Hans Bothmann

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Hans Bothmann
Hans Bothmann (1911 - 1946).jpg
Rare photograph of Hans Bothmann in civilian clothing
Born November 11, 1911
Died April 4, 1946(1946-04-04) (aged 34)
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag of the Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Years of service until 1945
Rank Sturmbannführer
Unit 3rd SS Division Logo.svg SS-Totenkopfverbände

SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Bothmann or Hans Johann Bothmann (November 11, 1911 – April 4, 1946)[1] was the last commandant of the Chełmno extermination camp from 1942 on (SS card number 117630); leader of the SS Special Detachment Bothmann conducting the extermination of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto and other places. He committed suicide in British custody in April 1946 while in Heide.[2][3]


Further information: The Holocaust in Poland

Bothmann was born in Lohe-Rickelshof village in the Dithmarschen district of Holstein (northern Germany) in November 1911. He joined the paramilitary Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend, HJ) in 1932.[4] Soon, he got a full-time job with the Gestapo office Stapoleitstelle Berlin, and in 1937 became a Kriminalkommissar there. He was 28 years old at the time of the German invasion of Poland.[5]

A model of Magirus-Deutz gas van used for suffocation at the Chełmno extermination camp. This particular van has not been modified, nevertheless it gives a good idea of the process

During the summer of 1942, after replacing Hauptsturmführer Herbert Lange at Chełmno, Hans Bothmann made substantial changes to the camp's killing methods. The improvements were prompted by two incidents in March and April of that year. First, the gas van broke down on the highway while full of living victims. Soon after that, the Sauer van exploded while the driver was revving its engine at the loading ramp; the gassing compartment was full of living Jews. The explosion blew off the locked back door, and badly burned the victims inside. Drivers were replaced. Bothmann's modifications to the killing methods included adding poison to gasoline. There is evidence that some red powder and a fluid were delivered from Germany by Maks Sado freight company, in order to kill the victims more quickly. Another major change involved parking the gas vans while prisoners were killed. They were no longer driven en route to the forest cremation area with living victims inside.[6]

The Chełmno death factory, credited with the murder of at least 180,000 Jews before the war's end (see Chełmno Trials for supplementary data),[7] operated under Bothmann originally between the summer of 1942 and March 1943.[8] With almost all Jews of the Wartheland District already processed, the camp was closed in March 1943. Bothmann was sent to Yugoslavia,[5] but a year later he was summoned back to Poznań in order to supervise the renewed killing operations at Chełmno,[9] because the Łódź Ghetto continued to take in prisoners not only from occupied Poland but also from Germany, Bohemia, Moravia and other places. A total of 70,000 Jews were still there. In this final phase of the camp operation, Bothmann supervised the murder of some 25,000 victims before finally, in mid-July 1944, the SS and police began deporting the remaining inhabitants of the Łódź ghetto to Auschwitz-Birkenau.[10]

In September 1944, the SS brought in new Commando 1005 to exhume and cremate any remaining evidence of genocide.[11] Bothmann took part in the shooting of the last Jewish workers. He fled the forest camp just before the arrival of the Soviet Army. His final assignment was in Flensburg with SIPO and the Border Police before the war's end.[5] Captured in West Germany by the British, he hanged himself while in custody,[12][13] unaware that a life of freedom might have awaited him, similar to other mass murderers (Strippel,[14] Reinefarth,[15] Fiedler)[16] because genocide was not in the criminal code of the Third Reich and would not be applied retroactively.[17] Yet, Hans Bothmann was not alone. He was one of at least a dozen high-profile Nazi German functionaries and Holocaust perpetrators who committed suicide, including Theodor Dannecker ('45), Odilo Globocnik ('45), Richard Glücks ('45), Friedrich Krüger ('45), Ilse Koch ('67), Ernst Grawitz ('45), Karl Jäger ('59), Otto Thierack ('46), Walter Frank ('45), Robert Ley ('45), Manfred von Killinger ('44), and Hans Jeschonnek ('43) among other nationals.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ IPN, Hans Bothmann Concentration camps' functionaries - biographical notes and witness’ account. Institute of National Remembrance 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  2. ^ Ada Holtzman. "Review: Death Camp: "Chelmno upon Ner", Summary". Janusz Gulczyński: "Obóz śmierci w Chełmnie nad Nerem" (1991),. We Remember. Retrieved 2013-05-14. 
  3. ^ Catherine Epstein (Mar 22, 2012). "Two Souls in my Breast". Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland. Oxford University Press. p. 338. ISBN 0199646538. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  4. ^ Yad Vashem (2013). "Bothmann, Hans (1911 – 1946)" (PDF file, direct download 19.6 KB). Shoah Resource Center, The International School for Holocaust Studies. Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  5. ^ a b c "SS-Sturmbannführer Hans Bothmann". SS & Polizei section. Axis History. Mar 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  6. ^ Patrick Montague (2012). "The Gas Vans (Appendix I)". Chełmno and the Holocaust: The History of Hitler's First Death Camp. Univ of North Carolina Press. pp. 206–209. ISBN 0807835277. Retrieved 2013-05-15. 
  7. ^ JTA (January 22, 1963). "Jewish Survivors of Chelmno Camp Testify at Trial of Guards". JTA Archive. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2013-05-17. 
  8. ^ JVL (2013). "Chelmno (Kulmhof)". The Forgotten Camps. Jewish Virtual Library.org. Retrieved 2013-05-10. 
  9. ^ Rena Jacob (23 January 2013). "‚Mobile' Vergasungen von Menschen in Gaswagen". Artikel-Schlagworte: „Ermordung“ (in German). Sunday News, das online magazin. Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  10. ^ Juliet Golden (2006). K. D. Vitelli and J. S. Colwell-Chanthaphonh, ed. "Remembering Chełmno". Archaeological Ethics. Rowman Altamira. p. 189. ISBN 075910963X. Retrieved 2013-05-11. 
  11. ^ Main Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, German Crimes in Poland (Warsaw: 1946, 1947), Archive of Jewish Gombin Genealogy, with introduction by Leon Zamosc. Note: The Main (or Central) Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland (Polish: Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Niemieckich w Polsce, GKBZNwP) founded in 1945 was the predecessor of the Institute of National Remembrance (see also the Archived February 12, 1997, at the Wayback Machine.).
  12. ^ Montague 2012, Epilogue, p. 175.
  13. ^ a b David Lester (Jan 1, 2005). "Who Committed Suicide?" (Google Books). Suicide and the Holocaust. Nova Publishers. pp. 11–12. ISBN 1594544271. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  14. ^ Thomas Schattner. "Strippels Blutspur durch Europas KZs – Sie begann vor 70 Jahren hier in Unshausen, im heutigen Schwalm-Eder-Kreis" (PDF file, direct download 78.2 KB). Archiv und Ausstellung der Universität Kassel (in German). Gedenkstätte Breitenau. pp. 57–62. Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  15. ^ Catherine Epstein (Mar 22, 2012). "Model Nazi" (Google Books). Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland. Oxford University Press. p. 338. ISBN 0199646538. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  16. ^ Fluchschrift (2013). "01.11.1941. Errichtung des ersten Vernichtungslagers in Chelmno". Heiner Lichtenstein, Daten aus der Zeitgeschichte, in: Tribüne Nr. 179/2006. Fluchschrift - Deutsche Verbrechen. Retrieved 2013-05-17. 
  17. ^ PGI (2013). "Paragraph §220a (genocide) of Germany's Strafgesetzbuch". Genocide and international crimes in domestic courts. Chapter: Germany. Prevent Genocide International. Retrieved 2013-05-20.