Jürgen Stroop in U.S. military custody, 1945
26 September 1895|
|Died||6 March 1952
|Allegiance|| German Empire
|Service/branch|| Deutsches Heer
SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS und Polizei
SS- und Polizeiführer
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II (Warsaw Ghetto)
Jürgen Stroop, (born Josef Stroop, 26 September 1895 in Detmold, Germany — died 6 March 1952 in Warsaw, Poland), was an SS General during World War II. He is best known for being in command against the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and for authoring The Stroop Report, a booklength account of the operation. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, Stroop was prosecuted during the Dachau Trials and convicted of murdering nine American POWs. After his extradition to the People's Republic of Poland, Stroop was tried, convicted, and hanged for crimes against humanity.
- 1 Early life
- 2 SS career
- 3 World War II
- 4 Postwar
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Legacy
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
Jürgen Stroop was born to Roman Catholic parents in Detmold, in the Principality of Lippe, in the German Empire. His father, Konrad Stroop, was Lippe's chief of police. His mother, Katherine Stroop, was a full-time homemaker. In conversation with Kazimierz Moczarski, Stroop recalled his devoutly religious mother as, "a near fanatic," who subjected him to childhood physical abuse. Both of his parents were enthusiastic monarchists. During parades in Detmold Konrad Stroop often pointed out Leopold IV, Prince of Lippe and said, "Remember this always. This is our Prince. Obey him and serve him as I have."
Stroop's sense of German patriotism was fostered by growing up in the shadow of the Hermannsdenkmal. After receiving an elementary education, he became an apprentice with the land register in Detmold, where he worked until the outbreak of World War I.
World War I
Stroop enlisted in the Imperial German Army in 1914 and served in several infantry regiments along the Western Front. He was wounded in action near La Bassée in October 1914. Decades later, Stroop disgustedly recalled, "Judging from what I saw, French women are mostly whores."
After eight months sick leave in Detmold, Stroop was trasferred to the Eastern Front in July 1915. He fought in Russian Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Austrian Galicia, and in Romania. Stroop was awarded the Iron Cross on December 2, 1915.
At the end of the war, Stroop's regiment was addressed by Field Marshal August von Mackensen. Stroop later recalled, "He spelled out our military and political goals and warned that we must work to preserve order in the homeland until our national strength was fully restored. We bade him goodbye like sons. Then we board the train in an orderly way with our weapons. We didn't disperse like some of the other units, we went back to Germany like soldiers. My war, Herr Moczarski ended on December 21, 1918, not November 11th. I barely made it home in time for Christmas."
After being demobilized, Stroop returned to work at the lnd register, while remaining active in a veterans' organization.
During the early 1920s, Stroop embraced Germanic neo-paganism under the influence of General Erich Ludendorff and his wife Mathilde. He later recalled that Mathilde Ludendorff, "revealed the truth about the Catholic Church in Germany and returned us to the true Germanic gods. By recalling the pure, pre-Germanic ways, she pointed out the rottenness of the Judeo-Christian ethic and showed how the organized Church had been strangling the Reich for twelve hundred years." Stroop further recalled, "It was thanks to what I was lucky enough to learn from her books that I was able to rid myself of religious prejudice and mark Gottgläubig in the column concerning belief."
In another conversation with Moczarski, Stroop called Catholicism, "a catch-all of religions, infected with Judaism." He further claimed that Christianity was created as a Jewish conspiracy for, "the weakening and debasement of man through guilt."
Stroop joined the NSDAP and SS in 1932. In 1933, he was appointed leader of the state auxiliary police. One year later, he was promoted from the rank of SS-Oberscharführer to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer. Subsequently he worked for the SS administration in Münster and Hamburg.
Bishop Clemens von Galen
In 1934, Bishop Clemens von Galen of Münster began to attack the racist ideologies of the new regime, partly poking fun at it, partly critiquing its ideological basis as published by Alfred Rosenberg. He declared it as unacceptable to refuse the Old Testament because of its Jewish authorship, and to limit morality and virtue to the perceived usefulness of a particular race.
In retaliation, the Bishop was visited by Stroop and a a Von Galen family member who had joined the SS. Both were instructed to pressure the Bishop into openly expressing approval of Rosenberg's doctrines. If he refused to do so, they were ordered to threaten him with the confiscation of Church property and an Anti-Catholic propaganda campaign.
Stroop later recalled, "Bishop von Galen was a great gentleman, a true aristocrat, a Renaissance prince of the Church. He welcomed us politely but with reserve."
The visit began well, with Bishop von Galen commending Stroop's mother for her devout Catholicism and charitable work in Detmold. Then, however, the Bishop turned the table on his two visitors. He categorically refused to accept or praise Rosenberg's doctrines of euthanising or forcibly sterilizing the disabled. To Stroop's further shock, the Bishop then denounced the Nazis for trying to introduce Germanic neo-paganism into his diocese. He scoffed at marriage ceremonies and funerals conducted before altars dedicated to Wotan. Stroop, who had attended such a ceremony only days before, was stunned that the Bishop had learned of it so quickly. At the end of the meeting, the Bishop stated that the Church would remain loyal to the State in all lawful matters. He expressed his deep love for Germany and reminded them that he had been the first Bishop to publicly acknowledge the new regime.
Stroop later lamented the fact that Bishop von Galen's German patriotism, "was tainted by Papist ideals, which have been harmful to Germany for centuries. Besides, the Archbishop's orders came from outside the Fatherland, a fact which disturbed us. We all know that despite its diverse factions, the Catholic Church is a world community, which sticks together when the chips are down."
In September 1938, Stroop was promoted again, this time to the rank of SS-Standartenführer (colonel) and served near Liberec, in the Sudetenland. In conversation with Moczarski, Stroop happily reminisced about his many visits to the hot springs at Karlsbad.
For this reason, their cellmate, Gustav Schielke, expressed disgust that, instead of serving in combat, "Herr General did battle in spas."
World War II
After the invasion of Poland, Stroop served as commander of the SS-section in Gnesen (Gniezno). During the occupation of Poland, Stroop was transferred to Poznan as head of Selbstschutz, the notorious "self-defense" formation of the local ethnic Germans.
In May 1941, Stroop changed his name from Josef to Jürgen for ideological reasons and in honor of his deceased son. From 7 July to 15 September 1941, Stroop served in combat on the eastern front with the infantry regiment of the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf. He was awarded a Clasp to the Iron Cross 2nd Class and an Infantry Assault Badge in Bronze. On 16 September 1942, he was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer and assigned as an Inspector of the SiPo and SD of the Higher SS and Police Leader for Russia South. In this position Stroop worked to help secure a key logistical route for German forces on the Eastern Front. Beginning in October 1942, Stroop commanded an SS garrison at Kherson, before becoming the SS and Police Leader (SSPF) for Lemberg (Lviv) in February 1943.
The Warsaw Ghetto
Stroop's most historically prominent role was the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an action which cost the lives of over 50,000 people. He was sent to Warsaw on 17 April 1943 by Heinrich Himmler, as a replacement for SS-Oberführer Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, who was relieved of duty. Stroop took over from Sammern-Frankenegg following the latter's failure to suppress the uprising at the onset:
I had two battalions of Waffen-SS, one hundred army men, units of Order Police, and seventy-five to a hundred Security Police people. The Security Police had been active in the Warsaw ghetto for some time, and during this program it was their function to accompany SS units in groups of six or eight, as guides and experts in ghetto matters.
Stroop ordered the entire Ghetto to be systematically burned down and blown up building by building. All of the survivors, including men, women, and children were either killed on the spot or deported to extermination camps.
In conversation with Moczarski, Stroop described the destruction of the Ghetto in great detail. Stroop also disclosed that, unlike the men under his command, he always left the Ghetto at at mealtimes and overnight.
Stroop later recalled:
- "May First was memorable for a number of reasons. I witnessed an extraordinary scene that day. A group of prisoners had been herded into the square. In spite of their exhaustion, many of them held their heads high. I stood nearby, surrounded by my escort. Suddenly I heard shots. A young Jew -- in his midtwenties I'd guess -- was firing a pistol at one of our police officers--one...two...three...fast as lightning. One of the bullets hit the officer's hand. My men sprayed the Jew with fire. I managed to whip out my own pistol and hit him as he fell. As he lay dying, I stood over him, watching his life ebb away... I'll never forget the hate in his eyes. Do you know what he did, meine Herren? With all his remaining strength, he spat at me. When my men saw what he had done, they pumped him so full of lead that he looked like a flattened sackful of bloody meat."
— Jurgen Stroop, Conversations with an Executioner
Stroop expressed confusion that the Ghetto's Jewish combatants, whom he had been taught to view as untermenschen, had fought so effectively against his men.
Stroop later recalled, "...if you'd been in our shoes, Herr Moczarski, you'd have been surprised that the fighting ended as soon as it did. It's all history now, and the world's gone topsy-turvy, so why not speak the truth here in our cell? The Jews surprised me and my officers, and even Dr. Hahn, with their determination in battle. And believe me, as veterans of World War I and SS members, we knew what determination in battle was all about. The tenacity of your Warsaw Jews took us completely by surprise. That's the real reason the Großaktion lasted as long as it did."
SS and Police Leader of Warsaw
After the uprising was suppressed, Stroop ordered the destruction of Warsaw's Great Synagogue:
- "What a marvelous sight it was. A fantastic piece of theater. My staff and I stood at a distance. I held the electrical device which would detonate all the charges simultaneously. Jesuiter called for silence. I glanced over at my brave officers and men, tired and dirty, silhouetted against the glow of the burning buildings. After prolonging the suspense for a moment, I shouted: Heil Hitler and pressed the button. With a thunderous, deafening bang and a rainbow burst of colors, the fiery explosion soared toward the clouds, an unforgettable tribute to our triumph over the Jews. The Warsaw Ghetto was no more. The will of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler had been done."
— Jürgen Stroop, Conversations with an Executioner 
Stroop then formally assumed the position of SS and Police Leader of Warsaw. Kruger presented an Iron Cross 1st Class to him on 18 June 1943 for the Warsaw Ghetto "action" at a gala reception in Warsaw’s Lazienki Park.
Stroop was subsequently named the Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF) in Greece on 8 September 1943. The local civilian administration found his methods and behaviour unacceptable and withdrew cooperation, forbidding the local Order Police from having anything to do with him, which made his position untenable. Consequently, he was removed and on 9 November was appointed Commander of SS-Oberabschnitt Rhein-Westmark (an SS administrative district named for the Rhine and Gau Westmark) in Wiesbaden, serving there until the close of the war.
July 20th plot
According to Moczarski, there was never any subject that enraged Stroop more than the July 20th Plot against the life of Adolf Hitler. Whenever the subject came up, Stroop would curse those involved, "in unprintable terms," as a "murderous band of generals and Jew-ridden civilians." He exclaimed, "How could they consider harming their Fuehrer? Adolf Hitler was placed on earth by a higher power, perhaps Wotan himself, to fulfill a sacred mission. The July conspiracy was an example of the moral decay that proved to be our undoing. It would have been impossible to defeat Germany without German participation, Herr Moczarski. If it hadn't been for negligence disguised as tolerance, we could have held off the whole world. Instead, we allowed degenerate forces to pollute our healthy masses. A few weaklings poisoned by enemy agents and infected with subversive ideologies were all it took to undermine us. The minute we suffered military defeats, the cancerous elements in our society swung into action, organizing Mafias and creating 'patriotic discussion groups.' In the end, they destroyed our nation."
Stroop proudly related his involvement in the purge of Anti-Nazi Germans which followed the Plot's failure. He expressed annoyance that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had been allowed to commit suicide rather than being hanged from a meat hook. He also praised Roland Freisler of the Volksgerichtshof as, "a fine judge."
Stroop also boasted of his involvement in investigating Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge for involvement in the Plot. He claimed to have offered the Field Marshal the opportunity to commit suicide, but that Kluge refused. He then claimed to have personally shot him and that Himmler had ordered him to announce that Field Marshal von Kluge had committed suicide.
Years later, when Stroop was asked for the reasons for the Third Reich's collapse, he said, "We lost the war for one reason only! The plotting of internationalist factions. The Communists, Socialists,, Jews, Reactionaries, Anglo-Saxons, Freemasons, and Catholic elements tore our nation apart. What's more, the Reich could never have been defeated without the help of traitors like Canaris, Goerdeler, Stauffenberg, Thälmann, Schumacher, Niemöller, Kluge, Paulus, Pieck, and scum like that Norwegian Willy Brandt. History proves that we were too liberal, Herr Moczarski. We should have muzzled those scoundrels more tightly."
Last Meeting with Himmler
In late March, 1945, Stroop was forced to retreat from Wiesbaden as the advancing U.S. Army crossed the Rhine Bridgeheads. Upon his arrival in Pottenstein, Bavaria, Stroop received word that Heinrich Himmler wished to meet him in Berlin. On April 14, Stroop met Himmler in his private train near Prenzlau.
Stroop later recalled, "After inquiring about my family, he asked for a full report on events in Wiesbaden and congratulated me on my success with Von Kluge. Adolf Hitler was behaving oddly, he confided, and might even be ill. Heinrich Himmler... ended our talk by asking if I wold joim his personal staff and eventually go north with him to Lübeck and later Denmark. Flattered though I was, I expressed my belief that during this period of temporary reversals, it was essential to organize a central resistance point in the southern Alps, until new weapons were ready. To my surprise, Heinrich Himmler asked if I really believed that the Third Reich could win the war. I insisted that nothing could quell the Germanic spirit awakened in our people by Adolf Hitler and his deeds. Besides, I argued, how could I desert my SS brothers and the hundreds of young Werwolf fighters whom I had ordered to the Bavarian Alps to set up a National Socialistic bunker for the preservation of the Third Reich?"
A weeping Himmler embraced Stroop and said, "With soldiers as devoted to Adolf Hitler as you, our Third Reich can never die."
With a pass signed by Himmler, Stroop travelled to the Alpine Redoubt with a group of teenaged Hitler Youth members whom he had been training for war. In order to obtain gasoline and other scarce supplies, Stroop showed Himmler's signed order and claimed to be transporting his Werwolf unit to build an Alpine bastion for the salvation of the Reich.
However, after a secret conference at Taxenbach, Austria, Stroop and his fellow Werwolf commanders decided to change into Wehrmacht uniforms and surrender to the Western Allies. Soon after, Stroop abandoned his Werwolf unit near Kufstein and fled north.
Stroop later told Moczarski that he had been carrying a cyanide tablet which he had intended to take if captured. When Moczarski asked him why he didn't take use it, Stroop replied, "It's really quite simple. I was afraid."
When he was taken prisoner, Stroop bore false discharge papers made out to a Wehrmacht Captain of Reserve Josef Straup. He kept to this story for nearly two months, before admitting to his actual identity on 2 July.
Trial at Dachau
Stroop was then put on trial by the U.S. Military Tribunal at Dachau for ordering the summary executions of nine United States Air Force pilots who had been shot down over his district between October 1944 and late March 1945.
Stroop created a stir by citing his General's rank in the SS and demanding that to be judged by an officer of the same rank. In response, Brigadier General Emil C. Kiel of the United States Air Force was assigned as the trial's judge. Stroop later called General Kiel, "a cunning devil," and expressed a belief that his judge was a Jew.
In conversation with Moczarski, Stroop insisted that his subordinates had murdered the American pilots without his knowledge or permission. He expressed disgust that, "Nearly all of those judges were Jews or Freemasons. I studied them very closely. Most of them had dark hair." He further lamented that one of his U.S. Army defense lawyers was wearing a Masonic ring in court. He cited the prevalence of Old Testament names among them as proof that, "the English and Americans have been infected with the Jewish virus."
According to their cellmate, an former SS file clerk named Gustav Schielke, "Stroop behaved like a swine in the dock. He acted innocent as a lamb, pretending the killings were news to him. Because of his incriminations, several fellow defendants were sentenced to death, as many as thirteen of the twenty-two. As senior commander of the SS and police, he gave all the orders Herr Moczarski, yet he stated in court that his underlings had killed American airmen on their own. How could a top German officer have acted like that?"
When Moczarski pressed him for information about the killings, Stroop finally admitted, "It was common knowledge that American flyers were terrorists and murderers who used methods contrary to civilized norms... We were given a statement to that effect from the highest authorities. It was accompanied by an order from Heinrich Himmler."
As a result, nine POWs had been taken to the forest and given, "a ration of lead for their American necks."
After an eight week trial, Brigadier General Kiel sentenced Stroop to death by hanging on March 21, 1947. In November 1947, a death warrant was signed by General Lucius D. Clay. By then, however, Stroop had been imprisoned in Warsaw for five months.
Extradition to Poland
In late May 1947, Stroop was flown to Berlin-Tempelhof Airport and handed over to the People's Republic of Poland. He later recalled, "My heart sank when I saw those Polish officers at Tempelhof. So the Americans were liars after all! They'd promised me time and again that I'd never be given to the Eastern Allies and that my death sentence for killing the U.S. airmen would be commuted to life imprisonment."
Imprisonment in Poland
While awaiting trial in Warsaw's Mokotów Prison, Stroop spent 255 days in the same cell with Kazimierz Moczarski, a former officer in the pre-war Polish Army. Under the codename Maurycy, Moczarski then had served in Poland's anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet resistance movement, the Armia Krajowa.
During Stroop's tenure as SS and Police Leader of Warsaw, Moczarski had been ordered to assassinate him for "crimes against the Polish Nation." He later recalled that, due to the unpredictability of Stroop's movements, he had been unable to carry out the mission.
Following the transformation of Poland into a Marxist-Leninist police state, Moczarski had been arrested, and savagely tortured by the Polish Ministry of State Security, spending four years on death row.
During their incarceration, Stroop openeed up in detail about his life, while expressing no remorse. He also shared with Moczarski his letters from his mother, wife, and children in West Germany. Moczarski later recalled, "The letters from his mother that Stroop gave me to read... seemed to indicate that Frau Stroop did not view as crimes the acts for which Stroop had been jailed."
Stroop also expressed his continuing belief in Nazi race doctrine. When Moczarski expressed admiration for the Warsaw Ghetto combatants, Stroop indignantly responded, "Jews do not have, and are incapable of having, honor and dignity. Scientifically speaking, they are near-animals, not full-fledged men. According to Darwin, monkeys are embryonic humans, yet we hunt them and turn their fur into coats. We love dogs, but if a pet attacks us, we shoot it - like a dog not a human. Biologists and scientists have established that Jews, Gypsies, and other mongrels have different blood, different tissues, different bones, and different minds from us European Aryans, especially us Nordics. Aryans are the models of true man."
On November 11, 1949, Stroop and Moczarski were separated by prison authorities. As they left their cell for the last time, Stroop told Moczarski, "Today's your Independence Day, and the thirty-first anniversary of Germany's defeat in World War I. Goodbye, Herr Moczarski. See you soon at St. Peter's gate." Before their final parting, the two former enemies shook hands.
Trial in Warsaw
Stroop's trial began on July 18, 1951 at the Warsaw Criminal District Court and lasted three days. Stroop stood accused of four crimes:
- 1. Belonging to the S.S.-- a criminal organization.
- 2. Liquidating the Warsaw Ghetto, leading to the murder of more than 50,000 people.
- 3. Ordering the shooting of one hundred Poles on July 16, 1943.
- 4. Participating in the mass murder of Polish civilians in the Warthegau.
On 23 July 1951, the Court sentenced Stroop and Franz Konrad to death by hanging. In passing sentence, the Court declared, "Since the character and magnitude of Stroop's crimes, his attitude and his twisted explanations not only indicate a total lack of repentance but actually confirm that he retains his Nazi view of the world, the Court is unable to find the slightest attenuating circumstance in the accused Stroop's conduct. His actions show that he is a being devoid of human feeling, a Fascist hangman who tracked his victims with cold and relentless cruelty, an executioner who must be removed from the society of man."
Jürgen Stroop was hanged at Mokotów Prison at seven o'clock in the evening on 6 March 1952. In 1961, Moczarski wrote to the Procurator General of the Polish Republic and received a letter about Stroop's last moments.
According to the Procurator's letter,
- 1. Jurgen Stropp's sentence was carried out by hanging in Warsaw's Mokotów Prison on March 6, 1952.
- 2. The day before the execution the prisoner was calm, exhibiting his usual arrogance. He clearly did not expect the sentence to be carried out so quockly.
- 3. When the Procurator informed him that the hanging was to take place, Stroop looked startled, but a moment later he smiled and said: "My soul will finally unite with my wife and daughter in the German Federal Republic." He expressed no "last wish."Until the end, he exhibited Nazi pride. He was calm and unafraid, cooperative with his executioners, calm and soldierly to the last.
- 4. Stroop showed no remorse. Several days before the hanging the prison director asked him if, as a Christian, he could reconcile his conscience with the fact that he had personally murdered women and children in the Ghetto, and watched others do so on his order. He replied that he felt no guilt about killing Jews.
- 5. Stroop did not utter a word about Germany, Hitler, or future revenge.
While stationed in Russian Poland during the First World War, Stroop became engaged to a Polish woman named Lona. He later recalled, "My Lona was so good, so feminine, so wise. I wanted to marry her. Maybe even settle in Poland." Despite the opposition of Stroop's family and friends in Detmold, he remained engaged to Lona until 1922.
To the outrage of his devoutly Catholic mother, Stroop married Katharina B., the daughter of a minister from the Protestant Church of Lippe, on July 3, 1923. Katharina Stroop remained a loyal and obedient wife despite her husband's many infidelities and visits to Lebensborn brothels. Their marriage produced a daughter, Renate Stroop, who was born in February, 1928. Their first son, Jürgen Stroop, was born in 1934 and died soon after birth. Their second son, Olaf Stroop, was born in February, 1936.
Stroop's detailed 75-page report on the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was bound in black leather. It included copies of all communiqués sent to SS Police Leader East Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger and photographs. Originally titled The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw is no more!, it would later be used as evidence at the Nuremberg Trials.
After his release in 1956, Kazimierz Moczarski wrote a memoir about his 255-day incarceration with Stroop. It was titled Rozmowy z katem (Conversations with an Executioner). Excerpts from his memoir were published in newspapers and magazines during Moczarski's lifetime. The entire manuscript was not published until 1977, two years after Moczarski's death. An English translation was released in 1981, and it has since been translated into several languages.
In popular culture
- In the 1976 film The Eagle Has Landed, Jürgen Stroop is portrayed by the German actor Joachim Hansen (the character is simply referred to as "Herr Gruppenführer" and not by Stroop's actual name, although in the source novel by Jack Higgins, Stroop's name is used).
- In the 2001 film Uprising, Stroop is depicted as the film's main antagonist and is portrayed by the American actor Jon Voight.
- In the 2006 Polish television film Rozmowy z katem (Conversations with an Executioner), based on Kazimierz Moczarski's memoir, Stroop is played by the actor Piotr Fronczewski.
- On April 18, 2012, Philip Boehm's stage adaptation of Moczarski's memoir premiered at the Upstream Theater in St. Louis, Missouri.
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- Bretz, Mark (2012-04-18). ""Ladue News" April 18, 2012". Laduenews.com. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
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- Friedman, Towiah (1986). The Trial Against SS-general Jürgen Stroop in Warsaw, Poland. Institute of Documentation in Israel for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes.
- Moczarski, Kazimierz; Mariana Fitzpatrick; Jürgen Stroop (1981). Conversations With an Executioner. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-171918-1.
- Stroop, Jürgen (1979). The Stroop Report: The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw Is No More!. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-50443-7.
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