If you look for the name Elfried Huth, you probably won’t find anything. Her story is both amazing and appalling. It is also the most bizarre and disturbing love story you will ever read.
Elfriede was born on 14 July 1922, in Leipzig. 22 years later, being still quite young, she joined the ranks of the SS. Until the end of the war, Elfriede served in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp.
From June 1944–April 1945, she was handling an SS-trained guard dog. She claimed that she did not use her dog as a weapon against prisoners and that she did not join the Nazi party. However, other information contradicts this. One prisoner reported that the women were even worse than men in commanding their dogs to brutally attack the inmates.”
Elfriede somehow managed to avoid the Nuremberg trials. She left Germany for the United States and was admitted as an immigrant on or around 21 September 1959 in San Francisco, California. At a German-American club in San Francisco, she met Fred William Rinkel, a German Jew whose family had been murdered in the Holocaust, and they married about 1962. He died in 2004. Elfriede stated she never told her husband about her past.
Fred (aka Fritz) Rinkel grew up in Berlin and, before the Nazis came to power, had wanted to be an opera singer. Sometime during the war, he escaped to Shanghai. In 1947, after learning that his parents had been killed in concentration camps, Fritz, then 32, sailed to San Francisco.
One of Fred’s cousins said “My family assumed that Fritz was a confirmed bachelor, but in 1962, at age 47, he brought over his fiancée for an introduction. He had met Elfriede Huth at a dance at the German-American club in San Francisco. Elfriede was not Jewish. That Fritz would marry a German non-Jew seemed odd to my parents, but this was America and the couple were in love. Even at the age of 14, I could see that Fritz was besotted with Elfriede, calling her “Mein Liebling,” my darling, throughout the evening and gazing at her with puppy eyes.”
Together, they mixed easily in Jewish circles, attended synagogues and donated to Jewish charities.
When Fred Rinkel died in 2004, his widow buried him in a Jewish cemetery, under a gravestone adorned with the Star of David—with space for her when she died.
Eventually, the Office of Special Investigations uncovered her whereabouts and approached her on 4 October 2004. Rinkel confessed to having worked in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, as a voluntary dog handler: this activity was better paid than the ordinary work of supervisors.
She claimed that she did not use her dog as a weapon against prisoners and that she did not join the Nazi party. However, other information contradicts this, “One prisoner reported that women were even worse than men in commanding their dogs to brutally attack inmates.”
Elfriede claimed to have always behaved correctly. Insa Eschebach, a historian and the director of the Museum of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, deemed this a protective claim.
Dogs could be used recklessly. Some guards let the animals go on prisoners, on whom they, with a sometimes fatal consequence, inflicted severe bite wounds.
Since other crimes were barred, the Central Office of the State Justice Administration for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg examined only whether it is possible to prove whether Huth murdered any inmates. If that could be proved, it risked a life sentence. Also, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem insisted on a trial.
On 1 September 2006 Elfriede was deported to Germany under a settlement agreement signed in June 2006 after being charged by a federal law requiring the removal of aliens who took part in acts of Nazi-sponsored persecution filed by the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The German authorities were informed by the American authorities after her departure. Kurt Schrimm from the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes stated that her files were given to the prosecutor in Cologne. All criminal proceedings were eventually closed due to missing initial suspicion.
Elfriede Huth said, “I never talked about this with my husband. There was nothing to talk about. You don’t talk about things like that, never. That is the past. I am not a Nazi. My relatives are not Nazis. I did nothing wrong,”
This was the level of her ignorance that she could not see anything wrong with that.
She insisted she had no problem with Jews. She worked “outside, not inside” the Ravensbruck camp, she said, after leaving a job in a factory near her birthplace in Leipzig.
She spent some time on a farm in the Rhineland with relatives, then she moved into a nursing home in Willich, Northrhine-Westfalia, where she died in July 2018.
I deliberately used her maiden name rather than her married name.