Female guards were generally low class to middle class and had no work experience; their professional background varied: one source mentions former matrons, hairdressers, street car ticket takers, opera singers, or retired teachers. Volunteers were recruited by ads in German newspapers asking for women to show their love for the Reich and join the SS-Gefolge (“SS- Retinue” an SS support and service organisation for women). Additionally, some were conscripted based on data in their SS files. The League of German Girls (BDM) acted as a vehicle of indoctrination for many of the women.
Many SS men and SS women were executed by the Soviets when they liberated the camps, while others were sent to the gulags. Only a few SS women were tried for their crimes compared to male SS. Most female wardresses were tried at the Auschwitz Trial, in four of the seven Ravensbrück Trials, at the first Stutthof Trial, and in the second and Third Majdanek Trials and from the small Hamburg-Sasel camp. At that trial all forty-eight SS men and women involved were tried.
Twenty four year old Jenny Wanda Barkmann was thought to be from Hamburg and was nicknamed “The Beautiful Spectre” by the camp inmates who considered her to be a ruthless killer. She was arrested in May 1945 at a railway station near Danzig trying to escape. At her trial she is reported to have flirted with her male guards and wore a different hairstyle each day.
On July 6, 1946, officials of Soviet-occupied Poland publicly hanged eleven convicted war criminals of the Stutthof concentration camp. Barkmann was amongst the first to go. Jenny-Wanda Barkmann (c.1921 – July 4, 1946) was a Nazi concentration camp SS official. She is believed to have spent her childhood in Hamburg, Germany. In 1944, she became an Aufseherin in the Stutthof SK-III women’s camp, where she brutalized prisoners, some to death. She also selected women and children for the gas chambers. She was so severe the women prisoners nicknamed her the Beautiful Specter.
Barkmann, here on the right side fled Stutthof as the Soviets approached. She was arrested in May 1945 while trying to leave a train station in Gdansk, incarcerated and became a defendant in the Stutthof Trial. She is said to have flirted with her prison guards and was apparently seen arranging her hair while hearing testimony. She was found guilty, after which she declared, “Life is indeed a pleasure, and pleasures are usually short.”
Barkmann was publicly hanged on July 4, 1946, on Biskupia Gorka Hill, near Gdansk. She born on 30 May, 1922 was 24 years old.