Curiohaus processes

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Memorial plaque at the Curiohaus

The Curiohaus trials were British military trials that took place at the Curiohaus in Hamburg from the end of World War II until December 1949 . Of the 329 British military trials, 188 took place here; 445 men and 59 women stood there on trial. 102 death sentences were passed and 267 prison terms were imposed.

The term Curiohaus trial usually refers to the main Neuengamme trial of the British military tribunal against perpetrators and those responsible at the Neuengamme concentration camp , in which the murder of 20 children in the Bullenhuser Damm subcamp was also tried. Other British military trials that took place at the Curiohaus included a. the Testa trial , seven Ravensbrück trials , and the trial against a perpetrator in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp .

Neuengamme process

The Neuengamme main trial took place from March 18 to May 3, 1946 in the Hamburg Curiohaus. 14 leading SS leaders and overseers were charged, including camp commandant Max Pauly , SS medical officer Alfred Trzebinski, and protective custody camp leader Anton Thumann . Eleven death sentences were pronounced, which were carried out by hanging on October 8, 1946 in the Hameln penitentiary .

In seven subsequent trials, another 15 defendants had to answer for their crimes in the Neuengamme main camp. There were twelve death sentences, eight of which were confirmed and carried out (including Albert Lütkemeyer ). In addition to Trzebinski, in a follow-up trial in July 1946, other people directly involved in child murder were sentenced to death and executed in October 1946 : Ewald Jauch and Johann Frahm . With regard to the murder of the 20 children, SS doctor Dr. Kurt Heissmeyer , SS doctor Hans Klein and SS Obersturmführer Arnold Strippel were charged, but they had not yet been found.

Almost all of the trials that were carried out because of a crime in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp or in one of the satellite and subcamps of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp also took place in the Curiohaus. Leading SS officers, SS men deployed in the security service, Wehrmacht and customs officials, female guards as well as a few prison functionaries and company employees stood before the court as suspects .

Testa process

The first trial in the Curiohaus was from March 1 to 8, 1946 against three people from the Tesch & Stabenow (Testa) company, which Zyklon B had also delivered to concentration camps. They were accused of having supplied poison gas for the killing of Allied nationals " with full awareness that the gas mentioned will be used in this way." According to a testimony of an accountant of the company, who was referring to an undiscovered travel report of Dr. Bruno Tesch related, he would even have suggested using his Zyklon B to kill people.

Bruno Tesch and his authorized signatory Karl Weinbacher were sentenced to death; Joachim Drosihn was acquitted. The requests for clemency signed by numerous people were rejected and the two convicts were hanged on May 16, 1946 in Hameln penitentiary .

Further processes

From 17 to 21 October 1945 the after the main accused was held in Curiohaus Lieutenant named Heinz-Wilhelm Eck Eck process under way, where the events after the sinking of the Greek cargo ship Peleus by the commanding Eck German submarine U 852 in the The night of March 13-14, 1944. In addition to Eck, the second officer August Hoffmann, the on-board doctor Walter Weispfenning, the chief engineer Hans Richard Lenz and the seaman Wolfgang Schwenker were accused of targeting life rafts floating in the water and also of survivors following the sinking of Peleus on Eck's orders . Sinking the rafts was supposed to ruin the survivors' chances of rescuing them in order to prevent the submarine from being discovered. The trial ended with Eck, Hoffmann and Weispfenning being sentenced to death, which were carried out by shooting on November 30, 1945 despite appeals for clemency. The other two defendants received prison terms. This was the only war crimes trial conducted by the Allies against members of German submarine crews after the Second World War.

On April 16, 1948, the leader of the guard battalion from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp , SS-Hauptsturmführer Kurt Meyer , stood in front of his judges in the hall of the Curiohaus. He denied allegations of ill-treating Allied prisoners and a Polish woman in Bergen-Belsen. He said that in his role he had no free access to the protective custody camp. The witness statements contradicted each other. His defense lawyer alleged a possible mix-up. Meyer was sentenced to life imprisonment in the third Bergen-Belsen trial negotiated here , but was released early in 1954.

The defendants of the seven Ravensbrück trials were also tried at this location.

Furthermore, from October 11, 1948, the SS-Obersturmbannführer Fritz Knöchlein was in the curio house of court. He was charged because members of the 3rd Company under his command in the 2nd SS Totenkopf Regiment (motorized) of the SS Totenkopf Division had about 100 British prisoners of war who had fallen into the hands of the SS on May 27, 1940 shot in the Le Paradis massacre . Knöchlein was also found guilty and hanged on January 21, 1949 in Hameln.

From August 23, 1949 to December 19, 1949, field marshal Erich von Manstein was negotiated here. It was the last allied war crimes trial.

Legal basis

The basis for the British military trials against German war criminals was the so-called royal order of June 14, 1945. The legal principle nulla poena sine lege was not violated here because only the international law valid at the time of the crime was applied. The court consisted of three senior military officials, a substitute judge and a legal adviser without voting rights. The hearing was public. Appeal was not possible; Appeals for clemency were decided by the Minister of War or an authorized major general.

Only two groups of perpetrators were charged in these military trials: first, those who violated martial law to the detriment of British citizens, and second, those who committed crimes against allied forces in the territory of the British occupation zone.

The legal term crimes against humanity was still unknown to British military trials. According to the new German legal interpretation, participation in an extermination program is sufficient for a conviction for aiding and abetting murder, whereby the accused does not have to prove a specific individual offense. The Allied jurisprudence had chosen such an approach.


  • Kurt Buck: The early post-war processes (= contributions to the history of National Socialist persecution in Northern Germany 3). Published by the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. Edition Temmen, Bremen 1997, ISBN 3-86108-322-1 .
  • Angelika Ebbinghaus : The Trial against Tesch and Stabenow - From Pest Control to the Holocaust. In: 1999. Journal for Social History of the 20th and 21st Century. 13, 2, 1998, ISSN  0930-9977 , pp. 16-71.
  • Jürgen Kalthoff, Martin Werner: The dealers of the Zyklon B. Tesch & Stabenow. A company history between Hamburg and Auschwitz. VSA-Verlag, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-87975-713-5 ; see also
  • Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial (Ed.): The Hamburg Curiohaus Trials. Nazi war crimes before British military courts. Texts, photos and documents. Hamburg 2017 Description and details on the boards
  • Oliver von Wrochem : The confrontation with Wehrmacht crimes in the trial against Field Marshal Erich von Manstein in 1949. In: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswwissenschaft 46, 4, 1998, ISSN  0044-2828 , pp. 329-353, (charges / verdict / release from prison / public).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Hans Herlin : Damned Atlantic - Fates of German submarine drivers. 11th edition. Wilhelm Heyne Verlag Munich, 1979, ISBN 3-453-00173-7 , pp. 205-279.
  2. Alexandra-Eileen Wenck: Crimes as 'fulfillment of duty'? The prosecution of Nazi violent crimes using the example of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In: Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial (ed.): The early post-war processes. Bremen 1997, ISBN 3-86108-322-1 , p. 44.
  3. Gerald Reitlinger , The SS. Alibi of a Nation, 1922–1945. Arms and Armor Press, London 1985. ISBN 0-85368-187-2 , pp. 148f.
  4. ^ Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial (Ed.): The Hamburg Curiohaus Trials. Nazi war crimes before British military courts. Texts, photos and documents. Hamburg 2017, p. 66.