1945: With These Blows of My Hammer


On September 14, 1945, trade unionist Paul Bebert, a former concentration camp prisoner, destroyed the swastikas that Nazis has affixed to union offices in Hamburg. He read this statement to the crowd:

With these blows of my hammer I will remove these toxic symbols of National Socialism from the spiritual coat of arms of the working class in Hamburg. May this symbolic action add to the realization that the poison of Nazi propaganda must be completely eliminated from the German people. For this is the only path that can lead us to becoming a truly free and democratic Germany. (source)

Born in 1893, Berbert had first become a union member in 1911 when he worked as a laborer; by 1924 he was serving on the union’s board.

On May 2, 1933, Hitler outlawed trade unions in Germany. Police units occupied union offices in Germany, arrested union officials, and confiscated union funds. Berbert was one of the first arrested and was sent to the Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp. Released after four months, he became a member of the resistanceand was again arrested and imprisoned in 1935; this time he was sentenced to two years in the Esterwegen-Papenburg camp for “high treason.” Toward the end of the war, he was conscripted into forced labor and given the dangerous work of cleaning up after air-raids.

After the war, he became chairman of the Hamburg construction workers union and was elected to the Hamburg Parliament as a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD); he also served in many leadership roles in the community.  He died on May 3, 1976

Most sources I’ve found date this moment as September 14, 1945, but this video of the event has the date as July 1946.

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