Everyone knows the names Dr. Josef Mengele and Rudolf Hoess, the evil monsters of Auschwitz. Their names are household words. Not so well known is the name Richard Baer.
Now Richard Baer is the subject of a play about the Holocaust called The Beekeeper. The play is about Richard Baer, the Commandant of Monowitz (Auschwitz III) and a prisoner named Stressler who is a beekeeper. This is a play based on a true story, meaning that the play is NOT a true story. Richard Baer never worked at Monowitz. The play is about one of those events that didn’t happen, but are true, as Elie Wiesel famously said.
This quote is from an article about the play, which you can read in full here:
Whilst the horrific events of the mid-20th century’s Holocaust are incredibly well-documented, I am sure I am not alone in being saddened and disgusted whenever I am served a reminder of the sheer humiliation and cruelty one set of human beings became capable of bestowing on another. This is, of course, what The Beekeeper is all about and the play does not fail to hit hard; it’s an intense and thought-provoking 90 minutes.
However, the slant is somewhat different to what we are accustomed to seeing and reading. In the writer’s own words there are no “bodies being fed into furnaces and whips cracking”. Instead, the spotlight is firmly on a single corner of the camp where the prisoner Stressler resides in isolation. Believed to be a conspirator by the other prisoners, he tenderly nurtures a hive of bees which serves not only as a distraction from his miserable, pain-filled existence but as a supply of honey for Nazi officers, in particular one Richard Baer.
On May 5, 1944, Richard Baer became the last Commandant of the Auschwitz main camp. He was only in charge of the Auschwitz main camp, not the whole Auschwitz complex. Richard Baer never worked at the Auschwitz III camp, aka Monowitz, in any capacity. In January 1945, Baer replaced Otto Förschner as the Commandant of Mittelbau-Dora, the concentration camp in Germany where the V-2 rockets were built.
After the war, Richard Baer went into hiding under an assumed name while he worked as a lumberjack in a remote area in Germany. He was finally tracked down and arrested in 1960, soon after Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina. Baer was asked to give a deposition which was entered into the trial of Eichmann in Israel. Baer was awaiting his own trial in the Auschwitz case in Frankfurt when he mysteriously died in prison just before the trial began in June 1963. Under interrogation, Baer had stubbornly refused to admit to the gassing of prisoners at Auschwitz.
This quote is from Wikipedia:
Richard Baer (September 9, 1911 – June 17, 1963) was a German Nazi official with the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer (major) and commander of the Auschwitz I concentration camp from May 1944 to February 1945. He was a member of N.S.D.A.P. (no. 454991) and the SS (no. 44225).
From November 1943 until the end of 1944 Fritz Hartjenstein and Josef Kramer were responsible for the extermination camp Auschwitz II, Birkenau, so that Baer was only Commandant of this part of the camp from the end of 1944 until January 1945. Near the end of the war Richard Baer, having replaced Otto Förschner as commandant of the Dora-Mittelbau camp in Thuringia Nordhausen, was responsible for the execution of Russian prisoners at mass gallows. His final rank was SS-Sturmbannführer (Major).
At the end of the war, Baer fled and lived near Hamburg as Karl Egon Neumann, a forestry worker. In the course of investigation in the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials a warrant for his arrest was issued in October 1960 and his photograph was printed in newspapers. He was recognized by a co-worker and arrested in December 1960 after Adolf Eichmann’s arrest. On the advice of his lawyer he refused to testify and died of a heart attack in pre-trial detention in 1963.
What would cause a man to die of a heart attack at the age of 52? Was the heart attack caused by torture during his interrogation? Or by poison? You can read all about Richard Baer and his untimely death on the website of Carlos Whitlock Porter here.