Open Tube (8/10)
The tube contained no other objects but papers.
What sort of paper was so important to hide it? In all my years of searching this is the only document find I have ever made in the field (archives and buildings excluded). In all those years I closely followed national and international detecting find forums and saw just one other case of printed matter found with a metal detector.
Usually when coins, buckles, projectiles, relics etc. are found the persons who lost or hid the finds remain anonymous. The finds usually can be dated and identified but they shed only dark light on the people who once lived. Exactly because of this archaeology was, and partly still is, considered by many historians just an assisting science to those studying written sources.
I do not share this view. Granted, written sources, if available, give very detailed accounts but do not tell necessarily the truth. The author was almost never independent. Usually he was paid by someone, e.g. by the rules he praised, and he was paid for public relation services, not for telling the truth. Additionally, today some 30%-40% of all medieval documents are even considered forgeries. Ground finds, in contrast, are almost never forged. Besides all of this, for long periods of human history there simply are no written records.
In total, for nearly all periods archaeology can give valuable hints to past events. For many periods it is the only source.
But now back to the found papers.
At first I saw two small booklets. Soft cover, some 40 pages each. They were printed in the 1920s and contain socialist or communist ideas. Both can still be obtained in antiquarian book shops today for some 20 to 30 dollar each.
To allow the reader to better understand the find discussion below some introduction to the situation in Germany in the 1920s is given.
The 1920s were a politically and socially very unstable period of German history. The end of the horrible “Great War”, today known as World War 1, brought also the end of four empires. The empires of Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman empire all collapsed. Century old social structures were smashed, new ways of ruling had to be implemented.
In World War 1 Germany suffered even more horrible losses than the other involved powers. So many men were lost that the entire society came to the threshold of being unstable. After the Kaiser’s resignation a republic was erected that was meant well, and had some very good theoretic concepts in its constitution but had to prove oneself in an extremely difficult environment. Many people still believed in the old Kaiser and his political system which had brought decades of prosperity until 1914.
In addition to the political turmoil and the tremendous war losses Germany had to carry the additional burden of tremendous reparation payments to the winning powers, especially France. These contributed to a huge inflation which caused many people to lose all they had. The peace conditions where considered unjust by many Germans, especially since the German army was not considered defeated, just totally exhausted like all others. This feeling of unjust treatment was one reason for World War 2. The most important reason, though, was that Germany allowed a man like Hitler to raise to power and to become dictator. This, too, was only possible due to the extremely difficult political and economical circumstances of this period.
In the 1920s there were many different political parties, dozens of them. Consequently, the parliament often nearly blocked itself and was incapable of actions. For this story just two are important, the Socialist’s party SPD and the communist party KPD. In Germany both had the same historical roots, i.e once they were the same party. Within this party there were different opinions on how aggressive one should try to reach political goals. The more aggressive fraction later became the KPD. The others became the SPD. Today in Germany the SPD is one of two major parties while the KPD is forbidden. Successors are still active in Germany’s political landscape.
In Western countries today Communism is equaled with economic and political misery but in those days it appeared as worth a try as other political ideas. So much as a background.
This is one of the booklets. It’s original German title is “Die Wahrheit über Sowjetrußland“. Published 1925. It was at least co-authored by a certain Xaver Freiberger.
Subtitle: Why was I excluded from the SPD? Published in 1926 by the same Xaver Freiberger.
Title of the German original:”Sowjetrußland und die deutsche Sozialdemokratie – Warum wurde ich aus der Partei ausgeschlossen?”
This is the second booklet. Both have the same author or co-author. I had never heard of this man.
I carefully scanned all pages of both booklets so nothing was lost in case they would deteriorate further. As mentioned earlier the content is widely available, anyway.
While scanning I finally came to the last page. Here waited a huge surprise. The booklets can be easily purchased today but inserted at the last page of the second booklet there was a page with handwriting on it. It was written in an old-fashioned writing I find very difficult to decipher but my aunt and my 77 year old neighbour can read it without problems.
Usually the ends of the lines are missing – most unfortunately destroyed by my screwdriver action described earlier. While this makes it difficult to understand the exact meaning of every sentence the general nature of the text is certain. It is a communist manifesto. The undersigned members of SPD and KPD wrote down their political convictions. To a good deal the text praises Lenin. The last – complete - sentence reads “Lenin is dead but his work is alive.” I think this is more or less the essence of the whole document.
When clicking on the picture on the left you will get a high-resolution scan for all those interested in old documents. Imposed in black and red are (German) clear text versions. Special thanks to user “Specki” of the German “Explorate” internet forum for providing the red translation.
To learn more about this elusive Mr. Freiberger I contacted the local branch of the SPD. They gave me the phone number of Dr. Hoffmann who provided some biographical data of Mr. Freiberger and directed me to Mr. Gerstenberg of the Archive of the Munich Worker Movement (Archiv Münchener Arbeiterbewegung). Mr. Gerstenberg, a Munich historian who worked intensively on the worker movement and had published on that topic, was a great help. Not only did he provide a clear text version but even a suggested a reconstruction of the missing parts. In the following, with Mr. Gerstenberg’s permission, first the German version and then an English version will be given. Mr. Gerstenberg’s reconstruction suggestions for the gaps are placed in brackets.
Am Grabe (Leni)ns
Der größte aller Toten ruht im ro(hen Sarg, - der) Mann, zu dem in Ehrfurcht und Treue u(nd Begei)sterung das Heer der Armen und Entrec(hteten auf)blickt – und der Mann, dessen Namen (die Für)sten der ganzen Welt aus den Anal(en der Ge)schichte streichen möchten.
Schlicht und einfach war der S(arg und die Gruft,) in der er ruht – und doch im (Geiste) erhaben wie das Werk, das dieser Genius der Menschheit baute.
(Schild) und Pannier das Z(eichen des Sta)dt- und Landproleta(riats. Wir) grüßen sie ernst und schwe(igend.)
Und drunten ruht, was (einer) der größten Geister war. Lenin. Wacht auf und (handelt!) Sein Werk zu vollenden, geloben (wir an seiner) Gruft.
Lenin ist tot, aber sein Werk lebt.
Wilhelm Berker, Sattler, SPD
Fritz Köhlitz, Lehrer, KPD
Walter Szeman (?), KPD
Hans Pfa(ller), Metallarbeiter, KPD.
At (Leni)n’s tomb
The greatest of all deceased rests in the r(aw coffin, the) man to whom in respect and faith a(nd enthu)siasm the army of the poor and rightless looks up - and the man whose name (the duk)es of the whole world would like to erase from the annal(s of hi)story.
Simple and plain, was the c(offin and the tomb) he is resting in – and still, (in spirit) sublime like the work done by this genius to mankind.
Shield and banner the t(oken of the proletarians of c)ity and la(nd. We ) salute them silent and in earnest.
And below rests, who was one of the greatest spirits. Lenin. Awake and (act!) To complete his work( we swear at his) tomb.
Lenin is dead but his work is alive.
Wilhelm Berker, saddler, SPD
Fritz Köhlitz, teacher, KPD,
Walter Szeman (?), KPD
Hans Pfa(ler), metal worker, KPD
(translated by author)
For the first time in all my years of searching people with known names step forward from the darkness of history into the light. Not just one, but five people. When they were very young at the time of hiding in 1933 some could still be alive now in 2006.
To sum it up, several men of socialist or communist German political parties sign a hand written communist manifesto. Hidden in a steel tube along with two booklets written by Xaver Freiberger this manifesto was hidden in Fall 1933 in a rock crevice, probably by one or several of the undersigned individuals.
Who were they?
What happened to them?
Did they survive the war and Nazi Germany?
Why did they hid the papers?
Lets start with a theory for last question. In 1933, when Hitler came to power, the situation for SPD and especially KPD followers became increasingly difficult and dangerous. Hitler’s hate for communism was so intense he even started a World War to attack Russia. (The attacks on countries in western and northern Europe in the first phase of World War 2 just served the purpose of avoiding a two front war. Hitler’s real goal were neither France nor England but Russia.) Some SPD and KPD members were sent to concentration camps. I think these 5 people felt that they were not safe anymore and wanted to store there expressed opinions and values at a safe place. In a time were the own house was not a safe place anymore.
Mr. Gerstenberg supported this view by writing
“In it’s defiant and pathetic style the text mirrors the time and the situation. The five men who hid it as a letter in an iron tube were most likely in the desperate situation to have to flee from the Nazis and their regime.”
(translated by author)
After the find and while preparing this account I tried to find out as much as possible on these men, in particular Xaver Freiberger who, judging by the hidden papers, was the central figure of the group.
This is what I found out on Mr. Freiberger and Mr. Koehlitz (original: Köhlitz). Written sources are few. The SPD destroyed many files during the Third Reich for fear of them getting into the wrong hands. Some are today in the archive of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Bonn, Germany, which is inaccessible for me. Also, Mr. Freiberger’s former party had no reason to file information on him after he was excluded.
Still, some information were available on the net. Special acknowledgement to the modern SPD (Landesverband Oberbayern, Muenchen), to Dr. Hoffmann, and to Mr. Gerstenberg who were all very helpful in my quest.
Xaver Freiberger was born in 1878 in a place named Apfeltrach. In Germany there is exactly one such place located several km south of Mindelheim which is some 80 km west of Munich. He was joiner respectively carpenter by profession.
In 1925 he was the head of the central committee of work councils. Work councils are and were groups of organised worker helping to protect the worker’s interests in a company. In this function Mr. Freiberger was part of a group travelling to Russia in 1925 to get an impression how life is like there. When he returned to Germany he wrote the first of the found booklets “The truth on Soviet Russia” to publish his observations and ideas. His convictions expressed therein were so much more radical than the official SPD position that the party decided to exclude in 1926, probably on January 1. Mr. Freiberger tried to convince the SPD to let him join again but to no avail.
Mr. Freiberger, described as an – depending on the viewpoint – independent thinker or difficult character hardly capable of subordination, published 1926 the correspondence between him and the SPD along with his view of that matter in the second found booklet “Soviet Russia and the German social democracy - Why was I excluded from the SPD?”. With this booklet he was his own publisher.
Unwillingly, Mr. Freiberger joined the KPD three years later in November 1929. Apparently, the SPD was closer to his political convictions but the KPD was better than nothing for him. To my regret, no information after 1926 is known from him. It seems he did not become comfortable within the KPD and did not leave special traces. The in my opinion most important question, did he survive the Third Reich without being harmed by the Nazis, cannot be answered at this stage.
According to biological reasoning Mr. Freiberger is dead by now.
A man of that name published a book on Berlin schools in 1949. At presence it is uncertain if this man is identical with the underwriter. Probably not.
The only thing I found out for sure on Fritz Köhlitz is this. In the late 1920s and early 1930s he was publisher of the magazine “The atheist”, in 1927 renamed into “The proletarian atheist”. (German original titles “Der Atheist” resp. “Der proletarische Atheist”. )
Judging from this he was an active and convinced communist – and thus endangered in the Third Reich.. Like with Mr. Freiberger I was unable to find out what happened to him after 1933.
Wilhelm Berker, Walter Szeman, Hans Pfaller
I was unable to learn anything about these men except that “Szeman” is probably a name from Eastern Europe. They left no traces on the net or in literature. According to my impression the central figure was Mr. Freiberger, while Mt. Köhlitz was also very active. The other three men were apparently of secondary influence.
The museum of the peoples’ battle at Leipzig in 1813 had a similar find on display. The museum was erected in 1913. During renovation works several decades later a bottle was found containing a handwritten letter undersigned with name and addresses of several men. It was dated and hidden during construction, i.e. 1913 at latest. The men described the fast changing political world and wondered what the future might bring. Today we know how right they were. Even if they survived World War 1 their world changed dramatically shortly after.
This letter, as the presented find, shows something typical. Those who created the letter have enough space to write their names near the center. The rim carries the names of those who joined the group at a later stage and liked the idea to enter eternity with little effort. The central position of the signatures indicate that Mr. Freiberger and Mr. Köhlitz were the leading persons.
(C) Thorsten Straub www.metal-detecting.de 2006-2011.