Yes, yes, I know that Otto Moll was not the Commandant of Auschwitz, but stay with me, dear reader, and everything will be revealed to you.
I am writing today about a news article which quotes a Holocaust survivor named Henry Bawnik:
The Killer of Auschwitz
The next stop for Bawnik was Furstengrube, only 19 miles from Auschwitz, where two lucky breaks again saved him.
When Bawnik and the other prisoners arrived, commandant Otto Moll greeted them. Moll already had a reputation as the “killer of Auschwitz,” running that camp’s crematorium.
Bawnik remembered part of Moll’s speech to the prisoners: “You’ll work hard, we’ll feed you well, but let’s do a little exercise.”
Just then, someone from the kitchen asked whether anyone in the group was a gardener.
“I raised my hand and said yes. I was taken to the garden, and 15 people were beaten to death while doing their exercises.”
In May 1941, Otto Moll had been transferred from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he was put in charge of digging mass graves. Robert E. Conot, the author of Justice at Nuremberg described Otto Moll as “a drunken, one-eyed, twenty-seven-year-old trumpeter, gardener, and pig farmer.”
All the dead bodies of prisoners had to be dug up later and burned on pyres because the corpses were contaminating the ground water at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The mass graves of the prisoners, who had died in the typhus epidemic in the summer of 1942, were in the same location.
Robert Conot wrote that “Moll was placed in charge of 150 inmates set to exhuming and incinerating the bodies on open pyres.” This work took several months to complete, according to Conot, who also wrote that “In June and August of 1942, typhus epidemics devastated Auschwitz.” Moll himself contracted typhus before the excavation was completed.
Otto Moll is considered to be one of the most notorious war criminals, who was put on trial by the American military at Dachau. He was executed on May 28, 1946 after being convicted of participating in a “common design” to violate the Laws and Usages of War by virtue of leading the evacuation of the Kaufering II sub-camp of Dachau to the Dachau main camp in the last days of the war.
Moll had personally led a death march of 450 prisoners, starting from the Kaufering II camp on April 25, 1945 and arriving in the Dachau main camp on April 28, 1945. Moll escaped from Dachau that evening, along with the acting Dachau commandant Martin Weiss and most of the regular guards, but he was captured and arrested in May 1945.
It was not a war crime to evacuate prisoners from a concentration camp, but it was a war crime to prevent the prisoners from escaping from a death march, according to the prosecution at the American Military Tribunal at Dachau.
Albin Gretsch and Johann Schoepp were guards who were also found guilty of preventing prisoners from escaping from transports to Dachau.
Otto Moll had joined the SS in 1936 and had previously served at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where Rudolf Hoess was a staff member, from 1938 to 1941.
In May 1941, Moll was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he supervised the digging of mass graves near the gas chambers in the two old farmhouses, known as Bunker 1 and Bunker 2, at Birkenau. Moll was later put in charge of digging up the bodies in the mass graves and burning them in pits.
Robert E. Conot, the author of Justice at Nuremberg described Otto Moll as “a drunken, one-eyed, twenty-seven-year-old trumpeter, gardener, and pig farmer.”
Conot wrote that “Moll was placed in charge of 150 inmates set to exhuming and incinerating the bodies on open pyres.” This work took several months to complete, according to Conot, who also wrote that “In June and August of 1942, typhus epidemics devastated Auschwitz.” Moll himself contracted typhus before the excavation was completed.
Several survivors of Auschwitz accused Moll of throwing live babies into the flaming pits.
Alter Feinsilber, a member of the Sonderkommando at Birkenau who worked under Moll’s supervision, mentioned Moll in his testimony for the prosecution in a Krakow court: “It happened that some prisoners offered resistance when about to be shot at the pit or that children would cry and then SS Quartermaster Sergeant Moll would throw them alive into the flames of the pit.”
Moll was not put on trial in Poland, but any and all testimony was allowed in the Allied war crimes trials, whether or not it pertained to the case.
One of the many war crimes committed by Moll, according to Conot’s book, occurred during the shooting of thousands of Jews who were brought to Majdanek from several labor camps that had been closed following the uprisings at Treblinka and Sobibor in 1943. Moll headed a group of SS men who were brought from Auschwitz to do the shooting.
Regarding the massacre at Majdanek, Conot wrote the following in his book Justice at Nuremberg:
“The Jews were herded together and machine-gunned by the tens of thousands. The bodies were burned on huge pyres, the smoke from which darkened the sky day after day and filled the streets of the city with ash as if from a volcanic explosion.”
I wrote about the mass execution at Majdanek on this blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/the-harvest-festival-at-majdanek-on-bloody-wednesday-nov-3-1943/
While Moll was a prisoner at Landsberg, awaiting his execution after being convicted at Dachau, he requested that he be allowed to confront his former boss, Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz, who was undergoing interrogation for the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, where he was a defense witness for Ernst Kaltenbrunner, one of the men on trial.
The prosecution had finished its case at Nuremberg by this time, so it was too late for Moll to be a prosecution witness who could potentially testify that Hoess was lying.
The following is a quote from the transcript of the joint interrogation of Hoess and Moll on April 16, 1946 at Nuremberg, in which Moll denies being responsible for gassing Jews in the two farmhouses known as Bunker 1 and Bunker 2 at Birkenau:
Questions directed to Rudolf Hoess:
Q. What did this Otto Moll do at Sachsenhausen and later at Auschwitz?
A. In Sachsenhausen he was a gardener and later at Auschwitz he was used as a leader of a work detail and later on he was used as a supervisor during the various actions.
Q. You mean the actions whereby people were executed and later cremated?
Q. You told us this morning about his first assignment in 1941 when farm buildings were converted into an extermination plant. Will you restate what you said about that?
A. At first he worked on the farm and then I later moved him into the farm house, which was used as a professional extermination plant.
Questions directed to Otto Moll
Q. Otto Moll, is what the witness has just said true?
A. First, I was used in work in connection with the excavation of the mass graves. Hoess must know that. He is in error if he said that I worked in the buildings where the gassing was carried out. At first I was used for the excavation of the mass graves and he must remember that. Hoess, do you remember Swosten, Blank, Omen, Hatford and Garduck? Those are the people who worked in the building at the time when you alleged I worked there and I was working on excavations. Surely Hoess remembers that.
The prisoner in the photo above, who is about to be hanged at Landsberg, is another German criminal, not Otto Moll. There is a video of Otto Moll as he was being hanged, but you will have to google it yourself.