the staff from the Nazi concentration camps were arrested and tried for murder
and acts of brutality against their prisoners after World War II.Some 3,600 women worked in the concentration
camps and around 60 stood trial for before War Crimes Tribunals between 1945
and 1949. Of these 21 were executed and their cases are detailed below. (In
total, 5,025 men and women were convicted of war crimes in the American,
British and French zones and over 500 of these were sentenced to death, with
the majority executed.)
decided that those sentenced to die should suffer death by hanging for both
sexes, although no standard execution protocol was agreed. Each country carried
out executions in accordance with its normal procedure. This led to the use of
British style measured drop hanging in private, for those executed in the
British sector, short drop hanging in public or private for those in the Polish
and Russian sectors and standard drop hanging in semi-private for those
executed by the Americans at Nuremberg, Dachau and Landsberg. Some of the
American hangings were televised and shown on the news. No women were executed
in the US Sector.
under British jurisdiction. A
total of 190 men and 10 women were hanged at Hameln Prison (near Hanover) in Germany under British
jurisdiction. The executions were carried out by Albert Pierrepoint who was
flown in specially on each occasion. Generally he was assisted by Regimental
Sergeant Major O'Neil who was a member of the Control Commission there. The
hangings took place in a purpose built execution room at the end of one of the
prison's wings. The gallows having been specially constructed by the Royal
Engineers to allow the execution of prisoners in pairs.
Belsen Concentration Camp staff. Bergen-Belsen was started as late as April 1943 in Lower Saxony near the city of Celle as a transit
centre. It was turned into a concentration camp by its second commandant,
SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer, and was used to house those prisoners who had
become too weak to work as forced labour in German factories. It was liberated
by the British army on April 15th, 1945. The British
soldiers found 10,000 unburied corpses and 40,000 sick and dying prisoners of
whom a staggering 28,000 subsequently died after liberation.
As a result of these atrocities, 45 former members of staff from Bergen-Belsen,
including some inmates who had taken part in acts of brutality against other
prisoners, were charged with either being responsible for the murder of Allied
nationals or the suffering of those in Bergen-Belsen in Germany (first count)
or Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, (see below for details of this camp)
(second count). Some defendants were charged with both counts.
The accused comprised of 16 men and 16 women, including Josef Kramer, Belsen's commandant,
plus 12 former prisoners (seven men and five women).
The Belsen Trial as it was known was conducted by the British Military Tribunal
at No. 30 Lindentrasse, Lüneburg, in Germany from September 17th to November
17th, 1945 under court President Major-General H.M.P. Berney-Ficklin, sitting
with five other officers. The prosecution was in the hands of a team of 4
military lawyers and each prisoner was represented by counsel. All the prisoners
were tried together and sat in the large dock, each wearing a number on their
On the afternoon of November 16th the verdicts were delivered. Thirty one
prisoners were convicted on one or both counts and 14 acquitted of all charges.
Irma Grese and Elisabeth Volkenrath were found guilty on both counts, Juana
Bormann guilty only on the second charge. The following day the sentences were
read out to the prisoners.Eleven of
them were sentenced to death and 19 others to various terms of imprisonment.
The death sentences were pronounced as follows by Major-General Berney-Ficklin:
"No. 1) Kramer, 2) Klein, 3) Weingartner, 5) Hoessler, 16) Francioh, 22)
Pichen, 25) Stofel, 27) Dorr. The sentence of this Court on each one of you
whom I have just named is that you suffer death by being hanged".
He then passed sentence on the women as follows "No. 6) Borman, 7)
Volkenrath, 9) Grese. The sentence of this court is that you suffer death by
being hanged." Click here for photos.
The sentence was translated for them into German as "Tode durch den
strang," literally death by the rope. All the prisoners were returned to
Lüneburg prison. Nine of the eleven condemned appealed to the convening
officer, Field-Marshal Montgomery, who rejected their appeals for clemency.
Elizabeth Volkenrath and Juanna Borman decided not to appeal. On Saturday the
8th of December the appeals of the others were rejected and the condemned were
transferred to Hameln jail the
following day to await execution, being housed in a row of tiny cells along a
corridor with the execution chamber at its end. The 11 from Belsen had been joined
by two other men, Georg Otto Sandrock and Ludwig Schweinberger, sentenced for
the murder of Pilot Officer Gerald Hood, a British prisoner of war at Almelo, Holland, on the 21st of March 1945.
The executions were set for Friday, December the 13th, 1945 and were to be
carried out at half hour intervals starting at 9.34 a.m. with Irma Grese, who
at 21, was the youngest of the condemned prisoners, followed by Elisabeth
Volkenrath at 10.03 a.m. and Juana Bormann at 10.38 a.m. The men, including
Joseph Kramer, were hanged in pairs afterwards, all 13 executions being
completed by In view of the
proximity of the condemned cells to the gallows, each one of them must have
heard the preceding hangings. I have read contemporary newspaper reports
stating that Elizabeth Volkenrath was executed first, with Irma Grese second
but this does not accord with Albert Pierrepoint’s recollection of the events.
For a detailed account of Irma Grese's case click here
and here for Juana
Elisabeth Volkenrath was 26 years old. She was convicted of numerous murders
and made selections for the gas chamber. She was described as the most hated
woman in the camp. Juana Borman was known as “the woman with the dogs” and took
sadistic pleasure in setting her wolfhounds on prisoners to tear them to
The afternoon before execution each prisoner was weighed so the correct drop
could be calculated for them. Irma Grese smiled at Pierrepoint when he asked
her age. Elisabeth Volkenrath was steady but looked nervous and Juana Borman
limped down the corridor looking old and haggard.
concentration camp. Ravensbrück
concentration camp near Furstenberg in Germany was the only
major Nazi concentration camp for women and also served as a training base for
female SS supervisors. Some 3,500 women underwent training there. They then
worked in Ravensbrück or were sent to other camps. The camp was established in
1938 and liberated on April 30th, 1945 by the Russian
Army. The estimated number of victims there were 92,000!
Sixteen members of the staff of were arrested and were tried between December 5th 1946 and February 3rd 1947 by a court in the British
zone on charges of murder and brutality. All were found guilty on Monday, the 3rd of February 1947, except one, who
died during the trial. Eleven were sentenced to hang, including five women,
head nurse Elisabeth Marschall, Aufseherin Greta Bösel, Oberaufseherin Dorothea
Binz and Kapos Carmen Mory and Vera Salvequart.
41 year old Mory cut her wrists during the night of April 9th with a razor
blade she had concealed in her shoe and thus escaped the noose.She was buried within the prison
grounds.Swiss born Mory was unusual in
that she had worked as a spy for the French, the Nazis and finally the British
before and during the War and had been sentenced to death by each in turn but
always managed to dodge her execution, by good fortune on the first two
occasions. She was a prisoner in Ravensbrück, having been reprieved by the
Nazis, and here she made the most of her situation by becoming a Kapo and
spying on other prisoners and assisting the staff. Due to a shortage of
personnel, the SS frequently used prisoners (Kapo’s) to supervise other non
On the 2nd of May 1947, Albert Pierrepoint hanged the remaining three
women, one at a time starting with Elisabeth Marschall who was nearly 61 years
old, followed by 39 year old Greta Bösel at
9.55 a.m. and then by 27 year old Dorothea Binz.
Elisabeth Marschall had been born on the
24th of May 1886 and became a nurse in 1909.She rose to the rank of Oberschwester
(Head Nurse) in the Revier (hospital) barracks at Ravensbrück.Here she maltreated sick prisoners and also
took part in horrific experiments.She
also made selections for the gas chambers.
Greta Bösel was born on May 9th, 1908 in Elberfeld, Germany and was a trained nurse. She went to work in Ravensbrück in August
1944. Her job was to supervise female working teams. She is supposed to have
said: "Let them rot if they can't work." During her trial, she
made contradictory statements about her role in selecting prisoners for the
Dorothea Binz had been born on the
16th of March 1920 in the town of Dulstarlake and had never
married. She had joined the staff of Ravensbrück in April 1939 and worked as an
Aufseherin in the women's camp before being promoted to Oberaufseherin. She was
arrested in Hamburg in May 1945 and
came to trial at the first Ravensbrück trial.
The third woman, 28 year old Czechoslovakian born Vera Salvequart had
not been an SS guard, but rather a prisoner herself in Ravensbrück. She was
born on the 26th of November 1919 in Wonotsch and
had trained as a nurse. She had also served several periods in prison. She
claimed to have stolen plans for the V2 rocket and passed these to Britain. She was sent to
KZ Ravensbrück in December 1944 and as a Kapo worked as a nurse in the camp's
hospital wing. Here she was said to have administered poison in form of a white
powder to some of the patients although most survived.
Vera Salvequart petitioned the King for a reprieve in view of her passing
secrets to the British. She was granted a stay while this was considered but
the Royal prerogative of mercy was withheld and on the 26th of June 1947 she followed the other three
to the gallows, her body being buried with the rest in the grounds of Hameln prison. Click here for photos.
Ravensbrück trial, the so called "Uckermark trial", was held between
April 14th and April 26th 1948 to hear the cases
of five women officials from the Uckermark concentration camp and extermination
complex.This was a satellite camp that
housed girls aged 16 – 21.Two of the
women were acquitted, two received prison terms but Ruth Closius was condemned
to death. Ruth Closius, (married name Neudeck) was born in July 1920. She had
belonged to the SS guard staff of Ravensbrück and had worked there in various
capacities from the 3rd of July
1944, including work in the punishment barracks in late 1944. She was
promoted to Oberaufseherin (senior supervisor), at Uckermark in early 1945 and
worked there until the camp was liberated. She was convicted of the torture and
murder of men, women and children and of selecting prisoners for the gas
chambers. She was hanged on the 29th of July
seventh series of Ravensbrück trials was held between July 2nd and July 21st, 1948 to hear the cases of
Aufseherin accused of maltreatment of prisoners and making selections for the
gas chambers.Two of the six were
acquitted, two given prison terms and two sentenced to death. These were 60
year old Emma Zimmer, nee Menzel, and 36 year old Ida Bertha Schreiber (or
Schreiter) who were hanged on the20th of September 1948.No other women were executed as result of the
other Ravensbrück trials although others received death sentences which were
later commuted to prison terms.
bodies of the first 93 executed up to 1947 were originally buried at Hameln but transferred
to Wehl cemetery in 1954. The bodies from the later 127 executions were
interred directly at Wehl.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Auschwitz was established in May 1940, on the orders of
Heinrich Himmler, on the outskirts of the town of Oswiecim in Poland. The Germans
called the town Auschwitz and this became the name of
the camp. It was expanded into three main camps, Auschwitz I, Birkenau, Auschwitz
II - Monowitz and had some 40 satellite camps. Initially, Auschwitz was used to house
Polish political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war and gypsies. From June
1942, it was used as an extermination camp for European Jews who were killed in
the gas chambers at - Birkenau. It is thought that around one million people
died in this camp. It was liberated by the Red Army on January 27, 1945.
of the staff who had been captured took place at Krakow in Poland in the autumn of
1947 and concluded on the 22nd of December of that year. Twenty one defendants,
including ex-commandant Liebehenschel, and two women, Maria Mandel, head of the
women's camp and Therese Rosi Brandel, were condemned to death by the Supreme
People's Court in Krakow.
Maria Mandel, a 36 year old blonde, was born at Munzkirchen in Austria in January 1912
and joined the SS in 1938. From October 1938 to May 1939, she was Aufseherin at
KZ Lichtenburg and then from May 1939 to October 1942 she was Aufseherin in KZ
Ravensbrück. She then transferred as an Oberaufseherin to KZ Auschwitz where
she worked until the 30th of
November 1944. She was moved on to KZ Mühldorf where she continued
until May 1945. Her arrest came on August
10th, 1945. She was reported to be highly intelligent and
dedicated to her work. The prisoners, however, referred to her as "the
beast" as she was noted for her brutality and enjoyment in selecting women
and children for the gas chambers. She also had a passion for classical music
and encouraged the women's orchestra in Auschwitz. The orchestra
were kept busy playing at roll calls, to accompany official speeches, to
welcome transports and at hangings. Click here for photo.
Rosi Brandel been born in Bavaria in February 1902
and began training at Ravensbrück in 1940.She worked as an SS Aufseherin in KZ Ravensbrück before transferring to Auschwitz in 1942 and then
to the KZ Muehldorf (a satellite camp of Dachau). She beat her
prisoners and made selections for the gas chambers. In 1943, she received the
war service medal for her work there. She was arrested on the 29th of August 1945 in the Bavarian
mountains. Click here for photo of her.
On January 24th, 1948, all twenty one prisoners
were executed in groups of five or six within the Montelupich prison in Krakow. The hangings
commenced at with Maria Mandel
and four male prisoners, Artur Liebehenschel, Hans Aumeier, Maximilian Grabner
and Carl Möckel. Each prisoner in turn was made to mount a simple step up. When
they were noosed, this was removed leaving them suspended, slowly strangling to
death. The four men were hanged one at a time, followed by Maria Mandel. It is
reported that it was 15 minutes before they could be declared dead.
A second group of five prisoners, all men, were hanged at with a further five men following them at The final group comprising of five men and the other
condemned woman, Therese Brandl, went to the gallows at Again, they were hanged one by one and were certified
dead 15 minutes later.
After execution, the 21 bodies were all taken to the MedicalSchool at the University of Krakow for autopsy and
as specimens for the students to practice anatomy on.
A further woman to be hanged at Krakow was 46 year old
Elizabeth Lupka. (Click here for photo of her) She was
born on the 27th of October 1902 in the town of Damner and married in
1934. The marriage was childless and soon ended in divorce. From 1937 to 1942,
she worked in Berlin in the aircraft
industry before becoming an SS Aufseherin in the KZ Ravensbrück. From March
1943 until January 1945, she worked in the KZ Auschwitz Birkenau. She beat her
prisoners (women and children) and participated in the selections for the gas
chambers. She was arrested on the 6th of June
1945 and brought to trial on the 6th of July
1948 at the district court in Krakow where she was
convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death by hanging. She was executed on the 8th of January 1949 at in the Montelupich prison in Krakow. Her body was
also taken to the MedicalSchool at the University of Krakow for use as an
anatomical specimen by the medical students.
Margot Drexler (also given as Dreschel) was another SS Aufseherin in Auschwitz who was
particularly feared by the women inmates, whom she beat and starved to death.
She had last worked at the Ravensbruck subcamp of Neustadt-Glewe. After the
war, she tried to escape but was caught in Pirma-Bautzen in Czechoslovakia in the Russian
zone in May 1945 and hanged in May or June of that year in Bautzen. Maria Mandel
told her trial that Drexler had made selections for the gas chambers.
Concentration Camp. Stutthof
concentration camp, 34 km. from Danzig , was the first concentration camp
created by the Nazis outside Germany, in September 1939. From June 1944,
Stutthof became a death camp as part of Hitler's programme of exterminating
European Jews. It expanded rapidly over its five year life and had many
satellite camps. This expansion required a commensurate increase in staff and
local people with Nazi sympathies were recruited.
Altogether some 110,000 men, women and children were sent to Stutthof. It is
estimated that as many as 65,000 of these were put to death in the gas chamber
or by hanging or shooting, while many died of disease and ill treatment.
was liberated by the Russians on May 10th, 1945 and the Commandant, Johann
Pauls, and some of his staff were put on trial by the Polish Special Law Court
at Danzig between April 25th and May 31st, 1946. All were represented by
counsel. Eleven of the defendants, five women and six men, were found guilty of
war crimes and sentenced to death. These were Johann Pauls, SS-Aufseherins
Jenny Wanda Barkmann, Elisabeth Becker, Wanda Klaff, Ewa Paradies, Gerda
Steinhoff and five other men who had been Kapo's in the camp. Click here for photo of them in the dock.
They had all pleaded "not guilty" to the general charge of war crimes
and the women did not seem to take the trial too seriously until the end. After
the sentence, they appealed for clemency but these appeals were rejected by the
Thus all 11 were publicly hanged before a large crowd, estimated at several
thousand, at on July 4th, 1946 at Biskupia Gorka hill near Danzig. A row of simple
gallows had been set up in a large open area, four double ones with a triple
gallows in the middle. A fleet of open trucks brought the prisoners to the
execution ground, their hands and legs tied with cords. The trucks were backed
under the gallows and the condemned made to stand on the tailboards or on the
chairs on which they had sat. A simple cord noose was put round their necks and
when the preparations were complete, each truck was driven forward leaving them
suspended. They were not hooded and given only a short drop, and as can be seen
from the photos, some of them struggled for some time after suspension. It is
alleged that one man and two women (un-named) struggled and fought with their
guards prior to being hanged, although the others seemed to accept their fate
calmly. The whole event was recorded by official press photographers, hence the
clarity of the pictures. Click here for photo.
four year old Jenny Wanda Barkmann was thought to be from Hamburg and was nicknamed
"The Beautiful Spectre" by the camp inmates who considered her to be
a ruthless killer. She was arrested in May 1945 at a railway station near Danzig trying to escape.
At her trial she is reported to have flirted with her male guards and wore a
different hairstyle each day. She is
reported to have said after being condemned: "Life is a pleasure and pleasure as a rule is a short distance".Click here for photos.
Becker was not quite 23 years old and had been born locally on the 20th of July 1923 at Nowy Staw near
Danzig. She had married in 1936 and had been a member of the
NSDAP and the BDM from 1938 to 1940. She worked in agriculture from 1941 to
1944 in Nowy Staw and joined the staff of Stutthof in September 1944 becoming
an SS Aufseherin in SK-III Stutthof (the women’s camp) where she made
selections for the gas chambers. After she was condemned, she submitted an
appeal for commutation of her death sentence to the Polish president. The court
recommended the commutation and substitution of a 15 year term of imprisonment
because she had committed far fewer and less dreadful crimes than the others.
The president, Boleslaw Bierut, however, rejected this request and she was
executed with the rest of the women. Click here for
Klaff (nee Kalacinski) was of German origin but had been born in Danzig on the 6th of March 1922.When she left school in 1938 she initially
worked in a jam factory, leaving in 1942 to get married to one Willy Gapes and
becoming a housewife. In 1944 Wanda joined the staff at Stutthof satellite camp
at Praust, moving later to Russoschin sub-camp. She contracted typhoid and was
hospitalised in Danzig where she was arrested on
the June the 11th, 1945. It would appear
form the photos that Wanda, unlike the other four, was hanged by a woman,
rather than a male former camp inmate. Click here for
Steinhoff was 24 and also from Danzig. She worked on a
farm in Tygenhagen and later in a baker's shop in Danzig until 1944. She
married in January 1944 and had one child. She went to work for the SS at
Stutthof in October 1944 and was quickly promoted to Oberaufseherin at KZ
Danzig (a satellite of Stutthof).In
January 1945, she moved to KZ Bydgoszcz (another satellite camp) where she
remained until it was liberated. She received the “Iron Cross” for her wartime
here for photos.She was arrested by
Polish police on the 25th of May
Paradies was born at Lauenburg, (now Lebork) in Poland on the 17th of December 1920 and had various
jobs after leaving school in 1935.She
joined the staff of Stutthof SK-III in August 1944 and was trained as an
Aufseherin, being transferred to the Bromberg-Ost subcamp of Stutthof in
October 1944 and returning to Stutthof in January 1945.She was arrested in May 1945 at Lauenburg. Click here for photos.
Other camps. There
are records of at least three other women who were executed.
Else Lieschen Frieda Ehrich, who had been the women's camp commandant at
Majdanek concentration camp, was hanged on the
26th of October 1948 in the prison at Lubin in Poland. Click here for photo.
Elfriede Hildner was tried by the Extraordinary People's Court in Písek, Czechoslovakia on the 2nd of May 1947 and hanged six
hours later, presumably using the pole hanging method.She had been a guard at Zwodau,
a subcamp of Flossenburg, in Czechoslovakia.
Bayer. Virtually nothing is known about this woman other that she trained at
Ravensbrück and was tried and hanged in Poland.
can only wonder, looking back from 50 years later what turned these women into
virtual monsters. Was it their total belief in the rightness of Hitler's
policies or did they possess a latent sadism or perhaps a mixture of both? It
is terrifying the acts that people can commit when they are out of control and
have no fear of the consequences. I suspect that these women thought that
Germany would win the war and that they would rise in the regime. Typically,
they viewed their prisoners as "dreck," the German for rubbish and as
sub-humans. Therefore, the prisoners' lives and feelings were completely
irrelevant, and it was just a simple matter of controlling them through fear
and brutal repression. One wonders too whether they just became inured to the
continuous acts of cruelty. Many of the people tried for war crimes insisted
that they were just carrying out orders from above but this doesn't really ring
true, either now or to the judges at their tribunals, when one looks at the
acts of sadism that they visited on their prisoners.
It is easy to have sympathy with the young women from Stutthof, whose
unnecessarily cruel executions were so well documented, but one must remember
what they did. As a young soldier said to Pierrepoint on the eve of the
hangings of the Belsen women, "if you had been in Belsen under this lot,
you wouldn't be able to feel sorry for them."(Pierrepoint had expressed some sympathy for
Had it not been for the war, one suspects that these women would most probably
have lived normal lives with jobs, husbands and children.
It is notable that in many cases it was quite junior people who were caught,
tried and in some cases executed. A lot of the more senior ones were able to
escape justice. However, the Commandants of many of the concentration camps
were caught and in most cases given the death penalty.