Kammler, Hans, born 26-08-1901 in Stettin, German Empire, (now Szczecin, Poland). In 1919, after volunteering for army service, served in the Rossbach Freikorps
. Rossbach died age 74, on 30-08-1967. Kammler married Jutta Horn in 1930, and had 4 children From 1919 to 1923, Kammler studied civil engineering at the Technische Hochschule der Freien Stadt Danzig and Munich and was awarded his Dr.-Ing. in November 1932, following some years of p ractical work in local building administration.
Kammler joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in 01-03-1932, nr. 1 011 855 and held a variety of administrative positions after the Nazi government came to power in 1933, initially as head of the Aviation Ministry’s building department. He joined the SS, no. 113,619, on 20-5-1933. In 1934, he was a councillor for the Reich’s Interior Ministry. In 1934, he also was the leader of the Reichsbund der Kleingärtner und Kleinsiedler (Reich’s federation of small gardeners and landowners). In June 1941, Kammler joined the Waffen-SS. Kammler eventually became Oswald Pohl‘s deputy at the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office (WVHA). He oversaw Office D (administration of the concentration camp system), and was also Chief of Office C, which designed and constructed all the concentration and extermination camps. In this latter capacity he oversaw the installation of more efficient cremation facilities at Auschwitz-Birkenau as part of the camp’s conversion to an extermination camp.
There is no indication of Kammler being involved in any advanced engineering projects prior to the beginning of World War II, apart from his educational background, nor is there any suggestion of his involvement in any weapons projects in the early years.
Clear links between Kammler and advanced weapon projects seem to appear only in 1942. Early evidence of this is a letter from Oswald Pohl to Heinrich Himmler referring an interdepartmental memorandum on the manufacturing of modern weapons in concentration camps, having Kammler as one of the participants.
Kammler was also charged with constructing facilities for various secret weapons projects, including manufacturing plants and test stands for the Messerschmitt Me 262 and V-2. Following the Allied bombing raids on Peenemünde in Operation Hydra, in August 1943, Kammler assumed responsibility for the construction of mass-production facilities for the V-2.
He started moving these production facilities underground, which resulted in the Mittelwerk facility and its attendant concentration camp complex, Mittelbau-Dora, which housed slave labour for constructing the factory and working on the production lines. The project was pushed ahead under enormous time pressures despite the consequences for the slave laborers employed on it. Kammler’s motto at the time was reportedly, “Don’t worry about the victims. The work must proceed ahead in the shortest time possible”.
During this period, Kammler also was involved in the attempt to finish the Blockhaus d’Éperlecques known also as the Watten Bunker, a rather unsuccessful project to create a fortified V-2 launch base. Albert Speer made Kammler his representative for “special construction tasks”, expecting that Kammler would commit himself to working in harmony with the ministry’s main construction committee. But in March 1944 Kammler had Hermann Goering appoint him as his delegate for “special buildings” under the fighter aircraft programme, which made him one of the war economy’s most important managers, and robbed Speer of much of his influence.
At the start of the V-2 bombing campaign, Kammler received a senior position on the command and control of operations. There are several contradictory testimonies on how far and how deep he commanded the bombardments of London and Antwerp but, at least, it is well known he played an active role on the deployment and maintenance of the units involved in the operations, frequently through general Walter Dornberger. A quite symbolic fact of his involvement may be that, at the end of the campaign, the orders to reorganize the V2 units into regular infantry came from Kammler directly. Many sources accept this moment, probably due to the role of some of the V2 units in the Arnsberg Forest massacre and subsequent investigations.
In late March 1945 Kammler was responsible for ordering the ZV division to execute more than 200 men, women and children (forced labourers and their families) after his car was held up on a crowded road in the Sauerland. Kammler felt Germans were under some “vague threat”. “This riffraff ought to be eliminated” was his reported comment: de:Massaker_im_Arnsberger_Wald:
The Arnsberg Massacre coincided with the evacuation of the V2 units due to Allied advance. According to court trials, in 1958, Kammler was not present during the massacre but most testimonies pointed to his statements, justifying the orders for the massacre. It was during this trial that some new stories of his suicide/death surfaced and became the main versions of his demise leading to a quite controversial verdict.
After the massacre the ZV division destroyed most of its equipment and was formally reorganized as an infantry unit. Some sources claim that, after this, Kammler relinquished command and the unit was in fact left to fend for itself during the final days of the war.
The Arnsberg Massacre is considered one of the most shocking mass murders in the final days of the war. While small by the numbers, it was quite peculiar in its savagery, chaos and people involved (ex. soldiers from an elite high-tech V2 unit and two children as victims). It is one of the most striking evidence on the large use of forced labour by Nazi Germany, out of the classic concentration camps picture. Also the fact that occurred near American front-lines led to its fast and shocking discovery. A classical series of pictures of well-done, well-dressed German citizens digging mass graves comes from the events after this massacre.
After the Reich’s failure to attain a victory against USSR, Kammler started to answer for an ever-growing number of projects, most of them related to construction and engineering. Concentration camps, means of mass extermination, factories, labor management, underground facilities of various purposes, and tank construction were some of the hallmarks of his early years in the SS hierarchy. As far as it is known, he also directly supervised several project bureaus and had direct contact with some of the best engineers of the Reich (e.g. Ferdinand Porsche). As a person, he was characterized by one of his subordinates as intelligent, a pure workaholic, completely given to his work, with a fanatic rhythm and demanding the same from everyone else.
In 1944, Himmler convinced Adolf Hitler to put the V-2 project directly under SS control, and on 8 August Kammler replaced Walter Dornberger as its director. From 31 January 1945, Kammler was head of all missile projects. During this time he also partially answerable for the operational use of the V-2 against the Allies, until the moment the war front reached Germany’s borders. As an SS officer, Kammler was the last person in Nazi Germany to be appointed to the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer. In March 1945, partially under the advice of Josef Goebbels, Hitler gradually stripped Goering of several powers on aircraft support as well as maintenance and supply while transferring them to Kammler. This culminated, in the beginning of April, with Kammler being raised to “Führer’s general plenipotentiary for jet aircraft”.
On 01-04-1945, Kammler ordered the evacuation of 500 missile technicians to the Alps. Since the last V-2 on the western front had been launched in late March, on 5 April Kammler was charged by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht to command the defence of the Nordhausen area. However, rather than defend the missile construction works, he immediately ordered the destruction of all the “special V-1 equipment” at the Syke storage site. What exactly this order implied is unclear. Wernher von Braun and Dornberger surrended.
On 09-07-1945, Kammler’s wife petitioned to have him declared dead as of 09-05-1945. She provided a statement by Kammler’s driver, Kurt Preuk, according to which Preuk had personally seen “the corpse of Kammler and been present at his burial” on 09-05-1945. The District Court of Berlin-Charlottenburg ruled on 07-09-1948 that his death was officially established as 09-05-1945.
In a later sworn statement on 16-10-1959, Preuk stated that Kammler’s date of death was “about 10 May 1945“, but that he did not know the cause of death. On 07-09-1965, Heinz Zeuner (a wartime aide of Kammler’s), stated that Kammler had died on 07-05-1945 and that his corpse had been observed by Zeuner, Preuk and others. All the eyewitnesses consulted were certain that the cause of death was cyanide poisoning. In their accounts of Kammler’s movements Preuk and Zeuner claimed that he left Linderhof near Oberammergau on 28-04-1945 for a tank conference at Salzburg and then went to Ebensee (where tank tracks were manufactured). According to Preuk and Zeuner he then travelled back from Ebensee to visit his wife in the Tyrol region, when he gave her two cyanide tablets. The next day, 5 May, at around 4 am, he is said to have departed Tyrol for Prague.
Wernher von Braun, also at the time at Oberammergau, later reported having overheard a discussion between Kammler and his aide-de-camp in which Kammler said he planned to hide in nearby Ettal Abbey. Kammler and his followers then left town, according to Braun. Further evidence of Kammler’s activities is a telegraph from Kammler to Speer, Himmler and Goering of 16 April, informing them of the creation of a “message centre” at Munich and the appointment of a chief representative for the construction of the Messerschmitt Me 262. On 20 April, he reportedly arrived with a group of technicians at Himmler’s Kommandostelle near Salzburg. On 23 April, Kammler sent a radio message to his office manager at Berlin, ordering him to organize the immediate destruction of the “V-1 equipment near Berlin” and then to go to Munich. In late April/early May, Kammler was reportedly at the Villa Mendelssohn at Ebensee, site of one of the projects assigned to him. On 4 May, he ordered the immediate transfer of the Ebensee office to Prague.
Preuk and Zeuner maintained their version of events through the 1990s, when interviewed by the journalist Kristian Knaack. Some support for this version of events came from letters written by Ingeborg Alix Prinzessin zu Schaumburg-Lippe, a female member of the SS-Helferinnenkorps to Kammler’s wife in 1951 and 1955. In these, she affirmed that Kammler had said goodbye to her on 07-05-1945 in Prague, stating that the Americans were after him, had made him offers but that he had refused and that they would not “get him alive”.
Death and burial ground of Kammler, Hans.
On May 9, Kammlerhe fled the city with two cars. After he said “I have no purpose for you anymore”, he stopped at a forest area south of Prague. He demanded that his companion make it back to Germany, and went into the forest. Shortly thereafter, his corpse was found by his ordnance officer, SS-Obersturmführer Zeuner and director SS-Oberscharführer Preuk. He had probably ??? robbed himself of life with the help of cyanide. The corpse was then buried on site by the person present.