Richard Baer

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SS-Obersturmführer Richard Baer

Richard Baer (b. 9 September 1911 in Floß, Oberpfalz; d. 17 June 1963 in Frankfurt am Main) was a German officer of the SS, at last SS-Obersturmbannführer (1944), and the last surviving commandant of the Auschwitz camp. He was arrested in 1960. Baer was to be the main defendant at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, but allegedly committed suicide in 1963.


SS-Sturmbannführer Richard Baer (left) and his adjutant SS-Obersturmführer Karl Höcker
New commander of Auschwitz I Richard Baer, Auschwitz chief medical officer Josef Mengele and outgoing commander Rudolf Höß (right), end of Nov 1944
Oswald Pohl pays an official visit to Auschwitz in 1944 accompanied by Commandant Richard Baer, who had previously served as his adjutant.

After school, Baer completed his three-year apprenticeship as a Confectioner. 1930 he joined the NSDAP (Mitgliedsnummer 454,991), 1933 he became a member of the SS (Mitgliedsnr. 44,225). As part of the SS-Totenkopfverbände he served at the Dachau camp, Oranienburg camp and at the end of 1934 in the Columbia-Haus in Berlin. 1938 he was transfered to the Buchenwald camp.


In 1940, Baer was transferred to the Neuengamme camp. After 1941, he was with the occupation troops in France until Summer 1942 when he returned to Neuengamme. From November 1942 until May 1944 he was adjutant to Oswald Pohl (SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt). In December 1944 he became the brief successor of Rudolf Höß as the last Kommandant of the Auschwitz camp. At the end of the war he was briefly Lagerkommandant in Mittelbau-Dora.

After the war he lived in Dassendorf near Hamburg under the name "Karl Egon Neumann".

Capture and death

"Particularly noteworthy is the fate of the most prominent of the defendants, Richard Baer, the last commandant of Auschwitz. He did not live to see the beginning of the trial. In December of 1960, Baer was arrested in the vicinity of Hamburg, where he was employed as a lumberjack. He died in June of 1963 under mysterious circumstance while being held in pre-trial custody, According to various sources, which, in turn, rely on reports that appeared in the French press, Baer adamantly refused to confirm the existence of "gas chambers" at the camp he once administered. Although it has been alleged that he was eliminated by poisoning on account of this refusal, the cause of his death has never been established. His wife claimed that he was in excellent health. While Langbein merely states that an autopsy revealed that he died of "natural causes," Naumann specifies a "circulatory ailment" as the cause of death. Of course a circulatory ailment is only a symptom of pre-existing disease that has causes of its own. It is quite possible, however, that the physical condition of this strong and healthy outdoor laborer deteriorated as a result of his treatment in prison. That would be damning enough to those suspicious of the whole affair when one reads the report on the autopsy performed at the Frankfurt-Main University School of Medicine: "The ingestion of an odorless, non-corrosive poison...cannot be ruled out." Nevertheless, there was no further probe into the cause of Baer's death, and chief Public Prosecutor Bauer (Jewish - JB) ordered his body cremated. [...]
One may dismiss the possibility that Baer committed suicide, since, according to his wife, he was counting on an acquittal. Moreover, shortly before his death Baer complained to the guards that he was feeling ill and asked for a physician. That is hardly the action of someone who intends to take his own life. This myterious event hardly attracted public attention, and presumably the affair was systematically hushed up. When one considers the reaction the death of an inmate in a German prison usually calls forth among officials, legislators, and the mass media, it seems astounding that this case was kept so quiet, all the more so because Baer was no ordinary prisoner, but a man whose testimony could have had the greatest impact in the upcoming trial. The suspicion that interested parties had Baer removed by means of poison-as has often been claimed-cannot be dismissed. The motives for such an action are obvious. If anyone at all knew the truth about the "gas chamber" allegation, it was Baer, the last commandant of Auschwitz. That he refused to give his authoritative confirmation to the "gas chamber" story is shown by the fact that the statements he made during his interrogation were not read into the trial record. They must have been of no value to the prosecution. What the main defendant had to say about the central accusation regarding Auschwitz was anything but a matter of indifference to the initiators of the trial. Had Baer resolutely contested this allegation and been able to show its absurdity, he would not only have made it difficult for them to attain their primary objective--to reinforce the "gas chamber" myth and establish it as an unassailable "historical fact"--but he might also have caused the proceedings to take an entirely different course. By his steadfastness, Baer would have set an example for the co-defendants to follow, and perhaps even influenced some of the other participants in the trial. Hence, one should give some credence to the charge that Baer's refusal to play the role assigned him in the script is the reason the trial could not begin until after his death....The fact is that the Auschwitz Trial did begin almost immediately after Baer's death. Laternser is of the opinion that there was too much haste involved. However, the preliminary investigations were completed on October 19, 1962, as Langbein informs us, so nothing much really could have stood in the way of the start of the trial--except, of course, Baer's "stubbornness.""[1]

Awards and decorations

See also

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