November 18

Buchenwald Trial at Dachau; Ravensbrück Trial at Hamburg

Buchenwald Trial at Dachau, April 11 –August 14, 1947
Between July 1937 and April 1945, some 250,000 persons of 30 nationalities were imprisoned at various times at Buchenwald; by Feb. 1945, there were 112,000 prisoners at Buchenwald. It is estimated that about 56,000 were killed or died from starvation and exhaustion as slave laborers. U.S. forces who liberated Buchenwald found about 21,000 survivors, including 4,000 Jews and 1,000 children. Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

Judgment in the Buchenwald Case
All 31 of the accused who committed atrocities in the Buchenwald case were found guilty; 22 were sentenced to be hanged; 5 were sentenced to Life in prison — including Ilse Koch (“the bitch of Buchenwald”) and Dr. Edwin Katzen-Ellenbogen, the Harvard credentialed psychiatrist, an ardent eugenicist who had renounced his American citizenship. Katzen-Ellenbogen was charged with (among other atrocities) murdering 1,000 prisoners with phenol injections. (Edwin Black, N.J. Doctor Who Helped Kill 2003).

Seven Ravensbrück trials at Hamburg from 1946 to 1948
Ravensbrück was the largest women’s concentration camp; in size it was second only to Auschwitz. During its operation from 1939–1945, an estimated 132,000 women from 23 countries were imprisoned at Ravensbrück. It had 70 sub-camps used for slave labor that were spread across an area from the Baltic Sea to Bavaria. In April 1941, a separate camp for 20,000 men was opened. A conservative estimate is that at least 40,000 to 50,000 prisoners died of torture, execution, starvation, slave labor, heinous medical experiments, or gassed.

The trials were held at Hamburg, Germany from 1946 to 1948. They were prosecuted by the British. In the first trial, deputy camp defendants included concentration camp personnel of all levels: SS officers, camp doctors, male guards, female guards (Aufseherinnen), and a few former prisoner-functionaries who had tortured or mistreated other inmates. 

In total, 38 defendants were tried in these seven trials; 21 of the defendants were women. Executions relating to these trials were carried out on the gallows at Hamelin Prison by British hangman.

Six medical doctors, who performed criminal medical experiments, including Walter Sonntag, were sentenced to death and executed; several nurses; 15 female guards were tried, convicted and executed; including Dorothea Binz; and several kapos (inmates) were either executed or imprisoned. Hans Pflaum, camp work leader, whom prisoners called the “cattle merchant,” and Fritz Suhren escaped from the British prior to the Hamburg trials but were recaptured and sentenced to death in the 1950 French military trial at Rastatt, Germany.


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