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Memorialisation Non-violent resistance Repression

Ludwig Baumann refused to take part in an unjust war

„Always in history soldiers have been abused and let themselves get abused to destroy everything, also themselves.“ These words come from Ludwig Baumann, a man who was drafted into the German army and as one of very few soldiers refused to take part in a war that „made it possible to commit millionfold acts of murder behind the front lines as long as soldiery duty has been fulfilled at the front,“ as he wrote in an appeal to a Bremen authority responsible for the recompensation of victims of the Nazi regime in 1989. In that years, those were very rarely heard words; at last before the exhibition on crimes of the Wehrmacht opened spaces for alternative histories of the German army other that of repetitions of the myth of a „clean army“ devoid of having been complicit in the Holocaust or other war crimes.


Born in 1921, Ludwig Baumann grew up in Hamburg as a son of a tobacco wholesaler. After finishing elementary school he became a bricklayer’s journeyman. After having been drafted in the German Navy, he was stationed in occupied France in Bordeaux. Facing a heavy reprimand for having been drunk on duty, he decided to escape together with a fellow soldier, Kurt Oldenburg. Together they wanted to flee into Vichy-France and join the Foreign Legion. They were found and sentenced to death. Eventually, their penalty was commuted to 12 years in prison. Ludwig Baumann was subsequently deported to the Emslandlager, a system of penalty camps in Lower Saxony and then to the Wehrmacht prison in Torgau. There he was treated very badly and had to witness several executions of comrades. Towards the end of the war he was drafted into the probation unit 500 and had to participate in the war on the Eastern front. He was taken a prisoner of war by the Soviet Army. Having returned to Germany, he faced a difficult live: He fathered sex children, saw his wife die at the birth of the sixth, became an alcolohic and squandered his inheritance. He then turned his life around and became a staunch opponent of any armies and warfare in general. More importantly -and eventually sucessfully- he fought for the rehabilitation and recompensation of the former deserters of the Germany Army. Initially, German courts denied him any monies, which was according to the law that was applicable in Germany until 2002, when all verdicts against deserters that were passed in the time of National socialist rule were deemed to be obsolete. Ludwig Baumann was a highly political man, and as he called himself: a “blue-blooded pacifist.”


Robert Parzer

Sources / Further reading
  • Interwiev_Ludwig_Baumann_Ausstellung_Spuren_des_Unrechts_012.jpg
  • Ulrich Herrmann, Zwei junge Soldaten als Opfer der NS-Wehrmachtjustiz: der “Wehrkraftzersetzer” Horst Bendekat und der Deserteur Ludwig Baumann, in: Ulrich Herrmann, Junge Soldaten im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Weinheim 2010, pages 212-240
  • Die Liebe zum Leben, Documentary movie by Annette Ortlieb, 2023, 63 minutes

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