The Murder of Lt Americo S. Galle:
Dr Schoengarth's Final Contribution
‘When these things are known, world opinion will not allow the criminals to escape just punishment for their crimes. The facts are being put on record so that in due time the world may pronounce its judgment. With victory will come retribution!’
Anthony Eden Foreign Office, October 8, 1941
Preparations for Defeat
Although Dr. Schoengarth became enmeshed in a serious war with his superiors—especially with his Higher SS-and Police Fuehrer Friederich Wilhelm Krueger (not to be confused with Hans Krueger), and with the ‘Reichsfuehrer’ SS Himmler, who personally took care of Dr Schoengarth's degradation and transfer to Greece and finally to Holland where he was the Commander of the Sipo-SD, and deputy to General Rauter.
Dr Schoengarth's demise had already been sealed when on the 10th August, 1943, RFSS Himmler issued his directive concerning the fate of English and
American captured airman: ‘It is not the task of the police to interfere in clashes between German, English, and American fliers who have baled out.’ This order was transmitted on the same day by SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Brandt of Himmler's personal staff, to all Senior Executives SS and Police Officers with the following directions:
‘I am sending you the enclosed order with the request that the Chief of the Regular Police and of the Security Police be informed. They are to make this instruction known to their subordinate officers verbally.’
The whole question of prisoner of war status was taken out of control of the army and placed in the hands of Himmler and his SS by a short directive to all Security Police personnel on 6th March 1944:
War Crimes: Kugel Erlass (‘Bullet Decree’)
TRANSLATION OF DOCUMENT 1650-PS
Source: Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Vol. IV. USGPO, Washington, 1946,
SECRET STATE POLICE—STATE POLICE OFFICE COLOGNE.
Subject: Measures to be taken against captured escaped prisoners of war who are officers or not working non-commissioned officers, except British and American prisoners of war.
The Supreme Command of the Army has ordered as follows:
Overview of War Crimes Violations and Nazi policy
War crimes: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill- treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
Front L – R: Dick Sipes; Merle Auerbach; Jenkins; Bill Massy; Herman Schroeder; Marvin Cooper
In the course of the war, many Allied soldiers who had surrendered to the Germans were shot immediately, often as a matter of deliberate, calculated policy. On the 18th October, 1942, the OKW circulated a directive authorised by Hitler, which ordered that all members of Allied ‘Commando’ units, often when in uniform and whether armed or not, were to be ‘slaughtered to the last man’ even if they attempted to surrender. It was further provided that if such Allied troops came into the hands of the military authorities after being first captured by the local police or in any other way they should be handed over immediately to the SD. This order was supplemented from time to time, and was effective throughout the remainder of the war. This order was distributed by the SIPO-SD to their regional offices. These escaped officers and NCO's were to be sent to the concentration camp at Mauthausen, to be executed upon arrival, by means of a bullet shot in the neck.
In June 1944, there were a number of conferences attended by the Nazi top order which had been initiated by Goebbels, and endorsed by Hitler. These meetings of the principal leaders of the Nazi Party proposed to legalise the lynching of captured allied bomber crews in the occupied zones. This was not only the basis for the indictment against Dr Schoengarth after the war, but was also the damming evidence that was used at Nurenberg.
Further, it was also about this time that the entire Security Services of the Reich were advised from the centre to prepare false identity papers in the event of the government collapsing under military pressure from the Allies and that poison capsules for personal use be issued should they be arrested and feel the need.
The Mission 21st November 1944:
On 21st November 1944, thirty four aircraft from the 493rd Bomb Group, plus two pathfinder aircraft from the 34th Bomb Group left their bases in Suffolk on a bombing mission to the Synthetic Oil Plant at Merseberg, Germany. Our subject: 2nd Lieutenant Americo S. Galle was co-piloting Aircraft 107, Piloted by Lieutenant Llewelleyn Baxter. See below:
One Aircraft was Lost: Aircraft 43-38107 was damaged by flak while passing over Zwelle and crashed. The aircraft was last seen under control heading west. No open chutes were noted: Report by Major L. Dwyer, Group S-3: The aircraft referred to: B-17G; AAF S/N 43-38107; Group 493; Sqdn 861.
‘Aircraft 43-38107 was damaged while passing over Zwelle at about 1100 hours. It slid out of formation about five minutes later and dropped bombs, then made a 180-degree turn under perfect control with number four prop feathered. When aircraft was last seen, it was under control heading West. No chutes were noted.’
The crew of nine bailed out Northeast of Enschede, Holland: the officers escaped from the front escape hatch; the enlisted personnel left the aircraft through the rear door. Eight of the nine were captured and dispatched to interrogation centres. The three officers: Baxter, Edgar and Cox were transferred to Stalag-Luft 1. Enlisted men were sent elsewhere. All were well treated and subsequently released when war ended. They had flown 27 missions.
The scene of the events in question was the Villa Hoge Boekel at Enschede, Holland, which was occupied from September 1944 to April 1945 by a detachment of the Sicherheitsdienst, that is to say the German Security Service, under the immediate command of SS-Obersturmfuehrer Beeck. This detachment was primarily concerned with economic matters, requisitioning agricultural supplies. In addition to the members of the detachment there were some twelve Dutch political prisoners employed there. There was also a Dutch forester who had worked at the Villa since before the war. There were also a few Germans there who described themselves as Kommand-diensten (voluntary members of the SS). (Several of these Kommand-diensten and Dutch politicals were later called to give evidence at the subsequent trial of the seven accused.)
Brigadier and Major General of the Police Dr Schoengarth was in command of the whole German Security Services in Holland. On the night of the 20th/21st
November he had stayed at the Villa, where a party took place following a conference. The following morning at about 12.30 hours, some airmen were seen to bale out of an Allied bomber. One airman dropped into the Villa grounds. The airman was apparently unhurt and was taken into the Villa where he was kept under guard while arrangements were made by Brigadier Schoengarth for a locally based Einsatzgruppe commando (execution squad) to attend the Villa and deal with the airman. (We must remind ourselves that Dr Schoengarth was well versed in organising executions as he had supervised the executions of the Lvov Professors and had trained his own zbV personnel in the art of execution.)
The principal SS/SD officers engaged at the Villa to deal with the airman were as follows:
After the war several witnesses came forward and volunteered statements to the War Crimes Commission. Their observations were the substance of charges initiated against Dr Schoengarth and his SD men. These edited accounts by the author set the scene to events on that day:
Local forester from Enschede Sybrand Lefers (author's brackets):
‘On 21st November 1944, two airmen baled out from a three-engine aeroplane (number four propeller was feathered) which had colour circles on the side. The colours were red and blue. One airman landed about 150 metres from the Villa Hoge Boekel. The other airman landed somewhere in the neighbourhood of the airfield at Twente. I did not go to his assistance because the Villa was occupied by Germans. This occurred between 1200 hrs and 1230 hrs.
At about 1530 hours I was standing about 300 metres from the house when I heard a single shot from a small bore weapon coming from the direction of the grave of the unknown airman. I have been told that Oberscharfuehrer Beeck wore felt-lined airman's boots after the 21st November, 1944, and that a tunic, coloured blue-grey, and a brown overall suit were seen in a cart used by the troops occupying the Villa.’
Political prisoner Jacobus Rippers:
‘At about midday I heard a bomber come over very low and people shouting, ‘They've baled out!’ I later saw an Allied airman brought to the
Villa by SS-Obersturmfuehrer Blankenagel. The airman was in uniform and wore a cap and large Jack-boots. At the time the Brigadierfuehrer (Schoengarth) was present at the Villa. Sometime later I saw the airman being taken to the cellar where he was guarded by two SS men.
Later in the afternoon I went to the cellar where I saw the airman sitting on a bag wearing white pants, without shoes and barefooted. I did not see any civilian clothes. Some minutes afterwards I heard a shot. I was told that the airman had been taken away in a car.’
Workman Heinrich Albert de Haar:
‘When the airman was in the cellar, four soldiers of the Wehrmacht came to the Villa and demanded that the airman be handed over to them. SS-Rottenfuehrer Kampf denied that there was any airman and the soldiers went away. When I first saw the airman he was wearing grey- green trousers of a rough material, the ends if which were tucked into his dark coloured boots. On the left leg of the trousers was roughly painted in white the following marks: B 83 / B
At about 3.30 p.m. I saw the airman coming from the house and enter an open car. His hands were bound behind his back. He had no shoes, very light socks, dark grey civilian trousers and a light coloured shirt. The following persons accompanied the airman into the car: I did not recognise the driver, Scharfuehrer Liebing, SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer- Kommissar Knop who had an automatic rifle on his right shoulder, and Scharfuehrer Boehm. Two minutes later I heard a shot from the direction of the grave.
Some days later I saw in a room at the Villa a parachute and a pair of trousers which had the same markings as described earlier. I also saw boots similar to those that the airman wore. These boots were later used by the men in bad weather. I saw Beeck wearing felt slippers which I believe airmen wear inside their boots. The boot-maker named Fokkens removed electrical heating elements from these slippers. Also present that day was a Brigadierfuehrer whose name I do not know. He was there when the airman was captured but left before the airman was killed.’
Workman Hugo Reul:
In November 1944, during an air attack, an Allied plane was shot down. One member of the crew was brought to the office where I was working at the time. He came for a short spell into the storeroom. There, I myself brought him dinner which he did not accept. I was then relieved after dinner, and when I came downstairs from my room, the prisoner was in the corridor. He had received a civilian suit from SS-Sturmscharfuehrer Blankenhagel. He did not wear shoes. Later I was told by SS Oberschafuehrer Boehm that the prisoner was taken away for execution. We showed our disapproval by stating between ourselves that it would not be just to treat a prisoner of war in that way.
Requisitioned Civilian Clothing
Shortly after the war, when the War Crimes Investigators searched the Villa a number of civilian suits were found which, it was established, had been seized by the SS from the local neighbourhood. The significance of this, I would suggest, is that it was a common occurrence that when aircrews baled out over the occupied area many were murdered by the SD, but before execution the individual was stripped of his uniform and dressed in civilian clothing. This no doubt, was to conceal the identity of the victim should their remains be recovered at a later date. It didn't go unnoticed by the Nazis that the war was not quite going according to plan.
Post-War Exhumation: September 1946.
Major William M. Davidson, R.A.M.C, a medical Practitioner attached as Pathologist to the War Crimes Investigation unit, was present at the exhumation of one grave found in a wood behind the Villa Hoge Boekel. Major Davidson was also present at further exhumations when three further graves were found. The graves were numbered 1—4. From all four graves the contents were examined and photographed with forensic samples taken from the bodies in situ.
Major Davidson particularly examined grave number four which had been identified as the grave where the Allied airman had been interned. He came to the following conclusions:
Grave Number Four: Pathology Report.
A young man of slim build, dressed in civilian clothes, some allied origin (probably American) with a bullet wound through the head. Teeth were in good repair.
It is my opinion—
It is my opinion:
The Law Takes its Course
After the interrogation of six former SS suspects by Harold Johnston, formerly Lieutenant-Colonel, R.A., recommended the following: This appears to be a clear case of murder of a prisoner of war. It is considered that the evidence contained in the statements will be sufficient to convict all the accused.
Number and description of the crime alleged: No. 1 - Murder
The relevant provisions under which all the defendants were being investigated was as follows: Breaches of the Laws and Usages of War and in particular Article 2 of the Geneva Convention 1929 relating to the treatment of prisoners of war.
All the defendants named:
Murder: on the 21st November, 1944, of an unknown member of the crew of an Allied aircraft. The deceased landed from an aircraft by parachute and was immediately apprehended and made a prisoner of war by the first named accused. After some hours in custody a grave was dug, on the orders of the second named accused, and shortly after its completion the deceased was ordered
to get into a vehicle accompanied by the third, sixth and seventh named accused and was driven to the location of the grave where he was shot by the fifth named accused in the presence of the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh named accused.
A wealth of detail is supplied by the statements made by the various accused when interrogated, and by the evidence at their trial:
Karl Eberhard Schoengarth, aged 42 years, Doctor of Laws and Brigadierfuehrer in the Security Police (Gestapo) which he commanded in Holland. He remembered being at the Villa about that date, when an Allied plane flew low, but has no recollection of an airman baling out in the grounds, nor was such incident reported to him. He blamed the other defendants for concocting their defence by blaming him.
The ‘Einsatzgruppenkommado Knop’ was an execution squad consisting of the accused: Knop, Hadler, and Gernoth, brought in from outside by Brigadier Schoengarth to deal with the airman's execution. At the Villa they liaised with the office in charge, SS Obersturmfuehrer Beeck, to carry out Schoengarth's order.
Continued cross examination of Dr Karl Eberhard Schoengarth: on the fourth day of the trial, Monday 11th February, 1946. Defence Counsel for the other accused directs his questions to the defendant:
After preliminary opening questions of identity the line of questioning was a follows:
Q. What were your duties while in Holland?
A. I was Commander of the Sichereitspolizei. My task was to command the Sichereitspolizei, to carry out the central power of command, to keep open the communications with higher SS commanders and to the duty officer of the Reich Kommissar and to the commander of the Wehrmacht and also with other commanders of the Wehrmacht.
Q. Did you have many men under you?
Q. Did you often go to the Villa Hoge Boekel?
A. Until the end of the war I have been there about five or six times.
Q. Do you know what happened when you went there on the 21st November?
A. I cannot remember the 21st November, I cannot remember the date, but I was present at the meeting in the autumn when a plane with a loud noise of its engines came in the direction of the house.
Q. For what purpose had you gone there the night before?
A. I had a conversation about duties.
Q. Where were you when you heard the aeroplane?
A. In a room inside the Villa.
Q. What did you do when you heard the plane?
A. I was having a conversation with Standartenfuehrer Albart.
Q. What was the conversation about?
A. About the evacuation of the population who were still on the right side of the Maas to the north and to the east of Holland. Against these measures I had been opposed before. This part of the country had already been taken away from my command and put in the hands of Albart, and the evacuation would take place into the region of the Rhine.
Q Did you mention in the discussion about the treatment of prisoners of war who had been captured?
A. No, we had no reason to speak about, that.
Q. What happened after your conversation?
A. The conversation was over and Albart wanted to go away, and then we heard the plane.
Q. Did you notice anything about the plane?
A. No, I only heard a very loud noise of engines, and I thought they were going to dive-bomb the house.
Q. Did you notice anything else?
A. Then I went outside.
Q. What did you do then?
A. I walked to the front of the house with Albart and I saw a plane whose nationality I could not discern at a distance of about 400 metres. I saw it disappear above the woods, and I saw several white parcels coming down, and I
thought they would be airman who baled out. I did not see the parachute unfold because at the same moment everything was hidden from my eyes by the wood.
Q What did you do then?
A. Then I entered the house again.
Q And then?
A. After the conversation I wanted to drive away, I wanted to fix up some technical difficulties about this evacuation and I wanted to speak about this to the chief of my staff, and I went back to finish my second breakfast which had been served to me.
Q. Was anybody with you while you were having your meal?
A. Yes, my adjutant was also with me; and when I have no guests also present at my meals.
Q What was the name of your driver at that time?
A. My driver is Heinz Grotjahn.
Q He was your driver at the Villa on that day?
A. Yes, as far as I can remember he was my driver that day because shortly afterwards he left for Bremen; I think it was in the beginning of December.
Q. Did you see any captured airmen?
A. No, I saw nobody.
Q. Did you give any orders about any prisoner of war?
A. No, I never gave an order about a prisoner of war.
Further cross-examination of Dr Schoengarth:
Q. You have heard your two officers, Knop and Beecks and the four NCOs describing their various parts in the murder of a prisoner of war on the 21st November?
Q And you are agreed that that day, the 21st November, when you and Dr Alban had been in conference at the Villa, was the day that the parachutist landed?
A. I do not quite know that it was the 21st November, but it was on the day when I had the conference with Dr Albert when the plane appeared.
Q. Was the discipline in the SS strict?
Q. Can you imagine an SS detachment murdering a prisoner within half an hour of their Major-General's departure without his orders?
A. As I have heard of this here I must assume this was so. I had been away for several hours already.
Q What was your pre-war occupation?
A. I was in command of a detachment of the State Police.
Q Are you a Doctor of Laws?
A. Yes, I am of the legal profession.
Q Were you at the University of Leipzig?
Q Was Leipzig the seat of the German Supreme: Court?
Q Did you make any studies of international law?
A. I know in general those laws.
Q Do you agree that during a war no one power can repudiate conventions such as the Hague Convention to which all powers were parties before the war?
A. Yes, I agree.
Q Do you agree that if any officer or soldier was ordered by his superior to murder a prisoner of war and did so, the subordinate would himself be guilty as an accomplice of his superior who ordered that breach of international law?
Q Did you ever hear of an order issued during the latter part of the war from the highest authority in Berlin to the effect that! Terrorfliegell were not to be protected from the anger of the population?
A. I have heard for the first time of this order during my captivity. During my time of service, until the capitulation I have never received such an order, either verbally or written and I have never at any time to any of my commands given such an order.
Q What newspapers did you read during the war?
A. I arrived in Holland in June, 1944. Up to the time of the strike of the railways I read the German newspaper of Holland and other papers which I got there from the line.
Q Where were you in May 1944?
A. I was in Greece; I was fetched back at the end of May.
Q Did you know that that order was quoted in all the Berlin papers in an article by Dr Gobbels in May 1944?
Q If such an order had reached you, what would you yourself have done about it in your commands?
A. May I ask from which source this order is supposed to originate?
Q If you received an order from Hitler or from Himmler that you were to disregard the rights of prisoners of war, would you, as a Doctor of Laws, have felt bound to obey that or not?
A. I would have had to carry out this order, because an order of the Reichbelung (?) has to be carried out even if it cancels any existing laws.
Q So your fellow Accused were correct when they told us that the SS and the Sichereitspolizei stood outside the law?
A. No, they are just the same subject to the same ordinary criminal law as any other German.
Q How is it that they all believe that if they had handed over this captured airman to the Luftwaffe or the Wehrmacht they would have been summoned before an SS court for disobeying your orders?
A. This is an assumption of the Accused, which is wrong. There is no special SS police court; SS police courts are equivalent to the normal courts. The SS police court convicts on the same basis as any ordinary court, according to the law. It is correct, however, that these sentences are much severer than those of any normal court.
Q Would the SS then be bound by the regulations made during the war by Marshall Keitel of the Wehrmacht regarding the proper manner of carrying out executions?
A. No, we have received all our orders via the Chief Security Office.
Q You said in answer to your Defending Officer that you had certain responsibilities to the Wehrmacht as well as to the Police in Holland?
A. I did not have responsibilities, merely liaison between all parts of the Wehrmacht.
Q Will you as a lawyer agree with me that under German military law a sentence of death should only be executed by a firing party commanded by a staff officer, with another officer ‘representing the tribunal present, to read out the sentence, a priest of the condemned man's religion and a medical officer?’
A. The German regulations were not so comprehensive.
Q I put it to you that that regulation was signed by Field Marshall Keitel in October 1939.
A. I do not know this regulation.
Q Tell us the SS regulations for carrying out executions?
A. I can quote the regulations of the police.
Q Did they apply to the SS?
A. I do not know whether they applied to the Waffen SS, I assume so.
Q I am not referring to the Waffen SS, I am referring to the SS of the Sicheitsdienst (SD) and the Sichereitspolizei?
A. Yes, they were applicable.
Q Tell us what those regulations were.
A. The firing squad was supplied by the normal police force; an officer was in charge; a medical officer had to be present; for every man to be executed there had to be at least three rifles; the aim was to be taken at the head and the chest of the man; the presence of a priest was not necessary during the war because of the lack of manpower; in the ordinary police force executions have been carried out by the SS police.
Q Where did they learn this technique of shooting a man in the back of the neck?
A. There were no orders that executions were to be carried out in this manner. If these cases have occurred I know that this has come from the east.
Q Do you remember saying when you were interrogated on the 24th January: ‘I never had any complaints about the staff of the Villa Hoge Boekel or Enschede Einsatzcommando?’
Q You have heard the things that your staff have been saying about you in this Court?
Q You heard, for instance, Blankenagel saying: ‘I myself heard Schoengrath ordering Knop to shoot the airmen?’
A. I heard that.
Q And you heard Boehm say that he himself was told by Reul that you captured the airman?
Q And you heard Knop, say: ‘I received my orders from Schoengrath?’
Q And you heard Beeck say: ‘Schoengrath told me personally that Dr Albart had suggested airmen were treated as terrorists in the Reich’, and you had decided to do the same at the Villa Hoge Boekel?
Q Look at your former and once loyal staff and tell one why they should say this about you, their commander whom they once trusted.
A. I do not know why. I can only think that because I was there when the plane came down they wanted to put the blame on me.
Q To put the blame for the murder on you?
A. Yes, one of these men has taken this decision to put the blame on me.
Q Did you hear what Boehm and Lebing told us on Saturday about the shooting?
A. This is the first time I have heard about it.
The Legal Member of the court and who acted as ‘referee’ for and behalf of the accused allowed further questioning to Dr Schoengarth:
Q. During your period in Holland, how many executions in all did you have to order or sanction?
A. At the time of that interrogation I thought it would be about 150 to 200 cases, but they were all executions after proper sentences; they were only civilians who were sentenced to death on account of their disturbing order; and that was an order from the Reichkomnissar.
Q Am I right that those sentences had to be confirmed by your superior, Obergruppenfuehrer Rauter?
A. At the end of the war the Polizeigericht were summary courts, and these sentences were afterwards examined by a lawyer on my staff, and this lawyer had the power of a judge. After that they were given to the higher SS Polizeifuehrer Rauter. This only concerns the cases in which the evidence was clear. If there were cases in which the evidence took a long time to be proved, then the cases were handed over to the normal courts.
Q After the attempt on Rauter's life, whose duty was it to confirm sentences?
A. I was his deputy, but after I took on my duties we did not have any other cases, after we had a meeting with the leaders of the Resistance Movement that they would stop their terrorist activities.
Q Do you think it is possible that just as one man was shot, as you say, without your knowledge at the Villa Hoge Boekel, and six without your knowledge at Gorssel, 150 hostages could be shot without your knowledge by people such as the Accused, similar Commandos, after Rauter was shot?
A. After the attack on Rauter we did not shoot hostages, but we shot people who were already condemned to death.
Q Was that the 100 shot on the road between Apeldoorn and Arnhem and in the town of Schevengen?
A. About those at Schevengen I do not know, but the 100 on the road from Apeldoorn to Arnhem were shot on account of the attempt on Rauter's life; but they were not hostages but people who had already been condemned to death, and they were condemned to be shot at that place.
Final remarks to Dr Schoengarth by defence counsel for the other accused:
Q. I put it to you that the real truth of what happened on the 21st November is this: a British or American airman landed in the grounds of the Villa and was captured by your men. You yourself decided that he was to be shot. You yourself ordered Knop to have him shot. You then went away in your car leaving your men to take the responsibility, and now that they stand in peril you, their commander, are trying to save your life at their expense.
The other accused:
Friederich Beeck, aged 60 years, Kriminal Sekretser (Sicherheitspolizei) and Commander of Villa Hoge Boekel, chose the burial site and gave orders for the grave to be dug, and waited for the report that all was ready, before the airman was brought out of the Villa. He superintended the execution from start to finish at a discreet distance.
Erwin Knop, aged 40 years, a Commissar in the Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei), was in charge of the Detachment at Enschede. Knop stated under cross-examination that he made the arrangements for the execution and supervised it, but he did so under the orders of Schoengarth and with the assistance of Beeck, who was the senior police officer at the Villa. Knop agreed that he spoke to the airman in English when he was escorting the handcuffed airman to the grave site: ‘ I said to the airman, I have orders by the General to shoot you. I can do nothing for you, but would you be so kind and give me your name and home address. The airman was very downhearted.’
When asked by defence counsel at the trial if the execution team had refused to carry out the Brigadierfuehrer's order, Knop replied: ‘We could say Yes or No to this question, but because we belonged and were under the jurisdiction of the SS Polizei we did not act under normal laws. If we had refused to obey this order we would, after a very short trial, be sentenced to death. The SS Polizeigericht have their own procedures and courts.’
(In addition to the airman's body found in a grave, three other bodies of SS men were also found in graves nearby having been hanged.)
Wilhelm Hadler, aged 47 years, Kriminal Sekretser and SS Untersturmfuehrer and member of the Einsatzcommando. He was told by Knop that the airman was a ‘terror-airman’ (‘Knop gae dem Gernoth den Befehl; Das ist ein Terrorflieger, der ist zir erschiessen’) and was to be shot, and we (Knop, Beeck, Gernoth, and Hadler) were to carry it out. After searching for a suitable spot in the woods Hadler and Gernoth dug a shallow grave. When the rest of the team arrived with the airman Hadler and Gernoth escorted the airman from the car towards the grave. Gernoth then dropped back behind the airman and then shot him in the back of the neck. Hadler agreed that he was present when an SS man called Bell was hanged and brought to the wood to be buried. Hadler also confirmed that it was Dr Schoengarth who had ordered Bell's hanging.
Herbert Fritz Willi Gernoth, Kriminal Sekretser (Sicherheitspolizei), SS Unterschafuehrer aged 39 years. Part of the Einsatzgruppencommando (execution squad). Gernoth admitted that he carried out the ‘execution’ under the orders of Knop: ‘After a conversation with Knop, with Hadler, we escorted the airman in the direction of the grave. I did not know whether the man was aware that he was about to be shot. I came to the conclusion that I should do it in such a way that he would not be aware of what was going to happen to him. I stayed back for two or three paces, and without warning I shot him.’ In cross
examination Gernoth was asked what would have happened if he had not shot the airman and replied: ‘I myself would have been shot or hanged. Two of my comrades were already lying buried nearby.’ When asked by defence counsel: ‘What was the German for shot in the nape of the neck or the base of the skull?’, he replied: ‘Genickschuss—the recognised method of the Security Services for executing people.’
Erich Liebing, SS Scharfuehrer aged 56 years, was on duty at the Villa Hooge Boekal under the orders of SS Obersturmfuehrer Beeck. Liebing went with Beeck to the woods where he witnessed Hadler and Gernoth digging a grave. He was told by Beeck to keep watch and inform him when the grave had been completed, which he did as ordered.
Fritz Boehm, aged 28 years, SS Unterscharfuehrer, Waffen SS, attached to the Polizei. Boehm was told by his commanding officer, Beeck, that he had received orders to shoot the airman who was under guard in the cellar and to assist the others in preparation of the execution.
The Allied Airman Trial and Sentence: Military Court at Burgsteinfurt 11th February 1946:
All the accused were found guilty:
Karl Eberhard Schoengarth was sentenced to death but claimed total denial of complicity. Schoengarth had taken refuge in The Hague and transferred to Germany for his trial before he was returned to Holland for interrogation as to his activities there. Other SD/SS personnel arrested and tried by the British Military Court were:
Frederick Beeck (death), claimed superior orders.
Erwin Knop (death), Claimed superior orders.
Wilhelm Hadler (death) claimed superior orders carried out in the presence of the superior.
Herbert Fritz Wille Gernoth (death) claimed superior orders disobedience would have been fatal.
Erich Liebing (15 yrs imp.), claimed he did not know that the victim was a POW until too late.
Fritz Boehm (10 yrs imp), claimed ignorance and disgust at the shooting. I protested to the uttermost of my power.
Pieter Menten Resurfaces
At about this time Pieter Menten surfaced as he now resided in Holland and had been in regular contact with Dr Schoengarth.
In a letter to his wife written by Schoengarth before his execution, there was a request that Pieter Menten be informed and reminded that he (Schoengarth) had done him many favours in the past. There was a request from Schoengarth that Menten now repay this debt by looking to the welfare of Mrs Schoengarth and his 5-year old-daughter Ermuth.
The Army investigators were anxious to identify the subject Pieter Menten, as to his possible implication in war crimes. Enquiries were made with the result that he was traced and identified as a man of Dutch nationality, engaged in art dealing and residing in Aardenhout, Holland. It was established that Menten had previously been arrested for ‘collaboration’ and sentenced to 8 months imprisonment (the time in custody) and then released. There were no other charges pending. The report also confirmed that Pieter Menten had previously resided in Eastern Poland where he had a large forest estate, and that he had resided in Krakow where he had become friendly with Dr Schoengarth. This purported personal friendship continued during Schoengarth's service in Holland. Otherwise there was nothing to report. However, shortly after liberation, Dutch investigators acted on other information and arrested Menten. When they searched his house the investigators found incrimination evidence of collaboration with the Nazis, together with a photograph showing Menten in the uniform of an SS-Unterscharfuehrer. This was enough to detain him in custody. Now the investigators were anxious to interview Dr Schoengarth.
After sentence, Schoengarth was returned to Holland to assist with other enquiries that were gathering pace at that time, particularly in respect of Pieter Menten who was also languishing in jail.
A Dutch war crimes investigator interviewed Schoengarth in the Dutch prison where he produced a photograph of Pieter Menten in SD uniform and asked him if he recognized the subject of the photograph. Schoengarth, without hesitation, identified Pieter Menten: ‘That is Pieter Menten—how is he?’
Schoengarth confirmed that Menten had been a Trehaunder (caretaking Jewish properties) in Krakow and had been part of his zbV unit as an art consultant and interpreter. He further confirmed that he had associated with him in 1944 when they were both in Holland and had often discussed ‘old times’.
Then, as he was about to leave the cell, Inspector van Izendorn asked Schoengarth to sign the back of the photograph of Menten and the pages of notes van Izendorn had written. Schoengarth replied, ‘You know, I have only three weeks to live. That's the whole truth.’
A few days later Schoengarth welcomed another visitor to his cell: Pieter Menten had arrived to say his farewells. Because of these circumstances the meeting between the two men suggested some urgency; the content of what they discussed went well beyond the grave. With the guards and prison officials respecting their privacy, this was the most important discussion either man would have in his life.
Back in their days in the Generalgouvernement, as close friends, Menten and Schoengarth had promised to take care of each other, no matter how it turned out. Drink had stimulated a lot of that Casino talk, but for some reason, perhaps friendship, they had kept their word. Schoengarth had asked Himmler for Menten's private train transport from Krakow to Holland. He had seen that Menten received priceless artefacts of great value. Now in return for those favours he wanted a promise that Menten would keep no matter what. The discussion was about Schoengarth's immediate family. With only a few weeks to live before facing the hangman, he wanted to put his affairs in order, and Pieter Menten at that time was his closest friend. Schoengarth's family— Dorothea his wife, Ermuth his beloved daughter aged 5 years, and his two sons who had both died as officers on the Eastern Front—presented a dim future without financial support.
Straight out, Schoengarth asked Menten to ‘watch over’ Ermuth and ensure that she did not suffer for his crimes. If that meant paying her school fees or, later, her university tuition, then would Menten do that? Would he become Ermuth's ‘uncle’? Menten responded, ‘Yes, of course.’ In return, Schoengarth advised
Menten to the line of defence he should adopt when his time came to face the Allies' retribution. Despite the horrendous past of both men, at this very moment was a moment of sadness.
The matter was finally concluded when on 16th May 1946, the official UK Legal Executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, visited Schoengarth and his fellow accused and carried out the sentences according to the warrant.
It is of note, that Schoengarth was charged and executed for the one single act of murdering the airman on the 21st November, 1944. For all his other crimes, committed in Galicia, which are too numerous to account, and including the ordering of the execution of 260 Dutch hostages after an unsuccessful attempt on the life of his immediate chief, SS Gruppenfuehrer Hans Albin Rauter that same year, justice was seen to be done.
Reference has been made to the uncompromising stance that Dr Schoengarth took when it came to the execution of the Jews in Lvov by officers under his command—that any SS officer would be shot for failing to carry out an order of execution, and that he would support any officer who shot his comrade for this failure. It is also interesting to note, and in some way corroborates this attitude, that when the grave of the airman was exhumed, three other corpses were found in graves nearby. All these three corpses had been hanged as opposed to the airman who had a bullet wound in the head. The three corpses, in SS uniform, were identified as SS/SD officers, one of them named as SS Hauptscharfuehrer Peter Bell. We may assume, with some certainty, that these corpses had been the subject of an SS hanging party, but for what offences it has not been ascertained.
These actions corroborate the defence suggestion by the Einsatzgruppe that had they refused to carry-out the execution of the airman they too would suffer a similar fate.
Rosenbaum, Krueger, Schoengarth and Menten had teamed up to play a dangerous game in their rampage of condoned murder and theft. Krueger would make history in the killing fields of Galicia. The Rabka School under Rosenbaum became the centre for murder and the instruction of murder. With the help of Menten, the School would be used for storage of their loot and their investments. Schoengarth was their leader and willing supervisor of this unobtrusive training establishment. For the Jews that survived Bad Rabka and surrounding communities, their end was in sight.
The one that got away:
SS-Colonel Dr Bruno Walter Hugo Albath, Doctor of Laws, Gottingen University.
In connection with the American airman investigation one man escaped the due process of law: SS-Colonel Dr Walter Albath, who had been present with Dr Schoengarth at the time the decision was made to execute airman Galle.
Bruno Walter Hugo Albath, born in Strasburg, West Prussia, in 1904. He was a German lawyer, SS officer and official of the Gestapo. He studied law and graduated to Dr. jur. In 1939 he was the head of the State Police, Central Dusseldorf, and at the beginning of the Polish campaign was leader of Einsatzcommando 3 in Olsztyn. In 1941 Albath was Chief of Security Police and Security Service and was appointed head of the Gestapo at Konigsberg. His responsibilities saw the infamous detention camp Soldau. In November 1943 he was promoted to SS Colonel and Government Director.
On Albath's arrest he was found to have in his bedroom eight tablets of poison. He stated that he obtained the poison in January 1945 at the same time as his false papers had been prepared stating, ‘Everyone in the SD Headquarters was ordered to do this.’ He tried to have his teeth drilled for a capsule, but this had been impossible. His wife at the time of his arrest was living with family at Heslingen. When she was questioned after her husband's arrest she was convinced she would never see him again. They had arranged mutually that should he be arrested he would send his gold ring to her—a sign that he had committed suicide. His wife was also in possession of letters from her husband to his children to be read when they became of age in the event of his demise. Mrs Albath knew nothing of her husband's SS lady friend who was residing in the Russian Zone.
On the 23rd February, 1946, Albath was in custody when he was interrogated by the War Crimes Investigation Unit:
Dr Albath agreed with the interrogating officer's opening suggestion that he must have found his duties as an official of the Gestapo somewhat out of keeping with his legal conscience as a Doctor of Laws at the Gottingen University. Albarth replied that he had not joined the Gestapo of his own free choice—he was detailed there [sic]. It was pointed out to him that he had been continuously serving in the Gestapo ever since its formation about six years before the war. Albath stated that he had just completed his university studies and entered the
police administration shortly before the Nazis came to power, and when first detailed to the Gestapo he was so reluctant to undertake this class of work that he applied to be released on the pretext of wishing to pursue further university studies, and was, in fact released but was recalled eight months later.
Albath had completed a Questionnaire where he gave details of visits abroad during the war to various occupied countries including Holland, but had not included in those dates his visits to Holland in November 1944. He had been circulated by the Allies as wanted for inciting Schoengarth and others to the murder of an Allied airman at Enschede (for which the others had already been convicted).
Questioned about this visit, he first purported not to remember it and then, when he realised that all the details were already known he said that in the course of a number of visits to posts on the Dutch frontier, he happened to learn at Gronau that Schoengarth whom he wished to see had been spending the previous night at the Villa Hoge Boekel near Enschede and that he might just catch him there which he did at lunchtime (a likely story—author). Albath was obviously reluctant to volunteer any information about this excursion but when it was put to him, he agreed that he saw an Allied bomber crashing near the Villa and parachutists jumping out, but he told the same story as Schoengarth—namely that they saw personnel going into the woods but did not see any of them captured and denied that he had said to Schoengarth, ‘In the Reich we treat these bomber-pilots as terrorists’ or that he had encouraged the shooting of the airman.
When it was pointed out to Albath that he was, throughout the latter half of the war, Regional Director and Inspektor of the Sipo in District 6 which included the Ruhr, where more murders of allied airmen are known to have occurred than anywhere else, Albath replied that he had received s copy of Himmler's order that Allied airman were not to be protected from the populace but denied having passed the order on though he admitted knowing that it had in fact been passed down to all Gestapo and ordinary police in the District. Albath firmly placed the issuing of this order on SS-Major General Guttenberger, his immediate superior. He said that Guttenberger ordered him to furnish a periodic return of airmen killed in accordance with Himmler's order, and was annoyed because the only return he was ever able to make reported the killing of only two airmen by the Populace of Wuppethal. Albath professed complete ignorance of other such crimes, and expressed the belief that members of the German populace who give evidence of their commission by the Gestapo had really committed the crimes themselves.
Questioned about the murder of at least 1089 victims of nine different nationalities by the Cologne Gestapo—many already identified in Cologne cemeteries or from the Gestapo's own records—Albath professed ignorance although he willingly furnished particulars of Gestapo chief Kulzer and other associates of the Cologne Gestapo Office.
(There is no doubt that Albath was reiterating a well rehearsed script which he had thought over for some months whilst in custody.)
The questioning continues:
Albath stated that units of the Sipo in towns the size of Cologne received their orders direct from Berlin and not through himself, as his duties being of an administrative character were concerned with such matters as location of Gestapo billets for officers and workers, routine inspections, internal discipline, etc., and with no executive authority (a Chief of the Gestapo—a likely story— another ruse to avoid responsibility). However, it is true that the Sipo-SD came directly under the Chief of the RSHA Security Office, Kaltenbrunner (who replaced Heydrich when he was assassinated). Albath knew full well that there was an order authorising the Sipo-SD units to shoot foreigners who looted during air-raid alerts or the black-outs.
He denied having had any training in Special Intelligence sabotage, subversive and fifth column activity of Security for which kind of work he professed that the Sipo- SD drew exclusively on trained detective personnel of the Kripo. He denied that he was granted a delay in his military service in order to carry on with certain lectures at the Sipo-SD School in 1938. He also denied that he had served in the army at all. These were all lies as the interrogating officer had his military file in front of him showing that he served as a gunner in 1937 and 1940 and further, that he had been an ‘Assessor’ at the Sipo-SD Training School in 1936-7 in examinations for the rank of Kriminal Kommissar. This information is very relevant when we consider the association he must have had with SS-Major Rosenbaum and Dr Schoengarth who served at the training School about this time.
Asked why he had made such complete arrangements for suicide to avert capture if he had nothing on his conscience, Albath said that he recognised he was in the category liable to be arrested and such was his love of liberty that he did not feel his physical or mental health equal to enduring captivity. He agreed that he and his office had all been issued with false identity papers should they be overrun by the Allied Forces.
Finally, the remarks by the interrogating officer:
‘Albath is probably a degenerate but not unintelligent type of rat and is unlikely to incriminate himself willingly in war crimes, although it is to be estimated that once Guttenberger, Kuzler and others are located and arrested thanks to information provided by Albath. He also volunteered information that a mixed party of 32 airborne troops who had apparently landed in the wrong place during the battle of Arnhem were handed over to him by Guttenberger with instructions that they were to be ‘sonderbehandelt’ (receive special treatment). He quite understood that special treatment might mean that the prisoners were to be killed but on this occasion to have whom he believes to have deliberately misinterpreted his orders by assuming the special treatment to mean that the search of the prisoner's identity papers, etc., was to be specially thorough. Albath states that after being inspected he passed these prisoners (including a Lieutenant and some Americans) to the Wehrmacht. The depravity of Nazi standards is perhaps illustrated as well not by the direct evidence of their crimes but by the fact that the equivalent of a full Colonel or Brigade Commander, a Doctor of Laws, should claim special credit for the fact that he refrained from murdering 32 POWs when he had the opportunity to do so, as if such self-restraint possessed the merit of positive virtue. I have cautioned him that he is liable to be charged as a party to the murder of the airman at Enschede.’
Subsequently, several investigations were initiated against him by the War Crimes Commission resulting in a British Military Court trial when Albath was sentenced to 15 ye ars in prison from which he was released in 1955. He died in 1990.
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