Elisabeth Schumacher

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Elisabeth Schumacher

Elisabeth Schumacher (née Hohenemser; April 28, 1904 – December 22, 1942) was a resistance fighter during the Third Reich. The resistance group she belonged to, the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle), was best known for their fight against the NAZIs.[1] Schumacher also trained as an artist before joining the resistance efforts.


Elisabeth Schumacher was born in a well-off family to a Jewish father and Christian mother in Darmstadt, her father, engineer Fritz Hohenemser, came from a family of bankers from Frankfurt am Main, while her mother came from Meiningen. In 1914, the family moved from Strasbourg (then part of Germany) to Frankfurt am Main. During the same year, Fritz Hohenemser died in action in the First World War, leading Elisabeth to move to Meiningen with her mother and siblings.

In 1921, Schumacher attended the School of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) in Offenbach on and off until 1925, she worked at a crafts studio until 1928, in order to study art in Berlin, which she did until 1933. After completing her studies, Schumacher stayed in Berlin and applied for a permanent spot at the Reich Office for Industrial Safety. However, she was turned away because she was half-Jewish; this reason led to more difficulties finding a steady job, and as a result, Schumacher had to freelance. She was also active at the German Labour Museum (Deutsches Arbeitsmuseum).

While living in Berlin, Schumacher met her future husband, a man by the name of Kurt Schumacher. Kurt Schumacher was an anti-Nazi and sculptor. Together, Elisabeth and Kurt an organization to fight against Hitler's regime; the beginning of World War II solidified the need for this organization, and Elisabeth became more involved. The Schumachers's spent much time helping those affected by Nazi Germany, but were ultimately arrested in September of 1942. Elisabeth, along with her husband, died in December of the same year.

Resistance Activities[edit]

Elisabeth and her husband were inspired by Libertas and Harro Schulze-Boysen, and created an organization to fight against the Nazi regime; the start of World War II solidified this resolve. Later, the Schumachers joined Libertas and Harro Schulze-Boysen, along with Mildred and Arvid Harnack in their spy network, whom the Gestapo later dubbed the "Red Orchestra" (Rote Kapelle); the group was active giving out handbills and documenting the Nazi regime's crimes.

Schumacher wanted to protect Jewish relatives from deportation. Moreover, she believed there were possibilities of negotiating peace with the Soviet Union. Early in 1941, the Schumachers were involved in the attempt to warn the Soviet Union by wireless about the forthcoming German invasion (Operation Barbarossa). In August 1942, they took in the Communist Albert Hößler (or Hoessler), who had lived in the Soviet Union since the 1930s, he parachuted into Germany to support the resistance group's transmission of information to the Soviet Union.

Arrest and death[edit]

Memorial plaque for Elisabeth-Schumacher in Frankfurt

In 1942, after a wireless message was decoded, many members of the Red Orchestra were arrested. On 12 September of that year, Schumacher was arrested at her flat. Like her husband, she was sentenced to death on 19 December 1942 at the Reichskriegsgericht ("Reich Military Tribunal") for "conspiracy to commit high treason", espionage, and other political crimes. Schumacher was beheaded on 22 December 1942 at Plötzensee Prison, forty-five minutes after her husband was hanged there.[2]

Quotes from Elisabeth Schumacher[edit]

"This war takes on ever crazier forms."[3]
— March 1941
"There is a dreadful amount of hopelessness and misery here at every turn. Typhus has broken out in the Jewish barracks."[4]
— from a letter to her family, 1941

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "German Resistance Memorial Center - 14 The Red Orchestra". www.gdw-berlin.de. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  2. ^ Short biography of Elisabeth Schumacher German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved March 28, 2010
  3. ^ Original German: Dieser Krieg nimmt immer wahnwitzigere Formen an.
  4. ^ Original German: Es gibt hier entsetzlich viel Trostlosigkeit und Elend auf Schritt und Tritt. Im Judenlager ist Flecktyphus ausgebrochen.