29 September 1912
Muntowen, East Prussia, German Empire (present-day Muntowo, Poland)
|Died||26 July 1941
Berlin, Nazi Germany
Span of killings
Paul Ogorzow (29 September 1912 – 26 July 1941), was a German serial killer and rapist, known as The S-Bahn Murderer, convicted for the killing of 8 women in Nazi-era Berlin between October 1940 and July 1941.
During the height of World War II, Ogorzow was employed by Deutsche Reichsbahn, working for the S-Bahn commuter rail system in Berlin. Using the routine wartime blackouts as a result of the Allied bombing of Berlin, Ogorzow committed serial rape and murder against women in the city over a nine-month period until his arrest by the Kriminalpolizei, and was executed at Plötzensee Prison.
Paul Ogorzow was born on 29 September 1912 in the village of Muntowen, East Prussia, German Empire (present-day Muntowo, Poland), the illegitimate child of Marie Saga, a farm worker. Saga's father later filled out his new grandson's birth certificate, marking it with three crosses and the child's birth name: Paul Saga. In 1924, the now 12-year-old Saga was adopted by Johann Ogorzow, a farmer in Havelland. He eventually took Ogorzow's surname as his own and relocated to Nauen, near Berlin. He initially worked as a laborer on his adoptive father's farm and later found employment with a steel foundry in Brandenburg-an-der-Havel.
Ogorzow joined the Nazi Party in 1931, at the age of 18, and the following year became a member of its paramilitary branch, the Sturmabteilung (SA). After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, he rose modestly in the Party ranks, and by the time of his capture Ogorzow held the position of Scharführer (squad leader) in the SA.
In 1934, Ogorzow was hired as a platelayer by the national railroad, Deutsche Reichsbahn, and steadily worked his way up through the organization, eventually working as an assistant signalman at Rummelsburg railway station in the eastern suburbs of Berlin, close to Karlshorst. This was the area where most of his crimes later occurred. In 1937, Paul Ogorzow married Gertrude Ziegelmann, a saleswoman two-years older than himself, with whom they had two children, a son and a daughter. Initially, they lived with Ogorzow's mother in the Laubenviertel section of Berlin, a working class area of allotments, apartment blocks and tenement shacks. The family later moved to another apartment in the suburb of Karlshorst, near to where Ogorzow worked. Ogorzow was remembered for often being seen playing with his children, spending a lot of time in the garden near his home, and also tending a small cherry orchard in the backyard. At his trial, Ogorzow's wife claimed that he often became violent and abusive, obsessively making unfounded claims of her being unfaithful to him.
Ogorzow traveled to his job at the rail service daily, either by train, walking or by bicycle. He was generally well regarded by his railway coworkers, and was considered reliable and highly competent, often operating both the light signals and the telegraph simultaneously. Although Ogorzow generally worked in the area of Zobtener Road, he was often dispatched to work at various locations along the S-Bahn, always wearing his uniform.
After his capture Ogorzow extensively detailed his various criminal activities to police, allowing for a more precise reconstruction of his crimes. In late August 1939, while he and his family were residing in Karlshorst, Ogorzow embarked on a series of violent attacks, randomly sexually assaulting and raping dozens of women in and around Berlin's Friedrichsfelde district. At that time, the neighborhood that was populated mostly by solitary housewives whose husbands had been called up to serve in World War II. It was these vulnerable women who initially served as Ogorzow's primary source of victims, and police documented 31 separate cases of rape and other sexual assaults that occurred in the area, all of which were later connected to Ogorzow. During his attacks, he either choked his victims, threatened them with a knife, or bludgeoned them with a blunt object, and in their statements all the victims mentioned their attacker wore a railway worker's uniform.
Ogorzow first began attempting to murder some of his victims during this time, however his initial attempts were met with little success. Between August 1939 and July 1940 Ogorzow attacked and stabbed three different women, all of whom recovered and later served as witnesses against him. In August 1940, he savagely bludgeoned another woman after raping her on board the S-Bahn. She survived only because Ogorzow mistakenly believed she had died during the attack while she lay unconscious afterward. Another failed effort in September resulted in the intended victim surviving not only an attempted strangulation, but also being thrown from a moving train by Ogorzow. He soon suffered another setback when he attempted to rape another woman in an S-Bahn station, where her husband and brother-in-law, whom Ogorzow had failed to notice, rushed to her aid after she screamed for help. Ogorzow managed to escape after being severely beaten. In light of this close call, Ogorzow changed his modus operandi, fashioning it into the approach he later employed with more success against most of his subsequent victims.
Ogorzow renewed his series of attacks in October 1940, focusing primarily on the 9-kilometer stretch of railway between the Betriebsbahnhof-Rummelsburg and Friedrichshagen train stations. Wearing his work uniform, Ogorzow lurked aboard empty carriages waiting for potential victims as the train's passenger cars were not illuminated at the time because of the wartime blackout of Berlin. Ogorzow relied heavily on the fact that lone female passengers would not be suspicious of a uniformed employee of the S-Bahn approaching under the seemingly innocuous pretense of asking for their ticket. Once the women were distracted, Orgorzow attacked, strangling or striking the victim in the head with a 2-inch-thick piece of lead-encased telephone cable.
He committed his first murder on 4 October 1940, when he stabbed 20-year-old mother-of-two Gertrude "Gerda" Ditter (whose husband, Arthur, was away in the military) to death in her Berlin home, where they had met for what she had believed to be a tryst. Two months later, Ogorzow claimed his second and third victims, when on the evening of 4 December, he killed S-Bahn passenger Elfriede Franke, crushing her skull with an iron bar before hurling her corpse from the moving train. Less than an hour after he murdered Franke, Ogorzow encountered 19-year-old Irmagard Freese on the street as she was walking home and proceeded to rape her before also bludgeoning her to death. On 22 December, railroad workers discovered the body of a fourth victim, Elisabeth Bungener, discarded alongside the rail road tracks. A medical examination determined she had died as the result of a fractured skull.
Six days later the police recovered Gertrude Siewert on the morning after she had been assaulted and thrown from the train by Ogorzow. Suffering from exposure and various life-threatening traumas, Siewert was rushed to the hospital where she eventually died from her injuries on 29 December. This scene repeated itself on 5 January 1941 when the unconscious body of Hedwig Ebauer, who was then five months pregnant, was located near the S-Bahn. Ogorzow had unsuccessfully attempted to strangle Ebauer before throwing her from the train alive, and like Siewert, Ebauer also succumbed to her injuries later that day in the hospital, never regaining consciousness. On 11 February, the remains of Ogorzow's seventh victim, Johanna Voigt, a pregnant mother of three, were found. An autopsy later confirmed what most suspected, that Voigt had died as the result of repeated blows to the head and injuries sustained after being thrown from the train. Given the obvious similarities in the various crimes, all seven deaths were deemed to be the work of the same individual.
Two of Ogorzow's previous victims, who had survived being raped and thrown from the S-Bahn, were able to describe the attack and murder attempt, both confirming to police that their assailant was a railway employee in a black uniform. By December 1940, as other similar crimes were already being reported, and the police began looking for a suspect matching Ogorzow's description.
However, all domestic news coverage at this time was either controlled or else heavily censored by various agencies within the Nazi government. This was especially true of news items (such as the S-Bahn murders) that might damage the war-time morale of the German people. The Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Party's primary censorship authority, even issued a directive to German journalists regarding limits to be placed on coverage of the S-Bahn murders.
The commissioner of the Berlin police and SS officer Wilhelm Lüdtke, also director of the city's Kriminalpolizei (serious crimes unit), was not able to publicly seek information about the rapes or murders or to warn the population about travelling by rail at night. Instead, Lüdtke sent out his best detectives to discreetly deal with the case. The police operation was underway by December 1940, with 5,000 of Berlin's 8,000 railway workers being interviewed, and police patrols were doubled on the S-Bahn section. The Nazi Party dispatched some of its functionaries to personally protect unaccompanied women who commuted through the area. Female police officers and assistant detectives were used as bait aboard second-class carriages in an attempt to catch the killer once and for all. Other agents were disguised as railway workers, and at each station each commuter was watched. Ironically, Ogorzow himself volunteered for a job of escorting solitary women during the night hours.
Despite this effort, the Kriminalpolizei would catch no more than a handful of petty criminals totally unrelated to the case. However, the increased police attention did prompt Ogorzow to become cautiously inactive for nearly five months following his murder of Mrs Voigt in February 1941. He would not re-emerge until 3 July 1941 when he claimed his eighth and final victim, 35-year-old Frieda Koziol. Characteristically raped and then bludgeoned to death, Koziol had been murdered in the same Friedrichsfelde area where Ogorzow had begun his wave of sex crimes two years before.
Arrest and conviction
Ogorzow, who often made misogynistic comments to co-workers and talked often of his fascination with killing, was eventually singled out by investigators looking for potential suspects among railroad employees following the murder of Frieda Koziol. A co-worker reported to police that Ogorzow often climbed over the fence of the railway depot during work hours. Ogorzow's explanation was that he sneaked out to meet a mistress whose husband was in the Wehrmacht. Chief Wilhelm Lüdtke personally inspected Ogorzow's railway uniforms, all of which were found to feature numerous blood stains, and Ogorzow was arrested by the Kriminalpolizei on 12 July 1941. In an intimidating interrogation, set in a small room under the light of a single light bulb, Paul Ogorzow was confronted with one of his severely injured victims and a tray with the skulls taken from several of his other victims. Before Lüdtke, Ogorzow willingly confessed his crimes, yet he blamed his murder spree on alcoholism and claimed that a Jewish doctor had treated him incompetently for gonorrhea. Ogorzow was formally expelled from the Nazi Party just days prior to his indictment for murder.
Ogorzow eventually pled guilty to eight murders, six attempted murders and thirty-one cases of assault which included the rapes. He was promptly sentenced to death on 24 July by the Berlin Kammergericht (regional superior court), with all the evidence and in the presence of eight witnesses. The final charges against him were of criminal violence. Ogorzow was subsequently declared an enemy of the people by the Nazi regime, and was executed by guillotine at Plötzensee Prison on 26 July 1941, just two days after his sentence was pronounced.
Impact of World War II and Nazi society
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Historian Roger Moorhouse has suggested that the Kriminalpolizei were hampered in their investigation of the murders by several concurrent obstacles. Firstly, the Nazi government had instituted rigorous program of wartime media censorship in order to not to spread panic and demoralise civilians on the home front. These restrictions meant that there were only cursory details released about each case, which impeded the progress of the investigation. Secondly, due to ongoing Allied bombing raids on the German capital, blackout conditions were necessary to shield strategically important targets from airborne destruction. As a side effect, however, these conditions were conducive to criminal activity. Ogorzow himself exploited the blackouts, using them to stalk and kill his victims and then to escape from possible surveillance under the cover of darkness.
The Berlin S-Bahn appears to have had a poor health and safety record at the time, which meant that the Kriminalpolizei had to contend with a surplus of corpses resulting from both from accidental deaths on the rail line and those killed during Allied bombing raids. This resulted in a large forensic backlog that placed the police force and municipal medical services at a further disadvantage.
The official Nazi ideology of state, which included anti-Semitism, xenophobia and German racial superiority, discouraged investigators from considering the possibility that someone "racially German" (or Aryan) could be responsible for such heinous crimes. Much initial suspicion wrongly settled on foreign forced-laborers (mostly Polish prisoners of war) working in the numerous factories adjacent to the rail network. Local Jews were also targeted unjustly for investigation in connection with the murders, albeit mainly for ideological reasons. In any event, survivor testimony would eventually establish that the suspect was indeed German, and the actual perpetrator was revealed to be a veteran member of both the Nazi Party and Sturmabteilung.
- Mike Straschewski; Michael Dittrich. "Geschichte und Geschichten rund um die Berliner S-Bahn". Stadtschnellbahn-berlin.de. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
- Der Fall - Paul Ogorzow, erichs-kriminalarchiv.npage.de; accessed 7 November 2016. (German)
- [dead link]
- Roger Moorhouse: "Nazi Serial Killer" BBC History: 10: 5: May 2009: 38-40.
- Historian at Large : Blog
- A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin: The Chilling True Story of the S-Bahn Murderer, Scott Andrew Selby, Berkley Publishing Group (2014); ISBN 978-0-425-26414-0.
- Mord-Express. Peter Hiess, Christian Lunzer; ISBN 3-216-30550-3
- Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler's Capital, 1939-1945, Roger Moorhouse, Bodley Head, 2010.
- Ostland, David Thomas, Quercus, 2014.
- "A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin: The Chilling True Story of the S-Bahn Murderer". Aserialkiller.com. Retrieved 2016-11-07.