10 June 1908|
Varel, Kingdom of Saxony
12 June 1950 (aged 42)|
Sandweier, Baden-Baden, Germany
|Years of service||1931–1945|
|Commands held||Ravensbrück concentration camp|
Suhren joined the Nazi Party in 1928 and the Sturmabteilung at the same time. He moved over to the SS in October 1931, initially as a volunteer before going full-time in 1934. Suhren came to trial for his time as commandant of Ravensbruck and was hanged in 1950.
Trained by the Wehrmacht under SS supervision he was nevertheless not used as a soldier and instead was stationed at Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1941. By 1942 he was Lagerführer (deputy commandant) at the camp and in May of that year ordered camp Lagerältester Harry Naujoks to hang a prisoner who had been earmarked for execution. Naujoks refused to perform the deed and, whilst Naujoks was able to survive the insubordination, Suhren insisted that he stand beside the prisoner on the gallows (which had been fitted with a winch in order to prolong the execution) and forced a young inmate to perform the hanging.
He was later commandant of the women's camp at Ravensbrück concentration camp. His policy upon taking command in 1942 was to exterminate the prisoners through working them as hard as possible and feeding them as little as possible.
As commandant at Ravensbrück, Suhren had to provide inmates to Dr. Karl Gebhardt for experimentation. Suhren initially objected to this, mainly because most of the inmates at the camp were political prisoners, and he complained to the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt about the practice. However the SS command overruled Suhren's doubts and he was forced to apologise to Gebhardt and supply him with the prisoners he demanded. Suhren would later state that he had witnessed experiments that included exposing women to high levels of x rays in order to accomplish sterilisation.
Near the end of World War II, Franz Göring (SS member) and Benoit Musy approached Suhren to ask him to allow a convoy of women to leave the camp and go into the custody of the Scandinavian Red Cross. Suhren however refused the request as it was against superior orders although eventually Göring got the backing of Rudolf Brandt and Suhren was forced to yield.
Surrender and execution
With the Allies just a few miles from the camp Suhren took Odette Sansom, an inmate at Ravensbruck whom he believed to be Winston Churchill's niece due in part to her using the assumed surname of Churchill in the camp, and drove with her to the United States base, hoping that her presence would save him. Sansom had in fact been instructed to adopt the false name and to encourage the presumption of her relationship to the British Prime Minister as she was a spy in the camp and the British felt that if the Germans thought she was Churchill's relative they would want to keep her alive as a possible bargaining tool. Suhren later came to trial for his time as commandant of Ravensbruck and was hanged in 1950.
- Tom Segev, Soldiers of Evil, Berkley Books, 1991, p. 72
- Jerzy Pindera, Lynne Taylor, Liebe Mutti: One Man's Struggle to Survive in KZ Sachsenhausen, 1939-1945, University Press of America, 2004, pp. 71-72
- Jack Gaylord Morrison, Ravensbrück: Everyday Life in a Women's Concentration Camp, 1939-45, Markus Wiener Publishers, 2000, p. 243
- Patricia Heberer, Jürgen Matthäus, Atrocities on Trial: Historical Perspectives on the Politics of Prosecuting War Crimes, U of Nebraska Press, 2008, p. 136
- Vera Renouf, Forfeit to War, Trafford Publishing, 2002, p. 303
- Reinhard R. Doerries, Hitler's Last Chief of Foreign Intelligence: Allied Interrogations of Walter Schellenberg, Routledge, 2003, p. 34
- George Lovell, Consultancy, Ministry & Mission, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000, p. 115
- Juliette Pattinson, Behind Enemy Lines: Gender, Passing and the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War, Manchester University Press, 2007, p. 157
- Bernard A. Cook, Women and War: A Historical Encyclopedia from Antiquity to the Present, ABC-CLIO, 2006, p. 484
SS-Hauptsturmführer Max Koegel
| Commandant of Ravensbrück concentration camp
August 1942 – April 1945