Wilhelm Simon

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Wilhelm Simon
Wilhelm Simon.jpg
Wilhelm Simon in US custody, 1947
Nickname(s) "Simon Legree"
Born 23 April 1900
Wuppertal, German Empire
Died 27 September 1971(1971-09-27) (aged 71)
Bochum, West Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Rank SS-Hauptscharführer.svg SS-Hauptscharführer
Unit 3rd SS Division Logo.svg SS-Totenkopfverbände
Battles/wars World War II

Wilhelm Simon (April 23, 1900 – September 27, 1971) was a German SS-Hauptscharführer. During World War II he held administrative posts at the Nazi concentration camps of Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora and was convicted of war crimes by the United States in 1947.


Wilhelm Simon was born in the city of Wuppertal in the Ruhr district of Germany on April 23, 1900. Between 1919 and 1935 he was employed primarily as a clerk in the textile industry. Simon became a member of both the Nazi Party and the SS in August, 1932 and served as head of the accounting department for the Medical Association of the Rhineland from 1935 to 1939. Following the outbreak of World War II he was assigned to the district branch of the Reich Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Wuppertal.[1]

In January, 1941 Simon was placed on active duty by the SS. He was assigned to the SS-Totenkopfverbände and was posted to the Buchenwald concentration camp as a member of it's SS guard battalion. Simon rose in the camp administration and was promoted to the position of Assistant Labor Allocation Manager for Buchenwald in the summer of 1942. In this capacity, Simon both organized and directly supervised the provision of camp inmates as slave-laborers for various industries vital to the German war economy.[2]


In December, 1943 Simon was appointed Arbeitsdienstführer (Labor Service Leader) for the newly established Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. As camp Labor Leader he managed the large-scale assignment of the camp’s prisoners to various forced labor details in the vast and subterranean Mittelwerk armaments facility, where they performed much of the dangerous construction and assembly work required to produce Germany’s V-2 ballistic missiles. Among other things, Simon was responsible for the introduction of a bonus system used to reward productive prisoner laborers with special privileges and also accompanied the eminent German rocket-scientist Wernher von Braun on a trip to Buchenwald to select prisoners there for work at Dora.[3]

During his service as Labor Leader at Mittelbau-Dora Simon developed a reputation for extreme brutality among the inmates of the camp, who gave him the nickname "Simon Legree" after the character of the cruel slave-master in the book "Uncle Tom’s Cabin".[4] In one particular incident during the summer of 1944 Simon was reported to have assigned a group of severely malnourished Hungarian Jews, who had recently arrived on a transport from Auschwitz, the grueling task of building their own barracks. The order would result in numerous deaths from exhaustion among the already badly-ailing Jews. Afterward, Simon ordered the SS to bludgeon to death several children from the same transport before dispatching the survivors into the tunnels at Mittelwerk.[5]

Mittelbau-Dora was evacuated shortly before the arrival of American troops in April, 1945. During the evacuation, Simon led a transport of 350 prisoners to the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria. Immediately following his arrival at Ebensee, Simon was drafted into a local Wehrmacht unit. He surrendered to American forces on May 8, 1945 but managed to escape from captivity the following day. Simon was later identified as an alleged war criminal and was arrested a second time by US occupation authorities. He stood trial as a defendant in the Dachau-Dora war crimes trial, staged by the Office of the US Military Government (OMGUS) in 1947.[6] Simon pled not guilty to all charges. He was, however, convicted of war crimes on December 30, 1947 and sentenced to life imprisonment and interned in Landsberg prison.

Simon’s sentence was eventually commuted to time served by US High Commissioner for Germany John J. McCloy and he was released from US custody in 1954. He returned to his native Ruhr district, where he worked as a salesman and died in obscurity in Bochum, West Germany on September 27, 1971.[7]


  1. ^ Ernst Klee: The Encyclopedia of persons to the Third Reich Who was that before and after 1945, Frankfurt am Main 2007, pp. 584th
  2. ^ Sellier, Andre. A History of the Dora Camp. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee.2003
  3. ^ Der Mond über Peenemünde – Wernher von Braun und der Geist der Barbarei
  4. ^ Hunt, Linda. Secret Agenda. St. Martin's Press. New York. 1991. pg. 72
  5. ^ Hunt, Linda. Secret Agenda. St. Martin's Press. New York. 1991. pg. 72
  6. ^ (pdf-datei)# The accused at the Dachau Trial
  7. ^ Ernst Klee: Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich: Wer war was vor und nach 1945., Frankfurt am Main 2007, S. 584