Helmut Bischoff

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Helmut Bischoff
Born 1 March 1908
Glogau, Lower Silesia
German Empire
Died 5 January 1993(1993-01-05) (aged 84)
Hamburg, Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Rank SS-Obersturmbannführer Collar Rank.svg SS-Obersturmbannführer
Unit SS-RHSA 1935-1943
SS-WVHA 1943-1945
Battles/wars World War II

Dr. Helmut Bischoff (March 1, 1908 – January 5, 1993) was a German SS-Obersturmbannführer, Gestapo officer and Nazi official. During World War II Bischoff served as the leader of Einsatzkommando 1-IV in Poland. He was later chief of the Gestapo departments in Poznań (Posen) and Magdeburg. In 1943 Bischoff was appointed director of security for Germany's V-weapons program. Between 1967 and 1970 Bischoff was a central figure in the Essen-Dora war crimes trial.

Early life[edit]

Bischoff was born on March 1, 1908 in the town of Glogau in Prussian Silesia, then a part of the German Empire (now: Głogów, Poland). He was the son of a prosperous Metzgermeister (master butcher) and attended the Glogau-Gymnasium. While a student Bischoff was a member of the Wikingbund from 1923-1925, a paramilitary group formerly associated with the radical Organisation Consul movement. Following the completion of his abitur in 1926, Bischoff went on to study jurisprudence at the University of Leipzig and the University of Geneva.

It was during his time as a law student that Bischoff first became active in the Nazi movement, joining the Nazi Party in January, 1930 (Member # 203 122) and the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1933. After receiving his doctorate of law (Dr. jur.) in 1934, Bischoff returned to Lower Silesia and worked as an assessor at the District Court offices in Schweidnitz and Strehlen.[1] During this time Bischoff also secretly functioned as an operative and informant (vertrauensmann) for the Nazi Party's domestic intelligence service, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD).


Bischoff joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) in November, 1935 (SS # 272 403). He was assigned to the Gestapo (Amt IV) of the SS-Reich Main Security Office. Bischoff initially worked as a Kriminalkommissar at the Gestapo's district office in Liegnitz until 1936. He would later go on to serve as chief of the Gestapo departments in Harburg-Wilhelmsburg (1936-1937) and Köslin (1937-1939).[2] By the outbreak of World War II Bischoff had risen to the rank of Kriminalrat with the Gestapo and Sturmbannführer (major) in the SS.


During the September, 1939 invasion of Poland Bischoff served as leader of Einsatzkommando 1-IV (a sub-unit of Lothar Beutel's Einsatzgruppe IV) and was active in Pomerania, Warsaw and Polesie. Bischoff's unit was involved in the bloody pacification of Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) along with the systematic killing of ethnic Poles carried out as part of Operation Tannenberg and Intelligenzaktion, the twin Nazi extermination campaigns targeting Poland's intelligentsia and other members of the nation's civic and cultural elite.

During September and October of 1939, Bischoff and Einsatzkommando 1-IV also took a leading role in the brutal raid on the town of Pułtusk, which ended with the mass-expulsion of the town's large Jewish population and their deportation across the Narew River into the now Soviet-occupied east.[3]

Einsatzgruppe IV was formally disbanded in November, 1939. Its officers and men were transferred to the Polish General Government and incorporated into stationary units of the Sicherheitspolizei (security police) in Warsaw, under the command of SS-Standartenführer Josef Albert Meisinger.

Poznań and Magdeburg[edit]

Bischoff was soon reassigned to the newly-annexed territory of Reichsgau Wartheland where he worked under SS and Police Leader Wilhelm Koppe as Kriminaldirektor of the Gestapo for the city of Poznań (Posen). It was in this capacity he was also commandant of Fort VII, which was initially called "KZ Posen" and in 1939 became Transit Camp-Fort VII. While primarily a detention center, Fort VII also served as a regular execution site for many local Poles, Jews and the physically or mentally disabled. Over 400 patients from local sanitariums would be gassed there by SS officer Herbert Lange in 1939. [4]

Bischoff was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) in September, 1941 and later returned to Germany, where he had been appointed Kommissar (commissioner) of the State Police for the city of Magdeburg. Bischoff played a central role in orchestrating the deportation of Magdeburg’s remaining Jewish population; along with those from the nearby towns of Stendal, Dessau, Bernburg and Aschersleben.

Hundreds of German Jews were deported from Magdeburg by the SS between November, 1942 and March, 1943. The initial wave of deportations were routed mainly to Theresienstadt; while later rail transports would carry deportees from Magdeburg directly to Auschwitz-Birkenau.[5]

V-weapons security chief[edit]

In December, 1943 Bischoff was transferred to the SS-Main Economic and Administrative Office (SS-WVHA) in Berlin. He was assigned to the general staff of SS-Brigadeführer Hans Kammler; ostensibly as a representative of the Organisation Todt. Kammler was the director of Amtsgruppe C (Buildings and Works) of the SS-WVHA. This department was concerned primarily with the extensive engineering and construction projects of the SS.

This included the building of factories and other manufacturing facilities for Germany's various secret weapons programs. The sensitive nature of these projects made their security a major concern for Kammler's SS office. Bischoff was tasked by Kammler with creating a security organization within Amtsgruppe C responsible for overseeing counter-intelligence and counter-sabotage for Germany’s highly-secretive V-weapons program.

Germany's previous efforts mass produce V-2's at the Peenemünde Army Research Center on the Baltic Sea had been largely abandoned following the Anglo-American bombing campaign known as Operation Crossbow, and relocated inland near Nordhausen, Thuringia. The danger posed by enemy aircraft forced production of the missiles to move underground.

As a consequence, much of Germany’s V-1 flying bombs and V-2 ballistic missiles were produced at Mittelwerk, a massive armaments factory housed in an elaborate subterranean tunnel system in the Harz Mountains that had been built, and was partially administered, by Kammler's SS department. The complex and dangerous work performed to assemble the V-weapons themselves was done under brutal conditions by thousands of slave-laborers (mainly Russians, Poles and French, among other nationalities) drawn from the inmate population of the adjunct Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

As the head of security Bischoff managed the counter-intelligence efforts to conceal the missile production facility's existence from Allied intelligence. He was also charged with preventing organized attempts by the prisoner-laborers to escape or to sabotage the V-weapons during the assembly process.[6]


In February, 1944 the various SS police and security services operating in the Nordhausen district (which surrounded Mittelwerk and the subsidiary camp of Mittelbau-Dora) would be formally subordinated under the control of Bischoff's security agency, now headquartered inside a former seminary in Ilfeld. Counter-sabotage operations were swiftly begun, mainly targeting the numerous resistance organizations operating among the various prisoner groups working in the tunnels at Mittelwerk and the in the camp.[7]

Under Bischoff's direction Mittelbau-Dora's Politische Abteilung had much of the resistance leadership among the camp's Russian, French and Communist inmates arrested in November, 1944 and interned them in solitary confinement. Many of those taken into custody were interrogated under torture with some later being executed.[8]

In February, 1945 the SS administration of Mittelbau-Dora was reorganized under former Auschwitz commandant Richard Baer. Under this new arrangement, Bischoff also took over as chief of Mittelbau-Dora's internal Sicherheitsdienst (SD) organization, which he used to spy on and monitor the inmates during the closing months of the war.

In response to reports of a planned escape attempt, Bischoff instigated a wave of mass-executions in March, 1945 which saw hundreds of the camp's prisoners, mostly Soviet POWs, killed in a series of mass-hangings. Bischoff also ordered much of the surviving leadership of the camp's resistance organizations to be shot by firing squad prior to the liberation of Mittelbau-Dora by the US Army in April, 1945.[9] In all, roughly 20,000 people died at either Mittelwerk or Mittelbau-Dora between 1943 and 1945.


Following the German defeat Bischoff returned to Magdeburg, now located inside the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. Bischoff went into hiding and was able to evade capture by Russian authorities for several months before he was eventually identified and arrested by the Soviet security services in January, 1946. He was interned at NKVD Special Camp No. 1 near Mühlberg until September, 1948 when he was transferred to NKVD Special Camp No. 2 (formerly the Buchenwald concentration camp) outside of Weimar.

In 1950 Bischoff was deported by the Soviets to a prison camp located in Siberia. He would remain imprisoned in the USSR for the next five years. In 1955 Bischoff would be among the last German prisoners of war to be released from captivity by the Soviet Union. After resettling in West Germany, Bischoff was employed by the German Red Cross from 1957 to 1965.[10]

Essen-Dora trial[edit]

On November 17, 1967 Bischoff and two other former SS officers who hand served with him at Mittelbau-Dora, were indicted for war crimes by the State Court in Essen. The charges against Bischoff stemmed from his involvement in the series of mass executions that occurred at Mittelbau-Dora between February and April, 1945. He was also charged with the use of torture against prisoners under interrogation. Bischoff entered a plea of not guilty.[11]

The trial (known as the Essen-Dora Process) began in November, 1967 and would continue for two and a half years. The proceedings included the testimony of over 300 witnesses, among them former Nazi Armaments Minister Albert Speer and the famed inventor of the V-2 rocket, Wernher von Braun, now a premier rocket scientist in the United States.

On May 5, 1970 the case against Bischoff was dismissed by the court due to reasons of his poor health.[12] He was thus able to avoid being formally convicted of war crimes (as his former co-defendants were) just three days later.

Other efforts to prosecute Bischoff for his wartime activities also met with little success. An investigation by the State Court of West Berlin into his involvement with the Einsatzgruppen killings in Bydgoszcz was discontinued in 1971, citing a lack of evidence. A further effort to prosecute Bischoff, this time for atrocities committed during his tenure as Gestapo director in Poznań, was likewise abandoned in 1976, once again owing to Bischoff's precarious health. Bischoff continued to reside in West Germany for the remainder of his life. He died in Hamburg on January 5, 1993.[13]


  1. ^ Jens-Christian Wagner:Produktion des Todes: Das KZ Mittelbau-Dora, Göttingen 2001, S. 666.
  2. ^ Ernst Klee: The Encyclopedia of persons to the Third Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Who was that before and after 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 51. Penguin Books, second edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 51.
  3. ^ Ernst Klee: The Encyclopedia of persons to the Third Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Who was that before and after 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 51. Penguin Books, second edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 51.
  4. ^ hospital Owinska and Fort VII in Poznan at deathcamps.org
  5. ^ Alfred Gottwaldt, Diana Schulle: The Deportation of Jews from the German Reich 1941-1945 - An Annotated Chronology, Wiesbaden, 2005, ISBN 3-86539-059-5.
  6. ^ Ernst Klee: The Encyclopedia of persons to the Third Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Who was that before and after 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2005, S. 51. Penguin Books, second edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 51.
  7. ^ Jens-Christian Wagner, Production of Death: The Mittelbau-Dora, Göttingen, 2001 S. 666th.
  8. ^ Sellier, Andre. A History of the Dora Camp. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. 2003.
  9. ^ "Mittelbau: Last Phase". Ushmm.org. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  10. ^ Jens-Christian Wagner, Production of Death: The Mittelbau-Dora, Göttingen, 2001 S. 666th.
  11. ^ André Sellier: Forced Labor in the missile tunnel - History of the Dora camp, Lüneburg, 2000, p. 518.
  12. ^ Ernst Klee: The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich persons, Fischer Taschenbuch 2005, S. 51, Quelle: 24 Js 549/61 (Z) OStA Köln. Penguin Books 2005, p. 51, source: 24 Js 549/61 (Z) OSTA Cologne.
  13. ^ Sellier, Andre. A History of the Dora Camp. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. 2003.