ⓘ Karl Holtermann was a German Social Democratic activist and politician. For just over a year, during 193233 he served as a member of the Reichstag. By trade he ..


ⓘ Karl Holtermann

Karl Holtermann was a German Social Democratic activist and politician. For just over a year, during 1932/33 he served as a member of the Reichstag. By trade he started out as a typesetter, but after his wartime experiences he re-emerged as a successful party-political journalist.


1.1. Life Provenance and early years

Karl Holtermann was born in Pirmasens, a town near the German border with France and Luxembourg known, then as now a centre of Germanys shoe manufacturing industry. Sources describe his father as "a shoe maker and trade union functionary". He was still an infant when the family relocated to Nuremberg, which is where he grew up, and where he was apprenticed as a typesetter. Early on he joined the Young Socialists, a trades union and, a little later, the Social Democratic Party. After completing his apprenticeship he took a period abroad as an itinerant "journeyman" skilled labourer. The world changed in July/August 1914 with the outbreak of war, and in 1915 Holtermann was conscripted for military service. He served as a soldier on the western front between 1915 and 1919, having reached the rank of junior officer by the time he was demobilised. He was badly injured through gas poisoning in 1918, but remained on the frontline.


1.2. Life Journalism and SPD politics

By 1919 Holtermann was working as a journalist, initially as a trainee with the Frankische Tagespost, a party newspaper published in Nuremberg. That was followed by a stint as a contributing editor with the Berlin-based Social Democratic Press Service. Later in 1920 he moved to Magdeburg, taking a post as political editor with Volksstimme, a regional daily newspaper at that time usually favourable in its coverage involving the SPD. Shortly after Holtermann arrived at Volksstimme the editor-in-chief, Paul Bader, left the paper and Holtermann took his place.

In 1922/23 he was a co-founder of "Republikanischen Notwehr" loosely, "Republic Self-defence" in Magdeburg, SPD grouping set up in response to the emergence of para-military "Freikorps" units set up in the wake of the war, generally made up of disillusioned unemployed former soldiers, and frequently headed up and organised by former army officers committed to a nostalgic nationalism that left them out of sympathy with the German Republic. "Republikanischen Notwehr" was committed to defending the new republican order. The "Republikanischen Notwehr" had its first public outing in April 1923, by which point it was able to muster a parade of approximately 1.500 men. It very quickly became effective across the entire Prussian province of Saxony Two years Holtermann teamed up with Otto Horsing and together, in February 1924, they launched Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold, an organisation described by Otto Horsing as a "non-party organisation for the protection of the parliamentarians around Holtermann, without spelling out the nature or extent of the groups activism. After 1942 Holtermann withdrew completely from any ongoing political engagement by the British-based exile community.

According to one source the arrest warrant issued against Holtermann in 1934 remained in force throughout his entire period of emigration. After war ended in May 1945, along with the end of the Hitler nightmare, any outstanding warrant from 1934 would have been of little relevance. Between 1945 and 1955 Holtermann made a number of visits to the three occupation zones that in May 1949 became West Germany, but England remained his home till he died, a couple of weeks short of what would have been his sixty-first birthday, in 1955. A British "Naturalisation Certificate" was issued for his daughter on 5 August 1947, at which point the family were living in Kings Langley, a prosperous commuter village short distance outside London, and close to St Albans.

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