After the end of World War II, 42 Displaced Persons (DPs) were hanged under British authority at Hameln. This total comprised 25 Polish men, five Russians, five Yugoslavians, a Latvian, a Lithuanian, a Croat and a Ukrainian, plus three others whose nationality is unclear.
Displaced Persons were mainly forced labourers who had been taken from occupied Eastern European countries and sent to work in German factories as slave labour. There were also prisoners of war, former concentration camp prisoners and those who had voluntarily taken work in Germany during the War, or who had fled from the Soviet Army as it took back Eastern Europe from the Nazis. Even after two years of large scale repatriation efforts by the Allies, it is estimated that there were still some 850,000 DPs in Germany in 1947. For many of these people there was simply no home to return to.
Polish DPs particularly did not want to return to their home country as it was now under Communist rule by Stalin's Russia.
Little detail remains of most of these cases but a few individual ones follow:
On 26 June, 1947 Longin Nowakowski, Waclaw Winiarski and Kazmierc Bachor were hanged. Nowakowski and Winiarski went to their deaths at 09.30 a.m. and Bachor followed at 10.02.
They had been sentenced to death on 8 April, 1947 by the High Court at Lübeck for illegal use of firearms and ammunition. On 3 October, 1946, the trio had killed a fellow Pole, one Skrzypowski, for his belongings which they took, breaking into his room, after they had killed him.
Franciczek Smok was sentenced to death on 2 May 1947 by the High Court at Osnabrück on three counts of plundering and illegal use of a firearm. He broke into the same house three times, and on the third occasion he shot a man to death. He was hanged on 5 September, 1947, at 09.37 a.m., beside fellow Pole, Tadeusz Kun. Kun was sentenced to death on 14 May, 1947 for the illegal use of a firearm and plundering, during which a man was also shot.
This execution was observed by a British police officer, Mr. George E. Whitcomb, who had been detailed to be present, with others, as a mandatory identification witness. He later described his experiences to a journalist. Australian hanging historian Nick Short provided these authors with a copy of the text from his archive but sadly was unable to say on which date and in which magazine it had originally been published. We omit what seem to be journalistic embellishments and give just the factual core of Mr. Whitcomb’s report. It is the only description of a hanging at Hameln that we know of:
My guide escorted me along dark corridors, passing through several sets of steel gates, which were unlocked and relocked behind us, until we reached an office. Here I was glad to meet some of the policemen who had stayed overnight with me. But conversation was very desultory. We all wanted to get the job done and be on our way from such a depressing atmosphere.
The tension was somewhat relieved when a major, who appeared to be in charge, called us together and, from a typewritten list, checked our names with those of the men to be hanged. […]
I was rather surprised to learn that 2 men would be hanged every half-an-hour. It was also a relief to know that I would be called forward at 9.30 am - the inactivity was very trying. […]
We all began to fidget as the minutes ticked slowly by, and I was glad when my name was called. Following my escort along dimly-lit corridors, I was dreading the action about to take place. But there was no time to daydream.
Perhaps seeing so much light after the darkness may well have accounted for the shock I experienced as I entered that death house. I was in a rectangular area, with a row of 10 cells jutting out from the walls on either side.
Uniformed prison guards patrolled the length of the room, passing each cell door to examine the occupant with monotonous regularity. […] one occasionally heard gasps and weird cries […]
A priest […] paced up and down. He read from a Bible, occasionally chanting and singing. As the name of the prisoner appeared above the cell door it did not take me long to find the name I had come to see. I had his signature tucked away in my notebook, but I had no difficulty identifying the gipsy. Gone now was the arrogance, the defiance of authority, the little man with the big gun threatening old and defenceless people. What I now saw was a pathetic human being, who knew that he had but moments to live. […]
My reverie was shattered by the sudden appearance of Albert Pierrepoint, the official executioner. He greeted me with a smile and a request, and bearing in mind that everybody around us was speaking in German or Polish, it was very welcome to hear a warm, homely Yorkshire accent.
"If you recognise him, nod your head when I bring him out", he instructed me. Then he reassured me that everything would be alright. The second or two that he spent in trying to put me at ease was very much appreciated. He was certainly a dedicated professional and carried out his duties efficiently and with dignity.
Leaving me with the request to nod my head in recognition, he walked towards the cell where my man was held captive. Then he and his assistant, who had been standing nearby, entered the cell. With quiet efficiency they prepared the man for the scaffold by securing his arms behind his back with a short leather strap. There was no resistance. The pitiful creature was in fact so helpless that the two officials had to half carry him to the execution chamber, which was approached by a door at the far end of the cell area.
Having nodded to Pierrepoint, I fell in behind the gruesome procession. The stillness and mystery of the execution chamber came as a blessed relief as the moans, the crying and chanting faded away behind us. It was a very plain room. The only furniture was a small table and two chairs being used by two men in civilian clothes. Without waiting for for an invitation, I stood behind these two officials, who acknowledged my presence by nodding, then carried on with their paperwork.
We were at one end of the room and ahead of us was the area where the drama was to take place. My eyes raced everywhere, trying to see everything at once. I was astounded to see three ropes dangling from a huge beam across the ceiling. There was no mistaking their sinister purpose, for the nooses at the ends were all too obvious.
The executioner and his colleague, still supporting their very frightened captive, paused near the first rope. A large white hood was quickly produced and placed over the man's head, followed by the noose around the neck. The legs were secured with a strap and the whole operation was over in seconds. Then the executioner and assistant left their moaning prisoner, trussed and helpless, to go away, only to return a few moments later with another condemned man. He was dealt with as speedily as the first one.
The two hangmen moved away and I saw Pierrepoint go to a lever in the side wall and depress it. There was an awesome click as it operated. The trap-doors on which the trussed men had been standing fell away beneath them and they both dropped to the full extremity of the rope into merciful oblivion.
I had been standing so close that it was impossible not to avoid glancing into the room below. I edged cautiously forward and saw the two men hanging at the end of their ropes. A doctor was already examining the bodies and pronounced life extinct. Two coffins were placed nearby and some military policemen and prison officials were setting about the grim task of burial.
My signature was required on the appropriate forms. Then I was free to go. And as Albert Pierrepoint was preparing for the next two executions, I managed to catch his eye and wave a farewell. I did not want to stay in that place one second longer than necessary. […]
Edward Kubik was condemned to death on 16 June, 1947 by the High Court at Osnabrück for illegal use of firearms and ammunition. He had murdered an unnamed man whose belongings were found in Kubik's possession. Kubik was hanged on 5 September, 1947, at 10.08, beside Karl Paul Schwanz (see chapter 6, “Tilburg Lynching” case).
Manojlo Nikolic, Miloslaw Pavkovic, Mihaylo Kordic, and Pasaka Mehmedovic were four young Yugoslavian men. They were sentenced to death for murder by the High Court in Cologne. They had broken into a house and beaten up one of the residents, afterwards throwing him in the Rhine, where he drowned.
Kordic was also sentenced for an additional count of murder which had not been committed by him, but he had been taking part in a hold-up in which three others were armed, and one victim was shot dead. It was the Common Design (Doctrine of Common Purpose) that earned him the death sentence in this case. All four were hanged on 30 January, 1948, together with another Yugoslavian man, Stojadin Mitrasinovic. Mitrasinovic had been sentenced to death by the High Court at Braunschweig on 25 November, 1947 for the illegal use of a firearm. In fact he had shot dead his fiancée whose 12 year old son was an eyewitness to the crime and testified in court.
Polish born 22 year old Jerzy Andziak became the last person to be hanged at Hameln, when he was executed by Albert Pierrepoint on 6 December, 1949. On 26 July, 1948, he and several accomplices went on an expedition to burgle several farms. The gang were spotted and challenged by German policeman Bruno W. in Bockholt (today part of Soltendieck, Uelzen county). Andziak pulled a gun and threatened the policeman. As Bruno W. tried to disarm Andziak, he shot the policeman dead. On 23 July, 1949 the High Court at Braunschweig sentenced him to death.
Two months before the execution, on 23 May 1949, the Basic Law had come into force in the Federal Republic of Germany. The Basic Law abolished the death penalty, but it could not save Andziak. As a DP, he was outside of German criminal jurisdiction and had to answer to the Occupying Power. He was tried, convicted and condemned by a British Control Commission court.