I sincerely believe that some people are just born evil. If it hadn’t been for the war, their evil ways—would probably have been displayed in other ways.
Dr. Ernst Knorr was born Heiligenbeil, Germany on October 13, 1899. He died in Scheveningen, the Netherlands on 7 July 1945. He was an SS officer in the rank of SS-Untersturmführer (second lieutenant) but was also a doctor. He led the SD. He was part of Referat IV-A (Bekämpfung Kommunismus) of the Sicherheitsdienst in The Hague and was known as the executioner at interrogations.
If prisoners were to be tortured—during interrogations—the SD would euphemistically indicate that they would call the doctor. His workplace was Binnenhof 7, which is near the Dutch parliament. Until the beginning of June 1941, the communists were only kept under surveillance and deliberately not yet arrested—partly because Knorr could be involved in other activities. He witnessed the violent interrogation of the Resistance fighter Sjaak Boezeman, a man tortured to death.
Boezeman was taken to the Binnenhof and interrogated by five SD men, including Ernst Knorr, at 03:15 a.m. Sjaak was taken back unconscious to the Oranjehotel, where he was in bad shape. The SD’ers claimed that Sjaak tried to cut his wrist arteries with a razor. When he regained consciousness, Sjaak told the guards that the Germans slit his wrists. That morning Sjaak Boezeman died in his cell. He is the first or one of the first Dutch resistance fighters to be murdered by the Nazis.
Albert Schaap was a prisonguard at the Oranjehotel prison and later testified, “I then saw that his back was all wounded. He was completely covered with bruises, and his whole back was covered with blood. He could not speak properly—as his whole face was shattered and the blood was running out of his mouth.”
From the beginning of June 1941, Ernst Knorr was involved in the violent interrogation of communists in The Hague. On September 2, 1941, he was the leader of a team of 3-5 people that interrogated the communist Herman Holstege in the prison of Scheveningen (Oranjehotel) so cruelly that it was expected that he would die. The intention was to learn from Holstege, who had remained silent for a month, the names of his contacts at the communist party leadership in Amsterdam. Knorr penetrated Holstege’s anus with a rubber bat, after which the intestines were tamped. Holstege, however, gave little information and not the names of the leadership in Amsterdam. Holstege died the next day. In view of the preparations in the Oranjehotel, torture was planned. In a post-war report, this was referred to as stupidity, because it lost the opportunity to track down the party leadership in Amsterdam.
In the course of 1942, Knorr was sidetracked and replaced by Hans Munt. In post-war reports, Munt indicated that these acts of violence were the reason for the changes in position, but in practice, they did not mean the end of the torture of communists.
On 19 February 1943, a trap was set in Delft for the communist resistance fighter Gerrit Kastein. Three SD men were waiting for Kastein at a cafe as Knorr waited outside in the car. Kastein arrested, was taken to the car. Near the car, Kastein managed to pull out a pistol and shoot. He injured Knorr quite badly; after the cars drove away, a pool of blood remained on the street. Gerrit Willem Kastein jumped out of the window at Binnenhof on 21 February 1943 but did not survive the fall.
The extremely violent interrogations not only caused the deaths of Sjaak and Gerrit Willem but the valuable secrets they knew were also lost. It went too far for Ernst’s superiors. As a punishment, he was transferred to the Scholtenhuis in Groningen. There Ernst continues his violent practices.
There, too, Knorr stood out for his cruelty. He murdered the resistance fighter Esmée van Eeghen. Her body was riddled with bullets and dumped in the Van Starkenborgh Canal. Van Eeghen is controversial because she fell in love with a German officer. Their love affair played a significant role in the resistance. It proved invaluable—her role, especially in Friesland—that was ultimately fatal for her due to that turbulent love life. The character of Rachel Stein from the 2006 film Black Book was based on the life of van Eeghen.
Although van Eeghen was financially independent, she worked as a nurse at the Amsterdam civil hospital. In the spring of 1943, she entered into a love affair with the medical student Henk Kluvers. When he was supposed to sign the declaration of loyalty for students in the spring, he decided instead to go to Leeuwarden to evade this signature. Van Eeghen followed him and supported him and his friend Pieter Meersburg in hiding Jewish children on behalf of the Landelijke Organisatie voor Hulp aan Onderduikers (LO) in the Northern part of the country. They saved the lives of at least 100 children.
Klaas Carel Faber, execution command member and escaped war criminal, said about the execution, “I saw Miss Esmee get out of the car. She had only just gotten out of the car when I saw Knorr firing at Miss Esmee. After the first shot, I saw her fall to the ground. I heard she was still screaming. I saw Knorr shoot her ten more times.”
On 16 April 1945, Knorr withdrew to Schiermonnikoog with several German soldiers. The intention was to pick up people by boat from Borkum and take them to Germany. It was not until 27 May, that a Dutch officer went to the island to demand they surrender. The group was transferred to the mainland on 30 May and locked up in a prison in Groningen. Knorr was transferred on 27 June by Canadian Field Security to the so-called Kings Prison in Scheveningen, located in the penal prison.
On 7 July 1945, Knorr was found dead in his cell. He had a piece of rope around his neck. In the cell, however, there was no high fulcrum to hang oneself from. According to statements from other Germans in prison, Knorr had been severely beaten, which resulted in death. There wasn’t an autopsy performed. Later, a prison doctor stated that it was technically possible that Knorr committed suicide by attaching the rope low to the wall and strangling himself by hanging over.
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