Josef Kramer

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Josef Kramer

Josef Kramer (10 November 1906 – 13 December 1945) was a sub-commandant of the Auschwitz camp and a commandant of the Natzweiler-Struthof camp and the Bergen-Belsen camp. After the war, he was the main defendant at the first Belsen trial in 1945. The first Belsen trial is notable for having mostly occurred before the more well-known Nuremberg trials and with the sentencing occurring before the first sentencing during the Nuremberg trials. Kramer was executed in 1945.

Two different statements

The revisionist Arthur R. Butz stated in the book The Hoax of the Twentieth Century that "We are fortunate in having the lengthy first statement that Kramer made in reply to British interrogation. The importance of this statement lies in the fact that it was made before any general realization developed among Germans that the Allied courts were completely serious, and immovable, on the question of the reality of the exterminations (it might have been made within about a month after the capture of Belsen, but this is not certain). There is little courtroom logic playing a role in Kramer’s first statement, and for this reason it is reproduced here in Appendix D. Kramer’s story was completely in accord with what we have presented here, i.e., there were crematories in all of the concentration camps, some had rather high death rates, especially Auschwitz, which required relatively extensive cremation facilities, because it was also a huge camp. His statement is quite frank regarding the more unhappy features of the camps, and is as accurate a description of the camps as we are likely to get. In regard to atrocities, he firmly asserted:

“I have heard of the allegations of former prisoners in Auschwitz referring to a gas chamber there, the mass executions and whippings, the cruelty of the guards employed, and that all this took place either in my presence or with my knowledge. All I can say to all this is that it is untrue from beginning to end.”

Kramer later retreated from this firm stand and made a second statement [...] The absurdity of this explanation, that in the early stages of his interrogations, Kramer was attempting to maintain the secrecy of things that his interrogators were repeating to him endlessly and which by then filled the Allied press, did not deter Kramer and his lawyer from offering it in court. The logic of Kramer’s defense was at base identical to that of Morgen’s testimony. Kramer was in the position of attempting to present some story absolving himself from implication in mass murder at Birkenau. The truth that Birkenau was not an extermination camp had no chance of being accepted by the court. That was a political impossibility. To have taken the truth as his position would have been heroic for Kramer but also suicidal, because it would have amounted to making no defense at all in connection with his role at the Birkenau camp. Even if he had felt personally heroic, there were powerful arguments against such heroism. His family, like all German families of the time, was desperate and needed him. If, despite all this, he persisted in his heroism, his lawyer would not have cooperated. No lawyer will consciously choose a suicidal strategy when one having some possibility of success is evident. Kramer’s defense, therefore, was that he had no personal involvement in the exterminations at Birkenau. Höss and the RSHA did it. Remember that these proceedings were organized by lawyers seeking favorable verdicts, not by historians seeking the truth about events.

An incidental matter is the claim that Kramer, as commandant at Natzweiler, had had eighty people gassed there for purposes of medical experiments. These people had supposedly been selected at Auschwitz by unknown criteria and then transported to Natzweiler to be killed, because the bodies were needed fresh in nearby Strassburg. Kramer affirmed this story in his second statement but, because it is (implicitly, but unambiguously) denied in his first statement, I am inclined to believe that it is untrue. However, it is quite possible that some people were executed at Natzweiler when somebody else was commandant, and that the bodies were then used at the anatomical institute in Strassburg (which certainly possessed bodies for its research purposes). In any case, the matter is not relevant to an extermination program."[1]


Germar Rudolf has written that "Josef Kramer, last commandant of Bergen-Belsen camp, as well as other SS men and women, were tortured until they begged to be allowed to die (Belgion 1949, pp. 80f.,90). The British journalist Alan Moorehead reports as follows (Connolly 1953, pp. 105f.): “As we approached the cells of the SS guards, the [British] sergeant’s language become ferocious. ‘We had had an interrogation this morning,’ the captain said. ‘I am afraid they are not a pretty sight.’ […] The sergeant unbolted the first door and […] strode into the cell, jabbing a metal spike in front of him. ‘Get up,’ he shouted. ‘Get up. Get up, you dirty bastards.’ There were half a dozen men lying or half lying on the floor. One or two were able to pull themselves erect at once. The man nearest me, his shirt and face spattered with blood, made two attempts before he got on to his knees and then gradually on to his feet. He stood with his arms stretched out in front of him, trembling violently. ‘Come on. Get up,’ the sergeant shouted [in the next cell]. The man was lying in his blood on the floor, a massive figure with a heavy head and bedraggled beard […] ‘Why don’t you kill me?’ he whispered. ‘Why don’t you kill me? I cannot stand it anymore.’ The same phrases dribbled out of his lips over and over again. ‘He’s been saying that all morning, the dirty bastard,’ the sergeant said.[2]

Kramer on Bergen-Belsen

"The camp was not really inefficient before you [British and American forces] crossed the Rhine. There was running water, regular meals of a kind […]. But then they suddenly began to send me trainloads of new prisoners from all over Germany. It was impossible to cope with them. […] Then as a last straw the Allies bombed the electric plant that pumped our water. Loads of food were unable to reach the camp because of the Allied fighters. Then things really got out of hand. […] I did not even have sufficient staff to bury the dead, let alone segregate the sick. […] I tried to get medicines and food for the prisoners and I failed. I was swamped."[2]

External links

Article archives

In books

Note that besides the external sources listed here, an alleged Holocaust confessor/witness may be extensively discussed in the external sources listed in the articles on the particular Holocaust camps and/or other Holocaust phenomena the individual is associated with.


  1. Arthur R. Butz. The Hoax of the Twentieth Century—The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry. 4th, corrected and expanded edition. Holocaust Handbooks.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Holocaust Handbooks, Volume 15: Germar Rudolf: Lectures on the Holocaust—Controversial Issues Cross Examined 2nd, revised and corrected edition.