Helmut Bischoff

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Helmut Bischoff
Born 1 March 1908
Glogau, Lower Silesia
German Empire
Died 5 January 1993(1993-01-05) (aged 84)
Hamburg, Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Rank SS-Obersturmbannführer Collar Rank.svg SS-Obersturmbannführer
Unit Gestapo (1935-1943)
SS-WVHA (1943-1945)
Battles/wars World War II

Helmut Bischoff (March 1, 1908 – January 5, 1993) was a German SS officer and Nazi official. During World War II he was chief of the Gestapo departments in Posen (Poznań) and Magdeburg. He later served as director of security for Germany's V-weapons program. Between 1967 and 1970 Bischoff was the principal defendant in the Essen-Dora war crimes trial.

Early life[edit]

Bischoff was born on March 1, 1908 in the town of Glogau (Głogów) in Lower Silesia, then a part of the German Empire. He was the son of a prosperous local butcher and attended the Glogau Gymnasium. As a student Bischoff was a member of the Wikingbund, a nationalist paramilitary organization, from 1923 to 1925. Following the completion of his abitur in 1926, he went on to study law at the University of Leipzig and the University of Geneva. It was during his time as a law student that Bischoff first became active in the Nazi movement, becoming a member of the Nazi Party in January, 1930 (Member # 203 122) and later joining the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1933. After receiving his doctorate in 1934 Bischoff began a career as a legally-trained civil servant, working as an assessor at the district administration offices in Schweidnitz and Strehlen.[1] During this time he would also function as a low-level political operative for the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the Nazi Party's intelligence-gathering service.

Gestapo[edit]

Bischoff joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) in November, 1935 (SS # 272 403) and was recruited by the Gestapo, becoming director of the organization's central office in the district of Liegnitz. He would go on to hold leadership posts with the Gestapo departments in Harburg-Wilhelmsburg (1936-1937) and Köslin (1937-1939).[2] By the outbreak of World War II in September, 1939 Bischoff had attained the rank of Sturmbannführer (major) in the SS.

During the invasion of Poland Bischoff served as commander of Einsatzkommando 1/IV, which operated in the Pomerania, Warsaw and Polesie regions. Bischoff's unit was heavily involved in the bloody pacification of Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) along with the systematic killing of Polish civilians carried out as part of Operation Tannenberg, the Nazi extermination campaign targeting Poland's intelligentsia and other members of the nation's social and political elite. Bischoff's Einsatzkommando would also play a key role in the brutal mass expulsion of the Jewish population from the city of Pułtusk and their deportation to the Soviet administration zone in eastern Poland.[3]

Einsatzkommando 1/IV was disbanded in November, 1939 and it's officers and personnel assigned to stationary units of the Sicherheitspolizei-SD (KdS) in the Warsaw District of the Polish General Government. In August, 1940 Bischoff would be transferred to the city of Posen (Poznań), capital of the recently-annexed territory of Wartheland, where he assumed directorship of the city's Gestapo office. In this capacity, Bischoff also held authority over the Fort VII concentration camp, a detention facility used by the Gestapo to house local Jews and Polish political prisoners in advance of either their execution or transfer to larger camps, such as Dachau or Auschwitz.[4]

Bischoff was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) in September, 1941 and returned to Germany, taking over as director of the Gestapo in the city of Magdeburg. In this position Bischoff had a central role in orchestrating the deportation of Magdeburg’s remaining Jewish population, along with those from the surrounding communities of Stendal, Dessau, Bernburg and Aschersleben. Under Bischoff's direction, hundreds of German Jews would be deported by the Gestapo from Magdeburg to the concentration camps of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz between November, 1942 and March, 1943.[5]

V-weapons security chief[edit]

In December, 1943 Bischoff was assigned to the staff of SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler, the director of Amtsgruppe C (Buildings and Works) for the SS-Main Economic and Administrative Office. This department was concerned mainly with the engineering and construction projects of the SS. These included the building of factories and other manufacturing facilities for Germany's various secret weapons programs. Among his duties with Amtsgruppe C Bischoff acted as Kammler's primary liaison with Albert Speer's Ministry of Armaments and War Production and also served as chief of counter-intelligence and counter-sabotage for Germany’s V-weapons program.

Much of Germany’s V-1 flying bombs and V-2 ballistic missiles were produced at Mittelwerk, a massive armaments factory housed in an elaborate subterranean tunnel system constructed by Kammler's office in the Harz Mountains. The complex, and often dangerous, work performed to assemble the V-weapons themselves was done underground by thousands slave-laborers drawn from the inmate population of the nearby Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. As the chief of security, Bischoff was responsible for both maintaining the secrecy of the missile production program and preventing organized attempts by the prisoner-laborers to sabotage the V-weapons during the assembly process.[6]

The various Nazi police and security services operating in the areas surrounding Mittelwerk would be consolidated under Bischoff’s control in February, 1944 and counter-sabotage operations were begun, mainly targeting the resistance organizations operating among the different prisoner groups working in the tunnels.[7] Under Bischoff's direction, the SS rounded up much of the resistance leadership among Mittelwerk's French and German-Communist inmates in November, 1944. Many of those taken into custody were interrogated under torture with some later being executed and the remainder interned in solitary confinement.[8]

In February, 1945 the SS administration of Mittelbau-Dora was reorganized under former Auschwitz commandant Richard Baer. Under this new arrangement Bischoff, in addition to his duties at Mittelwerk, was also appointed chief of camp's internal Sicherheitsdienst (SD) unit. The following month he initiated a wave of executions inside Mittelbau-Dora which saw over a hundred prisoners, mainly Russian POWs, killed in a series of mass-hangings. Bischoff also ordered much of the surviving leadership of the camp's resistance organizations to be shot by firing squad just prior to the liberation of Mittelbau-Dora by the US Third Armored Division in April, 1945.[9]

Post-war[edit]

Following the German defeat Bischoff returned to Magdeburg, where he went into hiding. He was initially able to evade capture but was eventually arrested by Soviet occupation authorities in January, 1946. He was interned at NKVD Special Camp No. 1 near Mühlberg until 1948 when he was transferred to NKVD Special Camp No. 2 (formerly the Buchenwald concentration camp). In 1950 Bischoff was deported by the Soviets to a Gulag reserved for German prisoners of war located in Siberia. He would be among the last German prisoners to be released from captivity by the Russians in 1955. After settling in West Germany Bischoff worked as an investigator for the German Red Cross Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, where he was employed from 1957 to 1965.[10]

The Essen-Dora war crimes trial[edit]

Bischoff was one of three former SS staff members of Mittelbau-Dora to be indicted for war crimes by the district court of Essen in November, 1967. The charges against him stemmed from his involvement in the series of mass executions that had occurred between February and April 1945 and the use of torture during interrogations of prisoners. Bischoff entered a plea of not guilty to the charges.[11] The trial (known as the Essen-Dora Process) began on November 17, 1967 and would continue for two and a half years. The process included the testimony of over 300 witnesses, among them former Nazi Armaments Minister Albert Speer and the famed inventor of the V-2 rocket, Wernher von Braun.

Three days prior to the announcement of the verdicts on May 5, 1970 Bischoff was granted a reprieve from sentencing and dismissed from the trial proceedings due to reasons of poor health.[12] Other efforts to prosecute Bischoff for his wartime activities also met with little success. An attempt by a district court in West Berlin to indict him for his involvement in the Einsatzgruppen killings in Poland was discontinued in 1971 citing a "lack of evidence". A further effort at prosecution, this one relating to Bischoff's time as Gestapo chief of Poznań, was likewise abandoned in 1976, once again owing to reasons of his poor health. Bischoff would spend the remainder of his life in West Germany. He died in Hamburg on January 5, 1993.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jens-Christian Wagner:Produktion des Todes: Das KZ Mittelbau-Dora, Göttingen 2001, S. 666.
  2. ^ Ernst Klee: The Encyclopedia of persons to the Third Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Who was that before and after 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 51. Penguin Books, second edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 51.
  3. ^ Ernst Klee: The Encyclopedia of persons to the Third Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Who was that before and after 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 51. Penguin Books, second edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 51.
  4. ^ hospital Owinska and Fort VII in Poznan at deathcamps.org
  5. ^ Alfred Gottwaldt, Diana Schulle: The Deportation of Jews from the German Reich 1941-1945 - An Annotated Chronology, Wiesbaden, 2005, ISBN 3-86539-059-5.
  6. ^ Ernst Klee: The Encyclopedia of persons to the Third Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Who was that before and after 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 51. Penguin Books, second edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 51.
  7. ^ Jens-Christian Wagner, Production of Death: The Mittelbau-Dora, Göttingen, 2001 S. 666th.
  8. ^ Sellier, Andre. A History of the Dora Camp. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. 2003.
  9. ^ "Mittelbau: Last Phase". Ushmm.org. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  10. ^ Jens-Christian Wagner, Production of Death: The Mittelbau-Dora, Göttingen, 2001 S. 666th.
  11. ^ André Sellier: Forced Labor in the missile tunnel - History of the Dora camp, Lüneburg, 2000, p. 518.
  12. ^ Ernst Klee: The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich persons, Fischer Taschenbuch 2005, S. 51, Quelle: 24 Js 549/61 (Z) OStA Köln. Penguin Books 2005, p. 51, source: 24 Js 549/61 (Z) OSTA Cologne.
  13. ^ Sellier, Andre. A History of the Dora Camp. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. 2003.