Oskar Hippe

Selected Chapters From

...And Red Is The Colour Of Our Flag


Chapter 6

In the summer of 1922, the national government declared a general amnesty. Only those who had been condemned as ‘ringleaders’ were excluded from this, such as Max Hoelz and some others, and those who had been found guilty of ‘criminal activities’. Most of the comrades who had gone underground for safety after the March days were now able to return to central Germany. This had been agreed in a joint meeting of the party and the Youth League. I returned home as well, although it was debatable whether I would find work.

After my return to the Geisel valley, I found to my joy that the party and Youth League were still very active. The workers still had confidence in them. My political work consisted mostly in building up the Youth League. Inflation was running high, but had still not nearly reached its highest point. In any struggles that took place, the trade unions fought for full settlement of wage claims and a sliding scale of wages.

I found a job as a works mechanic at the Elisabeth pit. I was employed in the workshop with two comrades, one of whom was also an official in the Youth League. Our work was very varied. We went everywhere in the works, sometimes in the compressor house, sometimes in the drying loft or separating area, or again down below in the pit. But our working relationship did not last. Management soon found out who I was. And they found a reason to sack me. We went to the industrial tribunal. At the first hearing, judgement was made in our favour, but at the appeal the management won.

So, after a short period of employment, I was out of work again. Soon, inflation had made worthless the little money I had saved. There was no question of finding another job here. Doors were closed against me throughout the district, at whatever pit I applied, even though workers were sought. After a long search, I finally got work in Frankleben, an hour’s journey from our village. After the war, a steelworks had opened up in this village. The chair of the shop stewards there was a member of the KPD and he had considerable influence on recruitment. The work which I received through him was admittedly not in my line, but that was not important to me. The decisive thing for me was, firstly, not being a financial burden on my father, and secondly, being able to continue my political work in a factory. If there had been no inflation, then my wage would not have been bad: we did piecework and the pay was better in the steel industry than in coal.

At that time, my father was negotiating with the management of the Emma mine over the purchase of our property. The house lay right next to the pit, and since the loaded trains went past at short intervals, there was a real danger of structural collapse from the vibrations. The management of the mine offered my father the sum of 25,000 Reichsmarks. Both my brother and I and friends of my father advised him not to sell, but rather to negotiate an exchange for a piece of ground in the village or the next village. Both parties finally agreed to these terms.

There was no exchange made on the first properties which my father was offered, because the architect of those sites had reserved the first right of sale for himself. He belonged to the Stahlhelm (Steel Helmets), an organisation which was supported by the parties of the right. It claimed to be a federation which cultivated the cameraderie formed in the ‘community of battle in the trenches’, but in reality it was intended as a paramilitary force to support the parties of the right in their fight against the workers. This man did not want my father to get hold of one of these plots — we were regarded as the ‘communist Hippes’ locally. As I have already said, my father was conservative and had loved his Kaiser. Now that he no longer paid any attention to politics, the fact that I was an official of the Communist Party and its Youth League reflected on the whole family.

After further negotiations, my father was offered a property which had been utterly neglected. Two acres of land and one of meadow came with the property. It lay in the village of Krumpa, at the edge of the industrial area. My father finally agreed to this exchange. The village of Krumpa was almost entirely inhabited by peasants who were influenced by an estate owner and member of parliament for the German National Party by the name of Seibicke. Many of them also belonged to the Stahlhelm organisation.

In the spring of 1923 we moved into our new house, together with my sister Emma, who had got married in the meantime. She gave birth to her second child there. The peasants in the village refused to sell her milk for her children. So she had to walk every day into the industrial area. My father also felt the effects of the peasants’ boycott. On our previous property we had some ploughed land and another two acres of land. When we wanted to plough our new land, the peasants refused to do any ploughing for my father. Even my uncle, who owned a bakery and a farm, was not prepared to help my father. So we were forced, the five of us in the family, armed with spades and hoes, to turn over more than two acres of earth. Fortunately, the solidarity of the workers made itself felt: comrades from the party often came and helped us till the fields. The behaviour of my comrades made a certain impression on my father, but left no permanent marks.

If the peasants and the squire believed that they could shake me in my political convictions, then they were wrong. On the contrary, I devoted every spare minute to party work. There was not so much conflict with my father as before, because I worked with my brother—in—law on the renovation of the house. In the fifteen months that I continued to live there, we altered the property totally. The peasants with their sabotage and clannishness did not achieve their object. The small number of workers who lived in the village joined the Communist Party.

Finally, the peasants tried direct pressure on me. One evening I had to address a meeting of the Communist Youth League in the trade union building in Mucheln.

Some of the young comrades — most of whom came from Mücheln and district — had to go in the same direction as myself afterwards. So we went together as far as Neubiendorf, a mineworkers’ hamlet. When we split up, the master tailor Bergener, who had been visiting in Krumpa, told me not to go home since the peasants were waiting for me in the village, hoping to make an example of me. All the young comrades, and the older ones too, said they were prepared to see me home.

A red flag was quickly found, and off we marched to Krumpa. When we reached the village, we struck up the ‘Internationale’. At the fire station on the village square there really was a mob, and even the policeman was there. But they did not expect this escort. I got home unscathed, and my comrades marched out of the village again, singing. The policeman did not intervene.

It was the year 1923 and inflation had reached almost its highest point. Politically, government and capital had not carried through its intention, which was to smash the revolutionary movement with the aid of the Social Democrats. On the contrary, the influence of the Communist Party had grown even further. The trade unions were fighting organisations in the central German area; wage rates now only existed on paper. The factories were shaken by strikes, because the employers were not prepared to offer any wage agreements which matched the continual inflation. The govern-ment urged the workers in the trade unions to maintain discipline and to take into account the economic situation. In the factories, unrest had reached gigantic proportions.

We did not have to exert ourselves too much to convince the men that a struggle was the only solution. In the continual confrontations, the management soon found out who were the active trade unionists. They believed that they would have some peace once they had thrown these ‘elements’ out of their factories. But they did not reckon with the class—consciousness and preparedness for struggle amongst the rank and file. In most cases, those sacked stayed on in the factories since the workers declared that they would not return to work until their colleagues were reinstated. However, reinstatement was not always possible, and many men had to remain sacked. In most cases, these were younger workers, and one day I found myself among them. Now, admittedly, I had plenty of time for political and trade union work, but not a single penny to contribute towards my mother’s housekeeping.

Again, I was in conflict with my father, who could summon up no sympathy for the struggle of workers for the security of their existence. I had an ally in my mother, even if she was only able to support me morally, since she was financially dependent on my father. In spite of this, she sometimes managed to slip me twenty or 30 pfennig so that I could buy a couple of cigarettes or a glass of beer. She often asked me in worried tones: ‘My boy, how is this all going to end?’ She had not forgotten my imprisonment. She feared that something similar could happen to me again, but I never heard a word from her about paying more attention to finding work and leaving politics to someone else.

I did not let myself be influenced by my father’s speeches. Like me, a large majority of party officials were unemployed. Despite material distress, we continued our work inside and outside the factories. Inflation was now running at a furious rate; strikes multiplied. On many days, the same works came out three times. The women stood in front of the factories to get some money from their men so that they could buy things straight away. Despite that, they could often only buy a loaf of bread with three days’ wages.

Looking back on it, the year 1923 was a decisive one for the German working class. The question of power was posed to the proletariat more sharply than ever before. Capitalism had been shaken to its foundations by war and crisis. The German working class had gathered much experience in numerous struggles. It is true that, in the face of the economic crisis, it still fought for the realisation of economic demands which would secure the basic requirements for existence. But more and more struggles took on a highly political character.

The year 1923 was the year of the occupation of the Ruhr. The French army had occupied the entire Ruhr district to ensure the delivery of coal as war reparation. All the parties, including the Communist Party, took part in passive resistance. The German government continued to pay the wages and salaries in full. In Essen, demonstrating workers and French troops clashed in front of the Krupp works, and there were deaths and injuries as a result. But the KPD had nothing to say in those days except to reproach Cuno’s government: ‘The nation is collapsing. The German bourgeoisie cannot even protect the frontiers of its fatherland ... it crawls before Poincar~’s bayonets.’

Soon the SPD leadership got to thinking that the politics of passive resistance might lead to military developments, and the parties of the centre joined them. In the course of 1923, an agreement was reached with the French government under Poincaré. But the revolutionary workers continued their fight against inflation and social deterioration. In central Germany, they worked towards the overthrow of the Cuno government with strikes. From Munich came the threat of the counter—revolution with its march on Berlin — even at that time, Hitler played a significant role; in Saxony and Thuringia workers’ ‘governments’ were formed for defence by Social Democrats and Communists; the majority of workers in the central German industrial area, as in all the other flashpoints of the class struggle in Germany, knew what was at stake.

Party and trade union officials were fully deployed; for us there was scarcely any time for a private life; inflation had reached its final phase and the Reichsmark of earlier days now had a value of billions; work had no value any more. In those days, the rank and file were ready for anything, and there were even scenes of machine—smashing. We always had to speak to the men and hold them back from ill—considered actions.

In this situation, there was no end to the provocations against the working class and the KPD. But now they were initiated not so much by the government as by the Stahlhelm. This organisation — as was demonstrated again later — played a decisive role right up until 1933 and made a considerable contribution towards Hitler’s victory.

In Eisleben, a town in the Mansfeld copper—mining area, the trade union alliance had called a demonstration and rally for their trade union day, as was the case every year in all regions and districts. The Stahlhelm used this occasion to call a counter demonstration. In the central German industrial area it was only a weak organisation, and its field of recruitment was limited to the agricultural workers on the estates outside the industrial districts. Therefore, it fetched its people from the surrounding areas — Thuringia, Saxony and Lower Saxony — and marched them into the industrial area.

The Joint Trades Union Committee, for its part, called for solidarity from the workers in the Halle region and asked them to participate in the defence of the trade union day. The ‘proletarian battalions’ already existed.

The trade union alliance had demanded a ban on the Stahlhelm march on the grounds that there could be serious clashes. But the police turned down the application and arranged the Stahlhelm demonstration for the morning and the trade union one for the afternoon. Men from the surrounding area had responded to the appeal by the Eisleben trade unionists in great numbers. In addition, the regional proletarian battalions, especially the Workers’ Rambling Association Defence Corps, were strongly represented.

When the procession of the trade unions came through the streets of Eisleben in the afternoon, the Stahlhelm, who were still in full force in the town, tried to rush into the demonstration from the side streets. Apart from a few skirmishes, there were no major confrontations. The police remained entirely neutral. The march reached the Eselswiese, the open space at which the trade unions intended to hold their rally.

During the speeches by the guest speakers, nothing happened; the day’s programme continued with sideshows and dancing. Only in the evening, when the men from out of town were leaving and marching to the station, were there clashes which were provoked by the Stahlhelm.

The route from the rally to the station went round the edge of town through a sort of park. At a point where the park was crossed by a stream, there was a fight between the Workers’ Rambling Association Defence Corps and a group of ‘Young Stahlhelm’. The stream, which was quite full, could only be crossed by a narrow footbridge. It was at this point that the Naturalists were attacked. But the little sons of the petty bourgeoisie had not considered that workers’ fists not only work hard but also punch nicely. Their attack here did them no good. The spades with which they were armed were soon taken away from them. We gave them a punching and many of them became well acquainted with the waters of the BOser Sieben, as the stream was called.

But the fight was not finished. The Young Stahlhelm received succour from their elders, and we received the support of our colleagues. The fight lasted several hours. Whenever we had pushed the Stahiheim back to its ‘headquarters’, the police shoved themselves between the two sides and forced us back. And so the Stalillielm found more support and energy. When the fight was at an end, there were several wounded on both sides. But we could say, without exaggeration, that we had taught the Stalillielm a lesson that day.

It was late at night when we got home. When I stepped into our house, my mother and sisters stared at me flabbergasted, and cried. When I asked what the matter was, they finally told me that Holland, a carpenter and member of the Stahlhelm, had told them that he had seen me lying dead on the streets of Eisleben. Apparently the wish was the father to the thought. When my mother had recovered from her shock, she did not want to let me go again. She asked me never to place myself in such danger again. To calm her, I promised her that I would take care.

Our colleagues had travelled home on the train, while the Stalillielm were taken there and back on lorries supplied by factory management and estate owners.

Some weeks passed before the Stahlhelm launched a new provocation. In 1921 in Halle, a group of the Communist Workers’ Youth — an organisation with strong syndicalist tendencies — had blown up the Kaiser Wilhelm monument. This was an action which could only harm workers in struggle. The monument was rebuilt, and it gave the Stahlhelm the opportunity to march about town at its unveiling. Despite a protest by the municipal authorities in Halle, the provincial authorities gave permission for this demonstration. Halle belonged to the so called ‘red belt’ of the central German industrial area.

Horsing, the president of the province, knew the situation in the town. He knew about the events a few weeks earlier, and their outcome. Despite this, he authorised the Stahlhelm demonstration, although they were travelling into Halle not just from the region but from outside as well. Again, the workers of the region did not leave their comrades in the lurch. Communist youth came from the neighbouring regions and from Berlin. When the workers and the proletarian battalions were marching in, the police, strengthened by teams from outside, cut off the town in a great encirclement. As we came in on the shift trains from the Geisel valley into Halle, we were prevented from travelling any further than Ammendorf. All passenger, local and works trains were stopped there; only long distance trains could travel through. Some of the demonstrators from the Geisel valley tried to reach the town via the Saale valley at Passendorf. The rest of us in the group had not even left the station at Ammendorf when an express train from Frankfurt—am—Main rolled into the station and had to stop. We jumped aboard this train.

When we reached Halle, thousands of workers were demonstrating at the Riebeck Platz near the central station. We joined them and marched in a big demonstration through the town. Near the Volkspark, a large community hall belonging to the Halle workers and administered by a cooperative, the police attempted to break up the procession, but they did not succeed. Later, when the police reinforcements arrived, we were forced into the Volkspark and locked in. Some units of the police were taken away to be deployed elsewhere. We used this opportunity to attempt a breakout. This met with success, for the police were too weak to hold us back. More than 3,000 of us marched into the town centre. In Ulrich Strasse, which was a shopping street at that time, the shopkeepers had hoisted black white and red flags. I do not know where the petrol came from, but in any event the flags were doused in petrol and ignited, and the black—white—red splendour went up in smoke.

The police did not succeed in sealing Halle hermetically, and so the workers were in control of most of the streets of the town. We learned that the comrades who had left us in Ammendorf to try to reach the town via Passendorf had been attacked by the police and shot at. One of my friends, Kurt Kittlemann, was killed in this attack. He was married and the father of two children. Later on, we bore him to his burial in a great funeral procession, which was in reality a fighting demonstration.

The Stahlhelm was forced out of town and lay protected by the police in the fields at Passendorf. As we travelled home the next morning, there were a few small groups of Stahlhelm in the waiting rooms at the main station, also making for home. They were cruelly mocked by ourselves and the workers who were travelling to Leuna and the lignite coalfield. There were agricultural workers there, who told us that they had been forced by their employers — estate owners — to take part in the Stahlhelm demonstration.

The Stahlhelm made a third attempt to provoke the working class of central Germany when it marched through what was once the battlefield at Rossbach between Mucheln and Weissenfels. At Rossbach,. Frederick the Great had defeated the French and allied troops in 1757. This time they wanted to march into the district and set an example, or so they said. For this task, they had gathered their troops from all over Germany, and this time the party and trade unions had also made preparations. All the trade union buildings were occupied. The youth organisation functioned as a courier service which brought news from the rallying point of the Stahlhelm. At the spoil tip of the Pfannerhall pit, there was a battle with members of Young Stahlhelm, who were also trying to get news from the coalfield. They were properly sent packing.

The workers in the Geisel valley, reinforced by their colleagues from Merseburg, Weissenfels and Halle, patrolled the coalfield itself. On this occasion, no police came into the Geisel valley. By evening, still nothing had happened, and still not a single Stahlhelm was to be seen. The youth organisation, which had set up its observation post on the spoil tip at the Pfannerhall pit and could easily observe the movements of the Stahlhelm from there, reported that largish groups of Stahlhelmers had driven away in lorries. Despite this, we continued on red alert. Our leadership ordered everyone to remain in the trade union buildings or in houses, while small groups were to continue to observe the country surrounding the Geisel valley.

Still nothing happened until the late evening. All the men who came back from outside reported that more and more Stahlhelmers were driving off. It was almost midnight. I left the trade union building at Mucheln together with comrade Franz Wiesner. Our task was to spy out the land around the railway station at Mucheln and discover whether there were any groups of the Stahlhelm there. We had not got very far from the trade union building when we were addressed by three people in civilian clothing, who asked the way to the station.

Since they did not seem suspicious, we told them to come with us. The station at Mücheln lay outside the town. Beside the road leading there stood the ‘Crown Prince’ pub, the local used by the Stahlhelm. As we got close to the village of Zorban, our three civilians suddenly vanished, and figures jumped out of the ditches to the right and left of us. Nothing could be seen clearly, it was a dark night; the few lamps that lit the street had gone out. We were attacked. While comrade Wiesner managed to escape and ran back to the trade union building, I was surrounded. I stood with my back to the wall and tried to defend myself with a bottle in my hand. Where I found t, I do not know. All of a sudden, there was a shot, and I felt as if someone had hit my left shoulder with a hammer. The bottle fell to the ground, and I could not move my left arm any more. Then I was seized by several men in Stahlhelm uniform and dragged into their pub.

There I noticed among the others a man — also in Stahlhelm uniform —with a pistol in his hand. We knew him as ‘pale ~mil’. He was a foreman at the Elise II pit, which provided coal for the Leuna works. The administration building at this pit was a bastion of the Stahlhelm.

The Stahlhelmers discussed what to do with me. There were also two cops in the pub, who seemed entirely unmoved by the whole affair. While ‘pale Emil’ argued for taking me off to the Elise II administration block, a second group said they should take me to a doctor because I was bleeding heavily. Suddenly the door flew open and around a hundred workers, roused by comrade Wiesner, entered the pub.

Now, all of a sudden, the policemen woke up and tried to intervene. The Stahihelmers, who had no idea how many workers there were, tried for their part to force my comrades out of the pub. There was a punch—up, during which the men in uniform had to leave in a panic by the back doors. I was bleeding heavily from the left shoulder. I was taken to a doctor by three comrades. The bullet had lodged, as an x—ray the next day proved. The doctor, who was a sympathiser of the Communist Party, was of the opinion that it should not be operated on, since the bullet was too close to the heart. It was better to await the healing process, and the bullet would assuredly be encysted. To this day, the bullet still sits in my left side.

The Communist Party filed a suit against the Mücheln branch of the Stahlhelm for malicious assault, and against ‘pale Emil’ for attempted murder. I stood as co—plaintiff. But scarcely a week had passed before the High County Court at Naumburg charged myself and comrade Wiesner with breach of the peace, riot and destruction of a hostelry, in which I was supposed to be implicated with a group of workers. In this way, the accusers became the defendants. All our protests — there were large mass demonstrations throughout the Geisel valley, in Merseburg, Ammendorf, Halle and Weissenfels — were in vain: the accusations stood. After a few months we heard that the charges against us had been dropped. However, the case against the Stahlhelm was never proceeded with either. Similar things happened in the Bitterfeld and Zeitz coalfields.

Despite all the provocations, in which the right—wing organisations and the organs of the state were involved, they did not succeed in breaking the resistance of the workers. On the contrary, the influence of the Communist Party and the trade unions grew steadily. In the central German industrial area it was now the KPD who called the tune in politics. We had succeeded in integrating fully into the party and trade union those workers who had arrived in the coalfield in 1919 and 1920. The KAP had lost its influence, and many of its members had returned to the KPD; the General Workers’ Union, which was close to the KAP, had split and now led only a shadowy existence. Only the Union of Hand and Head Workers had maintained its strength, although the party was working to bring these colleagues back to the ADGB union as well.

In July 1923, the KPD centre issued a call to its members, urging them to be on the highest alert:

‘The Cuno cabinet is bankrupt. The crisis at home and abroad threatens a catastrophe in the next few days. The Fascists in south Germany have decided at their meetings . . . to seize the opportunity offered by the declaration of the Rhineland Westphalian buffer state . . . to strike out for themselves.

A ‘Ludendorff and Hitler have everything ready for a march into Saxony and Thuringia. The North German Fascist organisations . . . have made all their preparations for the military overthrow of Berlin and Hamburg . . . The officers of the German army are equipping the Fascists .’

Another declaration in the Rote Fahne stated:

‘We communists can only be victorious in the fight against counter revolution if we succeed in leading the social—democratic and non—aligned working masses with us in the fight, without and against the treacherous party and trade union bureaucracy . . . United proletarian defence organisations must be organised from the factories outwards, despite any resistance . . . The plans of the Fascists have been laid in the minutest detail, in military fashion.

‘They have issued the call: "Conduct the civil war in the most brutal and forceful manner". All workers who offer resistance to the Fascists would be shot by them if caught. To defeat strikes they intend to shoot every tenth man among the strikers. The Fascist uprising can only be defeated if we oppose white terror with red terror.

‘If the Fascists, who are armed to the teeth, kill proletarian fighters, then the latter must destroy all Fascists without mercy. If the Fascists put every tenth striker against the wall, then the workers must put every fifth member of a Fascist organisation against the wall

‘The KPD must lead the entire proletariat into battle under its banner. The Party must also state clearly that, if required, it will issue the call to battle alone and alone take over the leadership of the fight .

‘Only when we have the will for victory and for the taking of power, only when every communist is ready to sacrifice everything for the salvation and liberation of the working class, only then will our party be the party of victory. Only then will it create the revolutionary workers’ and peasants’ government which will seize the material assets and control of production from finance capital, and so save from slavery the working class, the office workers, the civil servants, the heavily—burdened middle class, and oppose French imperialism with a united nation which is ready to fight.’

In central Germany and in the Ruhr district, the proletarian batallions had been built up on a cross—party basis and in great numbers, while there was scarcely anything else in the country apart from that. Now the construction of these groups was supposed to proceed with increased energy. In places where it was possible, these were to be built as organs of a united front; where it was not possible, then as party organs attracting non—party people. Where the party now began to construct workers’ self-defence organs in other parts of the country, it was done quite hectically.

In Saxony and Thuringia, the Social—Democratic organisations found themselves under strong pressure from their rank and file. The chair of the KPD, Heinrich Brandler, who had travelled to Moscow in the decisive August days of 1923, returned at the beginning of September. None of the middle—ranking officials in our district knew what had been decided there, but everyone was clear that things were now on a razor’s edge. Everywhere in Germany, as in the central area, strikes took place. Workers demanded actions which went far beyond wage strikes. So the weeks passed. In the meantime, Heinrich Brandler travelled to Moscow again.

When he returned on 8 October, not only the members of the party but also the other workers were prepared to defend themselves against possible attacks by the Fascists, the army and the ‘Black National Army’. In Saxony and Thuringia,, in quick succession, workers’ governments were formed by the SPD and KPD.

On 12 October, Brandler, together with Paul Böttcher and Fritz Heckert, entered the Saxony government of the left Social Democrat, Zeigner. At that time, a workers’ conference was convened in Chemnitz, to discuss the critical food supply situation. The KPD used one interven-tion at this conference to call for a general strike.

Everyone knew that an action like that at that time would mean a general uprising. The conference rejected the call. So the KPD sent couriers from Chemnitz into the districts, advising them to stand down from their preparations for uprising. All the couriers reached their destinations, except the one for Hamburg. And so the Hamburg uprising took place. For three days, several hundred workers fought against a superior number of police.

For the members of the KPD, and even more for the workers who were sympathisers, the defeat was a great disappointment. Generally, people were of the opinion that we should investigate the reasons why the preparations for the general strike had been called off. Later, in the internal arguments in the party, through so—called ‘Discussion Documents’ which had been made available to the membership, we learned of a letter written by Stalin in the late summer of 1923 to the members of the Politbureau of the Russian Party, in which he warned against calling a general strike in Germany, because it might lead to an uprising. He claimed that the revolutionary situation had finished in central Europe, and said that the German comrades had to be restrained. Amongst the party membership there was a general feeling that Heinrich Brandler, when he was in Moscow at the beginning of October, had agreed with Stalin’s evaluation.

The governments which had been formed in Saxony and Thuringia were completely legal. The Social Democrats and Communists had a parliamen- tary majority in those states. They demanded from the new Stresemann government some action against the reactionary forces in the south. In Saxony, Heinrich Brandler had managed to get the proletarian battalions legalised as a sort of auxiliary police force. The national government took this and the inclusion of some Communists in the state governments as an excuse to act with force against the governments of Saxony and Thuringia.

The Social—Democratic President, Ebert, gave the commander—in—chief of the German army full powers for this ‘imperial execution’. The army occupation claimed many victims again. The hunt for Communist Party officials now began in the whole of central Germany. The party talked of 8,000 to 9,000 arrests. While the large towns and industrial areas throughout Saxony and Thuringia were occupied, there was no occupation of the Geisel valley or of the Bitterfeld coalfield. The feeling in our group and the neighbouring party groups was that the October events could have led to a victorious revolution if only Heinrich Brandler had abandoned his opportunist policies. He had lost all credit in the party at that time.

On 23 November, the KPD was banned. The Communist Youth League had planned a regional conference for the beginning of December. It took place despite the ban. The public house in which the conference was held lay at the edge of town, on the Dolau Heath. It went ahead as planned at the weekend, without interruption. The main points on the agenda were: ‘The October defeat’ and ‘Our future tasks’. In the industrial area, despite the ban, our work continued almost legally.

After the October defeat, the factories were closed to me. And there was no prospect of receiving any unemployment benefit in the foreseeable future. My father informed me that he was no longer prepared to feed me. All the attempts of the party to find work for me were unsuccessful. For political reasons, I should have remained in the Geisel valley: I had important functions in the party and the Youth League, and was also a delegate at regional level. However, after a discussion with the regional leadership in Halle and Merseburg, we agreed that I should leave the district and find work elsewhere. I then got in touch with my sister in Berlin. At the beginning of January, I left the Geisel valley to set up home in Berlin.