Cato Bontjes van Beek

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Cato Bontjes van Beek
Stumbling stone in front of the house, Kaiserdamm 22, in Berlin-Charlottenburg
Memorial stone on the family grave site
Liebfrauenkirche Fischerhude

Cato Bontjes van Beek (born November 14, 1920 in Bremen ; † August 5, 1943 in Berlin-Plötzensee ) was a German resistance fighter against National Socialism .


Cato Bontjes van Beek spent childhood and adolescence in the Worpswede / Fischerhude artists' colony near Bremen. Cato's parents, the ceramist Jan Bontjes van Beek and the dancer and painter Olga Bontjes van Beek , b. Breling, offered their children, including Mietje Bontjes van Beek , no material prosperity, but a wealth of artistic and intellectual stimuli that had a decisive effect on the children. Such suggestions came from her aunt Amelie Breling , her uncle Otto Modersohn and her cousins ​​Ulrich and Christian Modersohn .

From 1929 to 1933 Cato Bontjes van Beek attended the German School in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She learned Dutch and later English during an eight month stay in Winchcombe , Gloucestershire , UK. She also became a passionate glider pilot. Van Beek did a temporary commercial apprenticeship and later worked as a ceramist in her father's workshop in Berlin.

Cato was not a member of the Association of German Girls (BDM), but she joined the NS-Glider Pilot Association in order to be able to fly. From 1940 she and her sister Mietje lived with their father in Berlin. In his house they met friends who were opponents of the Nazi regime. Influenced by this, they developed an early awareness of the suffering and injustice caused by the Nazis. Her brother Tim, who was close friends with the Vegesack flak soldier and later Chancellor Helmut Schmidt , initially stayed in Fischerhude. When Schmidt then attended an officers' school in Berlin, he broke off his friendship with the Bontjes van Beek family.

Cato Bontjes van Beek's resistance activity began in Bremen even before she met Libertas Schulze-Boysen , who belonged to one of the Berlin Red Orchestra groups, in her father's apartment in autumn 1941 . She undertook further actions together with the poet Heinz Strelow , with whom she was also friends. They printed and distributed illegal pamphlets and leaflets calling for struggle and resistance against the Nazis.

On September 20, 1942, Cato Bontjes van Beek and her father were arrested by the Gestapo in Berlin, and sentenced to death on January 18, 1943 by the Reich Court Martial in Berlin for “aiding and abetting in preparation for high treason ” . After Adolf Hitler's petition for clemency was rejected , Cato Bontjes van Beek and 15 other convicts were guillotined on August 5, 1943 in the Plötzensee prison. Execution of death sentences was scheduled for the early evening after consultation between the prison's board of directors, the director of the anatomical institute Hermann Stieve , representatives of the Berlin police headquarters, the public prosecutor's office and the public prosecutor, so that “the corpses can be picked up for anatomy that same evening " could.

Her mother litigated against the state of Lower Saxony for twelve years and fought for legal rehabilitation in 1999.



  • Cato - A Short Life in Resistance. Documentary by Dagmar Brendecke, 2008.
  • Cato is still here. Script and direction: Dagmar Brendecke, cinema documentary, Germany 2009.
  • CATO. A documentary by Dagmar Brendecke and Walter Brun. Germany 2010.
  • Cato Bontjes van Beek. You all talk, but nobody does anything! Documentary by Thomas Grimm and Regina Griebel, Germany 1991.


  • I want to fly - The short life of Cato Bontjes van Beek. A piece by Dagmar Brendecke, collaboration: Walter Brun; World premiere: March 7, 2012, Badische Landesbühne Bruchsal, staging: Nora Hecker.


  • Hermann Vinke : Cato Bontjes van Beek. "I did not beg for my life". A portrait. 2nd edition, Arche Verlag, Hamburg u. a. 2003, ISBN 3-7160-2313-2 .
  • Heidelore Kluge: Cato Bontjes van Beek. "I only want to be one, and that is a person". The short life of a resistance fighter. 1920-1943. 2nd edition, Urachhaus, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-8251-7003-9 .
  • Manfred Flügge : "My longing is life". A story from the German resistance. Documentary novel. 1st edition, Aufbau-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-7466-1334-5 .
  • Gert Rosiejka: The Red Chapel. "Treason" as an anti-fascist resistance. 1st edition, Results-Verlag, Hamburg 1986, ISBN 3-925622-16-0 (with an introduction by Heinrich Scheel ).
  • Frauke Geyken : “Something terrible will happen.” In: Back then . Volume 47, No. 5, 2015, pp. 72-76.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. marcellina: A flower on the lattice window… Review of Hermann Vinke: Cato Bontjes van Beek. 'I did not beg for my life' . In: June 28, 2003, archived from the original on November 25, 2003 ; accessed on September 12, 2019 .
  2. Biographies: Cato Bontjes van Beek. German Resistance Memorial Center , accessed on September 11, 2019 .
  3. Harro Schulze-Boysen, John Sieg (collaboration) under the pseudonym “AGIS”: The people are concerned about Germany's future. (PDF) German Resistance Memorial Center, February 1942, accessed on September 11, 2019 .
  4. Rejection of requests for clemency. Plötzensee Memorial , July 21, 1943, retrieved on November 22, 2015 : “Mercy of 17 from the Reich Court Martial in the“ Red Chapel ”criminal case complex [...] condemned to death [...] I refuse a pardon. [Signature of Adolf Hitler] "
  5. Rosemarie Stein: Remembering and Prevention. Doctors under National Socialism . In: Berlin doctors . tape 44 , no. 4 , 2007, ISSN  0939-5784 , p. 28–29 ( [PDF; 1,2 MB ; accessed on September 11, 2019]).
  6. Helmut Schmidt : Just to be one - one person. Hermann Vinkes moving book about the life and death of the resistance fighter Cato Bontjes van Beek . In: The time . No. 23 , May 28, 2003, pp. 47 ( Zeit Online [accessed November 22, 2015]).
  7. Heidelore Kluge: Lecture on the inauguration of the Cato-Bontjes-van-Beek-Gymnasium in Achim. Retrieved September 11, 2019 .
  8. VCP Wolfsburg ( Memento from July 15, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  9. ^ The tribe of Cato Bontjes van Beek