I am sure you have seen the famous image of this man refusing to salute Hitler. The man’s name is August Landmesser and he was a worker at the Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg. He had a relationship with Jewish women, incurring the wrath of the Nazi party.
Landmesser was an only child and joined the Nazi party in 1931, hoping it would get him a job. In 1935 he became engaged to Irma Eckler, which angered the Nazi party and he was expelled. They intended to wed but were prevented due to the Nuremberg Laws. However, they did not let the laws stop their relationship and had a daughter called Ingrid.
The infamous photograph of him refusing to give the Nazi salute was taken on 13 June 1936. The couple tried to flee to Denmark but were caught. During this time she was pregnant again, and he was charged with “dishonoring the race” under Nazi laws. He argued that in his defense and his partner that neither of them knew of her full Jewish identity. His defense worked and was acquitted of the charge but was warned that repeat offence would result in a multiple-year sentence. Landmesser was stubborn and continued his relationship publicly which resulted in him being arrested again and sentenced to two and half years in Borgermoor concentration camp.
His partner, Eckler, was detained by the Gestapo and held at the prison Fuhlsbuttel, where she gave birth to her second daughter Irene. From there she was sent to the Oranienburg concentration camp, the Lichtenburg concentration camp for women, and then the women’s concentration camp at Ravensbrück. A few letters came from Irma Eckler until January 1942. It is believed that she was taken to the Bernburg Euthanasia Centre in February 1942, where she was among the 14,000 killed; in the course of post-war documentation, in 1949 she was pronounced legally dead, with a date of 28 April 1942.
Meanwhile, Landmesser was discharged from prison on 19 January 1941. He worked as a foreman for the haulage company Püst. The company had a branch at the Heinkel-Werke (factory) in Warnemünde. In February 1944 he was drafted into a penal battalion, the 999th Fort Infantry Battalion. He was declared killed in action, after being killed during fighting in Croatia on 17 October 1944. Like Eckler, he was legally declared dead in 1949.
Their children were initially taken to the city orphanage. Ingrid was later allowed to live with her maternal grandmother while Irene went to the home of foster parents in 1941.
The marriage of August Landmesser and Irma Eckler was recognized retroactively by the Senate of Hamburg in the summer of 1951, and in the autumn of that year, Ingrid assumed the surname Landmesser. Irene continued to use the surname Eckler.