The Potempa Murder of 1932
The Potempa Murder cast a dark shadow over the progress that the Nazi Party had made in Weimar Germany. The Potempa Murder was carried out in 1932 when Adolf Hitler was in the right political position to convince President von Hindenburg that he could be the next Chancellor of Germany. However, the President believed that the murder was symptomatic of how the Nazi Party operated and it did Hitler no favours even if the murder was carried out by loyal Nazis.
On the night of August 9th 1932, five men from the SA burst into the home of Konrad Pietrzuch, a Communist miner. Pietrzuch lived in Potempa in Upper Silesia. He was trampled to death in front of his mother. The five murderers did little to disguise themselves during the attack and they were quickly rounded up and arrested. At the end of the trial, they were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
Hitler, along with other senior Nazis, was furious not only with the verdict but also with the sentence. While the five murderers were in jail, he sent them a telegram:
“My comrades! I am bound to you in unlimited loyalty in the face of this most hideous blood sentence. You have my picture hanging in your cells. How could I forsake you? Anyone who struggles, lives, fights, and, if need be, dies for Germany has the right on his side.”
Hitler denounced Pietzruch as a Polish Communist who, he declared, was an enemy of the state.
Hitler also stated that Germany could forgive thousands of deaths on the street if they occurred as part of a clash between two groups that held different political views as was going on between the SA and the Communists. However, Hitler argued, the nation would never forgive a government that carried out a death sentence against men who acted out of “national passion” and who put their country first.
Conservative groups such as Stahlhelm and Konigin Luise Bund also expressed their support of the five men and petitioned von Hindenburg for a Presidential pardon.
The Chancellor at the time, von Papen, was not keen to see the five murderers executed so soon after the crime as he feared a Nazi backlash across the nation and the Nazi Party certainly had the means at their disposal to escalate the street violence they already used to undermine the government. He also asked for a pardon.
In fact, the delay coincided with the political chaos that was sweeping through Weimar and by the time Hitler was appointed Chancellor, on January 30th 1933, the murderers were still in prison and the sentence had not been carried out.
On March 21st 1934, the Nazi government introduced legislation that granted an amnesty to anyone in prison who had committed a crime “for the good of the Reich during the Weimar Republic”. All five were subsequently released from prison.