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Cato Bontjes van Beek

(b. 14 November 1920 in Bremen; d. 5 August 1943 in Berlin-Plötzensee)

Cato Bontjes van Beek was executed on 5 August 1943 as a member of the resistance against the Nazi regime. She died on the guillotine in the Plötzensee Penitentiary in Berlin. She was sentenced to death at the age of twenty-two for her active involvement in the “Rote Kapelle” resistance group.

For Cato Bontjes van Beek, who had grown up in a milieu which took a critical view of fascism, political involvement was the logical and natural reaction to what she experienced. In Berlin, where she worked in the ceramics workshop of her father, Jan van Beek, she came into contact with a group of Nazi opponents around Harro Schulze-Boysen, who sympathized with the Soviet Socialist system. The Nazis subsumed such groups under the term “Rote Kapelle” and accused them of espionage for the Soviet Union, an act of which they were not guilty. At the time of her arrest, Cato Bontjes van Beek had already stopped distributing leaflets, but she was nevertheless sentenced to death on 18 January 1943 for “aiding and abetting preparations for high treason”.

Whereas her mother Olga – a daughter of the Fischerhude painter Heinrich Breling and a painter and dancer herself – had to fight for twelve years to obtain her daughter’s rehabilitation, today Cato Bontjes van Beek’s status as a victim of the Nazi terror regime is undisputed. A path in Fischerhude, where she grew up, streets and squares in Bremen, Leipzig and Meldorf, and a school in Achim all bear her name. A “Stolperstein” – a form of commemorative stone – is set in the pavement in front of her last place of residence in Berlin.

Source: Bremer Frauenmuseum e.V.