Hans Kammler

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Hans (Heinz) Friedrich Karl Franz Kammler
Hans Kammler.jpg
NSDAP Id photograph, 1932
Born (1902-08-26)26 August 1902
Stettin, German Empire
Died Unknown
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Rank SS-Obergruppenführer Collar Rank.svg Obergruppenführer
Battles/wars
  • World War I
  • World War II

General Dr Ing. Hans (Heinz) Friedrich Karl Franz Kammler (born 26 August 1901; date of death unknown) was a German civil engineer and high-ranking officer of the SS. He oversaw SS construction projects, and towards the end of World War II was put in charge of the V-2 missile and jet programmes.

He is most commonly referred to as Hans Kammler.

Early life[edit]

Kammler was born in Stettin, German Empire (now Szczecin, Poland). In 1919, after volunteering for army service, he served in the extreme right Rossbach Freikorps. From 1919 to 1923, he studied civil engineering at the Technische Hochschule der Freien Stadt Danzig and Munich, and was awarded his Dr. Ing. in November 1932, following some years of practical work in local building administration.[1]

Kammler joined the NSDAP on 1 March 1932, and held a variety of administrative positions when the Nazi government came to power in 1933, initially as head of the Aviation Ministry's building department. He joined the SS (no. 113,619) on 20 May 1933.

In 1934 he was the leader of the Reich's federation of small gardeners and landowners.[2] Also during this time, he was a councillor for the Reich's Interior Ministry.

World War II[edit]

Kammler eventually became Oswald Pohl's deputy at the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA), which oversaw Amtsgruppe D (Amt D), the Administration of the concentration camp system, and was also Chief of Amt C, which designed and constructed all the concentration and extermination camps. In this latter capacity he oversaw the installation of cremation facilities at Auschwitz-Birkenau as part of the camp's conversion to an extermination camp.[3][4]

During his term as Pohl's deputy, Kammler was directly involved on resettlement operations related to Jews and other people.

Following the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, Heinrich Himmler assigned him to oversee the demolition of the ghetto in retaliation.

Toward the end of the war he was responsible for the massive tunnel building at Jonastal, a project whose final purpose is unknown as it was never completed. This construction cost the lives of many inmates of Buchenwald camp.

Kammler did not stop on simply exploiting concentration camp inmates. At his request, Joachim Mrugowsky readied a study on how the duration of work influenced the effectiveness of inmates.

Role on advanced weapon projects[edit]

A V-2 launched from a fixed site in summer 1943
Map of the Pas-de-Calais and south-eastern England showing the location of Éperlecques and other major V-weapons sites

Before the beginning of World War II, there are no indications that Kammler was involved in any advanced engineering projects afar from his educational background. Also, in the early years of the war nothing suggests his involvement in any weapons projects.

Clear links between Kammler and advanced weapon projects seem to appear only in 1942. An early evidence of this is a letter from Oswald Pohl to Himmler referring an interdepartmental memorandum on the manufacturing of modern weapons in concentration camps, having Kammler as one of the participants.

Kammler was also charged with constructing facilities for various secret weapons projects, including manufacturing plants and test stands for the Messerschmitt Me 262 and V-2. Following the Allied bombing raids on Peenemünde in Operation Hydra, in August 1943, Kammler assumed the responsibility for the mass-production of the V-2. He started moving these production facilities underground, which resulted in the Mittelwerk facility and its attendant concentration camp complex, Mittelbau-Dora, which housed slave labour for constructing the factory and working on the production lines. The project was pushed ahead under enormous time pressures despite the consequences for the slave laborers employed on it. Kammler's motto at the time was reportedly, "Don't worry about the victims. The work must proceed ahead in the shortest time possible".[5]

During this period, Kammler also was involved in the attempt to finish the Blockhaus d'Éperlecques known also as the Watten Bunker, a rather unsuccessful project to create a fortified V-2 launch base.

Albert Speer made Kammler his representative for "special construction tasks", expecting that Kammler would commit himself to working in harmony with the ministry's main construction committee. But in March 1944 Kammler had Göring appoint him as his delegate for "special buildings" under the fighter aircraft programme, which made him one of the war economy's most important managers, and robbed Speer of much of his influence.[6]

Concentration camps[edit]

Generically, after the Reich's failure to attain a victory against USSR, Kammler started to answer for an ever-growing amount of projects, most of them related to construction and engineering. Concentration camps, means of mass extermination (ex. crematories at Auschwitz), factories, slave labor management, underground facilities of various purposes and tank construction, were some of the hallmarks of his early years in the SS hierarchy. As far as it is known, he also directly supervised several project bureaus and had direct contact with some of the best engineers of the Reich (ex. Ferdinand Porsche). As a person, he was characterized by one of his subordinates as intelligent, a pure workaholic, completely given to his work, with a fanatic rhythm and demanding the same from everyone else. He also was characterized as being highly secretive, purely authoritarian, with a total lack of morality, frequently using very radical and brutal means to force subordinates to work under his tempo. After the war, these features led to many tales about his wartime work, but, before that, they created the path to the top of his career.

In 1944, Himmler convinced Adolf Hitler to put the V-2 project directly under SS control, and on 8 August Kammler replaced Walter Dornberger as its director. From January 1945, Kammler was appointed head of all missile projects. During this time he also partially answered for the operational use of the V-2 against the Allies, until the moment the war front reached Germany's borders. During the retreat, he was directly involved in the massacre of 208 slave-labourers near Warstein.

In March 1945, partially under the advice of Goebbels, Hitler gradually stripped Goering of several powers on aircraft support, maintenance and supply, transferring them to Kammler. This culminated, in the beginning of April, by Kammler being raised to "Fuehrer's general plenipotentiary for jet aircraft".[6]

In March 1945, as US forces were advancing through Germany, the slave workers housed in the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp were to be executed as security risks. It is believed that the order for their murder was received by Kammler, but he did not comply with it.

Death[edit]

It is unknown when or where Kammler died.

Preuk statement[edit]

On 9 July 1945 Kammler's widow petitioned to have him declared dead as of 9 May 1945, adducing a sworn statement by Kammler's driver, Kurt Preuk, according to which Preuk had personally seen "the corpse of Kammler and been present at his burial" on 9 May 1945. The District Court of Berlin-Charlottenburg ruled on 7 September 1948 that his death was officially established as 9 May 1945.

In a later sworn statement on 16 October 1959, Preuk stated that Kammler's date of death was "about 10 May 1945", but that he did not know the cause of death. However, it must be recognised that many ex Nazis made many sworn statements, to suit many ends. On 7 September 1965, Heinz Zeuner (a wartime aide of Kammler's), stated that Kammler had died on 7 May 1945 and that his corpse had been observed by Zeuner, Preuk and others. All the eyewitnesses consulted were certain that the cause of death was cyanide poisoning.[7] In addition to testifying to Kammler's suicide by cyanide, Zeuner also claimed earlier that Kammler had asked Zeuner to shoot him. However, doubt has been cast on Zeuner's evidence since he is reported to have told an earlier denazification hearing in February 1948 that he was already in US custody on 2 May 1945.[citation needed]. Zeuner's evidence in several sworn statements has subsequently been shown to conflict directly with declassified records.

In their accounts of Kammler's movements Preuk and Zeuner claimed that he left Linderhof near Oberammergau on 28 April 1945 for a tank conference at Salzburg and then went to Ebensee (where tank tracks were manufactured). According to Preuk and Zeuner he then travelled back from Ebensee to visit his wife in the Tyrol region, when he gave her two cyanide tablets. The next day, 5 May, he is said to have departed Tyrol for Prague.[citation needed]

However, Preuk and Zeuner's testimony clashes with the known movements of US Divisions throughout Austria in May 1945. By 4 May 1945 the US 103rd Infantry was already at Innsbruck, preventing Kammler from travelling from Ebensee to Tyrol. The US 88th Infantry division had arrived from Italy cutting off any route to the Tyrol from the south while the US 44th Infantry Division established a command post at Imst in Tyrol on 4 May 1945 and together with the 103rd entirely controlled the Tyrol region preventing Kammler from visiting his wife. Preuk is quite clear that they drove everywhere so that it would have been impossible to bypass US checkpoints.

A further complication is that the 80th Infantry Division reached Ebensee on 4 May 1945,[8] and the concentration camp itself was liberated by two M-18 tank destroyers of the US 80th Division at 2.50 p.m. on 5 May 1945. This would have made it highly likely that Kammler would have been apprehended by US forces.

Prague[edit]

Author Bernd Ruland, in his 1969 book Wernher von Braun: Mein Leben für die Raumfahrt, reports an altogether different account of Kammler's death. According to Ruland, Kammler arrived in Prague by aircraft on 4 May 1945, following which he and 21 SS men defended a bunker against an attack by more than 500 Czech resistance fighters on 9 May. During the attack, Kammler's aide-de-camp Sturmbannführer Starck shot Kammler to avoid him falling into enemy hands.[9] This version can reportedly be traced to Walter Dornberger, who in turn is said to have heard it from eyewitnesses.[10]

Controversy[edit]

In recent years Kammler has become associated with apocryphal Nazi super weapons such as "Die Glocke". The first suggestion along these lines came from author Nick Cook, who in his "The Hunt for Zero Point" (2001) raised the possibility that Kammler was brought to the United States along with other German scientists as part of Operation Paperclip as a result of his supposed involvement in secret German projects. Joseph P. Farrell's "Reich of the Black Sun" (2005) casts further doubt upon the facts surrounding his death,[11] however Farrell's only source is the book "Blunder! How the U.S. Gave Away Nazi Supersecrets to Russia" (1985) by self-identified "British intelligence agent" Tom Agoston.[12]

Possible last documented independent testimonies[edit]

A purported section of a wartime diary, relating to the surrender of Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Allied troops, mentions Kammler and his staff.[13] According to this account, Kammler and what the author refers to as his staff arrived in Oberammergau (north of Garmish-Partenkirchen) on April 22, 1945. The diary refers to a "staff" of some 600 people, with "good quality" cars and trucks. This arrival seems to have been badly received and the local authorities had several arguments with Kammler himself. These conflicts are mentioned in the entries for April 23 and 25. The last reference to Kammler, not implicating him directly but his "staff", comes on the night of April 28 – an Oberleutnant Burger reports that they had gone, on the same night that American forces began storming Oberammergau, forcing their way to Garmisch and Austria. This departure is backed up by a history of Oberammergau which notes that Kammler's "staff" moved just before the American offensive over the Tirol.[14]

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