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Beheadings in the Third Reich

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed.
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Postby F-M-N on 22 Mar 2005 23:41

fredric wrote:The photo you refer to in Richard Clark's excellent site was one I recommended to Mr. Clark, and sections of his site on the fallbeil were provided by me. The description of the board on the floor is intriguing...it comes not from Mr. Clark or me, but from the caption in Richard Evan's superb book, Rituals of Retribution. I have wondered about the accuracy of the caption and the background of that photograph...its date, etc.

A question: Have you been to the Ludwigsberg prison museum? I need to contact them. It is high on my list if I ever return to Germany. I have been to Plotzensee and had the rare opportunity to view the execution chamber close up.


Thanks for your prompt reply.

Fredric, apologies I meant Richard Evans - it is from memory that I recalled the caption. It looks more like a coffin lid to me, but I think in 'RoR' Evans perhaps comments about the cut-out(?) shape being for the victims chin, although I cannot see how this would operate with the lunette aparatus. I haven't been to Ludwigsburg I'm afraid, but the contact telephone number can be found on the net from a museum link on the city website.

This subject is ghoulish, but I am astounded at how little information there is, and resources there are, on Germany's primary method of execution in the 19/20th century. Of course I have very little command of German which does not help! In the UK there is still a peculiar popular pride in the professionalism of long-drop hanging, and the office of executioner. However the office and practice is not associated with totalitarian oppression. I now specialise in postgraduate study of historical perceptions of culture and identity, and as a Scottish child I was fascinated and repelled by the guillotine in the National Museum of Scotland - it was in use from c.1564 to 1710 in Edinburgh, and was and is, affectionately known as 'the Maiden'. It was flat packed in the High Kirk of St Giles in the centre of the city, and usually operated at the Mercat Cross from which royal proclamations were read. There is an element of national egalatarian pride that all ranks of society were executed by this method!

There is a clear photograph here: http://www.scotlandforvisitors.com/maiden.php

When I read about the "White Rose" movement a few years ago, I was astonished that members were executed by beheading, and absolutely gobsmacked to learn that in 1930s Germany beheading with an axe and block occured. Anyway, I hope you don't mind me asking questions about this subject. If I can be of any assistance to you in your research I would be pleased to try and help.

Is the Dachs biography illustrated, and is there much information about the Scholl/Probst executions? I have often wondered if the machine/death chamber at Munich Stadelheim are still in existence.
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Nazi Beheadings

Postby fredric on 23 Mar 2005 01:41

I am an historian focusing on this subject and share your problem with the German language.

I am pleased to share all information and try to answer any questions. Very interesting to hear from someone who has seen the Scottish maiden.

The execution chamber at Stadelheim still exists (within the operating prison) but was converted into an automobile repair shop in the mid-1950's. No memorial. To my knowledge it cannot be visited. However I recently read on the web that the cell where the Scholls and Probst met moments before execution can sometimes be visited. Whether the Fallbeil is still there I do not know. There is short, modern video footage of a fallbeil in the "Hitler's Henchmen" series segment on Roland Freiser which I think might be of the Stadelheim fallbeil...and I have wondered if the fallbeil shown in the 1983 (?) Verhoven film "The White Rose" is the real thing. A new film titled "Sophie Scholl, die letzen tage" just came out in February and I understand an American film on the White Rose is in production, directed by Angelica Huston.

The Dachs book is well-illustrated but only available in German. It contains photographs of Reichart, fallbeils, and related subjects including the execution room in Stadelheim.

The reason I question Evan's explanation of the board is exactly the same as yours...it would not work with the lunette...at least I cannot figure it out. The executioner, by the way, who used that particular fallbeil was Wilhelm F. Roettger as well as some others such as Reindel. It was manufactured at Tegel prison. If you know anything about Roettger, I am very interested.

Send me any questions you may have. I have "tons" of information on the use of the axe and guillotine in Germany and the countries it seized in WW2.
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Reply to John F -Link 5 Dec 2004

Postby PF on 24 Mar 2005 16:32

Reply to "John F" link of Dec 5. 2004
The two 26 October 1941 execution pictures of a young woman being hanged is by 707th Infantry is that of a Jewish woman named MAsha Bruskina who was a member of Communist Reistance
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Executioner

Postby jwolfman on 24 Mar 2005 21:25

What happened to Executioner Roetgger at the end of the war? Where was he?

Did he have membership in the NSDAP, SS, SA, Police?
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Roettger

Postby fredric on 24 Mar 2005 22:11

What happened to Wilhelm (Willi) Freidrich Roettger (Roetger) after the war is a mystery, one I have been researching. I have found no record of him being prosecuted as were other Nazi executioners such as Reichhart and Groppler. Evans suggests Roettger was not suitable for employement by the Allies because he had executed the July 20 conspirators. So Roettger may have just vanished as did others associated with the Third Reich or may have been killed in the fall of Berlin. I am reasonably sure he was not in the SS, was not a member of the NSDAP or in the military. Roettger was a middle-class, respected man who lived on the Waldstrasse, Moabit and had what I believe was a wagon or auto repair shop. I once looked for it with no results. His income as a State executioner would have been considerable if you factor in his "head count" during the latter years of the war. I have never found a photograph of him, although I believe an i.d. photo must exist in the archives of the RMJ. The Bundsarchiv has reported to me that they have no record of Roettger. According to Evans, Roettger was added to the list of official executioners in 1943. References to him can be found in Harold Polchau's book, Die Letzen Stunden and in Gostomski's book, Der Tod Von Plotzensee. He also was the subject of a magazine article about his technique for hanging the 20th July group and is prominent in Paul West's fictional account of the bomb plotters, The Short Rich Days of Count Von Stauffenberg.

Anyone on the forum having information about Willi Roettger or other executioners of the period, let me know! I have a sense a lot exists about Roettger...and he may even be alive today.
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Postby Panzerfaust XxX on 26 Mar 2005 21:27

a few leaders of the White Rose Underground were beheaded in 1943. One said "so many people have died for the Reich, it is time someone died against it".
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Roettger

Postby jwolfman on 30 Mar 2005 09:25

Frederic


I dug up an old biography on Executioner Roettger that i got from an archive in Germany.
Can't remember which archive it was. In case you didn't have this information I'll share it.

Name: Friedrich Wilhelm Roettger
Born: 1894 ( that means he would have been 50 yrs. old when he hanged the July 20th conspirators)
Place of Birth: Hannover, Germany
World War 1 service: German Navy, worked in the engine room of a battleship as a stoker ( he fed coal into the engine furnace)
Inter War period- auto mechanic, pall bearer for a funeral home, and assistant executioner.
Then finally applied for the job of State Executioner in Berlin 1942 or 1943.
As an executioner for the Reich Ministry of Justice, he was considered a servant of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

I also now recall an old article on him which in English would be called "The Hangman of July 20th" In the article it says that he was identified after the war ( so he did survive), but it didn't reveal what his ultimate fate was or if he was ever prosecuted as a war criminal.
One interesting note, if I translated the article correctly, it mentioned something to the effect that he was a fairly ordinary looking man and would have remained undetected, as he would have preferred, had he not been a famous hangman of the July 20th men.
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Rote Kapelle...Libertas S-Boysen

Postby fredric on 01 Apr 2005 04:19

Libertas was guillotined, not hanged.
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about guilotines and fallbeils

Postby gordon anderson on 06 May 2005 11:21

Hello Fredric. I am a guillotine -what shall I say-- expert? I am familiar with the details --construction etc. of the German and Austrian models, the Swiss and the the most elusive version and the MOST FAMOUS-- the French one . It is still locked away from public view and has been for 24 years. However I documented - worked and studied all 4 privavtely. I also have alot of information. I think i have pictures of most of the executioners you mentioned. As you surmised there were no motor driven German guillotines nor any spring loaded ones either. The top of the Tegel Prison guillotines built for Herr Hitler and made by inmates in the Tegel prison workshop have a retractable steel bar ---a steel spring mechanism at the top-- to drop the blade ---but that is all. The Tegel model has no bascule or tipping board. the mechaism to release the blade are hidden in the top of the machines in this model. The spring loaded guillotine may have come into lore from the French version which i am sure you know does have shock absorbers at the bottom of each groove. in fact the mouton (and blade) bounce precisely 7 times in diminishing increments until mouton and blade come to a full rest. I counted. Anyway Hello to you. There is also another newsreel with the guillotine at Posdan in it I believe. I hope this will reach you. best Gordon
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Postby maxxx on 06 May 2005 18:37

gordon, as an expert you can surely tell me more about an austrian guillotine.... (if you dont consider the german fallbeil in vienna an "austrian guillotine")

Was there ever a person guillotinated in Austria beside by the Germans in 38/45 or maybe the French (after 45?)
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Guillotines...German, Austrian, French

Postby fredric on 07 May 2005 00:50

Interesting information, Gordon. Would you forward the photographs of the executioners to this site? I have a few images of Richhart, but Rottger and others would be very much appreciated. Any information on Rottger would be appreciated as well.

I have never heard of an Austrian guillotine because I believe Austria used hanging as its principal means of capital punishment...preceded by the sword. The Austrian "galgen" and its master practitioner, executioner Lang, are famous. The Germans of course brought their Fallbeil to Vienna and perhaps other locations...but you seem to have some very interesting information here.

Is the newsreel of Pozen...Poland...the St. Pancras Prison, I believe. Where did you see it.

Please share any further information on the subject. Thanks.
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photos

Postby gordon anderson on 07 May 2005 02:37

i will have to learn how to download the photos to this site and reduce the size . most are very large 600 to 800 dpi. (these are not pictures found on the internet pictures) . However i am very shaky at the technical. By the way that seems to be the old headsman block in the Evans book --the photo of the Plotzensee guillotine . the axe was used at Plotzensee before the guillotine .That it is NOT the board for the body. The" chin hole indeed" that is ridicuous.---- to sever the head, the blade would have to cut through a new bascule for every execution . The Austian guillotime was the same model as those made at Tegel . I referred to it as "Austrian" because it was used in Austria, It was sent from Berlin to Graues Haus the prison in Vienna. I have the copy of the invoice . The machine was delared to be "gerat f " I believe so no one would know what it was !! The newsreel was a universal newsreel on dvd i believe. i believe it was St Pancras. I will check on the use of guillotine in Austria for maxxx. i have many pages in german on all that. my
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Nazi Guillotine Photos and Documentation

Postby fredric on 07 May 2005 05:47

Gorden, you information is interesting. While you figure out how to download the images to this site, how about posting a list of the pictures you have? For example, a list of the German executioners whose photos you have would be very interesting. Are your photographs original or from publications?

You are correct that the Fallbeil was shipped under a "cover name" and the invoice would be of interest. How did you get it? Also, do you think the archives at Tegel might have anything on the guillotines built there?

I enjoyed your comment about Evan's interpretation of the "board with the chin hole" (he clearly is wrong) and I am interested in why you see this as possibly being the "Richtblock?" I have seen a second view of exactly the same scene...on motion picture film...which shows more items: a large wooden tub by the (board?). The same picture as shown in Evan's book is displayed at Plotzensee (perhaps you know this already). Good to find someone who is researching the same area as I am.
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Postby Peter on 30 Jan 2007 17:59

Johann Reichhart (29 April 1893 – 26 April 1972) was a German executioner. He kept detailed records of his work, and at 3,165 executions [1]he is considered to be possibly the most prolific executioner of modern times.


[edit] Biography
Johann Reichhart was born in Wichenbach near Wörth an der Donau into a "dynasty" of executioners going back eight generations[2] to the mid-eighteenth century. His career began in 1924 and spanned the time of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. Reichhart executed over 3,000 people, most of them during the period 1939 – 1945 when, according to his own records, 2,876[2] were put to death. In the latter years the executions were largely from heavy sentences handed down by the Volksgerichtshof (the People's Court) for political crimes such as treason, including Sophie and Hans Scholl of the German resistance movement White Rose. Most of these sentences were carried out by guillotine.

After the war, Reichhart was not tried for carrying out his duty of judicial executions, but was employed by the Occupation Authorities until the end of May, 1946, to execute 156 Nazi war criminals at Landsberg am Lech by hanging. He cooperated with Allied chief-executioner Master Sergeant John C. Woods in the preparations for further executions of those found guilty and sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Trials[3][4].

Reichhart died in Dorfen near Erding.


Wikipedia

An amazing thread. Reichhart had a staggering record as an executioner, including approximately 288 pre-war !!
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Postby fredric on 30 Jan 2007 18:31

Your Wiki posting concisely presents Johann Reichhart's career as a state scharfrichter. Perhaps you would be interested to know he supplemented his salary/bonus by teaching ballroom dancing, selling religious books, and running a lunchroom. After the war he was prosecuted twice and heavily fined. He tried to supplement his meager pension by raising pedigreed dogs and making shampoo. He died an impoverished outcast. Reichhart's income in the war years was huge. He drove a Fiat Arditta sports coupe, a flashy car in his day, and even requested permission (but was denied) to drive at 100km/hr on the highways in order to meet his obligations at various prisons.
If you would like more information, let me know.
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