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Karl August Kipp – a communist in SS uniform

Karl August Kipp
Karl August Kipp

Karl August Kipp was born in Oppenheim in 1911. A trained mechanic, he left his hometown at age 20 to make his fortune in Spanish Morocco. In May 1933 he returned to Oppenheim and soon joined the SS. Josef Engmann, a communist from Nierstein, took his former friend and schoolmate to task and explained the political situation in Nazi Germany to him.

Kipp immediately agreed to support a small resistance group that Engmann himself and at least three other communists from Oppenheim were part of. The group was headed by Emil Löw, a Jew from Oppenheim. It distributed anti-Nazi material in Oppenheim and at the factory of automobile manufacturer Opel in Rüsselsheim. The group quickly agreed that it was best to hide the typewriter and other incriminating material in Kipp’s apartment, because as a member of the SS he was safe from persecution. The resistance group advised him against resigning from the SS straightaway for the same reason.

Kipp as a guard at the Osthofen Concentration Camp

Instead they suggested he should join the Osthofen Concentration Camp as a guard to gather information about the conditions and help the prisoners as much as possible. Kipp agreed and served as guard from February of 1934 onward. However the 22 year old became quickly disillusioned, because he saw little opportunity to help the prisoners. Instead, he found himself in danger, because his superiors noticed that Kipp treated the prisoners well.

For this reason, Kipp left Oppenheim for Saxony and resigned from the SS in Chemnitz. Afterwards, he immediately returned to his hometown where he continued his resistance activities. After Löw’s emigration to Milan in April 1938, the group ceased its anti-Nazi activities.

Life in postwar Germany

After the end of World War II, Kipp joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and requested to be tried by a denazification tribunal. The tribunal found him “not guilty”. From December 1st 1948 to August 1956, when the Communist Party was banned by Germany’s Constitutional Court, Kipp served as a member of the Oppenheim City Council. He died on December 5th, 1959 in Mainz at the age of 48.