Hermann Schaper in service
|Born||12 August 1911
|Years of service||until 1945|
|Commands held||SS Zichenau-Schroettersburg|
SS-Hauptsturmführer Hermann Schaper (born 12 August 1911 at Strassburg im Elsass, Germany – deceased), was a German member of the NSDAP (card number 105606) and SS (No. 3484) during the Second World War. He was a Holocaust perpetrator responsible for atrocities committed by the Einsatzgruppen in Poland and the Soviet Union and was convicted after the war of numerous war crimes.
Schaper joined the SS and was promoted to the rank of SS-Untersturmführer on 20 April 1935. He achieved the rank of SS-Obersturmführer on 20 April 1937. Before the 1939 invasion of Poland, Schaper worked at the SD principal offices in the Third Reich. During the German occupation of Poland Schaper served as SS-Hauptsturmführer, the captain of Kommando SS Zichenau-Schröttersburg – a Nazi Einsatzgruppe, one of five such formations created in eastern Poland and composed of 500–1000 functionaries of the SS and Gestapo. Schaper operated in the Płock (renamed Schröttersburg) district administered by Count von der Groeben. His superior was a Gestapo chief based in Ciechanów (renamed Zichenau).
Schaper's death squad was deployed in the newly formed Bezirk Bialystok district soon after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Himmler himself visited Białystok on 30 June 1941 and pronounced that more forces were needed in the area, because the massive chase after the fleeing Red Army left behind a security vacuum. On July 3 additional formation of Schutzpolizei arrived in the city from the General Government, led by SS-Hauptsturmführer Wolfgang Birkner, veteran of Einsatzgruppe IV from the Polish Campaign. The relief unit, called kommando Bialystok, was sent in by SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Eberhard Schöngarth on orders from the Reich Main Security Office, due to reports of Soviet guerrilla activity in the area with Jews being of course immediately suspected of helping them out. On 10 July 1941 Schaper's Einsatzgruppe was subdivided into dozens of smaller commandos (Einsatzkommandos) numbering from several to several scores of people whose mission was to kill Jews, alleged communists and the Soviet NKVD collaborators in the captured territories often far behind the advancing German front. The entire Einsatzgruppe employed the same, systematic method of mass killing across many Polish villages and towns in the vicinity of Białystok. Schaper's murderous rampage south-east of East Prussia is fairly well documented, and included Wizna (end of June), Wąsosz (July 5), Radziłów (July 7), Jedwabne (July 10), Łomża (early August), Tykocin (August 22–25), Rutki (September 4), Piątnica, Zambrów as well as other locations.
At the beginning of the 1960s, the war crimes committed by Schaper were investigated by the German Judicial Centre for Prosecuting Nazi Crimes in Ludwigsburg. The prosecutors had called a key witness, the German Kreiskommissar in Łomża, who named the Gestapo paramilitary Einsatzgruppe B under SS-Obersturmführer Hermann Schaper in the course of Birkner's investigation. Schaper was charged in 1964 with personally directing the Einsatzkommando responsible for the mass killing of Jews in the city. Two witnesses from Israel – Chaja Finkelstein from Radziłów and Izchak Feler from Tykocin – recognized Hermann Schaper from photographs as the one responsible also for the pogrom in Radziłów on 7 July 1941, as well as the pogrom in Tykocin of 25 August 1941. The methods used by Schaper's death squad in these massacres were identical to those employed in Jedwabne (a few kilometers distance) only three days later. Schaper denied the charges, and the Germans found the evidence insufficient to prosecute him at that time. He lied to interrogators that in 1941 he had been a truck driver and used false names. Legal proceedings against him were terminated on 2 September 1965 despite his positive identification by the courts.
During the subsequent investigation, Count von der Groeben confirmed that it was indeed Hermann Schaper who conducted mass executions of Jews in his district. Schaper's case was reopened in 1974. In 1976, a German court in Giessen (Hessen) pronounced Schaper guilty of executions of Poles and Jews by the Kommando SS Zichenau-Schroettersburg. Schaper was sentenced to six-years imprisonment, but was soon released for medical reasons. He died of old age in his nineties. According to statement received by the Polish IPN from German prosecution, the documentation of his trial is no longer available and, it has most likely been destroyed after the case was terminated.
Notes and references
- Thomas Urban, "Poszukiwany Hermann Schaper" (A Wanted Man), Rzeczpospolita, 01.09.01 Nr 204. (Polish)
- Tomasz Szarota (December 2–3, 2000). "Do we now know everything for certain? (translation)". Gazeta Wyborcza. Retrieved May 13, 2011.
- Thomas Urban, reporter of the Suddeutsche Zeitung; Polish text in Rzeczpospolita, 1–2 September 2001
- Alexander B. Rossino, historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. (2003). "Polish "Neighbors" and German Invaders: Contextualizing Anti-Jewish Violence in the Białystok District during the Opening Weeks of Operation Barbarossa" (Internet Archive). Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 16. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
Cited by Bogdan Musiał in: "Konterrevolutionäre Elemente sind zu erschiessen": Die Brutalisierung des deutsch-sowjetischen Krieges im Sommer 1941, (Berlin: Propyläen, 2000), pp. 32, 62. Also, cited in German archives of Birkner's postwar investigation at: Auswertung der Ereignismeldungen zu den Judenerschiessungen in Białystok im Juli 1941 in ZStL, 5 AR-Z 56/1960, pp. 4ff.
- "Śledztwa zawieszone (Suspended investigations)". Instytut Pamięci Narodowej (Institute of National Remembrance), Warsaw. 9 November 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- Hauptsturmführer Hermann Schaper - dowódca speckomanda SS Ciechanów-Płock Fotogaleria miasta Płocka
- Lessons and Legacies VII: The Holocaust in International Perspective By Dagmar Herzog
- (Polish) Artykuły, Polemiki, Listy Czytelników; 2000-2002, Rzeczpospolita