Martin Sandberger (17 August 1911 – 30 March 2010) was a German SS
functionary during the
Nazi era and a
Holocaust perpetrator. He was a
Sonderkommando 1a of the
Einsatzgruppe A, as well as
commander of the
Sicherheitspolizei and SD in Estonia. Sandberger
perpetrated mass murder of the Jews in the Baltic states. He was also
responsible for the arrest of Jews in Italy, and their deportation to
Auschwitz concentration camp. Sandberger was the second-highest
official of the
Einsatzgruppe A to be tried and convicted.
1 Background and early career
2 Activities during the Second World War
3 Knowledge of the Führer Order
4 Transfer to Estonia
5 Actions in Italy
6 Espionage activity
8 Death sentence and reprieve
10.2 War crimes trials and evidence
11 External links
Background and early career
Martin Sandberger was born in Charlottenburg,
Berlin as a son of a
director of IG Farben. Sandberger studied law at the Universities of
München, Köln, Freiburg and Tübingen. At the age of 20 he joined
Nazi Party and the SA. From 1932 - 1933 Sandberger was a Nazi
student activist and student leader in Tübingen. On 8 March 1933
Sandberger and fellow student
Erich Ehrlinger raised the Nazi flag in
front of the main building at the University of Tübingen. (Like
Sandberger, Ehrlinger would take charge of an
Einsatzkommando in 1941,
and in so doing, commit thousands of murders.)
By 1935 he had obtained his doctorate degree. As a functionary of
the Nazi student League he eventually became a university inspector.
In 1936 he became an enlisted member of the SS and under the command
Gustav Adolf Scheel
Gustav Adolf Scheel for the SD in Württemberg.
He began a career with the SD and by 1938 he had risen to the rank of
Sturmbannführer (major). Sandberger worked as an assistant judge
in the Interior Administration of Württemberg and became a government
councillor in 1937.
Activities during the Second World War
Einsatzgruppe and Einsatzkommando
Following the German invasion and occupation of Poland in September
Heinrich Himmler embarked on a program, known as Heim ins Reich
(approximate translation: Return to the Nation) which involved driving
out the native population in areas of Poland and replacing them with
ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) from various countries, such as the
Baltic states and Soviet-occupied eastern Poland. On 13 October 1939
Heinrich Himmler appointed Sandberger the boss of the Northeast
Central Immigration Office (Einwandererzentralstelle Nord-Ost) and
tasked with the "racial valuation" (rassische Bewertung) of the
In June 1941 Sandberger was appointed chief of
Sonderkommando 1a of
Einsatzgruppe A. During the first two weeks of the German invasion
of the Soviet Union, which began on June 22, 1941, Sandberger traveled
with Franz Walter Stahlecker, the commander of
Sandberger was involved since March 1941 in the distribution of a
business plan for the
RSHA and a director of the curriculum
organization of the schools (Lehrplangestaltung der Schulen).
Knowledge of the Führer Order
The Nazi organization most responsible for carrying out The Holocaust
Baltic states was the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst),
generally referred to by its initials SD. The SD, which organized the
Einsatzgruppen, conducted itself in accordance with the understanding
that a fundamental order, sometimes called the Führer Order
(Führerbefehl) existed to kill the Jews. Sandberger received his
knowledge of the Führer order from Bruno Streckenbach, an official
with Department IV of the German National Security Main Office
(Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or RSHA). According to Sandberger's
testimony as an accused in the
Einsatzgruppen trial after the war,
Streckenbach gave a speech (at the
Gestapo headquarters in
Prince Albertstrasse) about the Führer order, which Sandburger
attended. Streckenbach also gave Sandberger explicit instructions
in a personal conversation:
Streckenbach personally informed me about the Führer order, which
said that, in order to secure the Eastern territory permanently, all
Jews, Gypsies, and communist functionaries were to be eliminated,
together with all other elements who might endanger security.
Transfer to Estonia
See also: The
Estonia and Burning of the
Einsatzkommando 1a and 2. These
organizations then engaged in destruction of synagogues, the
liquidation of 400 Jews, and the setting up of groups for the purpose
of fomenting pogroms. After the war, when on trial for war crimes,
Sandberger's effort to evade responsibility was rejected by the
tribunal: "Although it has been demonstrated that not only he was in
Riga at the time they occurred, but he actually had a conversation
about them with the
Einsatzgruppe Chief Stahlecker before he left
In early July 1941, Sandberger was sent to
Estonia on the orders of
Stahlecker. According to Sandberger's later testimony, Stahlecker made
it clear that Sandberger was being sent to
Estonia to carry out the
Führer order in that country. A variety of shooting actions of
Jews, Gypsies, Communists and the mentally-ill began once Sandberger
and his kommando entered Estonia. A report dated 15 October 1941 on
executions in Ostland during Sandberger's tenure included one item
Estonia of 474 Jews and 684 Communists.
The arrest of all male Jews of over 16 years of age has been nearly
finished. With the exception of the doctors and the elders of the Jews
who were appointed by the special Kommandos, they were executed by the
self-protection units under the control of the special detachment 1a.
Jewesses in Pärnu and
Tallinn of the age groups from 16 to 60 who are
fit for work were arrested and put to peat-cutting or other labor.
At present a camp is being constructed in Harku in which all Estonian
Jews are to be assembled, so that
Estonia will be free of Jews in a
Others were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Report No.
17, dated 9 July 1941 carried the item —
With the exception of one, all leading communist officials in Estonia
have now been seized and rendered harmless. The sum total of
communists seized runs to about 14,500. Of these about 1,000 were shot
and 5,377 put into concentration camps. 3,785 less guilty supporters
On 10 September 1941, Sandberger promulgated a general order for the
internment of Jews which resulted in the internment of 450 Jews in a
concentration camp at Pskov, Russia. The Jews were later executed.
Sandburger was highly recommended for promotion in the SS:
* * * He is distinguished by his great industry and better than
average intensity in his work. From the professional point of view, S.
has proved himself in the Reich as well as in his assignment in the
East. S. is a versatile SS Fuehrer, suitable for employment.
S. belongs to the Officers of the Leadership Service and has fulfilled
the requirements of the promotion regulations up to the minimum age
set by the RF-SS (36 years). Because of his political service and his
efforts, which far exceed the average, the Chief of the Sipo and SD
already supports his preferential promotion to SS
On 3 December 1941 he became commander of the Security Police and SD
Actions in Italy
Sandberger returned to Germany in September 1943. In the fall of
1943, Sandberger was appointed the
Gestapo chief for the Italian city
of Verona. In this capacity he was involved in arresting the Jews of
Northern Italy and organizing their transportation to Auschwitz
concentration camp.
In January 1944 Sandberger became head of the Department A in the RSHA
Amt. VI (Ausland-SD, the foreign intelligence service); in this
position he reported directly to Walter Schellenberg. He kept the
domestic and foreign accounts and financial records of the
organization. As the first assistant to Schellenberg, Sandberger
acted as his liaison man with Heinrich Himmler.
With all the access he had had to highly secret information, after the
war, under British interrogation, Sandberger tried to delay or avoid
prosecution by disclosing what he knew. Until internal reports of
Einsatzgruppen were discovered, Sandberger was able to convince
the British interpreters that his account of his activities in Tallinn
as the Kommandeur der
Sicherheitspolizei (or KdS) had involved "'no
evidence of any particular criminal actions on his part.'" 
Einsatzgruppen trial, Sandberger was charged with crimes
against humanity, war crimes, and membership in a criminal
organization, that is, the SS. At his trial, Sandberger denied
responsibility for the killings described in the 15 October report and
sought to blame the German field police and Estonian home guard. This
was rejected by the tribunal, which found that the Estonian home guard
was under Sandberger's jurisdiction and control for specific
operations, as shown by the same report. Similarly, Sandberger claimed
he had arrested the Jews sent to
Pskov to protect them, hoping that
during the internment the Führer order might be revoked or meliorated
and he was not in general responsible for their execution at the Pskov
detention camp. Sandberger said he was responsible for "only a
fraction" of the killings. Sandberger placed this "fraction" at 300
to 350 persons.
Q. The sum total of Communists seized runs to about 14,500; do you see
A. Yes, 14,500, yes.
Q. That means 1,000 were shot?
A. Yes, I get that from the document.
Q. You know it. Did you know of it? Do you remember it?
A. The report must have been submitted to me.
Q. Then at one time, at least, you knew of it?
Q. Were you in
A. Yes, but they were not shot on my own responsibility. I am only
responsible for 350.
Q. You are responsible for 350?
A. That is my estimate.
Sandberger claimed the execution of the Jews at
Pskov happened in his
absence and without his knowledge. The tribunal found that
Sandberger's own testimony convicted him:
Q. You collected these men in the camps?
A. Yes. I gave the order.
Q. You knew that at some future time they could expect nothing but
A. I was hoping that Hitler would withdraw the order or change it.
Q. You knew that the probability, bordering on certainty, was that
they would be shot after being collected?
A. I knew that there was this possibility, yes.
Q. In fact, almost a certainty, isn't that right?
A. It was probable.
Q. You collected these Jews, according to the basic order, didn't you,
the Hitler Order?
Q. And then they were shot; they were shot; isn't that right?
Q. By members of your command?
A. From Estonian men who were subordinated to my Sonderkommando
leaders; that is also myself then.
Q. Then, in fact, they were shot by members under your command?
Q. Then, as a result of the Fuehrer Order, these Jews were shot?
Sandberger testified that he had protested against the inhumanity of
the Führer order, but his account was not accepted by the Nuremberg
Military Tribunal which was conducting the trial: "Despite the
defendant's protestations from the witness stand, it is evident from
the documentary evidence and his own testimony, that he went along
willingly with the execution of the Fuehrer Order."
Death sentence and reprieve
Sandberger was found guilty on all counts. In September 1947,
Michael Musmanno pronounced the tribunal's sentence:
"Defendant MARTIN SANDBERGER, on the counts of the indictment on which
you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by
Despite political pressures, General
Lucius D. Clay
Lucius D. Clay confirmed
Sandberger's death sentence in 1949. In 1951, Sandberger's sentence
was later commuted to life imprisonment by a clemency board acting
under the authority of John J. McCloy, the U.S. High Commissioner for
Germany. McCloy had received political pressure to grant the
reprieve from William Langer, U.S. Senator from North Dakota. Many of
Langer's constituents were of German descent, and Langer felt that
trial of anyone other than the highest Nazis was contrary to American
legal tradition and helped Communism.
Sandberger's father, a retired production director of IG Farben, used
his connections with West German president Theodor Heuss. Heuss in
turn contacted the US Ambassador at that time
James B. Conant
James B. Conant with the
request for pardon. Numerous pleas for leniency from influential
individuals including Minister of Justice Wolfgang Haußmann and
Landesbischof (bishop) Martin Haug were made. The renowned lawyer and
vice-president of the West German German parliament Carlo Schmid
worried about Sandberger's conditions in
Landsberg prison and spoke
out in favor of a commutation. Over time these and other
well-connected people lobbied for Sandberger's early release. By late
1957, there were only four war criminals held in prison in West
Germany. One of them was Sandberger, who, on January 9, 1958, was
himself released from Landsberg prison. Sandberger died on 30
March 2010, at the age of 98.
^ a b c d e f Ezergailis, The
Holocaust in Latvia, at pages 204-205
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Trials of War Criminals before the
Nuernberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10,
Nuernberg, October 1946 - April 1949, Volume IV, ("Green Series) (the
Einsatzgruppen case"), at pages 532 to 536 ("Einsatzgruppen
judgment") (also available at Mazel library (well indexed HTML
version)) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "EinsatzTrial_532"
defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
^ Wildt, Michael, Generation of the Unbound, at page 13.
^ Browder, George C, Hitler's Enforcers, at page 222.
^ Ezergailis, The
Holocaust in Latvia, at page 149.
Einsatzgruppen trial transcript, 1947-1948, volume 6, pages
2143-2176, as excerpted and republished in Ezergailis, The Holocaust
in Latvia, at page 205.
^ Kahn, Hitler's spies, at pages 263-264.
^ International Military Tribunal, record of proceedings, 4 April to
15 April, 1946, Testimony of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, April 12, 1946, page
^ a b c d Breitman and Goda, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, at pages
105 and 146-147.
^ a b Smelser, Ronald M., and Davies, Edward J., The Myth of the
Eastern Front, Cambridge University Press 2007 ISBN 0-521-71231-9
Einsatzgruppen judgment, at page 587
^ National Archives. org: Breitman, Richard, "Historical Analysis of
20 Name Files from CIA Records analysis of CIA files", April 2001
^ a b c Frei, Norbert, and Golb, Joel, "Adenauer's Germany and the
Nazi past", at pages 226 to 229.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Comprehensive report of
Einsatzgruppe A up to 15 October 1941
(in German) Birn, Ruth Bettina: Die
Sicherheitspolizei in Estland
1941-1944. Eine Studie zur Kollaboration im Osten. Ferdinand
Schöningh, Paderborn 2006, ISBN 978-3-506-75614-5.
Breitman, Richard, and Goda, Norman, U.S. intelligence and the Nazis,
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Conclusions of the Estonian International Commission for the
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Holocaust in Latvia 1941-1944—The Missing
Center, Historical Institute of Latvia (in association with the United
Holocaust Memorial Museum)
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(in German) Frei, Norbert: "Vergangenheitspolitik. Die Anfänge der
Bundesrepublik Deutschland und die NS-Vergangenheit", München 1996,
Kahn, David, Hitler's spies
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Aktualisierte Ausgabe. Fischer-Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 2005,
ISBN 3-596-16048-0, S. 43
(in German) Ruck, Michael: Korpsgeist und Staatsbewußtsein. Beamte im
deutschen Südwesten 1928 bis 1972. Oldenbourg, München 1996,
Smelser, Ronald M., and Davies, Edward J., The Myth of the Eastern
Front, Cambridge University Press 2007 ISBN 0-521-71231-9
(in German) Wildt, Michael Wildt: Generation der Unbedingten – Das
Führungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes. Hamburger Edition,
Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-930908-87-5.
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Stahlecker, Franz W., "Comprehensive Report of
Operations up to 15 October 1941", Exhibit L-180, translated in part
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Volume VII, pages 978-995, USGPO, Washington DC 1946 ("Red Series")
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Control Council Law No. 10, Nuernberg, October 1946 - April 1949,
Volume IV, ("Green Series) (the "
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at Mazel library (well indexed HTML version)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to The
Holocaust in Latvia.
"The Quiet Death of a Nazi." ABC News. 4-15-2010.
(in Italian) Biography and image of Sandberger
(in German) Jost Nolte von, "Das Lächeln der SS: Der Fall des Lektors
Hans Rößner und andere Fälle: Wie Täter mit gutem Benehmen nach
1945 durchs Netz schlüpften", June 2002 (English: "The Smiling SS:
The cases of lecturer Hans Rossner and others: How Perpetrators
Slipped through the Net on good behavior")
(in German) Vorlesung von Prof. Michael Wildt über die Tübinger
Exekutoren der Endlösung (Sandberger u.a.) Videoaufzeichnung
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