War is basically a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. Because of human nature, it has always existed, and unfortunately, always will. Even early human groups fought each other for food. During the middle ages, empires fought for gold and land. In Troy, Greeks and Trojans fought over a woman.
Human history is full of devastating wars, which caused great suffering. The Mongol invasions and conquests took between 3 and 6 million lives, the Napoleonic Wars caused over 4 million deaths.
One war, however, stands out above all others in the amount of pain and devastation it caused: World War Two. As a result of Hitler’s Third Reich and National Socialism, more than 50 million people died in the Second World War. But more than this, humanity faced barbarism on a scale unprecedented in human history.
“If there is a god, he will have to beg for my forgiveness.” This quote apparently appears on a wall in Mauthausen concentration camp, one of numerous camps where the victims of Nazism were tortured and murdered.
While everyone has heard of Hitler and Himmler, there were numerous Nazis who are not so well known. It is some of these lesser-known, but no less culpable or brutal Nazi criminals, that this article will examine.
Josef Kramer (November 10, 1906 – December 13, 1945) was the Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp from May 8, 1944 to November 25, 1944, and of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp from December 1944 until its liberation by the Allies on April 15, 1945. Dubbed ‘The Beast of Belsen’ by camp inmates, he was a notorious German Nazi war criminal, directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. He was detained by the British Army after the Second World War, convicted of war crimes, and hanged on the gallows in Hamelin prison by British executioner Albert Pierrepoint. Anne Frank was killed under his command.
Ilse Koch (September 22, 1906 – September 1, 1967), was the wife of Karl-Otto Koch, commandant of the Nazi concentration camps Buchenwald (1937–1941) and Majdanek (1941–1943). In 1947, she became one of the first prominent Nazis tried by the U.S. military tribunal. She was accused of taking souvenirs from the skin of murdered inmates with distinctive tattoos, although those claims were rejected at both of her trials. Known as “The Witch of Buchenwald,” she used to ride a white horse in the camps, and, according to her whim, sent some people to death and let others live. She murdered numerous pregnant woman and children by setting her hunting dogs on them.
Friedrich Jeckeln (February 2, 1895 – February 3, 1946) was a German SS commander during the Nazi era. He served as a Higher SS and Police Leader in the occupied Soviet Union during World War II. Jeckeln was the commander of one of the largest groups of Einsatzgruppen death squads and was personally responsible for ordering and organizing the deaths of over 100,000 Jews, Romani, and other “undesirables.” After the end of World War II, Jeckeln was convicted for his crimes by a Soviet military tribunal in Riga, Latvia and executed in 1946.
Oskar Dirlewanger (September 26, 1895 – June 7, 1945) was a German military officer (SS-Oberführer) and war criminal who served as the founder and commander of the Nazi SS penal unit “Dirlewanger” during World War II. His name is closely linked to some of the worst crimes of the war. He also fought in World War I, post-World War I conflicts, and the Spanish Civil War. He died after World War II while in Allied custody, apparently beaten to death by his guards, though lack of evidence has led to theories of him escaping. Allegedly, even his own SS divisions hated him. He was a soldier without honor. Some of his crimes included the abuse of children and theft of government money.
Paul Blobel (August 13, 1894 – June 7, 1951) was a German SS commander and convicted war criminal. He is best known as the key figure in organizing and executing the Babi Yar massacre of 1941, where approximately 160,000 Jews were systematically slaughtered in a ravine outside of Kiev. In June 1942, Blobel was put in charge of Sonderaktion 1005, with the task of destroying the evidence of Nazi atrocities in Eastern Europe. After the war, he was convicted at the Einsatzgruppen Trial and executed. During his trial, where he was charged with murdering 59,018 people, he denied it, claiming he killed “only” 15,000 people.
Ernst Kaltenbrunner (October 4, 1903 – October, 16, 1946) was an Austrian-born senior official of Nazi Germany during World War II. An Obergruppenführer (general) in the Schutzstaffel (SS), between January 1943 and May 1945, he held the offices of Chief of the Reich Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA). He was the highest-ranking member of the SS to face trial at the first Nuremberg trials. He was found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and executed by hanging.
His nickname was “the butcher”
Odilo Globočnik (April 21, 1904 –May 31, 1945) was an Austrian war criminal. He was a Nazi and later an SS leader. As an associate of Adolf Eichmann, he had a leading role in Operation Reinhard, which saw the murder of over one million (mostly Polish) Jews during the Holocaust in Nazi extermination camps Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibór and Bełżec. Historian Michael Allen described him as “the vilest individual in the vilest organization ever known.”
As soon as Heydrich became governor of Czechoslovakia, he showed his brutality to the Czech people. He ordered the execution of the military – civilian government officers who refused to cooperate with German Reich. In order to generate more fear, the ashes of the dead whom he executed were sent to their families in boxes.
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (March 7, 1904 –June 4, 1942) was a high-ranking German Nazi official during World War II and a major architect of the Holocaust. He was an SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei (Senior Group Leader and General of Police) as well as chief of the Reich Main Security Office (including the Gestapo, Kripo, and SD). He was also Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor (Deputy/Acting Reich-Protector) of Bohemia and Moravia. Heydrich served as president of the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC, later known as Interpol) and chaired the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, which formalized plans for the Final Solution to the Jewish Question—the deportation and genocide of all Jews in German-occupied Europe.
In the words of Walter Schellenburg, who worked under his command for many years and who would later become the chief of the German secret police, Reinhard Heydrich was the true master of Nazi regime and the politicians. Even Himmler, who called Heydrich “the man who has an iron heart,” was sometimes afraid of him.
On May 27, 1942, Heydrich planned to meet Hitler in Berlin. German documents suggest that Hitler intended to transfer Heydrich to German-occupied France, where the French resistance was gaining ground. Heydrich would have to pass a section where the Dresden-Prague road merged with a road to the Troja Bridge. The junction, in the Prague suburb of Libeň, was well suited for an attack because motorists have to slow for a hairpin bend. As Heydrich’s car slowed, Czech resistance member Gabčík took aim with a Sten submachine gun, but it jammed and failed to fire. Instead of ordering his driver, Klein, to speed away, Heydrich called his car to halt and attempted to confront the attackers. Kubiš then threw a bomb (a converted anti-tank mine) at the rear of the car as it stopped. The explosion wounded both Heydrich and Kubiš. Heydrich ordered Klein to chase Gabčík on foot and in an exchange of fire, Gabčík shot Klein in the leg. Kubiš and Gabčík managed to escape the scene.
Heydrich died on June 4; an autopsy concluded he died of sepsis.
Infuriated by Heydrich’s death, Hitler ordered the arrest and execution of 10,000 randomly selected Czechs. But after consultations with Karl Hermann Frank (Heydrich’s deputy), he altered his response. The Czech lands were an important industrial zone for the German military, and indiscriminate killing could reduce the region’s productivity. Hitler ordered a quick investigation. Intelligence falsely linked the assassins to the towns of Lidice and Ležáky. A Gestapo report stated that Lidice, 22 kilometres (14 mi) north-west of Prague, was suspected as the assailants’ hiding place because several Czech army officers, then in England, had come from there and the Gestapo found a resistance radio transmitter in Ležáky. On June 9, after discussions with Himmler and Frank, Hitler ordered brutal reprisals. Beginning on June 10, all males over the age of 16 in the villages of Lidice and Ležáky were murdered. All the women in Ležáky were also murdered in the Lidice massacre.
Author: Ahmet Bhattacharji Avsar