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1. Contribution by Dr. Martin Ulmer at the Hearing of Local Residents on the Renaming of the Scheefstraße, February 19, 2014.
Dear Oberbürgermeister, ladies and gentlemen,
Adolf Scheef was born in 1874 in Nürtingen. He entered Tübingen's municipal administration in 1896 as a clerk and later became district notary. In 1927, he was elected Oberbürgermeister (first mayor) with 60 per cent of the vote. He had been a leading member of the Fortschrittliche Volkspartei (Progressive People's Party) since 1911 and of the Deutsche Demokratische Partei DDP (German Democratic Party) since 1919. Between 1924 and 1932, he was an active member of the leftist liberal DDP's steering committee in the Württemberg Landtag (state council). Scheef was Oberbürgermeister of Tübingen until his retirement in 1939. His successor was leading local NSDAP politician Ernst Weinmann, hanged for war crimes in Jugoslavia in 1947. The second part of Scheef's period of office from 1933 to 1939 shows clearly that he was a National Socialist-oriented Oberbürgermeister without a Nazi party membership. The main point for evaluating Scheef's role is not his possible motivation—which cannot be assessed anyway due to the lack of personal biographic evidence—but his political conduct, especially in the Gemeinderat (local city council). The latter is well documented by fully extant protocols and speech manuscripts. When looking at Scheef's political conduct, I see two patterns:
First, he fostered National Socialist policies to the best of his abilities. Second, one can discern a tolerance on his part, especially concerning Nazi persecution of political enemies and Jews, in order to stay out of conflict with the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party).
I would like to start with a quote from Beigeordneter (deputy mayor) and leading NSDAP politician Ernst Weinmann on the occasion of Adolf Scheef's retirement as Oberbürgermeister in the spring of 1939. Weinmann praised Scheef's merits with the following words: “What immediately comes into my mind are the large projects undertaken in the years after the Machtübernahme (Nazi seizure of power on January 30, 1933): the Motorschule (motorist school), the Reichsanitätsschule (Reich medic school), the Jugendherberge (youth hostel), the new Wehrmacht buildings in the Neckar valley, and the construction of the new Standortlazarett (garrison hospital). There was a need to do something, to act. You [Scheef] have acted in all cases and you took on all the responsibility. Today, we know, after only a few years, that all your decisions were right and that these new creations meant a huge impetus for the city. […] I would like to add my own gratitude for all the trust that you offered us. The aforementioned successes are visible proof for our good cooperation at all times.”
On the initiative of Weinmann, Scheef was awarded the Ehrenbürgerrecht (honorary citizenship) during the very same session in which Weinmann held the above speech. Since the spring of 1933, the former democrat Scheef pursued a National Socialist municipal policy. He was in line with the National Socialists from the first session of the Kommunalparlament (local parliament) onwards. One-time liberal Scheef, usually not fond of lofty political speeches, became himself a voice in the choir of National Socialist propaganda on May 1, 1933. He lauded this day celebrating German Volksgemeinschaft as well as German labor and also the two new honorary citizens of Tübingen with the following words: “Our German fatherland, our Reichspräsident (president) General Field Marshal von Hindenburg, the German Reich's and German people's Chancellor Adolf Hitler, and Württemberg's State President Wilhelm Murr: Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil.”
When it came to appointing new committees in the gleichgeschaltet (forcibly coordinated) local city council on May 8, 1933, former democratic head of the city Scheef did not champion the interests of the democratic minority (the Catholic Center Party Zentrum and the Social Democratic Party SPD) anymore but had the decision made by the local city council with its overwhelming NSDAP majority.
It was on Scheef's initiative or at least with his clear support that the following projects came into being: the SA Motorsportschule (Brownshirts' motorists school), the Reichsbräuteschule (Reich's bridal school), the Reichssanitätsschule (Reich's medics school), the Schwesternschule (nurse school), the Jugendherberge (youth hostel), various facilities of the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrtverband (National Socialist People's Welfare), the garrison hospital on the Sand, as well as various new housing settlements, among them the Gartenstadt in Derendingen. His National Socialist successors Erst Weinmann and Alfred Kercher lauded Scheef for transforming Tübingen into a “Parteistadt”—a city of the Nazi party. Scheef showed goodwill to various Nazi party organizations which frequently drew upon municipal treasury and real estate. When it came to new housing projects, Scheef was clearly not only driven by justifiable housing and local political concerns but also by ideological reasons. In a 1936 local city council session, Scheef answered the question of who should be allocated to new housing projects like the Gartenstadt. Without a doubt, he made clear who was, in his eyes, solely eligible: “Prospective applicants are basically all honorable German Volksgenossen from the masses, free of hereditary diseases (“erbgesund”), of Aryan ancestry, racially valuable (“rassisch wertvoll”), and national-politically reliable (“nationalpolitisch zuverlässig”).”
Moreover, Scheef's efforts to include National Socialist goals in everyday life are remarkable: installing Volksempfänger (radios), subscribing to the Nazi party organ “Völkischer Beobachter” on behalf of the city hall, or his personally commissioned picture of Tübingen city hall for Adolf Hitler's fiftieth birthday. According to a local city council protocol from February 13, 1939, Scheef saw his personal initiative as “an honor and great pleasure should the Führer accept the city of Tübingen's birthday gift painted in the Führer's honor.” It was also Scheef who, in contrast to other German cities, ordered Hitler's “Mein Kampf” as a gift for newlyweds; he took care that the city seal and his personal dedication were printed into the Tübingen edition. When NSDAP Kreisleiter (local leader) Helmut Baumert took his leave, first mayor Scheef proudly proclaimed in the local city council that “the city of Tübingen offers the Führer's important 'Mein Kampf' as its gift to newlyweds in order to consolidate their National Socialist attitude and awareness.”
Numerous example show Scheef as a willing and effective representative of the Nazi regime. He publicly lauded the Nazi party and ostentatiously praised the autumn 1938 annexation of the Sudetenland as a great foreign policy success for Germany due to “our Führer's ingenuity.” Scheef concluded that very same speech, held before the local city council, as follows: “We want to show our gratitude to the Führer through our unconditional loyalty and through deeds, namely by diligently using all that is in our might to cooperate, from the place allotted to us, on the the Führer's great creation: rebuilding Germany.” Hence, Scheef voluntarily used his political office and popularity for National Socialist propaganda.
At no point did Scheef forestall anti-semitic initiatives, which would, by all means, have been possible via administrative channels. Scheef tolerated the prohibition, petitioned for by the National Socialists, for Jews and “non-Aryans” to frequent public swimming pools although parts of this ordinance lead to conflicts with the office of foreign affairs in Berlin. What is more, there is evidence that Scheef himself promoted anti-semitic measures. He was the initiator behind the dissolution of municipal commercial ties to Jewish-owned companies. For example, Scheef had the prolonging of contracts for supplying wallpaper to new municipal housing projects, concluded with the Hugo Löwenstein company, settled in the local council Gemeinderat in spite of the municipal works service wanting to hold on to its previous awarding of contracts which had favored Hugo Löwenstein. Another example is from the local city council session of October 26, 1936: “Alderman Göhner wants to call to our attention the fact that the municipal public baths' scales are provided by a Jewish company called Lindauer. He politely asks to inquire into this issue and to severe commercial ties with the Lindauer company. […] The Oberbürgermeister agrees to inquire into this issue and to immediately withdraw from any contracts with a Jewish company.” The municipal administration did indeed immediately withdraw from these contracts. When the city wanted to buy the very same bathroom scales that it had rented earlier, Scheef acted as a proponent of “Aryanization” when he tried to beat down the price.
In the spring of 1933, Tübingen's NSDAP, whose members were young and without experience in local political matters, had no alternative but the experienced and reputable administrator Scheef. It proved a long-lasting and mutually benefiting arrangement: by demonstratively pursuing pro-Nazi policies as Oberbürgermeister, Scheef could stay in office while the Nazi party majorly profited from his effective conduct of affairs and great popularity. An important explanation for this arrangement can be found in the diary of Emil Beutinger. A fellow DDP party member, Beutinger had to leave office as Oberbürgermeister of Heilbronn in 1933. In 1932, when Württemberg's minister of commerce Reinhold Mayer rejected a coalition of DDP and NSDAP, Beutinger remembers Scheef joining the discussion:
“Second try. Enter state parliament member Scheef, Oberbürgermeister of Tübingen, alongside NSDAP state parliament leader Murr and minister of commerce Maier. Scheef, in accordance with what Murr thinks, tried to appeal to Maier, offering to win over the democratic party to the idea of a coalition between DDP and NSDAP. Scheef's double-dealing demeanor is the reason why he, among a few other mayors, stayed in office in 1933.”
Many an Oberbürgermeister like Beutinger in Heilbronn were forced out of office by the Nazis, such as in Ulm, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart and many other municipalities, because these democrats were regarded as politically unreliable by National Socialist standards.
The behavior of Oberbürgermeister Scheef in the years from 1933 to 1939 was a grave and not a trivial offense. Alongside Nazi party officials, Kreisleiter Baumert and, from 1937, his successor Hans Rauschnabel, local party chairman and deputy mayor Ernst Weinmann, as well as different university presidents, Scheef was the most powerful administrator in Tübingen. As Oberbürgermeister, traditionally an influential and popular office in Württemberg, his political behavior made him an important asset of National Socialism. He tolerated the persecution of democrats (himself having been one) and Jews; in addition, he did not shy away from occasional anti-semitic initiatives and decisions. Ultimately, it did not play a role for the Tübingen NSDAP whether Scheef was a party member or not; in the end, what counted was his unconditional loyalty and generous promotion of local and overall NSDAP policies, at the latest from the 1933 Nazi seizure of power onwards. Although Scheef did promote some reasonable local projects, his honorary citizenship and the naming of a street after him are inextricably connected to his highly questionable role during National Socialism. On the basis of historical facts, it is therefore necessary to rename the Scheefstraße because a street is usually named in honor of a public figure. At the same time, the proceedings connected with renaming the Scheefstraße should be properly documented, for example by adjacent signs giving additional information and/or in the form of a documentary on the city of Tübingen's website.
Stadtarchiv Tübingen: Gemeinderatsprotokolle 1933-1939, 1944; ZGS: folio Adolf Scheef.
Benigna Schönhagen: Tübingen unterm Hakenkreuz. Eine Universitätsstadt in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Tübingen 1991.
Geschichtswerkstatt Tübingen (Herausgeber): Forschungsbericht: Zwangsweise ausgeschiedene Tübinger Stadträte 1933/1934 und deren Verhältnis bzw. Verbindung zum Nationalsozialismus. März 2012.