Paul Ogorzow

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Paul Ogorzow (29 September 1912 – 26 July 1941), also known as the "S-Bahn murderer", was a Berlin-based serial killer and rapist in Nazi Germany, responsible for several deaths and attempted murders during a ten-month period between September 1940 and July 1941, when he was finally apprehended and executed at Plötzensee prison.

Early life[edit]

Paul Ogorzow was born on September 29, 1912, at Muntowen, Masuren. He was the illegitimate child of a farm servant, Marie Saga. Paul's grandfather filled his birth certificate just with three crosses and the name, Paul Saga.[1][2]

In 1924, Paul was adopted by Johann Ogorzow, a farm laborer of the Wachow village, Nauen. Paul adopted his surname. He worked at the farm, and later was given a job at a steel foundry in Brandenburg.[1] In 1934, the Reichsbahn (National Railroad) hired him as a track laying labourer. He steadily worked his way up through the company until he ended up working as an assistant signalman at Rummelsburg in the eastern suburbs of Berlin, close to Karlshorst. This was the area, round which the crimes happened.[1]

In 1931, Paul Ogorzow joined the Nazi Party. In 1932 he also joined the Brownshirts, and by the time of his crimes, circa 1940, he had reached the rank of Scharführer.[2]

Domestic life[edit]

In 1937, Paul Ogorzow married Gertrude, a saleswoman two years older than himself. They had two children, a son and a daughter. Initially, they lived with Paul Ogorzow's mother, at an apartment on the Dorotheastraße of a Laubenviertel, an area of allotments, summerhouses and tenement shacks. Then, they moved to a nearby apartment, in the suburb of Karlshorst. Paul Ogorzow would be remembered for often being seen playing with his children, and spending a lot of time in the garden round his home, also tending a small cherry orchard in the backyard.[1] At his last trial Ogorzow's wife would claim that he would often get violent, making unfounded claims of her being unfaithful to him.[2]

Paul Ogorzow traveled to his job daily, either by train, walking or by bicycle. He was well regarded by his railway coworkers. He was reliable, operating both the light signals and the telegraph. Although Paul Ogorzow worked about the Zobtener road, he was often dispatched to work along the S-Bahn, always wearing his uniform.[1]

Early crimes[edit]

After his capture, Paul Ogorzow detailed his own actions, allowing a precise reconstruction of his crimes.[1]

As soon as they shifted to their new Dorotheastraße home, Paul Ogorzow began his rapes, attacking women around the Friedrichsfelde area of summer houses [1], through which the S-Bahn passed. At that time, that neighborhood consisted mostly of solitary housewives, whose husbands had been dispatched to fight in the war. The police had already become aware of about 31 cases of rape and sexual assaults, all of which were committed by Ogorzow. During his attacks, he would either choke the victim, threaten her with a knife, or hit her with a blunt object. In their statements all the victims mentioned their attacker's railway uniform.[1][2]

However, one night Paul Ogorzow attacked a woman, and two male acquaintances rushed to her aid. Ogorzow managed to escape after being severely beaten, and he decided to change his modus operandi to kill all subsequent victims.[1]

The murders[edit]

In September, 1940, Paul Ogorzow started his assaults along the 9-kilometer S-Bahn railway section, between the Betriebsbahnhof Rummelsburg and Friedrichshagen train stations. Wearing his working clothes, Ogorzow waited aboard empty carriages for potential victims. The train passenger carriages weren't illuminated at the time because of the blackout of Berlin. He relied on the fact that any lone women passengers wouldn't be suspicious of a uniformed employee of the S-Bahn, Ogorzow approached his victims asking for their ticket, and then he strangled, or -most usually- hit the victim with a 2-inch-thick lead telephony cable from the S-Bahn. After his rape Ogorzow would drag the victim to the door of the carriage and throw the dead body from the moving train. Ogorzow never stole any belongings of his victims.[1][2]

The investigation[edit]

Two of Paul Ogorzow's victims, who had been raped and thrown from the S-Bahn, survived to describe the attack and murder attempt, telling about an S-Bahn employee in a black uniform to the police. By December, 1940, as other similar crimes were already reported, the police had begun looking for a suspect of Ogorzow's likeness.[1][2]

However, the Nazi authorities censored any bad news, and even the German Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels had issued a direct censorship order about the S-Bahn series of murders. Thus, Commissioner Wilhelm Lüdtke, chief of Berlin's Kriminalpolizei (Serious Crimes Unit) wasn't able to publicly seek information about the rapes or murders or to warn the population about traveling on train at night. Instead, Lüdtke sent out his best detectives to discreetly deal with the case.[1][2]

The operation was already underway by December, 1940. 5,000 of 8,000 Berlin rail workers had been interviewed. The police patrols were doubled over the S-Bahn section, and the Nazi Party dispatched some of its soldiers to personally protect those unaccompanied women who commuted through the area. Female police officers and assistant detectives were used as bait aboard second-class carriages in an attempt to catch Ogorzow once and for all. Other agents were disguised as railway workers. At each station each commuter was watched.[1] Slyly, Ogorzow volunteered himself for escorting solitary women during the night hours.[2]

Such an operation would normally net no more than a handful of petty criminals totally unrelated to the case. Paul Ogorzow didn't commit any crimes from February 1941 to July 3, when he killed once more. His last crime was when he raped and fractured the skull of a woman in the original Friedrichsfelde area where he had started his wave of sex crimes.[1][2]

Capture and execution[edit]

Paul Ogorzow, who often made misogynist comments and talked of his fascination of killing, was singled out by the police after a coworker reported to the police that Ogorzow often climbed over the fence of the railway depot during work hours. Ogorzow's explanation was that he sneaked out to meet a mistress whose husband was in the Army.[1][2]

However, chief Wilhelm Lüdtke inspected Ogorzow's railway uniforms, and all of them bore blood stains. Ogorzow was then detained in July, 1941. In an intimidating interrogation in a small room under the light of a single light bulb, Paul Ogorzow was confronted with one of his severely injured victims and a tray with the skulls of several of his victims. Before Lüdtke, his fellow SA officer, Ogorzow willingly confessed his crimes, yet he blamed his murdering spree on suffering from alcoholism claiming that a Jewish doctor had treated him incompetently for gonorrhea. On July 21, Paul Ogorzow was expelled from the Nazi Party.[1][2]

Ogorzow eventually pleaded guilty to eight murders, six attempted murders and thirty one cases of assault. He was promptly sentenced on July 24, by the Third Special Court of the Berlin district, with all the evidence and in the presence of eight witnesses.[2] The final charges were of criminal violence, and an enemy of the people.[1] Paul Ogorzow was then executed by guillotine, at the Plötzensee Prison on July 26, 1941.

Impact of War and Nazi Party[edit]

Historian Roger Moorhouse has suggested that the Kriminalpolizei were hampered in their investigations by several concurrent obstacles. Firstly, Berlin had instituted rigorous wartime media censorship, in order not to spread panic and demoralise civilians on the home front. These restrictions meant that there were only cursory details about each case, which impeded the progress of the investigation.

Secondly, due to Allied bombing raids on the German capital, blackout conditions were necessary to shield strategically important targets from airborne scrutiny and destruction. As a side effect, however, these conditions were also conducive to criminal activity. Ogorzow himself exploited the blackout, using it to stalk his victims and then disappear from possible surveillance using shadow cover.

Thirdly, Berlin rail appears to have had a poor health and safety record, which meant that the Kriminalpolizei had to deal with surplus cadavers and resultant forensic overload.

Finally, anti-Semitism and xenophobia initially deflected Kriminalpolizei scrutiny from the possibility that the perpetrator was a German citizen, rather than an Italian, Polish or French forced labourer in one of the adjacent factories to the rail network, or, primarily for ideological reasons, a local Jew. In the event, Ogorzow turned to have been a member of the Nazi Party and SA, without any other criminal record.

References[edit]

  • Roger Moorhouse: "Nazi Serial Killer" BBC History: 10: 5: May 2009: 38-40.
  • Roger Moorhouse: [2]

Further reading[edit]

  • A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin: The Chilling True Story of the S-Bahn Murderer, Scott Andrew Selby, Berkley Books, 2014. [3]
  • Mord-Express. Peter Hiess, Christian Lunzer. ISBN 3-216-30550-3
  • Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler's Capital, 1939-1945, Roger Moorhouse, Bodley Head, 2010.