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The Stories of the Male Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

After discovering the stories of the Nazi female concentration camp guards last week, I wanted to share the stories of their male counterparts.

It’s interesting to see how all of them tried to worm their way out of any responsibility in the war crimes trial. All the guards who herded the unfortunate people into the gas chambers try to exonerate themselves by suggesting they weren’t involved in the selection process, and that they were just following orders. Whereas the doctors who did the selections claimed they weren’t told what they were selecting people for, they were just splitting the healthy from the sick, young or weak.

Hmmmm. It seems these justifications didn’t wash with the jury…

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Ansgar Pichen

Age at the end of the war: 32
Nationality: Danish
Job: Kitchen Commander at Bergen-Belsen
Sentenced to death.

Despite his almost comical Hitler-tribute mustache, there was nothing amusing about Ansgar Pichen’s part in the war.

He was born in Denmark, but then became a Polish national in 1922 when Upper Silesia was taken over by Poland. When Poland was occupied by Germany in 1940 Pichen was conscripted into the German infantry and was left with a crippled left hand after being wounded in 1942.

When he was released from hospital he was sent to work in a P.O.W. punishment camp at Blechanner (a sub-camp of Auschwitz III), then on to Bergen-Belsen. He claimed because of his injured hand he was excused from guard duties and just worked in the kitchens. He claimed to have never mistreated prisoners under his charge, but was contradicted by a number of witnesses who saw him beat and shoot inmates.

He was executed on 13 December 1945 for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Transcript of his trial

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Vladislav Ostrovski: sentenced to life imprisonment.

Vladislav Ostrowski

Age at the end of the war: 31
Nationality: Polish
Sentenced to life imprisonment, released after 15 years.

Ostrowski was a Polish national from Lodz and was a painter who was married with one child before the war. He was conscripted into the Polish army in 1939 and fought on the Russian Front before being wounded and being captured by the Germans in 1940.

He was imprisoned by the Gestapo but escaped in 1942 and went to Berlin where he was recaptured 2 years later. He was sent to Gross Rosen concentration camp and then Dora labour camp where he worked building tunnels until he was injured. Because he was sick he was transferred to Bergen-Belsen.

In Belsen it was alleged that he was promoted to camp policemen and would beat other prisoners and would withhold food from the sick and weak so that they starved to death.

He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment was changed to 15 years. He was released on June 24, 1955. There are no records of what happened to him after his release.

Read his trial transcript

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Josef Kramer: known as the “Beast of Belsen”, sentenced to death.

Josef Kramer

Age at the end of the war: 39
Also known as ‘The Beast of Belsen’
Nationality: German
Job: In charge of Gas Chambers at Auschwitz and then Commandant of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp
Sentenced to death

Kramer was one of the most notorious people (along with Irma Grese) who were tried in the Bergen-Belsen war crimes trial.

He joined the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in December 1931 and they S.S. shortly afterwards.  He specialised in working in concentration camps and started his career there as early as 1934 and stayed there until the end of the war. He worked in various concentration camps including Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

Kramer’s crimes during his 10 years working in concentration camps are too numerous to mention, but he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Dachau, and other concentration camps.

He was also the lover of the vile Irma Grese (she who had lampshades made from the tatooed skin of prisoners) and they were hanged on the same day as each other, December 13th 1945.

Read his trial transcript

 

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Franz Hoessler: sentenced to death.

Franz Hoessler

Age at the end of the war: 39
Nationality: German
Sentenced to death.

After leaving school Franz Hößler became a photographer before working in a warehouse. He lost his job during the Great Depression of the 1930s and became a member of the National Socialist (Nazi) party and the S.S. in 1932.

By the time war broke out he was married with three children. He worked at the Dachau concentration camp from as early as 1933 and stayed there until after the outbreak of the war.

He was personally responsible for herding many thousands of people into the gas chambers, either by force, or by misleading speeches such as this one:

“On behalf of the camp administration I bid you welcome. This is not a holiday resort but a labor camp. Just as our soldiers risk their lives at the front to gain victory for the Third Reich, you will have to work here for the welfare of a new Europe. How you tackle this task is entirely up to you. The chance is there for every one of you. We shall look after your health, and we shall also offer you well-paid work. After the war we shall assess everyone according to his merits and treat him accordingly.

Now, would you please all get undressed. Hang your clothes on the hooks we have provided and please remember your number [of the hook]. When you’ve had your bath there will be a bowl of soup and coffee or tea for all. Oh yes, before I forget, after your bath, please have ready your certificates, diplomas, school reports and any other documents so that we can employ everybody according to his or her training and ability.

Would diabetics who are not allowed sugar report to staff on duty after their baths.”

But of course these people weren’t going for a shower, they were going into the gas chambers. Hößler was executed along with Kramer, Pichen and some of the other men below.

Read his trial transcript

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Wilhelm Dorr: sentenced to death.

Wilhelm Dörr

Age at the end of the war: 24
Nationality: German
Sentenced to death

Wilhelm Dörr worked on a farm before the war. He was a member of the Hitler Youth from 1932 until he joined the Waffen-SS in 1940. He moved to the S.S. in 1942 and worked as a guard at a succession of concentration camps including Sachsenhausen, Dora and Kleinbodungen where he managed slave-laborers. When U.S. troops neared Kleinbodungen, he led a death march of inmates from there to Bergen-Belsen and killed numerous prisoners who slowed the progress of the march.

Hew was sentenced to death for war crimes and the atrocities which had occurred on the death march.

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Ignatz Schlomovicz: acquitted.

Ignatz Schlomovicz

Age at the end of the war: 27
Nationality: Austrian
Acquitted

Schlomoivicz was born in Vienna and was caught by the Gestapo in 1939 for not having a valid permit which then became a charge of being Jewish and behaving in an ‘anti-German’ way.  He was sent to the concentration camp at Oranienburg where he remained until 1941.  He was then sent to Gross Rosen, and from there on to Auschwitz.  He worked as a Kapo, an inmate-foreman in charge of other prisoners but was acquitted of the charge of war crimes.

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Erich Zoddel: sentenced to life imprisonment.

Erich Zoddel

Age at the end of the war: 32
Nationality: Norwegian
Life imprisonment, later changed to the death penalty.

Norwegian-born Zoddel was described as a ‘violent career criminal’ who was sent to a concentration camp in 1942. Within Bergen Belsen he became a Kapo and was in charge of overseeing other prisoners and  distributing food rations. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for ill-treatment of prisoners at Bergen-Belsen.

Later he was charged with murdering a female prisoner at a military tribunal in Celle 31 August 1945 and was sentenced to death.

Read his trial transcript

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Franz Stöfel: sentenced to death.

Franz Stofel

Age at the end of the war: 30
Nationality: German
Job: Camp commander of the Kleinbodungen subcamp of Mittelbau-Dora
Sentenced to death.

Stöfelwas was a German national who worked as clerk before joining the German army in 1934. He joined the S.S. in 1936 and worked as a guard at the Dora concentration camp in 1943. In 1945 he led a death march of prisoners from Dora to Bergen-Belsen and was convicted of crimes against humanity and executed along with the other guards above.

 

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Oscar Schmitz, acquitted

Oscar Schmitz

Age at the end of the war: 29
Nationality: German
Acquitted

Schmitz was a German studying engineering before the war. Because he had been a member of the Communist Youth Movement and refused to join the Hitler Youth he was dismissed from his first job. After failing to find work he was imprisoned for pawing goods which didn’t belong to him and was later conscripted to the Arbeitsdienst. He once again ran away in a stolen car and was imprisoned again. Once released he was called up, now that the country was at war, but refused to go and was sent to Mauthausen and then Auschwitz.

He was a Kapo at Auschwitz and oversaw other prisoners but was acquitted of any war crimes.

Trial transcript

Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Peter. Weingartner, sentenced to death

Peter Weingärtner

Age at the end of the war: 32
Nationality: Yugolsavian
Job: Blockführer of the women’s camp in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen
Sentenced to death

Weingärtner worked as a carpenter and when Germany attacked Yugoslavia he fought against them in the army. He was captured by the Germans but later released. He was conscripted to the S.S in 1942 and sent to Auschwitz to be a concentration camp guard.

He was Blockführer of the women’s camp in Auschwitz guarding over 1000 female prisoners, he later had a similar position at Bergen-Belsen. He was convicted of crimes against humanity and executed on 13th December 1945.

Dr. Fritz Klein

Dr. Fritz Klein

Age at the end of the war: 57
Job: Camp Doctor at Auschwitz and Belsen-Bergen
Nationality: Romanian
Sentenced to death

Dr Klein worked as doctor in Transylvania before joining the Romanian army in 1939 serving as a medic on the Eastern Front.  In 1943 he was posted to the German army and was sent to be the camp doctor at Auschwitz and later at Belsen Bergen. He was in charge of the selection process for the gas chambers and when asked how he reconciled genocide with the hippocratic oath he took as  adoctor he said:

“My Hippocratic oath tells me to cut a gangrenous appendix out of the human body. The Jews are the gangrenous appendix of mankind. That’s why I cut them out.”

He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death and hanged along with the other camp personnel in December 1945.

 

Read the fascinating backstories of the Female concentration camp guards here.

Image source and copyright: This artistic work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain.
Information sources: 1, 2, 3,

 

 

13 thoughts on “The Stories of the Male Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

  1. Dar

    I don’t know…some of these guys deserved their sentence, but some didn’t. many fo them were prisoners themselves.

    All wars of mistreatment of prisoners. The guards at Abu Ghraib were photographed in their crimes yet I heard no death sentences handed out.

    Reply
    • Graeme Cree

      Nobody was murdered at Abu Ghraib. If you think we should have gone harder on those guys, it really makes little sense to want to go easier on these.

      Reply
        • Graeme Cree

          Actually, you’re probably technically right, since it was Hussein’s prison, and he was on Amnesty International’s Post Office Wall for 20 years. When I said Nobody, I was really referring to one specific scandal.

          Reply
          • Arthur Hornblower

            You’re not very smart are you? The thumbs up guy? He was standing over the corpse of Manadel al-Jamadi, tortured to death by the CIA. The military classified the death a homicide, but didn’t press charges. Probably, and I do mean this sincerely, the best thing for you to do is kill yourself.

          • Arthur Hornblower

            “tried to worm their way out of any responsibility in the war crimes trial” nice and impartial there. Great job looking back through 70 years to smear your sensibilities all over the past. These guys, in their early twenties, after a decade of Nazi brainwashing, conscripted into the military, forced to perform horrific but low level tasks for face execution for dereliction of duty, and you sit here and condemn them from the future. The worst part is, if you read this at all, you’re so enraged that I’d even consider humanizing these people, that you’ve likely labeled me a Nazi sympathizer and an anti-Semite, neither of which is true. And whatever you say you “would have done” is BS because 1) it was a long time ago, and you have modern sensibilities (which is fine, it’s just a relevant factor) and 2) frankly, you weren’t there.

            Execute the commanders; imprison the bureaucrats; but just leave the peons alone, IMO. FFS they didn’t build, fund, supply, organize or run the place.

  2. Roger

    Some of these men should have been executed based on their looks alone. The emaciated liberated prisoners were better looking. Lord have mercy!

    Reply
  3. Colonel Dr K Prabhakar Rao retired

    Very good information I was seeking along with snaps. Thi is information will greatly help me in completing certain important task in my work on Nazis.

    Reply
  4. Apocalyptic queen

    As someone who has read many of the transcripts of the Nuremberg trials, along with later trials held by the British Military, and the National Tribunal of Poland, I thought I’d share my views.

    As many should be aware, only a small fraction of guards and personnel were put to death. To put this into context, Poland (who by far, prosecuted the most amount of SS personnel, out of all the allies), prosecuted 673 individuals out of around 1,000 arrested. And of the 673, the death penalty was only imposed on 41 occasions.

    People may have an issue with the execution of concentration camps, because they believe that they were “just following orders”, and “anyone of us could have done the same”. I personally find this offensive and incredibly contentious.

    I do not know the individual accounts of every single concentration camp guard prosecuted and obviously the details above only offer a snapshot of the crimes involved, however most of those prosecuted by the British and US courts had gone far beyond the scope of what could be characterised as “just following orders”.

    There was the case of a young SS guard stationed at Auschwitz who had argued that he was just following orders. He had said that he never carried out beatings or punishments on the inmates – former inmates’ testimony corroborrated his accounts, and he was acquitted. This is an example of conduct whereby it could be argued that one was “just following orders”.

    Guards such as Irma Grese, revelled in cruelty, setting half-hungry hounds on terrified prisoners, inflicting gratuitous beatings on inmates, and making derogatory comments towards doomed prisoners, according to witness testimony.

    First hand accounts of the trials from journalists at the time, reveal that, many of these camp personnel did not take the proceedings seriously, often defiant and refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the trials – until (most typically), they were sentenced to death.

    In the Polish trial of Auschwitz commandant, Rudolf Hoess for instance, he described horrific incidents of barbarous cruelty, in graphic detail, and in the most calculating and non-chalant manner. He talked of “processing” and “exterminating” his victims, not of murder or slaughter. He basically saw them as lesser human beings, of whom it was his job, to dispose of.
    This is a glimpse of the mindset in which many of these guards held.

    Even some of the most hardened Allied soldiers, (some of whom were still familiar with the horrors of the First World War, and whom had seen fellow comrades killed in the final push across Europe between 1944-1945), were absolutely horrified by the scenes that awaited them upon the liberation of Dachau and Bergen-Belsen (I have read the account of one British soldier). It is clear that even the most seasoned of generals had never seen anything like it. It is not uncommon to read of family reports of some of these men, reporting that they suffered PTSD following the liberation of these camps. Many took instant revenge (rightly or wrongly).

    This gives us an idea of the gravity and egregiousness of the atrocities committed within the camps. They were no ordinary war crimes – they went far beyond the scope of what any sane, decent or moral people could have described as “normal warfare”. And yes, in the midsts of all the outrage, morality and clear level-headed judgement went through the window.

    I will be honest, I have no sympathy for those who were executed by the Allies. Whatever their merits and dubiousness, they were far, far fairer than any treatment meted out to their victims. How many of those received a trial?

    I agree that there are those who evaded justice altogether who should not have been able to do so, and there were those who escaped with lighter sentences than their colleagues. However, even Allied justice was not perfect and suffered from its own problems. However, given the circumstances, politics and the time, it was as fair as could reasonably have been possible. The Btitish and American authorities did their best to offer these individuals the chance of a decent defence.

    Remembee that the original proposal was to have 50,000 SS personnel summarily executed but had that have happened, there would inevitanly be cries that justice was denied.

    Reply

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