The testimony of Otto Ohlendorf- A tale of Nazi corruption.

IRR File

Born in Berlin in 1907, Ohlendorf joined the SA in 1925 and the SS in 1926. In 1936 he joined the SD as an economic adviser and from 1939 to 1945 he served as the chief of the Reich Security Main Office’s Amt III, which studied the results of government measures on the German population. Ohlendorf is best known however, for his role as the Chief of Einsatzgruppe D, one of four mobile killing units that followed the German Army during the invasion of the USSR. Ohlendorf’s unit was responsible for the southern Ukraine including the Crimea, and was responsible for the killing of 90,000 individuals from June 1941 to March 1942.2

Ohlendorf surrendered to British authorities on 23 May 1945 and testified at the Trial of the Major War Criminals later that year. In 1947, he was the chief defendant in one of the twelve subsequent Nuremberg trials held by the U.S. Army (Case No. 9, The Einsatzgruppen Case). He was sentenced to death, and in 1951, despite the American revision of many sentences, Ohlendorf was executed by hanging.

One of the newly released documents is a seventeen-page British interrogation of Ohlendorf from August 1945 on corruption in the Nazi State. Ohlendorf, though a fanatic anti-Semite, considered himself an honest civil servant. Moreover, his educational background was in economics and from 1936 to 1945 he held economic and financial posts in the government alongside his other duties. Ohlendorf, the report begins, “is considered personally honest and he has always nursed a great dislike for corruption. The information… is therefore considered reliable.” Ohlendorf’s interrogators feared that if anything, he had held information back so that he could blackmail his fellow Nazis in the future.

Ohlendorf’s extensive comments concern details of known practices, including Hitler’s gifts of landed estates to his favorites,the corrupt practices of Reich Labor leader Robert Ley,and the obscene dishonesty of Hermann Göring.

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The interrogation adds episodes on less well-known figures too. Ohlendorf claimed that Josef Spacil, SPACILthe head of the RSHA Office in charge of administration, spent considerable efforts placing forged British banknotes into circulation for the purchase of black market items in southern Europe. Ohlendorf further explained that Germany’s main auditing firm, the Deutsche Revisons – und Treuhandgesellschaft, which audited the largest German industrial concerns, was awash with corrupt practices. Instead of providing state authorities insight into the financial health of major firms, senior auditors, who were associated with other commercial firms, used inside information for personal profit. Ohlendorf mentioned that several Nazi party district leaders, particularly in annexed Poland, also helped themselves financially. Erich Koch, the Gauleiter of East Prussia, created a foundation in his own name of which he was sole member, manager, and director, and cemented his political position by showering senior officials such as Göring with lavish gifts. In May 1945, Koch fled to Flensburg aboard a ship “loaded with riches.”

WWII Ukraine Erich Koch

Arthur Greiser, the Gauleiter of Posen, was associated “with shady dealings in gold articles which originated from the LODZ ghetto” and procured luxurious houses and a big country estate, according to Ohlendorf.

Another significant document is a lengthy interrogation of Ohlendorf by a British intelligence officer of 7 July 1945, which concerns the final days of the war, particularly regarding Heinrich HimmlerOhlendorf was in a unique position to comment. Following Hitler’s suicide, Ohlendorf was a senior economic official with the 23-day government of Karl Doenitz in Plön and then Flensburg. He spoke on the following during his interrogation:

  • Discussions held in Berlin in April 1945 between senior SS officials including Ohlendorf, SS-General Felix Steiner, and SS-General Richard Hildebrandt. These discussions aimed at the creation of a new government that could procure a separate peace with the Allies. Himmler, these men hoped, would lead this government and Hitler would be pushed aside if necessary. “Our aim,” said Ohlendorf, “was not to put up any resistance, but to let the Allies advance as far as the ELBE, having first concluded a tacit agreement that they’d halt there and thus to cover our rear for the continuation of the struggle against the East. These men, who were sober enough in all other respects, still believed that we had a sporting chance against the East.”
  • Reference to telephone orders by Himmler days before Hitler’s suicide. Ohlendorf said that Gestapo Chief Heinrich Mueller was “ordered to stay in Berlin as long as the FÜHRER remained there, as he shared responsibility for the FÜHRER’s safety.” Mueller vanished after the war, and for years it was surmised that Mueller offered himself to the U.S. or USSR for intelligence purposes. Ohlendorf’s comment that Mueller was ordered to remain adds weight to the probability that Mueller died in Berlin.
  • There is some new detail concerning Himmler’s state of mind on May 6, 1945 after Hitler’s Last Testament appointed Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz as the successor while expelling Himmler from the Nazi Party. Ohlendorf described the broad extent of Himmler’s “degrading” and “unworthy” efforts to gain a post in the Doenitz government and Himmler’s real anger on hearing that he was an “encumbrance” who would do the new government more harm than good. Also new is mention of Himmler’s belief on May 6 that Field Marshall Ferdinand Schoerner, the new Commander-in-Chief of the Army, might protect him, and his consideration of joining Schoerner’s army so that he could be killed in battle.

Ferdinand Schörner

  • Ohlendorf mentions a personal letter, dated 9 May 1945, which Himmler wrote and sent to British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. Montgomery had accepted the surrender of German forces in the Northwest on the 4th. Ohlendorf obliquely mentioned this letter’s existence at his trial in 1947 but this British interrogation provides more detail. Ohlendorf said that Himmler showed the letter to him and that he altered Himmler’s text because “it had been unfortunately worded.” Himmler then had an adjutant take the letter to Montgomery. Himmler, Ohlendorf said, was anxious about the answer. After leaving Flensburg on the 9th, he regularly sent a man to Ohlendorf to see if Montgomery had replied. Accounts of Himmler’s final days do not mention the letter, so one can only surmise what it said. It was likely a final attempt to split the Anglo-Soviet alliance. Ohlendorf said that Himmler until the very end believed that an agreement could be struck and that he hoped to be the Allies’ “confidence man in Europe.”

Otto_Ohlendorf_at_the_Nuremberg_Trials

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Nazi crimes trials

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Before you read on let me explain the title of Nazi crimes trials. This is not about the Nuremberg trials or any other subsequent war crimes trials. This is about Nazis bringing Nazis to trial as ordered by Heinrich Himmler.

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I will give you a minute to leave it sink in.

The chief investigator and prosecutor  was Georg Konrad Morgen(picture at the top of the blog),  an SS judge and lawyer.

He was demobilized and employed as a judge in the SS Judiciary, which assigned him to its court in Cracow. In Cracow he investigated several highly placed SS officers for corruption, including Hermann Fegelein, a favorite of Heinrich Himmler’s and the future brother-in-law of Eva Braun. He also exposed one of Fegelein’s co-conspirators, Jaroslawa Mirowska, as the head of the Polish underground.

After requesting a transfer, Morgen was instead dismissed by Himmler, ostensibly for acquitting an SS officer of the racial crime of sexual relations with an alien race, but also perhaps for meddling in Himmler’s affairs.He was punished by being sent to the Wiking Division on the Eastern Front. However, in mid-1943, Himmler recalled Morgen to investigate and prosecute corruption in the concentration camp system, which had become rampant, as reflected in Himmler’s notorious Posen speeches.

 

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Although Morgen could not accuse the men of murder or unjust killings, as Hitler’s regime allowed it to make mass murders like those in concentration camps legal, Morgen was able to charge these men with theft, military insubordination, and murder of individuals.

This is the list of those that were indicted

Name Rank Location
Karl Otto Koch SS-Standartenfuhrer Buchenwald
Hermann Florstedt SS-Standartenfuhrer Majdanek
Hermann Hackmann SS- Hauptsturmfuhrer Majdanek
Hans Loritz SS- Oberfuhrer Sachsenhausen
Adam Gruenewald SS- Sturmbannfuhrer Vught
Karl Kuenstler SS- Obersturmbannfuhrer Flossenburg
Alex Piorkowski SS- Obersturmbannfuhrer Dachau
Maximillian Grabner SS- Untersturmfuhrer Auschwitz
Gerhard Palitzsch SS- Hauptscharfuhrer Auschwitz
Amon Goth SS- Hauptsturmfuhrer Plaszow
Hans Aumeier SS- Sturmbannfuhrer Auschwitz

Rather then going in to each of the accused I will pick out just a few of them.

Karl-Otto Koch

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Koch was first caught for his crimes by SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Josias, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont in 1941, while he was glancing over the death lists of Buchenwald, he had noticed the head hospital workers name, Dr Walter Kramer. He had recongised him because Kramer had successfully treated him in the past, Josias had started to investigate the death and found out that Koch, being the commandant had ordered Kramer and Karl Peixof, a hospital assistant, killed as political prisoners, because they had treated him for syphilis and in fear of being discovered had killed them.

Josias had also gained reports of a prisoner being shot while attempting to escape, by this time Koch had been transferred to Majdanek in Poland. However his wife was still working at Buchenwald. Josias ordered to have a full scale investigation of the camp by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen. Throughout this investigation, more of the orders to kill prisoners were being revealed, as well as the stolen property of the prisoners. The prisoner who had been shot in his attempted escape was actually told to get water from a well which was some distance from the camp, he was then shot from behind, he was also another one of the hospital attendants who had treated Koch.  

A charge of incitement to murder was lodged by Prince Waldeck and Dr. Morgen against Koch, to which more charges were later added. Other camp officers were also charged, which included Ilse Koch. Koch was arrested in August 1943. Although the camps were known for vast amount of crimes against humanity, the Nazis did not officially sanction cruelty to the prisoners. As strange as it may sound. The trial resulted in Koch being sentenced to death for disgracing both himself and the SS. Koch was executed by firing squad on 5 April 1945, one week before American allied troops arrived to liberate the camp.

Amon Göth

Amon_Göth-prisoner_1945

On 3 September 1943, in addition to his duties at Płaszów, Göth was the officer in charge of the liquidation of the ghetto at Tarnów, which had been home to 25,000 Jews (about 45 per cent of the city’s population) at the start of World War II. By the time the ghetto was liquidated, 8,000 Jews remained. They were loaded on a train to Auschwitz concentration camp, but less than half survived the journey. Most of the survivors were deemed unsuitable for forced labour and were murdered immediately on their arrival at Auschwitz. According to testimony of several witnesses as recorded in his 1946 indictment for war crimes, Göth personally shot between 30 and 90 women and children during the liquidation of the ghetto.

On his birthday in 1943, Göth ordered Natalia Karp, who had just arrived in Płaszów, to play the piano. Karp performed Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor so well that Göth allowed her and her sister to live.

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Göth was also the officer in charge of the liquidation of Szebnie concentration camp, which interned 4,000 Jewish and 1,500 Polish slave labourers. Evidence presented at Göth’s trial indicates he delegated this task to a subordinate, SS-Hauptscharführer Josef Grzimek, who was sent to assist camp commandant SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Kellermann with mass killings.Between 21 September 1943 and 3 February 1944 the camp was gradually liquidated. Around a thousand of the victims were taken to the nearby forest and shot, and the remainder were sent to Auschwitz, where most were gassed immediately on arrival.

On 13 September 1944, Göth was relieved of his position and charged by the SS with theft of Jewish property (which belonged to the state, according to Nazi legislation), failure to provide adequate food to the prisoners under his charge, violation of concentration camp regulations regarding the treatment and punishment of prisoners, and allowing unauthorised access to camp personnel records by prisoners and non-commissioned officers.Administration of the camp at Płaszów was turned over to SS-Obersturmführer Arnold Büscher. Göth was scheduled for an appearance before SS judge Georg Konrad Morgen, but due to the progress of World War II and Germany’s looming defeat, the charges against him were dropped in early 1945. SS doctors diagnosed Göth as suffering from mental illness, and he was committed to a mental institution in Bad Tölz, where he was arrested by the United States military in May 1945.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

KZ Auschwitz, Einfahrt

Morgen subsequently discovered the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Two packages of dental gold, sent by an Auschwitz dental technician to his wife, had been confiscated by postal inspectors and passed on to Morgen for investigation.Realizing that the gold must have been collected from Holocaust victims, Morgen sent an investigative team to Auschwitz and later visited himself, receiving a thorough tour of the killing center at Birkenau. His investigation was not welcomed though; his assistant SS-Stabsscharführer Gerhard Putsch disappeared and the building where evidence files were stored was burned down.Although he could not prosecute the mass extermination of Jews — which, as he explained after the war, was legalized by order of Hitler — he still went on to prosecute the camp commandant Rudolf Höss and the Chief of the camp Gestapo, Maximilian Grabner, for crimes including murder.

Maximilian Grabner

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In 1943, he was arrested for theft,murder, graft and corruption and was put on trial in Weimar a year later. After the trial, he returned to Katowice. Grabner was arrested by the Allies in 1945 and turned over to Poland in 1947. In the Auschwitz Trial he was found guilty of charges of murder and crimes against humanity, and was sentenced to death. Grabner was hanged on 28 January 1948.

In addition to prosecuting concentration-camp officers, Morgen sought an arrest warrant for Adolf Eichmann,as Eichmann himself confirmed at his trial in Jerusalem, but Morgen’s request was rejected.

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After the war, Morgen was a witness at the trial of Nazi war criminals at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg; also the trial of SS WVHA members, and the 1965 Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt–am–Main. Thereafter, he continued his legal career in Frankfurt. He died on 4 February 1982.

Konrad_Morgen

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