Faces of evil: Eerie portraits of female guards of Nazi concentration camps awaiting trial

 
 
 
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When the Allies liberated the concentration camps, the women of the SS were normally still administering their duties.

A lot of the women were captured in or around the camps of Stutoff, Flossenburg, Salzwedel, Ravensbruck, Bergen Belsen, Gross Rosen, Neustadt-Glewe, and Neuengamme.

When the war ended, the captured women were held in the internment camp at Recklinghausen or in the former camp of Dachau.

Somewhere between 500 to 1,000 women were held during the investigations the US Army conducted to determine their crimes during the war.

Quite a few were released since the main priority were the men of the SS. A lot of the women that were left, were high-ranking leaders of the League of German Girls, while the rest had served in concentration camps.

Many of the men and women of the SS had been executed by the Soviets when they liberated the camps, while the rest were sent to the gulags.

During the Holocaust, the Aufseherinnen were the female guards in the concentration camps. About 3,700 out of the 55,000 guards in the camps were women. The first female guards arrived in the camps starting in 1942 at Auschwitz and Majdanek from Ravensbruck.

In 1943, the Nazis began drafting women because of the shortage of guards. The German word for this position, Aufseherin means female overseer or attendant.

The female guards were normally lower to the middle class, and the professional backgrounds varied: one source told of former matrons, tramcar-workers, hairdressers, retired teachers and opera singers. There were ads placed in German newspapers asking women to show their love for the Reich and join the SS Gefolge (an SS support and service organization for women).

Here is a list of some of the women tried and sentenced:

Anna Hempel: sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Anna Hempel: sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Photo Credit
Anna Hempel: sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Photo Credit

Frieda Walter: sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment.

Frieda Walter: sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. Photo Credit
Frieda Walter: sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. Photo Credit

Herta Bothe accompanied a death march of women from central Poland to Bergen-Belsen. She was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Herta Bothe was released early from prison on 22 December 1951.

Herta Bothe, in Celle awaiting trial, August 1945 Photo Credit
Herta Bothe, in Celle awaiting trial, August 1945

Elizabeth Volkenrath: head wardress of the camp: sentenced to death. She was hanged on 13 December 1945.

Elizabeth Volkenrath: head wardress of the camp: sentenced to death. She was hanged on 13 December 1945. Photo Credit
Elizabeth Volkenrath: head wardress of the camp: sentenced to death. She was hanged on 13 December 1945. Photo Credit

Gertrude Feist: sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment.

Gertrude Feist: sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Photo Credit
Gertrude Feist: sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Photo Credit

Gertrude Saurer: sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Gertrude Saurer: sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Photo Credit
Gertrude Saurer: sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Photo Credit

Hilde Liesewitz: sentenced to 1 year’s imprisonment.

Hilde Liesewitz: sentenced to 1 years imprisonment. Photo Credit
Hilde Liesewitz: sentenced to 1 years imprisonment. Photo Credit

Hildegard Lohbauer: sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Hilde Lohbauer im August 1945
Hilde Lohbauer im August 1945

Helene Kopper: sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Helena Kopper in August 1945
Helena Kopper in August 1945

Ilse Forster: sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Ilse Forster: sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Photo Credit
Ilse Forster: sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Photo Credit

Herta Ehlert: sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Herta Ehlert in August 1945
Herta Ehlert in August 1945

Juana Bormann: sentenced to death.

Juana Bormann: sentenced to death.
Juana Bormann: sentenced to death.

 

Some women were also drafted from information in their SS files.

There were very few women who were actually tried for their crimes against humanity compared to the males.

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Most of the female guards were tried at the Auschwitz Trial, in four of the seven Ravensbruck Trials, at the first Stutthof Trial, and in the second and third Majdanek Trials and the small Hamburg-Sasel ca4mp. At the Hamburg-Sasel trial, all 48 SS men and women involved were tried.