The Titular Devil, With Hand

The Titular Devil, With Hand

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The True Story Behind Vernichtung Part 2

The man in the photo above is Maximilian Grabner, chief of the Auschwitz Gestapo, who was charged by Morgen with the murder of two thousand Polish political prisoners.

Part Two: The Avenger of the Law

Morgen returned to Auschwitz...Hoess was removed from his post by his superiors, probably to shield him from the investigation. The new commander, Arthur Leibehenschel, continued the exterminations, but euthanasia killings, torture, and political executions were drastically curtailed, and prisoner rations increased.

Still, many of Hoess's underlings remained on the scene, and they were determined to thwart Morgen any way they could; in addition, a spy for Oswald Pohl penetrated the commission and set fire to their quarters, destroying Morgen's files. One of Morgen's informants, a rapportefuehrer named Palitsch, vanished into a punishment cell.

But Morgen persevered, and even as the Auschwitz investigation continued, he opened other probes, at Flossenburg, Hertogenbosch, Plascow, Warsaw, Sachsenhausen, and Oswald Pohl's administrative headquarters, Oranienburg. At Sachsenhausen, Morgen's men were thrown out bodily, and at Oranienburg, a witness named Rothe was nearly hanged for his cooperation, and was saved only at the last minute from the gallows.

Going back to Lublin, Morgen attempted to resume his investigation of Globocnik and Christian Wirth, but the entire Globocnik commando had been tranferred to anti-partisan duty in Yugoslavia, where Wirth would be killed, perhaps by his own men, perhaps by his superiors.

Meanwhile, at Auschwitz, Morgen's subordinate Wiebeck had learned of a female prisoner impregnated by Hoess, named Eleonora Hodys; privy to many of Hoess's misdeeds, she was being starved to death in a bunker. Wiebeck promised her immunity in exchange for testimony against Hoess.

Hoess demanded protection from his close friends, Martin Bormann, and in 1944, Himmler, apparently acting on Hitler's orders, commanded Morgen to drop all investigations except for the ongoing inquiry against Karl Koch and his accomplices. Morgen's commission withdrew from Auschwitz and all the other camps save Buchenwald.

But Morgen succeeded in having Eleonora Hodys removed to Munich, and the SS judges rallied to his cause, protesting to Himmler, whereupon Himmler allowed Morgen to continue his efforts, provided Morgen represented them as part of the Buchenwald investigation. Auschwitz was still forbidden to Morgen and his men, but Morgen retained access to his key witnesses, and was able to assemble enough evidence to convict 26 of Hoess's officers.

In addition, his commission was allowed back into the other camps; Amon Goeth, the villain of Schindler's List, was arrested, and Adam Grunewald, the commandant of Hertogenbosch, was indicted for the deaths of ten female captives; a second Hertogenbosch commandant, Karl Chmielewski, was indicted for criminal maltreatment of prisoners, and Karl Kunstler, commandant of Flossenburg, was dismissed for drunkeness and debauchery. Taking up residence at Dachau, Morgen succeeded in indicting one of its former commanders, Alex Piorkowski, for murder.

He was also hot on the trail of an obscure SD officer named Adolf Eichmann, the unassuming head of the RSHA's Jewish section, Amt 4B4. In July 1944 Morgen obtained an arrest warrant against him for corruption, and Eichmann was rescued only by the personal intervention of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who engaged in a wild shouting-match with one of Morgen's superiors.

In the fall, the trials finally began, eight hundred indictments resulting in two hundred sentences. Alex Piorkowski of Dachau was convicted of murder, and even though he wasn't sentenced, he remained in custody. The proceedings against Amon Goeth of Plascow were suspended, but he too remained in prison. Grunewald of Hertogenbosch was convicted and posted to a penal unit, and Chmielewski was imprisoned at Dachau.

Fighting furiously to secure the acquittal of Karl Koch and Hermann Florstedt, Oswald Pohl went to Himmler and threatened to resign if Morgen wasn't stopped. When the Reichsfuehrer allowed Morgen to continue, Pohl chose to retain his post, but managed to place one of his men, Dr. Schmidt-Klevenow, on the Buchenwald judicial panel; even so, Koch and Florstedt were sentenced to death, the charges of murdering Jewish inmates dropped.

When Max Grabner came to trial, Gestapo Mueller brought his full weight to bear on his underling's behalf, but failed to terminate the proceedings. Grabner testified that he'd received authorization not only from Rudolf Mildner, but Gestapo headquarters in Berlin; a tremendous uproar ensued, the trial was suspended, and the magistrates sent a formal envoy to Berlin with a list of questions, which Mueller refused to answer. The court convicted of Grabner on two thousand counts of murder, but deadlocked on whether to execute him or give him twelve years.

On the basis of evidence raised in the trails of Koch and Grabner, Morgen persuaded the SS Judiciary to authorize preliminary proceedings against Pohl and Mueller. Morgen also gained permission to begin his assault on Rudolf Hoess. If Grabner's superiors wouldn't take responsibility for the Black Wall killings, it seemed possible that Himmler and Hitler would remain silent about the gassings.

But the Third Reich was crumbling, Auschwitz had been occupied, and as the Allied armies invaded Germany, the SS Judiciary began to disintegrate. Many death sentences were hurriedly carried out. Florstedt was executed. Raving at the top of his lungs, Koch was shot at Buchenwald, then burned in his own crematorium. Grabner went from Nazi to Soviet custody, and was eventually executed after a trial in which he revealed himself to be an abject coward, whining about how he was “only a little man.” Amon Goeth was taken in prison by the Americans, turned over to the Poles, and faced a firing-squad. After renouncing Nazism and returning to the Catholicism of his youth, Rudolf Hoess was also put to death by the Poles. Heinrich Mueller went to work for the Soviets, advising them on how to reorganize the NKGB along Gestapo lines. Kaltenbrunner was convicted at Nuremberg and hung. Caught by the British, Himmler committed suicide. Eichmann and Bormann both escaped, although Eichmann was later caught and executed by the Israelis.

Morgen ended the war as a judge in Breslau and was captured by the Russians. As a member of the SS, he fully expected to be executed, or die in a Soviet labor camp. Escaping, he walked more than a thousand kilometers, following a circuitous route through Poland and Czechoslovakia to American-occupied Germany. Learning that a CIC officer wanted to question him about his investigations, he reported the Mannheim-Seckenheim, gave several affadavits of considerable historical importance, and was locked up in a Dachau bunker with dozens of butchers that he himself had convicted.

His American interrogators demanded that he testify that Ilse Koch possessed a lampshade made of tattooed human skin. Morgen replied that he did everything humanly possible to convict her of numerous crimes, but couldn't ascertain that the lampshade story was true. His captors subjected him to three ferocious beatings in an effort to force him to bear false witness, then decided to turn him over to the Russians, but he saved himself by telling his story to a black American guard, who allowed him to escape.

Morgen was on the run for nearly a year, but once relations soured between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R, he submitted to American custody once more and gave evidence at several Nuremberg trials. During the WVHA proceedings he had the satisfaction of testifying at length against Oswald Pohl, who was sentenced to death.

Remaining in Germany, he lived under an assumed name, fearing vengeance from Nazis. He married and raised a family. Practicing law, he surfaced from time to time to tesify at various war-crimes trials, most notably the Frankfurt Auschwitz-prozess in 1964. He appeared fleetingly in the British documentary The World at War. His crusade largely forgotten, his deeds unsung, he died in 1982.

No comments:

Post a Comment