Beheadings in the Third Reich

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ghostsoldier
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by ghostsoldier » 16 Jan 2009 19:03

andreobrecht wrote:Regarding the French guillotine, I have a website on which I post historical information I gather as well as pictures of the models I build http://boisdejustice.com. The drawings of the 1889 Berger guillotine are not yet available but they will be for sale through the website starting in the spring (I hope).


Ah yes! I have seen your excellent site; I will continue to monitor it for new data, and hope to see your Berger plans there soon (I'm a draftsman by trade, myself). :)
Rob
"Even God cannot change the past. "
-Agathon (448 BC - 400 BC)

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 16 Jan 2009 19:50

Konigsberg,East Prussia.

In 1938,it was decided that the prison in Konigsberg had to have a state of the art execution site with its own guillotine.Before the site was ready in the fall,
, Ernst Reindel beheaded using the hand held ax.After the reform of the German execution system,in 1937/38,the main method of exe3cution was the Fallbeil.The sit had a glass roof and a cell adjacent for the condemned to spent his last hours in

Already in 1934,discussions between Roland Freisler and representatives of the RJM resulted in a recommandation of the Fallbeil as the sole instrument of execution,as the hand ax was by a majority of those present regarded as midieval and repulsive.Things got under way after the beheading of Von Natzer and Falkenhayn,feb.18 1935,which caused some commotion abroad.However,there were not enough modern Fallbeile to cover the needs of the RJF.Until that time, the hand ax was to be used.It had its drawbacks however,that became manifest when executioner Reichelt had to give two blows to complete the job.(Reichelt was fired immediately)The only time that the hand ax was officially used in wartime(there were Fallbeile enough at that time)was in nover\mber 1942,when looters were to be executed after air raids on Rostock.The executioner(not stated who) was given the Handbeil and Richtblock, and was driven to the nearest prison,Dreibergen/Buetzow,to do the job.
Anyway,from 1938 until summer 1943,Reindel,Hehr,Bordt and Henschke were respon sible for the executions in Konigsberg prison.It was found however,that the executions were more and more difficult for these men to carry out, becaus of the distances in travel and the effect of allied bombing.It was therefor decided that a Scharfrichter had to be appointed who was a local resident or was willing to become one.This Scharfrichter had to serve Danzig prison also(more on that later)Karl hENSCHKE,from Poznan,applied and was given the job.january 3th 1944,he became active as Konigsbergs and Danzigs own executioner.
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 16 Jan 2009 20:19

It was ,in wartime ,evident that transferring prisoners for execution to the assigned executions sites was increasingly troublesome(bombings,supplies to the front and so) Most of the condemned were moved by train,in special cars.This fact was important in the view of the Reichjustizministerium,for creating new execution sites.Up to april 24th 1944,the condemned from the Danzig area,had to be transported to Poznan or Konigsberg prisons for the sentence to be carriedout. On that date however, the execution site in Danzig was taken in use.A further consideration for Danzig to have an own exc. site was the fact that there were simply not enough guards available for the transports(most men were called into the army)Another consideration was the Anatomical institute of Danzig University(Prof.Rudolf Spanner, the soap manufacturer) who claimed that quote....the material that we need,will only arrive about 6 hours or so after execution,so that it will be of little value for us for most applications unq.
To relieve Poznan,Konigsberg and Danzig prison of the great number of death sentences,another execution site was planned, namely Schroettersburg prison.This plan was given up however,as it turned out that Konigsberg,Poznan and Danzig could cope withe the number of condemned.

There was ,in Danzig prison,as in most other prisons after 1942,a provision for hanging.Waltenbacher states that these provisions were all modelled after the one from Plotzensee(with one exeption,more on that later)The execution site was planned to be ready on febr.1 1944, but alterations in the hanging provision delayed the delivery of the site to april 24th.There was a great shortage of building materials.
As stated before,Danzig execution site was taken in use with the solemn beheading of three German soldiers who forgot themselves during a death transport of Jewish girls,a not uncommon feat
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Pete26 » 17 Jan 2009 05:56

It seems that a hanging beam was provided in most execution rooms that also contained a guillotine. Are there any exceptions? Typically these hooks could be moved by sliding them along the bottom flange of the I beam. In some cases, trolley wheels were provided for easy hook movement. Most, if not all of these execution rooms also had movable black curtains, in some cases, quite a few.

We also know that some, but not all guillotine execution rooms were also tiled (e.g. Pankraz), some were not (e.g. Plotzensee). Some were centrally heated and some were not. In case of the latter, some kind of small wood or coal burning stove was probably used.

Some guillotines were equipped with a homemade blade shield, some were not.

Some execution rooms had windows, some did not. In case of Plotzensee, solid wood inner shutters were closed over the front windows. Pankraz execution room had two windows with frosted glass on them. No shutters were used.

And some of these guillotine execution rooms or buildings were converted garages or storage buildings (e.g. Plotzensee and Stadelheim), located some distance away from the main prisoner cell block. Others were built inside a larger building, also containing prison cells (e.g/ Pankraz).

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Hi !

Post by Piotr1 » 17 Jan 2009 09:24

I am also still here(at time to time) Thank you Paul for excellent extracts from Waltenbacher book.:-)
One information:
after the war execution room in Poznan was rebuild into prison canteen.The prison is still existing...

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 17 Jan 2009 16:22

Bezirk 3 Breslau,Kattowitz

Execution sites for the southeastern part of Germany and occupied Poland.The executioner here was August Koster,former First assistant of Friedrich Hehr.Koster took the job on august 1th 1943.Before that date,executions in Breslau and Kattowitz were carried out by Bordt and Henschke from Poznan,and Hehr from Hannover.The same considerations that were mentioned before-the long time for Scharfrichters to reach their destination,trouble with prisoners transport and so on-were decisive for the RJM to appoint an executioner,especially in view of the ever increasing amount of death sentences to be carried out.In Breslau from april 42 untill march 43, the toll was 264,in Kattowitz fromjanuar 42 till december 42 the toll was 214.From februar 43,the search for a new executioner was open.As usual,the teams of the other Scharfrichter were combed through for a new one.Nobody could be missed there.Finally,August Koster declared himself willing to take the job.Of the then 49 year old Koster,Hehr declared that he was "" relaxed and capable"".Koster,by that time chef of some kitchen,moved with his family to Kattowitz,were he reported for duty on june 24,1943.There was some trouble in finding assistants however.Koster went to the Katowitz Gestapo, but was told that"" nobody here is going to be an assistant,on punishment of immediate release""A surprising stance from Gestapochief Mildner,who declared himself a""principal opponent of the Fallbeil"" while this same Mildner went to nearby AUschwitz every five to six weeks,condemning prisoners to be shot in the head in Block 11 on a conveyer belt basis.
But this aside.(Source Auschwitz in den Augen der SS,Auschwitz memorial publication)
Assistants were finally found in Myslowitz prison,where three guards volunteered.Two of them quitted after one execution,but eventually,a butcher from Hannover,and a former leader of a work detail from the same city were appointed.
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 17 Jan 2009 16:35

Breslau.

Penal prison Breslau was the central execution site for Silesia and the greater Breslau area.In 1937,the execution site was added to the already existing prison.Until that time,executions were performed in the courtyard,using the Handbeil.As the execution site was build,a Mannhardt that was kept until that time in Wuertzburg,was installed.The Handbeil and Richtblock were taken in and moved to the storage rooms of the RJM in Berlin.
After Koster was only a month in the job,an incident occured during the execution of former Wehrmacht soldier G:the slide of the Beil stuck on its downward travel.(a bolt was sticking out).It took 5 minutes and 20 seconds to fix the problem, the condemned lying on the bench all the time.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 17 Jan 2009 16:59

Pete26 wrote:It seems that a hanging beam was provided in most execution rooms that also contained a guillotine. Are there any exceptions? Typically these hooks could be moved by sliding them along the bottom flange of the I beam. In some cases, trolley wheels were provided for easy hook movement. Most, if not all of these execution rooms also had movable black curtains, in some cases, quite a few.

We also know that some, but not all guillotine execution rooms were also tiled (e.g. Pankraz), some were not (e.g. Plotzensee). Some were centrally heated and some were not. In case of the latter, some kind of small wood or coal burning stove was probably used.

Some guillotines were equipped with a homemade blade shield, some were not.

Some execution rooms had windows, some did not. In case of Plotzensee, solid wood inner shutters were closed over the front windows. Pankraz execution room had two windows with frosted glass on them. No shutters were used.

And some of these guillotine execution rooms or buildings were converted garages or storage buildings (e.g. Plotzensee and Stadelheim), located some distance away from the main prisoner cell block. Others were built inside a larger building, also containing prison cells (e.g/ Pankraz).




The one exception here is Frankfurt am Main/Preungesheim prison,which had only one hook for hanging.(Waltenbacher) Will come to that later.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 17 Jan 2009 17:38

Kattowitz.


Before Kattowitz prison had its own execution site, those condemned to die had to be transported to Breslau.As a rule, these transports were of individuals,rather then groups.It soon became clear that this method was too expensive.(30 Reichsmark pro person)There had been a case in which a condemned was paralysed from the waist down, due to a backbone shot, where the railroad fee was 85 Reichsmark.This was considered ridiculous.However, the RJM was not quick in allowing Kattowitz its own execution site.The prison here was situated in the middle of a residential area and it was feared that the desired secrecy of the executions could not be garuanteed.Many other prisons in the area were considered, but eventually,as the others were found unfit for an execution site, it was decided that Kattowitz prison was the only possibility.
Many troubles were encountered in building the site however.Kattowitz prison was very small(only 232 inmates could be housed)from an average of 700, and building material was almost not available.The building of the site however was speeded up in every conceivable way, by using day and night shifts.
Anyway,the execution site in Kattowitz was delivered in the fall of 1941,552 condemned lost their lives there.The site had a modern Tegel,ordered july 1941.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Pete26 » 18 Jan 2009 02:32

Paul, can you clarify what is meant by the"execution site" in Katowice prison? Did they construct a separate building to house the fallbeil, or did they modify several existing cells or a room inside the prison to serve this purpose? This what they did in Pankraz prison (modified several large prison cells), and such modification was relatively inexpensive and did not require a lot of materials to accomplish. They provided floor drains for the fallbeil and the morgue, tiled the execution room to the height of about 2 meters from the floor, provided a sink and two hose bibs, and replaced the clear window glass with frosted glass. And installed a hanging beam and a lot of black curtains.
Because you mention scarcity of building materials, I assume that they needed to construct a separate execution building in Katowice prison.

It appears that whenever possible, an existing small building was preferentially converted to an execution site (e.g. Plotzensee, Stadelheim).

Note: The phrase "execution site" is typically used to denote the general location, i.e. the prison where executions were taking place. Sometimes "execution site" may refer to an open area of the prison where execution equipment was set up. "Execution building" or "execution room" obviously describe the exact location of the guillotine and are relevant to this discussion.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 18 Jan 2009 03:48

As far as can be made up out of the text,a seperate building was made in Kattowitz.The new Tegel Fallbeil that was meant to replace the obsolete one in Weimar,was instead installed in Kattowitz.Your comments are to the point.How shall I describe the execution locations in the future?Execution buildings or execution sheds?
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Pete26 » 18 Jan 2009 03:50

Paul53 wrote:Breslau.


After Koster was only a month in the job,an incident occured during the execution of former Wehrmacht soldier G:the slide of the Beil stuck on its downward travel.(a bolt was sticking out).It took 5 minutes and 20 seconds to fix the problem, the condemned lying on the bench all the time.


Finally we have an actual recorded event of the fallbeil slide jamming on its way down. Such occurrence was not uncommon on early French guillotines whose upright grooves were not lined. The grooves had to be periodically soaped to prevent jamming of the mouton. Later French guillotine version had the upright grooves lined with metal to minimize the possibility of the mouton jamming in the grooves on its way down. Also, wheels were added to the mouton at some later date to facilitate swift and smooth descent of the mouton/blade assembly.

About that unfortunate victim having to wait over five minutes on the guillotine bench: Those were undoubtedly the longest five minutes in his life.
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Pete26 » 18 Jan 2009 03:53

Paul53 wrote:How shall I describe the execution locations in the future?Execution buildings or execution sheds?


I really does not matter Paul, as long as the reader can figure out what is meant. The info you are providing is what is important.

I would say that "execution room" is appropriate if located inside a larger building housing other activities as well, and "execution building or "execution shed" is appropriate where a separate building is provided just for the purpose of conducting executions and nothing else. I would use "execution site" to denote the open area in the prison yard if executions were conducted outdoors.
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 18 Jan 2009 03:57

Yes,the soaping of the obsolete Guillotines (Frankfurt,Weimar,Koln)is mentioned several times in this book.Also,that the lining of for example the Weimar,was so worn out,that the blade did not cleanly cut off the head anymore ,but left a"" fraying and undefined"" mark on the victims neck.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 18 Jan 2009 04:10

These old Guillotines by the way,had to be erected every time for an execution,and were out in the open.Several Scharfrichter critisized this and pleaded before the war,for more up to date machinery.Reindel suggested in 1936,to shorten the Koln Fallbeil by a meter,but his suggestion was not taken as it was feared by the RJM that the Fallbeil would lack the necessary punch or force.

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