Knöchlein, Fritz.

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Fritz Knöchlein born 27-05-1911, in Munich joined the SS in 1934 at the age of 23 and became a member (SS-Nr. 87.881, NSDAP-Mitgliedsnummer 157.016) of the 3rd SS Division (Totenkopf)    under command of SS Obergruppenführer Theodore “Papa” Eicke   at the SS training area close to Dachau. He was promoted to the rank of Haupsturmfuhrer (Captain)  and fought during the Battle of France in May and June 1940.Knoechlein was held responsible for the massacre ninety-nine members of the 2nd Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment and others at Le Paradis on 27-05-1940. This is covered fully throughout this web site. Knöchlein ordered two machines guns to be turned on the troops and followed this up by ordering German soldiers to shoot and bayonet any apparent survivors. He also ordered the immediate burial of the dead along the barn wall

. After the French campaign, Knöchlein was appointed company commander of an anti aircraft artillery battery in the Totenkopf Division and he served in this capacity on the Russian Front until summer 1942, when he was appointed SS Sturmbannfuhrer (Major) in command of the 3rd Regiment Totenkopf Division. In October 1943, he became commander of No 36 Regiment of the newly formed 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division under command of SS-Gruppenführer Max Simon After the war, Max Simon was sentenced to death by a British court for his part in the Marzabotto massacre. This sentence was later changed to life imprisonment. Simon was pardoned in 1954 and released from prison. Simon died 01-02-1961 (aged 62), in Lünen.

Knöchlein was promoted to Obersturmbannfuhrer (Lieutenant Colonel) and appointed commander of a Norwegian SS volunteer unit from March 1944 to January 1945.Knöchlein was awarded the Iron Cross First and Second Class, the German Cross on Gold and the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, but will always be remembered as “The Butcher of Le Paradis.” After the war Bert Pooley and William “Bill” O’Callaghan and Albert Pooley the two survivors of the massacre, here arriving at the War Crimes Court in Hamburg,.continued to hunt for Knöchlein who was eventually found in a prisoner of war camp in Sheffield, England. Knöchlein had been picked up by the Americans and was transferred and interned in their camp in Yorkshire.

Death and burial ground of Knöchlein, Fritz.


He was subsequently found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to death following a trial in Hamburg, Germany. Knöchlein was hanged on 28-01-1949, in Hamelin at the age of 37.In 1957, Lieutenant Colonel A. P. Scotland OBE had his book “The London Cage ” published. It was in essence an autobiography of Lieutenant Colonel Scotland with some information about the London Cage – an interrogation unit situated in Kensington. Knoechlein was one of the prisoners who was “interviewed” in the Cage and who later made accusations that he was tortured whilst there. Scotland’s book was subjected to heavy censorship and included the following notice:”The War Office wishes to make it clear that the views and facts stated in this book are the Author’s own responsibility. Further, the War Office does not in any way vouch for the accuracy of the facts and does not necessarily accept any opinion expressed in this book.”The book includes a complete chapter entitled “Mass Murder at Paradis” which starts with the following description of Knoechlein:”When Fritz Knöchlein was first ushered into my room at the London Cage, our Kensington Palace Gardens interrogation HQ near Hyde Park, I studied his face for a full minute before speaking. Here was a Nazi of the first order, the worst order, a German who had dedicated himself to brutality; irresponsible in possession of power, ruthless in execution; a man who represented everything that Adolf Hitler desired in an officer serving the Third Reich.”The chapter continues:”Nearly nine years elapsed before the guilty Knöchlein went to the gallows, but throughout those nine years his face was never expunged from the mind’s eye of a certain wrinkled French peasant, Madame Romanie Castel, whose recognition of the SS criminal was to become an important factor in his conviction.

The President then announced that the Court would re-assemble no earlier than 3pm.At 3pm, on 25-10-1948, the President of the Court announced that Fritz Knöchlein had been sentenced to death by hanging. Upon hearing this, the accused turned grey, but gave no other sign. He was then escorted from the court.On 28-01-1949, at Hamburg, Fritz Knöchlein was hanged as last in Hameln..

“On 12-10-1948, this old French woman stepped from the witness box and hobbled towards the centre of a Hamburg military courtroom. She turned slowly, peering at the faces around her, at the lawyers, interpreters, clerks, court officials and witnesses alike … Then suddenly, she pointed the forefinger of a thin bony hand at Fritz Knöchlein crying, “That is him, that is the man!””It was the most telling moment, certainly the most tense, of a trial for which I and my officers of the War Crimes Investigation Unit had conducted a two years’ probe, searching, questioning, finally moulding into legal shape the events of 1940, and the guilt of Fritz Knöchlein.”In the same chapter Scotland describes the German further with the following words:”In his mid thirties, toughly-built, having a distinctly unpleasant face, his eyes and mouth full of inhumanity, he was like many of his Totenkopf officer comrades – a professional product of the concentration camps; in his case the training in brutality was gained at Dachau, where he had held the rank of company commander.”The hangman at Knöchlein’s execution was Englishman Ted Roper, a colossus of a man weighing over 20 stone and standing well over 6ft tall. He had the following to say about Knöchlein:” He was very pompous and unrepentant to the end and when asked his religion, snarled ‘atheist’. Accordingly he was not given the usual attendance of a minister. As I led him to the scaffold after securing his arms, he stared hard at me and made a noise in his throat as if to spit. I was too quick however and bundled him unceremoniously on the trap door. He disappeared shouting “Gott Strafe” but was too late to get out the last word which was presumably ‘England’.”​It is our understanding that responsibility for the investigation of war crimes was handed back to Germany in the 1960s. It was following this that Knöchlein’s wife made an unsuccessful attempt to have his conviction overturned.

NOTE – “Gott Strafe England” was a slogan initially used by the German Army during the First World War and literally means “May God punish England.” It was created by the German poet Ernst Lissauer who also wrote a poem engagingly titled “Hate Song Against England” which was also known as “Hymn of Hate.”It is interesting to note that Knöchlein’s last words were to call on God to punish England despite the fact that when interrogated he gave his religion as “atheist” – in other words a non belief in God!

Fritz Knöchlein first was buried at the prison cemetery ground,” the Kleiner Westhof” and later reburied with all Hameln convicts to the Am Wehl cemetery in Hameln in Section C 1.

In Hamelin prison 201 people were executed from 13-12-1945 to 1949 by the British occupying power; 156 of them as war criminals . Of these, 82 were convicted in the Hamburg Curiohaus trials These included those convicted of the Bergen-Belsen trial, the concentration camp guards Irma Grese , Elisabeth Volkenrath and Johanna “Weasel” Bormann , the camp commandant Josef Kramer, the concentration camp doctor Fritz Klein , Fritz Knöchlein and SS Obersturmbannführer Bernhard Siebken Other people executed were concentration camp doctors, concentration camp kapos, SS overseers and commanders of SS units (2nd SS Totenkop Regiment, SS Totenkopf Division ), such as Nazi doctor Walter Sonntag. The last execution took place on 06-12-1949 on a displaced person for use of firearms resulting in death. The corpses were initially buried anonymously on the prison grounds, and from mid-1947 in cemetery C III. All corpses from the prison grounds were reburied. Walter Sonntag (born 13-05-1907 in Metz, died 17-09-1948 in Hameln) was a Nazi doctor who performed experiments on concentration camp victims. He extracted their healthy teeth without the use of anaesthetic and his preferred method of killing was by injecting petrol and phenol directly into their veins. He experimented with the prostitutes interned in Ravensbrück concentration camp, using them as his “lab rats” in search for a cure for gonorrhoea and syphilis. He was hanged.

For right-wing extremists, the cemetery became a place of pilgrimage, where, for example, the Freedom German Workers’ Party held a memorial hour in November 1985 and, in 2015, members of the neo-Nazi women’s group Düütsche Deerns laid branches, candles and stones with the names of those who were executed. The resolution of the cemetery was founded in 1974 by NPD -based citizens’ initiative prevented. The leveling took place in 1986 as a result of physical disputes in the cemetery. The neighboring CI cemetery with Nazi victims who died in the penitentiary before the end of the war was leveled in 1976.

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