Introduction&Conclusion

The holocaust gave rise to a wave of brutality and horror. The vast majority of the atrocities committed during this time occurred in the Nazi death camps. Our website is designed to analyze the brutal and horrific actions of Irma Grese during the Nazis extermination of the Jews in the death camps. Grese was the most notoriously cruel female guards at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and assisted other monsters within the Nazi Regime, the most famous being Joseph Mengele.

On this site you will find primary and secondary sources that will show not only the abominable actions of Irma Grese, but also her unwillingness to admit that anything she did was wrong. The articles of Clare Raymond, Edgar Lustgarten, and John Ezard primarily establish the terrible actions of Irma Grese within the camps. This is established through witness reports as well as evidence found at the camps that clearly paint Grese as a sadistic killer. Irma’s court transcripts demonstrate her unwillingness to admit that anything she had done was wrong, despite her imminent execution. Irma Grese, although notoriously cruel, was only one of many sadistic killers that arose out of the Nazis concentration camps.

Secondary Sources on Irma Grese

The Secondary Sources below show the ruthless, brutal woman Irma Grese was.  Irma Grese showed no guilt for her actions and only because of relationships she had with a few of the higher up men in Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen, and other Nazi concentration camps did she even deny the charges in an effort to cover for the commanders.  The sources hint toward her joy while committing murders and that she might have had too much power at such a young age.

Nazi She-Devils

The following article by Clare Raymond discusses a few specific Nazi perpetrators, including Irma Grese.   Also it discusses how photographs, films, documents, and sound recordings can give different insights to past events.  The author, along with authors of many other pieces about Irma Grese, argues that Grese was a ruthless being and never showed guilt for the crimes she committed.   In fact it is presented that Grese denied any wrong doings up to the time of her death by hanging.  This lack of remorse can be better understood by seeing the photographs of Grese before her execution.  It is one example of how audio or visual documentation can help people better understand emotional feelings from situations.  Raymond also uses testimonies of camp survivors to better portray the SS camp supervisor who gives no thoughts to killing inmates whenever she desires.  All the evidence combined allows Raymond to show exactly why Irma Grese, and her fellow perpetrators, were in fact “Nazi She-Devils.”

Raymond, Clare. “Nazi She-Devils.” Mirror News. November 21, 2005. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2005/11/21/nazi-she-devils-115875-16393907/ (accessed October 20, 2011).

Beast of Belsen and his lover in Nuremberg exhibit

This article focused mainly on the Imperial War Museum and its introduction of a letter that showed Josef Kramer, a Nazi camp commandant and lover of Irma Grese, had knowledge of the deaths of prison inmates. Kramer allegedly denied the claims that prisoners were dying in the camps, but the letter revealed that he had known that prisoners were dying in the camps. The letter was shown at the Nuremberg trials in 1946. The letter is written by Kramer to SS guards to let them know that there would be punishment if any letters were smuggled out by prisoners that told of the deaths that were taking place in the concentration camps. The letter states that previously there had been a letter that had escaped and that any letter that escaped was detrimental to the Nazi internal relations.

The article also talks about the horrific acts committed by Irma Grese while stationed at Auschwitz. It also briefly mentions the other members who were sentenced to hang at the Nuremberg trials. Also it talks about the camp doctor, Josef Mengele, Mengele was also a lover of Irma Grese. He conducted many genetic experiences on living inmates during his stay at the camp.

Ezard, John. “Beast of Belsen and his lover in Nuremberg exhibit.” The Guardian. November 20, 2005. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/nov/21/secondworldwar.world (accessed October 20, 2011).

The Business of Murder

Edgar Lustgarten analyzed a number of murders, including Irma Grese, in his book The Business of Murder. Lustgarten argues that Irma Grese and the others actively enjoyed the murdering of many helpless individuals. He is appalled by the wretched behaviors and actions of Irma Grese and others. The chapter is compiled of firsthand accounts, testimony of many individuals, and pieces from the trial of Irma Grese. The author tries to examine and explore how Grese transformed into a monster for her atrocious killing reputation. The Book provides new evidence into the ruthless behaviors of Irma Grese. She enjoyed the mass murders and the mutilation of many people. Anyone should feel repulsion towards the horrors and atrocities Irma Grese committed.

Lustgarten, Edgar. The Business of Murder. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968.

Evil or Ordinary Women: the Female Auxiliaries of the Holocaust

Kimberly Partee takes a different approach towards the women perpetrators who were involved in the Concentration Camps. She argues that not all of the women, who were involved, were as evil as Irma Grese.  Partee argues that only a small percentage was as evil and cruel. Even though the author analyzes the women differently, she provides detailed information into how many women became workers in the camps. The  process that the women took in order for them to become the evil women perpetrators.  The author provides a glimpse into the brutal behavior and treatment of Irma Grese and many other women.

Partee, Kimberly. “Evil or Ordinary Women: the Female Auxiliaries of the Holocaust.” Google Scholar User Content . n.d. http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:JT_uCzzPpXAJ:scholar.google.com/+kimberly+partee&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5 (accessed October 19, 2011).

Irma Grese

This source claims that Irma Grese’s actions in the National Socialist concentration camps was due to her young age, and that she had too much power over others. It also discusses her attitude near the time of her death. She did not show remorse for her actions. This can be deduced from the fact that she was singing the night before her execution, and because she told her executioner to hurry up.

Irma Grese was one the most notorious of the female Nazi war criminals and was one of the relatively small number of women who had worked in the concentration camps that were hanged for war crimes by the Allies. She became the youngest woman executed under British jurisdiction in the 20th century and was also the youngest of the concentration camp guards to be hanged.

Early days.
Irma’s childhood was unremarkable, she was born on the 7th of October 1923, to a normal, hardworking, agricultural family and left school in 1938 at the age of 15. She worked on a farm for six months, then in a shop, and later for two years in a hospital. She wanted to become a nurse but the Labour Exchange sent her to work at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp instead.
Like many other young people, she was swayed by Hitler’s oratory and shocked by the corruption of the Weimar Republic government. She joined a Nazi youth group and wholeheartedly embraced their ideas.
At age 19, she found herself a supervisor at Ravensbrück which was used as a training camp for many female SS guards, just at the time the Nazi anti-Jewish programmes were at their height in July 1942. In March 1943 she was transferred to Auschwitz. She later did a further spell at Ravensbrück and then went to Bergen-Belsen in March 1945. Irma rose to the rank of Oberaufseherin (Senior SS-Supervisor) in the autumn of 1943, in day to day control of around 30,000 women prisoners, mainly Polish and Hungarian Jews. She was the second most senior female guard there.

Her crimes and trial.
Belsen was liberated by the British and Irma along with the camp’s Commandant, Joseph Kramer, and other guards were all arrested. He and 44 of the others were indicted for war crimes by a British Military Court, under Royal Warrant of the 14th of June 1945, on various charges of murder and ill treatment of their prisoners at Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps. The first phase of the Belsen Trials, as they were known, took place at No. 30 Lindentrasse, Lüneburg in Germany between the 17th of September and the 17th of November 1945. All the accused were represented by counsel. Irma being defended by Major L.S.W. Cranfield.

Irma pleaded not guilty to the specific charges brought against her. Many of the survivors of Belsen testified against Irma. (see photo at her trial wearing her number.) They spoke of the beatings and the arbitrary shooting of prisoners, the savaging of prisoners by her trained and half starved dogs, of her selecting prisoners for the gas chambers and of her sexual pleasure at these acts of cruelty. She habitually wore heavy boots and carried a whip and a pistol.
She was alleged to have used both physical and emotional methods to torture the camp’s inmates and seemed to enjoy shooting prisoners in cold blood. It was claimed that she beat some of the women to death and whipped others mercilessly using a plaited cellophane whip. Survivors reported that she seemed to derive great sexual pleasure from these acts of sadism.
It has been claimed that in her hut was found the skins of three inmates that she had had made into lamp shades, although this is now disputed.
She said in her defense that “Himmler is responsible for all that has happened but I suppose I have as much guilt as the others above me.”
On the 54th day of the trial she was, not surprisingly, found guilty on both counts one and two of the indictment. Of the defendants found guilty, eight men and three women were sentenced to death and 19 to various terms of imprisonment. The President of the court passed sentence on the female defendants as follows: “No. 6 Bormann, 7, Volkenrath, 9, Grese. The sentence of this court is that you suffer death by being hanged.” She showed little emotion throughout her trial and none when the death sentence was translated into German for her as “Tode durch den Strang,” literally death by the rope. The prisoners were returned to Luneberg prison. Eight of the condemned, including Irma, appealed to Field-Marshal Montgomery but all had their appeals for clemency rejected.  This was announced on Saturday the 8th of December and all eleven moved from Luneburg prison to Hameln the following day.  Elizabeth Volkenrath and Juana Bormann chose not to appeal their sentences.

Execution.
The hangings were to take place in Hameln (Hamelin) jail in Wesfalia. The British Army’s Royal Engineers constructed a gallows there and the eleven condemned were housed in a row of tiny cells along a corridor with the execution chamber at its end, together with two other men who had been condemned by the War Crimes Commission.  It has been reported that there were two gallows but I think this is incorrect and that it was a double gallows, i.e. the trap was big enough to hang two prisoners side by side.
Albert Pierrepoint was flown over specially to carry out the executions and their hangings were planned for Friday, December the 13th, 1945. The women were to be hanged individually and the men in pairs to speed up the process.

In Pierrepoint’s biography, he describes the events leading up to Irma’s execution and the hanging itself as follows :
“At last we finished noting the details of the men, and RSM O’Neil ordered ‘bring out Irma Grese’. She walked out of her cell and came towards us laughing. She seemed as bonny a girl as one could ever wish to meet. She answered O’Neil’s questions, but when he asked her age she paused and smiled. I found that we were both smiling with her, as if we realised the conventional embarrassment of a woman revealing her age. Eventually she said ‘twenty-one,’ which we knew to be correct. O’Neil asked her to step on to the scales. ‘Schnell!’ she said – the German for quick.”  In Britain prison warders and medical staff would have been responsible for weighing and measuring the condemned prior to execution but on this occasion Albert Pierrepoint and RSM O’Neil had to do it.  Irma was 5 feet 51/4 inches tall and weighed 150 lbs. She was given a drop of 7 feet 4 inches.

According to Pierrepoint’s biography it was decided that as Irma was the youngest of the three women, she would be the first to die. However in the press release from Field-Marshal Montgomery’s office after the executions it was stated that she was the second to be hanged, after Elizabeth Volkenrath.  The first execution took place at 9.34 a.m. and the second at 10.03 a.m. and the third, that of Juana Bormann at 10.38 a.m.  Brigadier Paton-Walsh was the British officer in charge of the executions and with him was the deputy governor of Strangeways prison, Miss Wilson, to oversee the hanging of the three women.  “The following morning we climbed the stairs to the cells where the condemned were waiting. A German officer at the door leading to the corridor flung open the door and we filed past the row of faces and into the execution chamber. The officers stood at attention. Brigadier Paton-Walsh stood with his wristwatch raised. He gave me the signal, and a sigh of released breath was audible in the chamber, I walked into the corridor. ‘Irma Grese,’ I called.
The German guards quickly closed all grills on twelve of the inspection holes and opened one door. Irma Grese stepped out. The cell was far too small for me to go inside, and I had to pinion her in the corridor. ‘Follow me,’ I said in English, and O’Neil repeated the order in German. At 9.34 a.m. she walked into the execution chamber, gazed for a moment at the officials standing round it, then walked on to the centre of the trap, where I had made a chalk mark. She stood on this mark very firmly, and as I placed the white cap over her hand she said in her languid voice ‘Schnell’. The drop crashed down, and the doctor followed me into the pit and pronounced her dead. After twenty minutes the body was taken down and placed in a coffin ready for burial.”  It has recently been revealed that some of the prisoners were given pericardial injections of chloroform to stop their hearts beating and obviate the need to leave them suspended for an hour which was normal practice in England. It is not known whether this was done to the women although Irma’s body was able to be removed from the rope after 20 minutes.

Comment.
The precise extent of her crimes is not easy to be certain of – it is impossible to know exactly how many prisoners Irma Grese killed, tortured, whipped or in other ways assaulted although all the witnesses claim it was a very large number. Bear in mind that at that time in Britain, she could have been hanged for just one murder.
But what drives a teenage girl to behave in this awful fashion?
She admitted that she regarded the inmates of the concentration camps as “dreck”, i.e. subhuman rubbish and like you or I may kill an insect without feeling guilty about it, she saw nothing inherently wrong in what she was doing. At her trial, she denied selecting prisoners for the gas chambers although she did admit she knew of their existence. She did admit to whipping prisoners with the cellophane whip and also to beating them with a walking stick, despite knowing that both practices were contrary to the camp rules.

Hers is a classic case of what happens when an immature person is given total charge of a large number of people who are viewed by those in authority as totally expendable. No one seemed to care how many of the concentration camp inmates were killed or beaten by her even though there were nominal rules against mistreatment of prisoners. So Irma had, effectively, freehand to kill and torture to her heart’s content. She clearly felt that she was carrying out the Hitler’s and Himmler’s policies, which in her mind largely exempted her from responsibility for her actions.

It has been said that Nazism replaced this young girl’s normal sex life and that her sexuality manifested itself in the brutal and sadistic treatment of her female prisoners. But for the conditions of war prevailing at this time in her life, one wonders whether Irma would have kept her sexual/sadistic impulses contained or just acted them out in sexual fantasies with her partner. She may well have grown up and become a respectable citizen, wife and mother had she lived under normal peacetime conditions.

It is clear that she accepted her fate with great courage – perhaps she felt she was dying for her country – almost a form of martyrdom – perhaps she felt that it was the best way out for her as Germany had lost the war.

“Irma Grese.” Capital Punishment UK. n.d. http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/irma.html (accessed October 15, 2011).

CASE No. 10. THE BELSEN TRIAL: TRIAL OF JOSEF KRAMER AND 44 OTHERS BRITISH MILITARY COURT, LUNEBURG, 17TH SEPTEMBER-17TH NOVEMBER, 1945 Part V

Stuart Stein gives a synopsis of the Belsen trials and information on what Grese’s duties at the camps were.  In the document at one point she says that she carried a revolver because she had to and then later said that she never carried a weapon, and then she only carried a whip.  There were other cases where her story would change about something.  The similarity was that she always seemed to defend Kramer and say that he had nothing to do with anything bad or he did not even know about it.

Irma Grese

This accused said that she went to Auschwitz in March, 1943, and remained there until 18th January, 1945. At first she did telephone duties in the Block Leader’s room. Then she was put in charge of the Strafkommando (Punishment Party) for two days. After this she worked on another Kommando and later censored mail. Then she became an Overseer in lager C. She only carried a revolver because she was ordered to do so. She never struck anyone so as to cause bleeding or unconsciousness, nor did she kick any prisoners on the ground, or shoot at prisoners. She never took part in selections at Auschwitz, but agreed that selections were made. Szafran’s allegations were untrue.(Footnote 1: See p. 13.) Jews were nearly always paraded naked for the gas selection. Her duty at these parades was to keep order, and she admitted that she beat prisoners for running away. She did not know at the time the purpose of the parades. She did not remember the events described She admitted that she beat people in Lager C with a whip made by Stein. (Footnote 2: See p. 14.) of cellophane and with a stick, and that even carrying whips was against Kramer’s orders. She gave Overseers under her orders to beat prisoners in order to keep discipline and to prevent stealing in the camp of which she was in charge, but she was not authorised to do this. When prisoners tried to evade parades she thrashed them.

Her answer to Rozenwayg’s story (Footnote 3: See pI 16.) was that she had never been with Lothe on an outside working party, and she never had a dog. Ilse Lothe did not work under her as a kapo. Grese denied the truth of the stories told by Watinik, Diament, Kopper, Lobowitz and Trieger, (Footnote 4: See pp. 25,29,35 and 37) and thought that Dunklemann’s account  (Footnote 5: Seep, 26)  of an alleged beating was, if true at all,

p.47

grossly exaggerated. She denied that she made prisoners hold their hands up above their heads with stones in them. She said that the deponent Catherine Neiger (Footnote 1: See p. 31) was never in her camp.

She came to Belsen in March, 1945. Transports were arriving almost daily, the camp was overcrowded and the prisoners were dirty and ill. Roll-calls were held twice a week. She took over the duty of Arbeitsdienstfüherin and went into the woods with working parties, and performed various other duties. She did not beat anyone in Belsen except a kapo who did not work but lay in the sun. She never had any kind of weapon at Belsen, and only struck with her hand. Regarding Sunschein’s and Klein’s allegation, (Footnote 2: See pp. 17 and 20.) she said that she once saw two parcels which contained meat being thrown away by someone in a group of prisoners. She asked who had done this, and as they would not answer she said that they must make sport until they did. The prisoners made sport for half an hour and then she was told who had thrown the parcels away. She did not report this incident as she thought that the prisoners had been sufficiently punished. Frieda Walter and Irene Haschke, said Grese, worked in No. 3 kitchen at Belsen.

Stein, S.D.“CASE No. 10. THE BELSEN TRIAL: TRIAL OF JOSEF KRAMER AND 44 OTHERS BRITISH MILITARY COURT, LUNEBURG, 17TH SEPTEMBER-17TH NOVEMBER, 1945 Part V”Law-Reports of Trials of War Criminals, The United Nations War Crimes Commission, Volume II, London, HMSO, 1947. http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/WCC/belsen5.htm#12.%20Irma%20Grese (accessed October 01, 2011)

Primary Sources for Irma Grese

Photograph of Irma Grese

irma.grese Click here for photo!

This photograph is a bust shot of Irma Grese who was considered to be very beautiful in her time. This photo shows that she could have been pretty at one time, but suggests that she has lost some of her beauty, possibly in the process of participating in the brutal abuse and murders in Nazi death camps.

Smart, Victor. “Irma Grese:Experts from the Belson Trial and Biography.” Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. 2008. http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/trials/grese.html (accessed October 10, 2011).

Irma Grese with Bergen Belsen Commandant Josef Kramer

grese.kramer Click here for photo!

The photograph of Irma Grese with Josef Kramer, the Commandant of Bergen-Belsen, shows the two being guarded by an Allied officer after the liberation of the concentration camp. Both were tried in the first war crimes trials to take place after the war for crimes committed at Bergen Belsen and other camps during the Second World War.

Smart, Victor. “Irma Grese:Experts from the Belson Trial and Biography.” Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. 2008. http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/trials/grese.html (accessed October 10, 2011).

Transcript of Irma Grese’s Sister’s testimony at the Bergen Belsen trial

This is the testimony given by Helene Grese against her sister Irma, at the first Bergen-Belsen trial.

HELENE GRESE, sworn, examined by Major CRANFIELD – I am the sister of Irma Grese, 20 years old, and live at Wrecken in Wreckensburg. My father was an agricultural worker, and I have two sisters and two brothers. My mother died in 1936. When she was 14 years old, my sister Irma worked on the farm of a peasant in a village near where we lived. From the time that she entered the Concentration Camp Service I saw her twice. In 1943 she came home on leave, and the only thing she told us about her work was that her duties consisted in supervising prisoners so that they should not escape. I saw her when she left Auschwitz in 1945, and she told me that she had been working for a considerable period in a sort of a post office, receiving and distributing mail, and that sometimes she had been detailed to guard duties.

From your knowledge of your sister, do you think her a person likely to beat the prisoners under her charge? – No. In our schooldays when, as it sometimes happens, girls were quarrelling and fighting, my sister had never the courage to fight, but on the contrary she ran away.

Cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE – When your sister went to work on the farm when she was 14, how long did she stay there? – About six months to a year.

Where did she go from there? – She went to Hohenluchen as a sort of nurse, and then to a small dairy in Fürstenberg, where she worked, I believe, twelve to eighteen months.

Did she go straight from there into the S.S.? – Yes, in 1942 she went to Ravensbrück, which was very near us.

How long before 1943 was it since you had seen your sister? – In spring, 1942, when she was working in the dairy.

When she came home in 1943, did your father give her a thrashing? – I did not see that, but he was quarrelling with her because she was in the S.S.

Did he forbid her to come to the house again? – I do not know. She never came again.

Was not that because she told you what she did at Ravensbrück? – I do not know why.

You would be 16 at that time; you never asked your sister what she was doing in the concentration camp, and she never told you? – She told us she was supervising the prisoners working inside the compound, and she had to see that they were doing their work well and that they did not escape. We asked her: “What do the prisoners get for food, and why have they been sent to a concentration camp?” and she answered that she was not allowed to talk to the prisoners and did not know what sort of food they got.

Why did your father lose his temper with her? – Because he was very much against her being in the S.S. We all wanted to belong to the Bund Deutscher Mädchen, but he never allowed us to do so. I have not seen my father since April, 1945.

“War Crimes Trials – Vol. II The Belsen Trial. ‘The Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty Four Others’.” Bergen Belsen. 2006. http://www.bergenbelsen.co.uk/pages/Trial/Trial/TrialDefenceCase/Trial_036_Grese.html#IrmaGrese (accessed October 11, 2011).

Transcript of Irma Grese’s interrogation during the Bergen Belsen Trial

This is the transcript of the interrogation of Irma Grese at her trial at the Bergen-Belsen Trials.

IRMA GRESE, sworn, examined by Major CRANFIELD – I was born on 7th October, 1923. In 1938 I left the elementary school and worked for six months on agricultural jobs at a farm, after which I worked in a shop in Luchen for six months. When I was 15 I went to a hospital in Hohenluchen, where I stayed for two years. I tried to become a nurse but the Labour Exchange would not allow that and sent me to work in a dairy in Fürstenberg. In July, 1942, I again tried to become a nurse, but the Labour Exchange sent me to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, although I protested against it. I stayed there until March, 1943, when I went to Birkenau Camp in Auschwitz. I remained in Auschwitz until January, 1945.

Will you tell the Court the various duties you did during the period you were at Auschwitz? – At first I did telephone duties in the Blockführer’s room. For two days I was transferred as a sort of light punishment to be in charge of the Strafkommando which carried stones from outside into the camp. During 1943 I had the Strassenbaukommando, and I also had the gardening working party for about two months in the autumn. In December, 1943, I was in the parcels office censoring mail in place of Volkenrath, and from May until December, 1944, I was in Compound “C.” I was transferred then for about two weeks to Auschwitz No. 1 to be in charge of two blocks in the men’s compound, where prisoners went to work during the day. I left Auschwitz on 18th January, 1945, for Ravensbrück, and in the following March came to Belsen.

You were in charge of the Strassenbaukommando; do you remember whether the accused Kopper was in that Kommando or not? – No, I am quite sure she was not there.

Apart from being in charge of this Kommando and the Strafkommando carrying stones, were you at any time at Auschwitz in charge of any other punishment Kommando? – No.

When you were in “C” Lager, were there any other Aufseherinnen there? – Another six or seven who were changed every week. I was the senior.

How many blocks and how many prisoners were there in “C” Lager? – Twenty-eight blocks where prisoners were accommodated, one block for food, food stores, one office, company office, two stores with underwear and clothing, two or three blocks for latrines and two wash-houses. There were approximately 30000 prisoners, all of whom were Hungarians, whilst the Blockältesten were Czechoslovaks. The prisoners came and went, the highest number being 30000 but I generally had about 20000. Although the prisoners changed in numbers, the number of Aufseherinnen remained the same. When the transports arrived the prisoners had been already selected and they were found fit for work. They went into the wash – house, washed, had their hair cut and then were distributed.

You have told us that there were 28 living huts, how many persons could they properly accommodate? – The normal accommodation would have been for 100 or a maximum of 300, but I had to take in 1000 in each block because the camp was overcrowded. In some of the blocks there were bunks large enough for five people to sleep in, but in most of the blocks there were neither beds nor bunks.

How did the prisoners behave? – In the beginning when there were smaller numbers of them and they had sufficient to eat they were quite all right. Later on when I had twenty to thirty thousand they behaved like animals, when food was a bit more scarce. Then at food distribution when people carried the food from the kitchen to the blocks, at nearly every corner there were 20 or 30 people who waited to pounce upon them and take the food away. With regard to sanitary conditions, in the beginning it was quite all right, but later on when the camp was overcrowded wherever you went it was just as if the prisoners thought that any place was good enough for a latrine, and the proper latrines were ruined by throwing all sorts of stuff into them, and then they simply ceased to function.

How old were you at this time, when you were in “C” Lager? – Twenty.

Did you carry a stick at Auschwitz? – Yes, an ordinary walking-stick.

Did you carry a whip at Auschwitz? – Yes, made out of cellophane it in the weaving factory in the camp. It was a very light whip, but if I hit somebody with it, it would hurt. After eight days Kommandant Kramer prohibited the whips, but we nevertheless went on using them. I never carried a rubber truncheon.

Did you, at Belsen, carry any kind of weapon? – No.

Will you explain to the Court on what occasions you struck prisoners, and the reason why you did it? – In the beginning I did not use anything at all, but later on, when the crowds in Camp “C” became larger, then a great deal was stolen and prisoners did not obey my orders, even when they were quite light orders. Every day there were complaints of things stolen in the kitchen, and I put two Aufseherinnen in charge and gave them orders to keep their eyes open and whenever they found somebody on the spot who stole anything, to give them a good thrashing. In the beginning every prisoner had two blankets, but when the crowds became bigger I had to see that everybody got a blanket and therefore each prisoner only got one. We found they had cut up all those blankets and made all sorts of things out of them – shoes, jackets, etc. I gave strict orders that everything which had been made out of blankets was to be returned at once, but I got nothing at all, so then I ordered the control of all the blocks and also personal searches of the prisoners. On those occasions I used my whip. The Jewish Lagerälteste gave the signal for parades, but there were always prisoners who tried to evade them, and when I found the numbers were not right I gave orders to the Aufseherin to count again and again until those who were missing had been found, and I said the parades would go on until the number was right.

Have you ever taken an individual prisoner and beaten her until she was bleeding or fell senseless to the ground, or have you ever kicked a prisoner whom you have struck to the ground? – Never.

At Belsen, have you ever struck a prisoner at all? – Yes, but only with my hand. The condition of the prisoners was so bad that one had almost a horror of them.

You heard Volkenrath describe the occasion on which an S.S. woman called Buchhalter was punished. Were you present? – Yes. Kommandant Hoess ordered me to give her the last two of the 25 strokes with which she was punished by the order of Reichsführer Himmler. I was then 20.

When you were in “C” Lager, where did the orders come from for Appelle? – For the roll-call for counting purposes it was I who gave the orders. The signal was a blow on a special whistle given either by the Aufseherin, Lagerälteste or the Kapo.

Where did the order come from for what we call “selection parades”? – That came by telephone from a Rapportführerin or from Oberaufseherin Dreschel.

When the order came were you told what the parade was for? – No.

What were the prisoners supposed to do when the whistle went? – Fall in in fives, and it was my duty to see that they did so. Dr. Mengele then came and made the selection. As I was responsible for the camp my duties were to know how many were leaving and I had to count them, and I kept the figures in a strength book. After the selection took place they were sent into “B” Camp, and Dreschel telephoned and told me that they had gone to another camp in Germany for working purposes or for special treatment, which I thought to be the gas chamber. I then put in my strength book either so many for transfer to Germany to another camp, or so many for S.B. (Sonder Behandlung). It was well known to the whole camp that S.B. meant the gas chamber.

Were you ever told anything about the gas chamber by your senior officers? – No, the prisoners told me about it.

You have been accused of choosing prisoners on these parades and sending them to the gas chamber. Have you done that? – No; I knew that prisoners were gassed.

Did you carry a pistol at Auschwitz, in Camp “C”? – Yes. It was rather dangerous in the last months to be without a pistol because of the partisans, and I carried it only for self-protection. It was not loaded. I did not carry a pistol at Belsen and have never fired at a prisoner. I fired a sporting gun into the air on New Year’s Eve.

At Auschwitz did you ever have a dog? – No. There were trained dogs there, but I had nothing to do with them.

Did you ever order prisoners to kneel down at an Appell? – Yes, because we could not properly count; they were running to and fro.

The witness, Szafran, has accused you of beating a girl at Belsen with a riding crop about a fortnight before the British troops arrived, and also that at Auschwitz during a selection two girls jumped out of the window and you shot them while they were lying on the ground. Is that true? – I never shot at all at any prisoner.

The witness Stein told us that at a selection in the summer of 1944 some prisoners tried to hide, but that you saw them, told somebody, and a woman was shot. It was suggested that the woman was shot by an S.S. man on guard. Had you any authority to issue orders to an S.S. guard? – No.

The same witness alleged there was an incident when a mother was talking to her daughter over the wire between two compounds, that you arrived on a bicycle and beat the mother so severely that she was lying on the ground where you kicked her? – I do not deny that I beat her, but I did not beat her until she fell to the ground, and I did not kick her either.

At Auschwitz did you wear a belt with your uniform? – No. I wore the belt and the pistol together.

Stein accused you of setting your dog on to her when you were on a Kommando with the accused Lothe at Auschwitz? – I have never been with Lothe on an outside working party, and, secondly, I never had a dog.

Neiger in her deposition alleges that Appelle were from 0300 hours to 0900 hours. At Auschwitz what was the light like at 0300 hours? – It was very dark. I never got up at 3 o’clock.

Did you ever order the prisoners in your charge to stand holding a large stone above their heads in each hand? – No. I must add that Katherine Neiger was not a single second in my camp, and has never been in my camp.

You have been accused of having shot a Hungarian Jewess outside one of the blocks during the arrival of a transport. Is that true? – I do not deny that the woman had been shot, but I do deny that she was shot by me. I do not know whether it is the same incident, but I remember in Camp “C” a woman was shot by a guard from a watch tower, but whether it is the same woman I cannot say.

Have you at Auschwitz ever been in charge of a Kommando working in a sand-pit, and have you ever sent prisoners to cross a wire in order to be shot? – Never.

Will you tell the Court what the conditions at Belsen were like when you arrived there at the beginning of March this year, and what they were between then and the arrival of the British? – Transports arrived almost daily and the camp was very much overcrowded. I was horrified because the prisoners were so dirty and so ill. I had to attend the roll call twice a week, and every time I came back from the camp I felt horrified.

One of the witnesses who came here told of you “making sport ” with a Kommando for half an hour. If that is true, can you remember why you did that? – Yes. I was in my office looking out of the window and saw a group of kitchen workers coming back who were stopped by the Aufseherin. I saw two parcels wrapped in paper thrown away and on looking at these I found that each of them consisted of at least two pounds of meat from the kitchen. I promised the Kommando that I would not report them or do any harm to them if I was told who had thrown these parcels away. They all kept silent and then I said, “Well, then, we have to make sport until the person who has thrown these parcels away tells us about it.” We did this for about half an hour, and then some of the prisoners told us who had thrown these parcels away. I did not report this incident as I thought they had been punished enough. I had no riding whip and I did not beat them. I had seen this kind of collective punishment before, but had not ordered it myself. Extra parades and extra drills are a recognised form of punishment in the German service.

At Auschwitz, did you ever consult or plan with Kramer, Klein or Hoessler as to who was to go to the gas chamber? – We never talked about these things. Kramer, Klein and Hoessler were my superior officers, and if Kramer came into the camp I had to make out my report as was my duty, and nothing else.

Have you ever planned with Kramer or any other person now in the dock to put to death in any way or to ill-treat deliberately any person at Auschwitz? – No. I am not capable of making plans and I never made a plan to kill prisoners.

Have you ever planned with them the death or deliberate ill-treatment of a prisoner at Belsen? – Never.

Cross-examined by Lieutenant JEDRZEJOWICZ – Was Dreschel the Aufseherin who was in charge of the whole women’s camp in Auschwitz, and was she a severe woman? – Yes, very severe.

Were the prisoners, Blockältesten and Lagerältesten afraid of her in the same way? – Yes.

Who was in a position to withhold food in Belsen Camp as a punishment? – The Kommandant.

Are you quite sure that the Blockaltester or the Lagerältester was not in a position, had no right, no power whatever to withhold food as a punishment for his block or Lager? – Yes.

Twenty-seventh Day – Wednesday, 17th October, 1945

IRMA GRESE, cross-examined by Colonel BACKHOUSE – You said you went to the hospital at Hohenluchen and wanted to be a nurse there. Was that run by the S.S.? – When I was there it was a sports sanatorium. Later on it became S.S.

After you left there and went to work in this dairy what were you paid? – 40 to 60 marks per month.

What did you get at Ravensbrück? – 54 marks per month.

Why did you get so much less than the others? – Because I was only 18.

Is Ehlert right when she says it was terribly severe at Ravensbrück? -Yes.

There was a lot of beating of prisoners there, was there not? – I did not see it.

An S.S. woman who did not behave badly to the prisoners was punished or moved, was she not? – I do not know.

At the end of your training at Ravensbrück when you went home and told your father what you had been doing , did you quarrel with him and did he turn you out of the house? – Yes.

At Auschwitz when you were a telephone operator did you have to take your turn in looking after the prisoners before they went out in the morning and when they came back in the evening ?-Yes.

Were you not in charge of a Strafkommando out of the camp for a great deal longer than you have told us? – No.

You know Kopper quite well. Was she not at Auschwitz whilst you were there for a long time, and with you all the time you were at Belsen? – Yes.

She would hardly mistake you for somebody else, would she? – I do not know.

Were you not in charge of a Strafkommando employed on working at a sand-pit? – I explained already that I was in charge for two days of a Strafkommando which was working in bringing in stones from outside the camp, and that was a punishment for myself.

I know what you told us, and I am suggesting you did not tell us the truth. There was a great deal of sand brought into the camp, too, for the road, was there not? – I do not know.

You were with the Kommando that was building the roads; was there not a lot of concrete used in that camp, and had not the roads got a cement surface? – I do not know.

Do you not know what the prisoners were doing when you were in charge of the Kommando? – They were putting stones into the ground, and they were hammering it in for the purpose of road-making.

Is your story that you never saw the sand-pit true? – I have never seen it.

I suggest to you that when you were at the sand-pit there was a wire round it with guards at intervals, and that you used to amuse yourself by sending women outside the wire so that they would be shot by the guard? – No.

I suggest to you that you gave evidence at an enquiry against a guard who had refused to shoot people crossing the wire on the grounds that you had sent them over deliberately? – You can think what you like, but it is a lie, and it is wrong.

Do you remember two prisoners called Camina Stasika and Karola Miket? – No.

I suggest that both these women were in the same Kommando as the accused Kopper, and that that was the Kommando working under your direction in the sand-pit? – No.

Where did the gardening Kommando that you say you were in charge of work? – In the gardens belonging to the S.S. in Auschwitz No. 1, three-quarters of an hour’s walk from Birkenau.

Did the prisoners walk? – Yes.

You had a bicycle at Birkenau, did you not ride it? – It was prohibited to use the bicycle for outside working parties.

Did you not have a dog to guard these Kommandos? – No.

They were trained to guard these Kommandos going out of the camp. Why were you not allowed one? – I did not want to have one.

Could you just please yourself what you did in this camp? – No.

Let me put it to you that in fact you had a dog with you and when you were marching the party along, the dog used to round up stragglers? – I should know better whether I had a dog or not.

Triszinska in her affidavit says that she was a member of your Kommando for about five weeks, and that often they had to march about 15 kilometres to a place where they had to pick herbs for the kitchen. Is that right? – No.

Did you have any kitchen garden or vegetable garden for the camp? – Not in the camp. There were several kitchen gardens for the S.S. which my Kommando looked after.

Did they pick any herbs at all? – No.

When you were with this Kommando did you carry a stick? – No, it was not necessary.

I suggest to you that you used your stick to good purpose? – I say I never had a stick, with the exception of Camp “C.”

Did women sometimes have to be carried back to the camp by other women? – On the contrary, the women working in my Kommando were very strong. They were Russians, and there was no need at all to carry them back into the camp.

Why? Was that sometimes necessary with other women? – I never saw it.

I suggest that Ilse Lothe was the Kapo working under you? – Never.

And that when she complained about the witness Rozenwayg you set your dog on Rozenwayg? – As I had no dog I could not set it upon Rozenwayg.

You remember her giving evidence in the court and you remember Watinik saying in her affidavit that she saw you set your dog on Rozenwayg, who got bitten in the shoulder? – She might have seen that happen, a dog bite her shoulder, but I never had a dog and I never set a dog upon anybody.

I suggest this to you: that when you went out with these working parties you made a habit of beating women and of kicking them, and you enjoyed it? – And I say that you are badly informed about me, and that it is a big lie.

Your sister said that when you were a little girl you were frightened to stand up for yourself, and you ran away to avoid a fight. I now suggest to you that you found it great fun to hit somebody who could not hit back? – No.

Gertrud Diament in her deposition said that your favourite habit was to beat women until they fell to the ground and then kick them as hard as you could with your heavy boots? – That is a lie. Perhaps it is her habit to lie.

You affected heavy top-boots and you liked to walk round with a revolver strapped on your waist and a whip in your hand, did you not? – I did not like it.

You thought it was very clever to have a whip made in the factory and even when the Kommandant told you to stop using it you went on, did you not ? – Yes.

What was this whip really made of? – Cellophane paper plaited like a pigtail. It was translucent like white glass.

The type of whip you would use for a horse? – Yes.

Then most of these prisoners who said they saw you carrying a riding whip were not far wrong, were they? – No, they were not wrong.

Did the other Aufseherinnen have these whips made too? – No.

It was just your bright idea? – Yes.

In Lager “C ” you used to carry a walking-stick, too, and sometimes you beat people with the whip and sometimes with the stick? – Yes.

Were you allowed to beat people? – No.

So it was not a question of having orders from your superiors to do it. You did this against orders, did you? – Yes.

Were you the only person who beat prisoners against regulations? – I do not know.

Did you ever see anyone else beat prisoners? – Yes.

Did you sometimes get orders to do so? – No

Did you give orders to other Aufseherinnen working under you to beat prisoners? – Yes.

Had you the right to give such authorization? – No.

You went to Lager “C” in May, 1944; is that the time the gassings of the Hungarians began, when the transports were coming in day and night? – Yes.

The Kapos were Czechoslovaks, were they not? – Yes.

That was the practice at Auschwitz, was it not, to have the Aeltesten as far as possible of some other country? – No, it was nothing to do with that. Those Blockältesten I had in my camp knew their jobs from previous times. The Hungarians arrived 1000 per block and they would not have known how to organize the whole block.

Nobody could organize a block which was meant to hold at the most 200 if you put 1000 into it without beds, could they? – This overcrowding was only for one or two weeks.

Why? – Were they killed off pretty quickly? – Those people who came to me in Camp “C” were all strong people, fit for work and they went out on working parties.

Was it not quite simple to know whether or not the selection was for the gas chamber, because only Jews had to attend such selections? – I myself had only Jews in Camp “C.”

Then they would all have to attend the selection for the gas chamber, would they not? – Yes.

As you were told to wait for the doctors you would know perfectly well what it was for? – No.

When these people were parading they were very often paraded naked and inspected like cattle to see whether they were fit to work or fit to die, were they not? – Not like cattle.

You were there keeping order, were you not, and if one ran away you brought her back and gave her a beating? – Yes.

Lebowitz in her affidavit says she often saw you with Dr. Mengele selecting people for the gas chamber and for forced work in Germany, and that if you saw relations trying to get together in selections for forced work you beat them until they were unconscious and left them lying on the ground. Is that true? – It is true that when they ran away I brought them back and I might have beaten them, but it is imagination to say I have beaten them till they lay on the ground or until they were bleeding or perhaps until they were dead.

The witness Ilona Stein said that prisoners that tried to escape were shot if they got far, or were brought back and were terribly beaten till they bled all over the place, and were put back in their lines again. Is that true? – Why should one shoot people inside the camp? There is barbed wire around the camp so they cannot escape.

You remember an S.S. woman called Dreschel. As Rapportführerin did she attend selections with Dr. Mengele and sometimes the Kommandant? – Yes.

Stein said that on a particular occasion when Kramer, Dr. Mengele, Dreschel and yourself were present at a selection, some prisoners tried to hide and that you pointed them out to a guard, with the result that one was killed and one was badly wounded? – I do not know. I have not seen it.

Do you remember being on a selection in Camp “A”? – Never.

There were selections in Camp “A,” were there not ? – Yes.

Some Aufseherinnen must have been present, must they not? – I do not know.

It would be very unusual to have a selection without an Aufseherin, would it not ? – No, on the contrary.

Who would do all these duties on the selections if there were no Aufseherinnen present? – As I was not interested in it I do not know.

Then why do you say it would be unusual for an Aufseherin to be present if you were not interested? – Because all the Aufseherinnen had their jobs with outside Kommandos or in the administration office.

Is that not just why you had to be brought in on occasions? – No.

You would be the handiest person, of course, when you were in the Blockführerin’s room? – I had my duties; I was not allowed to leave the telephone.

I suggest to you that on selection in Block 9, Camp “A,” two girls jumped out of the window and that you went up to them and shot them whilst they lay on the ground? – No.

When people were sent to the gas chamber, you entered that up in your books as “special treatment” on instructions given by Dreschel. Were you forbidden to speak outside the camp about such things? – I do not know whether it was allowed, but I know it was not prohibited. It was already kept secret through the fact that you were never allowed to
leave the camp because it was closed on account of typhus.

Did you often keep prisoners as long as three and four hours on Appelle? – Not so long-an hour, or perhaps it might have been two hours. When I said before, three or four hours, that was an exception.

And you made people stand still then, did you not? – Of course.

If they moved they were beaten, were they not? – That is nonsense. I do not say that they were not allowed to move.

If people did not behave as you wanted them to on Appelle, did you sometimes make them kneel? – Yes.

On other occasions did you not make some people hold stones above their heads? – No, that is imagination. I have seen other people doing it.

Who made them do that? – I do not know. I have never seen it in “C” Lager.

I suggest that if any of these internees did not stand still on the Appell you either made them kneel or hold stones above their heads for a long time, and if they faltered you beat them? – No.

In her affidavit, Dunklemann said you had your hair up at the back? – I did not wear my hair in that way at all. I had a sort of drum of pigtails, and that was quite low on the neck.

This new hair style with the curls hanging down is something new since you left Belsen, is it not? – Yes, that originated in the prison in Celle.

Ehlert used to wear her hair down at the back and she has put it up since she came here. Of course it is not as easy to recognise people when you come and look at them in the dock if they have changed their hair style completely, is it? – The face is always the same.

Do you think that Ehlert looks now as she looked at Belsen? – Slightly different.

Several witnesses in their depositions say that you were the worst S.S. woman in the camp? – Yes, they say so. They are all lying. These people exaggerated and made an elephant out of a small fly.

You did get rather rapid promotion for a young girl, did you not? – No.

From a girl in the dairy to being in charge of 30000 women in a matter of two years is pretty rapid promotion, is it not? – That has nothing to do with the dairy.

Were you not specially chosen for “C” Lager when they began to gas the Hungarians? – No. There were very few Aufseherinnen, and as the Post Office Censor Department was closed I had no particular duty.

Was it on the strength of that appointment that you thought it would be a bright idea to carry a whip round with you? – When I carried a whip I was not promoted at all. I was promoted on 1st January, 1945, after having left Birkenau.

Were you promoted as a reward for your services in liquidating Camp “C”? – Camp “C” was not liquidated, it was transferred into Camp “A.”

Do you or do you not remember the incident when a mother was trying to talk to her daughter across the wire and you beat her till she fell to the ground? – No.

Have you beaten so many women that you cannot remember whether it happened or not? – I do not remember this incident, and I did not beat so many women that I would not be able to remember.

The witness Ilona Stein speaks of an incident when you kicked her too. I suggest to you that you regularly kicked people and it was all part and parcel of this business of swaggering around in top-boots? – I would like to know who has seen me swaggering in the camp. I have never kicked anyone with my foot.

When you arrived at Belsen with a transport, did you ask Kramer if you could stay and then he applied for you and you stayed? – Yes.

Were you Arbeitsführerin, and was it part of your duty to stand at the gate when the working parties were going out and coming in? – Yes.

Did you not regularly beat people at that gate? – I would like to ask you to leave out this word “regularly.” I have never beaten prisoners at the gate.

Did you regularly carry your whip at Belsen? – No.

What did you do during the day after the working parties had gone out and before they came back in the evening? – I went with my working party into the wood to look for material for preparing wreaths for the S.S. people who were dying in great numbers from typhus. I also saw to it that the camp should be neat and tidy.

You used to go round inspecting the camp, did you not? – No.

Then how did you see whether it was neat and tidy ? – I was mostly concerned with the gardens and ornaments in front of the kitchen, and told the prisoners what to do. I did not bother about the cleanliness or tidiness of the camp because there were others responsible for those things.

I suggest to you that you carried on at Belsen just as you had done at Auschwitz, beating, kicking and making people kneel and making people hold stones over their heads? – No. Only once I gave orders to a kitchen working party to do some sport, but, of course, without holding stones in their hands.

Did you not make one Kommando do sport for half an hour because one of the girls dropped a piece of rag as they were marching in from work? – No. It was because somebody threw two parcels away, each containing 3 lb. of meat.

Did you realize that people were dying all around you at Belsen? – Of course I realized it.

Did you realize the amount of food that these prisoners were getting, and did you think that that was a proper way to treat them? – No.

Your sister told us at the beginning that you were a little coward when you were a little girl. Is it not true that your tried to curry favour with the prisoners when you knew that the British were coming? – No, never.

You had always treated them very severely, had you not? – Yes.

But the last few days was quite a different story, and you tried to mix with the prisoners? – Why should I ?

Do you remember saying to the witness Lasker, “It will soon be the end, and we will be liberated”? – I have never spoken to Anita Lasker at all.

Let me just put this finally to you, that you went into the Concentration Camp Service as a frightened young girl, according to your sister a cowardly little girl, and found yourself for the first time in a position to strike people when they could not strike you back? – Yes, it might have been that I was frightened as a child, but I grew up in the meantime.

I suggest to you that you gloried in your jackboots and your pistol and your whip ? – Gloried? I could not say so.

And that you beat and ill-treated prisoners to such an extent that even you were told to stop carrying a whip, and that you continued to do it? – I have beaten prisoners, but I have not ill-treated them, and it was not prohibited for me personally to carry a whip. it was a general order emanating from the Kommandant that whips would not be carried any more.

And I suggest to you that when you got to Belsen you asked to be allowed to stay there and continue your conduct right up to the time that you knew the British were coming into the camp? – If I had wanted to continue this behaviour I would not have needed to ask permission to stay in Belsen. I could have continued to do so in the other camps. It was for quite a different reason.

Re-examined by Major CRANFIELD – Were your jackboots issued to you with your uniform, and did all the Aufseherinnen at Auschwitz wear them? – Yes.

Was your revolver at Auschwitz an issue, and were you ordered to wear it? – Yes, we were told it was for self-protection.

Were you told against whom it was to protect you? – Yes, against the Partisans.

Will you tell the Court why you asked Kramer to let you stay at Belsen? – It is a private affair. I got to know an S.S. man in Auschwitz who was transferred to Belsen, and that is the reason why I wanted to stay.

By the JUDGE ADVOCATE – In Belsen did you ever take part in what you called “making sport”? – I myself made sport with the prisoners.

It was rather strenuous for the prisoners, was it not? – Yes.

Were there people in Belsen in March and April who were fit to do that strenuous kind of exercise? – Yes.

Were you the youngest of the Aufseherinnen or not? – I was the youngest in Auschwitz.

“War Crimes Trials – Vol. II The Belsen Trial. ‘The Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty Four Others’.” Bergen Belsen. 2006. http://www.bergenbelsen.co.uk/pages/Trial/Trial/TrialDefenceCase/Trial_036_Grese.html#IrmaGrese (accessed October 11, 2011).