The Backstories of the Female SS Camp Guards

I’ve had a lot of interest in the photographs I posted yesterday of the female Nazi concentration camp guards of Bergen-Belsen* and the sentences they all received.

*Bergen-Belsen is the concentration camp where Anne Frank died – I didn’t realize that until today.

A few of you wondered about the back-stories of these women and the kind of lives they lived before they became monsters. I decided to look into it and what I discovered was really surprising, some (as you would expect) joined the SS by choice, some were conscripted. and some started off as prisoners who ‘worked their way up’. All of their stories make for fascinating reading. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what I discovered.

I’ve also included links through to the original war crime trial transcripts for each woman, they make for a compelling read. Amazingly most of them claimed to know nothing about the gas chambers and all of them say they weren’t involved in the selection process and did no more than slap prisoners with their hand when they didn’t comply. What the camp prisoners had to say is a very different matter…

All the women were tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity and what I found even more shocking is how young most of them were.

I’ve also included the story of perhaps the most notorious of the female SS members in the concentration camps, the vile (and vain) Irma Grese (below).

Irma Grese

Irma Grese

Age at the end of the war: 21
Also known as “the Beautiful Beast”, “The Hyena of Auschwitz”, “Angel of Death”
Job: Warden of the women’s section of Bergen-Belsen (also at Auschwitz and Ravensbrück)
Sentenced to death.

Irma Grese was found guilty of crimes against humanity and was sentenced to death for her role in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz, Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen. When she was executed she was just 22 years old, the youngest woman to be executed under British law during the 20th century.

She was born in Wrechen, Mecklenburg in Germany and had a fanatical devotion to the Nazi girls organization (Bund Deutscher Mädel) from the age of 14. She worked on a local farm before leaving to work as a nurse. She claimed she was conscripted to join the S.S. in 1942.

Grese worked first at Ravensbrück (a women’s concentration camp in northern Germany), then Birkenau (part of the Auschwitz complex) and finally Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

She was renowned for being vain and sadistic, enjoying the terror she inspired in the women prisoners. She singled-out and victimized not only the sick and weak but also any women who retained traces of their former beauty, and would enjoy being meticulously groomed, perfumed and coiffured amongst the ragged prisoners.

She enjoyed the power her beauty gave her and had various lovers among senior SS officials, including Josef Mengele (famed for performing horrific experiments on the inmates). She was accused of murder, ill-treatment, beatings and torture as well as selecting prisoners for the gas chambers (she would always make sure to choose the pretty ones).

She had a reputation as being sadistic and cruel and enjoyed inflicting pain and terror. She was also known to inspect prisoners looking for interesting tattoos, and would have items (including lampshades) made from their skin. Various items made from human skin were found in her quarters when Bergen-Belsen was seized by the British troops.

After a fifty-three day trial, Grese was sentenced to hang for crimes against humanity.

Transcript of Irma Grese’s trail

Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Hildegard Lohbauer

Age at the end of the war: 27
Also known as “The SS Woman Without Uniform”.
Sentence: 10 years imprisonment later reduced to 7 years

Hildegard Lohbauer was a German unmarried mother with 2 children who worked in a weaving factory. She refused to go when she was conscripted to work in an ammunition factory and was imprisoned in Ravensbrück camp and later transferred to Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Bergen-Belsen.

She started as an ordinary prisoner but got promoted to Arbeitsdienstführerin, and was in charge of organising prisoners for the working parties, and would often beat prisoners who wouldn’t co-operate.
Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Hilde Lisiewitz:

Age at the end of the war: 23
Sentenced to 1 years imprisonment.

Hilde worked in various jobs before she was conscripted into the S.S, including working in a fruit garden a restaurant in a railway station. In 1944 she worked in a munitions factory and was conscripted into the S.S. later that year.

She arrived at Belsen in March 1945 where she had various jobs including overseeing prisoners working in the kitchens.

See the transcript of her trial here

Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Gertrude Sauer:

Age at the end of the war: 41
Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

Sauer was a saleswoman in a shop at the start of the war, but after her house was destroyed by a bomb she went to work in a munitions factory.

When prisoners were brought in to work in the factory she was employed as Aufseherin to oversee them, and from there she was moved to another factory and then on to Belsen in February 1944. She oversaw inmates working in the kitchens at the camp and was convicted for ill-treatment.

Transcript of Gertrude Sauer’s trail

Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Gertrude Feist:

Age at the end of the war: 27
Sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.

Gertrud Fiest worked in a factory before being conscripted into the S.S. in August 1944. She remained at the factory as an Aufseherin overseeing prisoners working in the factory. She was moved to Belsen in February 1945.

Transcript of Gertrude Feist’s trail

Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Elizabeth Volkenrath:

Age at the end of the war: 26
Head wardress of the camp.

Volkenrath worked in a hair salon before the war and was called up for national service in 1939.

She was conscripted into the S.S. in 1941 and was sent to Ravensbrück, followed by Auschwitz and she later became the cruel and un-relenting head wardress of Bergen-Belsen. Whilst there she was renowned for her cruelty and made selections for the gas chamber. She was known as  “the most hated woman in the Bergen-Belsen camp”.

She was executed for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Hamelin Prison on 13 December 1945.

Transcript of Elizabeth Volkenrath’s trail.

Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Herta Ehlert:

Age at the end of the war: 40
Deputy Wardress at Bergen-Belsen under Irma Grese and Elizabeth Volkenrath (above).
Sentenced to 15 Years Imprisonment, later reduced to 12 years with an earliest release date of 16 November 1953.

Herta worked as a saleswoman before the war, and was conscripted to the S.S. in November 1939. She worked at Ravensbrück camp for 3 years, then Lublin, Cracow, Auschwitz and finally Bergen Belsen.

After her release from prison in 1953 she lived under the assumed name Herta Naumann until her death in 1997.

Transcript of Herta Ehlert’s trail

Nazi prison camp guard

Herta Bothe

Age at the end of the war: 24
She was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Herta Bothe was released early from prison on 22 December 1951.
Also known as the “Sadist of Stutthof”

Herte Bothe was a housewife until she became a nurse in August 1940.In October 1942 she was conscripted and sent to Ravensbrück as Aufseherin, followed by Strutthof near Danzig and Bromberg. She led a four-week death march of women from there to Bergen-Belsen.

Whilst in the Stuffhof camp she became  known as the “Sadist of Stutthof” because of her brutal beatings of inmates, and had a reputation as a ruthless overseer at Bergen-Belsen.

Transcript of Herta Bothe’s trail

Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Frieda Walter:

Age at the end of the war: 23
Sentenced to 3 years imprisonment

Frieda worked in a textile factory until she was conscripted to the S.S. in October 1944. After a period of illness she was transferred to Belsen in February 1945.

Transcript of Frieda Walter’s trail

Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Helene Kopper:

Age at the end of the war: 35
Sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

Helene (or Helena) Kopper was born in Poland and was a housewife with a husband and two children before war broken out. She was arrested in 1940 by the Gestapo for possessing anti-German leaflets and sent to Cracow. From there she was transferred to Ravensbrück for 2 years and then on to Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen.

She worked in the Camp Police at Bergen Belsen.

Transcript of Helene Kopper’s trial

Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Ilse Forster:

Age at the end of the war: 23
Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

Ilse Forster worked in a factory during the war, she was conscripted to the S.S. in August, 1944, and was sent to a labour camp at Langenbielau for six weeks for training. She returned to the factory to supervise prisoners after her training and marched with the prisoners to Bergen-Belsen.

Transcript of Ilse Forster’s trail

Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

Johana Borman:

Age at the end of the war: 52
Sentenced to death. She was hanged on December 13, 1945.
Also known as “Wiesel” and “the woman with the dogs”

Juana Bormann (or Johana Borman) chose to join the S.S. in 1938 because she ‘could earn more money’.  She worked in Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, Birkenau and then Bergen-Belsen. She was renowned for her cruelty and was known to kill prisoners by setting her hungry dog on them.

Before the war she worked in a lunatic asylum.

She was found guilty of war crimes and hanged (along with Grese and Volkenrath) on December 13, 1945.

Transcript of Johana Borman’s trial

Think the men were any better? Decide for yourself! Read the back-stories of the male 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,

22 thoughts on “The Backstories of the Female SS Camp Guards

  1. Emileigh

    Dang. Thanks so much for doing this research! It brings so much more depth to the photos. Wow. I never would have imagined many of these women were so horribly cruel.

    • Mary, WHV

      It makes for pretty grim reading doesn’t it? I found it interesting how few of them actually chose to be in the S.S. though. Most of them seemed to be conscripted and sent to be camp guards. Still, it makes for a haunting read…

    • Robin Moore

      please check your facts a little better. It was Ilse Koch who was accused of lamp shades of human skin as well as skin with tattoo’s etc. There are other discrepancies in other back stories as well.

  2. Colin R Leech

    I suggest you carry out your research again into Irma Grese, for example – “She was also known to inspect prisoners looking for interesting tattoos,
    and would have items (including lampshades) made from their skin.
    Various items made from human skin were found in her quarters when
    Bergen-Belsen was seized by the British troops.” – Where did you get this rubbish from? Repeating nonsense such as this fuels the arguement for those that deny the holcaust

      • Colin R Leech

        Then I suggest that the sources are not reliable – do not believe everything you read on the internet

          • Rich Cooper

            You are 100% correct that the skin tattoo allegations were directed at Ilse Koch for sure. However, I wouldn’t defend Irma Greer in any way. She was an absolute monstrous human being and nothing one might accuse her of would surprise me. Pure evil woman!

          • Jennifer Yvette Reyna

            Whether or not Irma was a monster is beside the point. Attributing accusations that had nothing to do with Irma is misinformation. I’m assuming this article is meant to educate the reader about the lives of these women before and during the war and adding false information to the summaries makes it’s writer less credible. If you are trying to educate people then make sure you have correct and factual information. No one is defending these women but just trying to correct the information that is presented.

      • Joanna B

        Absolutely Colin R Leech is right. This accusation is connected with other person (Ilse Koch, the wife of commandant Karl Otto Koch) and also in this case it was never substantiated (she was sentenced on grounds of other testimonies). Anyway, lampshades have nothing in common with Irma Grese so the source is not reliable. Also I am not sure about any evidences substantiating her alleged romance with Josef Mengele. I have read in Olga Lengyel’s “Five Chmineys” that there had been a gossip in the camp about their affair, but nothing more.

    • John Q Public

      So torturing folks and making things from their skin qualifies as “Defending their European Nation?

  3. iris weber

    Borman “worked” in a “lunatic” asylum? There is no such thing…that is nazi language. The witch tortured/murdered people there, before torturing /murdering innocent victims in terror camps..People in “lunatic” asylums are usually the victims of “parents” like those witches depicted, driven into illness by pure torture and despair. I have personal experience in that. And to the degenerate defending them…you need a FRY UP ,FREAK !!!

  4. Bob Wilson

    Irma Grece was an unemployed milk maid who worked in a dairy, she went to the local job centre seeking work and was offered and accepted Concentration Camp duties. She was a real monster with a whip and gun, prisoners were terrified of her, she oganised selection parades for Mengele, if he missed selecting a prisoner who she thought should be gassed she pushed this person into the line up for the gas chambers in Birkenau, which was the main sub-camp of Auchwitz 1 H/Q (Birkenau is often mistaken for Auschwitz in newsreels and tv programs) Auschwitz 1 had huge problems killing people, after hearing this an chemical sales person approached them from DEGESH & CO, and suggested they tried a Cyanide-Pesticide in pellet form called Kyklon B, he eventually sold them 7 ton of it, 4 years later in 1946, he was hanged as a War Criminal for this transaction. Birkenau was to be enlarged x 5 times in size, and an adjoining new camp to it called MEXICO was intended to be built there to kill even more people, in Mexico the gas chambers were being dispensed with and the prisoners taken straight up to the very top of a steelworks type blast furnace (like those used in a steel works) and thrown into it alive. They were killed by the burning and melting of their bodies not a gas. This huge furnace was around 200 foot high, by the time the victims fell to the bottom (of it) they were ashes. The designers J A Topf & Son, Managing Director/s were both hanged for them supplying the original and first used ’46’ original Birkenau/ Auschwitz crematoria ovens. Mexico was never completed, it was abandoned in late 1944, when it became evident that the war was lost.

  5. Heros von Borke

    @Bob Wilson: Why would Irma stay behind with the SS officers after all the others had left? Because she was “Aufseherin” which in this case also meant caretaker and attendant. In other words she did not desert her ship.

    As far as all the jew lies that the communist jews have clearly told about her and her colleagues, in a court where the judge, prosecutor and defense attorneys were British military who didn’t even speak her language, one has to consider the source.

    Virtually all of the SS officers taken prisoners, who expected to be treated under Geneva Conventions as they had treated English officers, were tortured by crushing of testicles to extract confessions.

  6. Heros von Borke

    Here are a couple of MSM articles about British torture German POW’s to extract confessions. The real question about the Nuremburg trials is: who were the real Nazi’s?

    As Churchill was dragging into the second world war for Israel, he something to the effect that Germans had escaped taking all the blame for WWI because of the stab in the back, and that he would never accept anything but total surrender and that by god this time he would make sure that Germany could never be able to contest Churchill’s masters’ version of History.

  7. destiny vanvleck

    thank you for the information it is really helpful for me since i am doing a research project for my freshman english class

  8. Colin

    Is it that most of these guards were not too bright, they believed what they were told, and effectively “brainwashed”. If you look at the end of the war to anyone with any intelligence, it was obvious Germany was going to lose, so why continue the slaughter with the “death marches”. They tried to cover it up, but something that large is impossible to cover up. It shows the discipline of the British Army that they just didn’t line up all the SS Guards against a wall and repeat the favor. To think Himler wanted to do a deal with the Allies after ordering the killing of 6 Million Jews, did he really think they would ignore that little item.

    After what they did in Russia did they not expect retaliation? By killing Russian POWs, the Russians would never surrender, just like the British didn’t with the Japanese, once they they found out about the abuses.

    When you think about, it they must have been pretty stupid, as most Nazis with half a brain, got out before they got caught. It shows how stupid the Nazis as a whole must have been, when you realize most of the really clever people in the World are Jewish. If they had not been so obsessed with slaughtering them, they might have even won the war, due to superior technology. From what I have read on the Web, it appears that most Jews lived in Germany before the Nazis, because it was the most tolerant country to live in, as most countries in Europe despised them. I wonder if Germany in the future, will hate all the Syrian refugees they allowed in.

    Can someone please tell me what is so wrong with Jews. OK they like making money, they are always trying to get something cheap, but they generally blend in the background and at least don’t go round causing trouble.

    • R WILSON

      @Heros von Borke Reply:

      There was 2000 Nazi labour camps, approx 35 concentration camps, with six major death camps. You cannot overlook the murders and the brutality involved. The SS men should have been shot without trial, along with every concentration camp commandant and at least twenty five underlings from each camp. Shot and have done with them, I estimate 10 000 German monsters escaped arrest and trial. The Russians killings of these people was well justified and the Russians deserve the Free words thanks, You will be aware after 1952 the German State lost interest in prosecuting them. Private killings and street hunts for these camp monsters was the answer, I have no sympathy whatsoever for any German camp personnel No one has. Are you aware they burnt to the ground 3000 Russian villages and shot every man, woman and child. They say 30 million died 30 million lives destroyed, our house was bombed and destroyed, I was a baby trapped in the ruins and rescued by firemen, 84 people died that night and you want me to feel sorry for them. You shame modern day Germany by having those outdated and despised views.


    What we must accept is foreigners and immigrants are never fully welcome in all countries, in the USA and elsewhere you have segregated communities like Harlem which white people avoid like the plague, the same with London and all major cities. The Jews are a strange case, they live as members of a host nation for upwards of 100-250 plus years, but insist they are not Americans, British, or Germans, but Jews, This was a huge public relations disaster and open to adverse comment. They were slightly different in appearance, refused the host favourite national foods and ate kosher. They closed their doors to converts, to intermarriage, workshop friends and close comradeship, If someone had warned them it would rebound badly on them they would have scoffed and ignored the well meant warnings. Germany lost WW1, fairly defeated, but the madman Hitler seized upon all the facts mentioned herein and commenced his atrocities’,he misled the German people as the real purpose for the actions against Jews was robbery and confiscation. But this was well concealed, Another Holocaust will occur, the hatred continues and it is almost impossible to defend them. If you choose to wear a skull cap and look different by doing so, and call yourself a Jew, you pay an heavy price and sometime die. If another million Jews died tomorrow their leaders will not change their ways, or act any differently. The Russian Pogroms of 1880 was a wake up call, a huge warning signal that was ignored. Jews are not cleverer than others, not wise men, and most are poverty and poor, Their success stories get them murdered and their failures and poor are overlooked and never mentioned.


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