Kramer, Josef, was born 10-11-1906 in Munich and joined the Nazi Party nr.: 753 597 in 1931 and the SS nr 32 217 in 1932. His SS training led him into work as a prison guard and, after the outbreak of war, as a concentration camp guard. In 1934, he was assigned as a guard at Dachau . His promotion was rapid, obtaining senior posts at Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps. He became assistant to Rudolf Höß
the Commandant at Auschwitz in 1940 and later the Commandant of Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in April 1941. Höss was later hanged near his house on the concentration camp grounds. In 1940, he accompanied Rudolf Höß to inspect Auschwitz as a possible site for a new synthetic coal oil and rubber plant, which was a vital industry in Germany given its shortage of oil.
Kramer served as commandant of Natzweiler-Struthof, the only concentration camp established by the Nazis on present-day French territory, though there were French-run transit camps such as the one at Drancy. At the time, the Alsace-Lorraine area in which it was established had been annexed by Nazi Germany.
As commandant at Natzweiler-Stuthof, Kramer personally carried out the gassings of 80 Jewish men and women, part of a group of 87 selected at Auschwitz to become anatomical specimens in a proposed Jewish skeleton collection to be housed at the Anatomy Institute at the Reich University of Strasbourg under the direction of August Hirt. Ultimately 87 of the inmates were shipped to Natzweiler-Struthof, 46 of these individuals were originally from Thessaloniki, Greece. The deaths of 86 of these inmates were, in the words of Hirt, “induced” in an improvised gassing facility at Natzweiler-Struthof and their corpses, 57 men and 29 women, were sent to Strasbourg. One male victim was shot as he fought to keep from being gassed. Josef Kramer, acting commandant of Natzweiler-Struthof (who would become the commandant at Auschwitz, succeeding Sturmbannfuhrer Friedrich Hartjenstein and the last commandant of Bergen Belsen) personally carried out the gassing of 80 of these 86 victims. Friedrich Hartjenstein died of a heart attack while awaiting execution on 20-10-1954 in Paris
Kramer was promoted to Hauptsturmführer in 1942 and, in May 1944, was put in charge of the gas chambers in Auschwitz concentration camp. He held that position until December 1944, when he was transferred out and appointed as Commandant of concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.
At Auschwitz, Kramer soon became notorious among his subordinates as a harsh taskmaster. One of the defendants at the Frankfurt Trial, SS Obersturmführer Dr. Franz Lucas , testified that he tried to avoid assignments given him by Kramer by pleading stomach and intestinal disorders. Dr. Lucas worked togethher with SS Hauptsturmfùhrer Josef Mengele, Angel of Death. When Lucas saw that his name had been added to the list of selecting physicians for a large group of inmates transferred from Hungary, he objected strenuously. Kramer reacted sharply: “I know you are being investigated for favoring prisoners. I am now ordering you to go to the ramp, and if you fail to obey an order, I shall have you arrested on the spot”. Dr Franz Lucas died old age 83, on 07-11-1994 in Elmshorn.
In December 1944, Kramer here with his team, from left to right, Anton Thumann, Karl Hoecker, and Franz Hoessler. was transferred from Birkenau to Bergen Belsen, near the village of Bergen. Belsen, where Anne Frank and her sister Margot died , had originally served as a temporary camp for those leaving Germany, but during the war had been expanded to serve as a convalescent depot for the ill and displaced people from across north-west Europe. Although it had no gas chambers, Kramer’s rule was so harsh that he became known as the “Beast of Belsen”. As Germany collapsed, administration of the camp broke down, but Kramer remained devoted to bureaucracy. On 01-03-1945, he filed a report asking for help and resources, stating that of the 42.000 inmates in his camp, 250–300 died each day from typhus. On 19 March the number of inmates rose to 60.000 as the Germans continued to evacuate camps that were soon to be liberated by the Allies. As late as the week of 13 April, some 28,000 additional prisoners were brought in.
On 17-11-1945 SS Obersturmführer Hoeßler age 39, was sentenced to death by hanging.
On 03-05-1946 SS Obersturmführer Anton Thumann age 33, was sentenced to death by hanging.
SS Obersturmführer Karl Hoecke survived the war and died 30-01-2000, old age 88 in Lübbecke.
With the collapse of administration and many guards fleeing to escape retribution, roll calls were stopped, and the inmates were left to their own devices. Corpses rotted everywhere, and rats attacked the living too weak to fight them off. Kramer remained even when the British arrived to liberate the camp, and took them on a tour of the camp to inspect the “scenes”. Piles of corpses were laying all over the camp, mass graves were filled in, and the huts were filled with prisoners in every stage of emaciation and disease.
Hauptsturmführer Kramer was married with a schoolteacher, Rosina Kramer : on 16-10-1937. They had three children, the son was called Karl Heinz.Rosina Kramer appearing as a witness for her husband Josef Kramer. After his death she changed her name and returned to teaching until she retired, living with her son near to the former KZ in Bergen! .
Josef Kramer wrote some comments about himself. “I was a fanatical Nazi, and did only what I thought was right. What happened was supposed to happen. I’m only thankful that I and my family weren’t born Jews, since that would mean we’d have to die. I only wanted B-B to be a model camp, clean and orderly, with lot’s of flowers. I didn’t see the inmates as people, and never did what was forbidden by SS rules. I served the Organisation with a deep sense of duty”.
Death and burial ground of Kramer, Josef.
Josef Kramer was imprisoned at the Hamelin jail. Along with 44 other camp staff Kramer was tried in the Bergen Belsen Trial by a British military court at Lüneburg. The trial lasted several weeks from September to November 1945. During the trial Anita Lasker
a cellist, and a surviving member of the Women’s Orchestra in Auschwitz, testified that Kramer took part in selections for the gas chamber. Kramer along with 7 men & 3 women, was sentenced to death on 17-11-1945, and hanged at Hamelin jail by Albert Pierrepoint
on 13-12-1945, age 39, together with Irma Grese Johanna Bormann, not family of Reichsleiter Martin Bormann and Elisabeth Volkenrath. September 1945 Josef Kramer among the war criminals arriving at Luneberg for the Belsen Trials The bodies of the hanged persons were buried on the prison ground but they were all reburied on the Waldfriedhof of Hameln Cemetery Am Wehl.and marked with Iron Crosses. The spot became a Neo Nazi place and in 1986 all the Iron Crosses were removed and is now an grass field without markers.
Cemetery location of Kramer, Josef.