Helmut Bischoff

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Helmut Bischoff
Born 1 March 1908
Glogau, Province of Silesia
German Empire
Died 5 January 1993(1993-01-05) (aged 84)
Hamburg, Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag of the 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

Helmut Bischoff (March 1, 1908 – January 5, 1993) was a German SS-Obersturmbannführer and Nazi security official. During World War II he was the leader of Einsatzkommando 1/IV in Poland and also served as chief of the Gestapo for Poznań (Posen) and Magdeburg. In December, 1943 Bischoff was appointed head of security for Germany's V-weapons program and would later serve as director of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. 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 the Province of Silesia, then a part of the German Empire (now: Głogów, Poland). He was the son of a prosperous metzgermeister (master butcher) and attended the local gymnasium in Glogau. While a student Bischoff was a member of the Wikingbund from 1923-1925, a paramilitary group formerly associated with the ultra-nationalist Organisation Consul movement. Following the completion of his abitur in 1926 Bischoff went on to study law at the University of Leipzig (where he was a member of the Burschenschaften) and the University of Geneva.

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

Gestapo[edit]

Bischoff joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) in November, 1935 (SS # 272 403). After undergoing military and police training in Berlin he was assigned to the Gestapo and served with the district bureau in Liegnitz until October, 1936. He would later go on to serve as director 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 Sturmbannführer (major) in the SS.

Einsatzgruppen[edit]

During the September, 1939 invasion of Poland Bischoff served as leader of Einsatzkommando 1/IV (a sub-unit of Lothar Beutel's Einsatzgruppe IV) which was active in voivodeships of Pomerania, Warsaw and Białystok. 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 Sonderaktion Tannenberg, the Nazi extermination campaign targeting Poland's intelligentsia and other members of the nation's political and cultural elite.

On September 27, 1939 Bischoff and his Einsatzkommando played a leading role in the raid on the town of Pułtusk, which ended with the brutal 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 also involved in the round-up of Warsaw's Jewish inhabitants, setting in motion their eventual ghettoization.

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

Poznań and Magdeburg[edit]

In August, 1940 Bischoff was reassigned to the newly-annexed territory of Reichsgau Wartheland where he served under SS-Brigadeführer Ernst Damzog as director of the State Police for the city of Poznań (Posen). In this capacity he was also the commandant of the Fort VII concentration camp, which was initially called "KZ Posen" and in 1939 became "Übergangslager (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. Prisoners usually remained in the camp for about six months, before being sentenced to death, a long prison term or transfer to a larger concentration camp.[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 State Police commander for the city of Magdeburg. Bischoff would play a central role in orchestrating the deportation of Magdeburg’s 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 carried 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) and assigned to the general staff of SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler, ostensibly as a representative of the Ministry of Armaments. 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 department. He appointed Bischoff "defense officer" for one such highly-secretive project: Germany's V-weapons program. As the chief of security Bischoff managed counter-intelligence operations designed to conceal the missile production industry's existence from Allied intelligence. He was also responsible for preventing organized attempts by prisoner-laborers to sabotage the V-weapons during the assembly process.[6]

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 in the tunnels 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.

Mittelbau-Dora[edit]

In February, 1944 numerous police and security services operating in the Nordhausen district (which surrounded Mittelwerk and the subsidiary camp of Mittelbau-Dora) would be consolidated under the control of Bischoff's security apparatus, now headquartered 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 in the camp.[7]

Mittelbau-Dora's Politische Abteilung (political department) had much of the resistance leadership among the camp's Russian, French and Communist inmates rounded up in November, 1944 and interned 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 took over as head of the camp's internal Sicherheitsdienst (SD) department, which he employed to conduct espionage on the camp's inmates (and the remaining resistance groups) 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.

Post-war[edit]

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

Essen-Dora trial[edit]

On November 17, 1967 Bischoff and two other former SS officers who had served with him at Mittelbau-Dora, were indicted for war crimes by the district 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. On May 26 the charges against Bischoff were formally dropped on the grounds that:

"If the main hearings were to be continued, there were serious grounds for assuming that the defendant ... would be accused of being guilty of murder in a manner which, according to experts, would lead to an excessive rise of blood pressure." [13]

Other efforts to prosecute Bischoff for his wartime activities also met with little success. An investigation by the district 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.[14]

References[edit]

  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. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Sellier, Andre. A History of the Dora Camp. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. 2003.