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Sobibor perpetrator collection

Document | Accession Number: 2020.8.1

The Sobibor perpetrator collection consists of over 360 black and white photographs, some in two albums and some loose, as well as dozens of paper documents that chronicle Johann Niemann's social background, his family, and his SS career, culminating in his role as deputy commander of the Sobibor killing center. Niemann was killed by prisoners during the October 1943 Sobibor uprising. The photographs and documents trace Niemann’s advancement through the concentration camp system (Esterwegen and Sachsenhausen) and the T4 “euthanasia” program (Grafeneck, Brandenburg, and Bernburg) to the Operation Reinhard killing centers (Belzec and Sobibor). The collection includes the first photographs to come to light showing SS leaders and their auxiliaries at the Sobibor killing center.

The first album includes 116 photographs and is titled "2. SS-T.V. [Totenkopfverband] Brandenburg." Photographs depict Niemann's early SA and SS career in the Esterwegen and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, the daily activities in the NS-Ordensburg Vogelsang, several family photos, and his activities in the T4 “euthanasia” facilities of Grafeneck, Brandenburg, and Bernburg. The collection also includes loose photographs from Sachsenhausen (1), Grafeneck, Brandenburg, and Bernburg (9), and a vacation home for T4-staff at Attersee (6) that supplement the images in this album as well as fifty-five loose family photographs.

The second album includes 80 photographs depicting an official trip to Berlin and Potsdam as a reward for SS officers from Sobibor (including Niemann and his wife) and a group of twenty-two Trawniki guards. The group snapped photos on breaks by the side of the road, in beer gardens and at historical monuments. They are also pictured with high-ranking members of Hitler’s Chancellery (Kanzlei des Führers). The collection includes additional loose photographs that duplicate or supplement the images in this album.

Sixty-two loose photographs from Sobibor from autumn 1942 to summer 1943 depict scenes in and around the camp, Johann Niemann, Commandant Franz Reichleitner, Erich Bauer (in charge of the operation of the gas chambers), Arthur Dachsel (in charge of Camp IV), Karl Frenzel, Rudolf Kamm (in charge of the sorting barracks), Erich Schulze (in charge of the forest and penal commandos), Gustav Wagner (the "Lagerspiess" in charge of the daily running of the camp), and nearly two dozen additional perpetrators. The photographs also depict several unidentified camp prisoners, local civilian female servants, German official guests, and Trawniki guards. Only a small number of German officers staffed the death camps, relying on Trawniki-trained auxiliaries to guard prisoners and operate the gas chambers. The Sobibor photographs also document the topography of the camp; the interactions among the camp's SS staff, and between the SS and local civilians and the Trawniki guards; the involvement of leading T4 and Führer Chancellery officials in the Operation Reinhard; and the interaction and complicity of the wives of the perpetrators. Fourteen photographs depict the funeral held in the nearby city of Chełm for the eleven SS men killed during the Sobibor prisoner uprising in October 1943. Photographs also include four images from the Belzec killing center from late 1941 to early 1942.

Identifications of individuals and locations in the photographs are drawn from photograph or album notations or are based on research by the Bildungswerk Stanisław Hantz and the Forschungsstelle Ludwigsburg der Universität Stuttgart. Research into further identifications continues.

Documents include Johann Niemann’s Wehrpass and other official records from the Nazi period documenting his posts at the Esterwegen and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, a marriage loan, and promotions, honors, and medals he was awarded; his Kleiderkasse-SS membership card; a letter he wrote from Sobibór to his wife just a few months before he was killed; and documents announcing his death. Three bank account books for Henriette and August Niemann and August Frey might contain entries for deposits of money robbed from Belzec and Sobibor victims.

Documents dated after Johann Niemann’s death include letters from the Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Anstaltspflege, which was a camouflaged public name used by the T4 “euthanasia” program; a letter from the Lebensborn Hauptabteilung SS-Kriegerwaisen inquiring about the care of Henriette’s children; and correspondence about pensions and insurance payments Henriette received as a war widow. They also include official copies of birth, marriage, and death certificates related to the Niemann family and cards documenting Henriette’s membership in a singing club and in the Reichsbund der Kriegs- und Zivilbeschädigten, Sozialrentner und Hinterbliebenen.

This series includes two notebooks. The brown notebook marked “1934 Nordwesthandel Oldenburg” is a re-purposed 1934 day planner that was primarily used between 1948 and 1955. The notebook includes accounting information and related names, a poem, notes, tax information, a copy of a letter, calculations of cultivated acres of land, and a narrative about the activities and elections of a singing club. The entries seem to be made in the handwriting of multiple people, and the names Hanne Niemann, Aunt Didi, Uncle Theo, Henny, and August Frey are present. A loose document about milk suppliers was found between the pages corresponding to the week of September 16-22. A loose bill for August Frey dated October 1953 about leased land was found between the pages about traffic signals near the back of the notebook. A loose tag was found in the back cover. The blue notebook marked “Henriette” contains lyrics to Christmas carols including “O Freude über Freud,” “Süßer die Glocken nie klingen,“ “O du fröhliche,” “Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe,” and “Fröhliche Weihnacht überall.”

The correspondence folder primarily relates to the Frey family and includes genealogical research conducted before Henriette’s marriage to Johann and a 1940 letter from a German soldier serving in Poland who was formerly billeted with the Frey family. A World War I era postcard, estate records, and a death announcement also relate to August and Janna Frey. An employment certificate and copy of a court decision document a 1970 legal finding that laborer Jon Hayo Klimp probably did not contract Bang’s disease while working on Henriette Niemann’s farm or in the neighborhood.

Printed materials include two issues of Parole-Buch from 1934 and 1935 and a newsletter about Reichskriegertag in Kassel in 1936.

inclusive:  circa 1870-1970
1 box
2 oversize boxes
3 oversize folders
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum collection, gift of Bildungswerk Stanislaw-Hantz
Record last modified: 2023-08-25 10:21:15
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