SS-Sturmbannführer Richard Baer, commander Auschwitz concentration camp.

03-11-2017

Richard Baer, born in Floss, Bavaria on 09-09-1911; originally a trained confectioner, who he became a guard in Dachau concentration camp after becoming unemployed in 1930. He  was a member of NSDAP  (no. 454991) and the SS  (no. 44225). In 1939, he joined the SS Totenkopfverbände and was appointed adjutant of Neugamme concentration camp in 1942 following spells in Oranienburg, Columbia Haus Tempelhof and Sachsenhausen. At Neuengamme he participated in the killing of Soviet prisoners of war in a special gas chamber and in the selection of prisoners for the so-called Operation 14f13 in the T-4 Euthanasia Program  from SS Obergruppenführer Philipp Bouhler and Karl Brandt SS Gruppenführer Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician,

 Karl Brandt was hanged in the Landsberg Prison on 02-06-1948, age 44.

From November 1942 until May 1944, Baer was adjutant of SS Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl,  then chief of the Wirtschaftsverwaltungshauptamt (SS office of economic policy). In November 1943, he took over the department D I, the “inspectorate for concentration camps”. He succeeded SS Obersturmbannf{ührer Arthur Liebehenschel,  considered by Heinrich Himmler to be too “soft” with the prisoners, as the third and final commandant of Auschwitz from May 11, 1944, until the final dissolution of the camp in early 1945. At the war’s end, Liebehenschel was arrested by the U.S Army and was extradited to Poland. After being convicted of crimes again humanity at the Auschwitz Trial in Krakow, he was sentenced to death and subsequently executed by hanging on 24 January 1948, age 46. From November 1943 until the end of 1944 Fritz Hartjenstein  a member of the SS Totenkopfverbände and Josef Kramer  were responsible for the extermination camp Auschwitz II, Birkenau, so that Baer was only Commandant of this part of the camp from the end of 1944 until January 1945. Near the end of the war Richard Baer, having replaced SS Sturmbannführer Otto Förschner  as commandant of the Dora Mittelbau camp in Thuringia Nordhausen, was responsible for the execution of Soviet prisoners at mass gallows.

Hartjenstein was extradited to France where he was tried for his crimes at Natzweiler and sentenced to death. He died of a heart attack while awaiting execution on 20 October 1954, aged 49, in Paris. Kramer was detained by the British Army  after the World War II, convicted of war criimes and hanged  on the gallows in Hameln prison by British executioner Albert Pierremont .Albert and Annie Pierrepoint retired to the seaside town of Southport, where he died on 10 July 1992, age 87, in a nursing home where he had lived for the last four years of his life. Förschner was convicted by a US military tribunal and sentenced to death, along with 35 other co-defendants, on December 13, 1945. He was hanged in Landsberg Prison on May 28, 1946, age 43.

At the end of the war, Baer  fled and lived near Hamburg as Karl Egon Neumann, a forestry worker. In the course of investigation in the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials a warrant for his arrest was issued in October 1960 and his photograph was printed in newspapers.

The story of Baer’s arrest is vividly recounted by Devin Pendas in his book The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial. After seeing a wanted picture in the Bild Zeitung, a co-worker on Otto von Bismarck‘s estate reported that Baer was working as a forester there. When officials confronted “Neumann” in the forest on the early morning of December 20, 1960, he at first denied everything. Having already addressed Baer as her “husband”, the woman in the house subsequently gave her name as “Frau Baer”, but still claimed that Baer was named Neumann. Baer, however, finally admitted his true identity. On the advice of his lawyer he refused to testify and died of a heart attack in pre-trial detention on 17-June 1963, age 51..

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