Axis History Forum

This is an apolitical forum for discussions on the Axis nations and related topics hosted by Marcus Wendel's Axis History Factbook in cooperation with Michael Miller's Axis Biographical Research, Christoph Awender's WW2 day by dayand Christian Ankerstjerne’s Panzerworld.

Skip to content

If you found the forum useful please consider supporting us. You can also support us by buying books through the AHF Bookstore.

Wilhelm Keitel - was he mistreated during his execution?

Discussions on the personalities of the Wehrmacht and of the organizations not covered in the other sections.
Hosted by Dieter Zinke & Elwyn W.

Wilhelm Keitel - was he mistreated during his execution?

Postby Potsdamerplatz on 02 Feb 2006 00:31

Hello fellow researchers,

I came across this photograph of Field Marshal Keitel which was taken shortly after his execution at Nuremberg on 16th October 1946. All the bodies of the executed men were photographed before being placed in coffins.

I am curious because there appears to be blood on Keitel's face and hair. Could anyone tell me was he mistreated before or during his execution in the gymnasium. I have read in several books that it took much longer than expected for Keitel to die and that he was heard moaning after he was dropped through the trapdoor. The article below says he took 24 minutes to die when hanging should of course be instant when the neck breaks.

The second photograph is of Wilhelm Frick who also appears to have blood on his face - and look at where his head is resting, it is also badly covered in blood. Surely this is too much of a coincidence?

I came across these stories which might suggest that the executions might not have gone as smoothy as was officially reported at the time. The first article in particular could account for the bloody faces:


GORY DETAILS ABOUT EXECUTING NAZI WAR CRIMINALS

Is it true that one of those condemned to death for war crimes at Nuremburg had to be physically strangled by two men swinging on his ankles after he had survived the drop on the gallows?

The manner in which the Allies executed 10 senior surviving Nazis remains a matter of some controversy.

Officially, the executions were carried out cleanly, but contemporary accounts make it clear that one was so botched it did indeed become necessary to swing on the legs of the condemned man in order to finish him off.

Unofficially, neo-Nazis have long charged that all the hangings were designed to make the last moments of Germany's criminal war leaders as painful as possible. The neo-Nazi netzine Stormfront, for example, quotes Stag Magazine, (Vol. 3, No. 1, December 1946) to suggest that the executioner - Master-Sergeant John C. Woods, US Army - was a Jew. Woods, they allege, "used a short rope that prevented instantaneous death from a broken neck, instead insuring a slow death by strangulation. He built the trap door too small so that their facial features would be mutilated during the fall. Woods would later boast to the U.S. Army's Stars and Stripes newspaper that he enjoyed the task, saying that "hanging those Nazis was the best thing I ever did."

The men who died at Nuremberg were Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Franck, Frick, Streicher, Seyss-Inquart, Sauckel and Jodl. Part of the neo-Nazi argument concerns the length of time it took doctors to pronounce the men dead once they had been hanged:


Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop -18 minutes
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel - 24 minutes
SS General Ernst Kaltenbrunner - 13 minutes
Minister Afred Rosenberg -10 minutes
Governor General of Poland Hans Frank -10.5 minutes
Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick -12 minutes
Anti-semitic newspaperman Julius Streicher - 14 minutes
Slave labour chief Fritz Sauckel - 14 minutes
General Alfred Jodl - 16 minutes
Arthur von Seyss-Inquart, governor of the Netherlands and Austria - no time cited

Master-Sergeant Woods: hanged Nazi bastards

In total, the executions took from just after one until just before three on the morning of 16 October 1946. Much of that time, supposedly, was spent waiting for each victim to be slowly strangled at the end of Woods rope.

The official version of events is rather different. The Allied authorities at least implied that all the men died of broken necks, and detailed accounts of the executions (such as these eyewitness description archives) make it clear that the apparent delay was the product of a decision to construct three sets of gallows - two for the executions themselves and one spare - and to hang the condemned Nazis one after the other, but on two different gallows. The doctors present did not enter the enclosed areas beneath the traps to pronounce one hanged men dead until the man on the adjacent gallows had also been hung; thus, after Ribbentrop and Keitel had both dangled, they pronounced Ribbentrop dead; then Kaltenbrunner was hung on Ribbentrops gallows while Keitel was still strung up, after which Keitels body was cut down and examined, and so on. This was the cause of the apparent delay in pronouncing death.

In one case, however, the hanged man appears to have died of strangulation and not of a broken neck. Perhaps fittingly, the man in question was Julius Streicher, the odious editor of the racist newspaper Der Sturmer, and the only one of the condemned who went to his death still shouting "Heil Hitler".

According to US hack Kingsbury Smith, of the International News Service,

"..The trap opened with a loud bang. [Streicher] went down kicking. When the rope snapped taut with the body swinging wildly, groans could be heard from within the concealed interior of the scaffold. Finally, the hangman, who had descended from the gallows platform, lifted the black canvas curtain and went inside. Something happened that put a stop to the groans and brought the rope to a standstill. After it was over I was not in the mood to ask what he did, but I assume that he grabbed the swinging body of and pulled down on it. We were all of the opinion that Streicher had strangled.

Incidentally, neither Goebbels nor Himmler were involved in the Nazi war crime trials; Goebbels and his entire family committed suicide in Hitlers bunker the day after the Fuhrer, and Himmler munched a cyanide capsule in May 1945 after being captured by British forces whilst attempting to flee in disguise.

Source: BIZARRE (UK)



But a foul-up in the Streicher execution was not reported in Mr. Kingsbury-Smith's story. He later recounted the event, to his journalist counterparts at the San Francisco Examiner. In explaining, he said that Streicher's hanging was bungled, and at the last moment Streicher screamed out the Nazi salute Heil Hitler. And at the same instant the trap-door opened and Streicher went down kicking and twisting at the end of the hangman's rope.

As the rope snapped Streicher was groaning for several seconds. Just then, the hangman, lifted the black covering the lower portion of the gallows and went inside. Suddenly Streicher's voice was still, silenced forever.

Source: BULLDOG NEWSPAPER COMPANY


Hope someone can give me more information.

Best wishes,

DAVID
Potsdamerplatz
Former member
United Kingdom
 
Posts: 2675
Joined: 04 Nov 2005 05:06
Location: Scotland

Postby Max Williams on 02 Feb 2006 00:51

Basically, the American hangman made a balls up of the executions. Apparently the trap door did not retain in the rubber bungs when opened and consequently some of the hanged were hit in the face by the rebounding trap door. He also got the drop wrong. Reading Albert Pierrepoint's autobiography, the correct drop was absolutely essential to ensure that the neck vertebrae was severed on the "jerk" to be certain of instantaneous death. The hanged at Nuremberg did not die immediately of a broken neck, but choked, indicating the miscalculation by Woods.
No evidence of mistreatment before or after.
Max.
Max Williams
Member
United Kingdom
 
Posts: 9306
Joined: 04 Feb 2003 16:57
Location: London

Postby TenorioM on 02 Feb 2006 11:27

So, worst case scenario, these war criminals responsible for the genocide of millions and the destruction of Europe suffered for 20 minutes. Hmmmmm. Does this merit a thread of posts?
User avatar
TenorioM
Member
Spain
 
Posts: 137
Joined: 22 Jun 2005 22:02
Location: Madrid, Spain

Postby Dieter Zinke on 02 Feb 2006 11:38

TenorioM wrote:So, worst case scenario, these war criminals responsible for the genocide of millions and the destruction of Europe suffered for 20 minutes. Hmmmmm. Does this merit a thread of posts?
Why not !?! I myself would notice this in a footnote in Keitel' s bio in any case !!
Dieter Z.
User avatar
Dieter Zinke
Forum Staff
Germany
 
Posts: 7762
Joined: 02 Dec 2003 09:12
Location: koblenz / germany

Postby Potsdamerplatz on 07 Feb 2006 01:43

Thanks for the quick reply Max. You are 100% reliable as always :wink:

DAVID
Potsdamerplatz
Former member
United Kingdom
 
Posts: 2675
Joined: 04 Nov 2005 05:06
Location: Scotland

Postby SteveFBS on 08 Feb 2006 00:54

Of course it merits a thread of posts. This is a research forum and people are seeking information no matter how arcane or unsavory. The forum is made up of people who are very willing to be helpful in sharing the information they may possess with others who may be interested. Everyone knows millions died during the war. That is a given and it is not the point. Please don't try to stifle someone's inquisitive mind just because the subjects of their inquiry may not be Mother Teresa or Gandhi.
SteveFBS
Member
United States
 
Posts: 199
Joined: 08 Jan 2004 13:04
Location: Long Island, NY

Wood's bungled hangings

Postby fredric on 21 Feb 2006 08:35

Multiple sources, mostly British, say that Woods bungled the hangings. The photos do not lie. Some victim's faces clearly were struck by the trap. None died instantaneously. The condemned were not tortured or beaten but they did experience a somewhat prolonged, unpleasant end.

Woods is on record for saying he looked forward to hanging the Nazis and probably did nothing to expedite the process except to pull on Striecher's legs. I have one piece of research which quotes Woods as saying that he would "drop those Nazis" like poled oxen. Woods used a standard military drop of six feet for all of his victims, not the variable drops developed by the masterful British hangman, Pierrepont. Pierrepont's technique tailored the drop to the victim's weight, height and physical condition, almost assuring instantaneous death 100% of the time. The Nuremburg gallows also was inferior to the British design in which the double doors of the trap are caught and held open. Apparently the Nuremburg gallows allowed the doors to swing, whacking the condemned. The Nuremburg noose was a typical "cowboy" hangman's knot, a design discarded by the British long ago and replaced by a slip-knot.

Even Reichhart, one of the master Nazi executioners, considered Woods a crude amateur and the two disliked each other intensely. Reichhart did not assist in the Nuremburg executions or the gallows design, something which has been asserted.
User avatar
fredric
Member
United States
 
Posts: 717
Joined: 03 Dec 2004 04:19
Location: USA Princeton

Postby Elisa on 16 Apr 2006 00:55

@ Fredrick

you wrote the "drop" was 6 feet - so what does that mean to a victim of 6 feet and 6 inches tall? (Kaltenbrunner)

how can I imagine the technique of that process? I imagine the door opens, the rope is strapped by the weight of the body and the body smashes down to the drop. but what if the person is taller? will he just slip to the side? I mean in detail: Kaltenbrunner's head was 6 inches above the level of the scene... he must have sufferred a long time!?

how long was the rope of Mr.hangman?

then: if I look at Keitel closely: it looks as if the blood came first from his mouth, flew to his nose and eyes and on the side of the head to his hair - which looks quite dry (if one considers the bloodloss of a wound of a doorbang...)
so he must have been upsidedown in some moment? the blood underneath his eyebrows looks as if his face had been upside-down - or was his forehead cleaned afterwards? which I doubt, for the rest of his face looks untouched, nothing seems smeared. so the reason for bleeding was not on top of the head but something from inside the body... maybe he was biting his tounge? or something was done to him?
another thing: if the wound was on top of the head, the blood would not necessarily flow to his lips - especially alongside his lips - it looks rather as if the blood came from there...

last not least - does the smash with the door mean they might have been unconcious?

thanks for helping me out!
Elisa
Member
Austria
 
Posts: 79
Joined: 11 Apr 2004 23:57
Location: A U S T R I A

Postby SteveFBS on 16 Apr 2006 01:07

I may be wrong, but I would assume the "six foot drop" could refer to the length the body would fall below the platform level. The platform would have to be higher than 6 feet off the ground so the executed person's feet would never touch anything beneath him. There must be some place you could find the formula for determining how long the rope needs to be depending on the height and weight of the victim, and how far the drop needs to be to break the neck of the condemned person effectively. I had never given this any thought, so I could be totally inaccurate. I'm sure someone on here will come up with the proper answer for you!

-Steven S


PS-Happy Easter, everyone!
SteveFBS
Member
United States
 
Posts: 199
Joined: 08 Jan 2004 13:04
Location: Long Island, NY

Postby Peter H on 16 Apr 2006 02:03

This article might be of interest:

http://www.richard.clark32.btinternet.c ... ging2.html

It appears that death(the lack of vital signs) could take over 20 minutes but most became unconscious after 3 minutes.

The trauma of the hanging could also cause damage,bleeding.
User avatar
Peter H
Forum Staff
Australia
 
Posts: 28605
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Woods and his drop

Postby fredric on 16 Apr 2006 05:40

This could lead to an interesting, scientific analysis. First, I recommend all those interested follow our moderator's recommendation to consult my friend Mr. Clark's excellent website. There you will learn the finer points of British hanging technique including references to drop tables. Be sure to read the official protocol for acertaining the length of the drop and its long history. Think of it this way: the British hangman's rope is a fixed length. The noose measures 13 inches (ouch) and from it the previously determined drop (from a standard table with possible adjustment by the executioner) is measure. The rope is then coiled to the drop point and tied with pack thread. The remaining length of the rope is then attached to an adjustable fixture on the beam. The noose hangs about chest high, looped and tied. Mr. Clark has a fine drawing of this.

Unfortunately from the evidence, I do not think Master Sargent Woods followed this protocol. I have read that he used a standard six-foot drop for each of the condemned. I am not sure he measured it from the neck of the victim or from the victim's feet...a big difference. Certainly this would have worked badly on some of the condemned as you have pointed out...Kaltenbrunner for sure.

I believe some of the facial damage resulted from the trap doors not locking in the open position as is done on the British gallows. Instead they were swinging doors (like saloon doors) and banged the victim in the face or back of the head. Additional trauma also can occur by the hanging process itself...bleeding from the eyes, etc. By any measure, it was a bungled execution but Woods didn't care...he is on record for saying he looked forward to hanging the Nazis and in my opinion, was out to make it as unpleasant as possible. Woods earned himself a lot of criticism especially from the British press and was not used for any more war crimes executions in Europe.

(It has been asserted that the famous German execution Reichhart advised Woods but this is probably not true. Reichhart himself may be the source of this myth. The Nuremburg executions in no way resemble German hangings. The techniques are totally different.)

By contrast, the master of British hangmen, Albert Pierrepont, was recognized for his meticulous craftmanship which enabled him to kill cleanly. The victim did not strangle for 20 minutes although British regulations usually called for the victim to hang for at least 30 minutes. Pierrepont calculated each drop upon the condemn's weight, height and physical condition. Eventually the U.S. military created a manual for military executions and included a drop table like Pierrepont's.
User avatar
fredric
Member
United States
 
Posts: 717
Joined: 03 Dec 2004 04:19
Location: USA Princeton

Postby ritterkreuz1945 on 16 Apr 2006 06:17

TenorioM wrote:So, worst case scenario, these war criminals responsible for the genocide of millions and the destruction of Europe suffered for 20 minutes. Hmmmmm. Does this merit a thread of posts?


It is my understanding, that one of the Generals, Jodel I think was "cleared" by a German militery court much later after the hanging. In that light, was it alright then for that man also to be srangled to death?

M.Gray
User avatar
ritterkreuz1945
Member
United States
 
Posts: 308
Joined: 23 Nov 2003 06:36
Location: Peoria, Illinois

Postby Markus on 16 Apr 2006 10:19

ritterkreuz1945 wrote:
It is my understanding, that one of the Generals, Jodel I think was "cleared" by a German militery court much later after the hanging. In that light, was it alright then for that man also to be srangled to death?

M.Gray


My full agreement

Sincerely
Markus
User avatar
Markus
Member
Germany
 
Posts: 98
Joined: 14 Jul 2004 15:06
Location: Germany

Woods

Postby Markus on 16 Apr 2006 10:28

Hello
I think it is obvious that John C. Woods took a grim pleasure from creating the executions of Nuremberg as cruel and inhumane as possible. In my opinion that was only possible in agreement with higher authorities, who quite unusually disallowed that the executions were filmed.
First of all it cannot be doubted that Woods was an experienced executioner:
He hung a total of 347 men.
According to Stanley Tilles who assisted Woods at Nuremberg, he bungled the executions on purpose. In the case of Streicher:
“Woods applied the hood and Streicher, knowing he would live only moments more softy said, “Adele, my dear wife.” Woods adjusted the noose, but placed its coils off center, would not snap Streichers neck and he would strangle. I realized instantly that this was Woods attend and I saw a small smile cross his lips as he pulled the hangmans handle.” (Tilles: By the neck until dead. Gallows of Nuremberg)
Tilles also mentions that Woods was a great german-hater. Considering that Tilles in his memories still does not lack sympathy for Woods, there is no reason to assume that he is an incredible witness. Third in charge was Joseph Malta. In an interview (for the TV-documentation “Hitlers Helfer”) he confirmed with bare satisfaction that the hangings were badly botched and needlessly prolonged

The official Protocol shows that none of the executions was performed efficiently.
It was 18 minutes before the attending doctors could declare Jodl dead,
24 minutes in the case of Keitel.
The faces of some delinquents had been battered in.
In Germany the publication of the abominable photographs of the corpses was wisely forbidden. According to Werner Maser a german journalist named Helmut Kamphausen who tried to publish them in a Berliner local newspaper was arrested immediately.
Later the photographs were released and published in the licensed press by the american.
Cecil Catling, correspondent of the “London Star” criticized that the platform of the gallows were not build high enough and that the gallows had been wrongly designed.

So it is quite evident that Woods intentionally bungled a lot.
Before his Nuremberg “job” Woods also botched serveral hangings at Landsberg and by then had already acquired his bad reputation.
Significantly back in the USA his services as hangman were never requested again after his master stroke at nuremberg. Woods died under died mysterious circumstances, trying to check an electric chair (well, obviously it worked ;-)
In my opinion it is very problematic to refer to the Nuremberg hangings as executions by modern standards. According to the historical facts they must regarded as an repulsive act of vengeance by the victors upon the defeated.

greetings,
Markus
User avatar
Markus
Member
Germany
 
Posts: 98
Joined: 14 Jul 2004 15:06
Location: Germany

Postby Elisa on 16 Apr 2006 11:51

@ Markus

my research on those who assisted Woods (Tilles + Malta) brought the result, that they were jews as well.

Honi soit qui mal y pense.

in other words - analysing the staff of all third reich-trials (examiners, lawyers, prison-guards, witnesses and judges etc.) it looks as if there is a certain numerical superiority of jewish people there, especially if it comes to acting or decisive positions.

some were even put to trial in the US themselves (after an uproar in the non-jewish media about torture-crimes committed during the Malmédy-trial) - such as Kirschbaum, Thon and Perl, for severely torturing the Germans during the Malmédy trial. Their sentence was laid down after interventions from certain lobbies.

we need to be sober in this point: it's clear that jews would act in vengeance, but how come they were installed in those positions?

# either someone wanted (or was forced) to give them some questionable satisfaction (and thus handed in to their demands of being in charge of killing their former pursuer)

or

# someone wanted to break the pride and will of the German people (well knowing that the jews would act like beasts ... [see literature on the examinations for the Malmédy trial etc.]

or

both.

any other proposals by anyone?

btw: (off topic)
reading Lucius Clay (decision in Germany) between the lines, one gets the impression, that the non-jewish Americans soon realised what mistake they had made - in wiping out the German power on the continent, they had to re-fear the communist invasion - cold war and McCarthy had to do a double-job.


BTW: I'm not implying that ALL jewish staff acted with unhuman intention.
Elisa
Member
Austria
 
Posts: 79
Joined: 11 Apr 2004 23:57
Location: A U S T R I A

Next

Return to Axis Biographical Research

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot], histan, Yahoo [Bot], Yandex [Bot] and 6 guests