Born as Alice Minna Elisabeth Elling in Berlin in 1903, she began her guard training at the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany in 1941. In October 1942 she was selected as one of the SS Aufseherin to be posted at the Majdanek camp near Lublin, Poland where she, and Hermine Braunsteiner, came to be regarded as two of the most brutal overseers. They regularly loaded trucks of women destined for the gas chambers. When a child was left over, the two would throw him or her on the top of the adults like luggage, and bolt the door shut. Orlowski often awaited the arrivals of new transports of women. She would then whip the prisoners especially across the eyes. In Majdanek, Orlowski was promoted to the rank of Kommandoführerin (Work Detail Overseer) in the sorting sheds.
As the SS Aufseherin, Orlowski had over 100 women under her supervision, who sorted through stolen items from gassed prisoners: watches, furs, coats, gold, jewellery, money, toys, glasses, etc. When the camp was evacuated, the Germans sent Orlowski to the notorious Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp near Kraków, in Nazi-occupied Poland. In Plaszow-Kraków, Alice was in charge of a work detail on the Camp Street (Lager Strasse) and was known for her viciousness.
In early January 1945, Orlowski was one of the SS women posted on the death march to Auschwitz-Birkenau and it was during this time that her behaviour, previously noted as being brutal and sadistic, became more humane. On the death march in mid-January 1945 from Auschwitz to Loslau, Orlowski gave comfort to the inmates, and even slept alongside them on the ground outside. She also brought water to those who were thirsty. It is unknown why her attitude changed, but some speculate that she sensed the war was almost over and she would soon be tried as a war criminal. Orlowski eventually ended up back at Ravensbrück as a guard.
After the war ended in May 1945, Orlowski was captured by Soviet forces and extradited to Poland to stand trial for war crimes. The "picture book SS woman" stood accused at the Auschwitz Trial in 1947. She was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released in 1957 after serving only 10 years. In 1975, West Germany tracked Orlowski down, and placed her on trial in the Third Majdanek Trial.
She died during the trial in 1976 at the age of 73.
- Info. pertaining to the birthplace, birthdate and camp service of Alice Orlowski was found in Daniel Patrick Brown, "THE CAMP WOMEN - The Female Auxiliaries Who Assisted the SS in Running the Nazi Concentration Camp System" p. 185.
- The facts pertaining to Orlowski's crimes in Majdanek are detailed by Simon Wiesenthal in Justice Not Vengeance.
- The facts about her behavior on the death march come from Malvina Graf: I survived the Kraków Ghetto and Plaszow Camp