Why did Josef Kramer stay at his post in Belsen

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Why did Josef Kramer stay at his post in Belsen

Post by bam » 06 May 2023 00:31

Josef Kramer, though just a mere Hauptsturmfuhrer (Captain), was the final commandant of Bergen Belsen concentration camp from Dec44 to April 15th 1945, when the camp was discovered & liberated by British troops. They found 60,000 dying inmates & 13,000 unburied corpses. In the camp HQ, the Nazi in charge, Kramer, sat waiting. He proceeded to show the stunned British commanders around his camp.
Kramer had worked in KZs since 1934, an early adopter! He was the commandant of Birkenau II, the killing centre at Auschwitz, during 1944, overseeing selections & gassings, regularly.
So, with all that blood on his hands, why did he sit in his office at Belsen & await capture by the British? I suppose I'm asking, why he didn't try to run?
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Re: Why did Josef Kramer stay at his post in Belsen

Post by LineDoggie » 07 May 2023 00:11

Maybe realized he had nowhere to run
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here".
Col. George Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach

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Re: Why did Josef Kramer stay at his post in Belsen

Post by gebhk » 07 May 2023 15:30

Perhaps in some way he probably believed in the righteousness of what he was doing and like the captain of a sinking ship, decided to stay at his post? By all accounts not the sharpest tool in the shed but he showed a degree of dedication and honour absent in the majority of his more illustrious colleagues.

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Re: Why did Josef Kramer stay at his post in Belsen

Post by michael mills » 15 Jun 2023 11:38

Contrary to the statement, KL-Bergen-Belsen was not "discovered" by British troops. Its existence and location were revealed to the commanders of the advancing British forces by the commanders of the German and Hungarian troops in the vicinity. The Germans told their British counterparts that a typhus epidemic had broken out in the camp, and there was a danger of the disease being being spread by escaping prisoners; accordingly, they wished to negotiate an orderly handover of the camp to the British, with the proviso that the prisoners would be kept confined in it until the epidemic had been suppressed.

Under the terms of the negotiated agreement, all the German personnel in the camp were to evacuate it and to be allowed to retire unmolested to the German lines before the arrival of the British advance guard, with the exception of the the Hungarian guard battalion and a small number of German camp personnel including the commandant and senior officers, for the purpose of maintaining order and preventing any escapes of prisoners. The remaining German personnel were to wear white armbands to indicate their status as persons covered by the negotiated agreement, which also provided that those remaining personnel were to be allowed to retire unmolested to the German lines, in the same way as the majority of the German personnel who left before the arrival of the British.

It is that negotiated agreement that explains why Kramer remained in the camp and took the first British officers to arrive on a guided tour of it, in the course of which he boasted about his success in keeping the inmates securely confined and preventing any spread of the typhus epidemic beyond the camp. He had been ordered to stay and keep order, and fully expected that under the terms of the agreement he and the rest of the remaining camp staff would be allowed to leave.

What went wrong is that the British almost immediately broke the terms of the agreement and arrested Kramer and the rest of the remaining German personnel. However, they did not arrest any members of the Hungarian guard battalion, who according to accounts by liberated prisoners, continued to march down the main avenue of the camp every morning with their band playing and flags flying. So far as I am aware, it remains unknown whether the British always intended to break the agreement, or whether they only decided to break it once they had observed the disastrous conditions within the camp. It could be that the British commanders initially intended to abide by the agreed conditions, but realised that once the conditions became known to the general public they could not release the remaining camp staff without bringing a storm of opprobrium down on their heads. It could also be that the British Army officers who had negotiated the initial agreement with the Wehrmacht commanders were overruled by the British Government, whose main aim was to exploit the propaganda potential of the images showing the conditions within the camp.

By the way, all the above material is freely available in any of the standard histories of the camp. There is no need for any uninformed speculation.

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Re: Why did Josef Kramer stay at his post in Belsen

Post by Sheldrake » 15 Jun 2023 12:14

A few years ago I took the family of one of the officers who liberated Belsen to that camp. Their late father had a notebook concernig the arrival and a collection of SS ensignia, which may match the missing patches on the German guards filmed after the camp was liberated.

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