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Political Persecution of the Former Concentration Camp Inmate and Communist Ernst Busse (1950s)

In the 1950s, even former concentration camp inmates were not safe from politically motivated persecution. The case of KPD functionary and Reichstag deputy Ernst Busse, who had been incarcerated from 1934 to 1945, makes that clear. But Busse’s case also illustrates the profound distrust between returning representatives of the exiled SPD leadership and the Communists who had remained in Germany. In 1945, Busse became interior minister and deputy minister president of Thuringia. Investigations into his alleged cooperation with the SS in the Buchenwald concentration camp (where Busse had been a “Kapo”) were launched the next year. Busse was arrested in 1950 and sentenced to life in prison by a Soviet military tribunal. He died in Siberia in 1952. His wife did not find out about his death until 1956.

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I. A Family Friend to Anna Busse, July 10, 1950

Dear Annie!

It’s been nearly eight weeks since I found out that Ernst is in detention. But it was only fourteen days ago that I was able to find out that he is being investigated for his activity as a hospital Kapo in Buchenwald.

You already know that I worked with him in Wehlheiden (already in jail, that is), and then later in the concentration camp Lichtenburg, and finally in Buchenwald. I undertook resistance and political-faction work with him in a tight-knit group, which means that I was one of his closest collaborators and therefore know about all of the phases of the struggle.

I have included a general report as an appendix to my research questionnaire. His [Busse’s] incrimination might possibly have resulted largely from Soviet, Polish, Czech, French, and Dutch prisoners, something that happened in ignorance of the fact that he was under constraint.

I have decided to present a report on my research: / “My resistance work with Ernst Busse”/ One cannot hold him responsible for this hospital activity, because, from the beginning, he asked and informed his faction and group about each job and every task. The group included the unfortunately deceased: Walter Stöcker, Theo Neubauer, Albert Kuntze [Kuntz]. I am one of the few survivors. Walter Bartel, Harry Kuhn, Robert Siewert, and Ottomar Geschke could give you crucial support. I can fully imagine that all of the accused SS people, from [Martin] Sommer, [Max] Blancke, Dr. [Waldemar] Hoven, and even Ilse Koch are trying to incriminate him in order to exonerate themselves. / Therefore, please write to me and explain, if possible, where the chief allegations are coming from; perhaps I can respond to them specifically.

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