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Sunday, 24 June 2012

A German Girl's heroic death


Irma Grese was only 21 years old when she became a defendant at the infamous Belsen Trial. Few would have imagined that the young and beautiful Grese was capable of committing the crimes of which she was accused.

The testimony from the Belsen Trial indicates that Miss Grese was an SS Aufseherin, or Overseer, who was assigned duties along with seven other women to guard over 20-30 thousand inmates, most of them Hungarian Jewesses detained at Auschwitz. Indeed, it was more for her tenure of service at Auschwitz, rather than Belsen, for which she was charged and convicted. The circumstances of her case clearly indicate that Grese was simply a victim of malicious gossip and accusations made by ex-prisoners hell bent on exacting their ounce of blood from their former guards. Unjust accusations of this sort are not uncommon within prisons. However, in our justice system, such complaints are often not acted upon, as it is only to be expected that the detained will harbor resentments against their guards. This is not to say that mistreatment in prisons does not occur. Undoubtedly it does.

In the case of Irma Grese, one should simply reflect on the fact that it is not easy to manage 20-30,000 inmates. Auschwitz was a detention center, where criminals were freely interspersed among those simply being held in protective custody. As a young woman of rather slight stature it is only common sense to assume that as a guard among so many prisoners, Miss Grese took measures to safeguard her own safety. Thus, it has been reported that she carried a stick with her and was often escorted by a dog. In correctional facilities all over the world, such measures are commonplace among staff members justifiably concerned with their own safety. The usual mistake made in evaluating cases like Irma Grese is that the average person is more or less unaware that guards at Auschwitz had every legal right to take measures to ensure their own safety and to maintain order. Grese applied for a position as an SS-Aufseherin in 1942, against the wishes of her father, and was stationed for a time at Ravensbrueck, a camp for women. Please note that an SS-Aufseherin was not an actual member of the SS, which was a privilege reserved only for members of the male sex. Thus, the actual description of her position in the camp was "SS-Auxiliary helper." Her salary, meager as it was, was paid not by the Ss, but by the German Employment agency. Which arranged for her employment.

In 1943 she was transferred to Auschwitz and stationed in Birkenau.. According to her later testimony, she was sent to work in the camps by the German Labour Exchange. Obviously the recruiting and acceptance criteria for female auxiliaries of the SS was different from that of males, although I have been unable to uncover any guidelines. At any rate, Grese remained at Auschwitz until January, 1945, after which she was sent on to Belsen at her own request. If she had been sent to any other camp, we most likely would never have even heard of her.

Grese's duties at Auschwitz varied. Most of her work was rather benign, such as sorting through parcels and overseeing construction projects. However, from May until December, 1944, Grese was appointed senior Aufseherin for Compound C which turned out to be the eventual cause of her undoing. There she had to oversee 20-30,000 Hungarian Jewesses, all held in protective custody. The huge influx of detainees created problems which were addressed with difficulty by the relatively young and inexperienced Grese. Most of the problems centered around the distribution of food. The overcrowding also led to sanitation problems, which Grese was scarcely capable of handling. The detainees themselves helped to create many of the problem situations, as at Belsen, where they urinated and defecated whenever and wherever the urge struck them. They also filled the latrines and compound with trash and filth, so much so that the latrines eventually ceased to function. This would explain the pervasive stench around Auschwitz and another reason why it was referred to as Anus Mundi by former SS doctor Thilo, as recorded in SS Doctor Paul Kremer’s diary.

Grese was accused of beating prisoners herself or ordering then to be beaten. Grese herself admitted that she sometimes struck prisoners with a cellophane whip and gave orders that anyone caught stealing from the kitchens was to be beaten. While this seems harsh, one should bear in mind that the prisoners who stole food from the kitchens were actually stealing the food right out of the mouths of fellow prisoners at a time when food itself was scarce. Thus their crime of theft was particularly grievous, and undoubtedly warranted strict punishment. By comparison, if an inmate happened to have been caught stealing food and clothing by their fellow inmates, they were usually assassinated, according to the statements of numerous survivors after the war.

As head Aufseherin, Grese was also responsible for conducting roll call. Often prisoners were compelled to stand for hours until the roll call was verified as correct. However, this is common procedure at any institution and should not particularly concern us here. Grese was accused of administering vicious beatings. However, the accusations were never proven. At Belsen, she was too horrified at the condition of the sick inmates to even approach them.
Grese's comments about the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz are most interesting. She never saw a gas chamber, but remarked that she heard about them from prisoners. Other SS staff also seemed to know nothing about them save what the prisoners rumored. Thus, when she wrote SB for Sonder Behandlung in her strength book, she assumed that these people were sent to the rumored gas chambers.

There is no doubt that Miss Grese struck prisoners, but there is also no doubt that the prisoners deliberately exaggerated their alleged mistreatment. They often embellished each and every little tale and accusation of beating. Grese's testimony rings of truth and candidness, quite alike the testimony of many of her accusers. Much ado was made over the accusation that Grese was always accompanied by a fierce dog, which she set upon the prisoners for amusement. Grese denied ever having a dog. In fact, the matter could have been cleared up by asking the other Aufseherin who worked with her, but neither the prosecution nor the defense ever pursued this line of questioning as they should have.

However, according to the testimony of her co-workers, Grese never owned a dog at Auschwitz or any other camp. Most likely she was confused with Juana Bormann, another of the accused.

Though the prosecutor tried his best, it was my feeling that he failed to connect Irma Grese with any crimes which would have warranted the imposition of the death penalty. He was unable to connect her to any alleged gassings, as well as any individual cases of murder. The curious thing about the accusations is that the victims were all anonymous. Not one alleged victim of murder was ever mentioned by name by any of the accusors. Of course, that is only because their accusations were false.

Though the prosecutor attempted to portray Miss Grese in a negative light after her transfer to Belsen, he failed, in the opinion of this author. Most of Miss Grese's time at Belsen was taken up with preparing funerals for SS staff members who were also dropping like flies in the camp due to the typhus epidemic.

Summing up, it is clear that Irma Grese did not deserve the death penalty, as the prosecution failed to live up to the burden of proof which would be required in any impartial court today. Clearly Miss Grese was guilty of striking prisoners on occasion, but this was usually for some offense or infraction of one sort or another,. As usual, the professional witnesses and survivors failed to get their stories straight and their testimony differed considerably from their written affidavits. It was hardly necessary for an allied court to try Miss Grese on charges of mistreating prisoners in a detention camp, which was legally instituted by the legitimate government of Germany. Such offenses as beating prisoners could easily have been handled by the German authorities themselves. However, it WAS necessary that examples be made in 1945-46. Thus, Miss Grese was convicted and sentenced to death. Neither her youth nor the truth saved her life from being terminated by some stuffy old English Judge faithfully fulfilling the orders and expectations of his own government. Under the guise of legality, Irma Grese was lynched.

In his memoirs, the English hangman Albert Pierrepoint described Irma Grese's last hours on earth with an admiration for her beauty, her courage, and her dignity he could barely conceal. He referred to her as a "bonnie lassie" and said she spent the night before her execution singing "Nazi songs" with her fellow inmates. She was hanged the next morning along with two other German women, nurses Elisabeth Volkenrath and Juana Bormann. Irma Grese was led to the gallows first, and Pierrepoint wrote that as he slipped the noose around her neck and pulled the hood down over her face she gave him an "enigmatic smile" which haunted him for the rest of his life. "She was the bravest prisoner, man or woman, whom I ever hanged," he concluded. (From EXECUTIONER, by Albert Pierrepoint).

Woman though she was, Irma Grese upheld the honor and tradition of the SS to the last, as much as any decorated veteran of Stalingrad or Kursk ever did.

By J.Belling

13 comMENTS:

Very disgusting and shameful one can still be so ignorant. bravo.. you tried to portray the pitch as the victim...instead of the tactful millions of Jews they slaughtered. she was guilty...thousands of corroborated witnesses and German records don't lie.

Show me proofs for the 6 millions scum.

History is made by the victors. After loosing the war no german writer could write openly for Nazi's and as far as the trial is concern the defender lawyer could not argue to any any one give any statement against the Nazi criminals. So what was the point, I haven't heard about any american, russian
or any allies person held responsible for any war crime

And we all to walk away from this thinking that she was a fine, upstanding citizen? The reason, "obeying orders" doesn't cut it when it comes to crimes against humanity. Try reading "Butchers of Berlin", especially the part about how she used her whip to slice open a prisoner's breasts. There was a good reason that the prisoners feared her: she was evil and sadistic.

History across the world has always been scripted by the victors.... So nobody can say for sure whether Irma Grese committed all those crimes she has been accused of or not.... But the point is when humanity was at its lowest with over 50 million deaths during World War II, the victors instead of stopping the killing continued with these revenge or corrective killings... It says that Irma Grese died without any remorse ie. she died happy. It would have been great if all the war criminals were made to realise their mistakes (it could take years together) and then made to live rest of their lives with the regret. That could have been the greatest punishment. Death for a non remorseful person is bliss...To err is human, to forgive is divine... Guess the human race has yet to realise the divinity within them....

Revenge is a worthless cause, justice is not. Many of the war criminals lived without shame even whem captured 20 years later. They were just following orders and trying to eradicate what they believed were inferior people. BTW, there is no honor in the SS and it was not around long enough to have tradition.

Yeah... The Death heads were just brainwashed organized brutes with no sense of honour... the scum of humanity...

thank u for telling us about this piece of garbage! now shut up!

@14words "show me proofs"?? You don't believe Nazis killed millions of Jews, Slavs, and gypsies during WW2?
Go to the Holocaust Museum. Go to Europe and talk to a native in their 80's or 90's and get their viewpoint on the war and what is was like to live in Nazi-occupied Europe. I know a couple. Believe me, they would like to forget.

@northern light
Get a life you fucking idiot.

Wow, those are very harsh words. This is very personal for you. I don't want to be steping on anyone's toes. Are you a relative of hers?

Apparently... or a Neo Nazi...

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