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Portrait of Josef Kramer.

Photograph | Photograph Number: 79571

Portrait of Josef Kramer.

Josef Kramer (1907-1945), commandant of Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, was assigned to Dachau, Esterwegen, Sachsenhausen, and Mauthausen before becoming Rudolf Hoess' adjutant in 1940. Kramer accompanied Hoess to the site of the Auschwitz camp in 1940 and became commandant of Auschwitz II, the Birkenau concentration camp. Then, in 1943, he was made commandant of Natzweiler, where he was personally involved in the gassing of eighty female prisoners whose skeletal remains were to be used for "anatomical studies." In 1944, Kramer returned to Auschwitz to help with the extermination of Hungarian Jews who had just been deported, but left again on December 1, 1944 to take command of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Kramer transformed the formerly "privileged" camp into a center for sick and dying persons from all over Europe, swelling the population to over sixty thousand. With the camp filled beyond capacity, Kramer let the inmates starve to death, which earned him the nickname, "Beast of Belsen" from the British who liberated the camp. He joined the British soldiers inspecting the camp, casually guiding them through the carnage. In his trial at Lueneburg, he described with indifference how his training allowed him to carry out mass murders without thinking. He was sentenced to death on November 17, 1945, and was executed on December 13 of that year.
Sources: Encyc. of Thrd Reich (Snyder), p. 200 (photo included); Who's Who in Nazi Germany (Wistrich), pp. 178-179

1933 - 1945
Photo Credit
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Bundesarchiv
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Record last modified: 2007-10-23 00:00:00
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