Mandel, Maria.

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Mandl, Maria, born 10-01-1912, in Münzkirchen, Austria-Hungary  then part of Austria-Hungary, the daughter of a shoemaker. After the Anschluss by Nazi Germany, Mandl moved to Munich, and on 15-10-1938 joined the camp staff as an Aufseherin at Lichtenburg, an early Nazi concentration camp in the Province of Saxony where she worked with fifty other SS women. The Aufseherinnen  were female guards in German concentration camps during the Holocaust. Of the 55,000 guards who served in German concentration camps, about 3,700 were women On 15-05-1939, she, along with other guards and prisoners, were sent to the newly opened Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin. Mandl quickly impressed her superiors and, after she had joined the Nazi Party on 01-04-1941, was elevated to the rank of a SS-Oberaufseherin in April 1942. She oversaw daily roll calls, assignments for Aufseherinnen and punishments such as beatings and floggings.

On 07-10-1942, Mandl was assigned to the Auschwitz II Birkenau camp where she succeeded Johanna Langefeld    as SS-Lagerführerin of the women camp under SS-Kommandant Rudolf Höß. On 20-12-1945, Langefeld was arrested by the U.S. Army, and in September 1946, was extradited to the Polish judiciary preparing a trial in Kraków against SS personnel in Auschwitz. On 23-12-1946, she escaped from prison. Given her prior relatively positive treatment of inmates in this German Nazi concentration camp located on occupied Polish soil, the escape was assisted by Polish staff of the prison where she was held. After the escape she hid in a convent, working in a private home. Sometime around 1957, she returned illegally to live with her sister in Munich. She died in Augsburg, Germany on 26-01-1974, aged 73.

As a woman Mandl could never outrank a man, but her control over both female prisoners and her female subordinates was absolute. The only man Mandl reported to was the commandant. She controlled all the female Auschwitz camps and female subcamps including at Hindenburg, Lichtewerden and Raisko.

Mandl took a liking to Irma Grese, whom she promoted to head of the Hungarian women’s camp at Birkenau. According to some accounts, Mandl often stood at the gate into Birkenau waiting for an inmate to turn and look at her: any who did were taken out of the lines and never heard from again. At Auschwitz, Mandl was known as The Beast, and for the next two years she participated in selections for death and other documented abuses. She signed inmate lists, sending an estimated half a million women and children to their deaths in the gas chambers at Auschwitz I and II.

Mandl created the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz to accompany roll calls, executions, selections and transports. An Auschwitz prisoner, Lucia Adelsberger, later described it in her book, Auschwitz: Ein Tatsachenbericht: Lucis Adelsberger died 02-11-1971, age 76, in New York.

“The women who came back from work exhausted had to march in time to the music. Music was ordered for all occasions, for the addresses of the Camp Commanders, for the transports and whenever anybody was hanged…” For services rendered, Mandl was awarded the War Merit Cross 2nd class. In November 1944, she was assigned to the Mühldorf subcamp of Dachau concentration camp and Elisabeth Volkenrath Volkenrath, Elisabeth became head of Auschwitz, which were liberated in late January 1945. In May 1945, Mandl fled from Mühldorf into the mountains of southern Bavaria to her birthplace, Münzkirchen.

Death and burial ground of Mandl, Maria.

The United States Army arrested Mandl on 10-08-1945. Interrogations reportedly revealed her to be highly intelligent and dedicated to her work in the camps. For some time she was held at Dachau Prison, and was recorded by the US Army on film occupying a cell with Elizabeth Ruppert, here on the right with Mandl in May, 1945. She was handed over to the Polish People’s Republic in November 1946, and in November 1947 she was tried in a Kraków courtroom in the Auschwitz Trial and sentenced to death by hanging. Stanisława Rachwałowa (a Polish survivor of Auschwitz who was an inmate under Mandl’s administration and, after the war, was arrested by Poland’s post-war communist authorities as an “anti-communist activist”) was imprisoned in the cell next to Maria Mandl and Therese Brandl.  Rachwałowa was proficient enough in German to interpret for the wardens. She stated that the last time she and the two German war criminals met – after they had been sentenced to death and shortly before their executions took place – both had asked her for forgiveness. Stanisława Rachwał was first sentenced to extermination by the Nazis and then by the Communists. She survived the judgments handed down to her, although she could not see Poland freely and independently. She died in October 1985.

Maria Mandl was hanged on 24-01-1948, aged 36. Therese Brandl was also hanged in prison on 28-01-1948, four days before her 46th birthday.

The only female guard to tell her story to the public has been Herta Bothe,

  who served as a guard at Ravensbrück in 1942, then at Stutthof, Bromberg-Ost subcamp, and finally in Bergen-Belsen. She received 10 years’ imprisonment and was released in the mid-1950s. In a rare interview in 2004, Bothe was asked if she regretted being a guard in a concentration camp. Her response was, “What do you mean? …I made a mistake, no… The mistake was that it was a concentration camp, but I had to go to it—otherwise I would have been put into it myself, that was my mistake.”  Hertha Bothe died on 16-3-2000 at the age of 79.

In 2006, 84-year-old San Francisco resident Elfriede Rinkel was deported by the US Justice Department. She had worked at Ravensbrück from June 1944 to April 1945, and had used an SS-trained dog in the camp. She had hidden her secret for more than 60 years from her family, friends and Jewish-German husband Fred Rinkel immigrated to the US in 1959 seeking a better life and had omitted Ravensbrück from the list of residences supplied on her visa application. In Germany, Rinkel does not face criminal charges as only murder allegations can be tried after this amount of time, although the case continues to be examined.

Maria Mandl was hanged on 24-01-1948, aged 36 and was buried in the prison courtyard in Hameln until 1954 when they were moved to the Am Wehl Cemetery nearby in 1986 and is now a grass field, with markers.

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