|Born||2 February 1895
|Died||3 February 1946 (aged 51)
|Years of service||1914–1945|
|Commands held||V SS Mountain Corps|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
|Other work||Responsible for Rumbula, Babi Yar, and other massacres.|
Friedrich August Jeckeln (2 February 1895, Hornberg, Baden – 3 February 1946) was an SS-Obergruppenführer who served as an SS and Police Leader in the occupied Soviet Union during World War II. Jeckeln was the commanding SS General over one of the largest collection of Einsatzgruppen and was personally responsible for ordering the deaths of over 100,000 Jews, Slavs, Roma, and other "undesirables" of the Third Reich.
Jeckeln was born in Hornberg, Baden. Upon the outbreak of World War I, Jeckeln was commissioned a Leutnant, serving from 1914 to 1918 first as an artillery officer and then as a pilot trainee. During his World War I service, Jeckeln was awarded the Wound Badge and the Iron Cross 2nd Class.
Joins Nazi party and becomes SS member
After being discharged following Germany's defeat, Jeckeln worked as an engineer before joining the Nazi Party on October 1, 1929. In December 1930, Jeckeln applied to join the Schutzstaffel (SS) and was accepted as a member the following month. Jeckeln was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer (major) in March 1931 and put in charge of the 1st Sturmbann (Battalion) of the 12th SS-Standarte (Regiment) in the Allgemeine-SS. By the end of 1931, he had been promoted again and was the Standartenführer (colonel) in charge of the 17th SS-Standarte.
Promotions following Nazi rise to power
By July 1932, Jeckeln was serving as an SS-Abschnitt (Brigade) commander and had been promoted to the rank of SS-Oberführer. He was also elected as a member of the Reichstag that same year. In January 1933, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, Jeckeln was put in charge of SS Group South. The next month, he was promoted to SS-Gruppenführer (major general). Jeckeln spent the next three years as an SS Group Commander and Political Police Commissioner before being promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer (Lt general) in 1936. He was then made the SS and Police Leader of Western Germany and also served as commander of SS-Oberabschnitt (Division) West.
Jeckeln was known to be ruthless, brutal, self-indulgent and hard. Political opponents, especially members of the KPD, SPD and the unions, he pursued relentlessly until their death. Together with party member Friedrich Alpers, Jeckeln was primarily responsible for the Rieseberg murders in the summer of 1933. In addition, he ordered the murder of a renegade SS man in Brunswick.
World War II mass murderer
When World War II began, Jeckeln was called up to active duty in the Waffen-SS. As was the practice in the SS, Jeckeln took a lower rank from his Allgemeine position and served as an officer in Regiment 2 of the Totenkopf Division. In 1941, however, his front line service was terminated and he was transferred by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to serve as Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF) of Eastern Russia. In this role Jeckeln assumed direction and control of all SS-Einsatzgruppen mass executions and anti-partisan operations in his district.
Jeckeln developed his own methods to kill large numbers of people, which became known as the "Jeckeln System". Jeckeln had staff which specialized in each separate part of the process. As applied in the Rumbula massacre on November 30 and December 8, 1941, Jeckeln's system worked as follows:
- The Security Police (SD) rousted the people out of their houses in the Riga ghetto.
- The people to be murdered (typically Jews) were organized into columns of 500 to 1000 people and driven to the killing grounds about 10 kilometers to the south.
- The Order Police (Orpo) led the columns to the killing grounds.
- Three pits had already been dug where the killing would be done simultaneously.
- The victims were stripped of their clothing and valuables.
- The victims were run through a double cordon of guards on the way to the killing pits.
- The killers forced the victims to lie face down on the trench floor, or more often, on the bodies of the people who had just been shot.
- Each person was shot once in the back of the head with a Russian submachine gun. The shooters either walked among the dead in the trench, killing them from a range of two meters, or stood at the lip of the excavation and shot the prone victims below them. Anyone not killed outright was simply buried alive when the pit was covered up.
This system was called "sardine packing" (Sardinenpackung). It was reported that even some of the experienced Einsatzgruppen killers were horrified by its cruelty. At Rumbula, Jeckeln watched on both days of the massacre as 25,000 people were killed before him. Jeckeln proved to be an effective killer who cared nothing about murdering huge numbers of unarmed and even naked men, women, children, and elderly. One of the three survivors of the Rumbala massacre, Frida Michelson, escaped by pretending to be dead as the victims heaped shoes (later salvaged by Jeckeln's men) upon her:
A mountain of footwear was pressing down on me. My body was numb from cold and immobility. However, I was fully conscious now. The snow under me had melted from the heat of my body. ... Quiet for a while. Then from the direction of the trench a child's cry: 'Mama! Mama! Mamaa!'. A few shots. Quiet. Killed.
On January 27, 1942, Jeckeln was awarded the "War Merit Cross (Kriegsverdienstkreuz or KVK) with Swords" for killing 25,000 at Rumbula. In February 1945, now a General der Waffen-SS und Polizei, Jeckeln was appointed to command the SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Korps and also served as Commander of Replacement Troops and Higher SS and Police Leader in Southwest Germany.
Jeckeln was captured by Soviet troops near Halbe, in the vicinity of Forsthaus Hammer, on April 28, 1945. Along with other Nazis who served in the Riga military district, he was tried before a Soviet military court in Riga, Latvia from January 26, 1946, to February 3, 1946. During the investigation, he was calm, answering questions from investigators in essence, on the dock looked dull and impartial. Jeckeln in his last word was restrained, he fully admitted his guilt and agreed to bear full responsibility for the activities of subordinate Police, SS and SD in Ostland. Concluding his speech, he said: "I have to take full responsibility for what happened in the borders of Ostland, within SS, SD and the Gestapo. Thereby increases much my fault. My fate is in the hands of the High Court, and so I ask only to pay attention to mitigating circumstances. I will accept a sentence in full repentance and I will consider as worthy punishment." Jeckeln and the other defendants were found guilty, sentenced to death and hanged at Riga on February 3, 1946 in front of some 4000 spectators. Against popular misconception, the execution did not happen in the territory of the former Riga ghetto, but in Victory square (Uzvaras laukums).
Summary of SS career
- SS-Anwärter: 1 December 1930
- SS-Mann: 5 January 1931
- SS-Sturmbannführer: 31 March 1931
- SS-Standartenführer: 22 June 1931
- SS-Oberführer: 20 September 1931
- SS-Gruppenführer: 4 February 1933
- SS-Obergruppenführer: 13 September 1936
- SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei: 26 July 1940
- SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS und Polizei: 1 July 1944
- Some sources refer to him as Friedrich Jackeln.
- Ezergailis, Andrew, The Holocaust in Latvia 1941–1944 – The Missing Center, Historical Institute of Latvia (in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) Riga, 1996, pp. 239–270, ISBN 9984-9054-3-8
- Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rumbula, p. 93
- Fleming, Gerald, Hitler and the Final Solution, University of California Berkeley, 1984, pp. 99–100, ISBN 0-520-05103-3: "There can be no doubt that the Higher SS and Police Leader Friedrich Jeckeln received the KVK First Class with swords in recognition of his faithful performance: his organization of the mass shootings in Riga, 'on orders from the highest level' (auf höchsten Befehl).
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Yerger, Mark. "Allgemeine-SS"
- (German) / (Polish) Friedrich Jeckeln
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