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Erich Bauer
March 26, 1900(1900-03-26) – February 4, 1980 (aged 79)
Erich bauer sobibor.jpg

Erich Bauer in Wehrmacht uniform
Nickname Gasmeister (Gas Master)
Place of birth Berlin, German Empire
Place of death West Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Rank Oberscharführer, SS
Commands held Sobibor Camp III
Other work Tram conductor, laborer

Erich Bauer, sometimes referred to as "Gasmeister", was a SS-Oberscharführer (Sergeant First Class). During World War II, he participated in the extermination of Jews and Gypsies at Sobibor extermination camp during the Nazi operation known as Aktion Reinhard.

Contents

Biography

In 1933, Erich Bauer joined the NSDAP and SA while working as a tram conductor.[1]

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World War II

In 1940 he joined the T-4 Euthanasia Program where the physically and mentally disabled were exterminated by gassing and lethal injection. In the beginning, he worked as a driver but he was quickly promoted. Erich Bauer described in testimony one of his first mass murders: "A pipe connected the exhaust of a car to a bricked-up laboratory in the asylum. A few patients were shut into the room and I turned on the car engine. This killed the patients in eight minutes."[2]

In early 1942, Bauer was transferred to Odilo Globocnik, the SS and Police Leader of Lublin in Poland. Bauer was given an SS uniform and promoted to the rank of Oberscharfuhrer (Staff Sergeant). In April 1942, he was dispatched to the Sobibor death camp where he remained until the camp's liquidation in December 1943.[3]

At Sobibor, Erich Bauer was in charge of the camp's gas chambers. At the time the Jews called him the Badmeister ("Bath Master"),[4] while after the war he became known as the Gasmeister ("Gas Master")[5] He was described as a short, stocky man, a known drinker who regularly overindulged. He kept a private bar in his room. While other SS guards were neatly dressed, Bauer was different: he was always filthy and unkempt, with a stench of alcohol and chlorine emanating from him. In his room, he had a picture on the wall of himself and a picture of all of his family with the Führer.[6]

Apart from beatings, whipping and randomly shooting prisoners, Bauer enjoyed setting Sobibor's attack dogs on Jewish prisoners. Among these dogs was a huge mixed breed similar to a St. Bernard by the name of Barry. Barry was trained to attack prisoners on a variety of different commands. Bauer's favorite command was Mensch, fass den Hund!, translated to "Man, grab that dog!". The pun here was the reversal of the words 'man' and 'dog', the former referring to Barry and the latter to the dog's victim. Upon the command, Barry would attack the chosen Jewish prisoner.[7]

On October 14, 1943, the day of the uprising, Bauer unexpectedly drove out to Chełm for supplies. The uprising was almost postponed since Bauer was at the top of the 'death list' of SS guards to be assassinated prior to the escape that was created by the leader of the revolt, Alexander Pechersky. The revolt had to start early because Bauer had returned earlier from Chełm than expected. He discovered that SS-Scharführer Kurt Beckman was dead and started shooting at the two Jewish prisoners unloading his truck. The sound of the gunfire prompted Pechersky to begin the revolt early.[8]

After the war

At the end of the war, Bauer had been arrested in Austria by the Americans and was confined to a POW camp until 1946. Shortly afterwards he returned to Berlin where he found employment as a laborer.

Erich Bauer was arrested in 1949 when two former Jewish prisoners from Sobibor, Samuel Lerer and Esther Raab, recognized him during a chance encounter at a Kreuzberg fair ground. When Ester Raab confronted Erich Bauer at the fair, he reportedly said "how is it that you are still alive?"[9] He was shortly arrested and his trial started the following year.

During the course of his trial, Bauer maintained that at Sobibor he only worked as a truck driver, collecting the necessary supplies for the camp's inmates and the German and Ukrainian guards. He admitted being aware of the mass murders at Sobibor, but claimed to have never taken any part in them, nor engaged in any acts of cruelty. His primary witnesses, former Sobibor guards SS-Oberscharführer Hubert Gomerski and Untersturmfuhrer Johann Klier testified on his behalf.

The court, however, convicted Erich Bauer based on the testimony of four Jewish witnesses who managed to escape from Sobibor. They identified Bauer as the former Sobibor Gasmeister, who not only operated the gas chambers in the camp but also engaged in mass executions by shooting as well as in a variety of particularly vicious and random acts of cruelty against camp inmates and victims on their way to the gas chambers.[10]

On May 8, 1950 the court sentenced Erich Bauer to death for crimes against humanity. Since capital punishment was abolished in West Germany, Bauer's sentence was automatically commuted to life imprisonment. He served 21 years in Alt-Moabit Prison in Berlin. During his imprisonment, he admitting to his participation in mass murder at Sobibor and even occasionally testified against his former SS colleagues.

On December 22, 1971 at the age of 71, Bauer was pardoned and set free. He died on February 4, 1980.[11]

Quotes

  • I cannot exclude any member of the Sobibor camp staff of taking part in the extermination operation. We were a 'blood brotherhood gang' in a foreign land.[12]
  • I estimate that the number of Jews gassed at Sobibor was about 350,000. In the canteen at Sobibor I once overheard Karl Frenzel, Franz Stangl and Gustav Wagner. They were discussing the number of victims in the extermination camps of Belzec, Treblinka and Sobibor and expressed their regret that Sobibor 'came last' in the competition.[13]

References

  1. ^ Dick de Mildt. In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide. Brill. 1996. p. 381
  2. ^ Burleigh, Michael. Death and deliverance. Pan Books. 2002. p 188.
  3. ^ Dick de Mildt. In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide. Brill. 1996. p. 382
  4. ^ Nikzor Web Site Sobibor Archive Retrieved on 2009-04-09
  5. ^ Dick de Mildt. In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide. Brill. 1996. p. 382
  6. ^ Testimony of Eda Lichtman. Retrieved on 2009-04-09
  7. ^ Dick de Mildt. In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide. Brill. 1996. p. 382
  8. ^ Blatt, Thomas Toivi. From the Ashes of Sobibor. Northwestern University Press. 1997. p. 128.
  9. ^ Dick de Mildt. In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide. Brill. 1996. p. 382
  10. ^ Dick de Mildt. In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide. Brill. 1996. p. 383
  11. ^ Dick de Mildt. In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide. Brill. 1996. p. 383
  12. ^ Burleigh, Michael. Death and deliverance. Pan Books. 2002. p 188.
  13. ^ Klee, Dressen, Riess. William S. Konecky Associates. 1996. pg. 232

Wikispecies

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Erich Bauer

Entomologist,


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