Wirth, Christian. “Christian the Terrible”

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Wirth, Christian. "Christian the Terrible"
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Wirth, Christian, born 24-11-1885 in Oberbalzheim, Württemberg, the son of a master cooper, after attending elementary and continuation school, Wirth learned the sawyer’s craft. From 1905 to 1910, he was a member of the Württemberg Grenadier Regiment 123.  By 1910 Wirth had worked as a policeman in Heilbronn , but he soon moved to Stuttgart, where he was a detective of the police. During the first World War, at his own request, he served as a non-commissioned officer in the army on the Western front, distinguished himself in battle, was wounded , and was highly decorated. Wirth  was awarded the Iron Cross First Class  Iron Cross Second Class, and the Order of the Crown .. After the war Wirth returned to Stuttgart in June 1919 and was promoted back to police detective sergeant a short time later. At the end of 1939, Wirth went to another euthanasia unit in north Germany. He was in charge of the administration at this unit and he led the first gassing experiments there using carbon monoxide. While at this unit in Brandenburg, Phillip Bouhler  suggested that the gas chambers should be disguised as shower rooms. Wirth joined the Nazi Party in 1931, the SA (Brownshirts)  in 1933, the SD in 1937 and the SS in 1939. By the time World War II started, Wirth was working for the police in Stuggart in a department attached to the Gestapo. In October 1939, Wirth held the rank of SS-Obersturmfűhrer and he was sent to the Grafeneck psychiatric clinic which was part of the Nazi’s euthanasia programme. Wirth met Ss Obersturmführer Josef “Sepp” Kaspar Oberhauser, here on the left   there who was to become his adjutant at Belzec. Also at Grafeneck was Untersturmführer of the Totenkopfverbände Kurt Franz  who became one of the camp commanders at Treblinka. Nevertheless, by 1939 Wirth had reached the rank of Kriminalkommissar in the Stuttgart KRIPO , a department of the Gestapo under Arthur Nebe  On 02-03-1945, Nebe is sentenced to death by the People’s Court and executed on this day, allegedly by hanging him with a piano wire from a meat hook,.age 50..Kurt Franz survived the war and died in Wuppertal, on 04-07-1998, age 84 and Sepp Oberhauser also survived the war and died age 64 on 22-11-1979 in Munich.

In mid- 1940 , Wirth was appointed as head of the euthanasia programme in Germany and Austria.SS Hauptsturmführer Franz Stangl , the future head of Sobibor and Treblinka, met Wirth at a euthanasia centre at Hartheim. Franz Stangl died of heart failure nineteen hours after the conclusion of that interview, in Düsseldorf prison on 28 June 1971, age  63.

Wirth  personally participated in the first gassing experiments in Brandenburg, and straight after that in February 1940 to May 1940 he served at Grafeneck castle killing centre, and then a brief stay at Hartheim castle in Austria killing centre.  

Wirth gained a reputation for brutal efficiency and complete dedication to duty. He could also be hard on the German SS guards based at Belzec. He believed that they were lazy and ordered them to partake in route marches around the camp which he personally led. Even the SS guards there were taken aback by his brutality.

Wirth personally spoke to each train load of Jews that arrived. Such was the tone of his speech, that the Jews waiting on the platform occasionally applauded him as they believed his story that they were only at a transit camp. However, more frequently, the Jews were greeted with great brutality. One SS observer, SS Obersturmführer Kurt Gerstein  , stated after the war that Wirth was seen by Gerstein whipping a middle-aged Jew into the gas chambers at Belzec and also whipping a Ukrainian guard across the face for failing to start up the engine that was linked to the gas chambers. A Belzec survivor saw Wirth throwing young Jewish children into a pit and ordering them to be buried alive.On 22-04-1945, two weeks before Nazi Germany’s surrender, Gerstein voluntarily gave himself up to the French commandant of the occupied town of Reutlingen. He received a sympathetic reception and was transferred to a residence in a hotel in Rotteil, where he was able to write his reports. However, he was later transferred to the Cherche-Midi military prison, where he was treated as a Nazi war criminal. On 25-07-1945, age 39, Gerstein was found dead in his cell, an alleged suicide

In September 1941, Wirth  was sent to Lublin to set up a new euthanasia centre there. However, this project was abandoned. Little is known about what Wirth did between September and December 1941. In Christmas 1941, Wirth went to Belzec to work. He took with him men who he had met during his work in the euthanasia programme. 

At Belzec, Wirth was known as “Christian the Terrible” or “Christian the Savage” or the “Savage Christian” by the SS staff there – such was his brutality. He selected some Sonderkommandos from the first few trains that arrived at the camp. He introduced a hierarchy into the Sonderkommando with oberkapos and kapos appointed – Jews who had the authority to supervise other Jews.

In June 1942, Wirth disappeared from Belzec and went to Berlin. No-one is quite sure why this happened but it is possible that he was summoned to the capital to discuss his greater involvement in the eradication of the Jews from Poland (known as Action Reinhard). SS Hauptsturmführer Gottlieb Hering  , whom Wirth had known for 20 years, took over Belzec in August 1942. Hering was the second and last commandant of Belzec extermination camp.On 09-10-1945, Hering died, age 58, of mysterious complications in the waiting room of St. Catherine’s Hospital in Stetten im Remstal.

When Wirth re-appeared he was Inspector of SS-Sonderkommandos Action Reinhard. His first task was to re-organise Treblinka which had fallen into a disorganized state. He took on the task with enthusiasm, ensuring that the gas chambers were much enlarged and capable of dealing with the numbers envisaged to arrive at the camp. Once he had finished at Treblinka, Wirth moved to Sobibor and did the same there. 

In December 1942, Wirth was given charge of the slave labour camps in the Lublin area. He was based at Lublin airfield where clothes and other objects taken from the Jews  were sorted out in three hangars at the airfield. Jewish slave labourers worked in nearby factories. Here they were subjected to appalling treatment by Wirth.

In the summer of 1943, Wirth was promoted to SS-Sturmbannfűhrer. He transferred to Trieste and set up a small gas chamber in the city with the task of killing the Jews of Trieste. He returned briefly the Lublin to destroy all the slave labour camps in the area, including killing those who were forced to work in them.

Death and burial ground of Wirth, Christian. “Christian the Terrible”.

    

Wirth was killed on 26-05-1944, age 58, by Yugoslav Partisans while travelling in an open-topped car on an official trip to Flume. He was buried with full military honours in the German Military Cemetery in Opcina, near Trieste   . His remains were transferred in 1959 to the block 15, tomb 716 of the German Military Cemetery at Costermano, near Lake Garda, northern Italy.

  

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