Endlösung der Judenfrage

Wannsee Conference Participants

Gerhard Klopfer

Gerhard Klopfer, attendee at the Wannsee Conference

The following individuals participated in the Wannsee Conference (Wannsee-Konferenz, Wannseekonferenz), held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942, to achieve bureaucratic unanimity concerning the Final Solution of the Jewish Question (Endlösung, Endlösung der Judenfrage), a euphemism for the destruction of the Jews in Europe.

SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt/ Reich Main Security Office) and Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia; ambushed in Prague on May 27, 1942 and died of his wounds on June 4, 1942.

State Secretary Roland Freisler, Reich Ministry of Justice; killed in an air-raid in Berlin on February 3, 1945.

SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Lange, Commander of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; SiPo) and the SD for the General-District Latvia, Deputy of the Commander of the SiPo and the SD for the Reichskommissariat Ostland, and Head of Einsatzkommando 2; killed in action (or suicide) at Posen/Poznań, Poland on February 23, 1945.

State Secretary and Deputy Reich Minister Alfred Meyer, Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories; committed suicide on April 11, 1945 near Hessisch Oldendorf.

SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, Chief of Amt IV (Gestapo) in the Reich Main Security Office; last seen in Berlin on April 30, 1945 – fate unknown.

Undersecretary of State Martin Luther, Reich Foreign Ministry; finished the war in a concentration camp after falling out with Foreign Minister Ribbentrop; died in Berlin of heart failure in May 1945.

SS-Oberführer Karl Eberhard Schöngarth, Commander of the SiPo (Security Police) and the SD (Security Service) in the General Government; hanged for war crimes (killing British prisoners of war) at Hameln Prison on May 16, 1946 (executioner – Albert Pierrepoint.)

Ministerial Director Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger, Permanent Secretary at the Reich Chancellery (representing Dr. Hans Lammers); acquitted of war crimes; died at Nürnberg on April 25, 1947.

State Secretary Josef Bühler, General Government (representing Governor-General Dr. Hans Frank); tried in Poland for war crimes and executed in Kraków, Poland on August 22, 1948.

State Secretary Erich Neumann, Office of the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan; briefly imprisoned; died at Garmisch-Partenkirchen on March 23, 1951.

State Secretary Wilhelm Stuckart, Reich Interior Ministry; imprisoned for four years before being released for lack of evidence in 1949; killed in a car accident near Hanover on November 15, 1953.

SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, Head of Referat IV B4 of the Gestapo; hanged at Ramla Prison in Israel on June 1, 1962.

Ministerial Director Georg Leibbrandt, Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories; charged with war crimes but the case against him was dismissed in 1950; died in Bonn on June 16, 1982.

SS-Gruppenführer Otto Hofmann, Head of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office (RuSHA); sentenced to 25 years in prison for war crimes, but was pardoned in 1954; died in Bad Mergentheim on December 31, 1982.

Ministerial Director Gerhard Klopfer, Permanent Secretary of the Nazi Party Chancellery (representing Martin Bormann); charged with war crimes but released for lack of evidence; died on January 29, 1987.


Wannsee Conference Participants2016-03-02T21:18:07-06:00

Christian Wirth

Christian Wirth

SS-Obersturmbannführer Christian Wirth was born on November 24, 1885 in Oberbalzheim, in the Launberg district of Württemberg.  He attended the Volkschule in Oberbalzheim for eight years and then trained as a carpenter before being employed by the Buhler Brothers Timber Works.

Wirth suffered from asthma his entire life, but managed to join the 123rd Grenadier Regiment “König Karl” in 1905.  He served with the unit for five years, before joining the Schutzpolizei in 1910.  For the next fpur years, Wirth progressed through the ranks, elevating to the Kriminalpolizei.  In 1914, Wirth became a corporal in the 246th Reserve Infantry Regiment.  Fighting on the Western Front in Flanders, the Somme and Aisne-Champagne, Wirth won the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Classes.  He was wounded in the right arm and received the Wound Badge in Black; during the conflict, he rose to become a sergeant and finally an acting officer.

Christian Wirth

Christian Wirth

He subsequently became a police officer in Stuttgart, joining the Nazi Party on January 1, 1931 (He reportedly may have been in the Nazi Party in the early 1920s), the SA in 1933 (where he was a Sturmführer in SA-Sturm 119) and the SS in 1939.  By that time, he was the Head of Kommissariat 5.  Wirth subsequently served in a Gestapo position in Vienna and the Security Police in Prague.

Christian Wirth played a significant role in the Nazi T4 euthanasia program in the late 1930s, personally participating in the first gassing experiments at Brandenburg, Grafeneck Castle and Hartheim Castle.  Wirth then passed the examination at the leadership school of the Security Police and was promoted to Kriminalkommissar.  He was reported to have been in Lublin and Chelmno in the fall of 1941, possibly involved in killing operations.

In late 1941, SS-Gruppenführer Odilo Globocnik encountered difficulties in executing Operation Reinhard and brought Wirth to Lublin to supervise the three major extermination camps – Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka.  Nicknamed “The savage Christian,” “Christian the Terrible” and “Stuka,” he recruited T4 staff from Germany, conducted efficiency experiments with Zyklon B and carbon monoxide, and in general proved so successful that he received the War Service Cross 2nd and 1st Classes.

As Operation Reinhard drew to a close, Wirth played an instrumental role in Aktion Erntefest — the massacre of remaining Jews workers in the Lublin area work camps.  Wirth then transferred to San Sabba Trieste to work for his old boss Odilo Globocnik, forming and heading Einsatz R, an SS and Police Sonderkommando.

Christian Wirth was killed in action near Kozina, Istria by partisans on May 26, 1944.  British historian Michael Tregenza supposedly located a diary of a Slovenian partisan, who organized the ambush that killed Wirth; other sources are unsure of who actually killed him.  Wirth was initially buried with full military honors at the German Military Cemetery in Opcina (near Trieste.)  Christian Wirth was exhumed in 1959 and is currently buried at the German Military Cemetery at Costermano, Italy.

Funeral for Christian Wirth

Christian Wirth2016-03-28T16:24:01-06:00

Hermann Höfle

Hermann Höfle

Hermann Höfle served as the chief-of-staff and right hand man to Odilo Globocnik during Operation Reinhard, the killing of at least 1,700,000 Jews in eastern Poland.  Born in Salzburg, Austria on June 19, 1911, Höfle joined the Nazi Party on August 1, 1933.  He had previously been an auto mechanic and a taxi driver, rising to ownership of a cab company.  Prior to the German takeover of Austria, Höfle was convicted of anti-government crimes and spent time in a Salzburg police prison.

Immediately after the Polish Campaign, he was assigned to the Sicherheitsdienst in southern Poland.  Beginning in November 1940, Höfle worked as an overseer of Jewish work camps southeast of Lublin.  Workers from these camps built a large number of anti-tank ditches.  Married with four children, he worked in the Lublin area for several years, not including a short stint at Mogilev, Russia, emerging from obscurity to become a leading figure in the “Final Solution.”

With his headquarters at the Julius Schreck Barracks in Lublin,  SS-Hauptsturmführer Höfle procured Ukrainian guards for the three major extermination camps and instructed SS personnel – to include Action T4 gassing experts from Berlin – in their duties and responsibilities, including administering an oath of secrecy.  He coordinated the deportations of Jews from all areas of the General Government and directed them to one of the death camps.

Beginning on the morning of July 22, 1942, now SS-Sturmbannführer, Höfle began the deportation of Jews from the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto, an operation that ended with the deaths of several hundred thousand people at Treblinka extermination camp.  He also played a key role in the “Harvest Festival” massacre of 42,000 Jewish inmates of the various labor camps in the Lublin district in early November 1943.  Months after the end of Operation Reinhard, Hermann Höfle joined Globocnik in Trieste, ostensibly to hunt partisans.

After the war, Höfle was in and out of various confinement facilities as numerous proceedings against him were begun but then dropped.  He also spent three years living under an alias in Italy.  Authorities arrested Hermann Höfle a final time in 1961.  He committed suicide in an Austrian prison in Vienna on August 21, 1962, while awaiting trial, by hanging himself.

Hermann Höfle2016-03-28T21:00:23-06:00

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss

Execution of Rudolf Höss

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss served as the first commandant of the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp from May 4, 1940 to November 1943, where it is estimated that more than a million people were murdered.

Höss was born in Baden-Baden into a Catholic family on November 25, 1901.  His father, a former army officer who served in German East Africa, ran a tea and coffee business; Rudolf was the eldest of three children and the only son.  When World War I erupted, Rudolf Höss served briefly in a military hospital.  Then, at the age of just fourteen, he was admitted to his father’s old regiment, the 21st Regiment of Dragoons.  He fought with the Turkish Sixth Army at Baghdad, Kut-el-Amara, and in Palestine, rising to the rank of sergeant – at age seventeen the youngest non-commissioned officer in the army.  Höss was wounded three times and was a victim of malaria.  A brave soldier, he received the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Classes and the Baden Military Bravery Medal.

After the war, Höss completed his high school education, following which joined nationalist paramilitary groups that were forming in the post-war chaos.  He enlisted in the East Prussian Volunteer Corps and then the Freikorps Rossbach in the Baltic area, Silesia, and the Ruhr. During the Silesian Uprisings, he participated in guerrilla attacks against Polish people, and later conducted sabotage against French occupation forces in the Ruhr.  Joining the Nazi Party in 1922, on May 31, 1923, Höss and members of the Freikorps beat suspected Communist Walther Kadow to death as revenge for the French execution of German paramilitary soldier Albert Leo Schlageter five days earlier.  One of the killers unwisely told a local newspaper of the murder; authorities arrested Rudolf Höss, who accepted blame as the leader of the event, found him guilty and sentenced Höss to ten years imprisonment.  As part of a general amnesty, Höss was released in July 1928.

Rudolf Höss was married and had five children, two sons and three daughters  He was accepted into the SS on April 1, 1934 and was assigned to the SS-Totenkopfverbände (Death’s Head Units.)  In December 1934, he assumed duties at Dachau concentration camp.  By 1938, he was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer and was made adjutant to Hermann Baranowski at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin.  The following year, he joined the Waffen-SS.

On May 1, 1940, Rudolf Höss was appointed commandant of a prison camp in western Poland, built around an old Austro-Hungarian (and later Polish) army barracks near the town of Oświęcim.  It would be known throughout history by its German name – Auschwitz.  SS-Obersturmbannführer Höss commanded the camp for three and a half years, during which he expanded the original facility into a sprawling complex known as Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.  During this time, Höss lived at Auschwitz in a villa together with his wife and children.  At its peak, Auschwitz was three separate facilities – Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II/Birkenau, and Auschwitz III/Monowitz, which included many satellite sub-camps.  Auschwitz I served the administrative center for the complex and the site where many medical experiments were conducted; Auschwitz II/Birkenau was the extermination camp, where most of the killing took place; and Auschwitz III/Monowitz the slave labor camp for I. G. Farben and other German industries.

In June 1941, Höss attended a meeting in Berlin with Heinrich Himmler to receive instructions.  Himmler told Höss that Adolf Hitler had given the order for the physical extermination of Europe’s Jews.  Himmler had decided on Auschwitz for this purpose due to its easy access by rail and because the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation.  Himmler continued by telling Höss that he would be receiving all operational orders from Adolf Eichmann, warning Höss that the project was to be treated with the utmost secrecy and that no one was allowed to speak about these matters with any person.  Höss said later that he kept that secret until the end of 1942, when he told his wife.

A stickler for efficiency, Höss began to perfect techniques of mass killing, visiting other killing centers whenever he could.  According to Höss, during standard camp operations, two to three trains, each carrying 2,000 prisoners, would arrive daily for periods of four to six weeks. The prisoners were unloaded in the Birkenau camp; those fit for labor were marched to barracks in either Birkenau or one of the Auschwitz camps, while those unsuitable for work were driven immediately into the gas chambers.  Initially, the SS operated small gassing bunkers deep in the nearby woods, to avoid detection.  Later, they constructed four large gas chambers and crematoria in Birkenau to make the killing more efficient and to handle the increasing rate of exterminations.  Studying what was being done at the Treblinka extermination camp, Höss improved on the methods at Treblinka by building his gas chambers ten times larger – so that Auschwitz could kill 2,000 people at once, rather than 200.

Arthur Liebehenschel replaced Höss on November 10, 1943.  The two men switched duties, with  Höss assuming Liebehenschel’s former position as the chief of Department D I in the SS Economic and Administration Office, under Oswald Pohl.  Höss was also appointed the deputy of the inspectorate of the concentration camps under Richard Glücks, which was located at Oranienburg, just north of Berlin.   Rudolf Höss returned to Auschwitz on May 8, 1944 to supervise a special action – the murder of 430,000 Hungarian Jews, who were transported to the camp and killed between May and July of 1944.  However, even Höss’ expanded facility could not handle the huge number of corpses and special details of prisoners were pressed into service to dispose of thousands of bodies by burning them in open pits, placing the bodies on wooden railroad ties and using the human fat in the bodies to keep the fires going twenty-four hours per day.  The stench was so great that people could smell it from miles away.

As the war drew to an end in 1945, Heinrich Himmler advised Höss to disguise himself among German Navy personnel.  Höss evaded arrest for nearly a year, but on March 11, 1946, British troops captured Höss – disguised as a farmer and calling himself Franz Lang.  After being questioned and allegedly beaten severely, Höss confessed his real identity.  He appeared as a witness at the International Military Tribunal at Nürnberg in April 1946, where he gave detailed testimony of his crimes.  On May 25, 1946, Polish authorities took control of Höss and handed him over to the Supreme National Tribunal in Poland, which tried him for murder.  The tribunal sentenced Höss to death on April 2, 1947.  The sentence was carried out on April 16, 1947, immediately adjacent to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp, where Höss was hanged on a gallows constructed specifically for that purpose.

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss2016-03-04T20:14:19-06:00

Franz Novak

Franz Novak

SS-Hauptsturmführer Franz Novak was born on January 10, 1913 in Wolfsberg in the Carinthia district of Austria.  The son of a locomotive driver, he joined the Hitler Youth and subsequently the Nazi Party. Following the assassination of Engelbert Dollfuss, the Austrian Chancellor who had banned the Nazi Party, Novak fled to Germany.  The crime occurred on July 25, 1934, when ten Austrian Nazis entered the Chancellery building and shot Dollfuss to death; Novak was involved in the plot.  In 1938, he joined the SS and Security Service.  Following the Anschluss, Novak returned to Austria, working in the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, first in Vienna, then Berlin, and finally in Prague. Novak was SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann’s railroad and transportation timetable expert and thus occupied a liaison role with the Ministry of Transport.

Personnel file photo of Franz Novak

Personnel file photo of Franz Novak

Once Eichmann had  coordinated the deportations of Jews from a specific region with that area’s local government, he would assign his deputy, SS-Sturmbannführer Rolf Günther the task of arranging transportation.  Günther, in turn, notified his subordinate, Franz Novak, of the number of people to be deported, the origin of the proposed movement and the final destination.  Novak then contacted Office 21 of the Reichsbahn Traffic Section and the railroad men would handle the rest.  Novak worked with Eichmann on the deportation of Hungarian Jews in 1944 to Auschwitz.

After the war, Novak went into hiding in Austria under an assumed name, but reverted to his real name in 1957.  Following Eichmann’s trial in 1961, which revealed the role Novak played in the deportation of Jews to their deaths, he was arrested.  In 1964, an Austrian court sentenced Novak to eight year’s imprisonment; during the trial Novak had said:  “For me, Auschwitz was just a train station.”

After an appeal, a retrial was ordered in 1966 and Novak was acquitted. This reversal did not sit well in Austria.  Two years later, the Austrian Supreme Court revoked the result of the second trial and ordered a third trial.  This court, meeting in 1969, issued a unanimous verdict of guilty, resulting in a sentence of nine year’s imprisonment.  Novak’s attorney pleaded for a nullification of the verdict and Novak was not re-arrested. After the third appeal to the Austrian Supreme Court, a verdict of guilty was handed down by a court in 1972.

The ruling explicitly denied that Novak was obligated to obey binding orders.  However, he was convicted not for murder, but for committing “public violence under aggravating circumstances” by transporting human beings without providing sufficient water, food and toilet facilities.  Seven of the eight members of the jury did not convict Novak of being an accessory to murder.  He was granted a pardon by Austrian President Rudolf Kirchschläger.  Franz Novak died on October 21, 1983 in Langenzersdorf (just north of Vienna), Austria.



Franz Novak2016-03-28T21:01:55-06:00

Dr. Rudolf Lange

Dr. Rudolf Lange

SS-Standartenführer Dr. Rudolf Lange was a key figure in the Einsatzkommando and the Wannsee Conference.  The son of a railway construction supervisor, Rudolf was born on November 18, 1910 in Weisswasser, in eastern Saxony.  Lange received a doctorate in law in 1933 at the University of Jena and soon joined the Gestapo.  He served in the Gestapo office in Berlin in 1936, transferring to Vienna, Austria in 1938 to coordinate the annexation of the Austrian police system with the Reich.  In 1939, Lange transferred to Stuttgart.  He ran the Gestapo offices in Erfurt and Weimar in 1939, before returning to Berlin.

On June 5, 1941, Dr. Lange reported to Pretzsch, in the Wittenberg district in Saxony-Anhalt, and the staff of Einsatzgruppe A.  Lange rose to command Einsatzkommando 2 on December 3, 1941; he also held the position of commander of the Security Service in Latvia.  He planned and executed the murder of 24,000 Latvian Jews at the Rumbula Forest near Riga from November 30 to December 8, 1941.

Lange was then invited to attend the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, to help discuss the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”  It was held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, along Lake Wannsee on January 20, 1942.  The three-story villa, in which the meeting was held, was built as a villa residence for factory owner Ernst Marlier, a manufacturer of pharmaceutical preparations, in 1915.  Marlier purchased two plots of land on Grosse Seestrasse (later renamed Am Grossen Wannsee) from the Head Forestry Office in Potsdam and the Royal Prussian Waterway Engineering Authority.  Marlier sold the property in 1921 to the North German Real Estate Company in Berlin for 2,300,000 Reichsmarks.  Friedrich Minoux, a member of the board of this company, obtained the property in 1937.  He was arrested in 1940 for helping to embezzle 8,800,000 Reichsmarks.  While in prison, he sold the property for 1,950,000 Reichsmarks to the  Nordhav Foundation, an organization that had been established in 1939 by Reinhard Heydrich to create and maintain holiday homes for members of the SS security services and their relatives.  It was rumored that Heydrich planned to ultimately keep the property for his own home.

Although Lange was the lowest ranking of the present SS officers, Reinhard Heydrich viewed Lange’s direct experience in conducting the mass murder of deported Jews as valuable for the conference.  Afterward, Lange returned to Riga, where he remained until 1945, when he assumed command of the Security Service and Security Police for the Reichsgau Wartheland, at Posen, Poland.  He was promoted to SS-Standartenführer, but soon after, the Red Army surrounded Posen (now Poznań.)  During the siege, Lange was wounded organizing the security police defenses in the city.  He committed suicide at the Kernwerk core fortress in Posen on February 16, 1945, hours before Soviet troops overran these final defenses.  He was posthumously awarded the German Cross in Gold.

Dr. Rudolf Lange2016-03-04T20:19:17-06:00

Dr. Karl Gebhardt

Dr. Karl Gebhardt

Possibly a childhood friend of SS chief Heinrich Himmler, SS-Gruppenführer Dr. Karl Franz Gebhardt was born in Haag/Upper Bavaria on November 23, 1897.  He was wounded in action and the winner of the Iron Cross 1st Class, while assigned to the 4th Bavarian Infantry Regiment, in World War I; he was also a British prisoner of war for a short time.

He later graduated the University of Munich as a physician.  In 1923, he was a member of the Freikorps/Bund Oberland and participated in the Beer Hall Putsch.  He joined the Nazi Party and SS in 1933.  In 1937, he became chair holder for orthopedic surgery at the University of Berlin. Gebhardt subsequently a personal physician to Heinrich Himmler.  His other titles included Chief Surgeon to the Reich Physician to the SS and Police, President of the German Red Cross.

In 1940, Dr. Gebhardt served a tour of duty in the 2nd SS Division Das Reich.  On May 27, 1942, Himmler sent Dr. Gebhardt to Prague to assist Reinhard Heydrich, who had been gravely wounded in an assassination attempt.  Gebhardt disdained the use of sulfonamide, expecting Heydrich to make a full recovery without antibiotic use (which Gebhardt thought worthless).  Heydrich died of sepsis.

During the war, Dr. Gebhardt conducted horrific medical experiments on several dozen female inmates at the women’s concentration camp of Ravensbrück.  For his achievements, Gebhardt received the Knights Cross of the War Service Cross; he also received the German Cross in Silver.  The “Doctors’ Trial” convicted him of crimes against humanity and issued a death sentence on August 20, 1947.  Karl Gebhardt was executed by hanging on Wednesday, June 2, 1948 at the Landsberg Prison.  His remains were transferred to Munich, where he is buried in the Ostfriedhof (Plot 8, Row 5, Grave 1/2)

Dr. Karl Gebhardt2017-01-27T08:21:18-06:00

Adolf Eichmann

Adolf Eichmann

SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann was born in Solingen, Germany on March 19, 1906.  His mother died when he was eight and the family moved to Linz, Austria.  His father fought in World War I in the Austro-Hungarian Army and survived to start a mining company in that Austrian city.  Adolf attended high school but dropped out to become a mechanic, later finding that he was unsuitable at this occupation.  He worked for his father and then two other clerical jobs, before returning to Germany in 1933.  Prior to departing Linz, he joined the Austrian Nazi Party and the SS.  Once in German, he was assigned in the SS to the administrative staff  at the Dachau concentration camp for a year.  He then transferred to the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) and assigned to the “Freemasons’ Desk” to keep track on German members of that organization.

In 1938, Adolf Eichmann traveled to the British Mandate of Palestine to conduct an assessment of potential massive German deportations of Jews to Palestine.  After the German unification with Austria in 1938, Eichmann transferred to Austria to assist SS forces organize in Vienna.

In November 1934, Adolf Eichmann transferred to the Jewish Section at the Reich Main Security Office in Berlin.  He was promoted to SS-Hauptscharführer and later to SS-Untersturmführer, a commissioned rank.  Eichmann married in 1938; he would father three sons with his wife and a fourth with a woman in Argentina, later in life.  The same year he was selected to form the Central Office of Jewish Emigration in Vienna, Austria.  In December 1939, he moved to the Reich Main Security Office to become the head of Office IV B4, Jewish Affairs.  After submitting a report in 1940 on the potential to ship Germany’s Jews to the island of Madagascar, he became the transportation administer of the “Final Solution,” coordinating the transportation of Europe’s Jews to eastern ghettos and extermination camps, playing a key role at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942.  Eichmann, nicknamed “The Bloodhound,” hit his zenith of evil in 1944, when he went to Hungary and organized the transportation of that country’s 430,000 Jews to Auschwitz and their deaths.  In 1944, he remarked, “A hundred dead people are a catastrophe.  Six million dead is a statistic.”  He received the War Service Cross 1st Class for his efforts.  In 1945, Eichmann said, “I will leap laughing to my grave, because the feeling that I have five million people on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction!”

After the war, Eichmann was briefly detained by American forces, but escaped.  In 1950, he left Germany for Italy and subsequently fled to Argentina, where he remained in hiding for several years.  Living under the alias, Ricardo Klement, he was captured by Israeli security agents in Buenos Aires on May 11, 1960.  He said at the time, “But I had nothing to do with killing the Jews.  I never killed a Jew, but I never killed a non-Jew either – I’ve never killed anybody.”  He returned to Israel, where he was put on trial, where he was found guilty and sentenced to death.  During that proceeding, Eichmann stated, “If they had told me that my own father was a traitor and I had to kill him, I’d have done it.  At that time I obeyed my orders without thinking, I just did as I was told.”  Israeli hangman Shalom Nagar hanged Adolf Eichmann shortly before midnight on May 31, 1962 at a prison in Ramla, Israel.  The Israelis cremated his remains and scattered the ashes in the Mediterranean.


Adolf Eichmann2016-03-04T20:30:31-06:00

Albert Widmann

Dr. Albert Widmann on trial after the war

SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Albert Widmann, the son of a railroad engineer, was born in Stuttgart, Germany on June 8, 1912.  Studying at the Stuttgart Technical Institute, he received his doctorate in chemical engineering in 1938.  The year before he graduated, Widmann joined the Nazi Party.   After his schooling, Albert Widmann found himself employed with the Technical Institute for the Detection of Crime, a forensic laboratory.  By 1940, he had risen to be the institute’s chief of the section for chemical analysis.  By that time, Widmann was also a member of the SS, holding the rank of SS-Untersturmführer.

Widmann’s section provided technical advice to the Nazi T4 Euthanasia Program.  He took part in the early discussions about killing methods, participated in the first carbon monoxide gassing experiment at the Brandenburg State Hospital and Nursing Home, and through the institute, obtained the necessary carbon monoxide gas and poisons for T4.  He also obtained and provided the lethal chemicals used in fatal injections in the children’s euthanasia program, sharing shared his technological knowledge with others in the T4 program that were in charge of supervising and administrating the program.  Widmann visited other T4 centers, when solutions to technical problems needed to be tested, such as, when the crematorium in Sonnenstein Euthanasia Center malfunctioned.

In Russia, Dr. Widmann and Arthur Nebe conducted an experiment using explosives as the killing agent.  They locked 25 mentally ill patients in two bunkers in a forest outside of Minsk.  The first explosion did not kill every victim and it took so much time preparing the second explosive charge that the results were deemed unsatisfactory.  Several days later, they conducted an experiment with poison gas in Mogilev.  SS personnel hermetically sealed a room with twenty to thirty of the insane patients in the local lunatic asylum.  Two pipes were then driven into the wall and attached by Dr. Widmann to the exhaust pipe of a car parked outside.  A driver turned the car engine on and Widmann ensured that the exhaust began seeping into the room.  However, after eight minutes, the people in the room were still alive.  A second car was connected to the second pipe and through simultaneous operation, and a few minutes later, all those in the room were dead.

Widmann reportedly conducted other experiments back in Germany at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, along with Dr. Joachim Mrugowsky, concerning testing poisoned ammunition on prisoners – most of the tests ended in death.

After the war, Dr. Albert Widmann fled Berlin to Austria and finally returned to Stuttgart.  He took a job with a paint company and ended up as the chief chemist.  Widmann avoided prosecution until 1959.  He served only six years and six months in jail for his crimes.  Dr. Albert Widmann died in Stammheim on December 24, 1986.

Albert Widmann2016-03-04T20:37:56-06:00

Arthur Nebe

Arthur Nebe

SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe served as the commanding officer of Einsatzgruppe B in Russia, although that was not his most-important function in the Third Reich.

Born in Berlin on November 13, 1894 to an elementary school teacher, he graduated from the Leibniz-Gymnasium in Berlin (high school) and served in the 17th Pioneer Battalion, a combat engineer organization in World War I.  At the front, he was wounded twice by poison gas and was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class.

After the war, in 1920, Nebe joined Berlin’s detective force, the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police), called Kripo for short.  By 1924, he had advanced to the rank of Police Commissioner; that year he married Elise Schaeffer – the couple had one daughter two years later.  In 1928, he assumed responsibility for the Kripo offices in Potsdam and Frankfurt an der Oder, where he investigated numerous narcotics and murder cases.  Nebe joined the Nazi Party on July 1, 1931.

In 1932, Nebe helped form the National Socialist Civil Service Society of the Berlin Police and became friends with Kurt Daluege, a police official and prominent Nazi.  Daluege recommended that Nebe be appointed the Chief Executive of the State Police.  In July 1936, the Kripo became the criminal police department for the entire Third Reich.  It was merged, along with the Gestapo into the Security Police under Reinhard Heydrich.

Arthur Nebe, who formally entered the SS on December 2, 1936, was promoted to SS-Gruppenführer and appointed head of the entire Kripo, making him a direct subordinate of Heydrich.  Evidence shows that about this time, Nebe began to dislike the methods of Himmler and Heydrich, although he continued to have lunch with them frequently.

By 1938, Nebe’s dislike turned to hostility and he joined anti-Nazi conspirators Dr. Karl Sack and Hans Oster.  Nebe provided information on SS forces to the conspirators involved in the September 1938 coup attempt, a plan to overthrow Hitler if Germany went to war with Czechoslovakia.  However, Britain and France caved in to Hitler’s demands and there was no war over Czechoslovakia.

In 1941, perhaps sensing some reluctance on the part of his subordinate to get his hands dirty, Reinhard Heydrich selected Nebe to command Einsatzgruppe B, which would follow the Wehrmacht’s Army Group Center in the invasion of the Soviet Union.  Nebe asked for a transfer to the International Police Commission to avoid this duty, but Heydrich insisted; anti-Nazis Ludwig Beck and Hans Oster urged Nebe to accept, so they would have direct evidence of SS crimes and organization.  During Nebe’s tenure in the east, Einsatzgruppe B murdered about 46,000 victims.  With the technical assistance of Dr. Albert Widmann, Nebe experimented with the use of explosives and carbon monoxide gas vans (used to suffocate victims) to kill the mentally defective in lunatic asylums in Minsk and Mogilev, to spare his men the anxiety of shooting them.

Nebe served in Russia from June to November 1941, returning to Berlin to command the Kripo once again.  In March 1944, after the mass escape of Allied prisoners of war from Stalag Luft III, Nebe helped select fifty re-captured prisoners for execution.  He also reportedly suggested in June 1944 to SS physician Dr. Ernst Grawitz that the Gypsies held at Auschwitz would be good patients for medical experiments at Dachau.

Arthur Nebe appears to have been on the fringe of the July 20, 1944 bomb plot to kill Hitler at Rastenburg.  Supposedly, his mission in the plot was to lead a team of twelve police officers to assassinate Heinrich Himmler, but his whereabouts on the day remain in question (He may have been in Berlin with conspirator General Paul von Hase) as does the method by which he was to have received the signal to act.

In any case, Nebe – using various disguises after a warrant was issued for his arrest on July 24 – fled into hiding.  There are many versions of what happened next; one of the most logical is that Nebe contacted a female acquaintance in the police, one Adelheid Gobbin at the end of July, requesting help.  She took him to her apartment and then arranged a hiding place with the Walter Frick family at Motzen on Lake Motzen, twenty miles south of Berlin.  Gestapo investigator Willy Litzenberg appears to have tracked Gobbin down in January 1945 and in a later interrogation, she revealed Nebe’s hiding place.  Nebe, who according to one source attempted to fake his own suicide in January, was arrested in February 1945 and sentenced to death by the People’s Court.

On March 21, 1945, executioners at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin hanged Arthur Nebe (and Walter Frick.)  After the war, there were reports that he had been sighted in Turin, Italy and Ireland, but nothing has ever confirmed that he survived the war.

Arthur Nebe2016-03-04T20:41:34-06:00
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