Karl Höcker (1911-2000) was born in Engershausen, Germany, on December 11, 1911, as the youngest of six children. His father, Heinrich Höcker, was a construction worker and was killed in World War I. His mother, Louise Höcker (nee Unger) struggled to support the family. Höcker worked as an assistant cashier and office worker at banks in Lubbecke. He joined the SS in 1933 and the Nazi party in 1937. He married in 1937, had a daughter in 1939 and a son in October 1944.
Höcker received military training as a member of the 9th SS-infantry regiment in Danzig in 1939 and 1940. He was briefly employed as a clerk with the inspectorate of the concentration camps (IKL) in Oranienburg before serving as a clerk at Neuengamme beginning in April 1940. He was then appointed a non-commissioned officer (Stabsscharführer) in the Neuengamme satellite camp Arbeitstorf, until the camp was closed in October 1942. From late 1942 to May 1943, Höcker trained at the Junkerschule. He was promoted to SS-Untersturmführer and became the adjutant of the Majdanek camp commander. Höcker served at Majdanek during the November 1943 Operation Erntefest (Harvest Feast), which included Majdanek’s largest mass execution. Höcker was transferred to Auschwitz in May 1944 to be adjutant to Richard Baer and was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer in June 1944. His first months at Auschwitz oversaw the murder of 430,000 Hungarian Jews. Höcker left Auschwitz during the camp’s January 1945 evacuation. After a stop at Groß-Rosen, he arrived at Dora-Mittelbau, near Nordhausen, where he was once again appointed to be Baer’s adjutant. After that camp’s surrender in April 1945, Höcker disguised himself as a non-commissioned officer of the Wehrmacht. He was captured by British troops in the region of Oldenburger Halbinsel in Holstein.
The British released Höcker in 1946, not realizing that he was an SS-officer. Höcker hid in the Holstein region until 1952, when he submitted a denazification petition in Bielefeld so he could return to his family. He was sentenced to nine months in prison for membership in the SS but did not have to serve it, thanks to a 1954 law. Attention returned to him following Baer’s arrest in December 1960, and Höcker was one of the 24 defendants in the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, which opened in December 1963. He was accused of participating in the Nazi extermination program including the operation and security of the gas installations, procuring the gas, implementing execution orders, and processing arriving transports. As adjutant, he was accused of knowing the unlawfulness of the commandant’s execution orders. In August 1965, Höcker was sentenced to seven years in prison for aiding and abetting murder in at least three cases and at least 1,000 people. In 1988, Höcker was called to trial in Bielefeld for his actions at Majdanek where, as an adjutant, he had ordered the Zyklon B used in the gas chambers. In May 1989, he was sentenced to four years in prison for aiding and abetting in a triple murder of 20 people at a time. As an accessory, Höcker had been complicit in supplying the gas intended for the killings. In February 1990, he was arrested in Lübbecke and transported to the Prison Hospital in Fröndenberg. He was released in October 1992, returned to his family in Lübbecke, and died on January 30, 2000.