Trials and Investigations

The Polish, British, French, United States and West German War Crimes Trials and Investigations of SS Guards and SS-Aufseherinnen from the Auschwitz Sub Camps.

Franz Hössler in British custody awaiting trial for crimes committed in Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. BU 9714. IWM
Franz Hössler in British custody in 1945, awaiting trial for crimes committed in the Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps. Hössler was Lagerführer of the Auschwitz sub camps of Aussenkommando Sosnitz and SS Hütte Porombka. IWM BU 9714

Justice for the Victims?

War Crimes Trials of Concentration Camp Personnel - Background to the Trials

The general conduct and responsibilities for war crimes trials were agreed in a series of declarations and memorandums of understanding between the “big four” Allied powers (United States, USSR, France and Great Britain) before the end of the 2nd World War and after the war as the trials progressed. The Moscow Declaration of 1st November 1943 issued by the United States, Great Britain and the USSR set out some general principles on the post war treatment of atrocities being committed by the Nazis. The International Military Tribunal sitting in Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946 then created a further basis in international law for the prosecution of war crimes building on the groundwork of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. While these pronouncements, treaties, conventions and the Military Tribunal created a basis in international law, war crimes prosecuted by individual countries would be subject to the laws and policies of the prosecuting country. The International Military Tribunal deemed certain Nazi organisations to be criminal: including the SS, Gestapo, SD and NSDAP. It was this criminalisation of certain Nazi organisations, especially the SS, that provided a basis in international law for prosecution of many war criminals even when specific witness evidence of individual war crimes was not available.

The Allied Control Council was created by the Allied powers on 30 August 1945 to take control of the occupied zones of Germany after the official surrender of Germany. The Council was made up of the four big Allied powers, USSR, United States, Great Britain and France and became the legal authority for occupied Germany as a whole. Law No.10 of the Control Council dated 20 December 1945 defined a war criminal as, “Any person without regard to nationality or the capacity in which he acted, is deemed to have committed a crime as defined in paragraph 1 of this article if he was (a) a principle, or b) was an accessory to the commission of any such crime or aided or abetted same, (c) took a consenting part therein, or (d) was connected with the plans or enterprises involving its commission or (e) was a member of any organisation or group connected with the commission of any such crime.”[1] Interpretation and implementation of this law was left to individual countries.

The generally agreed approach of the big four Allied powers for assigning responsibility for investigating and trying crimes committed in concentration camps was that each Allied country would try German and Axis nationals for war crimes committed against Allied citizens, where the crimes originated in their zone of occupation of post war Germany (in the case of the United States, USSR, France and Great Britain) or in their own country (in the case of France, the USSR and other Allied countries such as Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands). This approach only covered war crimes committed against Allied nationals, not crimes committed against German nationals. German investigators and courts within the separate post war zones of Allied occupation and from 1949, The Federal Republic of Germany would be responsible for investigating and trying German war crimes committed against German citizens, for example in the case of Nazi euthanasia. The Federal Republic of Germany would also continue the work of the Allied war crimes investigators after the Allied investigations and trials wound down in 1948 and 1949.

It was also agreed by the Allied powers that each country could investigate and try crimes committed against their own nationals in concentration camps outside of their zone of German occupation. In the case of the British Military authorities for example in the Gross-Rosen (located in post war Poland) and Natzweiler (located in post-war France) concentration camps, specifically for crimes committed against British citizens in those camps.

In addition, frustrated at the lack of interest in formal war crimes trials by the USSR both Great Britain and the United States undertook a series of investigations into, and trials of, SS personnel of the concentration camps not falling within their own zones of occupation and not directly involving their own citizens but involving Allied citizens. In the case of the US: Buchenwald, Mittelbau-Dora and Mauthausen concentration camps and their sub camps. These concentration camps were liberated by US forces but did not fall within the zone of German occupation of US forces. British Military authorities undertook a series of investigations and trials of crimes committed against Allied Nationals in the Ravensbrück concentration camp which did not fall within the British zone of occupation nor did the crimes committed specifically relate to British citizens. The Buchenwald, Mittelbau-Dora and Ravensbrück cocnentration camps were concentration camps residing in the post war Soviet occupation zone of Germany. The Mauthausen concentration camp resided in Austria which was subject to joint control by the four Allied powers until 1955.

Other Allied countries outside of the “big four” such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands and Belgium undertook their own trials for crimes committed against Allied nationals by Axis nationals within their own post war boundaries. These countries also undertook trials of their own nationals for political reasons or collaboration with the Nazis. Cooperation on war crimes trials between on the one hand the US, France and Great Britain and on the other the Soviet bloc countries deteriorated over time; such that by 1949 the former would no longer extradite persons wanted on war crimes charges.

Each prosecuting country utilised its own existing laws or created new laws for prosecuting the war crimes trials and implemented their own policies and procedures. The British Military courts for example prosecuted and also hung when found guilty former SS-Aufseherinnen and Kapos. The US military authorities on the other hand did not try women (except Ilse Koch the wife of the commandant of Buchenwald) nor Kapos. The Polish Government also brought former SS-Aufseherinnen to trial and in some cases hanged them.

The British Military courts were predicated on proving specific war crimes committed by the individual accused, under the terms of a Royal Warrant of 1945, which governed trial and punishment of crimes committed during the war under existing international law. This required witness evidence in person or through affidavit as proof of specific crimes committed by the accused. The charges brought against the accused related to named and unnamed victims. Conspiracy to commit war crimes through being a member of a concentration camp staff or being associated with the operation of the camp were not sufficient to prove guilt. At the first Bergen-Belsen trial in 1945 the British tried 45 former SS men, SS-Aufseherinnen and Kapos accused of crimes committed in the Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps: 11 were found guilty and hanged, 1 received a sentence of life imprisonment, 18 received prison sentences of between 1 year and 15 years imprisonment, 1 was sick and did not stand trial and 14 were acquitted. [2]

It is interesting to note that the British, Bergen-Belsen/Auschwitz trial was the only concentration camp trial from the period, that we are aware of, where the accused faced charges for crimes committed in more than one concentration camp. Many of the longstanding SS personnel of the concentration camps had seen service in one or more camps, many in multiple camps.  The practicalties of the post war war crime trials, meant it was only feasible to hold the accused to account for crimes which fell within the jurisidction of the prosecuting Allied country i.e. a single concentration camp. SS-Hauptsturmführer Heinrich Schwarz, was appointed Arbeitseinsatzführer (Labour Department Director) in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He reported directly to the Auschwitz camp commandant. On November 22, 1943 after the reorganisation of Auschwitz and the creation of Auschwitz III-Monowitz as an independent concentration camp, Schwarz became commandant of Auschwitz III-Monowitz which was also given responsibility for the industrial sub camps of Auschwitz.  After leaving Auschwitz, Schwarz was appointed commandant of the concentration camp Natzweiler-Struthof for the last few months of the war.  He was tried by the French for crimes committed in Natzweiler-Struthof and sentenced to death. He was not tried for his crimes committed in Auschwitz.

The United States set up General Military Government Courts to try war crimes. Each court was appointed by a special order of the Headquarters – Third US Army and was made up of members of the US Army. The accused in the concentration camp trials were charged with Violation of the Laws and Usages of War. More specifically they were charged with “aiding, abetting or participating in a common design to subject the nationals of the countries of Europe and of the United States of America to killings, tortures, indignities and other brutalities.” [3] The US took a more hard-line approach than the British to war crimes trials; the US trials utilised the concept of conspiracy to commit war crimes and determined that the mere fact of being a member of the staff of a concentration camp or being associated with the operation of that camp was a criminal act. The level of seniority of the accused or the proven individual war crimes committed could then determine the severity of the punishment for the accused. The standard of evidence in the war crimes trials was much lower than an equivalent criminal case in the United States; for example here-say was admissible. The first US concentration camp trial of personnel from the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp lasted from March to May 1946 in Dachau. All 61 defendants were found guilty and 58 were hanged and 3 given life sentences. [4] In the final verdict in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp trial the court stated, “The court finds that the circumstances, conditions, and the very nature of the Concentration Camp Mauthausen, combined with any and all of its camps, was of such a criminal nature as to cause every official, governmental, military and civil, and every employee thereof, whether he is a member of the Waffen SS , Allgemeine SS, a guard, or civilian, to be culpably and criminally responsible…..The court therefore declares: That any official, governmental, military, or civil, whether he be a member of the Waffen SS, Allgemeine SS, or any guard, or civil employee, in any way in control of or stationed at or engaged in the operation of the Concentration Camp Mauthausen, or any or all of its by camps in any manner whatsoever, is guilty of a crime against the recognised laws, customs and practises of civilised nations and the letter and spirit of the laws and usages of war, and by reason thereof is to be punished.” [5]

This trial set the standard for all subsequent United States concentration camp trials. The prosecutor only had to prove that the accused was a member of the concentration camp staff or associated with the camp to be found guilty. There were 57 subsequent subsidiary Mauthausen-Gusen trials related to crimes committed in the main Mauthausen-Gusen camp and sub camps.[6] In the subsidiary trials, the trial evidence and verdict from the first Mauthausen-Gusen trial were entered as prosecution evidence and could not be challenged by the defence. This made the subsequent Mauthausen-Gusen subsidiary trials a forgone conclusion. The court had created the standard on which the accused were to be found guilty or not guilty in this first trial and this would largely determine the guilt of any accused in subsequent subsidiary trials. The same approach was utilised in the other United States concentration camp trials of personnel from the Buchenwald, Dachau, Mittelbau-Dora and Flossenbürg concentration camps and their subsidiary trials. The US however did seek out and take many witness statements and brought before the courts many witnesses against the accused. Even though the outcome of the trials was largely pre-determined, the trials were a means of documenting for public awareness and future history the horrors of the camps.

Indictments for war crimes committed in Poland against Allied nationals or against Polish citizens proceeded on the basis of a decree dated August 31, 1944 of the Polish National Liberation Committee entitled, “On the criminal prosecution of Fascist-Nazi Criminals guilty of murder and the torture of civilians and prisoners of war, as well as traitors to the Polish people.” This was followed by a subsequent legal act of September 12 , 1944 on “Special Criminal Courts for Fascist-Nazi criminals” and an executive order issued on October 3, 1944 by the heads of the justice and public safety ministries.[7]

The Polish war crimes trials followed a similar approach to the US requiring for a guilty verdict only evidence that the accused were members of an illegal organisation such as the SS, SD or NSDAP and were members of a concentration camp staff. Witness evidence of specific war crimes committed by the accused was not required for a guilty verdict.

In addition to the individual prosecuting countries´ legal and procedural approach to the trials, the major determinant of the nature and extent of war crimes trials was the availability of hard cash and resources. The United States was a wealthy country at the end of the 2nd World War and the US was able to direct huge amounts of money and resources to investigations and war crimes trials. The United States Judge Advocate General´s office responsible for the investigations and prosecuting the trials had a huge staff compared to the equivalent British and Polish war crimes investigation units. They took thousands of witness statements. The main United States Buchenwald concentration camp trial transcript for example runs to some 5,717 pages and the full investigation to some 15,000 pages.[8] The court proceedings were carefully recorded by court stenographers and then transcribed on high quality paper, which remains in pristine condition to this day.

In contrast, the British and Polish investigations and trials were limited by lack of money and resources. In the case of the British trials many of the trial transcripts were hand-written on poor quality paper and the trials of shorter duration. The trials were akin to court martials in the field. Witness testimony was used although not on the scale of the United States trials. The Poles were in a similar position to the British; lack of money and resources meant most of the trials were of shorter duration and limited in scope and evidence used and the judgements handed out standard in nature. In many of the Polish trials survivor witness statements were not used or used on a limited basis.

Most of the direct witnesses of war crimes in the Auschwitz camp complex, the survivors of the concentration camps, had been forced west on the death marches from Auschwitz in January 1945. By the time the war crimes trials began in earnest in late 1945 and 1946 many non-Jewish Polish survivors had returned to Poland. However, many of the prisoners in the Auschwitz complex at the time of the death marches had been Jewish and nationals of countries from all over Europe. Most of the Jewish survivors from Poland and other countries resided in Displaced Persons (DP) camps in the British and United States occupation zones of Germany and non-Jewish survivors had returned to their home countries. Many survivors were unwilling to travel to Poland or other countries to appear at war crimes trials. It also proved difficult to track down witnesses and it even proved difficult to organise transfer of witnesses between for example the United States and British zones of occupation never mind to Poland. United States and British war crimes investigators had a huge advantage over their Polish colleagues: many of the witnesses were residing in DP camps and were readily available for interview by war crimes investigators up until 1948 and even later.

Auschwitz concentration camp and most of its sub camps lay within the boundaries of post war Poland and it was Poland who was primarily responsible for trying those SS personnel who had served in the Auschwitz complex of camps.


[1] NARA. Case 000-50-5 (US versus Hans Altfuldisch et al) A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4 Box 337.
[2] Public Records Office London. First Bergen-Belsen Trial WO/235 13-24.
[3] NARA. Case 000-50-5 (US versus Hans Altfuldisch et al) A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4 Box 337.
[4] NARA. Case 000-50-5 (US versus Hans Altfuldisch et al) A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4 Boxes 334-357.
[5] NARA. Case 000-50-5 (US versus Hans Altfuldisch et al) A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4 Box 337.
[6] NARA. Cases 000-50-5-1 to 000-50-5-51 and Cases 000 Mauthausen 1-21. A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4 Boxes 278-282 and 358-424.
[7]  Lasik, Aleksander, The Apprehension and Punishment of the Auschwitz Camp Staff. [in] Auschwitz 1940-1945 Vol. V, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum 2000, p. 104-105.
[8] NARA. Case 000-50-9 (US versus Josias Prince of Waldeck et al) A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4 Boxes 425-464.

Polish War Crimes Trials

The Polish concentration camp war crimes trials focused on atrocities committed in the Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen and Stutthof camps and their sub camps. Auschwitz being the largest of the concentration camps in terms of the number of prisoners and guards and also being a death camp, obviously received the most attention in terms of post war  investigations and trials. Significant numbers of non-Jewish Polish political prisoners had been incarcerated and died in Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945.

Many of the SS personnel from Auschwitz had fled west after the evacuation of the Auschwitz complex in January 1945 and had been reassigned to other concentration camps or to other duties. Poland was therefore heavily reliant on extradition of Auschwitz SS personnel, especially from the US zone of occupation but also from the British zone. Approximately 1,000 persons were extradited to Poland between 1945 and 1949. [1]

According to Professor Lasik, the accepted expert on the Auschwitz concentration camp staff, a minimum of 673 persons including 21 women were indicted by Poland for crimes committed in Auschwitz.[2] This number has now been revised to 700 persons.[3] Given the current estimate of a minimum 8,500 SS personnel [4] who served in the Auschwitz complex of camps this would suggest approximately 8% of SS guards who had served in Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945 were brought to justice in Polish courts.

The main Polish trial of Auschwitz camp staff took place between November 24, 1947 and December 22, 1947 in Krakow. Forty of the most senior Auschwitz camp personnel in Polish custody were tried in front of the Supreme National Tribunal in Krakow. Twenty one of the accused were sentenced to death and hanged. Two of the accused sentenced to death had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. One of the accused was acquitted. The remaining accused received sentences ranging from 3 years to life imprisonment. Seven of the accused sentenced to death and hanged had seen service in the Auschwitz sub camps. Arthur Breitweiser, sentenced to death had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. [5] A great deal of effort went into sourcing witnesses for the trial both from within post war Poland and statements from witnesses in the west, interviewed mainly by the US Judge Advocate War Crimes Branch.

The former commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss was extradicted to Poland and tried for crimes committed in Auschwitz by the Supreme National Tribunal in Krakow between 11 to 29 March 1947. Höss was sentenced to death and hanged in Auschwitz on 16 April 1947.[6]

The subsidiary trials of Auschwitz personnel took place between 1946 and 1953 before district, provincial and special criminal courts in Krakow, Wadowice, Racibórz, Cieszyn, Sosnowiec, Gliwice, Lublin and Katowice. Most of the cases dealing with Auschwitz SS guards were heard in Krakow and Wadowice. These trials were very different in nature to the main Auschwitz and Höss trials held in Krakow. As many as 12 SS men would be brought before the court in a single trial and the court judgements were short and standard: personal details, membership dates in the SS, dates in Auschwitz and sentence. Little attention was paid to the service history of the SS guards before arriving in and after leaving Auschwitz. Little evidence of the use of witness statements in the trials is seen in the judgements. Instead the courts relied upon the precedent set by the International Military Tribunal that membership of a criminal organisation such as the SS was a crime and as in the case of the US, being a member of a concentration camp staff was in itself a criminal act.

Tiergartenstrasse4Association has identified from its review of existing databases and records of Auschwitz guards, 246 SS personnel tried by Poland for crimes committed in Auschwitz and who had served in the Auschwitz sub camps. Nine of these men and women were hanged (seven at the main Auschwitz trial in Krakow) others were sentenced to prison sentences of between 6 months and life. Most received prison sentences of 3 to 4 years. Eighteen died in prison, before, during or after sentence. In an interesting twist of fate some of those convicted served their sentences in the Central Labour Camp (COP) in Jaworzno, the former Auschwitz sub camp Neu-Dachs. The conditions in the COP were harsh and many of those interned died.

Fifteen of the men and women brought before Polish courts had been Lagerführer or head SS-Aufseherin of one or more of the Auschwitz sub camps. SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Kollmer had been leader of the guard battalion in Auschwitz III-Monowitz.

The Auschwitz sub camp personnel tried by Poland can be divided into four categories:

  • German citizens of pre 2nd World War Germany who had been members of the SS and Auschwitz camp personnel before 1944. Some had been in the concentration camp system from 1939 and even earlier,
  • Ethnic Germans from pre-war: Hungary, Croatia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Romania who had been assigned to Auschwitz mainly in 1942 and 1943. Some of these men had seen service in the Polish, Romanian, or Yugoslavian armies. They were generally in their late 20s or 30s when assigned to Auschwitz,
  • Former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men assigned to Auschwitz as guards from June 1944. Many of these men were in their late 40s or early 50s. Most were assigned from Landesschützen-Bataillons. The Landesschützen-Bataillons were made up of older servicemen unfit for front line duties and were used for guard and protection duties. A separate 4th Wehrmacht company was formed in Auschwitz incorporating these Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men, subsequently renamed the 8th Sentry Company. [7]
  • SS-Aufseherinnen.

Of the 246 identified SS men and women who served in the Auschwitz sub camps and were convicted in Polish courts:

  • 57 were citizens of pre 2nd World War Germany and had served in Auschwitz since before 1944,
  • 93 were ethnic Germans and had been citizens of pre-war Hungary, Croatia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Romania,
  • 94 were former members of the Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe and had been assigned to Auschwitz from June 1944,
  • 2 were female SS-Aufseherinnen.

Compared to the US war crimes trials, the sentences handed down in Polish courts were relatively light. On the surface this is surprising given the devastation and war crimes inflicted on Poland by the Nazis. However, perhaps this is not surprising; a majority of those tried were either ethnic Germans or former Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe men and were mainly of very low rank. In the case of the former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men most had been guards in Auschwitz only from June 1944 to January 1945, many from September 1944 to January 1945.

It seems there was little or no specific evidence of war crimes committed, especially by the former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men. The Polish trials probably relied in these cases almost solely for guilty verdicts on the men being members of a criminal organisation, the SS, and being members of the Auschwitz camp staff.

The Polish Government relied heavily on the cooperation of especially the British and United States in identifying perpetrators and witnesses and extraditing those perpetrators to Poland for trial. It is not surprising that Poland concentrated on those Auschwitz camp personnel for which they had specific personal information for extradition purposes. Information on the former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men transferred to Auschwitz in 1944 may have been of better quality than for the more longstanding members of the camp staff and thus the high proportion of former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men extradicted and tried by Poland. There were approximately 500 former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men assigned to Auschwitz from June 1944. [8] From our research to date, 94 of them were tried for crimes committed in Auschwitz sub camps by Poland, a proportion at 19% much higher than the estimated 8% of all Auschwitz personnel tried by Poland. The number of former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men tried in Poland may be even higher as our research has only focused on war crimes trials of Auschwitz sub camp personnel. If any of the former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men had been assigned to other parts of the Auschwitz complex they would not be included in our numbers.

There is some correlation between length of service in Auschwitz and the length of prison sentence handed down but this was not consistently applied. SS-Sturmmann Nikolaus Grieshaber for example, who had joined the Waffen SS and Auschwitz guard unit on 19 October 1942 and had served as a guard in two of the harshest Auschwitz sub camps, Neu-Dachs and Jawischowitz received a sentence of 3 years imprisonment. This was the most common sentence handed down to the former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men assigned to Auschwitz between June and October 1944.


[1] Lasik, Aleksander, The Apprehension and Punishment of the Auschwitz Camp Staff [in] Auschwitz 1940-1945 Vol. V, Oświęcim 2000, p. 108.
[2] Lasik, Aleksander, The Apprehension and Punishment of the Auschwitz Camp Staff. [in] Auschwitz 1940-1945 Vol. V, Oświęcim 2000,  p. 108. Lasik states that this is a minimum number as not all trial records could be found.
[3] IPN database of Auschwitz SS guards. https://truthaboutcamps.eu/th/form/60,Zaloga-SS-KL-Auschwitz.html.
[4] http://zppw-auschwitz.pl/2017/05/08/lista-8-500-nazwisk-ss-manow-z-kl-auschwitz/.
[5] Auschwitz trial. IPN, GK_196_104 to GK_196_175 and GK_196_8, GK_196_375, GK_196_548, GK_196_549, GK_196_559.
[6] Trial of Rudolf Höss. IPN, GK_196 82 -114 , 171-174 and 543-544.
[7] Lasik, Alexander, The Auschwitz SS Garrison [in] Auschwitz 1940-1945 Vol. I Oświęcim 2000, p. 296.
[8] Lasik, Alexander, The Auschwitz SS Garrison [in] Auschwitz 1940-1945 Vol. I, Oświęcim 2000, p. 296.

Summary of Polish Trials of Auschwitz Sub Camp SS Guards and SS-Aufseherinnen


Source:
The information in the table has been collated from the SS Guards tables under each sub camp. 

British War Crimes Trials

The first post war trial of SS personnel from the Auschwitz complex of camps took place between 17 September and 13 November 1945 in Lüneburg, Germany in front of a British Military Court. The trial primarily focused on atrocities committed towards the end of the war in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The second official charge however, related to crimes committed in the Auschwitz concentration camp between 1st October 1942 and 30th April 1945.

It is interesting to note that this is the only concentration camp trial from the period, that we are aware of, where the accused faced charges for crimes committed in more than one concentration camp. Many of the longstanding SS personnel of the concentration camps had seen service in one or more camps, many in multiple camps.  The practicalties of the post war war crime trials, meant it was only feasible to hold the accused to account for crimes which fell within the jurisidction of the  prosecuting Allied country ie a single concentration camp.

Prisoners from Auschwitz and other concentration camps, were marched west ahead of the approaching Red Army. They were accompanied by SS guards and the administrative staff of the evacuated concentration camps. Thus, SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer (adjutant to the Auschwitz commandant in 1940 and then from 1944, commandant of Auschwitz II-Birkenau) became commandant of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in December 1944. He was later joined in Bergen-Belsen by other members of the Auschwitz SS staff including SS-Obersturmführer Franz Hössler, Oberaufseherin Elizabeth Volkenrath, Aufseherin Johanna Bormann, Aufseherin Hertha Ehlert, SS-Obersturmführer Kurt Klipp and Ansgar Pichen.

At what became known as the first Bergen-Belsen trial, 45 former SS guards, Aufseherinnen and Kapos who had committed crimes in the Bergen-Belsen or Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps were tried: 11 were sentenced to death by hanging, 18 were found guilty and sentenced to terms of imprisonment of one to 15 years, one to life imprisonment, and 14 were acquitted. 1

Five of the defendants had during their service in Auschwitz concentration camp served in one or more of the Auschwitz sub camps: SS-Obersturmführer Franz Hössler (charged with crimes committed in Auschwitz), SS-Aufseherin Johanna Bormann (charged with crimes committed in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen), SS-Aufseherin Hertha Ehlert (charged with crimes committed in Bergen-Belsen), SS-Unterscharführer Karl Franzioh (or Franzich) (charged with crimes committed in Bergen-Belsen) and Ansgar Pichen (charged with crimes committed in Bergen-Belsen). 2 Hössler, Bormann, Franzioh and Pichen were sentenced to death and hanged on 13 December 1945. Ehlert received a sentence of 15 years imprisonment but was released on 7 May 1953. 3

Hössler had been Lagerführer of the Auschwitz sub camps Aussenkommando Sosnitz and SS Hütte Porombka. Franzioh was a member of the SS guard unit at the sub camp of Günthergrube. SS-Aufseherin Johanna Bormann had been the female head supervisor of the Wirtschaftshof Budy Frauenlager, the sub camp Hindenburg, Wirtschaftshof Babitz sub camp and Wirtschaftshof Raisko sub camp. SS-Aufseherin Hertha Ehlert was a member of the camp staff at Wirtschaftshof Raisko. Ansgar Pichen was a member of the camp staff at the Arbeitslager Blechhammer.

In a subsequent Bergen-Belsen trial, SS-Oberscharführer Walter Friedrich Wilhelm Quackernack was sentenced to death and hanged on October 11, 1946 for crimes committed in Auschwitz, the death march and Bergen-Belsen. 4 Quackernack had been Lagerführer of the Arbeitslager Laurahütte between April 1944 and January 1945.

SS-Obersturmführer Kurt Klipp, former Lagerführer of Blechhammer died in Bergen-Belsen on 2 May 1945 in the custody of the British Military Authorities. 5 It is likely that Klipp was one of the former SS guards forced to bury the thousands of bodies of the former concentration camp inmates of Bergen-Belsen. Some of the former SS guards died within a month of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen from typhus rampant in the Bergen-Belsen camp, and caught when burying the bodies of the dead inmates.

SS-Oberscharführer Rudolf Ullmann who had served in the Arbeitslager Charlottegrube and Arbeitslager Jawischowitz sub camps committed suicide in the British British Civil Internment (CIC) 6 Neuengamme on 6 May 1946. 6


1 Public Records Office London, First Bergen Belsen Trial WO/235 13-24.
2 Public Records Office London, First Bergen Belsen Trial WO/235 13-24.
3 Public Records Office London, First Bergen Belsen Trial WO/235 13-24.
4 Public Records Office London, WO/235/658.
5 Rudorff, Andrea, Neu-Dachs (Jaworzno) n:]  Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager, C.H.Beck 2007, p. 190.
6 BA Ludwigsburg, B162/2680.

French War Crimes Trials

SS-Hauptsturmführer Heinrich Schwarz had been commandant of Auschwitz III-Monowitz, which oversaw the Auschwitz industrial sub camps, from 22 November 1943 to 25 November 1944. After leaving Auschwitz, Schwarz was appointed commandant of the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp for the last few months of the war. He was tried by a French court for crimes committed in the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp and hung on 20 March 1947 in Sand-Weier.1


1  Benz, Wolfgang, Die Verbrechen von Auschwitz vor Gericht  [in:] Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager, C.H.Beck 2007, p. 161.

United States War Crimes Trials

The US undertook no specific trials of the SS personnel of the Auschwitz concentration camp. However, at least 5 members of the Auschwitz sub camp staff were tried for crimes committed in other concentration camps: two at the Mauthausen-Gusen trial, two at the Dachau trial and one at a subsequent subsidiary Dachau trial. Four of the men had been Lagerführer in the Auschwitz sub camps. All were sentenced to death and hanged.

After the end of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1946, the US initiated a series of trials to cover the constituent elements of German society and the Nazi state. The aim was to reveal the complicity of German society as whole, in pursuing aggressive war and war crimes. There were 12 such trials held between 1946 and 1949 in Nuremberg, known as the Nuremberg trials. Each individual trials focused on a specific area of German society or the Nazi state: the medical profession, the legal profession, the industrialists, the Wehrmacht, and the SS. The program was halted in 1949 with the onset of the cold war. Trial number 6 indicted directors of the I.G. Farben concern on charges of plunder and spoilation of private property in German occupied territories and other war crimes. 24 defendents were indicted and 13 were found guilty on one or more charges and sentenced to prison terms. A major element of the trial related to the I.G. Farben synthetic rubber plant in Monowice and the enslavement and deportation of slave labour and the mistreatment, terrorisation, torture and murder of enslaved persons. 1


1  Benz, Wolfgang, Die Verbrechen von Auschwitz vor Gericht  [in:] Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager, C.H.Beck 2007, p. 161.
Literature:
Lindner, Stefan H, Das Urteil im I.G.-Farben-Prozess [in:] NMT – Die Nürnberger Militärtribunale zwischen Geschichte, Gerechtigkeit und Rechtschöpfung, Priemel und Stiller, Hamburger Edition 2013.

Former SS Men who had Served in the Auschwitz Sub Camps and who were Tried by US War Crimes Courts


[1] NARA-Case 50-5-5-31 (US versus Karl Glas et al) A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4 Boxes 410-412.
[2] NARA-Case 000-50-5 (US versus Hans Altfuldisch et al) A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4 Boxes 334-357 – Mauthausen-Gusen Trial.
[3] NARA-Case 000-50-2 (US versus Martin Gottfried et al) A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4 Boxes 285-293 – Dachau Trial.
[4] NARA-Case 000-50-2-110 (US versus Josef Remmele) A-1 2238, 290/59/4/4.

Federal Republic of Germany War Crimes Trials

Almost immediately after the war, German authorities in the individual Allied zones of occupation were assigned responsibility for investigating war crimes committed by German citizens against other German citizens. As the Allied war crimes trials wound down in 1948 and 1949 the West German authorities also took over responsibility for investigating Nazi war crimes generally. These investigations and trials had fizzled out by the early 1950s.

The Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes (Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen zur Aufklärung Nationalsozialistischer Verbrechen) was created in 1958 after The Federal Republic of Germany had come under concerted criticism for its lack of interest and progress in investigating and prosecuting Nazi war crimes.

The primary role of the Zentrale Stelle was to initiate and coordinate investigations and subsequent trials. The Federal Republic of Germany in 1958 was made up of 10 Bundesländer, each with their own responsibility for investigating and prosecuting war crimes. Without a coordinating authority such as the Zentrale Stelle it would have been impossible to efficiently investigate and prosecute war crimes in a strongly federal system as the Federal Republic of Germany. The Zentrale Stelle initiated investigations and assigned responsibility for further individual investigations and any subsequent trial to a particular Bundesland. This avoided multiple investigations and trials of for example the same concentration camp. The Zentrale Stelle also acted in the first instance as a contact point with war crimes investigators in other countries for example in Poland and Israel and collected testimonies, documents etc from these countries for use in investigations and trials.

The prosecutors in each Bundesland undertook the detailed investigations and any subsequent trial. Copies of testimonies and trial documents were to be forwarded to the Zentrale Stelle and it effectively became a central collection point and archive. The Zentrale Stelle organised periodic conferences of the stakeholders from the various Bundesländer to discuss policy and practical problems with the program. It also produced periodic reports on investigations and trials underway and the results of the trial program.

The investigations and trials initiated by the Zentrale Stelle are the most extensive undertaken by any country including the US and Poland. Huge sums of money were expended especially in the 1960´s and 1970´s on war crimes investigations and the trials. The trials and investigations however, proved a huge disappointment in terms of the number of successful convictions. Prosecutions were pursued under the German Criminal Code which required evidence of specific crimes which could be attributed to a particular individual for example shooting or maltreatment of a prisoner. The definition of murder under the German Criminal Code is very specifically defined and crimes not capable of being proven as murder could only be brought as charges for manslaughter. In German law murder doesn’t lapse after a certain period of time but manslaughter does.

Most of the required evidence to prove a murder charge could only be secured from direct witnesses of war crimes and most of the surviving direct prisoner witnesses if any lived in Israel, Poland, the Soviet Union and the US. For crimes committed against the Jews, the number of survivors of the camps and death marches were few and tracing witnesses not an easy task. Individual investigations dragged on for years. 20 years and more had passed since the end of the 2nd World War and some courts were sceptical of survivor testimonies after such a time delay. The West German approach to war crimes was totally different to the US and Polish war crimes trials where membership of a criminal organisation such as the SS and being a member of the concentration camp staff or associated with the concentration camp were sufficient for a guilty verdict. Attempting to try war criminals 20 years and more after the events occurred and requiring specific eye-witness testimony of specific crimes sufficient to meet the requirements of the German Criminal Code was never realistic. If the West Germans had applied the same legal approach as the Poles and United States, it would have had to put on trial tens of thousands of its own nationals. This was never going to happen in 1960s West Germany at the time of the cold war, the post war economic boom and high living standards. Many West Germans had no interest in re-opening the memories of the Nazi period. However, as a historical record the documentation of war crimes produced from the West German investigations and trials should be seen as some of the most important evidence now existing for use in research.

It was not until the trial and interim conviction in Munich of John Demjanjuk a former guard in the Sobibor death camp between 2009 and 2011 that previously difficult legal hurdles to securing successful war crimes convictions were relaxed. The Demjanjuk case was the first time in Germany that a person had been convicted for war crimes without it being specifically proven that they were involved in the death or maltreatment of prisoners. Legally Demjanjuk is innocent as he died while his case was subject to appeal, however the legal precedence had been set to allow a program of war crimes trials. 4 This has resulted in the Zentrale Stelle opening a number of other cases against individuals who would never previously have been brought to trial in Germany. The German approach to war crimes trials is now effectively the same legal approach adopted by the United States in their war crimes trials between 1945 and 1949.

The main series of West German Auschwitz trials took place in Frankfurt am Main between December 20, 1963 and August 10, 1965. 22 former members of the Auschwitz camp personnel were tried for crimes committed in Auschwitz. Eighteen were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms of between 3 years and 3 months and life imprisonment. 1

Our analysis of the West German war crimes investigations and trial of the former Auschwitz sub camp personnel shows that a total of 9 men were convicted of war crimes committed in one of the sub camps of Auschwitz. There were also a number of Kapos found guilty of war crimes committed in the Auschwitz sub camps. Only three former Lagerführer, SS-Unterscharführer Horst Czerwinski from Lagischa, SS- Oberscharführer Johann-Josef Mirbeth from Arbeitslager Golleschau, and SS-Hauptscharführer Bernard Rackers from Arbeitslager Gleiwitz II were convicted and sentenced.

The vast majority of the many former SS personnel of the Auschwitz concentration camp staff who were located and many of which gave witness testimonies for the West German trials and investigations from the 1960s to the 1990s were never properly investigated nor brought to trial. It is an interesting point to note that many of the SS witnesses in the trials and investigations in the period from 1960 to 1990 would certainly under current German law be brought to trial and convicted.

A survivor of the Auschwitz sub camp of Buna/Monowitz, Norbert Wollheim brought an action against I.G. Farben in Liquidation, seeking damages for pain and suffering and payment of the wages of which he had been deprived. His lawyer, Henry Ormond, filed a complaint with the Frankfurt am Main Regional Court (LG, Landgericht) on November 3, 1951. After a trial lasting about 18 months, the court found in Wollheim’s favour on June 10, 1953, and sentenced I.G. Farben to payment of 10,000 DM. The appeal proceedings in the Frankfurt am Main Higher Regional Court (OLG, Oberlandesgericht; the court of second instance), in turn, ended two years later with a settlement between I.G. Farben on the one hand and Wollheim and the Claims Conference on the other hand, as a consequence of which a total of 30 million DM was paid to former forced labourers of I.G. Farben of the Auschwitz sub camp of Buna/Monowitz and/or the Auschwitz sub camps of Arbeitslager Fürstengrube and Arbeitslager Janinagrube. 

Simultaneously with Norbert Wollheim’s lawsuit against I.G. Farben i.L., another survivor of the Auschwitz sub camp of Buna/Monowitz was pursuing an action against the chemical concern. Rudolf Wachsmann had been arrested by the Gestapo in 1940, at the age of 14, and deported to a concentration camp. Beginning in April 1943, he had to perform forced labour for I.G. Farben in the Auschwitz sub camp of Buna/Monowitz. His father was beaten to death by SS guards. After liberation, Wachsmann emigrated to the United States, where he acquired American citizenship in 1950 and performed his military service. Relieved of field duty because of physical ailments, he was transferred to Mannheim as a military policeman in fall 1952. Here, on July 23, 1953, his two lawyers, M. Philip Lorber and Henry G. Vogel, filed an action against I.G. Farben i.L. in the American court of the Allied High Commission (AHC). The complaint was based on the serious physical abuse to which Wachsmann had been subjected at the I.G. Auschwitz plant, and on wage claims for forced labour. In all, Wachsmann was asking for 550,000 DM plus 4 percent interest since January 19, 1945.

The representatives of I.G. Farben i.L., whose fear of a huge wave of lawsuits had been fueled by the complaint, based their defense strategy on the notation of formal errors. Above all, they alleged that the American court had no jurisdiction in this case. The reactions of Norbert Wollheim and Henry Ormond were also fearful: They were afraid that their own suit would be endangered. Ormond, believing Wachsmann’s suit to be “in every respect dangerous to Wollheim, and thus also with regard to public opinion,” launched a press campaign to depict Wachsmann in the public eye as an isolated case. The first day of the trial on September 17, 1953, ended in adjournment; as Wachsmann was to be transferred back to the United States by November 1, 1953, I.G. Farben i.L. expected a quick end to the proceedings. Nonetheless, on October 16, the court confirmed its jurisdiction and began the trial with the examination of Wachsmann. After several exchanges of letters between the parties, I.G. Farben i.L. decided in December 1953 to assent to a settlement, not least because the Allies had expressed their interest in such an outcome and the German Federal Minister of Justice and Minister of the Interior were interested in avoiding the setting of a precedent. Wachsmann finally pledged to abandon his right to sue in early February 1954, and he received 20,000 DM from I.G. Farben i.L. in return. 3

 


1 Hessisches Landesarchiv, HHStAW Abt 461 , Nr 37638/1-456.
Wollheim Memorial. http://www.wollheim-memorial.de/en/kz_bunamonowitz_en. Viewed January 5, 2020.
Wollheim Memorial. http://www.wollheim-memorial.de/en/kz_bunamonowitz_en. Viewed January 5, 2020.
4 Volk, Rainer, Das letzte Urteil: Die Medien und der Demjanjuk-Prozess (Zeitgeschichte im Gespräch, Band 14), 2012, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag.

West German Trials Involving Auschwitz Sub Camp Guards


[1] Hessisches Landesarchiv, HHStAW Abt 461, Nr 37638/1-456.
[2] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 14697.
[3] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 14641.
[4] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 9503.
[5] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 15206 to 15209.
[6] Hessisches Landesarchiv, HHStAW Abt 461 , Nr 37638/1-456.
[7] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 14449.
[8] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 14261.
[9] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 14554.
[10] Hessisches Landesarchiv, HHStAW Abt 461 , Nr 37638/1-456.
[11] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 4067 to 4080.
[12] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 4067 to 4080.
[13] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 15384 to 15388.
[14] Rudorff, Andrea, Neu-Dachs (Jaworzno) [in:] Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager, C.H.Beck 2007, p. 232.
[15] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 15206 to 15209.
[16] Hessisches Landesarchiv, HHStAW Abt 461 , Nr 37638/1-456.
[17] BA Ludwigsburg, B162 14616.

War Crimes Trials In Other Countries

The only investigations and trials of former SS guards and SS-Aufseherinnen from the Auschwitz sub camps, we are aware of, in other countries, relate to 3 SS-Aufseherinnen from the Lichtewerden sub camp who were tried in Czechoslovakia immediately after the end of the war. 1


1  StA Ludwigsburg, StAL EL 48-2BA 2570, p. 2 – Crimes in Auschwitz Nebelager Lichtewerden. 

 

Source:
StA Ludwigsburg, StAL EL 48-2BA 2570, p. 2 – Crimes in Auschwitz Nebelager Lichtewerden. 

The Fate of the Auschwitz Sub Camp Lagerführer and SS-Aufseherinnen

From our research to date we have identified 74 Lagerführer and head SS-Aufseherinnen of the Auschwitz sub camps. We have so far been unable to put names or confirm personal details for 10 of these. 28 Lagerführer and SS-Aufseherinnen were brought before a court accused of committing war crimes. 11 died during the war, soon after the war or were declared dead or missing after the war. 11 died of natural causes after the war and were never brought before a court. The fate of another 10 is unknown.

If we exclude the 10 unconfirmed names, then 61% of the Lagerführer and head SS-Aufseherinnen of the Auschwitz sub camps were either brought before a court or died during or soon after the war.

It should be noted that some of the information on the Lagerführer and head SS-Aufseherinnen of the Auschwitz sub camps comes from former prisoners testimonies and may be subject to error.

The seniority of the Lagerführer is an indicator of the size of the sub camp and the importance placed on the sub camp by Auschwitz and the work performed there by the prisoners. Only the three biggest camps in terms of the number of prisoners, Auschwitz III-Monowitz, Neu-Dachs and Arbeitslager Blechhammer were assigned SS officers as Lagerführer. The Lagerführer of 2 SS-Bauzug was also an SS officer. The SS non-officer ranks of the Lagerführer of the other larger sub camps with up to 1,000 prisoners ranged from SS-Hauptscharführer to SS-Oberscharführer. The smaller sub camps were allocated Lagerführer with as low a rank as SS-Unterscharführer.

Fate of the Lagerführer and Head SS-Aufseherinnen of the Auschwitz sub camps


Source:
The information in the table has been collated from the SS Guards tables under each sub camp. 

Summary of the Fate of the Lagerführer and SS-Aufsehrinnen


Source:
The information in the table has been collated from the SS Guards tables under each sub camp. 

The SS Guards and the Number of SS Personnel Who Served in the Auschwitz Sub Camps

Professor Aleksander Lasik renowned expert on the SS Auschwitz camp personnel has been for many years constituting a card index and subsequent database of the SS personnel who served in the Auschwitz complex of camps. In the year 2000 Professor Lasik estimated that there were between 7,000 and 7,200 persons who had served in the Auschwitz camp complex.1 This number has recently been revised to a minimum 8,500 persons with the release in 2017 by The Institute of National Remembrance-Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (IPN) of a more complete list of personnel. 2 This list arises from a project between the IPN, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and Professor Lasik to publish as complete a list as possible of SS personnel who served in the Auschwitz complex of camps.

In mid-January 1945 it is estimated that that there were 4,415 men serving in the Auschwitz complex of camps and 71 SS-Aufseherinnen. 3

In 1937 the ratio of prisoners to guards in the concentration camps was 2 to 1. During the war this ratio rose dramatically to more than 20 to 1 as the number of prisoners in the Stammlager and their sub camps dramatically increased. The SS looked at ways of compensating for the growing ratio of prisoners to guards including: using dogs and fencing in the workplaces as well as increasing the number of SS guards from 1942 by recruiting Volksdeutsche from amongst the populations of German occupied Poland, German occupied Sudetenland, Croatia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia. 3a  and from mid 1944 recruiting former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men unfit for front line duties.

From Tiergartenstrasse4Association´s research to date on the Auschwitz sub camps we estimate that 1,959 SS men and SS-Aufseherinnen, were serving in the Auschwitz sub camps including Monowitz on or around 17 January 1945. This number has been estimated from prisoner testimonies of the number of guards from individual sub camps. Where no estimates were available from testimonies an estimate was made based on the number of prisoners in the sub camp. Overall we use the estimate of the ratio of number of guards per number of prisoners of 5% with another 1% for other functions, administration medical etc. In the very smallest sub camps with between 10 and 100 prisoners there was obviously a higher ratio of guards to prisoners to maintain a minimum level of security.

Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz in his research on the Buna-Werke and Monowitz quotes the size of the Wachkompanie Monowitz in September 1944 as 1,315 men, with 439 serving in Monowitz itself and 876 in the sub camps of Auschwitz III-Monowitz.4

This would give a difference of 644 between the number quoted by Dr. Setkiewicz at September 1944 and our estimate at January 1945. This difference can be reconciled as follows: Tiergartenstrasse4Association´s estimate includes 140 guards in the agricultural sub camps, which were sub camps of Auschwitz II-Birkenau and staffed by a separate Landswirtschaftskompanie of SS guards. The total size of the Landswirtschaftskompanie was around 300 persons.4a In addition, from June 1944 a separate 4th Wehrmacht company was formed in Auschwitz of former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men which was subsequently renamed the 8th Sentry Company. It numbered approximately 500 men. From our research to date many of these men were assigned to the Auschwitz sub camps. 5

Some guards in the Auschwitz sub camps were never formally assigned to the Auschwitz camp staff or incorporated into the SS including men from Organisation Todt and other members of the armed forces. Some of these men had been assigned from the Wehrmacht High Command at the request of Heinrich Himmler on 26 June 1944. Eight hundred men were assigned to guard factories which produced armaments for the Wehrmacht and other branches of the armed forces and in which concentration camp prisoners laboured. 5a In Arbeitslager Laurahütte which is the only Auschwitz sub camp we have identified as having such a guard unit, marines were assigned as guards in 1944, “ From our unit a Kommando was put together and sent to Laurahütte in March. Most members of this Kommando were old marines. I estimate the strength of this Marinekommando at 15 to 25 men, nearer 15. In Laurahütte we were placed under a captain of the army…… We had the task to guard the factory area, and the accesses to it. Likewise we did guard duty at the gate to the prisoner camp, and around the prisoner camp. The prisoners of the camp were sent to work in the already described factory. At work the prisoners were guarded by the SS. SS men went with the Arbeitskommandos into the factory. None of the marines did guard duty in the factory….. From memory there were 8 to 10 SS men in the SS guard unit….Amongst the SS men 3 or 4 were Volksdeutsche.” 5b These men have not been included in our estimates of the number of SS guards and SS-Aufseherinnen serving in the Auschwitz sub camps.

How many men were assigned from the Wehrmacht High Command to the sub camps of Auschwitz is unknown.

The IPN database does not include SS-Aufseherinnen. In mid-January 1945 it is estimated that 71 SS-Aufseherinnen were assigned to the Auschwitz complex of camps. A guard unit of female SS supervisors was first founded in Auschwitz in 1942.  Companies wishing to employ female prisoners from Auschwitz first had to agree to supply appropriate women from their own workforce for training in Ravensbrück concentration camp and later other camps. These women after completion of training would then be assigned as supervisors to the concentration camps and their sub camps employing female prisoners. In the Auschwitz sub camp of Lichtewerden for example, around June 1944 four young, single female workers selected from the G.A. Buhl und Sohn mill in Světlá Hora were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp for training as female SS supervisors. This was obviously with a view to the opening of the Auschwitz sub camp of Lichtewerden. 5c Twelve of the Auschwitz sub camps housed female prisoners from Auschwitz in January 1945. If we assume 3 Aufseherinnen per sub camp for those operating in January 1945 this would suggest approximately 36 Aufseherinnen were serving in the Auschwitz sub camps in mid-January 1945. Given the thousands of female prisoners in Auschwitz-II Birkenau who were also partly guarded and supervised by SS Aufseherinnen, the estimate of 71 Aufseherinnen would seem too low; further research is required.

We estimate the total number of prisoners in the Auschwitz sub camps at 17 January 1945 as 36,596, approximately 53% of the total Auschwitz camp complex prisoner population. This would suggest our estimate of 1,959 SS men and SS-Aufseherinnen, some 44% of the total of 4,415 men and 71 SS-Aufseherinnen serving in January 1945 in the Auschwitz complex is reasonable given Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau also carried the offices and departments of the central bureaucracy of the Auschwitz complex of camps. Our estimate of ratio of prisoners to SS in the Auschwitz sub camps in January 1945 is 18.7 to 1.

How many personnel served in the Auschwitz sub camps between 1940 and 1945 ? The current minimum estimate of personnel who served in the Auschwitz complex is 8,500 SS men  6 and 71 Aufseherinnen of which 4,415 SS men and 71 SS-Aufseherinnen were in service at or around the date of evacuation of the Auschwitz complex in January 1945. This would suggest the camp staff turned over 100% in the period of operation of the Auschwitz concentration camp between 1940 to 1945. The Auschwitz sub camp system did not substantially develop until 1943/1944 therefore the likelihood of the sub camp guards being exchanged or transferred was much lower than in other parts of the Auschwitz complex.

The number of SS guards in sub camps that were closed before January 1945 we estimate at 180. We have assumed at present for the purposes of this research that none of the guards from the closed sub camps were re-allocated to other sub camps (other than the guards transferred from the sub camp Lagischa transferred to Arbeitslager Neustadt O/S). Our estimate of the total number of SS personnel who served in the sub camps before assessing turnover in staff is therefore 2,139.

We estimate that the turnover of the SS and other guards in the sub camps was only 10%. We know some of the guards were transferred between sub camps but from our research to date most of these guards stayed within the sub camp system. This would give an estimate of 2,335 (not applying the 10% turnover estimate to the guards from sub camps closed before January 1945) Auschwitz personnel who served in the sub camps between 1940 and 1945. This is approximately 27.2% of the estimated total number of 8,571 SS personnel who served in the Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945.

How many of the SS Auschwitz personnel died before the end of the war? Professor Lasik estimates that 13% of the SS personnel at Auschwitz in January 1945 were sent to front line SS units and that possibly up to 50% died before the end of the war.7 Our research to date suggests that only few of the SS who served in the Auschwitz sub camps were re-assigned to frontline units or died before the wars end and therefore have made no adjustment at this stage to our estimate. We therefore estimate 2,335 SS men and SS-Aufseherinnen served in the Auschwitz III-Monowitz sub camps and the agricultural sub camps of Auschwitz II-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945 and survived the end of the 2nd World War.

We have identified a mimimum of 88 non-SS guards who served in the Auschwitz sub camps including men from Organisation Todt, Schupo, Gendarmerie, casual Bahnschutze, industrial guards, Gestapo, the marines in Arbeitslager Laurahütte and others. These men are not included in our estimates of the number of SS guards and SS-Aufseherinnen serving in the Auschwitz sub camps. Our estimate also does not include factory guards and others who in some of the Auschwitz sub camps guarded prisoners at the workplace whilst the SS only guarded the sub camp itself.


1 Lasik, Alexander, The Apprehension and Punishment of the Auschwitz Camp Staff  [in:] Auschwitz 1940-1945 Vol. V, Oświęcim 2000, p. 102
2 http://zppw-auschwitz.pl/2017/05/08/lista-8-500-nazwisk-ss-manow-z-kl-auschwitz/.
3 Iwaszko, Tadeusz, Häftlingsfluchten aus dem Konzentrationslager Auschwitz. n:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1964] Nr 7, p. 21.
3a Piper, Franciszek, Auschwitz Prisoner Labour, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2002 p. 108-113.
4 Setkiewicz, Piotr, Z dziejów obozów IG Farben Werk Auschwitz 1941-1945, Oświęcim 2006, p. 273
4a StA Ludwigsburg, StAL EL 317 VI_Bu 881 page 29. Testimony of the first head of the Landswirtschaftskompanie SS Hauptsturmführer Reinhard Thomsen.
5 Lasik, Alexander, The Auschwitz SS Garrison in Auschwitz 1940-1945 [in] Auschwitz 1940-1945 Vol. I  Oświęcim 2000, p. 296.
5a Piper, Franciszek, Auschwitz Prisoner Labour, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2002, p. 112
5b StA Hannover, ha_nds._721_hannover_acc._90_99_nr._204 p 42. Testimony of Reinhard Karger.
5c StA Ludwigsburg, StAL EL 48-2BA 2570 testimony of Aloisia Irmsler from 5 September 1972. 
6 http://zppw-auschwitz.pl/2017/05/08/lista-8-500-nazwisk-ss-manow-z-kl-auschwitz/.
7 Lasik, Alexander, The Apprehension and Punishment of the Auschwitz Camp Staff  [in] Auschwitz 1940-1945 Vol. V, Oświęcim 2000, p 102.

 

Summary of the War Crimes Trials of Former Auschwitz Sub Camp Personnel

Based on our research to date, 278 SS men and SS-Aufseherinnen who served in the Auschwitz sub camps were either brought before court, died in custody before being brought to court or died while awaiting judgement. This represents some 11.9% of our estimate of 2,335 SS men and Aufseherinnen who served in the Auschwitz sub camps between 1940 and 1945.

Tiergartenstrasse4Association Research Work to Date and Research Plans for the Future

In 2017 the IPN published the most complete list of personnel of Auschwitz personnel to date. 1 This list arises from a project between the IPN, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and Professor Lasik to publish as complete a list of SS personnel in the Auschwitz complex of camps as possible. In 2010 and 2011 the IPN had reopened the formerly suspended investigations into former Auschwitz personnel with the aim of locating and prosecuting surviving personnel of the concentration camp. Intensive collaboration was initiated with Polish and foreign institutions in particular the Zentrale Stelle in Ludwisgburg. On request of the Zentrale Stelle, the IPN sourced documents for the purposes of preliminary judicial proceedings against former Auschwitz personnel in Germany. 2

The IPN database is not fully complete. It includes SS personnel who served in the guard battalion and guard companies, in the six departments of the camp administration and other branches under the command of the Commandant of Auschwitz I and the SS garrison operating outside the main Auschwitz camp, including the SS Hygiene Institut der Waffen-SS und Polizei in Rajsko. The database does not include details of some Wehrmacht, marines and other men who served in some Kommandos and sub camps as auxiliary guards. It appears these men were not formally transferred to the SS. It also does not include members of the 8th Guard Company (8. Ukrainische Kompanie) which recruited mainly Ukrainian nationals. It also does not include female guards (SS-Aufseherinnen) and other female staff members such as wireless operators, sisters of the German Red Cross who did not join the SS.3

For the purposes of our research there is one major problem with the database published by the IPN in what is otherwise a fantastic research resource; it includes no details of which department of Auschwitz the SS personnel served in. More specifically it includes no details of whether the SS personnel served in one of the industrial sub camps of Auschwitz III-Monowitz or the agricultural sub camps of Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

In the 1960s the Zentrale Stelle in Ludwigsburg created a list of Auschwitz personnel from records sourced from the IPN and from their own investigations, for use in prosecuting war crimes in West Germany.4 This list is not nearly as complete as the database published by the IPN but it does include some details of the departments in which SS personnel served, in the Auschwitz complex of camps. Our research on the SS personnel of the Auschwitz sub camps began by creating a database of Auschwitz sub camp personnel from the Zentrale Stelle list. The data is far from complete; we have so far identified only approximately 800 of the 2,335 SS personnel and SS-Aufseherinnen who served in the Auschwitz sub camps.

The database we created from the Zentrale Stelle list, we compared name by name with the IPN database. This enabled us to identify those men who had been brought before a Polish court and review the court judgements included on the IPN database. The IPN database has varying quality of personnel details. There is excellent data for example on the former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men who were transferred to Auschwitz from June 1944. For some other SS personnel there is only a name. In our database we used the data from the IPN database as this is based on the original German wartime documents. We relied on the Zentrale Stelle database only for details of particular Auschwitz sub camps SS personnel were assigned to.

We have reviewed the investigation files of the Zentrale Stelle related to the Auschwitz sub camps and some but not all of the original investigation and trial records held in the various state archives in Germany. The Zentrale Stelle files are by defintion but summaries of the investigation and trials records held in the various state archives in Germany.

By its very nature our research work on the Auschwitz sub camp personnel can be compared to preparing company accounts from a paper bag of incomplete invoices and receipts. It can be improved over time with review and research but will never be complete without discovery of the full original records listing SS personnel serving in the individual Auschwitz sub camps.

In summary our research work on the SS personnel of the Auschwitz sub camps is not complete and the information included on the website is subject to revision.

Further Research

We have not reviewed the original records from which the IPN database was created, including Professor Lasik´s original card index. Possibly these records include details of Auschwitz sub camp service. In addition, we have not completed our review of the German investigation and trial records of Auschwitz sub camp personnel located in the various state archives in Germany.

We have reviewed the Polish court judgements of Auschwitz sub camp personnel but not the associated court and trial documents.

The US tried hundreds of concentration camp personnel for crimes committed in the Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenbürg, Mauthausen and Mittelbau-Dora concentration camps and their sub camps. Many of these men had also served in other concentration camps including Auschwitz. We have identified some men who had served in the Auschwitz sub camps but a more detailed review of the trial records which include detailed questionnaires of the life histories of the men may reveal others.

Great Britain incarcerated after the war many former concentration camp guards in Civilian Internment Camp (CIC) 6, the former Nazi concentration camp of Neuengamme. These men were subject to investigation for the purposes of determining whether they should be subject to trial or extradicted to other Allied countries for trial. We have been able to locate the original card index of internees of CIC 6 in the Public Records Office in Kew London but not the investigation and other camp files. It is possible these were handed over to the German authorities after closure of the CIC in 1948. We have also been unable to locate the original inmate card indexes and investigation files from the equivalent US internment camps. We have been unable to determine so far whether these records still exist and where in Germany they reside. These records may reveal further information on the history of concentration camp personnel.

Other records which have not been subject to detailed review are the records of the denazification trials. These were initiated by the Allied powers in their zones of occupation immediately after the end of the 2nd World War. In 1946 investigations and trials were handed over to the local German authorities where they continued until 1951. We have come across some of these records in the various state archives in Germany and in some war crimes trials investigations initiated in West Germany but we have not undertaken any detailed review. These records could reveal information of concentration camp duty or other duties potentially associated with war crimes.


1 IPN database of Auschwitz SS guards. https://truthaboutcamps.eu/th/form/60,Zaloga-SS-KL-Auschwitz.html.
2 IPN database of Auschwitz SS guards. https://truthaboutcamps.eu/th/form/60,Zaloga-SS-KL-Auschwitz.html.
3 IPN database of Auschwitz SS guards. https://truthaboutcamps.eu/th/form/60,Zaloga-SS-KL-Auschwitz.html.
4 BA Ludwigsburg, B162 2679 and B162 2680.