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Josef Blösche
12 February 1912(1912-02-12) — 29 July 1969 (aged 57)
Josef Blösche.jpg
Place of birth Friedland, Austria–Hungary
Place of death Leipzig, East Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Years of service 1938–1945
Rank Rottenführer
Unit SDInsig.gif Sicherheitsdienst
Battles/wars World War II
Awards War Merit Cross with Swords

Josef Blösche (February 12, 1912 – July 29, 1969) was a member of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party) in Germany, and served in the SS & SD during World War II as a Rottenführer.

He became known to the world as a symbol of Nazi cruelty in the Warsaw ghetto, through a famous photograph taken during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, showing a surrendering little boy in the foreground, and Blösche as the SS soldier facing the boy, MP18 sub-machine gun in hand.


World War II

Josef Blösche at right, with SS and Police Leader Jürgen Stroop at center watching housing blocks burn during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Blösche spent his early life working as a farmhand and a waiter at his father's hotel, and joined the Nazi Party and the SS in 1938 after Adolf Hitler annexed the Sudetenland. After starting to serve the SS in Warsaw with minor jobs from March 1940 onwards, he joined the Security Service Sicherheitsdienst (SD) division of the SS, serving in their Warsaw ghetto outpost in summer 1942, when the big deportation into the extermination camp of Treblinka began.

Blösche received the Nazi War Merit Cross with swords for his actions during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

In May 1945, he became a prisoner of war of the Soviet Union, and was sent to the Soviet Union for forced labour shortly thereafter. In early 1946, he was returned to East Germany, still as a prisoner of war. In August 1946 he suffered a major accident at work, leaving his face severely deformed. In 1947 his labour camp was dissolved, Blösche was released, and he returned to where his parents lived. His facial injuries protected him from discovery as the SS soldier displayed in the photos.

He began a normal life, was married, and had two children.

War crimes trial

In 1961, a former SS comrade, who was on trial for war crimes in Hamburg, linked Blösche to the atrocities he had committed in Warsaw. Further investigation led to a series of findings resulting in his identification and discovery in January 1967.

Blösche was put on trial in Erfurt in April 1969. He was found guilty of

  • having been involved in the deportation of 300,000 Jews
  • murdering of an undeterminable number of persons (possibly 2000) including infants, pregnant women, handicapped persons, and old persons.

He was sentenced to death, and executed by a shot through the neck in Leipzig on July 29, 1969.

The Pianist

Blösche was portrayed in The Pianist (2002 film) during a scene when a group of murderous Einsatzgruppen storm into an apartment. He orders a crippled Jewish man on the top floor to stand up as a sign of respect, and when the man obviously cannot do what he is told, orders his fellow SS members to throw him off the balcony, which they oblige to doing. The rest of the man's family are then taken out into the streets by the SS, and shot down for their amusement. Blösche himself kills the only member who attempts to run the other way as the rest are being shot. The SS then drive away, running over the bodies in the process, including at least one family member still alive.


  • German TV Documentary (2003) and accompanying book "Der SS-Mann Josef Blösche - Leben und Sterben eines Mörders" (The SS figure Josef Blösche - A Murderer's Life and Death) by Heribert Schwan.
  • Richard Raskin. A Child at Gunpoint. A Case Study in the Life of a Photo. Aarhus University Press, 2004. ISBN 87-7934-099-7

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