Auschwitz trials

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Overview of Auschwitz concentration camp : The Auschwitz camp complex had a double function as a concentration camp and an extermination camp

The Auschwitz trials were the legal proceedings that began in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1963 to deal with the Holocaust , especially the Nazi crimes in the Auschwitz concentration camp . Members of the SS guards in this largest of all National Socialist concentration and extermination camps were accused . During the German occupation of Poland in World War II , between 1940 and 1945 more than a million people - mostly Jews - from all over Europe were murdered there.

In the post-war years, a criminal investigation in the Federal Republic was initially blocked by the dispute over which law could be applied. It was finally negotiated on the basis of those parts of the civil penal code and the code of criminal procedure which were valid both at the time when the crimes took place and now in the Federal Republic. In this way, only perpetrators could be convicted who were directly involved in the murder . This was often no longer possible after the time now passed and the avoidance and destruction of evidence and witnesses, which was planned from the outset.

Judgments were passed in the six criminal trials before the jury court in Frankfurt am Main in the years 1963–1965 (first Auschwitz trial ), 1965/66 (second Auschwitz trial ) and 1967/68 (third Auschwitz trial ), as well as in three subsequent trials in the 1970s . Outside Germany, trials of this kind took place earlier and later, such as the Krakow Auschwitz Trial . In 1947 , the former camp commandant Rudolf Höß was convicted and executed in Poland. The Eichmann trial ended in Jerusalem in 1961 with a death sentence against Adolf Eichmann , the organizer of the transports from the occupied countries to the extermination camps.

The first Auschwitz trial in Germany began in Frankfurt am Main on December 20, 1963 and lasted 20 months. When the verdict was announced, which began on August 19, 1965, six defendants received life imprisonment, ten prison sentences between three and a half and fourteen years, and one a ten-year youth sentence. Three defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence.

As a result of a change in the legal understanding, there have been several first-instance trials in Germany since 2015 against former SS men in the Auschwitz concentration camp, who could not be proven to have committed any specific murder. Her aiding and abetting and her part in the mass murder were therefore negotiated .


The German judiciary did not begin to deal with Nazi crimes until 1950 with Law No. 13 of the Council of High Commissioners , which lifted the Federal Republic's restrictions on the prosecution of Nazi criminals. Initially, only crimes were tried that had been committed by Germans against Germans. By 1952, 5,678 defendants had been finally convicted. After this initial wave of trials, the number of trials decreased from 44 in 1954 to almost half in 1956.

This followed the Allied trial of the major war criminals and in particular with the following procedures in Nuremberg war crimes trial before an American military tribunal against the Economic and Administrative Main Office of the SS (SS-WVHA , responsible for the entire concentration camp system of the Nazi Party ) took January-November 1947 instead of. The top functionary accused therein was its former boss Oswald Pohl . The indictment mentioned above all the joint commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity . (It was based on Control Council Act No. 10 on the Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes, Crimes Against Peace, or Against Humanity .)

The prisoners of war returning from the Soviet Union , former Wehrmacht and SS members, brought about a turning point in criminal prosecution . The compensation proceedings brought new evidence to light. It was also recognized that a large number of crimes had gone unpunished and that the perpetrators moved freely among the population in Germany.

Out of the need to coordinate the prosecution of the as yet undisturbed perpetrators, the Central Office of the State Judicial Administrations for the investigation of National Socialist crimes was founded in Ludwigsburg at the end of 1958 . At the beginning, your task was to investigate National Socialist homicides committed against civilians outside of Germany. These were crimes that had taken place outside of the actual acts of war, i.e. in concentration camps or so-called Jewish residential areas / ghettos , as well as the massive homicides committed by the so-called Einsatzgruppen .

The central office started before the formal public prosecutor's investigation and conducted preliminary investigations. She collected and sorted relevant documents (certificates) and determined the whereabouts of the perpetrators even before proceedings were opened. Should it come to the procedure, the central office had to hand over the investigation to the respective public prosecutor's office of the place of residence of the perpetrator, as it could not bring charges itself. In addition, she collected all the knowledge gained in her proceedings in the form of interrogation protocols and documents in order to avoid duplication in the following processes.

Since 1956 there have been certain tendencies towards the establishment of the Central Office. One of the impetus for the establishment in 1958 was the Ulm task force process . The former SS-Oberführer Bernhard Fischer-Schweder , who was police director in Memel in 1941, ran a refugee camp near Ulm under a false name after the war. After his true identity was revealed, he was released. He sued for reinstatement in the civil service. When the press reported this trial, a reader recognized him who remembered that this man had played a key role in the mass shootings of Jews at the beginning of the " Russian campaign ". The widespread media interest in the Ulm Einsatzgruppen trial and the realization that many Nazi crimes, especially in Eastern Europe, had so far been unpunished, gave the impetus to found the Central Office.

In 1959, 400 preliminary investigations were initiated by the Ludwigsburg Central Office, including against task forces of the Reichsführer SS security service , the state police and the perpetrators in the concentration camps .

Auschwitz trials in the post-war period


It was not easy to concentrate the Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt. The judiciary and public prosecutor's office at the time would have preferred many smaller individual trials. It was not until the Hessian attorney general Fritz Bauer - as a Jew and Social Democrat himself in custody for three months in 1933 - and the general secretary of the International Auschwitz Committee Hermann Langbein reached the decision of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in 1959 , the district court of Frankfurt am Main for the "investigation and decision" in determine the criminal case against Auschwitz personnel (determination of the place of jurisdiction according to § 13a StPO ).

In order to make the Auschwitz trial possible, there was no need for the spectacular secret service actions like those before the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961/62. Rather, it came down to the meticulous research and perseverance of those who pushed the process forward, also for the purpose of coming to terms with the past . Because it was by no means a matter of course that there would be a trial at all. A central figure was Fritz Bauer. The Hessian attorney general was not active in the meeting room during the trial, but he did influence the work of the public prosecutor at the Frankfurt am Main regional court through his authority to issue instructions to subordinate public prosecutors.

In January 1959, the journalist Thomas Gnielka sent Bauer seven letters that he had discovered while researching another topic. A Holocaust survivor, Emil Wulkan, had taken the sheets with him as a “souvenir” from the burning SS and police court in Breslau . They were shooting lists from the Auschwitz camp that documented the killing of prisoners in detail. They were signed by the camp commandant Rudolf Höß and the abbreviation of his adjutant Robert Mulka . Bauer forwarded these pieces of evidence to the Federal Court of Justice and the central office in Ludwigsburg. He asked the Federal Public Prosecutor Max Güde to let the BGH determine the place of jurisdiction.

The later defendant Wilhelm Boger was tracked down in 1958 through a complaint that the imprisoned Adolf Rögner had addressed to the Stuttgart public prosecutor. To this complaint about the confiscation of his medication, he attached a complaint against Wilhelm Boger, the former head of the "Escape Department " of the political department in the Auschwitz camp. Subsequently, inconspicuous investigations were ordered against him, but they fizzled out. Rögner also informed the International Auschwitz Committee in Vienna. This offered evidence to the Stuttgart public prosecutor's office. After the general secretary of the committee, Hermann Langbein, accused the prosecution of a lack of interest and found eleven other witnesses against Wilhelm Boger, the Stuttgart district court issued an arrest warrant on October 2, 1958 at the request of the Stuttgart public prosecutor's office . The committee provided relevant information not only in the Boger case. It was also instrumental in locating witnesses who were supposed to testify against other defendants in Germany.

The central office in Ludwigsburg made further investigations. After the decision of the Federal Court of Justice in April 1959 to determine the place of jurisdiction at the Frankfurt am Main Regional Court, the public prosecutor there initiated an investigation against Auschwitz staff. Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg submitted their proceedings to Frankfurt. The Frankfurt public prosecutor's office managed to locate the last commanders of Auschwitz, Richard Baer , the camp adjutant Robert Mulka , and other perpetrators. The Frankfurt investigation was headed by the two public prosecutors Joachim Kügler (1926–2012) and Georg Friedrich Vogel (1926–2007).

In April 1963, the public prosecutor filed charges against 23 members of the SS and one prison officer at the Frankfurt am Main regional court. The main defendant Richard Baer (adjutant to Oswald Pohl in the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office and camp commandant ) died in custody in June 1963. The proceedings against the defendant Hans Nierzwicki , a medical officer in the Auschwitz concentration camp, were severed shortly before the start of the trial for reasons of illness. After five years of investigative work and preliminary judicial investigations with around 1,400 interrogated people, the public complaint was brought on April 16, 1963. The examining magistrate was District Judge Heinz Düx in the first trial from July 1961 to October 1962 . The indictment was 700 pages long and was written by the three prosecutors Joachim Kügler, Georg Friedrich Vogel and Gerhard Wiese . The prosecution named 252 witnesses and produced many documents as evidence. There were also 75 volumes of files with further evidence. These were testimonies from survivors, documents from archives and files from the camp commandant's office that were confiscated when the camp was liberated and contained driving orders and radio messages.

In October 1963 it became known that the presiding judge, Hans Forester (* 1902), who was planned according to the business distribution plan, had been released from his position because of concerns about bias . Forester had declared in a voluntary report that as a Jew he had been persecuted by the National Socialists, his brother was murdered in the Majdanek extermination camp and his mother was imprisoned in the Theresienstadt ghetto . With the voluntary disclosure, he brought about the decision of the regional court to reject him because of concerns of bias. In making its decision, the competent chamber had to take into account the view of the accused that the required independence was not guaranteed with a judge of Jewish origin.

The first Auschwitz trial from 1963 to 1965

The Saalbau (community center) Gallus in Frankfurt am Main, place of the negotiations of the 1st Auschwitz Trial from April 1964 to August 1965

From December 20, 1963, the largest criminal case in German post-war history was conducted under the direction of judge Hans Hofmeyer in the Römer town hall of Frankfurt (city council hall) and later in the Gallus hall building . There were three judges and six jurors (as well as two supplementary judges and five substitute jurors ), four public prosecutors, three accessory prosecutors , 19 defense lawyers and 22 defendants. Two defendants dropped out because of illness: the former medical officer Gerhard Neubert and the former block leader Heinrich Bischoff .

The interrogation of the defendants on the person and the matter, which was scheduled for twelve days, remained practically without result. The defendants protected each other, probably not least out of the fear of incriminating themselves or being incriminated by those who testify against the co-defendants. During the course of the trial, experts were heard who had dealt with the organizational structure of the SS and the construction of concentration camps, among other things . A key point was removing the excuse for "command and obedience". The appraisers determined that it can be proven that no SS man had been punished with death if he had not carried out the extermination orders. The defense also found no corresponding case.

For the witnesses who survived the camp detention, the testimony was extremely incriminating. After twenty years they relived the terrible events. The defense also put them under pressure by questioning the veracity of their reports. Often a break had to be taken because a witness had reached the limit of his capacity. The statements made by the former inmates caused consternation and bewilderment in the audience.

In addition to the witnesses who had suffered under the SS, former SS members were also questioned. They were mostly superiors who had already been convicted and some were at large. They avoided incriminating the accused directly, but reported on the conditions in the camp.

A total of 360 witnesses were heard. An important piece of evidence were the notes of the camp commandant Rudolf Höss , which he had written in Polish remand. An on-site visit was necessary to enable the statements to be checked precisely . Since there were no diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany, it was difficult to do this through official channels . Finally, a delegation went to Poland and inspected the camp for two days. In 1947, a state museum was set up in the remaining blocks of the Auschwitz main camp .

On May 6, 1965, after 154 days of trial, the taking of evidence was completed. The pleadings by the prosecution, the accessory prosecution and the defense took 22 days to complete.

The pronouncement of the verdict, which began on August 19, 1965, lasted two days. After 183 days of trial, the "criminal case against Mulka and others", as it was named after Robert Mulka, the most senior of the defendants, was closed.

The sentences were six life prison sentences , a ten-year youth sentence (the defendant Hans Stark was only 19 years old when he came to Auschwitz) and ten prison sentences between three and a half and fourteen years. Three defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence .

The 1965 judgments

Defendant function Offense judgment
Stefan Baretzki Block leader Murder on five counts

Community accessory to community murder (in eleven cases of at least 10,050 people)

for life , plus eight years in prison
Emil Bednarek Function prisoner Murder in 14 cases lifelong
Wilhelm Boger Camp Gestapo Murder on five counts

Joint murder in 109 cases

Community accessory to community murder (of at least 1,010 people)

lifelong, plus 15 years in prison
Arthur Breitwieser Prisoners' clothing room Acquittal for lack of evidence
Pery Broad Camp Gestapo Community aid to community murder (in 22 cases of at least 2,000 people) four years in prison
Victor Capesius pharmacist Community aid to community murder (in four cases of at least 8,000 people) nine years in prison
Klaus Dylewski Camp Gestapo Community accessory to community murder (in 32 cases of at least 1,500 people) five years in prison
Willy Frank Head of the SS dental station Community accessory to community murder (in six cases of at least 6,000 people) seven years in prison
Emil Hantl Medical grade Community accessory to community murder (in 42 cases of at least 340 people) three and a half years in prison
Karl Höcker Adjutant to the camp commandant Community aid to community murder (in three cases of at least 3,000 people) seven years in prison
Franz Hofmann Protective custody camp leader Murder in one case

Community murder (in 33 cases of at least 2,250 people)

Oswald Kaduk Report leader Murder in ten cases

Community murder (in two cases of at least 1,002 people)

Josef Klehr Medical grade Murder in 475 cases

Community aid to community murder (in six cases of at least 2,730 people)

lifelong, plus 15 years in prison
Franz Lucas Camp doctor Community accessory to community murder (in four cases of at least 4,000 people) 3.25 years in prison

Acquittal after appeal

Robert Mulka Adjutant to the camp commandant Community aid to community murder (in four cases of at least 3,000 people) 14 years in prison
Willi sweetheart SS dentist Acquittal due to lack of doubt
Herbert Scherpe Medical grade Community accessory to community murder (in 200 cases of at least 700 people) 4.5 years in prison
Bruno Schlage Block leader Community accessory to community murder (in 80 cases) six years in prison
Johann Schoberth Camp Gestapo Acquittal for lack of evidence
Hans Stark Camp Gestapo Community murder (in 44 cases of at least 300 people) ten years youth sentence

Hantl and Scherpe had her punishment already by the detention is serving. In the other 16 cases in which a prison sentence was imposed, the defense appealed. 15 judgments were confirmed by the BGH on February 20, 1969. Only Franz Lucas was acquitted on October 8, 1970 by the Frankfurt am Main regional court , as his admission that he had participated in the selections in the supposed (erroneously assumed) emergency ( putative emergency ) could not be refuted.

The mood at the trial and also in the German public in 1963 describes the fact that some police officers saluted as the accused former SS members left the courtroom.

The camp commandant Rudolf Höß, who was accused of sole criminal responsibility by the defendants, was sentenced to death in Poland in 1947 and executed. Richard Baer , his successor in office and last in command until 1945, was supposed to be the main defendant, but died of cardiovascular failure before the start of the main trial in custody on June 17, 1963.

Files and sound recordings of the testimony of the first Auschwitz trial

The statements of 318 witnesses in the trial were recorded on tape by the court and saved from destruction by Hesse's Justice Minister Lauritz Lauritzen (SPD) after the trial was over . Almost fifty years later, they were edited by employees of the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt and made freely accessible on the Internet.

End of October 2017 were the procedural documents and sound recordings in the list of world cultural heritage (Memory of the World) of UNESCO added. The sound recordings were also used in the documentation 183 Days - The Auschwitz Trial created by Janusch Kozminski .

The second Auschwitz trial from 1965 to 1966

The second Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt (trial “4 Ks 3/63 against Burger u. A total of almost 140 witnesses were heard, the representatives of the prosecution, accessory prosecution and defense consisted mostly of people who had already participated in the 1st Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial. In contrast to the 1st Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, this procedure received little public attention. The judgments were upheld on July 3, 1970 by the Federal Court of Justice .

The 1966 judgments

Defendant function judgment
Wilhelm Burger Head of Administration eight years in prison
Josef Erber Camp Gestapo lifelong
Gerhard Neubert Medical grade three and a half years in prison

Burger had already served his sentence through pre-trial detention and an eight-year prison sentence that he had received in 1953 following a court ruling in Warsaw, and was immediately released. At the same time as the second Auschwitz trial, the former camp doctor Horst Fischer was tried in the GDR in March 1966. With this show trial, the MfS wanted to influence the course of the 2nd Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial and, in particular, put the responsibility of IG Farben at the center of the German trial. Fischer was sentenced to death on March 25, 1966 and executed on July 8, 1966.

The third Auschwitz trial from 1967 to 1968

The third Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt began before the Frankfurt am Main Regional Court on August 30, 1967 and ended on June 14, 1968 with the pronouncement of the verdicts against two accused prisoner functionaries. The proceedings against the third defendant, former prison officer Erich Grönke , were discontinued .

The subject-matter of the proceedings comprised the killing of prisoners through mistreatment, drowning, strangulation, killing and killing. A total of 130 witnesses were heard.

The 1968 judgments

Defendant function judgment
Bernhard Bonitz Function prisoner lifelong
Josef Windeck Function prisoner for life, plus 15 years imprisonment

Later trials in Frankfurt

  • From 1973 to 1976 the proceedings against Willi Rudolf Sawatzki and Alois Frey took place, each of which ended in an acquittal.
  • The trial against Horst Czerwinski and Josef Schmidt took place from 1977 to 1981. The proceedings against Czerwinski were separated because the defendant was unable to stand trial and temporarily suspended; Schmidt was sentenced to eight years' youth imprisonment in 1981.

Further trials at Auschwitz and other concentration camps

  • Between 1953 and 1991 there were individual Auschwitz trials before other federal German regional courts, for example Bernhard Rakers was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Osnabrück regional court in 1953.
  • The Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961 was one of the most internationally recognized proceedings . Here the organizer in the RSHA was charged with the local persecution measures and the transports to the extermination in the Auschwitz concentration camps and most of the other concentration and extermination camps of the time.
  • In various other places, guards or perpetrators were convicted in connection with acts in other concentration camps: Carl Clauberg , Friedrich Hartjenstein , Heinrich Schwarz , Otto Moll , Johann Schwarzhuber .
  • There were individual Auschwitz trials before the People's Court in Vienna between 1945 and 1955.
  • In 1972 two Auschwitz trials with two accused each ended before the jury in Vienna. Both Walter Dejaco and Fritz Ertl , both the construction management at Auschwitz-Birkenau were members, were acquitted and in the other method, Otto Graf and Franz request .

Legal reassessment with regard to Auschwitz

In the post-war years there were legal proceedings regarding the Reinhardt extermination campaign , many of these perpetrators were convicted. The judiciary at that time made a distinction between “pure” extermination camps ( Treblinka , Belzec , Sobibor ) and those camps like Auschwitz and Lublin , which had a dual function as a concentration camp and an extermination camp. Of the many SS men in Auschwitz , only a few were convicted, as the judiciary required direct evidence of each murder .

The crimes of the Nazi regime led to the statute of limitations debate regarding murder in the Federal Republic of Germany . In 1979 the statute of limitations for murder was lifted by a resolution of the German Bundestag. The basic work on Holocaust research The Destruction of European Jews (1961) by the American historian Raul Hilberg was only available in German in 1982, twenty years later. Most of the Nazi extermination sites were on Polish territory, including the Auschwitz concentration camp. Holocaust deniers denied the genocide in Auschwitz, for example in the brochure The Auschwitz Lie by SS man Thies Christophersen . Under communist rule, the number of fatalities at the later Auschwitz memorial was unclear. After the Cold War and the nuclear overkill weakened , a rapprochement between West and East succeeded and finally came the turning point in Poland and the fall of the Berlin Wall. From around 1990, Western Holocaust researchers were given greater access to archives in Eastern Bloc countries. The Höcker Auschwitz album reached the general public in 2006, showing Mengele for the first time in a photo. Decades of Holocaust research had greatly improved the level of knowledge about the Auschwitz concentration camp.

In 2011, the Ukrainian John Demjanjuk was the first to be charged with a non-German SS assistant. As a result of this Sobibor trial, the Auschwitz concentration camp, as well as the German and Austrian perpetrators there, moved back into the legal debate.

The Cologne criminal lawyer Cornelius Nestler , who already represented the joint plaintiffs in the Demjanjuk trial, also did the same at the Lüneburg Auschwitz trial. Since the Demjanjuk trial, not only immediate perpetrators but also assistants could be charged with a chance of success. Evidence of direct involvement in a homicide is no longer necessary in extermination camps , because every involvement - be it directly with the assignment "on the ramp" or with the work in the camp administration - contributed to the smooth running of the organizationally controlled killing machinery and is thus as aid i. S. v. To qualify § 27 StGB For example, every SS man in Auschwitz, regardless of whether an SS cook or an SS accountant, carried a weapon and was instructed to shoot refugees immediately without warning ( duty to post ). The threat from the SS in the Auschwitz concentration camp supported the process of collective, industrial extermination considerably.

Auschwitz trials since 2015

Since about 2011 there have been around 50 preliminary investigations and some court proceedings against other SS helpers. Some legal proceedings have been dropped because of the old age of the defendants or for health reasons. Hans Lipschis was arrested in May 2013. The prosecution charged him with complicity in murder in extermination camps in 9,000 cases. In December 2013, the District Court of Ellwangen ordered his dismissal due to permanent incapacity to stand trial, as an incipient dementia was diagnosed.

Lüneburg Auschwitz Trial

In 2015, Oskar Gröning , the so-called “Auschwitz bookkeeper” by the press , was tried before the Lüneburg Regional Court . The charge was 300,000 times complicity in murder in extermination camps and related to the period of the "Hungarians Action" in the summer of 1944. As an accountant in Auschwitz, he received and administered the prisoners' money and valuables. Oskar Gröning was sentenced to four years in prison on July 15, 2015. Efraim Zuroff , director of the Jerusalem location of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, welcomed the verdict and called on the German judiciary to pursue further unresolved cases. Josef Schuster , President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, assessed the prison sentence as an important signal. The failures of the German judiciary, which would have delayed or prevented such proceedings for decades, could no longer be made good.

On November 28, 2016, the BGH confirmed the judgment, which thus became final.

On August 1, 2017, it became known that the public prosecutor's office generally held Gröning to be liable and had rejected an application by the defense for exemption from detention. Groening's defense lawyer will apply for a new judicial review, reported the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung , among others . Should the court decide in favor of detention, a complaint is still possible. His client is not liable. In addition, the medical officer did not physically examine Gröning.

On November 29, 2017, the Higher Regional Court of Celle decided that the 96-year-old Gröning had to go to prison (file number 3 Ws 491/17). On the basis of expert opinions obtained, the court assumes that the convicted person is fit for execution despite his old age. It also does not violate the convicted person's fundamental rights to include him in the prison system. When weighing the rights of the convicted person against the rule of law, the latter prevails.

Groening's complaint to the Federal Constitutional Court, on the other hand, was unsuccessful, the BVerfG ruled on December 29, 2017 that Groening's old age did not prevent him from serving his sentence.

Gröning then made a petition for clemency, as it became known on January 15, 2018. The public prosecutor's office announced that they would treat the request as urgent, especially since no letter had yet been sent to Gröning with the exact date of the start of detention. Shortly afterwards, on January 17, 2018, the public prosecutor's office announced that the request for clemency had been rejected and that Gröning should quickly begin imprisonment in the Uelzen prison, but could still contact the Minister of Justice on the matter. In February 2018, Gröning sent a second request for clemency to the Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice. Gröning died on March 9, 2018 at the age of 96 without starting the sentence.

Detmold Auschwitz Trial

In February 2016, the trial of 94-year-old Reinhold Hanning , who was stationed as a member of the SS guards in Auschwitz from January 1943 to June 1944, began before the Detmold Regional Court, chaired by Judge Anke Grudda . He had to answer for at least 170,000 cases of accessory to murder. He was accused of aiding and abetting the so-called Hungary Action, aiding and abetting mass shootings and the Nazis' so-called selection of concentration camp inmates for murder. He is said to have looked for fugitives, guarded the selections on the ramp and accompanied prisoners to the gas chambers. Dozens of journalists from home and abroad followed the start of the trial in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to which the court had moved for reasons of space. About 40 Auschwitz survivors, who were then adolescents, and relatives also came to the trial. The 86 to 94-year-old survivors, including Erna de Vries , Max Eisen, Mordechai Eldar, Bill Glied, Leon Schwarzbaum, Justin Sonder and Irene Weiss, and 71-year-old Angela Orosz Richt-Bein - one of the few born in the camp Survivors - some of them came from Canada, the USA or Israel to testify as witnesses or as joint plaintiffs. Out of consideration for the age and state of health of the accused, the negotiations were limited to two hours each. Ursula Haverbeck , who was convicted of Holocaust denial in 2015, sparked incomprehension and protests when she appeared. In the commotion, she was prevented from entering the courtroom. Hanning admitted in a personal statement on April 29, 2016 that he knew about the mass murders. However, since he claimed not to have seen anything, a 3-D model developed by the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office was used as evidence, which can show which things could be seen from a certain point of view. The prosecution pleaded for six years imprisonment, while the defense pleaded for acquittal. On June 17, 2016, the court sentenced Hanning to five years in prison.

Reinhold Hanning died on May 30, 2017, which, as a procedural obstacle, led to the termination of the criminal proceedings, so that the judgment did not become final.

Neubrandenburg Auschwitz Trial

On February 29, 2016, the Neubrandenburg Regional Court opened the main proceedings against a former SS medic at the age of 95 in Auschwitz. The court announced in the summer of 2015 that the proceedings would not be opened due to the defendant's inability to stand trial. On the other hand, the public prosecutor successfully filed a complaint with the competent higher regional court in Rostock .

The defendant is charged with complicity in murder in at least 3,681 cases from mid-August to mid-September 1944. As a member of the SS medical team, he was aware of the industrial murder. For his deployment in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943/44 he was sentenced to 3½ years imprisonment in Poland as early as 1946 (according to other sources, 1948).

Immediately after the main proceedings were opened in Neubrandenburg, they were adjourned due to the defendant's state of health, but the hearing opened on September 12, 2016 following a renewed examination by a medical officer.

After both the accessory prosecutors and the public prosecutor's office had filed bias claims against the chamber, the court announced on October 6, 2016 that the process had to be restarted from the beginning.

On the basis of a decision by the jury chamber of February 13, 2017, among other things , the Schwerin public prosecutor's office again filed an application for bias against the members of the jury chamber and against two other judges at the beginning of April 2017. In addition, the judges had expressed themselves in two further decisions from November 2016 "in a questionable manner" about a co- plaintiff and the Schwerin public prosecutor. The representatives of the joint plaintiffs have filed criminal charges for perversion of justice.

Numerous celebrities wrote an open letter and initiated a petition .

For the first time in post-war history, a bias motion against an entire chamber was successful. By decision of June 23, 2017, the entire chamber was rejected as biased because it had repeatedly tried to exclude a joint plaintiff from the proceedings. (LG Neubrandenburg, decision of June 23, 2017 - 60 Ks 1/15). In addition, the “hurtful criticism” and “degrading diction” of Chamber Chairman Kabisch was reprimanded against the representative of this joint plaintiff. After a representative of the secondary prosecution reported it, the Stralsund public prosecutor's office has been investigating the chamber chairman on suspicion of perversion of the law since the beginning of April 2017 .

The now 96-year-old defendant himself had already been classified by two experts as incapable of standing a month earlier .

On August 31, 2017, the public prosecutor's office applied for the trial to be discontinued because a psychiatric report confirmed that the defendant was permanently unable to stand trial. The defendant was demented, said the prosecution. Finally, the district court of Neubrandenburg announced that the proceedings had been discontinued on September 11, 2017 due to the defendant's permanent incapacity to stand trial. For the three-month pre-trial detention of the accused, compensation was requested. Hubert Z. died in early July 2018.

Kiel Auschwitz Trial

In 2015 a 91-year-old woman was charged before the youth chamber in Kiel, who is said to have worked as a "radio operator of Auschwitz" from April to July 1944 in the commandant's office and is accused of complicity in murder in more than 260,000 cases. At the beginning of February 2016, the now 92-year-old was classified as capable of negotiating and the hearing was scheduled for April 2016. Ultimately, however, the court refused to open the proceedings due to the defendants' permanent incapacity to stand trial.

Hanau Auschwitz Trial

In December 2015, the youth chamber of the Hanau regional court announced that a 92-year-old former SS guard who was accused of assisting murder in 1,075 cases was able to stand trial. The defendant is said to have been on guard duty in Auschwitz from November 1942 to June 1943. The oral main hearing was scheduled to start on April 13, 2016. The now 93-year-old defendant died before the trial.

Stuttgart / Mannheim Auschwitz Trial

The Stuttgart public prosecutor's office announced on April 16, 2018 that it had brought charges against a former SS guard at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp for aiding and abetting murder in 13,335 cases. From December 1942 to January 1943, as a member of the SS, who lived in the Mannheim area, he supported the camp operations and thus the extermination campaigns during at least 15 transports with his watch and standby duty.

Artistic processing

See also


To the other procedures
  • Thomas Albrich, Winfried Garscha , Martin Polaschek (eds.): Holocaust and war crimes in court. The case of Austria. Studienverlag, Innsbruck 2006, ISBN 3-7065-4258-7 .
  • Peter Huth (ed.): The last witnesses. The Auschwitz Trial in Lüneburg 2015. A documentation. Reclam, Stuttgart 2015, ISBN 978-3-15-017088-5 .
  • Michael Thad Allen: Realms of Oblivion. The Vienna Auschwitz Trial . In: Central European History, 40 (2007), pp. 397-428 ( abstract ) - on the trial against Josef Ertl and Walter Dejaco in Vienna 1972.

Web links

Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials

Other procedures

Individual evidence

  1. Heinz Düx : The Auschwitz Trial in Frankfurt / Main ( Memento of February 13, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), p. 42 ff.
  2. dated March 1, 1958 (source: Devin O. Pendas, The Auschwitz Trial: Genocide in front of the court , footnote 107) ( limited preview in the Google book search)
  3. See, for example, Yehuda Bacon's descriptions of his experiences as a witness in the Eichmann and Auschwitz trials , short film "Witness in Nazi trials"
  4. Tape recording of the 1st Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial. In: History and Effects of the Holocaust / Fritz Bauer Institute, July 18, 2013, accessed on December 21, 2018 .
  5. Ronen Steinke: Auschwitz witnesses in the original sound - audio stream from hell. In: . October 7, 2013, accessed December 30, 2016 .
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