Emil Carlebach

1914 (Frankfurt a.M.) - 2001 (Frankfurt a.M.)

Politician, Publicist

"Those years in the concentration camps became my school for life in the truest sense of the word. There it was drummed into my head that discipline, solidarity, steadfastness and remaining faithful to one’s convictions are the most important things in life."

Emil Carlebach was born in Frankfurt a. M. on 10 July 1914, the son of a merchant. His father was a national-minded German who came from a rabbi’s family; he fought in the First World War and joined the volunteer corps for the “protection of the eastern border”. Emil did not really know his father before the age of five. His mother volunteered as a Red Cross nurse. Emil went to a Jewish school but, coming from a secular Jewish family, felt excluded; thoughts of suicide were on his mind around 1923. Rebelling against his father, he became active in the Socialist Pupils’ Association in 1930, joined the Young Communist League of Germany in 1931 and the Communist Party in 1932. After his final examinations (Abitur), he began a commercial apprenticeship in keeping with his father’s wishes.

In 1933, Carlebach was arrested for the first time for distributing flyers; several further arrests followed. After serving time in different prisons, he was taken to Dachau Concentration Camp in April 1937, where he became a room senior. In September 1938, he was transferred to Buchenwald, where he became foreman in 1939 and then a block senior of the Jewish barrack. A change of identity saved him from being murdered.

In May 1945, Carlebach returned to Hesse. In August, he acted as a co-founder and co-publisher of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, but was dismissed from his post of co-publisher by the Americans in 1947. He published extensively on history and politics, was a Communist Party Member of Parliament in the Hessian state parliament in 1946 and, in 1948, in the city council meeting of Frankfurt a. M., Carlebach helped draft the first Hessian state constitution after the end of National Socialism. He co-founded the Union of Victims of Persecution of the Nazi Regime, acted as editor of the weekly paper die tat, as delegate for the printing and paper union, as chair of the Former Buchenwald Inmates' Advisory Board at the Buchenwald Memorial, and as the vice president of the International Committee of Buchenwald-Dora and Subcamps.

Emil Carlebach died in Frankfurt a. M. on 9 April 2001.