Johann Caspari

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Johann Caspari , from 1951 John Caspari (born February 10, 1888 in Berlin ; died November 26, 1984 in San Francisco ; pseudonym Karl Johannsen ) was a German politician ( SPD ), governor of the Prussian province of Grenzmark Posen-West Prussia (1922–1933) and college professors in the United States .

Life and activity

Caspari was a son of the commercial clerk Siegbert Caspari (1848–1928) and his wife Wada, b. Silbermann (1857-1888). After attending school, Caspari studied law and economics in Berlin from 1906 to 1910. He had to forego the final exam for financial reasons. In 1916 he received his doctorate in Greifswald with a thesis on the fulfillment of the Dr. jur. From 1911 to 1918 Caspari worked in the evenings as a tutor after completing his training or regular work.

In 1915 he took part briefly in the First World War as a war volunteer , then he worked at the Guardianship Court in Berlin from 1915 to 1919, most recently as deputy head of the authorities. Politically he was organized in the Social Democratic Party since 1916 .

After the outbreak of the November Revolution of 1918 that followed Germany's military collapse in World War I , Caspari became chairman of the workers' council of Berlin city officials in 1919. Also in 1919 he took over the management of the youth welfare office in Neukölln . During this time he founded the Arbeiterwohlfahrt together with Marie Juchacz , of which he was a member of the executive committee.

In 1920 Caspari held a political office for the first time as a paid city councilor of Brandenburg. He then served as the second mayor of Brandenburg an der Havel from 1921 to 1922 . In addition, he worked as a temporary laborer in the Reich Ministry of the Interior in the preparation of the Reich Youth Welfare Act.

From 1922 to 1933 Caspari then officiated as governor of the province of Grenzmark Posen-West Prussia in Schneidemühl . From 1926 to 1928 he was a deputy member of the Prussian State Council before he was a full member of the Prussian State Council from 1928 to 1933. As a staunch Republican, he was also a member of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold .

After the National Socialists came to power in the spring of 1933, Caspari was dismissed from the civil service due to his national socialist definition of Jewish descent. He was deprived of his pension under the terms of the Law on Restoration of the Civil Service . Simultaneously with the removal from his post as governor of the province Grenzmark Posen-West Prussia, he also lost his seat in the Prussian State Council.

As a prominent Nazi opponent, Caspari saw himself exposed to serious threats after 1933, even beyond his ousting from the civil service. In order to evade an imminent release, he fled on June 25, 1933 to the Saar area, which at that time was not yet part of the German Reich and therefore not yet under National Socialist control . Caspari lived in Paris from July 1933 to February 1934. Then he was employed by Albert Grzesinski as a Germany expert at government agencies of the Czechoslovak state in Prague. During the following years, in which he worked from Czechoslovakia against the Nazi state, he maintained close contacts with the Sopade , particularly Otto Wels . For the magazine Echo de Paris he was special reporter on German armament.

Due to his continued activity against the Nazi system, Caspari soon became the target of the National Socialist police forces as an emigrant: On October 27, 1937, he and his children were expatriated from Germany and this step was announced in the Reichsanzeiger . In the spring of 1940 the Reich Main Security Office in Berlin, which mistakenly suspected him to be in Great Britain, put Caspari on the special wanted list GB , a list of persons who in the event of a successful invasion and occupation of the British Isles by the occupying forces of the occupying forces of the SS with special Priority should be located and arrested.

On the occasion of the German annexation of the Sudeten areas, which until then belonged to Czechoslovakia, in September 1938, Caspari fled to Paris, where he worked as an employee on German-language broadcasts on Radio Strasbourg until the outbreak of World War II .

From the spring of 1940 Caspari was together with Erich Ollenhauer representative of Sopade in the France regional committee of the foreign representation of the German trade unions (ADG). At the end of March 1941, Caspari came from Marseille to New York on a US emergency visa . There he was initially unemployed. In 1942/1943 he earned his living as a factory worker.

From September 1943 to April 1945 Caspari worked in the Office of Intelligence Collection and Dissemination of the OSS , then until July 1946 in the Division of Biographical Information of the OSS and the State Department .

In January 1947 Caspari got a job at Howard University in Washington, where until his retirement in 1953 taught as an assistant professor of German. In 1951 he was naturalized in the USA.

In 1969 he was awarded the Marie Juchacz plaque in recognition of his services to the workers' welfare organization he co-founded .


In his first marriage, Caspari was married to the fashion illustrator Frieda Lemke (1890–1974) from 1915. This marriage ended in divorce in 1938. Since 1944 he was married to Elizabeth Haberl (1899–1968) for the second time. The third marriage to Elisabet Moses (* 1904), entered into in 1969, was divorced in 1970.

The daughters Ilse Rassam (* 1920) and Ursula Wells (* 1922) came from the first marriage.


  • The fact of fulfillment. 1916 (dissertation)
  • Gestapo v Praze. Prague 1936 (under the name Karl Johannsen)


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The pseudonym René Sonderegger given in the Biographisches Handbuch der Deutschensprachigen Emigration (1980) is obviously a mistake by the publisher, the book about the Gestapo Mordzentrale X. was published in 1936 by the Swiss René Sonderegger (1899–1964).
  2. Michael Hepp, Hans Geog Lehmann: The expatriation of German citizens 1933-45 according to the lists published in the Reichsanzeiger. 1985, p. 22.
  3. ^ Hitler's Black Book - information for Johann Caspari
  4. ^ Karl Johannsen: Gestapo v Praze . Svaz národního osvobození, Praha 1936 ( [accessed January 27, 2019]).