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SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch

SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Karl Fritzsch (July 10, 1903 - May 2, 1945), German concentration camp officer and deputy. SS#7287; NSDAP#261135

Karl Fritzsch was born the son of a stove builder in Bohemia, and since the family had to move very often in search of work, he never received a normal school education. For some years Fritzsch worked on ships plying the Danube. His marriage in 1928 to Franzishe Stich produced three children, but ended in divorce in 1942.

In 1930 he joined the Nazi Party and the SS. He wanted to make a career in the SS and served at the Dachau concentration camp in 1934.

In May 1940 he became the first Schutzhaftlagerführer (Deputy Commander) to Rudolf Höss at Auschwitz. Here, he very quickly obtained a reputation as the camp horror. Together with Höss, he was responsible for the selection of prisoners to die of hunger as a punishment for the escape of a fellow prisoner. The condemned prisoners were locked in a cell in the basement of the Bunker (the camp prison in Block 11 or 13) until they died of starvation.

On 29 July 1941, Fritzsch chose 10 prisoners for the hunger cells as a reprisal for an escape. He reprieved one of the condemned because a fellow prisoner offered to take his place. This volunteer was the Franciscan priest Maximilian Kolbe, who thus surrendered his own life in order to save another. Franciszek Gajowniczek lived a little over 53 years after having his life spared by Maximilian Kolbe. Gajowniczek lived to see his wife, Helena. Maximillian Kolbe`s life was strongly influenced by a childhood vision of Virgin Mary symbolically offering him the fate of a martyr.

Fritzsch was also fond of psychological torture. Former Auschwitz prisoner Karol Świętorzecki recalled the first Christmas Eve behind the camp barbed wire, on December 24, 1940, was also one of the most tragic. "The Nazis set up a Christmas tree, with electric lights, on the roll-call square. Beneath it, they placed the bodies of prisoners who had died while working or frozen to death at roll call. Lagerführer Karl Fritzsch referred to the corpses beneath the tree as “a present” for the living, and forbade the singing of Polish Christmas carols." According to Höss, it was also Fritzsch who first arrived at the idea of using Zyklon B gas for the purpose of mass murder. While Höss was away on an official journey in late August 1941, Fritzsch tried out the effect of Zyklon B on Soviet POWs, who were locked up in cells in the basement of the Bunker for this experiment. In the following days Fritzsch repeated the tests with the gas on further victims in the presence of Höss. Thus the future method for the mass murders in Auschwitz was devised.

On 15 January 1942, Fritzsch was transferred to KZ Flossenbürg as Schutzhaftlagerführer. From early August until October 1942 he was temporary substitute commander of the camp. In October 1943, he was arrested as a part of an internal SS investigation into corruption. An SS court charged him with murder. As a punishment he was transferred to front line duty (SS-Panzergrenadier-Ersatzbatallion 18). It is commonly stated that he perished in the Battle for Berlin but his final fate remains unknown. Soviet sources claim that MI-6 caught him in Norway, after that, his final fate remains unknown.

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