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August 18, 2015

Truth or fiction: Wilhelm Boger and the Auschwitz trial

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:01 am

You can read about Wilhelm Boger and the Auschwitz trial in a news article today, which has this headline:

Auschwitz trial ensured that Germany would never forget

I wrote about Wilhelm Boger in this previous blog post:

This quote is from the news article, cited above:

On the witness stand, Wilhelm Boger, the man in charge of interrogations at Auschwitz, was confronted with his invention: the “Boger swing.” Prisoners would be brought in for questioning, stripped naked and hung over an iron bar with their hands manacled to their ankles. Their heads down and their genitals exposed to brutal beatings, the victim would swing there. “I didn’t beat them to death,” Boger told the court. “I just carried out orders.” Boger’s attitude was shared by his fellow defendants: They showed no regret, even as, for the first time since 1945, the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial made public the full horrors of the extermination camp.

The news article shows a horrible photo of Boger. I found an old photo, shown below, which is a photo of Boger as a young man.

Wilhelm Boger

Wilhelm Boger

Several years ago, there was a movie entitled The Reader which showed a trial that was something like the Auschwitz trial.  I blogged about the movie at

I was amazed to learn that Wilhelm Boger was not sentenced to death for his horrible crime of beating prisoners on a swing. He was given life in prison and lived to the age of 70.

This quote is from the news article:

The big Auschwitz trial came about because of a coincidence. A journalist conducting research at the end of 1958 met a former concentration camp prisoner who managed to take some charred documents from a police court when the Polish city of Wroclaw, known to the Germans as Breslau, was burning toward the end of the war. He gave them to the journalist, who sent them to Fritz Bauer, the general state prosecutor of Hessen. Bauer immediately saw that the information contained in the documents would be explosive: They detailed shootings at Auschwitz and included the names of those killed, those who did the killing and the reasons for the executions. They were signed by Rudolf Höss, the commandant in charge of the camp, who died in 1947. The initials of Robert Mulka, the commandant’s adjutant and a future defendant in the Auschwitz trials, could also clearly be identified. It was enough to trigger a major lawsuit and indict several people who had served the Nazis in various functions at Auschwitz. It was a chance to uncover the systematic nature behind the killing machine.

This quote from the news article describes the procedure at Auschwitz-Birkenau when the trains arrived:

The so-called ‘clear-up commando’ was then ordered to come onto the ramp and steal the valuables of the arriving Jews. After this the condemned were taken to the gas chambers in heavy goods vehicles or had to march there in columns. Once there, the innocent and defenseless victims were deceived with mendacious speeches and ordered to undress for a ‘shower’. They were then brought to the gas chambers and the doors were locked. A medical truck brought the deadly gas, Cyclon B, to the death factories. They tossed gas into the chambers and observed the agonizing process of their victims being gassed through a peephole. After this they ascertained the death of their victims, arranged that the bodies be burned in the crematoriums and supervised the pulling out of gold teeth. The hair of female corpses was shaved off and the robbery of valuables from dead bodies was supervised. These figures were then reported by telegram to the official bookkeeper stationed in the Imperial Security Authority (Reichssicherheithauptamt) and responsible for recording the mass murder. He logged the total number of deportees, the number of detainees brought to the camp and the number of those gassed.

Note that the hair of the women was not shaved off until after they were dead.  What a revolting mess that must have been!

Prisoners at Auschwitz had their heads shaved to prevent lice which spreads typhus

Prisoners at Auschwitz had their heads shaved to prevent lice which spreads typhus

Stupid me! I thought that the hair was shaved off because lice, which spreads typhus, hides in the hair. I thought that the in-coming prisoners were given a shower to remove any lice from their bodies, in an attempt to prevent typhus. The photo above shows women at Auschwitz with their heads shaved, before they were killed.