The trials of the staff of the satellite camps resulted in 14 death sentences of which eleven were carried out.
Hannover-Ahlem satellite camp trial
The trial started at Hamburg on 16 April, 1947. The defendants were charged with
being concerned in the ill-treatment of Allied National internees of the Concentration Camp at Hannover Ahlem, between November 1944 and April 1945.
The sentences were as follows:
SS-Rottenführer (Cpl) Wilhelm Dammann: death – hanged 15 September, 1947.
SS guard Stefan Streit: death – hanged 15 September, 1947.
Otto Harder: 15 years, later reduced to 10 years, released in 1951.
SS-Oberscharführer (T/Sgt) Hans Hermann Ernst Harden (leader of the guard): 1 year.
The trial of the Wilhelmshaven a.k.a. Alter Banter Weg satellite camp staff took place at Hamburg in 1947, with the following outcomes:
Gustav Alfred Jepsen, Danish SS member: death sentence - hanged 26 June, 1947.
Gottfried Drossen, navy shipyard official: 15 years.
Hans Horstmann: 15 years.
SS-Unterscharführer (Sgt) Rudolf Günther, camp commandant: 15 years.
Otto Thümmel, camp commandant: 5 years.
Ernst Hoffmann, head of camp administration: 4 years.
Hinrichs Sührig (kapo), kitchen chief: 18 months.
Three men were tried at Wilhelmshaven between 12-30 September & 1-8 October, 1946. They were in charge of the civilian internment camp Esterwegen. The charge against them was
in that they at Wilhelmshaven between 1941 and 1945, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the ill-treatment and killing of Allied Nationals interned in Germany.
All were convicted and sentenced as follows:
Sebastian Schipper: death – hanged 23 January 1947.
Wilhelm Vohs: 14 years.
Josef Lucas: 1 year.
The sentences of Vohs and Schipper were confirmed by the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C), BAOR on 23 December 1946, who refused to confirm the sentence of Lucas.
This took place at Braunschweig from 2 January, 1947 to 3 February, 1947. The thirteen defendants were charged with
committing a war crime in that they the said Wittig, Ohlen, and Hefter when managers of Steinoel Co. Ltd. and the said Ebsen, Truschel, Jahn, Heitz, Hamm, Grosse, Schieffelbein, Schenawa, Hennings and Spinnrath, when members of the staff at Schandelah, Labour Camp, Schandelah, Germany between 1 May, 1944 and 30 April, 1945 in violation of the laws and usages of war were concerned in the ill-treatment and killing of Allied Nationals interned in the said Labour Camp and working for the said company.
Schandelah was a satellite camp of Neuengamme where the inmates had to extract oil shale for synthetic gasoline production. The SS personnel were subordinate to Hauptscharführer (M/Sgt) Max Kirstein (satellite camp Schillstraße). Kirstein was never tried.
Four men were sentenced to death, they were :
Friedrich Ebsen, SS-Unterscharführer (Sgt) and camp commandant (hanged 2 May, 1947).
Carl Truschel, deputy camp commandant who had killed a Russian inmate (hanged 2 May, 1947).
Johann Heitz, SS dog handler (hanged 2 May, 1947 for shooting three prisoners).
Arthur Große (hanged 2 May, 1947 for beating to death a French inmate).
Solms Wittig (sentenced to death; commuted to 20 years by GOC-in-C and released in May 1955).
Hans Detlev Ohlen (10 years; commuted to 7 years by GOC-in-C and released August 1950)
Herbert Schiefelbein, kapo (2 years).
Erich Arnold Jahn, head of kitchen – not guilty.
Otto Hefter – not guilty.
Paul Schenawa – not tried.
Hans Spinnrath – not tried.
Jakob Hamm – not tried.
Hennings – not tried.
The above sentences were confirmed by GOC-in-C, BAOR, on 17 March 1947.
There were 26 more trials, all connected to Neuengamme. Neuengamme had 85 secondary camps, and the crimes committed in 16 of them were investigated and the alleged perpetrators brought to trial. In August 1948, trials were discontinued (even those which were under investigation) because the time limit for the authorization to hold trials under the Royal Warrant had run out!
This satellite camp existed from February to 6 April, 1945. About 3,000 inmates were employed in the manufacturing of 5-inch Anti-Aircraft guns.
The commandant was SS-Oberscharführer (T/Sgt) Walter Quakernack. He was a member of the “Political Department” (Camp Gestapo) at Auschwitz. He allegedly participated there in the gassing of Soviet POWs and shot inmates himself. He led the Mühlenberg inmates in a death march to Bergen-Belsen on 6-8 April, 1945. He was sentenced to death for his crimes at Auschwitz and Belsen. Quakernack was hanged at Hameln on 11 October, 1946.
At Beendorf there were two satellite camps of Neuengamme and one of Ravensbrück. The inmates worked in subterranean salt mines on armament production for the German Air Force.
The camp commandant, SS-Obersturmführer (1LT) Gerhard Poppenhagen was sentenced on 14 August, 1946 to 15 years imprisonment in a British Military trial at Hamburg (Curiohaus) lasting from 29 July to 13 August,1946. He was released in 1953.
His deputy SS-Unterscharführer (Sgt) Anton Brunken received the death penalty and was hanged on 23 January, 1947. Survivors described him as the actual chief of the camp since Poppenhagen did nothing to prevent his wanton punishments and killings.
From 26 September, 1944 to 29 December, 1944 2,500 inmates from 14 nations were used in forced labour to dig and build anti-tank trenches, dugouts, and command posts as part of the “Friesenwall” (Frisian Wall) project. During these three months, an estimated 300 to 500 inmates died from overwork, malnourishment and ill-treatment.
The camp commandant was SS-Untersturmführer (2LT) Hans Otto Hermann Griem. His career included posts at Neuengamme, Dachau, Hannover-Stöcken, Schwesing, Ladelund and (Meppen-)Dalum. Inmates accused him of embezzlement of food and of shooting indiscriminately into a crowd of inmates when drunk (which he frequently was, they said).
Griem was arrested by the British in 1945 but succeeded in escaping on 3 August, 1946, shortly before his trial was about to start.
This camp was also involved with the erection of defenses as part of the “Frisian Wall” project (see Husum-Schwesing above). Hans Otto Hermann Griem was in charge of this camp as well and his deputy was SS-Unterscharführer (Sgt) Josef Klingler who enjoyed the reputation of a cruel brute. Klingler was sentenced to death by a British Military Court sitting in Hamburg in March 1947, and was hanged on 26 June, 1947 at Hameln.
Situated on the premises of the Hermann-Göring-Works. Built in 1942, the number of inmates rose to 2,700 by mid-1944 and 3,150 in September 1944. The inmates had to produce shells and cartridge cases. 682 died through illness, executions and accidents.
When on 7 April, 1945 the camp was evacuated, the inmates were transported to Celle, together with the women from concentration camp Salzgitter-Bad.
At Celle the train, holding about 4,000 inmates, was attacked on 8 April by American bombers. Since the inmates were not allowed to leave the train, up to 1,000 of them lost their lives. About 1,300 inmates managed to escape. 1,100 of them were recaptured, and at least 170 were killed during the so-called Celle Massacre (also euphemistically called the “Celle hare hunting”) in which SS, police, army, Volkssturm, Hitler Youth and Celle residents participated.
After preliminary proceedings in December 1947, a British Military Court first at Hannover, later at Celle, sat in April and May 1948 to try “crimes against humanity” under Control Commission Order No. 10.
On 14 May, 1948, three defendants were sentenced to death. They were policeman Helmut Ahlborn, civilian and local boxing celebrity Otto Amelung, and a young soldier named Fritz Joost. Four received prison sentences between four and ten years (Alwin Schuchardt and Otto Schwandt 10 years each, Jakob Decker(t) seven and Albert Sievert four years imprisonment), six were acquitted (Heinz Luhmann, Friedrich Lautenbach, Oskar Carlowitz, Karl Schmidt, Heinrich Giesemann and Ernst Fischer). The highest British Court reviewed the cases. It quashed Joost's death sentence because there was no evidence to refute the defence of the accused that he had shot above the heads of fleeing inmates and not at them. The two other death sentences were reduced to 15 years for Ahlborn and 20 years for Amelung, respectively. All of these men were released early, the last in early October 1952. Amelung, in spite of his own confession to have shot dead four inmates, remained a highly respected citizen locally.