The Barbaric Treatment of Female SS Guards

From late 1944, allied bombing prevented adequate supplies of food, water and drugs reaching the Belsen camp. With a combination of overcrowding, this caused massive starvation and poor hygiene which resulted in a typhus epidemic which got out of control.

When the British arrived at the camp, instead of blaming themselves and the RAF and the war in general, they immediately threw the whole burden of responsibility upon the unfortunate German staff.

The camp commandant, Joseph Kramer, had done everything in his power to alleviate the suffering, including writing a letter of complaint to SS-Gruppenführer Glücks, the Inspector of Concentration Camps.

ss+women+belsen+bury+deadSS women forced to bury the dead at Belsen without protective clothing. As a result, about 20 SS guards died from typhus after being refused medical treatment.  [47]

Extract from the article: The Lethal Liberation of Bergen-Belsen by Joseph Bellinger.

The 25 SS female assistants, or Aufseherinnen, fared little better than the males at the hands of their tormentors. Not only were these women used to bury the festering mountains of corpses, but they were also used to clean filthy huts, the floors of which were caked inches thick with vomit, urine, and excrement. There was neither rhyme nor reason for these actions, since the British had already vacated the huts and had arrived at the decision to raze the camp to the ground. Yet, according to Rabbi Hardman, these sadistically motivated tasks were assigned for the pleasure of the liberators. [48] Writes Hardman:

“…two SS women were detailed to clean a filthy hut, and it gave me an unaccountable feeling to see them scrubbing the walls, floor and ceiling under the keen eyes of a British guard.” [49]

The plight of these women evoked no pity in either the hearts of their guards or independent witnesses, according to an account written by war correspondent Alan Moorehead:

“Some 20 women wearing dirty grey skirts and tunics were sitting and lying on the floor. “Get up”, the sergeant roared in English. They got up and stood at attention and we looked at them. Thin ones, fat ones, scraggy ones and muscular ones; all of them ugly and one or two of them distinctly cretinous.” [50]

In bizarre scenes similar to those of the French Revolution, when women alternately did their knitting in the spectators’ gallery while shouting imprecations and accusations at the accused, many of the female inmates took to doggedly following the corpse-laden lorries, all the while screaming taunts and accusations at the harried SS.

The barbaric treatment of the female SS guards at Belsen can also be confirmed by two of the guards themselves, Herthe Bothe and Herthe Ehlert.

herthe+bothe+4Herthe Bothe at Belsen, she was sentenced to 10 years

Their account of how the SS guards at Belsen were treated by the British liberation force is retold by Savitri Devi in her book “Gold in the Furnace“.

Extract from the book “Gold in the Furnace” by Savitri Devi –

The women were completely stripped and, not only submitted to the most minute and insulting examination in the midst of coarse jeers, but threatened or wounded with bayonet thrusts without even the slightest pretext, or dragged aside by their hair and beaten on the head and on the body with the thick end of the military policemen’s guns, until some of them were unconscious.

Then, the women were hurled into the mortuary of the camp, a small, cold, and dark room, with a stone floor, and locked in. They were given nothing to lie upon, not even straw, and were not allowed more than one blanket for every four of them. The room contained nothing but an empty pail in one corner, and had no ventilation. No food and no water were brought to the prisoners.

They were left there for three whole days without food and water until the morning of the fourth day. By that time the pail in the corner was overflowing and useless and the whole room was filled with its stench. They were sitting and lying in their own filth.

On the morning of the fourth day the door opened. The women were given some food and some water. But only because they had to be kept alive in order that their martyrdom might continue.

Plenty of dead bodies were lying about, without mentioning those of the SS warders, whom the British military policemen had tortured and done to death. The German women, hardly able to stand on their legs after their three days confinement—and several of them wounded by bayonet thrusts—were made to run, at the point of the bayonets, and ordered to bury the corpses; which they did all day, and the following days.

burying+the+deadMale and female SS guards were forced to handle the dead without gloves

After they had, under the brutal supervision of the Military Police, buried as many of the dead bodies as they could, the German women were sent back to the narrow room—the former mortuary—that they occupied as a common prison cell.

The place stank. The overflowing pail was still there. And for many days more the prisoners were neither allowed to empty it and put it back, nor given another one for the same use, nor given a drop of water. They could neither wash themselves nor wash their clothes. Their hands, reeking with the stench of corpses after each day’s servitude, they could wash, if they cared to, only in their own urine. And with those hands they had to eat!

When at last all the dead bodies were buried, the prisoners were made to clean the lavatories. It was pointed out to them deliberately—so that they might feel the humiliation all the more—that these were used by the numerous Jews, now masters of the camp. Under the threat of bayonets—as always—the proud National-Socialist women were ordered to remove the filth with their own hands. Then, and then only, were they allowed to clean their own awful cell, which by this time had become a cesspool.

Notes:

47. At the Belsen Trial, one of these SS victims of British wrath was referred to rather obliquely when the Presiding Judge asked Brigadier Glen Hughes a question about one of the SS guards. Hughes responded, “..I think he has since died.” The Judge did not bother to inquire as to the cause and circumstances of death. The Belsen Trial, Op Cit., p. 34.

48. Rabbi Hardman himself was to contract typhus while tending to the liberated inmates at Belsen. After performing religious services one evening, the Rabbi was invited to partake of a traditional Jewish meal of Gefilte fish, prepared by some of the liberated inmates. Not wishing to offend his hosts, the rabbi partook of the offering, along with an undetermined “beverage” prepared by them as well. Within 24 hours, the Rabbi writes: “I suffered an attack of dysentery which brought the water problem acutely home to me….I lay for nearly 48 hours before I was able to move. Then I felt better, but terribly weak; and for several days after that it was an effort to get about.” Op. Cit., The Survivors, pp. 30-31.

49. Hardman, Op. cit., p. 35.

50.  Op. Cit., After the Battle, p. 14.

Gold in the Furnace – Savitri Devi, published by the Historical Review Press (2nd edition) April 20, 2005

Source: Britannia