Bohm-Schuch, Clara (1879–1936)

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Bohm-Schuch, Clara (1879–1936)

German Social Democrat and anti-Nazi activist. Born on December 5, 1879, in Stechow, Westhavel-land; died as a result of mistreatment on May 6, 1936.

Worked as a salaried retail employee; active member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany; active in humanitarian educational work; served in theGerman Reichstag (1919–33); protested Nazi atrocities (1933).

Selected writings:

Die Kinder im Weltkriege (Berlin-Karlshorst: A. Baumeister/Verlag der "Internationalen Correspondenz," 1916); Willst Du mich hören? Weckruf an unsere Mädel (Berlin: Arbeiterjugend-Verlag, 1928); (editor) Die Vorgeschichte des Weltkrieges (vols. X-XI, Berlin: Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft für Politik und Geschichte, 1930).

From the late 1870s to the creation of the Nazi dictatorship in 1933, the German Social Democratic Party fought for economic democracy and basic social reforms, including improved working conditions, old age pensions, and the abolition of child labor. The party also championed the rights of women, including suffrage and reproductive freedom. Among the many German women attracted to the ideals of Social Democracy was Clara Bohm-Schuch. Born on December 5, 1879, in Stechow, Westhavelland, she grew up in poverty. Unable to afford higher education, she found work as a salesperson. After some years as a reliable and enthusiastic Social Democrat, Bohm-Schuch advanced through the ranks of the party's women's organizations and was chosen to represent a Berlin district in the German Reichstag. She served with considerable distinction from January 1919 through early 1933, when the Nazis seized power.

Although the Nazi regime did not officially ban the Social Democratic Party until June 1933, their reign of terror began immediately after Adolf Hitler's appointment as chancellor on January 30 of that year. Particularly in the larger cities of Germany, where the Left had its greatest support, Social Democrats and Communists found themselves at the mercy of Nazi storm troopers who burst into their homes to brutalize them and their families. One of Clara Bohm-Schuch's friends and political comrades, Berlin Social Democratic city council member Marie Jankowski was attacked in March 1933. Exhibiting great courage and a considerable degree of political naiveté, Bohm-Schuch wrote a strong letter of protest to Hermann Göring, president of the Reichstag and one of the leading Nazis.

The Nazis of her native Berlin never forgave Bohm-Schuch for her bold protest. In August 1933, after a search of her home, she was arrested. Although she was incarcerated for only two weeks, first in the Alexanderplatz police station and then in the Barnimstrasse women's prison, the harsh interrogations shattered her already fragile health. Adding to the psychological stress of her arrest and imprisonment, she remained under surveillance for an indefinite period. Her health broken, Clara Bohm-Schuch died of a stroke in Berlin on May 6, 1936. Her funeral, held at the Baumschulenweg cemetery, provided her friends and sympathizers an opportunity for a silent protest against Nazism.

sources:

Archiv der sozialen Demokratie, Bonn. Nachlass M. Schwarz.

Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich. Folder ED 106/35.

Juchacz, Marie. Sie lebten für eine bessere Welt: Lebendbilder führender Frauen des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts. Hanover: J.H.W. Dietz Verlag, 1971.

Leo Baeck Institute, New York. Wiener Library collection of newspaper clippings on Nazis and Women 1933–1939, AR 7187, microfilm reels 95 and 109.

Milton, Sybil. "Deutsche und deutsch-jüdische Frauen als Verfolgte des NS-Staates," in Dachauer Hefte. Vol. 3, no. 3. November 1987, pp. 3–20.

Schumacher, Martin and Katharina Lubbe, eds. M.d.R. Die Reichstagsabgeordneten der Weimarer Republik in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus: Politische Verfolgung, Emigration und Ausbürgerung 1933–1945: Eine biographische Dokumentation. Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1991.

Wickert, Christl. Unsere Erwählten: Sozialdemokratische Frauen im Deutschen Reichstag und im Preussischen Landtag 1919 bis 1933. 2 vols. Göttingen: SOVEC Verlag, 1986.

John Haag , Associate Professor, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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