August Karsten

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August Karsten (* 20 December 1888 in Peine; † 8 May 1981 in East Berlin) was a German politician (SPD, USPD, SED).

August Karsten


Empire (1888 to 1919)

August Karsten was born in 1888, the son of a beer coachman for Härke beer.[1] He attended elementary school in Peine from 1895 to 1903. Later he earned his living as a worker and coachman in the transport business. In 1905 he became a member of the Transport Workers’ Association. In 1907 he became unable to work due to an accident in which he lost a leg, which he later replaced with a wooden leg.[2]

In July 1914, Karsten became labor secretary in Aschaffenburg. In the fall of 1917, he took on tasks for the metalworkers’ association in Schweinfurt. In 1918, he married.

As a young man, he became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1908. In 1917 Karsten joined the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), a new party recruited from representatives of the left wing of the SPD that had formed out of dissatisfaction with the SPD’s wartime policies during the war. In February 1918, Karsten was exiled to Brückenau for forced residence for leading the January strike of that year in Schweinfurt. After the outbreak of the revolution in November 1918, he became chairman of the workers’ and soldiers’ council of Peine. In 1919, he first became demobilization commissioner in Brunswick, then in July 1919 workers’ secretary in Peine.

Weimar Republic and Nazi era (1919 to 1945)

After the war, Karsten became chairman of the Peine district of the USPD. From July 1919 to October 1923 he was workers’ secretary in Peine. Subsequently, Karsten led the Reichsverband der Arbeitsinvaliden und Witwen from December 1923 to 1933. According to Der Spiegel, he earned a handsome salary in this capacity, so that he could afford a “rose-red-washed villa” on Duttenstedter Strasse in Peine, which had an electrical system that reached into the henhouse and could be operated from the bed.[1] In addition, Karsten was active in the editorial department of the ” Deutsche Invalidenzeitung “. He also wrote a social guidebook.

In the Reichstag election of July 1920, Karsten was elected to the Reichstag as a USPD candidate for constituency 18 (southern Hanover-Braunschweig). During this first legislative period of the parliament of the Weimar Republic, Karsten returned to the SPD in 1922. Accordingly, he also joined its Reichstag faction. In the Reichstag election of May 1924, Karsten entered the Reichstag as the SPD candidate for constituency 16 (southern Hanover-Braunschweig). In this constituency he was re-elected a total of six times in the following new years (December 1924, 1928, 1930, July 1932, November 1932, March 1933), so that he belonged to the Reichstag for a total of almost 13 years without interruption. In June 1933 Karsten was officially deprived of his parliamentary mandate after his party had been banned shortly before. In addition, Karsten was a municipal representative in Aschaffenburg from 1914-1917, mayor of Peine from 1919-1924, member of the district council of the Peine district from 1919-1921 and since 1925, and member of the Hanoverian provincial parliament from 1919 to 1921.

Karsten was one of the deputies who addressed the Reichstag on December 7, 1932, during the penultimate Reichstag session before the National Socialists came to power in January. The speech he gave that day was essentially a polemic against measures taken by Papen’s government, which had resigned shortly before. In March 1933, Karsten was one of the 94 Reichstag deputies who voted against the adoption of the Enabling Act, which passed by 94 votes to 144 and later formed the basis for the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship.

After the National Socialist “seizure of power” in 1933, the Reichsverband der Arbeitsinvaliden was brought into line and Karsten was removed from office and briefly taken into “protective custody”. After his release, he lived in Oderberg, where he managed a 90-acre farm. In 1944 he was arrested again, this time as part of Aktion Gitter.

SBZ and GDR (1945 to 1981)

After 1945, August Karsten initially lived in Berlin. He became treasurer of the East SPD and was a member of the party’s Central Committee (ZA). As late as 1945, he opposed a hasty unification of the SPD and the KPD in the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ), especially at the lower party level (local associations). On December 15, 1945, while giving a public speech in Oranienbaum in which he expressed his views, he was briefly arrested by a representative of the local Soviet command.[3] A short time later, however, as a member of the SPD Central Committee, he was part of the Sixties Conference, which took place shortly before Christmas 1945 and set the first course for a unification of the SPD and the KPD in the Soviet occupation zone.

At the Unification Party Congress, which resulted in the founding of the SED, Karsten was elected to the Party Executive Committee of the SED and its innermost center of power, the Central Secretariat. There, together with Erich Gniffke, he was responsible for party finances and party enterprises, including Fundamentum A.G. (“Fundamentum-Karsten”). In the spring of 1946 he also moved his residence to Kleinmachnow, where he lived until the winter of 1976. At the II SED Party Congress in September 1947, Karsten was confirmed in his party functions. In the summer of 1948, Karsten was reprimanded at a meeting of the SED party executive committee for financial irregularities in his area of responsibility.[1] As a result, at the end of 1948 he offered to retire from his work in the Central Secretariat. This wish, which was officially, but in view of his invalidity also understandably, based on health complaints, was granted. Karsten resigned from his position with effect from 31 January 1949. On 1 February 1949 he was appointed Director of the Brandenburg State Property Administration, and from 1 July 1949 he acted as Area Director of the Association of People’s Owned Properties in Potsdam. From autumn 1951 until his retirement in autumn 1952, Karsten worked as deputy director at the Berlin VEAB.

When he died in 1981, August Karsten was one of the last surviving Reichstag members of the Weimar Republic. His urn was buried in the Berlin-Friedrichsfelde Central Cemetery on Pergolenweg.[4]

Karsten’s estate is now stored in the SAPMO in the Federal Archives in Berlin. It includes personal documents, memories as well as greetings and congratulatory letters.


August Karsten had 10 siblings. The youngest sister was the first female district administrator in Lower Saxony for the district of Peine, the SPD local politician Hertha Peters.


  • 1965 Banner of the work[5]
  • 1969 Fatherland Order of Merit in Gold[6]
  • 1978 Karl Marx Order[7]


  • Eckhard Hansen, Florian Tennstedt (eds.) et al: Biographisches Lexikon zur Geschichte der deutschen Sozialpolitik 1871 bis 1945. vol. 2: Sozialpolitiker in der Weimarer Republik und im Nationalsozialismus 1919 bis 1945. Kassel University Press, Kassel 2018, ISBN 978-3-7376-0474-1, pp. 93-95(Online, PDF; 3.9 MB).
  • Beatrix Herlemann, Helga Schatz: Biographisches Lexikon niedersächsischer Parlamentarier 1919-1945 (= Veröffentlichungen der Historischen Kommission für Niedersachsen und Bremen. Vol. 222). Hahnsche Buchhandlung, Hanover 2004, ISBN 3-7752-6022-6, pp. 182-183.
  • Martin Schumacher (ed.): M.d.R. Die Reichstagsabgeordneten der Weimarer Republik in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus. Political persecution, emigration and expatriation, 1933-1945. A biographical documentation. 3., considerably expanded and revised edition. Droste, Düsseldorf 1994, ISBN 3-7700-5183-1.
  • Short biography to:Karsten, August. In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Vol. 1. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4.

Web links

Individual references

  1. a b c Let’s go forthe bacon. In: Der Spiegel. No. 12, 1949, p. 6(online ).
  2. Hartfrid Krause: USPD. Zur Geschichte der unabhängigen sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands, 1975, p. 361.
  3. Andreas Schmidt: “–Join or be thrown off”: Die Zwangsvereinigung von KPD und SPD, 2004, p. 168.
  4. New Germany 19 May 1981 p. 2
  5. Neues Deutschland of May 5, 1965 p. 3
  6. Neues Deutschland of 21 February 1969 p. 3
  7. Neues Deutschland of 9 October 1978 p. 4