Beheadings in the Third Reich

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by hmtk1964 » 08 Apr 2021 13:33

Dear Pete, hope this post finds you wel

Question on your below remark

Alois Weiss, when interviewed by a journalist after WWII, stated that his conscience did not bother him and the fate of the people whom he guillotined did not move him. Cynical words by a cynic who killed people only for money.

- why should it have bothered him ? People where "lawfully" sentenced to death.. most of the known executioners have the same feeling

- payment; as the executions were done by what is now called private contractors.. why should they have done the work for free ? (or even give money away as he had to pay the assistant and had other overhead cost)

Not sure however on the psychological strain...and how it affected their dreams and good night sleep.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Pete26 » 09 Apr 2021 04:17

hmtk1964 wrote:
08 Apr 2021 13:33
Dear Pete, hope this post finds you wel

Question on your below remark

Alois Weiss, when interviewed by a journalist after WWII, stated that his conscience did not bother him and the fate of the people whom he guillotined did not move him. Cynical words by a cynic who killed people only for money.

- why should it have bothered him ? People where "lawfully" sentenced to death.. most of the known executioners have the same feeling

- payment; as the executions were done by what is now called private contractors.. why should they have done the work for free ? (or even give money away as he had to pay the assistant and had other overhead cost)

Not sure however on the psychological strain...and how it affected their dreams and good night sleep.
Even the most ardent Nazis who believed Hitler until the last moment that Nazi Germany would crush its enemies and win the War would have to realize how evil this regime was after the War ended and all of brutal and nasty deeds of Nazi Germany were publicly uncovered and denounced, and many Nazi leaders were sentenced to death by the Allies and executed. And many of those Nazi leaders who were sentenced to death were proclaiming their innocence on the grounds that "they were merely following orders". This did not save them from the gallows. Alois Weiss knew only too well that he had put to death hundreds of innocent people whose only crime was that they resisted the invaders of their homeland and in some cases were sentenced to death for listening to forbidden radio stations, providing food or shelter to resistance fighters, or selling a bag of flour on the black market instead of turning it over to German invaders as ordered, or possessing a firearm they may have inherited from their father who fought in WWI. This is why his cynical statement that the fate of those whom he executed did not bother him, is particularly disturbing.

Alois Weiss was not a contractor but a civil servant as he was employed directly by the Third Reich Department of Justice. In fact, after the war he demanded a pension for his work in Prague as a civil servant for the state.

I have no doubt that there are individuals everywhere who would be willing to serve any regime, no mater how brutal, and kill innocent people if properly compensated, and within that group there is also a smaller subset of those who would have no regrets and would justify their actions as "lawful."

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by svenga » 09 Apr 2021 11:44

"Two assistants of the executioner took the convict under the arms and led him to the bench, they put him on his stomach, so that the animal of the condemned man put it above the tongue. They pressed the neck with a special board. At the prosecutor's request, the executioner lowered a knife weighing two to three hundredweights. fell into the bathtub, the body and head were put into a coffin.

Before their death, convicts often cried out: Long live Poland! Hearing that gave me a shudder.

The executions took place in a closed period, in a prison on Młyńska Street in Poznań. The room is divided into three parts, separated by a red curtain.

The first, narrow as a corridor, was a table with candles on it. Here the prosecutor of Germany - Kaizer read the convict the sentence, for example: "for illegal slaughter of a pig, for theft or for political activity".

After the sentence was read, the condemned man was returned to the other part of the space where the guillotine stood. The execution took place here. On the farm, the price of a coffin with a corpse.

One person was executed for five minutes. For the summary - because my salary was calculated from each decapitated head - I received thirty marks.

How many executions have I been involved in? "One hundred and eighty two hundred, I think."

In 1942, I wanted to get married. However, I was earning little, about one hundred and sixty marks. There was not enough money to buy and buy. Richard Schtrauch confided in me that apart from the work of a chauffeur in the emergency room, he had an additional job with the executioner. In the middle of this year, I went to the executioner wearing the Bordt brand, living at Mickiewicza Street. Bordt told me that I would be notified of the date of my execution in a prison in Poznań. At the end of January, I was informed that I should be present at 4 p.m. I am summoned. There was an execution of seven people, but then I was just watching. After this first attempt, I was instructed to go to the prosecutor's office, with whom I had to take an oath that I would keep the secret of the way in which people sentenced to death were executed.

In this way, I became one of the three assistants of the chief executioner - Bordt, and I was a full complement from the end of January 1942 to May 1943, that is, until I was called to the Wehrmacht.

Initially, the shouts: Long live Poland, raised by those who were going to their death, made me want to withdraw from this job, but my colleagues advised me not to, arguing that I would get used to it.

In 1942 I got married and at first she didn't know, it was just the beginning of my work. When she found out, she said to me: 'although your job is not good, the money is good for it'.

I do not feel guilty, after all, the court issued sentences, and the prosecutor ordered me to do so ”.

The person submitting these explanations to the Polish law enforcement and judicial authorities is Karol Robert Grams, born on January 5, 1911 in Ostrówek, in Poznań, son of Maria, of German nationality, primary education, Evangelical religion. He was a farm worker by profession, later, during the occupation, until the end of 1940 he worked as a castle in the building of the deaconess hospital, which was taken over by the German army. Then he took the position of an ambulance paramedic at Bernardyński Square.

Karol Grams in the thirty-first year of his life became the assistant of the executioner. Entrusting him with this function created opportunities for additional income. Their amount depended on the number of Poles' heads cut off.

The excerpt comes from the book Józef Musioł, "Judge and executioner, or one day of Dr. Thümmler".
The post comes from the group History of the world overshadowed by wars 1805-1945.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by fredric » 09 Apr 2021 23:00

Thank you. I did not know of this book by Jozef Musiol. I assume it is in Polish thus difficult to translate.
But it is filled with new information, at least new to me but perhaps not other members.
Thank you.

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Agricultural crimes

Post by Pete26 » 10 Apr 2021 03:22

svenga wrote:
09 Apr 2021 11:44

The first, narrow as a corridor, was a table with candles on it. Here the prosecutor of Germany - Kaizer read the convict the sentence, for example: "for illegal slaughter of a pig, for theft or for political activity".
Illegal slaughter of a pig or selling flour on a black market was considered an 'agricultural crime" and was often punishable by death. Deliberate destruction of food was also punishable by death. There were quite a few individuals beheaded in Pankrac prison for such "agricultural crimes" and it was no doubt the same throughout the entire Third Reich.

Some time ago I mentioned the case of a Polish woman who was supposedly beheaded in Katowice for spilling milk on a German woman. If this was done deliberately in anger and considerable quantity of milk was involved it is not difficult to imagine that some zealous prosecutor would secure a death sentence for the crime of deliberate destruction of food. We do not know if this story is true, but I would not be surprised if it was.

There were three central execution sites in Poland during the Third Reich era. Katowice and Poznan sites used a Tegel type fallbeil, Wroclaw used a Mannhardt fallbeil. Both Katowice and Wroclaw fallbeils are quite well preserved to this day and are located in two separate museums. Only a few parts of the Pozanan fallbeil were found after WWiI and are displayed in another museum in Poland.

Poznan execution room also had three hanging pits with vertical rows of hooks set into the wall above each pit so the same length rope and noose could be used for people of different height. I have posted some rare Poznan fallbeil photos a few years ago. The floor drain in front of the fallbeil was huge, much larger than the one in Pankrac, Vienna, or Stadelheim execution rooms. In fact the drain was so large that they fabricated a drain cover which was apparently used to cover the drain during fallbeil maintenance so the tools would not end up falling into the drain.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Hans1906 » 10 Apr 2021 10:46

Pete26, the german designation for the Illegal home slaughter of a pig was "Schwarzschlachten" / "Schwarzschlachtung".

For example, please take a look at the following link:
Rothenburg unterm Hakenkreuz / Schwarzschlachtung http://www.rothenburg-unterm-hakenkreuz ... reispruch/


P.S. A so called "Hausschlachtung" was common here in Germany still in the 1960s,
my greatgrandparents always feeded a pig, and the yearly slaughter of the pig was a special event, lots of eating, drinking, celebration.
Lots of alcohol always, a very special day every year...

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by fredric » 11 Apr 2021 01:35

Hope contributors/readers to this topic are vaccinated and perhaps through the pandemic.

For me, this horrible pandemic time gives me more time to pursue projects related to our topic.
I have completed a scale model of a German richtbeil. In doing so I learned a lot. There is no textbook
on the subject. Underway now is a scale model of the English execution axe based on the the Tower of London.
The College of Arms and those at the Tower have been most helpful. Yet they have only one such axe.

Richtbeil and sword were conducted for decades in Germany including the early years of the Reich.
I am sure some Forum readers know about the RMJ meeting on standardizing an of an execution method?
It's well-documented material (see Waltenbacher and Evans). And it is fascinating!
End result: fallbeil.

Hitler never personally ordered construction of twenty fallbeils. The costly design and construction fell to the RMJ to determine.
Thus for a year or so the richtbeil and maybe the sword were still used.

I have concluded the following:

1. Scharfrichters who beheaded by sword or axe realized their "talents" would no longer be needed because standardiztion throughout the Reich was desired by Hitler.
2. The "great" Scharfrichter Groppler had resigned after he axe-beheaded von Falkenhyne and Natzmer. Horrible p.r. for Nazi Germany!
3. . Sharfrichter Ernst Reindel took Groppler's place and was beheading by axe until the "fallbeil" became standard.
(These were transitional years for executionary protocol)
3. Scharfrichter Hehr beheaded with the axe and fallbeil. In WW2 he borrowed an axe from the RMJ when a Central Execution Site he served was were bombed. I believe he beheaded three Whermachten? Richtbeils I think were hidden and kept by Scharfrichters,
4. Every Scharfrichter wanted and needed the money from executions so I theorize some hide their equipment.
When Ernst Reindels home was torn down after the War, the crew found a richbeil under
staircase. It was sold as scrap!
5. Johann Reichhart never used the axe.

I hope others will comment on this subject.

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Use of a sword for beheadings

Post by Pete26 » 11 Apr 2021 05:27


You state that both axe and sword executions were conducted in the early years of the Third Reich.
Can you identify at least one judicial execution under Hitler where a sword was used? And which scharfrichter used it? I thought the use of sword for judicial executions in Gemany was abandoned sometimes in the 1800's.

You also say that Carl Groeppler resigned after beheading von Falkenhayn and von Natzmer. I read somewhere that rather than resigning, he was forced into retirement because of his age. He was already 68 years old when he beheaded these two women.

English execution axe was very poorly designed. It was badly balanced and the handle was too long and the blade too narrow to enable the executioner to aim accurately every time. This is why more than one stroke of the axe was often required to fully sever the head if the executioner was not experienced enough using this axe. German Richtbeil, on the other hand was much better designed and balanced, with a short handle and heavy and wide blade, which enabled far better control and more accurate blow every time. Because of its heavy weight, the Reichtbeil did not have to be swung form an overhead position which provided far better aim.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by fredric » 11 Apr 2021 16:05

I agree that the English "heading axe" (also called a "socket axe") is inferior to the German richtbeil for the reasons you give.
It also was of a fragile design for both the blade and the shaft. Few English heading axes are known to exist today.

A good film version of an axe beheading in England can be seen in the film "The King". Single blow by either a lucky or experienced
headsman is all it took. But the shaft could twist in the headsman's sweaty hand and the blow be painful and gory.

The richbeil could reliably slice through a neck just by its weight. Traditionalists at the RMJ stated that when talking about the
richtbeil, "we are dealing not with a normal 'chopper' but with a specially made execution axe. Because of its unusual weight, it has such a powerful cutting force that it is absolutely unnecessary to swing it. The weight of this instrument of execution also helps achieve
a particularly accurate blow." In 1936 Gropler's role as the leading executioner in Germany was coming to an end. At 68 years old he was
past retirement age. An official noted that Gropler's abilities were "falling off a bit." The RMJ relieved him of this duties and he left
gracefully, retaining his annual retainer of 1500 marks as a pension. This pension was below the average wage and he had no other income. Thus for all purposes, Carl Gropler was almost penniless. RMJ officials worried that Gropler would raise a protest which he had done in the past. Their worries were well-founded because in 1937 Gropler was offered a lucrative deal for his life's story from a NY newspaper. Nazi bureaucrats forced Gropler to promise to decline the offer. Then Gropler disappeared. He did not reappear until after the War when the Soviets arrested and imprisoned him. Gropler is reported to have died in prison.
As far as the sword being used in Nazi Germany, I recall reading that it was still used rarely in a region where the sword was traditonal and had not not been replaced by either the richtbeil or fallbeil. I do not remember the small area of Germany where this was claimed to be true so I will do some digging. Sources here are Evans and others.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by fredric » 13 Apr 2021 01:51

Evans says "Theoretically the sword was still operated in German (1922-1928) in a few provinces such as Lippe, Mecklenburg, Saxe-Anhalt and Reuss but no examples of its use have come to light."

So it is probably correct that the sword's use as a proscribed beheading device ended well before the NZ times.
I have searched other sources and cannot find the one I recall that exclaimed that the sword was still "in use" into the 1930's.
So I must agree, the sword became a museum piece by 1933.

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Piotr1 » 18 Apr 2021 08:14

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Piotr1 » 18 Apr 2021 08:28

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Piotr1 » 18 Apr 2021 08:34

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Re: Beheadings in the Third Reich

Post by Pete26 » 18 Apr 2021 16:03

An interesting article. Here is English translation by Google:
Crime without penalty. "I am offering the skulls of Poles and Jews at an agreed price"
"Tomorrow, the Institute of Anatomy will receive the first corpse. 11 Poles will be executed, of whom I will get 5, and the rest will be burned" - noted the anatomist Hermann Voss in his diary.

Hermann Voss: I offer the skulls of Poles and Jews at an agreed price

November 16, 1945, Poznań. Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. Michał Woroch, a lab technician at the Forensic Medicine Institute in Poznań, testifies:

"We were called to the basement, where, in front of the stove, (commissioner) Lange announced that we would now be employed to burn the corpses supplied by the Gestapo. We were bound to absolute secrecy, threatening - if we spoke a word about what we were doing here - to burn in the same furnace.

Since then, the bodies of Poles have been brought in, initially single, and later more and more. At first, they were the bodies of those shot, later beheaded in the prison at ul. Młyńska under a court judgment. There was a haste or carelessness in shearing, because sometimes they were cut across the head or even diagonally across the breast. "

Józef Jedynkiewicz, an employee of the Institute of Descriptive Anatomy in Poznań, will write on the same day about a corpse without heads.

"The heads (...) of the victims were thrown into baskets, as if beets or swede, and were taken to the third floor of the maceration plant. Here they were prepared and then used in the local Anatomy Department, where some of them are located until then, or they were sent to various universities in Germany.

Throughout the (...) German occupation, the corpses of Polish convicts were used here for scientific purposes, and it happened with the consent and order of the then head of the Department of Anatomy, prof. Hermann Voss, originating from Leipzig ".

Skulls brought to the Forensic Medicine Institute in Poznań by Marei Drassdo

Such a Nazi to put to the wound

A very decent man, curious about the world, cultured, family - this is what his neighbors, friends and relatives could say about Hermann Voss. He is also active: he reads passionately, is interested in painting, regularly plays jerk, chess and the piano (especially Johann Sebastian Bach).
He learns Russian and Latin, and studies Greek and Sanskrit with his teenage son. Because, as he writes himself, it ultimately means "broadening horizons!".

This is known from the diary of Hermann Voss kept in the years 1932-1942. Its other parts have not survived. This was found by prof. Anatomy Stefan Różycki "in his department after returning from the occupation exile in the first days of the reconstruction of the University of Poznań in February 1945".

We know this from Hermann Voss's earlier fate: he was born on October 13, 1894 in Berlin as the son of a landlord. He studies medicine in Munich, Heidelberg and Rostock, where in 1919 he defended his doctorate, and in 1923 he was habilitated.

During World War I, he served as a field doctor on the Western Front for a year and a half, and later works at the University of Leipzig. In the diary, Hermann is a man to the wound, who takes part in charity. He writes about his little daughter Sabina "she is sweet now", "with her light blonde, almost white hair and blue eyes she looks just gorgeous".

It is for Bindi, as he calls her, that he brings chestnuts from a bicycle trip and polishes ambers to make her necklace. Wife Eva gets a silver sugar bowl and a cream jug for Christmas, on the day of her daughter's birth a bouquet of cloves and sweets, and on the occasion of an "Adler" bicycle. Hermann in the morning shines three rooms and cleans his shoes, and after lunch he spends an hour with his daughter "so that the wife can rest".

He works a lot himself, according to the maxim: "the body passes, but human works - even if insignificant - remain". He conducts lectures and classes with students on the preparation and research on human muscles. He writes scientific papers and experiments.

On June 11, 1934 he orders the cat to be injected with chloramines.

"This is a new disinfectant that I want to try to preserve corpses," he notes the next day. "We have to wait now to see if it can also preserve it longer. Only then will we try it on a human organ."

In February 1936, Voss brings home an animal skull. He shows it to the child. "She was impressed by the 'frog' as she called her, she stroked her until suddenly, I didn't manage to prevent it, gave her a kiss!"

Only sometimes the malcontent comes out. In winter, it complains about cold, snow and runny nose, and in summer - hot weather. He complains about the small number of students at the university, the bureaucracy, the worst wages one can get when he works in the hospital in September 1939.

And from month to month, he believes more and more in Nazism.

"Mama", "Papa", "Heil Hitler!"

On June 23, 1935, Voss notes: "Our daughter is now developing physically and spiritually. She came to bed with me the day before yesterday morning. She grabbed her mother's book about the popes from her mother's bedside table and leafed through it. the Pope, with her hand raised, said, "Heil Hitler!"

Apart from "Heil Hitler", two-year-old Sabine can also say "mama", "dad", "no", "ball".

On February 10, 1933, Voss is delighted with the Fuehrer's speech in Berlin. On August 18, 1938, he writes about the war - that it is terrible, but also has a lot of blessing in it. Although it is not a blessing that women and children die in it. On September 8, 1939, he experienced the second siege of Warsaw by the German army during his lifetime. "Finis Poloniae" - notes September 17.

In February 1941, Voss is offered a job in Poznań. He is to become the rector of the chair of ordinary anatomy. Two months later he moves to the Wartheland. For the day of separation from the family, he will receive as many as 8 marks ("I can live on it, so I hardly have to touch the proper salary"). Food also gets "much better than in the old Reich". He likes Poznań, but it's a pity that there are Poles there.

The Germans find a way to get rid of the Poles quickly.

Voss notes:

"In the institute building in the basement there is a crematorium. Currently, it serves only the secret police. The Poles shot by them are brought here at night and burned. If it was possible to turn the entire Polish society to ashes! The Polish nation must be eradicated, otherwise there will be no peace in the East" .

"The ashes of four Poles were lying in the furnace. How little is left of a person when the organs are burned. There is something very reassuring to look at such a furnace" - he writes a month later. He is worried about the crematorium furnace that used to burn the body parts left over from the preparation exercises before the war. "Today there is a [...] announcement [...] that five Poles were sentenced and executed as a result of a joint murder. With such mass work, our furnace will surely strike soon as it is already a bit fragile."

The preparer's worry: the crematorium furnace collapses

Voss applies for a new stove. After the war, on November 16, 1945, members of the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland go for inspection at the Department of Descriptive Anatomy of the University of Poznań, headed by Voss.

Prosecutor Jonasik, citizen Szymański and mgr Kaczmarek state:

The "red-brick kiln with twice the iron hoops" was built in 1942 "in place of the old one, which had worn out due to burnout".

In the new furnace, the corpses were burned "with 2 gas burners placed at the top of the furnace", and "up to 7 corpses" could be placed in the furnace. And "next to the furnace, in the wall on the left, there is a hiding place with an iron door, intended for the ash from the burnt corpses", which was emptied twice, each time taking away three ash platforms from the burnt at that time about 6,000 corpses murdered by the Germans Polish and Jewish victims ".

Feliks Jankowiak, an employee of the Poznań waterworks, who was sent to the "collapsed prison building" at Młyńska Street on February 25, 1945, also takes the floor:

"I found myself in a room where a guillotine and a clever device for collective hanging of people stood. In the open large chest, the naked bodies of recently hanged men, who had not been delivered to the Anatomicum, were still lying in the frost. these preparations and that the criminal would be upset by this fact. "

Where did the accusation come from? Jankowiak was at Młyńska Street once - "on an autumn day in 1944", when Voss's laboratory technician lost consciousness after drinking tap water.

"At the entrance I was hit by a bland, unbearable smell. I looked around at the macabre surroundings. There were large steel vats under the walls, heated from below with gas burners. Some dark liquid gurgled in them. Staff wearing rubber boots, aprons and gloves stirred in them. long stirrers. Here and there human hands, legs and heads protruded to the surface of the vat.

Where did the delay come from? Mainly from casemates at ul. Młyńska 1. Since 1940, the Germans have carried out executions in the prison. Most, around 1,400 prisoners, end their lives on the guillotine.

The bodies were also delivered from Fort VII, i.e. KL Posen, and the investigation camp in Żabikowo.

This is because Voss already entered into an agreement with the Gestapo in July 1941: all bodies of the executed would be delivered to the Reichsuniversität Posen Anatomy Institute for dissection and maceration. The first transport of the murdered prisoners does not arrive until October 31, 1941. The German records meticulously in his diary:

"Tomorrow, the Institute of Anatomy will receive the first corpse. 11 Poles will be executed, of whom I will get 5, and the rest will be burned."

This is exactly what Voss does in line with that of his colleagues in the industry. Until the 1930s, German universities competed with each other over the corpses of convicts.

"Regrettable circumstances"

On February 12, 1998, a letter was delivered to the cultural attaché of the Polish embassy in Austria. Writes Dr. Maria Teschler-Nicola, head of the Department of Archeological Biology and Anthropology at the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

"(...) We noticed that in our collection under the inventory numbers 20.562-20.576 there are skulls of Poles, which were purchased from the University of the Reich in Poznań. It is not about anatomical corpses, but the remains of the skeletons of lost Polish resistance activists" .

The preserved documentation shows that the transaction was initiated by Dr. Gustav von Hirschheydt, the chief preparator of Hermann Voss. More precisely, he responded to the request made by Dr. Josef Wastel, then director of the anthropological department of the Viennese museum.

"(...) Since we lack various Polish types, having such skulls would be very valuable for our exhibition. The more, the better" - wrote Dr. Wastl.

Von Hirscheydt will not be able to finalize the transaction. He dies of typhus, which he contracted from the corpses of Jews most likely murdered in the Żabikowo camp. Negotiations are therefore taken over by the business initiator - Hermann Voss. He asks if the museum wants a skull "with an attached lower jaw or loose", and offers five masks and two busts made by von Hirschheydt "including their Jewish skulls at an agreed price."

The reply confirms "the arrival of 29 Jewish skulls ordered, including 25 death masks, 4 plaster busts and 15 Polish skulls". And that "the goods will be displayed in a special exhibition with an indication of the manufacturer".

Voss skulls are priced at 25 reichmark pieces.

This is how much he earned in 1938 from renting a garage in his house. Almost twice as much as he spent on drugs for his daughter's ear infection and the onset of tuberculosis in his wife. And almost twice the price he paid for his 11-week-old wirehaired terrier for his daughter.

At the end of March 1999, the Viennese museum handed over to the Polish embassy "the remains of the human skeletons of 14 Poles, which were purchased in 1942 by the then head of the anthropology department in deplorable circumstances."

In an article from March 16, 1999, "Głos Wielkopolski" lists the names of 38 people whose skulls were identified by the Main Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against the Polish Nation as potential items of trade between Voss and Vienna.

Before the burial took place, the remains were sent to the Institute of Forensic Expertise. prof. dr. Jan Sehn in Krakow. When mentioning that case, Andrzej Czubak, a forensic anthropologist, says: - Well, what a great entrepreneur.

It was him, alongside prof. Kaczanowski, reconstructed the skulls. It was found that 12 victims were men aged 23 to 45, three were women aged 30, 45 and 48.

- I made a super-projection (identification of the corpse based on the skull - editor's note), randomly reported people whose relatives died in the prison on Młyńska Street, sent their photos from the past. But there was no match. These victims remained nameless - says prof. Czubak.

Perhaps it will be possible to identify other skulls.

A memento of my father

In mid-August 2017, Marei Drassdo, a literature teacher and activist of the organization to restore the memory of prisoners of war from the Leonberg camp, transports to Poznań in a trunk two skulls wrapped in a cardboard box. Previously, for over a year she corresponded with the historian and journalist Jarosław Burchardt. Now, standing in a traffic jam in the heat, he opens up, he tells.

Jarosław Burchardt: - When the war broke out, Marea Drassdo's dad was called to the Wehrmacht, and because he had already had a year or two in medicine, he was sent to Poznań to finish military medicine. And he was here for a year and a half.

How did Father Drassdo get the skulls in Poznań? He could buy them or win in the knowledge contest organized for students by Hermann Voss. He wrote about one of them that the main prize in it was "an exceptionally pretty skull".

The skulls are currently in the Forensic Medicine Institute in Poznań.

Dr. biologist. Dorota Lorkiewicz-Muszyńska from the Laboratory of Anthropology and Odontology at the Medical College takes a large cardboard box from the wardrobe in the vestibule of her office. He carefully pushes back the successive layers of newspaper. Finally he takes out two skulls. They are prepared as anatomy exhibits, so they have clasps, hooks, a mandible on springs. It is known that both belonged to men, being roughly 20-23 and 30-35 years old.

- The skulls have their own distinctive features in terms of proportions, face shape, individual morphological elements, so they are somehow characteristic. Perhaps this will facilitate their identification, says Dr. Lorkiewicz-Muszyńska.

Jarosław Burchardt and journalist Piotr Świątkowski count on the fact that portraits of the victims will be created: - Thanks to them, maybe someone will be able to find a relative who, instead of resting in a grave, was an exhibit for students to learn.

Marei Drassdo, although she is also waiting for it, refuses to talk.

"I'm afraid I have nothing to say about Hermann Voss. If I had known anything, I would have already mentioned it in an interview for Radio Poznań" - he replies. She also explains that she inherited the skulls from her father, who "bought them for anatomical studies" - and thus "came into the possession of (her) family". "Unfortunately, I never asked him about their origin," the message ends. After that, he no longer writes back.

Dr hab. Czesław Żaba emphasizes that models of the faces of the murdered based on the skulls will be published in the media. - And what if someone in the family answers and then we can do a DNA test. Despite the fact that they were macerated, such an attempt can be made. Because these could be the skulls of the victims of Voss's experiments.

- Is there any other option?

- I only associated it with Voss.

For insulting the Volksdeutsches at the guillotine

April 17, 1941 Hermann Voss laments: "I do not understand why stricter measures are not taken in connection with the current accumulation of Polish attacks on the life and property of Germans. Why are not one hundred or, for me, even more Poles killed for one murdered German?" .

For what were Poles sentenced to death during the term of Voss in Poznań? This is described in the protocol of Michał Woroch's interrogation:

"The first decapitated woman, who was brought to us, was a certain Góralczykowa, about 30 years old, and she was decapitated for having blocked her hand before a German woman beat her at the Employment Office. for that, only the death penalty was foreseen, which was also carried out on the same day.

Hanna Gola, a relative of another convict, found a typewritten document in German with the next "crimes" in family papers. It sounds like a page from the summary of the justifications of the judgments issued between 5 and 9 April in Poznań:

"From September 1939 to August 1941, the convict listened regularly to foreign inflammatory news, sharing them with an agent of the SN (National Party) who disseminated them further.

"The condemned man seriously offended three Volksdeutsche, accusing them of being guilty of the outbreak of the war, and threatened them with death."

"The convict, together with her husband, who had been executed in the meantime, attacked the German secretary from the estate from behind, beating her in the back with her fists."

It is not known whether the remains of Wojciech Gola were "only" incinerated in the crematorium or, after preparation, they ended up in some anatomical collection. No name lists have survived (or perhaps they were not kept at all) of those who went to the furnace after their death on the guillotine, or those who landed in the maceration kettle, and later on the shelves of anatomy institutes and museums. It is only known that between 1941 and 1944 about five thousand bodies of lost "subhumans" pass through the Collegium Anatomicum under the management of Voss.

In Zielone Świątki 1941, the preparator notes: "I believe that the issue of Poland should be considered without emotions, purely from the biological point of view. We must destroy them, otherwise they will destroy us. That is why I am happy with every Pole who is no longer alive".

Away from home, Voss devotes himself to work, but his family life is not going well. His son Hermann Junior is weak from an early age. He dies in May 1939. Beloved Sabina is also not coming of age. In 1946 she was killed by tuberculosis of the nervous system. So Voss left no one to defend him today - or, on the contrary, point a finger, turn away, renounce. Or just shut the door in front of your nose and suck water in your mouth.

He left behind something else.

A beautiful, long career of an outstanding expert in his profession. The image of a respected scientist who - even after the dark side of his activity in Poznań was revealed - never took any responsibility for it.

In January 1945, the preparator escapes from Poznań to Borna. For over a year he has been working there as a volunteer doctor in the city hospital. And he writes the work of life.

Don't you dare to study with "Opus Magnus"

"Opus Magnus" prof. Hermann Vossa is an anatomy textbook published in 1946 together with Robert Herlinger, which was published in 17th edition. For half a century, it is the bible of every medical student in Germany, Poland and Spain (it was published in these languages). Probably few of them knew that it was "based on studies of over 400 Polish corpses, which were partially autopsied at the guillotine immediately after their execution (after: Juergen Scholz," Voss - a Nazi servant or a folk scientist? ", Artikulator, No. 37 / 4th quarter 1991).

However, prof. Witold Woźniak, dean and vice-dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the Medical University in Poznań and author of the textbook "Zielona anatomia". His student was dr hab. Czesław Żaba.

- Professor Woźniak said that nobody would dare to bring this book. He said that Voss experimented with living people, made vivisections, studied the functioning of the nervous system on our patriots. I have this manual until today. Apart from everything else, this is a really good anatomy book, Voss was really meticulous, says Dr. Frog.

In his opinion, the mere preparation of skulls and skeletons is not a problem.

- Today it is impossible, but then there were no regulations that would require a person to consent to the posthumous donation of the body for scientific purposes. The accusations against Voss are therefore not about this, but about the experiments on the living that he was supposed to conduct - explains the head of the Forensic Medicine Institute in Poznań.

"But there's no evidence for that, at least I haven't found it," I note.

- It is also unethical, unworthy of a scientist, that he sold these skeletons and skulls. Skeletons for teaching purposes? No problem, students had to learn from something. There are other methods today, they learn from photos, videos and what's left of the past. But then where would they learn from? - asks Dr. Żaba.

- Probably the victims were recruited in the places of execution, maybe already shot, maybe still alive, for experimental work - says historian Jarosław Burchardt. - Voss was employed by special agencies of the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe, which conducted experiments in Poznań to develop special suits for high-altitude pilots. There were special pools, low-pressure chambers in which prisoners were subjected to hypothermia. This is the information overheard from prof. Woźniak. And from older people who worked at Collegium Anatomicum.

Dr hab. Frog wonders aloud: "The question is if there are sources that will confirm this, because I don't think Voss will ever admit it."

Certainly, the German did not do it on the 26 pages of the autobiography "Theatrum anatomicum meum", written in 1952 in Halle, where he worked until that year as a lecturer and chief preparator. Dry, meticulous, to the point, without emotions. About "subhumans" not a word.

From Halle, Voss moves to Jena, where he spends the next decade as head of the Institute of Anatomy - until 1962, when he retires and works at the University of Greifswald.

It was not until the end of the 1980s that Voss' war activities began to attract attention. Based on the memoirs, the German historian and journalist Götz Aly reveals the dark side of the career of a respected professor of anatomy. When a discussion about the authenticity of Voss's diary begins, he himself does not comment on the matter. But even then "every critical reader must have realized that it was a man with a particularly hateful attitude towards Poles, who fully supported the Nazi ideology in his journal" (Juergen Scholz, "Voss - a Nazi servant or a folk scientist?" , Artikulator, No. 37/4 quarter 1991).

Dr. hab. Teresa Wróblewska from the Institute of Pedagogy of the Pomeranian University in Słupsk, researcher of Nazi academic institutions in the territories conquered by the Third Reich.

For many years she had been seeking a meeting with Hermann Voss. "He didn't want to meet me, he was just running away - in other words he was afraid - but I don't know what?" - writes. In a letter to a friend, he confesses: "After returning to the country I had problems, I was interrogated by the city authorities, the SB and I was asked: why am I looking for Prof. Voss so stubbornly, do I care about the differences between East Germany and Poland? Etc.".

Only once did Dr. Wróblewska manage to establish contact with the preparation. The original letter of July 1978 has been preserved in the Institute for Western Affairs in Poznań:

"Dear Dr. Wróblewska,

in reply to your letter of June 27, I would like to inform you that I have no 'memories' from Poznań. In order to find out that not all the professors of the 'Reichsuniversität' were hostile to Poland, I am sending you the testimony of my former surgeon Piotr Miklejewski.

I am 83 years old and I need nothing but peace and quiet.

Best regards,

Prof. Dr. H. Voss ".

A year later, a prep from Poznań in war ends his scientific career and moves to Hamburg. There, on January 19, 1987, he dies at the age of 93.

The crackle of Polish bones in the winter sun

Above the entrance to the Department of Forensic Medicine in Poznań there is a motto: "Hic mors gaudet succurrere vitae et iustitiae" ("Here, death is happy that it can help life and justice").

Andrzej Czubak, summing up Voss' preparatory activity, first says briefly: - He should have been hanged.

- You yourself noticed that these people were killed for minor offenses. And sometimes they didn't even do anything, they just wrapped up a man during a round-up and was executed. Maybe those who had an "interesting" face were selected on purpose? We will never find out - he adds.

Dr. Karol Górski, a Germanist from Poznań, first stipulates that - seemingly - in the category of evil caused by the German Nazis, Voss was not in the first league.

- But everything is determined by his true intentions: whether he identified with it, did it out of the affirmation of Nazism, or whether he believed that he was entangled and, whether he wanted it or not, as a humanist and a man devoted to science, he had to deal with those victims against whom he felt empathy and preserved skulls and skeletons for the sake of science. If it resulted from being seduced by Nazism, it absolutely deserves the final damnation.

After our meeting, Dr. Górski writes: "Hermann Voss' entries in the journal are shameful and nothing can explain his actions supposedly for the good of science."

From Voss's diary of New Year's Eve 1941:

"Today, after lunch, I sat for an hour, exposing myself to the winter sun. To the right and left of me pale Polish bones were drying out, and from time to time they made a dry, slight crack.

The text was created as part of a joint campaign by Deutsche Welle, Interia and Wirtualna Polska.

This statement in the article is particularly puzzling:
Since then, the bodies of Poles have been brought in, initially single, and later more and more. At first, they were the bodies of those shot, later beheaded in the prison at ul. Młyńska under a court judgment. There was a haste or carelessness in shearing, because sometimes they were cut across the head or even diagonally across the breast.
Was this done on purpose to punish some individuals beyond what regular beheading would be? Or was this the result of fierce struggle between some convicts and their executioners where it was nearly impossible to restrain them properly?

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