Karl Laurenz

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Karl Anton Laurenz (born September 11, 1905 in Brno , † November 23, 1955 in Dresden ) was a German journalist, lawyer and translator. Because of spying for the Gehlen organization - the predecessor of the Federal Intelligence Service  - 1955 he became together with his lover Elli Barczatis in the GDR executed.


The time in Brno

Karl Laurenz grew up in Brno . After five years of elementary school , five years of secondary school and business academy, he passed the Abitur. He then studied law at Masaryk University - still in Brno . His dissertation was entitled: “De poena capitali mutandis in temporibus” (“On the death penalty through the ages”).

In 1924 Laurenz took a job as editor at the publishing house "Tagebote" in Brno, worked alongside as a translator (Czech-German) as well as court interpreter, court, parliamentary and telephone stenographer . He was also a correspondent for the Neue Freie Presse Wien and the Ostrauer Morgenzeitung . Laurenz belonged to the " German Democratic Freedom Party " of the ČSR (Czechoslovakia) until 1939 . In 1934 he wrote an editorial in the New Free Press , in which he condemned the attack by the National Socialists on a barracks in Brno, but otherwise remained largely apolitical. After the Wehrmacht marched into the Czechoslovak Republic , Laurenz did not join the NSDAP and, according to his own account, was repeatedly warned by the security service for “lack of political sensitivity” and drafted into the military in 1941 despite his military unfit. He himself later described his political attitudes as follows: Through his court activity, which gave him deep insights into the political situation, he "lost all good faith", increasingly saw himself as a "pacifist cosmopolitan" and recognized "only 3 gods": Law, justice and common sense. Laurenz was Catholic, married on February 28, 1929 and had two daughters born around 1930. After the war she moved to Vienna, Laurenz's brother to Kirrlach near Karlsruhe.

The GDR and Elli Barczatis

Laurenz came to the front as a soldier at the end of the Second World War and in 1945 was taken prisoner by the US in Profen (Saxony-Anhalt) for a few weeks . Immediately afterwards he began to work in the coal industry, first in Profen, then in Maslo and finally in the central administration of the fuel industry in Berlin. At the beginning of 1948 he joined the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). In the “Central Coal Administration” Laurenz got to know several women better, including the secretary of the “Coal” President Gustav Sobottka , Elli Barczatis, in 1949 .

Elli Barczatis was six years younger than Laurenz and made a steep career within the SED and the GDR . From April 1950 she was chief secretary of the GDR Prime Minister Otto Grotewohl . Laurenz, on the other hand, fell out of favor with the party. In 1950 he was excluded from the SED because of “behavior that was harmful to the party”, “lack of vigilance and petty bourgeois deviations”. Laurenz had, among other things, spoken out against a new regulation to cancel the weekend allowances for drivers. In 1951 he came into conflict with the law as a paralegal because of “favoring prisoners”, was sentenced to three months in solitary confinement and was subsequently unable to get on the ground in the GDR.

Karl Laurenz turned his interest out of frustration and ambivalence towards the GDR to the West and made contact with a former colleague from the “Coal” administration, Clemens Laby . Laby had already moved from the east to the west sector of Berlin and put Laurenz in touch with the supposed entrepreneur "Schubert". Schubert was - like Laby - an agent for the Gehlen organization , the predecessor of the Federal Intelligence Service ; possibly Schubert was the code name for Gehlen himself. Laurenz later in court about the recruitment:

“Laby said to me: listen. Schubert is the head or director of some kind of West German intelligence service. They want you to work. You can get 400 marks a month and have to deliver reports from politics, economy, culture and so on, not military, with the exception of certain things, about the German Democratic Republic. "

From 1952 at the latest, Laurenz worked as a spy for “the service”, but without knowing exactly which secret service it was. Elli Barczatis, who had access to secret documents as Otto Grotewohl's confidante, passed them on to him, believing that Laurenz needed them for his journalistic work. In the case of the Federal German secret service, the process ran under the code name “Daisies”, at the Ministry for State Security (MfS) of the GDR as a group process “New Year's Eve”. Over the years, Laurenz received several thousand marks for the transmission of messages and used them to give Elli Barczatis small and large gifts, from chocolate to radio receivers.

Sluggish investigation

The investigations had already started in January 1951, but delivered hardly any useful results by the end of 1954. In the files of the MfS, there were more and more interrupted shading protocols because those affected took the S-Bahn to the western sector of Berlin. The telephone monitoring and the interception of letters also provided no evidence of an agent activity, but at most an insight into a problematic love relationship. The criminological evacuation finally succeeded with a trap: an MfS employee prepared documents and discovered a day later that Barczatis had taken them out of the minister’s safe and brought them back without permission. She later admitted under judicial pressure that she took the documents home with her to show them to Laurenz, but it could not be proven.


The originally scheduled for December 8, 1954 arrest shifted for reasons unknown to the spring of 1955. On March 4, was Karl Laurenz as he left his house in the Vinetastraße 49 in Berlin-Pankow arrested and the people's police inspection Lichtenberg brought. This was followed by six months' remand in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen . There Laurenz was questioned by Lieutenant Gerhard Niebling . Laurenz - at first confessed - later refused to testify until the hour-long night interrogations against him were discontinued. In the interrogations he compared the state security of the GDR with the National Socialist Security Service (SD) and the Gestapo .

Trial and Execution

On June 17, 1955, the investigations were concluded with the recommendation that the main hearing be held in camera. This took place on a single day, September 23, 1955, in Berlin-Mitte in front of the 1st Criminal Senate chaired by Judge Walter Ziegler . Neither Barczatis nor Laurenz had a defense attorney. In addition to the accused, the court and the public prosecutor, only MfS officers sat in the courtroom. Although the original recommendation was life imprisonment , both defendants were sentenced to death on September 23 for " boycotting " under Article 6 of the constitution of the GDR (the standard article on espionage) . There were eight and nine death sentences in that court in 1955. The mercy petitions rejected GDR president Wilhelm Pieck on November 11.

Both judgments were carried out on November 23, 1955 in the central execution site of the GDR in the Dresden I pre- trial detention center using the sword machine and the corpses cremated. On October 12, 1955, the Stasi officially closed the "New Year's Eve" case.

Evaluation and legal processing

For the Federal Republic of Germany, Elli Barczatis was supposedly of great intelligence value. For example, the former BND boss Reinhard Gehlen described Elli Barczatis in his 1971 memoir as one of “the first important connections in the other part of Germany” and thanked her for her “devoted and successful work”.

Laurenz considered his agent work to be succinct and the intelligence relevance of his information to the West as meaningless. A typical quote from the one-day court process:

"I wrote about the Berlin conference, I wrote about the [...] changeover to the gold base of our currency, I wrote about the 21st plenary session, I commented on certain things that I thought worthy of glossing over, e. B. If somewhere [...] in the democratic press it was written that I know that the toilets did not work in some building. […] In any case, it was a cramp to get these two reports together during the week, because I was basically not allowed to report anything that was already in the newspaper or on the radio. I know from Laby that the organization in West Berlin had its own radio system to transmit important messages immediately by radio. And I have to realize that in all of my two years of work, not a single message was passed on by radio on my own initiative. "

The associate judge Helene Heymann (at the time of the trial Helene Kleine) had to answer before the Berlin Regional Court in 1995 for manslaughter , deprivation of liberty and perversion of the law . Because she knowingly imposed disproportionately high sentences, she was given a five-year prison sentence , which was suspended.

Karl Laurenz was criminally rehabilitated on November 28, 2006 by the Berlin Regional Court .

Original documents

Opening of the official investigation "New Year's Eve" June 26, 1951
The MfS opens the espionage file "Sylvester"

"German Democratic Republic. Ministry of State Security. Decision on the creation of a group event Gr.V.44/51. Berlin, June 26th, 1951. About: Miss Barczatis Elli, birthday 7.1.1912, place of birth Berlin, home address Berlin Köpenik [street name blacked out by BStU]
The Barczatis, today's secretary at Mr. Grotewohl's, was observed as she was in the HO restaurant Leipzigerstr. Under suspicious circumstances, handed over a bundle of files to a Mr. Laurenz, with whom she was previously employed in the coal headquarters. Laurens was a member of the SED and was expelled. He makes himself suspicious by trying to establish relationships with female employees. In connection with this, Barczatis / Laurenz / Rettschlag, who is suspected of belonging to an agent activity, has to set up a group process and take the necessary measures. The process is to be carried out in the recording and statistics department under the name Sylvester .
[signed] The employee: Böhm. The leader: chaste. Confirmed 6/28/51 Mielke "

- Source : BStU MfS 57/56 Volume 1, p. 67 f. Typewriter document. All typographical peculiarities and errors have been taken from the original protocol.
State Security investigation report May 29, 1952

"Department VI, Section II, Berlin, May 29, 1952.
Investigation report .
Re: Anton Laurenz, wh. Pankow- [redacted by BStU]
The investigations carried out on May 28, 1952 in L.'s house were unsuccessful. Nobody in the house knew where L. works. The card commissioner was also unable to state L.'s place of work.
The alleged job of L. at lawyer Greffin Rathenaustr. 46 is not true. House number 46 has been bombed out. A lawyer Schlurak lives in the next house at No. 45.
[signed] Dombrowsky "

- Source : BStU MfS 57/56 Volume 1, p. 98. Handwritten document. All typographical peculiarities and errors have been taken from the original protocol.
State Security file memo June 3, 1952

"Dept. VI, Ref. II, Berlin, 3.6.1952. / Ko.
Memorandum .
Re: Investigations in the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications on Laurens, Karl b. 9/11/05
reference. without
The investigations into the aforementioned person on May 29, 1952 resulted in the following. The above is employed by a Dr. Greffin lived in the Königsstr. in Köpenik. In further investigations into the above, it could be established that he had been working as a lawyer in Uhlandstr. 28 at Dr. Greffin is busy where he's supposed to be by now.
[signed] Koschig. "

- Source : BStU MfS 57/56 Volume 1, p. 100. Typewriter document. All typographical peculiarities and errors have been taken from the original protocol.
State Security telephone surveillance report April 21, 1953
Telephone monitoring of Laurenz and Barczatis

"Main Department S.
Berlin, April 21, 1953. Ref .: 168/73 Bg X / 6
on a conversation between a gentleman from Potsdam and a lady on April 16, 1953 at 7:25 p.m.
The gentleman asks the lady how she is doing.
She then says that you wrote your exam paper today. She would have felt really sick with excitement. So she would be in Grünau on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. She asks if they wanted to go straight away, or if she should bring the bag home first and where they would then meet. The Lord says that they should go straight ahead and that they wanted to meet in the Mole (or a similar word). The lady says that they would rather meet at the tram.
Then the gentleman says that if it should rain, then he would go to the community center.
The lady agrees and asks him to get her a small pack of Otalgan for a friend.
The Lord asks if this is here or there.
The lady says it is there.
The Lord says everything would be clear then.
Then the lady says again that they would either meet at the tram or in bad weather in the society house in the society house.
They say goodbye to each other.
[signed] Lieutenant Colonel "

- Source : BStU MfS 57/56 Volume 2, p. 136. Typewriter document. All typographical peculiarities and errors have been taken from the original protocol.
Indicted July 16, 1955
Indictment by the GDR public prosecutor von Laurenz and Barczatis, 1955

"The Attorney General of the German Democratic Republic
- I a 27/55
Berlin, July 16, 1955
To the Supreme Court of the German Democratic Republic
- I. Criminal Senate -
Berlin N4, Scharnhorststr. 34
I am indicting:
1) Laurenz, Karl, b. on 9/11/1905 in Brno, profession: lawyer and journalist, most recently working as a freelance translator, resident: Berlin-Pankow [street blackened from BStU], nationality: German, criminal record: 5 months imprisonment for favoritism, in this matter in custody since 5.3.1955
2) Barczatis, Elli, Helene, b. on 7.1.1912 in Berlin, occupation: commercial clerk, most recently as a consultant in the office of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers of the GDR, resident: Berlin - Köpenik, [street blackened by BStU], nationality: German, criminal record: none, in the matter in Imprisonment since March 5, 1955
[Pages 2 and 3, not shown here:]
Both of the accused are guilty of the most serious crimes against the German people. They acted on behalf of the Gehlen espionage organization and served the American and German imperialists as henchmen in their criminal efforts to deepen the division of Germany and to unleash a new war. They are enemies of the working class and the German Democratic Republic.
[...] I apply

  1. To open the main proceedings before the First Criminal Senate of the Supreme Court of the German Democratic Republic,
  2. To set a date for the main hearing in camera,
  3. to decide on the continuation of pre-trial detention. "
- Source : BStU MfS AU 406/55, Volume 3, p. 38ff. Typewriter document. All typographical peculiarities and errors are taken from the original document.
Death sentences September 23, 1955
Death sentences against Laurenz and Barczatis, 1955

"Supreme Court of the German Democratic Republic
1. Criminal
Senate 1 Zst (I) 7/55
In the name of the people In the criminal case against 1. Laurenz, Karl [...], 2. Barczatis, Elli, Helene [...]
for crimes against Art. 6 of the Constitution of the German Democratic Republic by the 1st Criminal Senate in the session of September 23, 1955, in which the following took part:
Vice-President Ziegler as Chairman, Chief Justice Dr. Löwenthal, Chief Justice Ms. Kleine as the possessing judge, Public Prosecutor Lindner as the representative of the Attorney General of the German Democratic Republic, Chief Clerk Klenke as the recorder,
recognized for the law: The following are sentenced to death for crimes against Article 6 of the Constitution of the German Democratic Republic:
the accused Laurenz ,
the defendant B arczatis to death.
The defendants have to bear the costs of the proceedings.
Reasons […]"

- Source : BStU MfS AU 406/55, volume 3, p. 132. Typewriter document, photocopy of the copy. All typographical peculiarities and errors are taken from the original document.
Execution record of the execution on November 23, 1955
Protocol of the execution of Karl Laurenz

“Remand Prison I Dresden, George-Bähr-Str. 5
Dresden, November 23, 1955
Enforcement protocol
In the criminal case against Laurenz, Karl, b. , Sentenced 9/11/1905 by the Supreme Court of the GDR, the first criminal division for crimes against Article 6 of the Constitution of the GDR on 23.09.1955 to death, was born on 22.11.1955 in the determination of the persons equality 22:00 the announcement by
Gen. Public Prosecutor J ahnke as representative of the General Prosecutor
in the presence of the Gen. VP.-Rat J onak as representative of the enforcement authority.
The convicted man was informed that his petition for clemency was rejected and that the execution will take place on November 23, 1955 in the morning hours.
The condemned man took the announcement calmly and asked if he could write to his relatives and smoke. He also asked for something to eat. All of these wishes were granted to him.
The convict spent the night smoking and writing. Otherwise he was calm and did not cause any difficulties.
At 3:05 am he was handcuffed and taken to the execution room. There, in the presence of the Gen. Chief physician Dr. Skrobeck briefly announced the verdict again from the prison director and then handed it over to the executioner.
The execution took about 3 seconds.
After all the required papers had been completed, the corpse was transported in the VP's own vehicle. brought to the Tolkewitz crematorium with the district attorney's certificate of release and the cremation in the presence of Gen. VP.Hwm. Bachmann completed.
as representative of the public prosecutor general [signature] Jahnke, public prosecutor
as representative of the enforcement authority [signature] Jonak, VP.-Rat "

- Source : BStU MfS AU 406/55, Volume 3, p. 141. Typewriter document. All typographical peculiarities and errors have been taken from the original protocol.


  • Karl Wilhelm Fricke , Roger Engelmann: "Concentrated Strikes" - State Security Actions and Political Trials in the GDR 1953–1956 . Berlin 1998, pp. 181-194.

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References and comments

  1. BStU, MfS, AOP 57/56, p. 54.
  2. The MfS noted in its investigation report “Everything about the person” of December 8, 1952: “He is in contact with his brother [...]. He lives in Kirlach and often sends packages with medicines, cigars, etc. to him and his wife. "
  3. Clemens Laby (* November 22, 1900, † 1984) is unknown to the archives of the Federal Intelligence Service (status: end of 2011). However, he was mentioned in several criminal trials in the GDR in the 1950s, always as a contact for Western secret services. See BStU files MfS HA IX / Tb / 2166-2188, MfS AOP 77/53, MfS AU 406/55
  4. BStU , MfS, ZA, AU 406/55, p. 92: Opening resolution “The date for the main hearing is on September 23, 1955, before. 9.oo clock was scheduled. Bl. [For Berlin], d. September 16, 1955 ".
  5. Jochen Staadt: Daisy Death . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , April 11, 2001, Berliner Seiten, p. 3.
  6. ^ Hermann Zölling, Heinz Höhne: Pullach intern . In: Der Spiegel . No. 17 , 1971, p. 156 ( online ).
  7. Reinhard Gehlen : The service. Memories 1942–1971 . Munich 1971. Quoted from the "Daisies" case: The death sentence against the Grotewohl secretary Elli Barczatis and her companion Dr. Karl Laurenz. Press release by the Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records (BStU), September 17, 2003, archived from the original on March 4, 2016 ; accessed on October 24, 2019 .
  8. ^ Sigrid Averesch: Trial of ex-GDR judge / setting requested: Six people died under the guillotine. In: Berliner Zeitung . January 17, 1995, accessed October 24, 2019 .
  9. Sigrid Averesch: District court sentenced a former GDR judge to five years in prison / exemption from prison: knowingly imposed too high sentences. In: Berliner Zeitung. March 31, 1995, accessed October 24, 2019 .
  10. Regional Court Berlin, business number (551 Rh), 3 Js 322/06 (331/06).
  11. Gertrud Rettschlag was Karl Laurenz's lover before he met Elli Barczatis