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Majdanek trials

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Majdanek trials
Majdanek - Anton Thernes (1944).jpg
Former SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Anton Thernes (standing, left) in front of a penal court on trial for crimes committed at Majdanek, 1944, Lublin, Poland
SubmittedNovember 27, 1944
DecidedJune 30, 1981, Düsseldorf
The case of the Majdanek death camp
Majdanek concentration camp (June 24, 1944) from the collections of the Majdanek Museum, lower half: the barracks under deconstruction; in the upper half, functioning barracks
Preserved original ovens in the second Crematorium at Majdanek, built in 1943 by Heinrich Kori.[1]
Original gas chamber with visible Zyklon B blue stain on the back wall, permanently burned into the cement

The Majdanek trials were a series of consecutive war-crime trials held in Poland and in Germany during and after World War II, constituting the overall longest Nazi war crimes trial in history spanning over 30 years.[2] The first judicial trial of Majdanek extermination camp officials took place from November 27, 1944, to December 2, 1944, in Lublin, Poland.[3][4] The last one, held at the District Court of Düsseldorf began on November 26, 1975, and concluded on June 30, 1981. It was West Germany's longest and most expensive trial, lasting 474 sessions.[5][6]

A number of former high ranking SS men, camp officials, camp guards, and SS staff were arraigned before the courts on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed at Majdanek in the period between October 1, 1941, and July 22, 1944. Notably, only 170 Nazis who served at Majdanek had been prosecuted at all, of the 1,037 camp personnel known by name. Half of the defendants charged by the West German justice system were set free after complaining of aches and pains in detention, acquitted of killing. By contrast, those tried earlier by Poland were usually found guilty. During the 34 months of camp operation, more than 79,000 people were murdered at Majdanek main camp alone (59,000 of them Polish Jews) and between 95,000 and 130,000 people in the entire Majdanek, system including several subcamps.[7] Some 18,000 Jews were killed at Majdanek on November 3, 1943, during the largest single-day, single-camp massacre of the Holocaust,[6] named Harvest Festival (totalling 43,000 with 2 subcamps).[8]

Notably, two KL Majdanek concentration camp commandants were put on trial by the SS themselves in the course of the camp operation partly because of what Majdanek was initially, merely a storage depot for gold, money and furs stolen from trainloads of Holocaust victims at death factories in Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.[9] Both SS men were charged with wholesale stealing from the Third Reich to become rich. Karl-Otto Koch (serving at Majdanek from July 1941 till August 24, 1942) was executed by firing squad on April 5, 1945; Hermann Florstedt, the third chief of Majdanek (from October 1942 on) was executed by the SS on April 15, 1945.[10]

First Majdanek trial

Retreating Germans did not have time to destroy the facility. It remained the best preserved example of a Holocaust death camp in history, with intact gas chambers and crematoria.[11] The advancing Soviets were shocked into disbelief after discovering it, and initially overestimated the total number of victims.[12]

A group of six members of Majdanek personnel – who had not managed to escape – were arraigned before the Soviet-Polish Special Criminal Court immediately following the camp's liberation of July 23, 1944. After the trial, and deliberations which lasted from November 27, 1944 to December 2, 1944 all accused were found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and sentenced to death by hanging.[6][11] They included SS-Obersturmführer Anton Thernes, SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Gerstenmeier, SS-Oberscharführer Hermann Vögel, Kapo Edmund Pohlmann, SS-Rottenführer Theodor Schöllen and Kapo Heinrich Stalp,[13] all of whom were executed by hanging on December 3, 1944 except for Pohlmann, who had committed suicide the night before.[14]

Second Majdanek trial (1946–1948)

The series of trials which took place between 1946 and 1948 in Poland – usually referred to as the Second trial of Majdanek – consisted of trials of many kinds. Some 95 SS-men, mostly guards (including those apprehended hiding in postwar Germany), were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Seven of the defendants were given the death penalty. The most prominent of them was Elsa Ehrich, Oberaufseherin of the women and children camp division (liquidated in spring of 1944). She was responsible for the selections to gas chambers. Ehrich was found guilty of all charges, and hanged in July 1948. Apparently, Ehrich made an attempt to launch a Nazi brothel in 1943, but the project was abandoned before fruition after one of her slave sex-workers was diagnosed with typhus.[15]

Most other SS men were sentenced from 2 to 12 years' imprisonment.[16] Some of the more prominent defendants in the 1946–1948 series of trials included over 60 SS-Schütze camp guards. The multiple proceedings were held in Lublin, as well as in Radom and Świdnica (1947), Kraków, Wadowice, and Toruń (1948) and in Warsaw (1948), where the last appellate court case of Jacob Gemmel took place in November 1950.[10]

# Defendant [10] Born Rank Function Sentence
1 Elsa Ehrich Mar. 8, 1914 Oberaufseherin Senior Overseer     death by hanging (carried out, Oct. 26, 1948)
2 Friedrich Gebhardt Feb. 26, 1899 SS-Unterscharf. Camp guard     death by hanging (carried out, Nov. 15, 1948)
3 Kurt Möller (Moeller) Jan. 11, 1918 SS-Oberscharf. Squad leader     death by hanging (carried out, Oct. 6, 1948)
4 Jacob Niessner Jan. 19, 1908 SS-Schütze Camp guard     death by hanging (carried out, Jul. 14, 1948)
5 Michael Pelger Mar. 27, 1908 SS-Rottenf. Squad leader     death by hanging (carried out)
6 Peter Reiss Feb. 22, 1901 SS-Sturmmann Stormtrooper     death by hanging (carried out, Jun. 23, 1948)
7 Franz Söss (Süss) Nov. 30, 1912 SS-Rottenf. Squad leader     death by hanging (carried out, Sept. 20, 1949)
8 Friedrich Buschbaum Sept. 14, 1904 SS-Schütze Camp guard     death (commuted to 15 years imprisonment, rel. May 31, 1956)
9 Johann Weiss Feb. 24, 1915 SS-Schütze Camp guard     death (commuted to 10 years imprisonment)
10 Wilhelm Reinartz Mar. 17, 1910 SS-Unterscharf. Infirmary     death (commuted to 2 years by reason of terminal illness)
11 Johann Vormittag Aug. 5, 1904 SS-Schütze Camp guard     life imprisonment (released Mar. 11, 1953)
12 Jacob Gemmel May 27, 1913 SS-Schütze Camp guard     life (commuted to 12 years imprisonment)
13 Robert Frick Oct. 15, 1918 SS-Unterscharf. Camp guard     15 years imprisonment (released May 2, 1956)
14 Georg Fleischer Nov. 24, 1911 SS-Schütze Camp guard     12 years imprisonment (released May 2, 1956)
15 Johann Kessler Feb. 28, 1910 SS-Sturmmann Stormtrooper     12 years imprisonment (died Feb. 25, 1950)
16 Hans Kottre (Kotre) Aug. 22, 1912 SS-Sturmmann Stormtrooper     12 years imprisonment (released May 9, 1956)
17 Andreas Lahner Dec. 10, 1921 SS-Sturmmann Stormtrooper     12 years imprisonment (released May 2, 1956)
18 Georg Neu Aug. 1, 1921 SS-Schütze Camp guard     12 years imprisonment (released May 9, 1956)
19 Franz Wirth Nov. 8, 1909 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     12 years imprisonment
20 Andreas Buttinger May 29, 1910 SS-Schütze Camp guard     10 years imprisonment (died Apr. 26, 1949)
21 Jacob Jost Oct. 6, 1895 SS-Oberscharf. Camp guard     10 years imprisonment (released Apr. 30, 1956)
22 Martin Löx Feb. 7, 1908 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     10 years imprisonment (died Jun. 26, 1949)
23 Kasper Marksteiner Nov. 1, 1913 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     10 years imprisonment (died Jun. 20, 1949)
24 Hans Aufmuth Jan. 18, 1905 SS-Schütze Camp guard     8 years imprisonment (released Mar. 17, 1954)
25 Johann Betz Dec. 18, 1906 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     8 years imprisonment (released Jul. 3, 1955)
26 Anton Hoffmann Sept. 17, 1910 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     8 years imprisonment (released Dec. 17, 1954)
27 Johann Radler Sept. 9, 1909 SS-Schütze Camp guard     8 years imprisonment (released Mar. 1, 1955)
28 Thomas Radrich Oct. 19, 1912 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     8 years imprisonment
29 Johann Setz Jun. 26, 1907 SS-Sturmman Camp guard     8 years imprisonment (extradited to Germany, Feb. 28, 1955)
30 Michael Bertl Jun. 23, 1909 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     7 years imprisonment (released Jul. 15, 1954)
31 Paul Keller Oct. 16, 1910 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     7 years imprisonment (released Jul. 15, 1954)
32 Karl Müller Mar. 10, 1907 SS-Sturmmann Block leader     7 years imprisonment
33 Walter Biernat Mar. 28, 1920 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     6 years imprisonment (died Feb. 6, 1952)
34 Josef Hartmann Mar. 22, 1918 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     6 years imprisonment (released Jan. 5, 1954)
35 Hans Georg Hess Jun. 17, 1910 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     6 years imprisonment
36 Heinrich Kühn Dec. 16, 1909 SS-Sturmmann Guard (Auschwitz)     6 years imprisonment (died Apr. 16, 1951)
37 Franz Vormittag Jan. 23, 1920 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     6 years imprisonment
38 Helmut Zach Aug. 19, 1909 SS-Unterscharf. Camp guard     6 years imprisonment
39 Jacob Dialler Dec. 8, 1913 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     5 years imprisonment (released Dec. 23, 1951)
40 Hans Durst Nov. 23, 1909 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     5 years imprisonment
41 Franz Kaufmann Jul. 23, 1908 SS-Unterscharf. Camp guard     5 years imprisonment
42 Paul Kiss Jul. 13, 1902 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     5 years imprisonment (died Apr. 26, 1950)
43 Johann Kubasak Dec. 31, 1909 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     5 years imprisonment
44 Johann Lassner Jul. 26, 1909 SS-Schütze Camp guard     5 years imprisonment
45 Johann Lienert Aug. 5, 1915 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     5 years imprisonment (died Jun. 16, 1949)
46 Stefan Mantsch Sept. 24, 1922 SS-Schütze Camp guard     5 years imprisonment (released Apr. 12, 1951)
47 Hans Merle May 15, 1914 SS-Schütze Camp guard     5 years imprisonment (released Jan. 2, 1953)
48 Kurt Erwin Ohnweiler Mar. 25, 1913 SS-Schütze Camp guard     5 years imprisonment (released Mar. 1, 1952)
49 Michael Thal Jan. 16, 1910 SS-Schütze Camp guard     5 years imprisonment
50 Jacob Vormittag Mar. 8, 1909 SS-Sturmman Camp guard     5 years imprisonment
51 Martin Berger Jan. 18, 1910 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     4 years imprisonment (died Oct. 15, 1948)
52 Michael Fleischer Aug. 18, 1912 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     4 years imprisonment
53 Franz Habel May 31, 1912 SS-Rottenf. Camp guard     4 years imprisonment
54 Karl Brückner May 5, 1904 SS-Unterscharf. Camp guard     4 years imprisonment (released Feb. 28, 1951)
55 Josef Janowitsch Aug. 22, 1910 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     4 years imprisonment
56 Johann Günesch May 17, 1913 SS-Schütze Camp guard     3.5 years imprisonment (extradited to Germany, Feb. 9, 1951)
57 Fritz Frischolz Oct. 5, 1911 SS-Oberscharf. Camp guard     8 years imprisonment (released Mar. 10, 1955)
58 Michael Gall Jul. 22, 1902 SS-Schütze Camp guard     3 years imprisonment (extradited to Germany, Jan. 15, 1951)
59 Hans Grabert May 31, 1907 SS-Oberscharf Administration     3 years imprisonment (extradited to Germany, Jun. 16, 1950)
60 Stefan Mantsch Sept. 24, 1922 SS-Schütze Camp guard     3 years imprisonment (released Apr. 12, 1951)
61 Josef Moos Jan. 24, 1904 SS-Rottenf. Infirmary (selections)     3 years imprisonment (died Apr. 20, 1950)
62 Konrad Anacker Feb. 13, 1892 SS-Schütze Camp guard     3 years imprisonment (released Jun. 26, 1950)
63 Wilhelm Petrak Feb. 14, 1909 SS-Sturmmann Camp guard     8 years (died Jul. 28, 1948 of disease after 2 years)

Third Majdanek trial

At the Third Majdanek Trial held between November 26, 1975 and June 30, 1981 before a West German Court at Düsseldorf sixteen defendants were arraigned. Five were cleared of all charges, two released due to ill health, one died of old age, and eight were found guilty. They were sentenced to 3 to 12 years imprisonment.[17] The 3rd Majdanek trial was preceded by the Treblinka Trials also at Düsseldorf in 1964 and 1970.[18] The Majdanek trial lasted for six years, and concluded on June 30, 1981. There were insufficient grounds to lay charges against other suspects, according to prosecution (many of the key witnesses have died).[5][19]

Notably, the Camp deputy commandant Arnold Strippel implicated in the torture and killing of many dozens of prisoners (including 42 Soviet POWs in July 1942) received a nominal three-and-a-half year sentence. He also received 121,500 Deutsche Mark reimbursement for the loss of earnings and his social security contributions, which he used to purchase a condominium in Frankfurt, which he occupied until his death.[20]

# Defendant Born Rank Function Sentence
1 Alice Orlowski Sept. 30, 1903 SS Aufseherin Camp overseer     died of old age during the trial
2 Hermine Braunsteiner Jul. 16, 1919 Rapportführer Female camp deputy     3 years (Vienna), life imprisonment (Düsseldorf)
3 Hildegard Lachert Mar. 19, 1920 Aufseherin Camp overseer     12 years imprisonment
4 Hermann Hackmann Nov. 11, 1913 SS-Hauptst. Camp commandant     10 years imprisonment
5 Emil Laurich May 21, 1921 SS-Rottenf. Ideology     8 years imprisonment
6 Heinz Villain Feb. 1, 1921 SS-Unterscharf. Field commandant     6 years imprisonment
7 Fritz-Heinrich Petrick Jan. 22, 1913 SS-Oberscharf. Camp guard     4 years imprisonment
8 Arnold Strippel Jun. 2, 1911 SS-Obersturm. Camp director     3.5 years imprisonment
9 Thomas Ellwanger Mar. 3, 1917 SS-Unterscharf. Camp guard     3 years imprisonment
10 Wilhelm Reinartz Mar. 17, 1910 SS-Unterscharf. Infirmary (selections)     released due to illness
11 Joanna (Johanna) Zelle SS-Gefolge Camp guard     released due to illness
12 Heinrich Schmidt Mar. 27, 1912 SS-Hauptsturmf. Medic (selections)     acquitted and released
13 Charlotte Mayer Feb. 7, 1918 Maintenance     acquitted and released
14 Rosy Suess or (Rosa) Süss Sept. 16, 1920 Maintenance     acquitted and released
15 Heinrich Groffmann SS-Rottenf. Field commandant     acquitted and released
16 Hermine Boettcher-Brueckner Apr. 26, 1918 Maintenance     acquitted and released

Post 1981 Majdanek War Crimes Trials

In 1989 Karl-Friedrich Höcker was tried and sentenced for his actions in Majdanek.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Crematorium at Majdanek". Jewish Virtual Library. 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  2. ^ Reuter (Jun 27, 1981). "Longest war crimes trial ends". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  3. ^ Jean-michel Frodon (2010). "Majdanek Trial". Cinema and the Shoah. SUNY Press. pp. 249–. ISBN 1438430280. Retrieved 2013-04-13.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  4. ^ "Majdanek Concentration Camp". Majdanek, Poland. July 21, 2009. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  5. ^ a b "Once Upon a Time in War". Majdanek trial in West Germany. A Photographic Retrospect. 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  6. ^ a b c USHMM (May 11, 2012). "Soviet forces liberate Majdanek". Lublin/Majdanek: Chronology. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  7. ^ Reszka, Paweł (2005-12-23). "Majdanek Victims Enumerated. Changes in the history textbooks?". Gazeta Wyborcza. Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Archived from the original on 2011-11-06. Retrieved 2010-04-13.
  8. ^ Jennifer Rosenberg. "Aktion Erntefest". 20th Century History. About.com Education. Archived from the original on 2016-12-27. Retrieved 2013-04-16.
  9. ^ Staff Writer (2006). "Lublin/Majdanek Concentration Camp: Overview". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. ushmm.org. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  10. ^ a b c "Procesy zbrodniarzy (Trials of war criminals) 1946–1948". Wykaz sądzonych członków załogi KL Lublin/Majdanek. KL Lublin. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  11. ^ a b "Majdanek" (PDF). Majdanek concentration camp. Yad Vashem. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 27, 2007. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  12. ^ "Inside Majdanek". Nazi concentration camps. Jewish Virtual Library. 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  13. ^ Marcus Wendel (Aug 8, 2007). "SS personnel serving at Majdanek". Camp personnel. Axis History. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  14. ^ JVL (2013). "Majdanek Trial". Majdanek extermination camp. Jewish Virtual Library.org. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  15. ^ "SS-Oberaufseherinn Elsa Ehrich". Frauenkonzetrationslager. KL Lublin. 2004–2013. Archived from the original on 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  16. ^ PMM (2006). "XX. Akta procesowe". Archiwum (in Polish). Państwowe Muzeum na Majdanku. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  17. ^ JVL (2013). "Third Majdanek Trial". Majdanek extermination camp. Jewish Virtual Library.org. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
  18. ^ Christian Hofmann. "Die Treblinka-Prozesse (The Treblinka Trials)". Shoa.de (in German). Arbeitskreis Shoa.de e.V.
  19. ^ Landgericht Düsseldorf spricht Urteile im Majdanek-Prozeß Landtag Intern vom 26. Juni 2001 (Landtag Nordrhein-Westfalen). (in German)
  20. ^ Thomas Schattner. "Strippels Blutspur durch Europas KZs – Sie begann vor 70 Jahren hier in Unshausen, im heutigen Schwalm-Eder-Kreis" (PDF file, direct download 78.2 KB). Archiv und Ausstellung der Universität Kassel (in German). Gedenkstätte Breitenau. pp. 57–62. Retrieved 2013-04-26.

Media related to KZ Majdanek at Wikimedia Commons
Media related to Majdanek concentration camp at Wikimedia Commons

This page was last edited on 12 October 2019, at 08:14
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