Ohlendorf, Otto.

Back to all people

- Medals

Ohlendorf, Otto.
germanySS GruppenführerGestapo

Ohlendorf, Otto, born 04-02-1907 in Hoheneggelsen, the son of farm owners. He was not yet a teenager when Germany suffered a crushing defeat in World War I. He joined the Nazi Party in 1925 (member nr 6631) and the SS (member nr 880) in 1926. Showing real aptitude as a student Ohlendorf studied economics and law at the University of Leipzig and the University of Göttingen,  and by 1930 was already giving lectures at several economic institutions. He studied at the University of Pavia, where he gained his doctor’s degree in jurisprudence; and by 1933 he obtained the position of a research directorship in the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (at that time Institut für Weltwirtschaft und Seeverkehr – Institute for World Economy and Maritime Transport). By 1938 he was also manager in the Trade section of the “Reich business board (Reichswirtschaftskammer).

Ohlendorf joined the SD  in 1936 and became an economic consultant of the organisation. Attached to the SS with the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer, by 1939, he had obtained the rank of SS-Standartenführer  and was appointed as head of Amt III (SD-domestic branch), of the Reichs Main Security RSHA ) , a position he kept until 1945. In November 1944 he was promoted again to  Gruppenführer.  

In June 1941,  Reinhard Heydrich  appointed Ohlendorf to be commander of Einsatzgruppen D ((mobile killing unit D) which operated in southern Ukraine and Crimea. Ohlendorf’s Einsatzgruppe was responsible for the 13-12-1941 massacre at Simferopol where at least 14,300 people, mostly Jews, were killed. Over 90,000 murders are attributed to Ohlendorf’s command, who testified to this effect during his trial at Nuremberg.


He devoted only four years (1939–43) to full-time activity in the RSHA, for in 1943, in addition to his other jobs, he became a deputy director general in the Reich Ministry of economic affairs. He coordinated plans to rebuild the German economy after the war. Such planning for the post-war time was strictly forbidden, on one side. On the other side, Heinrich Himmler who detested the state interventionst regime of Albert Speer   as “totally bolshevik”  and was himself hoping for a career in a militarily defeated Germany, protected the working group around Ohlendorf, Ludwig Erhard

and other experts, who planned, e.g., how to introduce the new German currency Deutsch Mark.   Ohlendorf himself spoke out for “active and courageous entrepreneurship”, which was intended to replace bureaucratic state planning of the economy after the war.

Because of Ohlendorf’s work in this field, petitions for leniency were filed after he was sentenced to death by hanging. These, however, were turned down by the  Allies 

Ohlendorf took part in Himmler’s flight from Flensburg and was arrested with him near Lüneburg, where Himmler committed suicide.  

Death and burial ground of Ohldorf, Otto.


During the  Einsatzgruppen Trial, Ohlendorf was the chief defendant, and was also a key witness in the prosecution of other indicted war criminals. Ohlendorf’s apparently reliable testimony was attributed to his distaste for the corruption in Nazi Germany    and a stubborn commitment to duty. He expressed no remorse for his actions, telling prosecutor Benjamin B Ferenz, a Hungarian-born American lawyer that the Jews of America would suffer for what the prosecutor had done, and seemed to have been more concerned about the moral strain on those carrying out the murders than those being murdered. At the trial, Ohlendorf also attempted to present the operations in the Soviet area “not as a racist programme for the annihilation of all the Jews … but as a general liquidation order primarily aimed at ‘securing’ the newly won territory”. Defending his actions, Ohlendorf compared Einsatzgruppen activities to the Biblical Jewish extirpation of its enemies; he likewise claimed that his firing squads were “no worse than the ‘press-button killers’ who dropped the atom bomb on Japan”.

Otto Ohlendorf was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during World War II.  He was sentenced to death on 08-04-1948 and

    spent three years in detention before being hanged at the Landsberg Prison in Bavaria on 07-06-1951, age 44, and he buried on the Spottinger prison cemetery. Ohlendorf was married with Käthe Wolpers on 10-06-1934 and they had five children, two boys and three girls, Henning, born 11-02-1938, Behrend, born 18-09-1943, Irmtraut, born March 25-03-1936, Meinhard, born 30-10-1940 and Ulrike, born 11-05-1945. . Left to right: Käthe Ohlendorf, wife of Otto Ohlendorf; Margot Schmidt, wife of Hans Theodor Schmidt, adjutant at Buchenwald concentration camp; von Ysenburg, who brought word to the wives of the reprieve; Magda Braune, wife of Werner Braune; and Elisabeth Naumann, wife of Erich Naumann. Hans Theodor Schmidt was trailed and hanged in Landsberg prison, on 07-06-1951, age 51..


Share on :