Beheadings in the Third Reich

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Piotr1
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Katowice-execution site

Post by Piotr1 » 18 Jan 2009 11:24

"Gilotyna stanęła tu w osobnym parterowym budynku z czerwonej cegły, który przylegał do gmachu więzienia. Po wojnie komorę wyburzono, zachowały się jednak relacje świadków o tym, że całe jej wnętrze było wyłożone białymi kaflami..."

The guillotine was in separate(red brick, one storey, all white- tiled inside) building adjascent to the main prison complex.
After the war building was demolished

http://katowice.naszemiasto.pl/wydarzenia/705930.html

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The Shadow of the Red Widow

Post by Pete26 » 18 Jan 2009 15:32

Thanks Piotr or the article. Here is my translation of the summary in the bold faced print (my Polish is not very good):

The Shadow of the Red Widow.

The guillotine of Katowice haunted not only the population of Slasko and Zaglebie, but also the executioners who worked it.
It was the only guillotine in the territory of occupied Poland; the blood flowed incessantly. The postwar history of this beheading machine is equally sinister. The Nazis neither wanted to remove it to the Reich, nor did they want to leave it where it was.
They buried it at night where nobody was supposed to look - in the Katowice-Bugicice cemetery. The executioner August Koestner, who ran the machine, committed suicide.

Comments: The photo shows the guillotine blade shield attached on the wrong side (unless there was a shield also on the other side). Normally it would be installed on the bench side of the guillotine so it would hide the blade from the condemned. There was no reason to hide the blade from the executioner.

Also, the guillotine has a Pankraz/Vienna light Tegel style blade release lever (horizontal type mounted low on the frame). However, this guillotineappears to be a stout original Tegel with massive wooden legs. Interesting. Maybe the release mechanism was modified? Were some stout Tegels originally equipped with this type of blade release lever? Most, if not all, had a vertical pull lever. Only the Pankraz and Vienna light Tegels have this type of blade release as the original equipment. Is this assumption wrong?

Piotr1
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Piotr1 » 18 Jan 2009 19:55

Exellent translation :-)
I'm not sure if the photo from the article is Katowice fallbeill
I have a few photos(dismantled machine in Auschwitz museum storehouse) from 2006. The release lever is undoubtely vertical

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Paul53
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 18 Jan 2009 23:04

The photo on the site is said in the book to be the one from Vienna 1 and also, that it was incorrectly assembled for the picture(taken shortly after the war).Abit of a mystery.By the way,thanks for the extra info!

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 19 Jan 2009 17:16

Bezirk 4 Berlin/Plotzensee,Brandenburg/Gorden.

Both execution locations were from the amount of executed(over 5600!) by far the largest in Germany.On sept.23,1942,another executioner,Wilhelm Rottger,was appointed.He lived in Berlin and could reach the Plotzensee prison in a 20 minutes walk Rottgers adress: Salzwedelerstrasse 4,Berlin/Moabit.

Born february 19th 1894 in Hannover/Ricklingen,he became a mechanic.In WWi, het joined the navy and was fireman on some boat.After the war,he became assistant undertaker,until he became executioners assistant with Hehr 1940, as a replacement for Gottlob Bordt,who became Scharfrichter in Poznan.During his time with Hehr,Rottger replaced him in 26 executions, because Hehr became ill with some inflammation in the stomach area nov.5th 1941.Rottger was described as a ,big,solid man and a capable executioner.
Ernst Reindel,before Rottger the Scharfrichter for Berlin and Brandenburg,becameScharfrichter in Halle, Dresden and Weimar.
Rottger had to find three assistants.He already got one,a former collegue from the undertakers job.He found another in the keeper of some cafe,near Rottgers home in Moabit.The keepers brother was the third.
Rottger was ,in his appearence,considered ""a fine gentleman"",elegantly dressed.He was father to a daughter.


Berlin/Plotzensee was only one of many Berlin prisons:
Berlin/Moabit 1510 inmates
Lehrterstrasse 620 inmates
Womens correctional prison Berlin 415 inmates
Womens youth prison Berlin/Lichtenberg 140 inmates
Berlin/Tegel 1483 inmates
Berlin/Spandau 469 inmates
Berlin/Charlottenburg 106 inmates
Berlin/Lichterfelde
Berlin/Neukolln ,number of inmates not given.
The executionshed in Plotzensee was used earlier for the storage of brooms ,brushes and cleaning utensiles.It was taken in use as we know it now in the spring of 1937.The executionroom was 14.85 by 5.50 meters.It had a concrete floor,was later tiled,and got it s concrete floor back after the war for some reason.After the arrival of the Fallbeil in febr.1937,a drain had to be constructed,together with a water supply,so some weeks went by before the site came in use.
Before the Fallbeil was transported form Bruchsal to Plotzensee, it was inspected by a Plotzensee delegation,headed by the Pl.director Vacano.It was found to be effective.

This is a very long chapter in the book, and we already know some of Plotzensee,so I will try to give only those facts that I think we might not know yet.

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Paul53
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 19 Jan 2009 21:18

In may 1937,an incident occured with the Plotzensee machine ,as one of Hehrs assistants(Reindel was not available)shoved the Halsbrett too quickly upwards,so that it stuck ,which delayed the execution by some 3 seconds.Hehr had to lean on it to bring it down.A bolt was added to the construction to prevent further accidents.

An former inmate testified after the war"" One afternoon,I heared a raw male voice yell out numbers.At fist I thought there was a roll call or something,until I decided to have a look.I placed a chair under the window and looked down into the garden in the backyard.At the far left,I could see building one,behind a wall,and in about 10 meters distance a small,garage like building.A white-dressed guard came out,and yelled a number,for example 46,69,then again 52,73 and so on.As soon as he did this,the door in building one swung open,and an inmate,in the grip of two guards,was dragged over the path towards the garage.The trio disappeared inside After some moments the two guards came out again and returned to building one.Some three minutes later, the white-clad guard reappeared too, and yelled out the next number.This went on for at least an hour.""

As war broke out 1939,it was considered to open yet another executionroom in another prison,as the number of death sentences rocketed.Moreover,it was feared that the amount of executions were too much a psychological burden for the guards.The latter point however,was contradicted by the volunteering of most(not all) of the prison personell for execution duty,as they were allowed extra wages and tabacco and Schnapps.After a few months,it was clear that Plotzensee alone was used to its full execution capacity,and that another prison had to get involved.This was Brandenburg/Gorden

.And yet that was not enough either.A third site was proposed.This time in Spandau.In 1942,a
commision was formed of the RJM and Spandau was visited.A part of the south wing showerroom was elected,and building activity started.

However,as building materials were in extremely short supply,and because of the ever incrasing danger of air raids,it was decided that the ""production"" of Brandenburg/Gorden had to be increased.
A wise decision, because in the night of sept.3rth to 4rth 1943,Plotzensee,including the execution baracks,suffered several bomb hits.The roof of the ex.building was partly torn off,the Fallbeil was scorched and had fallen over by the bomb blast vibrations.It was already working again a week later,fixed by a repair crew from Tegel.
Last edited by Paul53 on 19 Jan 2009 21:31, edited 1 time in total.

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Plotzensee fallbeil and execution room

Post by Pete26 » 19 Jan 2009 21:24

We know that the Plotzensee fallbeil is a modified 1854 model. Was it modified before it was transferred from the Bruchsal prison, or after? The modifications included removal of the hinged board for the bench, replacing the cloth bucket with a rounded basin and installing a blade shield. Were there any other mods done?

I am curious how the inspection team proved to themselves that the fallbeil was "effective"? Did they perhaps behead an already dead inmate (executed by hanging)?

You mentioned that the execution room was tiled at one time. Does that mean tiles on the floor as well and walls? The only tiles visible in the post war photos of the room are the backsplash area tiles behind the sink. Because the fallbeil was located approximately in the very center of the room, it is highly doubtful that tiling the entire room would be of any practical use. And later, why would somebody go to trouble to chip away the existing floor tile or pour another layer of concrete over them?

This photo of the operational Plotzensee execution room shows several mysterious objects. First, in the left lower corner there is a wooden board with a cutout in it, whose purpose is not clear. Then, immediately to the left of the fallbeil there are several objects on the floor, and we do not know what they are or what is their purpose. Any mention of these in your book? You can see from the photo that the room is not tiled. Notice two large black solid shutters for the front windows.

http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/image49.jpg
Last edited by Pete26 on 19 Jan 2009 22:25, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Plotzensee fallbeil and execution room

Post by Paul53 » 19 Jan 2009 21:53

Pete26 wrote:We know that the Plotzensee fallbeil is a modified 1854 model. Was it modified before it was transferred from the Bruchsal prison, or after? The modifications included removal of the hinged board for the bench, replacing the cloth bucket with a rounded basin and installing a blade shield. Were there any other mods done?

I am curious how the inspection team proved to themselves that the fallbeil was "effective"? Did they perhaps behead an already dead inmate (executed by hanging)?

You mentioned that the execution room was tiled at one time. Does that mean tiles on the floor as well and walls? The only tiles visible in the post war photos of the room are the backsplash area tiles behind the sink. Because the fallbeil was located approximately in the very center of the room, it is highly doubtful that tiling the entire room would be of any practical use. And later, why would somebody go to trouble to chip away the existing floor tile or pour another layer of concrete over them?


Good questions Pete.My guess is that most of the 54 models were modified before the nazis came to power,but maybe somebody has more on that.
As for the inspection team,I did not read anything about someone s beheading to proof the machine, so I guess it was used ""dry"".
Tiles in Plotzensee: the text says""the concrete floor was reddish,part of it tiled,and the walls needed a whitewash.""So I guess that the tiles were in the Fallbeil area,which by the way was a bit on the right side of the middle of the room..judging from the place of the drain opening.
I have been twice in Plotzensee,and the site is in my opinion restaurated dead,so to say.Too clean,too neat.Best thing to me would be to leave the place in exactly the state it was found in.(The same goes for other memorials,I have been in Dachau,Natzweiler/Struthof,Theresienstadt and Auschwitz/Birkenau,and with the exception of Birkenau,it was all too neat and tidy).Beside that,most of the pictures of execution sites published sofar,have tiles,in any case around the wet spots.So I found Plotzensee a strange site in view of the others.

I have a question as well:why did they replace the stout Tegel in Pancraz with a slim legged one?They had to replace the whole thing after all,not just a few parts.Is there any record of such replacement in your book?

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Re: Plotzensee fallbeil and execution room

Post by Pete26 » 19 Jan 2009 22:28

Paul53 wrote:I have a question as well:why did they replace the stout Tegel in Pancraz with a slim legged one?They had to replace the whole thing after all,not just a few parts.Is there any record of such replacement in your book?


I have not found any reference to this in the Zaluji books so far, but I will keep looking.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 19 Jan 2009 23:34

Yes,that is about the most published photo of Plotzensee.Taken in any case after the beam was installed 1942.I often wondered what the wooden thing with the cutout was.To me, it reminds me of the wooden anti-splatter shield used by the French executioners but I have really no idea.Nor do I know about the other things on the floor.The black wooden shutters are well known and were installed just before delivery of the finished shed.
The photo in the Waltenbacher book is different .It shows the Fallbeil in april 1945,taken from another angle,with on the left of it what seems a wicker basket.Rubble on the floor.Room looks pretty much the same .The text says:the last executions took place in Plotzensee on april 16th 1945,until in the following days, Plotzensee was overrun by Soviet troops,who found among the inmates,11 death candidates.The execution room was a shambles,from vandalism and fire damage.The curtains were torn from their rails,tables and chairs were vanished.The wooden pedestal(in the backround)was still there,together with the Fallbeil,which was then removed and stocked in a basement of house B.(from where it,too,later vanished).
I remember having read a discussion about the Waltenbach photo somewhere,but I don t think it was on this form.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Pete26 » 19 Jan 2009 23:45

Paul53 wrote:The photo in the Waltenbacher book is different .

Is it different from this photo? This one was taken in May of 1945.

http://members.aon.at/redlinghofer/Bild ... _Kopie.JPG

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Plotzensee prison

Post by Pete26 » 20 Jan 2009 05:24

Here is an interesting video (in German). Scroll down for the video. It starts automatically as you access the page.

http://www.standhaft.at/printable/00000 ... index.html

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Guillotined Hannover soldiers

Post by Pete26 » 20 Jan 2009 05:51


Piotr1
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Plotzensee fallbeil with wicker basket?

Post by Piotr1 » 20 Jan 2009 16:26


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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Pete26 » 21 Jan 2009 00:20

I cannot see any wicker basket in that picture.

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