Wolf, Otto (1902-1943)

Otto Wolf

A short biography of the German anarchist Otto Wolf, active in the FAUD underground.

Otto Wolf was born the 1st March 1902 into a poor family in the Kleinzschocher district of Leipzig in Germany. When the grandfather died in 1905, the family moved to Naumburg where they took over his restaurant and small grocery store. Their father had a fatal fall, and his widow Marta took over the running of the establishment. An insurance claim for Otto’s father’s death was turned down. Otto was eleven at the time of his father’s death. He was forced to start working as a labourer after primary school because of the difficult economic situation of the family.

In 1917 he was working as a labourer with a construction company in Leuna. The following year he joined the Free Socialist Youth (Freien Sozialistischen Jugend) which had been formed by the Spartakus Bund in October 1918. Leuna was and is the base for the vast Leuna Works (Leunawerke) an expanding chemical industry complex. As Eric D. Weitz notes in his Creating German Communism, 1890-1990 :

“Since the Leuna Works were in an almost constant state of construction, building workers, often employed by subcontractors, labored in close proximity to production workers and added a particularly potent force of protest”.

Otto was involved in the armed actions of the Leuna workers in 1921 when they occupied and barricaded the Works during the “March Action”. As a result they were shelled by artillery and forced to surrender. As a result of his participation Otto was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment on 13th May 1921. His lawyer pleaded that Otto “was a young idealist, but very honest and righteous, with no criminal record...”. He was released on 13th March 1922.

Those who had taken part in the Leuna actions found it difficult to get work. In addition the economic situation led to high levels of unemployment in Naumburg, and Otto was often without work for long stretches. He married in 1927 and his son Peter was born a year later. He cultivated a small plot for fruit and vegetables and this helped the family get through the lean years. He joined the Naturfreunde (Friends of Nature) an early environmental group originally founded in Vienna in 1895 and controlled by the Social Democrats. He also joined the Association of Proletarian Freethinkers (Gemeinschaft der proletarischen Freidenker) and became its chairperson. Also, since 1921 Otto Wolf had become a leading light in the anarcho-syndicalist union the FAUD and acted as a a member of its Arbeiterbörse (labour exchange) for the towns of Bitterfeld, Eilenburg, Oschatz, Döbeln, Frankenberg, Chemnitz, Aue, Plauen, Saalfeld, Jena, Naumburg, Merseburg, and Halle.

It is possible that Wolf was a member of the Communisty Party (KPD) for a short while but for the rest of his life he held anarchist convictions. Otto was hated by the local Nazis who attempted to shoot him in his own home one evening, the bullet lodging in the doorway.

After the Nazi takeover the Wolf home was the target of several searches by the police, but they found nothing. It was the centre for secret meetings and the transporting of underground literature.

In November 1936 the local authorities removed his trading licence to sell slippers. His sister worked as a saleswoman in a department store and he was able to get employment there stoking the boiler. The boiler room was raided on one occasion by the police without result.

In the Gestapo crackdown on the anarchist movement Otto was arrested on 6th June 1937 and subsequently tortured. He was sentenced to 3 years and six months imprisonment on 13th November 1937 which he served in the Halle prison. The charges were high treason. Otto had carried on the work of Ferdinand Götze ( see libcom biography) in distributing underground anarchist literature including the newspaper Sozialistische Revolution (Social Revolution). He, like 2 of the other 4 defendants at this trial, were deprived of civil rights for five years.

In prison he incurred a punishment of withdrawal of visiting rights for three months from his wife and son. He was released on 6th December 1940 and was then under constant surveillance. He got a job in a wood processing plant immediately after his release. In May 1942 surveillance was relaxed and he renewed contacts with other opponents of the regime. He passed information on to Ukrainian and Polish slave workers working nearby.

However on 15th November 1943 he and other opponents of the regime were conscripted into the infamous 999 punitive battalion. Conscripts to this unit were summarily executed for the slightest infraction. Before his departure Otto told his wife Martha that he did not think he would return.

On 19th January 1944 Martha received a letter from the company commander that Otto had been on a ship on the Aegean Sea that was sunk by an Allied submarine on 8th October 1943 and that he was not among the survivors.

Nick Heath

Sources: Online article by Detlef Belau on Wolf

Posted By

Oct 28 2011 10:07


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