Beheadings in the Third Reich

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Pete26
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Pete26 » 26 Jan 2009 02:20

Thanks Fredric for clarifying this detail.

Alois Weiss, the Pankraz prison executioner, worked as an assistant to Johann Reichart before getting selected for the Pankraz post. And since Reichart discontinued the use of blindfolds and started using the "hand over the eyes" method instead, it is logical that Alois Weiss would do the same. Therefore, it is not surprising that this practice was used in the Pankraz prison executions as well.

It would be of interest to know if "hand over eyes" method was used at other execution sites as well. Maybe Paul can come up with some answers.
Last edited by Pete26 on 26 Jan 2009 03:49, edited 1 time in total.

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Objectes on the floor of Plotzensee execution room

Post by Pete26 » 26 Jan 2009 02:33

I looked at the wedge shaped objects on the floor of the Plotzensee execution room, as clearly visible in of the photos, and these objects appear to have the shape of wheel chocks used to block wheels on Army trucks. Typically, these would be made of wood or rubber and a pair could be connected with a short chain. On one of them there even appears to be what looks like an eye bolt, which the chain would be attached to if two of these were tied together. This is just speculation of course, and I really do not know for what purpose were these things used in the death chamber.
Could they have been used to temporarily align the guilltine blade when it was being replaced?

As for the board with the cutout in it, , could it be the original hinged board from the modified Plotzensee fallbeil? Removing the hinged board from the original fallbeil would also have required modifying the bench, as there was a large cutout in the middle for the bascule hinge. We have already discussed the purpose of the cutout in the board itself before and the assertion that it was a hole for the chin of the condemned does not make much sense, because they would have had shove the board under the guillotine blade along with the victims head, and that would cut the board on the first try.

And the mysterious tub? Was it perhaps used to carry the severed heads, one at a time into the next room? Or was it just used for general cleaning, like floor mopping? I do not know how the dead bodies were removed from the Plotzensee chamber after execution. Did they have a box with handles, similar to Pankraz prison? In that case the head would be probably placed between the legs of the body in the carrier box. The bodies and heads were removed to the room next to the execution room through a small door visible in the right wall when looking from the aft end of the chamber, is that correct? Maybe the board with the cutout was used to carry the dead bodies to the room next door?

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Paul53
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 26 Jan 2009 11:10

As for Fredricks re mark about the head strap:I found it a bit dfficult too,to believe it was only introduced 1940,as Waltenbacher says.In the 80 or so years that the Mannhardt was in operation, the problem would certainly have occured more.BTW,Waltenbacher gives a reason why Reindel quitted the job:he was prosecuted,so to say, by the tax department.His income as executioner,and the income he had from his knackers business,were added and taxed for the previous 5 years.Reindel suddely found out, that he earned less than his assistants.They (RJM) tried to persuade him to stay,but Reindel had had enough.
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 26 Jan 2009 11:25

Plotzensee:as far as I know ,the activity with the bodies of the executed followed the practice in use in other prison,that is, to place the body,head between the legs, in a coffin and transport it through the small steel door,to the other room.Execpt for occasions like in 1944, when for some reason there were no coffins available for 4 days after execution, and the convict bodies were simply stacked in the morgue for 4 days in the summer heat.
I read somewhere,I dont know if it was in Waltenbacher ,that the use of a blindfold was abandoned after it was found,that struggeling condemned oftencaused the blindfold to fall off.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 26 Jan 2009 16:39

Wolffenbuettel.



It was planned, that the big execution site for the middle-north of Germany,would be built in Hannover.This was difficult,as Hannover prison was located in the middle of residential areas,and the prison itself had not really room available.Building an extention to one of the metal-working shops was proposed,but this too, seemed insufficient.The plan for Hannover was abandoned,and the attention of the RJM turned to Wolffenbuettel, 60 to the south east of Hannover,and 12 km south of Braunschweig.One of the larger prisons,with 950 male inmates.It was suggested that Hehr should move to Braunschweig,but eventually we was allowed to stay in Hannover,because travel connectios by train to the other execution sites were better from Hannover,and that the latter,being a larger city,was better suited to keep Hehrs activity secret.

The adaptation of a former metal-working shop into an execution room, took most of the fall of 1937.The prison director, a certain Greiffenhagen,was advised by the RJM: '' The execution room should not be too small for it must have ample room for all those involved in the process.It should have an excellent lumination,and should be combined with a smaller adjacent room for the medics to do their work in.The quarters of the Scharfrichter and his assistants should be shielded from the unrest from the night before an execution,but the to-be-executed should not notice anything from the presence of the Scharfrichter,nor of the testing of the Fallbeil.When you have the time, you should visit Plotzensee,to see how the matter is dealt with there.You should realize, that comparatively soon, the first executions will take place in your prison"'

The rebuilding of the execution shed was speeded up.The floor was paved with light brown,ribbed tiles,the walls were tiled until just under the roof.Other rooms in this area were the Scharfrichter quarters,an autoption room,a few security cells and a room for stacking coffins in, before the transport to the crematorium.
The Faillbeil was transported from Hannover to Wolffenbuettel and installed on sept. 20th 1937.The first executions took place on october 12th 1937.
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 26 Jan 2009 17:24

An infamous incident took place in Wolffenbuettel in januari 28th 1941.
During the execution of the former labourer Heirich S,the assistant Hilfswachtmeister O ,whose job it was to hold the head of the comdemned so that it was horizontal,apparently moved his hand too far inwards,into the direction of the Beil, and lost his thumb.First assistant Wilhelm Rottger remarked:''I am about 10 months First assistant with Hehr and have the job to lead the convict to the machine,and to hold his left side down on the bench so that he cannot move.I could not see Wachtmeister O, because the Halsbrett was inbetween.Each of us has his own job and has no time to watch the others"'

O,was transported to a nearby hospital (ny Rottger)from there to Hannover,were the wound on his left hand inflamed.A week later,his left arm was amputated because of blood poisoning,but it was already too late.A few days later Hilfswachtmeister O died in Hannover

In the course of the investigation that followed,the execution commando Hehr was instructed to be "'utterly careful"' when executing.Furthermore, the work safety of the machine itself was checked.Hehr was requested to go to Berlin-Tegel for a meeting with the production manager of the Fallbeil production team(may 1941)It was found,that assistants O. thumb,was not completely severed but tat it hung on some shreds.Moreover,the gap between the heads basket and the Halsbrett,was only 1/2 thumb wide, which means that O.s hand was probably hit by a piece of the slide, rather than the blade itself.The edges should be rounded.Furthermore, a second Halsbrett was proposed, for the blade to run in between.This suggestion was not taken,because the distance of two Halsbrette plus the blade,would exceed the lenght of an average neck"'


In june 1941 the RJM ordered that all execution sites had to be checked for the cells that the condemned were locked into,to be escape safe.Wolffenbuettel had to reconstruct 30 cells ,among others with special manganese-steel bars and doors.The floors of these cells had to be strenghtened,new locks had to be placed.All through Tegel prison Berlin.

Until march 15th 1945, 516 people were executed in Wolffenbuettel.But already a few months later,the British occupational force used Wolffenbuettel again, and nwe executions took place from the 6th of june 45 untill the 7th of july 1947.The Hehr execution commando beheaded 67 persons during that period.
After that, the execution room was rebuild into a desinfectation room.

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Re: Objectes on the floor of Plotzensee execution room

Post by fredric » 26 Jan 2009 20:48

SOME COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS:

OBJECTS ON THE FLOOR: Yes the objects on the flook look like wheel chocks. Their purpose is probably related to the date the photo was taken. I think the photo is part of a series of photographs taken by the Soviets to document their seizure of Plotzensee in May, 1945. The number of photos indicates to me considerable interest in the execution room and in particular, the fallbeil. The probable reason is that the execution chamber was where heroes of the Soviet Union ( e.g. The Red Orchestra) were beheaded and the fallbeil was considered a war trophy. We have another photo of the soldiers surrounding the same fallbeil with the location identified as Moabit, not Plotzensee. Perhaps the wedge shaped objects were going to be used in moving of the fallbeil?

If the photo is from an earlier date, I still think the objects were to channel blood away from the machine. Rottger operating a hauling company and may have owned such rubber blocks. This is speculation on my part.

THE STRANGE BOARD: The fallbeil may have been modified with a stop so the strange board would not be cut by the falling blade. Maybe it held the victim straight? Pulling the victim' chin out of the cut-out and ramming it into the halsbrett could be the practice? Or could it have been used as a "collapse board" of the type found at hangings? Scharfrichters were allowed to modify their machines and procedures in the interest of efficiency. It does not seem logical but maybe Rottger had developed a technique using the board. Five Facts: It is in the execution chamber. It shows signs of wear in the shape of a body. It has a hole the right size for a chin. It is the right size for the table. One of the world's greatest WW2 scholars (Evans) says it was used on the victims and that the hole was for the chin.
Either Evans made this up or heard it from somewhere. The source of the photograph is the BILDARCHIV GERSTENBERG. Perhaps this archive is the source of the idea? I have never found a reference or photo to a board of this type being used with the fallbeil.

THE BODY CASES: The bodies were placed in wooden coffins provided by the Berlin Anatomic Institute. The reference made to running out of cases is from a letter by Dr. Steive, the Institute's famed anatomist, who petitioned the RMJ to provide more cases.

Pete26 wrote:I looked at the wedge shaped objects on the floor of the Plotzensee execution room, as clearly visible in of the photos, and these objects appear to have the shape of wheel chocks used to block wheels on Army trucks. Typically, these would be made of wood or rubber and a pair could be connected with a short chain. On one of them there even appears to be what looks like an eye bolt, which the chain would be attached to if two of these were tied together. This is just speculation of course, and I really do not know for what purpose were these things used in the death chamber.
Could they have been used to temporarily align the guilltine blade when it was being replaced?

As for the board with the cutout in it, , could it be the original hinged board from the modified Plotzensee fallbeil? Removing the hinged board from the original fallbeil would also have required modifying the bench, as there was a large cutout in the middle for the bascule hinge. We have already discussed the purpose of the cutout in the board itself before and the assertion that it was a hole for the chin of the condemned does not make much sense, because they would have had shove the board under the guillotine blade along with the victims head, and that would cut the board on the first try.

And the mysterious tub? Was it perhaps used to carry the severed heads, one at a time into the next room? Or was it just used for general cleaning, like floor mopping? I do not know how the dead bodies were removed from the Plotzensee chamber after execution. Did they have a box with handles, similar to Pankraz prison? In that case the head would be probably placed between the legs of the body in the carrier box. The bodies and heads were removed to the room next to the execution room through a small door visible in the right wall when looking from the aft end of the chamber, is that correct? Maybe the board with the cutout was used to carry the dead bodies to the room next door?

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Step by step to the end....

Post by Piotr1 » 26 Jan 2009 22:08


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Scharfrichter Hehr after the war...

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 26 Jan 2009 23:21

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 26 Jan 2009 23:37

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 26 Jan 2009 23:54

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 27 Jan 2009 00:11

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 27 Jan 2009 00:18

Map of the execution sites in Germany and Poland 1944.The various destinations of the Scharfrichter are depicted.

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Paul53
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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Paul53 » 27 Jan 2009 00:20

Paul53 wrote:Map of the execution sites in Germany and Poland 1944.The various destinations of the Scharfrichter are depicted.

Sorry,this one doesnt work yet.Next:

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