORUSSEUM remembers four brave women from Dortmund who resisted
The BOROSSEUM held a memorial event at SIGNAL IDUNA PARK to mark "Remembrance Day", which commemorates the liberation of the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz and the millions of victims of the Nazi regime. The theme on Thursday evening was "Women of Dortmund resisting against National Socialism".
The "Hansaplatz" room at SIGNAL IDUNA PARK was full. Three hundred people were in attendance – including the BVB executive board led by club president Dr. Reinhold Lunow. There was also a splash of Black & Yellow in the audience, but the evening was not about football. It was quiet at the stadium, with silent commemoration instead of loud cheers. "The Resistance existed, at Borsigplatz and elsewhere. And that's what we want to remember today," said Wilfried Harthan of the AG Tradition within the Fan and Support Department at BVB.
"They put themselves in danger, grave danger, often endangering their own lives, and they knew what awaited them if they were found out," historian Dr. Rolf Fischer said of the people who opposed National Socialism at the time. "Resistance came at great risk to one's own life and the safety of one's family." Charlotte Temming, Martha Gillessen, Johanna Melzer and Marga Spiegel were four brave women from Dortmund who took that risk. They remained steadfast and defied the regime. Two of them were involved in the conspiratorial work of the banned Communist Party; the other two, both Jews, were exposed to the racist persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazis.
"Look at them,
Who encourage war,
Look at them,
Who talk of heroism."
Those are the opening lines of the poem "Kriegshetzer" (Warmongers) by Charlotte Temming, who was doubly threatened as a Jew and a Communist. Part of the poem was read out at the commemorative event, as was a letter to her sister in which she described the dramatic circumstances in which she experienced the end of the war. Charlotte Temming had initially hidden in Dortmund to escape deportation to the East. She then almost fell into the hands of the Gestapo, who had been looking for her due to her involvement in an illegal resistance group that BVB groundsman Heinrich Czerkus and club member Franz Hippler had also joined. Temming eventually found shelter in Sauerland but later had to flee during a raid on the house she was in. Having returned to Dortmund, she hid in a cellar until the end of the war.
From 1944 onwards, her life was closely linked to that of Martha Gillessen, who was a member of Germany's Communist Party (KPD) and handed out leaflets as a staunch opponent of Hitler. She also fled to Sauerland and offered shelter to other persecuted persons, including Charlotte Temming. The latter wrote the following of Martha Gillessen, who was later arrested: "She discernibly carried out her resistance activities of her own initiative, but above all she helped a Jewish woman to escape. And she was not forgiven for this. She was insulted in the worst way, mistreated and ultimately brutally murdered. She found her final resting place at the Bittermark memorial – along with Heinrich Czerkus, Franz Hippler and her other comrades from the Dortmund resistance group."
Prepared to make sacrifices
Johanna Melzer was also a member of the KPD. She organised strikes and distributed leaflets, before she was arrested. "I live and fight for my beliefs and am also prepared to make big sacrifices for them," she wrote in a letter to her family from prison. Johanna Melzer had been sentenced to 15 years behind bars. After the war, she wrote a letter to the military authorities detailing the mistreatment she had suffered at Dortmund Steinwache.
Jewish woman Marga Spiegel lived with her family in a Judenhaus (a tenement building in which Jews had to live from 1939 onwards), before then moving to the Hoesch quarter. The Spiegel family was later hidden by farmers in the Münster region, where they lived under false names pretending to be people from Dortmund whose houses had been bombed. They were the only Jewish family from Dortmund to survive the war this way. There was also a reading from her book "Retter in der Nacht" (Saviour in the Night), in which she told her life story.
The readings by Kirstin Zeidler, Käthe Kraus and Charlotte Claaßen gave the women a voice and made for goosebumps in the audience. There was a musical accompaniment throughout the evening from Dr. Maik Hester and Peter Sturm, whose interpretations provided more moving moments. The evening finished with "Schließ Aug und Ohr für eine Weil" (Close your eyes and ears for a while), resistance fighter Sophie Scholl's favourite song.