SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch
10 July 1903|
Nassengrub (Mokřiny), Bohemia
|Disappeared||Oslo, Norway (?)|
|Died||Missing on 2 May 1945
|Known for||first suggested and experimented with using Zyklon B gas for the purpose of mass murder|
|National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP)|
SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Karl Fritzsch (10 July 1903 - went missing 2 May 1945), was a German concentration camp officer and deputy, who first suggested and experimented with using Zyklon B gas for the purpose of mass murder.
Karl Fritzsch was born the son of a stove builder in Bohemia, and since the family had to move very often in search of work, he never received a normal school education. For some years Fritzsch worked on ships plying the Danube. His marriage in 1928 to Franziska Stich produced three children, but ended in divorce in 1942.
In May 1940 he became the first Schutzhaftlagerführer to Rudolf Höss at Auschwitz. Here, he very quickly obtained a reputation as the camp horror. Together with Höss, he was responsible for the selection of prisoners to die of hunger as a punishment for the escape of a fellow prisoner. The condemned prisoners were locked in a cell in the basement of the Bunker (the camp prison in Block 11 or 13) until they died of starvation.
On 29 July 1941, a camp count found that three prisoners were missing and Fritzsch sentenced 10 remaining prisoners to immurement. One of the condemned, Franciszek Gajowniczek, was reprieved when a fellow prisoner, the Franciscan priest Maximilian Kolbe, offered to take his place. After over 2 weeks starvation, only Kolbe remained alive and the priest was killed in the underground bunker by lethal injection. Kolbe was later canonized by Pope John Paul II.
Fritzsch was also fond of psychological torture. Former Auschwitz prisoner Karol Świętorzecki recalled the first Christmas Eve behind the camp barbed wire, on 24 December 1940, was also one of the most tragic. "The Nazis set up a Christmas tree, with electric lights, on the roll-call square. Beneath it, they placed the bodies of prisoners who had died while working or frozen to death at roll call. Lagerführer Karl Fritzsch referred to the corpses beneath the tree as “a present” for the living, and forbade the singing of Polish Christmas carols." According to Höss, it was also Fritzsch who first arrived at the idea of using Zyklon B gas for the purpose of mass murder. While Höss was away on an official journey in late August 1941, Fritzsch tried out the effect of Zyklon B on Soviet POWs, who were locked up in cells in the basement of the Bunker for this experiment. In the following days Fritzsch repeated the tests with the gas on further victims in the presence of Höss. Thus the future method for the mass murders in Auschwitz was devised.
On 15 January 1942, Fritzsch was transferred to KZ Flossenbürg as Schutzhaftlagerführer. From early August until October 1942 he was temporary substitute commander of the camp. In October 1943, he was arrested as a part of an internal SS investigation into corruption. An SS court charged him with murder. As a punishment he was transferred to front line duty (SS-Panzergrenadier-Ersatzbatallion 18).
In his 2007 memoirs, For He Is an Englishman, Memoirs of a Prussian Nobleman, Captain Charles Arnold-Baker recorded that as an MI6 officer in Oslo he arrested Fritsch: "We picked up, for example, the deputy commandant of Auschwitz, a little runt of a man called Fritsch whom we naturally put in the custody of a Jewish guard - with strict instructions not to damage him, of course." 
- Staatliches Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau (Hrsg.): Auschwitz in den Augen der SS. Oświęcim 1998, ISBN 83-85047-35-2
- Ernst Klee: Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich: Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-596-16048-0
- Hermann Langbein: Menschen in Auschwitz. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin Wien, Ullstein-Verlag, 1980, ISBN 3-548-33014-2
- Jens-Christian Wagner: Produktion des Todes: Das KZ Mittelbau-Dora, Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-89244-439-0.
- Wacław Długoborski, Franciszek Piper (Hrsg.): Auschwitz 1940-1945. Studien zur Geschichte des Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslagers Auschwitz., Verlag Staatliches Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oswiecim 1999, 5 Bände: I. Aufbau und Struktur des Lagers. II. Die Häftlinge - Existentzbedingungen, Arbeit und Tod. III. Vernichtung. IV. Widerstand. V. Epilog., ISBN 83-85047-76-X.