Eisenschneider, Elvira (1924–c. 1944)

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Eisenschneider, Elvira (1924–c. 1944)

German anti-Nazi activist who parachuted into Nazi Germany and was later captured. Born on April 22, 1924, in Fischbach near Kirn on the Nahe (county Birkenfeld); death date unknown because all traces of her disappear after her capture in 1944; daughter of Paul Eisenschneider (a militant anti-Nazi).

Elvira Eisenschneider was born into a politically militant family in rural Germany; both of her parents were Communist activists. At the age of ten, she witnessed the brutality of German Fascism when Nazis entered their home to search for her father Paul Eisenschneider, a member of the anti-Nazi underground. When her mother refused to reveal her husband's whereabouts, Nazi Brownshirts savagely beat her, smashing six vertebrae in her spine and crippling her for life. Mother and daughter fled to France and eventually to the Soviet Union where in 1936 they received news that Paul had been arrested by the Nazis while carrying out his underground work.

Elvira Eisenschneider grew up at the international children's home in Ivanovo, where Soviet authorities provided room and board for the sons and daughters of persecuted Communists of various nations. Here she learned Russian and became a militant revolutionary, joining the Komsomol, the Soviet children's organization. At the time of Nazi Germany's attack on the USSR in June 1941, Eisenschneider had begun her studies at Moscow's Institute of International Literature. Abandoning her academic aspirations, she took a course in emergency nursing and became a member of the medical staff that accompanied the many thousands of refugees from the war zone. She resettled in the city of Tsheliabinsk and began to resume her interrupted studies at the local college of technology.

Despite her youth, Eisenschneider believed that she could help the anti-Nazi cause, hastening the day when the German dictatorship was smashed and individuals like her father could be liberated from the terrors of Hitler's concentration camps. In 1942, she volunteered her services to Soviet military authorities, insisting that she could carry out sabotage assignments deep in the heart of Nazi Germany. Trained in intelligence and sabotage work, she parachuted into Nazi territory in the summer of 1943. Eisenschneider was captured in the spring of 1944, after almost a year of successfully carrying out her assignments. All traces of her vanish at this point, but it is clear that she was killed by her captors, most likely soon after her capture and interrogations. Tragically, after almost eight years' incarceration, her father Paul Eisenschneider died around the same time; he was murdered at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria on April 19, 1944.

In the German Democratic Republic, Elvira Eisenschneider was universally recognized as an exemplary martyr of the militant anti-Nazi German working class. She was honored with a postage stamp issued by the GDR post office on February 6, 1961, to raise funds for the preservation of the national memorials at the Buchenwald, Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.


Kraushaar, Luise. Deutsche Widerstandskämpfer 1933–1945: Biographien und Briefe. 2 vols. Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1970.

Partington, Paul G. Who's Who on the Postage Stamps of Eastern Europe. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1979.

Zorn, Monika. Hitlers zweimal getötete Opfer: West-deutsche Endlösung auf dem Gebiet der DDR. Freiburg im Breisgau: Ahriman-Verlag, 1994.

John Haag , Assistant Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Eisenschneider, Elvira (1924–c. 1944)

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