Paul Adolf Ernst Kobelt was born in Haynau in Silesia, in the district of Goldberg (now Chojnów, Poland). His mother Johanna Karoline Kobelt (née Reichel) and his father Robert Kobelt later lived in Schildau near Hirschberg in the Krkonoše Mountains.
Only fragmentary details of Paul Kobelt’s life are known: He grew up with his parents and left school early to start an apprenticeship as a machine assistant in a paper factory. In 1910, he left home for Berlin, where he took work as a domestic servant. In 1916, he sustained a hand injury while serving in the First World War. He remained a soldier after the war, stationed at the Glogau fortress. In 1919, he was summonsed before a military court for taking absence without leave. He did so several times in the following months and received the corresponding punishments.
Over the next two decades, his was life was characterized by frequent minor offences, such as robbery, receiving stolen goods, embezzlement, and begging. At a time of world economic crisis, this was the only way for many people to survive. Paul Kobelt accumulated a record of 24 convictions. He moved between Brandenburg, Saxony and Bremen, and never married. Living outside the “people’s community”, he was forced to stay in a workhouse for a time. At one point, he managed to get a job in Berlin-Britz, but lost it again in May 1939. In summer 1939, he spent another period in a workhouse. These institutions, set up under the Kaiser, served the police and welfare authorities as a way of keeping the needy under control at a low cost, and exploiting their labour. Under the Nazi regime, conditions here worsened considerably, leading to a far higher mortality rate, especially among the older inmates. Recent research has shown that some inmates of the Berlin-Rummelsburg workhouse were killed under the Nazis’ “euthanasia” programme.
Paul Kobelt was granted permission to leave the Berlin-Rummelsburg workhouse on 9 September 1940. He was given instructions to report for work at the municipal shelter’s hospital at Nordmarkstraße 15. However, a short time later he was re-arrested, charged with failing to appear for work here.
In November 1940, the court sentenced him to one year in prison, which he served in Spandau prison. From here, the criminal police transferred him to “preventive detention”. This was probably the reason why he was admitted to Sachsenhausen concentration camp on 9 February 1942. He was given the prisoner number 40844 and registered as “workshy”.
Paul Kobelt was sent to the Klinkerwerk sub-camp to work in the brick factory. This was notorious among prisoners for being a “death camp” where people died every day – partly because the conditions were so bad and partly of injuries directly caused by the guards. Just over a month after his arrival here, on 25 March 1942, Paul Kobelt took his own life. The SS recorded his “suicide by hanging” at 10.30 am.