Kulmbach’s last tribune died 70 years ago

Kulmbach's last tribune died 70 years ago

Only the early federal republic could produce someone like him. A politician who, once he had talked himself into a frenzy, didn’t like to stand on the grass. Schonauer could be unrestrainedly populist. In his polemic, he recalls kurt schumacher, the first SPD party leader after the war, the bilious herbert wehner, whose interjections in the bundestag are often executions of political opponents, and the young helmut schmidt with his famous “schmidt muzzle.

But schonauer is not a mere hairdresser. Behind his massive stature hides a sensitive human being. Marianne friedrich from marktleugast, whose grandparents lived next to the schonauer family in weiher – next to the ohnemuller inn – remembers “uncle fritz as an always lovable person and a caring father of the three children elsbeth, marianne and herbert.

Early into the working youth

What happened on 11. Born in altenplos on september 1904, the man who drove us in our early years was a strong sense of justice. He is being praised by his father, an ordinary construction worker, trade unionist and staunch social democrat. At the age of 14, when he begins his apprenticeship as an electrician, he joins the socialist workers’ youth (SAJ), and after the first world war he joins the SPD.

After moving to kulmbach, he is admitted to the local association in 1924. The 20-year-old firebrand powerfully shakes up the SPD in kulmbach. Previously dominated by moderate party leaders such as hans herold, matthaus schneider and georg hagen, he gives them a class-struggle profile. Above all, however, and seeks the open confrontation with the increasingly massive “hitlers”.

When on 9. March 1933 the right-wingers take power in kulmbach, may they muzzle him. Schonauer is placed in “protective custody taken first to the fortress tower, then to the district court prison st. Georgen transferred.

Interned in dachau

From may to december 1934 he is interned in the dachau concentration camp. After his release, he is hired to build flood depressions in kulmbach. But he is able to leave on the 28th. February 1935, presumably with the clandestine knowledge of the kulmbach district leader fritz schuberth, fleeing shortly before a renewed gestapo raid, which would probably have resulted in his liquidation.

An unbelievable odyssey of repeated arrests, internments, and adventurous escapes follows, until in 1944, at the time of the allied landings in normandy, he places himself in the service of the U.S. Army. Even his wife margarete weib was unaware of his fate. He is considered dead. The marriage is annulled.

Return in U.S. Uniform

Then suddenly, in mid-july 1945, he appears in weiher in the uniform of an u.S. Lieutenant. Marianne friedrich remembers an unbelievably stirring scene when the couple and the children fly into each other’s arms. The U.S. Military administration appoints the 42-year-old to the provisional town council in august 1945. At the first city council election in may 1946, he is confirmed with overwhelming results and appointed second mayor. Although he is appointed by the americans to the trial chamber, he becomes the most vociferous critic of denazification: “but that’s where the clean-up process has finally come to, that it lets the really rough crooks slip through and hangs the small party comrades. If we had been given a free hand for 14 days after the invasion, the problem would have been solved today, fundamentally and forever. We had hanged the criminals and let go the less dangerous ones, who remained decent people despite their party allegiance.”

Locked up for ten days

In july 1948, the US military governor kauffmann imprisons schonauer for ten days in the fortress tower. He uses the imprisonment for a grandiose self-dramatization. The SPD calls for him to be sent on his way to “jail to accompany. Hundreds, including many children and young people, join the colorful procession through the city center, escorted by american jeeps. The following days, at 6 p.M., a band marches in front of the fortress and plays a little chorus. Schonauer steps to the window and quotes gotz von berlichingen to the americans.

In the era of truth reform, schonauer liked to be the advocate of the little man. In front of an audience of 5,000 on the market square at the end of july 1948, he rallies against ludwig erhard and his economic policy. Whose capitalism “pulls the wool over the eyes of the poorest” and leads to dismissals and wage printing. “Down with the prizes he calls for “an end to profiteering and profiteering”.

Serious illness

In the election to the first german bundestag in august 1949, no one other than schonauer comes into question as the SPD direct candidate for the constituency of kulmbach-stadtsteinach-lichtenfels-naila. With 27.6 percent, he enters parliament in bonn ahead of hans tichy (economic party). But he is not able to make much of a name for himself, as he falls ill with a severe liver and gallbladder inflammation just a few months later and is admitted to the hospital in bayreuth. He dies a little later, on 2. April 1950, at the age of 46.

In the by-election in may, the financial expert johannes semler from munich (CSU) is elected, who is rarely seen in his constituency. In the 1953 election, karl herold (SPD) follows, representing kulmbach in the bundestag until 1976.


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