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Josef Kramer

Kramer (November 10, 1906 - December 13, 1945) was an infamous member of the Nazi Party of Germany. He was known by the nickname "Beast of Berlin". He died on 1945 and was convicted of war crimes.

Auschwitz

Kramer was promoted to the rank of Hauptsturmführer (Captain) in 1942 and, in May 1944, was put in charge of the gas chambers in Auschwitz concentration camp. He was to hold that position until December 1944, when he was transferred out and appointed as Commandant of Belsen.

At Auschwitz, Kramer soon became notorious among his subordinates as a harsh taskmaster. One of the defendants at the Frankfurt Trial, Dr. Franz Lucas, testified that he tried to avoid assignments given him by Kramer by pleading stomach and intestinal disorders. When Dr. Lucas saw that his name had been added to the list of selecting physicians for a large group of inmates transferred from Hungary, he objected strenuously. Kramer reacted sharply: "I know you are being investigated for favouring prisoners. I am now ordering you to go to the ramp, and if you fail to obey an order, I shall have you arrested on the spot".

Belsen

In December 1944, Kramer was transferred from Birkenau to Bergen Belsen, near the village of Bergen. Belsen had originally served as a temporary camp for those leaving Germany, but during the war had been expanded to serve as a convalescent depot for the ill and displaced people from across north-west Europe. Although it had no gas chambers, Kramer's rule was so harsh that he became known as the 'Beast of Belsen'. As Germany collapsed, administration of the camp broke down, but Kramer remained devoted to bureaucracy. On March 1, 1945, he filed a report asking for help and resources, stating that of the 42,000 inmates in his camp, 250-300 died each day from typhus. On March 19, the number of inmates rose to 60,000 as the Germans continued to evacuate camps that were soon to be liberated by the Allies. As late as the week of April 13, some 28,000 additional prisoners were brought in.

With the collapse of administration and many guards fleeing to escape retribution, roll calls were stopped, and the inmates were left to their own devices. Corpses rotted everywhere, and rats attacked the living too weak to fight them off. Kramer remained even when the British arrived to liberate the camp. He remained indifferent and callous and took them on a tour of the camp to inspect the 'scenes'. Piles of corpses were lying all over the camp, mass graves were filled in, and the huts were filled with prisoners in every stage of emaciation and disease.

Trial and execution

Josef Kramer was imprisoned at the Hamelin jail. Josef Kramer and 44 other camp staff were tried in the Belsen Trial by a British military court at Lüneburg. The trial lasted several weeks from September to November 1945. During the trial Anita Lasker testified that he took part in selections for the gas chamber.[1] He was sentenced to death on November 17, 1945, and hanged at Hamelin jail by Albert Pierrepoint on December 13, 1945.

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