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Josef Kramer
Josef Kramer
(10 November 1906 – 13 December 1945) was the Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau
Auschwitz-Birkenau
(from May 8, 1944 to November 25, 1944) and of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp
(from December 1944 to its liberation, April 15, 1945). Dubbed The Beast of Belsen by camp inmates, he was a notorious German Nazi
Nazi
war criminal, directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. He was detained by the British Army
British Army
after the Second World War, convicted of war crimes and hanged on the gallows in Hamelin
Hamelin
prison by British executioner Albert Pierrepoint.

Contents

1 Early life 2 Career

2.1 Natzweiler-Struthof 2.2 Auschwitz 2.3 Belsen 2.4 Ranks and promotions

3 Trial and execution 4 See also 5 References 6 Sources and external links

Early life[edit]

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March 2016)

Josef Kramer
Josef Kramer
was born and grew up in Munich
Munich
as an only child in a middle-class family. His parents, Theodore and Maria Kramer, brought him up as a "strict Roman Catholic“.[1] in 1915, the family moved from Munich
Munich
to Augsburg, where Josef Kramer
Josef Kramer
went to school. He began an apprenticeship as an electrician in 1920. From 1925 to 1933, except for working in a department store and as an accountant, he was mostly unemployed . Career[edit] He joined the Nazi
Nazi
Party in 1931 and the SS in 1932. His SS training led him into work as a prison guard and, after the outbreak of war, as a concentration camp guard. In 1934, he was assigned as a guard at Dachau. His promotion was rapid, obtaining senior posts at Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps. He became assistant to Rudolf Höß, the Commandant at Auschwitz in 1940. He accompanied Höß to inspect Auschwitz as a possible site for a new synthetic oil and rubber plant, which was a vital industry in Germany
Germany
given its shortage of oil.[citation needed] Natzweiler-Struthof[edit] Kramer was named Commandant of Natzweiler-Struthof
Natzweiler-Struthof
concentration camp in April 1941. Natzweiler-Struthof
Natzweiler-Struthof
was the only concentration camp established by the Nazis on present-day French territory, though there were French-run transit camps such as the one at Drancy. At the time, the Alsace-Lorraine
Alsace-Lorraine
area in which it was established had been annexed by Nazi
Nazi
Germany.[citation needed] As commandant at Natzweiler-Struthof, Kramer personally carried out the gassings of 80 Jewish men and women,[2][3] part of a group of 87 selected at Auschwitz to become anatomical specimens in a proposed Jewish skeleton collection
Jewish skeleton collection
to be housed at the Anatomy Institute at the Reich University of Strasbourg under the direction of August Hirt.[citation needed] Ultimately 87 of the inmates were shipped to Natzweiler-Struthof, 46 of these individuals were originally from Thessaloniki, Greece. The deaths of 86 of these inmates were, in the words of Hirt, "induced" in an improvised gassing facility at Natzweiler-Struthof
Natzweiler-Struthof
and their corpses, 57 men and 29 women, were sent to Strasbourg. One male victim was shot as he fought to keep from being gassed. Josef Kramer, acting commandant of Natzweiler-Struthof
Natzweiler-Struthof
(who would become the commandant at Auschwitz and the last commandant of Bergen Belsen) personally carried out the gassing of 80 of these 86 victims.[citation needed] Auschwitz[edit] Kramer was promoted to the rank of Hauptsturmführer
Hauptsturmführer
(Captain) in 1942 and in May 1944 was transferred to become the Lagerführer, in charge of operations at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the main killing center within the Auschwitz concentration camp
Auschwitz concentration camp
complex, from 8 May 1944 to 25 November 1944.[4] He was brought to Auschwitz to manage the gassings of new transports in May 1944, according to the Prosecution Judge Advocate at the War Crimes tribunal which convicted him of being responsible for the murders committed at Auschwitz. There were a number of witnesses who said that he took an active part in the selection parades, in that for instance he loaded people into the trucks and beat them when they would not get into the trucks.[3] At Auschwitz, Kramer soon became notorious among his subordinates as a harsh taskmaster. One of the defendants at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, Dr. Franz Lucas, testified that he tried to avoid assignments given to him by Kramer by pleading stomach and intestinal disorders. When Dr. Lucas saw that his name had been added to the list of selecting physicians for a large group of inmates transferred from Hungary, he objected strenuously. Kramer reacted sharply: "I know you are being investigated for favouring prisoners. I am now ordering you to go to the ramp, and if you fail to obey an order, I shall have you arrested on the spot". Belsen[edit]

Former guards at Bergen-Belsen are made to load the bodies of dead prisoners onto a truck for burial, 17–18 April 1945

In December 1944, Kramer was transferred from Birkenau to Bergen Belsen, near the village of Bergen. Belsen had originally served as a temporary camp for those leaving Germany, but during the war had been expanded to serve as a convalescent depot for the ill and displaced people from across north-west Europe. Although it had no gas chambers, Kramer's rule was so harsh that he became known as the "Beast of Belsen".[5] As Germany
Germany
collapsed, administration of the camp broke down, but Kramer remained devoted to bureaucracy. On 1 March 1945, he filed a report asking for help and resources, stating that of the 42,000 inmates in his camp, 250–300 died each day from typhus. On 19 March, the number of inmates rose to 60,000 as the Germans continued to evacuate camps that were soon to be liberated by the Allies. As late as the week of 13 April, some 28,000 additional prisoners were brought in.[citation needed] With the collapse of administration and many guards fleeing to escape retribution, roll calls were stopped, and the inmates were left to their own devices. Corpses rotted everywhere, and rats attacked the living too weak to fight them off. Kramer remained even when the British arrived to liberate the camp, and took them on a tour of the camp to inspect the "scenes". Piles of corpses lay all over the camp, mass graves were filled in, and the huts were filled with prisoners in every stage of emaciation and disease.[citation needed] Ranks and promotions[edit]

Kramer's SS-ranks

Date Rank

End of 1933 SS-Unterscharführer

September 1934 SS-Scharführer

April 1935 SS-Hauptscharführer

Spring 1937 SS-Untersturmführer

January 1939 SS-Obersturmführer

1 June 1942 SS-Hauptsturmführer

Trial and execution[edit]

Josef Kramer, photographed in leg irons at Belsen before being removed to the POW cage at Celle, 17 April 1945.

Main article: Belsen Trial Kramer was imprisoned at the Hamelin
Hamelin
prison. Along with 44 other camp staff Kramer was tried in the Belsen Trial
Belsen Trial
by a British military court at Lüneburg. The trial lasted several weeks from September to November 1945. During the trial Anita Lasker testified that Kramer took part in selections for the gas chamber.[6] Kramer was sentenced to death on 17 November 1945, and hanged at Hamelin
Hamelin
prison by Albert Pierrepoint
Albert Pierrepoint
on 13 December 1945.[citation needed] See also[edit]

Irma Grese

References[edit]

^ Tom Segev: Die Soldaten des Bösen. Zur Geschichte der KZ-Kommandanten. Reinbek bei Hamburg 1995, S. 63 ^ "Kramer Persists In Denying Guilt". The New York Times (Vol. XCV, No. 32,036). 10 October 1945. p. 8. Retrieved 19 September 2015.  ^ a b Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals, Vol. II (1947). The Belsen Trial
Belsen Trial
(PDF). London: The United Nations War Crimes Commission. p. 112 et. seq. Retrieved 19 October 2015.  ^ "Auschwitz Concentration Camp – Chain of Command". holocaustresearchproject.org. Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Retrieved 19 October 2015.  ^ Celinscak, Mark (2015). Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Concentration Camp. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442615700.  ^ Law reports of trials of war criminals, selected and prepared by the United Nations War Crimes Commission – Volume II, The Belsen Trial (PDF). London: United Nations War Crimes Commission. 1947. p. 21f. 

Sources and external links[edit]

Straubenzee V. A. (2005). The gate of Hell, The Daily Telegraph, retrieved on December 22, 2006. What Was Belsen? Josef Kramer, Durham County Record Office The Learning Zone, retrieved on December 23, 2006. Heyd, Emmanuel; Toledano, Raphael. "The Names of the 86" (in French, German, and English). Dora Films, 2014. 

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