Martin Sommer

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Martin Sommer
Martin Sommer Buchenwald.jpg
Birth nameWalter Gerhard Martin Sommer
Nickname(s)Hangman of Buchenwald
Born(1915-02-08)8 February 1915
Schkölen, Germany
Died7 June 1988(1988-06-07) (aged 73)
Schwarzenbruck, West Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branchFlag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Years of service1938–1945
Commands heldSS guard at Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps

Walter Gerhard Martin Sommer (8 February 1915 – 7 June 1988) was an SS Hauptscharführer (master sergeant) who served as a guard at the concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald. Sommer, known as the "Hangman of Buchenwald" was considered a depraved sadist who reportedly ordered two Austrian priests, Otto Neururer[1] and Mathias Spannlang,[2] to be crucified upside-down.[3][4]


In 1943 Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler appointed SS judge Georg Konrad Morgen to investigate charges of cruelty and corruption at the Buchenwald camp. Due to his excessive brutality and sadism, Sommer was indicted and tried before Morgen. Commandant Karl Koch and his wife Ilse Koch were also put on trial.

According to Morgen, Sommer had a secret compartment underneath the floor under his desk. He kept his private instruments of torture concealed within this compartment such as the needles he used to kill his victims after he had finished torturing them, he would inject them with carbolic acid, or inject air into their veins causing their death by embolism. On occasions, after private late night torture sessions Sommer would hide his victim's bodies under his bed until he could dispose of them in the morning.

Among his acts of depravity were beating a German pastor, hanging him naked outside in the winter then throwing buckets of water on him and letting him freeze to death. On another occasion Sommer beat a Catholic priest to death for performing the Sacrament of Penance for a fellow inmate.

After the SS trial Sommer received a reduction in rank and was sentenced to a penal battalion fighting on the Eastern Front where he was wounded in a tank explosion, losing his left arm and right leg. He was taken captive by the Red Army and was detained as P.O.W. until 1950 when his prisoner status was upgraded to war criminal. He was released from Soviet captivity in 1955 as part of the negotiations conducted on behalf of Soviet held German prisoners by Konrad Adenauer.

Retrial and imprisonment[edit]

After his release he returned to West Germany where he married, fathered a child and filed for and received a pension for his service related disabilities. He escaped punishment for his crimes until 1957, when he was indicted for complicity in the death of 101 concentration camp inmates. In July 1958 in Bayreuth district court in West Germany, he was ultimately convicted of 25 deaths and received a life sentence. Upon appeal, the case was upheld in May 1959 by the Federal Court. Sommer spent the rest of his life behind bars. He died in the prison hospital in 1988.[4][5][6][7][8]


  1. ^ Died 30 May 1940 Feast day of Joan of Arc
  2. ^ Died 5 June 1940 Feast day of Saint Boniface, bishop and martyr.
  3. ^ The resistance in Austria, 1938-1945 by Radomír V. Luža. University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis April 9, 1984) ISBN 0-8166-1226-9 ISBN 978-0816612260
  4. ^ a b W.R. Garscha et al.: Rudolf Watzek-Mischan, NachKriegsJustiz
  5. ^ "University of Amsterdam: Justiz und NS-Verbrechen Nazi Crimes on Trial". Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
  6. ^ System der NS-Konzentrationslager: 1933-1939 by Klaus Drobisch, Günther Wieland Publisher: Wiley VCH (12 Aug 1993) ISBN 3-05-000823-7 ISBN 978-3050008233
  7. ^ Konzentrationslager Buchenwald, 1937-1945: Begleitband zur ständigen ... by Harry Stein, Gedenkstätte Buchenwald Publisher: Wallstein Verlag (1999) Language: German ISBN 3-89244-222-3 ISBN 978-3892442226
  8. ^ Time Magazine; West Germany: The Monster

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