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1933-1945: The HOCHBAHN under National Socialism

The seizure of power by the National Socialists on January 30, 1933 marked the end of the democratic Weimar Republic and, like all public authorities and public enterprises, HOCHBAHN was "brought into line" with the Nazi regime: On April 10, Friedrich Stanik became State Commissioner for HOCHBAHN, succeeding long-time director Wilhelm Stein, who was removed from office and placed on forced leave. Other board members and senior staff were also replaced by NSDAP members and NS functionaries, and even among the driving and workshop staff, those who were close to the SPD or KPD or even suspected of not toeing the National Socialist line were dismissed. Almost 260 Hochbahn employees were affected, some of whom remained unemployed for years. At the same time, the National Socialists further expanded their influence at HOCHBAHN with changes in working hours and company social policy. The workforce was also directly indoctrinated ideologically with celebrations, excursions, flag roll calls and the company magazine "Stirn und Faust" ("Forehead and Fist"). After the Greater Hamburg Act of 1937, politicians initiated comprehensive but rather indiscriminate plans to restructure Hamburg into the so-called "Führer City." This included the construction of up to seven new rapid transit lines and the erection of a "Kraftverkehrshaus" for the HOCHBAHN in Steinstraße. Nothing was realized, as the city of Hamburg and HOCHBAHN could not agree on an overall concept and, from 1939 onwards, the war-related shortage of personnel and materials made civilian construction projects almost impossible anyway.

Discrimination against Jewish passengers

Although HOCHBAHN had not taken any measures against Jewish passengers on its own initiative, it did implement Reich-wide regulations that gradually excluded Jews from public life. In 1941, for example, the Reich Ministry of Transport ordered that Jews were only allowed to use certain means of transportation with police permission and outside of rush hour. They were only entitled to seats if no other passengers had to stand. In February 1942, the Reich Ministry of the Interior then ordered that the use of transportation by Jews be "limited to an extreme minimum." In addition, there were repeated insults and physical attacks on Jews, which were tolerated by the conductors.

The HOCHBAHN during the war

At the beginning of the Second World War, the Wehrmacht confiscated a large part of the buses and drafted many Hochbahner for military service. As in the First World War, women again took over many of the driving duties. The severe fuel shortage also led to technical experiments such as the testing of buses powered by illuminated gas. Time and again, power failures paralyzed the operation of the streetcars and subways, and there were curfews outside of rush hour. From 1940 onward, air raids also repeatedly caused damage to the streetcar and subway network. Initially, it was possible to repair this damage quickly, but as the war progressed and bombing raids intensified, especially during the nights of the "firestorm" in July and August 1943, this became increasingly difficult. By the end of the war, many streetcar lines had been destroyed, as had parts of the tracks and tunnels of the subway, numerous vehicles, stops, depots and workshops, and the elevated train building. More than 600 Hochbahn employees had lost their lives, many others were bombed out and faced nothing.

A subway car destroyed during the war

During the war, 100 of a total of 400 subway cars and 431 streetcar cars were completely destroyed

End of the war and denazification

After the end of the war, the "Highways and Highway Transport Branch" of the British occupying power took over supervision of HOCHBAHN. It not only managed capacities and allocated fuel and materials, but also initiated the denazification of the company. Mayor Rudolf Petersen reappointed Wilhelm Stein as chairman of the board in June 1945, and personnel director Max Jäger, who had been dismissed in 1933, became head of personnel. Director Friedrich Stanik and the other Nazi board members - with the exception of Friedrich Lademann - were formally dismissed in June 1945. Stanik was also interned for several years and sentenced in two trials for his NSDAP function and related knowledge of Nazi crimes, initially to five years in prison and a 10,000 Reichsmark fine, and later to pay the fine only.

In the summer of 1945, HOCHBAHN put the war damage at 50 million Reichsmarks. The repair of tracks, tunnels and operating buildings as well as the restoration of the rolling stock were now the challenges. In many cases, improvisation was used by cannibalizing destroyed vehicles in order to restore as many subways and streetcars as possible. Everything usable from the destroyed subway line to Rothenburgsort was dismantled in order to patch up the subway network elsewhere.

In 1946, up to 30,000 pieces of rubble were transported by streetcar every month.

In 1946, up to 30,000 tons of rubble were transported by tramway every month.

Compensation for forced laborers

Like other Hamburg authorities and companies, HOCHBAHN also employed foreign civilian workers and prisoners of war. Compared to armaments factories such as the Blohm + Voss shipyard, however, this was done on a relatively modest scale. At the supervisory board meeting in March 1941, director Friedrich Stanik reported that they had "requested the allocation of an initial 85 workers from Italy". They were housed in a car shed in Rothenburgsort on Billstrasse. In 1943, there was a "French camp" there. There is also evidence of camps with Russian prisoners in 1943 and 1944 in what is now Von-Sauer-Strasse, Tesdorpfstrasse and the Falkenried workshop. The annual reports for 1941 and 1942 - the last to be prepared in the "Third Reich" - mention the use of "foreign labor" without further details.

In 2000, HOCHBAHN participated in the compensation fund of the Federal Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future" to compensate former forced laborers. The payment of 512,300 D-Mark was based on the size of the turnover and the requirements of the German Industry Foundation Initiative. In this way, HOCHBAHN "set an example of the moral responsibility of German industry as a whole.

Scientific study Studie

A scientific study on the HOCHBAHN in the "Third Reich" has been prepared by the FZH Research Center for Contemporary History in Hamburg and was published in 2010 in the series "Forum Zeitgeschichte" (No. 22).