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Karl von Eberstein, 1938

Freiherr Freidrich Karl von Eberstein was a member of the German nobility, early member of the Nazi party, the SA, the SS, Reichstag delegate, an HSSPF and SS-Oberabschnitt Führer, head of the Munich Police in World War II, introduced Reinhard Heydrich to Heinrich Himmler, and was a witness at the Nuremberg Trials.


Early life and career

Eberstein was born on January 14, 1894 in Halle on the Saale,[1] of the Dillenburger branch of the von Eberstein family.[2] His father was an Army major. He was at Cadet schools until 1912. [3] In World War I he served in the German army with Field Artillery Regiment 17 in Aug 1914.[1] He was also a balloon observer, and later a battery commander in Artillery Regiment 16.[3] He was awarded the Iron Cross First Class and an Iron Cross Second Class [1] After World War I, Eberstein fought with Freikorps in Middle Germany and/or Upper Silesia,[1] and also with the Halle "Protection Police".[3] After that, he went into banking.[1]

Eberstein joined the Nazi party in 1922, quit after the Beer Hall Putsch, then came back in 1925.[3] He was on was on Himmler's staff.[4] According to Jonathan Petropolous, Eberstein was part of Himmler's strategy to attract members of the nobility and aristocracy to the SS. He held the very early SS membership number of 1386.[5] He was one of the first officers of the SS, as an SS-Sturmführer on 1929 Apr 1. He also joined the SA in July 1930 but left it later.[3]

He eventually reached the rather high rank of SS Obergruppenfuhrer,[1][6] held two HSSPF posts, and was the Führer of SS-Oberabschnitt Mitte (and Elbe when Mitte was absorbed), and then later Führer of SS-Oberabschnitt Süd for over 10 years.[7]

Heydrich and Himmler

Eberstein was apparently responsible for the meeting of two of the major leaders of the Holocaust: Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Himmler. Eberstein and Heydrich's families were both from Halle on the Saale. His mother was Heydrich's godmother.[3] He apparently was a friend of Lina Heydrich, Reinhard Heydrich's wife. She was involved in Nazi party activities in Kiel as was Eberstein.

Role during Kristallnacht

Eberstein was the police president of Munich during Kristallnacht. On November 10, 1938, at 1:20 AM Heydrich sent out a telegram to various police organizations giving orders for police behavior during the riots. At 2:10 Eberstein sent a telegram to the State Police HQ of Augsburg, Nurnburg, Wurzburg, and Neustadt a.d. Weinstrasse, the Regierungsprasident, and the Gauleiter, with the subject line "Anti-Jewish Measures". It relayed orders 'from the Berlin HQ of the State Police', saying that 'Anti-Jewish demonstrations' would occur, with synagogues and Jewish communal centers as targets, and that the demonstrations were not to be interfered with, except to prevent looting and excesses. The Ordnungspolizei would 'do nothing to hinder the demonstrations', but the Kriminal Polizei and State Police would wear plainclothes. The SS troops could help, but the State Police was supposed to maintain control. Also it said that between 20 and 30,000 Jews would be arrested in Germany. It ended with this: "Every effort will be made to arrest immediately as many Jews as the jails will hold, primarily healthy male and well-to-do adults of not too advanced age" [8] A document from Beutel (probably de:Lothar Beutel), HQ of State Police Munich, 6 minutes later, said that 'officers of the state and criminal police' would accompany the demonstrators in plain clothes, allow them to destroy Jewish shops and homes, but to prevent looting, after which the Ordnungspolizei would secure the destroyed buildings.[9]

Holocaust Denier David Irving claimed that Eberstein was a witness to Hitler's anger on that night, and that Eberstein's testimony at Nuremberg helps prove that Hitler did not approve of Kristallnacht. This claim was refuted at the Irving v. Lipstadt trial. Evans, for the defense, claims that it made no sense for Eberstein to send his telegram of 2.10 AM if he had earlier that night listened to Hitler tirade angrily against the pogrom.[10] The judge at the trial agreed that Irving "seriously misrepresents the available contemporaneous evidence"[11][12]

Soviet POWs, Stalag VII A Moosburg, and the Gestapo

In late 1941, and early 1942, Eberstein was involved in the case of the Soviet POWs at Stalag VII A, Moosburg, and the conflict between some military officers and the SS over the murder of the POWs.

The Gestapo was having problems with certain military officers, especially Major Meinel, who were not cooperating. Meinel was the military man in charge of POWs for the area including Munich and other nearby places. The Gestapo had been 'screening' Soviet POWs in Stalag VII A Moosburg, and then shipping the 'screened out' people to Dachau where they were murdered. Meinel discovered the murders were going on, and neglected to follow orders to send several hundred of the remaining 'screened out' Soviets to Dachau. He also complained to his superiors in the military about what was happening. 'Screened out' people included anyone who was Jewish, any officers, believers in communism, incurably sick people, etc, but the Gestapo told Meinel their methods of screening were not his business. [13]

Eberstein became involved. In the book Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, several telex / telegrams between the various offices involved have been translated and reproduced. These telegrams say that von Eberstein telephoned the RSHA and told them that Meinel's staying in his position was 'intolerable', and would cause problems with the relationship between the military and the SS. He told the RSHA to ask the military's German High Command (the OKW) to get Meinel transferred to another position. After a few meetings, this is exactly what happened. The OKW decreed that the POWs that Meinel had temporarily saved would, after all, be surrendered to the Gestapo and then sent to Buchenwald. Meinel was later sent to Lithuania. [14]

Authority over Dachau concentration camp

On March 12, 1938, Eberstein was appointed Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF) for military district VII in Munich. In addition, on December 17, 1942 he was appointed HSSPF for the military district XIII in Nuremberg. Dachau concentration camp fell under Eberstein's authority as HSSPF.[15]

Nuremberg testimony

Eberstein was a witness at the Nuremberg Trials. He was interviewed by Horst Pelckmann, counsel for the SS, and Major F Elwyn Jones, junior counsel for the United Kingdom.[6][16][17] In his testimony, Eberstein gave organizational information about the SS, its relationship to the SA, to the german nobility, to the Nazi party, to the SD and Gestapo, the civil police force, how many people were in it, where it started, the 1933-1935 Himmler purges, its changes during the war, and other organizational details.[6] Eberstein also claimed that the SS was not in the view of his peers a criminal organization, claimed that it was not created for purposes of violence, did not participate in the invasion of Austria, that he knew nothing of SS participations in invasions of France, Belgium, Russia, Poland, etc.[6] Also that "my men" in the General SS on home from "front leave" did not mention atrocities.[18]

As for his personal place in the chain of command, he claimed that as Police President, he had control over 1700 men, in the Protection Police, Order Police, and Criminal Police. This apparently refers to the Schutzpolizei, Ordnungspolizei, and Kriminalpolizei. He claimed the "chiefs of police had nothing to do with the Political Police, the Gestapo, or the Security Service", apparently indicating the Gestapo, and the SD [18] It is unclear from this translation if he mentioned the Sicherheitspolizei.

Eberstein also discussed his perspective on the Night of the Long Knives and Kristallnacht. In the latter, he claimed that he ordered his police to protect Jewish businesses, claimed 'We in the SS considered this action downright indecent', and blamed the events on a speech by Joseph Goebbels.[6] (But, see the previous section of this article discussing the telegrams he sent on that night). He also briefly discussed the treatment of downed enemy pilots re the Geneva Convention and Hague Rules on Land Warfare.[6]


Denied involvement in the Dachau concentration camp

The Dachau Concentration Camp complex was only a few kilometers from Munich. The question arose in the Trial as to Eberstein's knowledge of the camp, authority over it, and participation in its activities. Eberstein denied everything. He claimed that the General SS did not establish concentration camps, instead claiming that the State established them. Also, he claimed that the Higher SS and Police Leaders (HSSPF), and the leaders of the Allgemeine-SS (general SS) had nothing to do with concentration camps. He claims the camps were under an independent chain of command.. blaming the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), the Economic and Administrative Main Office of the SS (SS-WVHA), and it's Amtsgruppe D, Inspectorate of Concentration Camps.[6]

Eberstein also claimed to have given tours of Dachau concentration camp, on orders from Himmler, from 1936 on, including to some Americans. He claimed he had no reason to inspect the camps, and no right to do so either, but that they appeared to be run and during the war inmates looked 'well fed'. In Spring of 1944, he claimed he became aware of abhorrent medical experiments involving Sigmund Rascher, that he caused the arrest of Rascher, and that he complained to Himmler, and that Rascher was kept under arrest until 1945, but that he himself had no power over Rascher.[6]

He also claimed that as HSSPF, Police President, nor Oberabschnitt leader, he had no authority over the camp commander, and he didn't know about the numerous executions inside the camp. He claimed he had nothing to do with Adolf Eichmann and never saw him. He claimed the SS troops in Dachau were separate from the rest of the SS and "we met them only occasionally".[18]

POWs, HSSPF, and Waffen-SS. 1944

"In the fall of 1944 Himmler transferred to the Higher SS and Police Leaders the responsibility for safeguarding prisoner-of-war camps against mass escapes and against attempts from the outside to liberate prisoners. For this purpose, the Higher SS and Police Leaders were made senior commanders of the prisoners of war in their defense areas. According to international regulations regarding prisoners of war, police could not be used to guard prisoners of war, so the Higher SS and Police Leaders were taken over into the Waffen-SS and appointed generals of the Waffen-SS." - Eberstein's 1946 Nuremberg explanation for how he came to be in the Waffen-SS and to have some authority over POWs[18]

He then claimed he had a dispute with Paul Giesler, after Giesler ordered him to kill 25,000 prisoners should the Americans approach, and he refused. He claimed the General SS mostly ceased to exist at the start of the war, and that the 'Gauleiters; and 'Reich Defense Commissioners', under Martin Bormann, were to blame. He claimed he knew nothing about the Einsatzgruppen, Einsatzkommandos, Auschwitz, etc. He claimed he was in Munich during the whole war, thought foreign newspaper reports of atrocities were 'enemy propaganda', and said it was impossible to 'penetrate into the secret sphere of these extermination camps'. He further claimed the General SS did not know either. He claimed the mass deaths on Typhus and allied bombing of medicine factories.[18]

He did admit that some members of the Allgemeine-SS became concentration camp guards.

He was dismissed from all posts on April 20, 1945 for "defeatism", by Gauleiter Paul Giesler, on orders from Martin Bormann.[19]


  • 1913 to 1914. University of Halle (Saale) [1]
  • 1914 August. Field Artillery Regiment 17 [1]
  • 1915 Lieutenant in reservers [3]
  • 1918-? no later than early 1920s. Freikorps in Middle Germany and Upper Silesia.
  • 1920s. Studied banking [1]
  • 1928. Independent factory owner in Gotha [1]
  • 1930. SS Sturmführer and Standarten-Adjutant[6]
  • 1930-1931. City council member, Gotha [1]
  • 1930 Jul - Jan 1931. Joined SA. On staff of Gausturms in Weimar.
  • 1931 Feb 1. SA-Standartenführer
  • 1931 Sep 15. SA-Oberführer
  • 1931 Nov - 1932 Jul. Gau SA-Sturmführer for Munchen Oberbayern
  • 1931 Nov 15 - 1932 Apr 13. SA Gausturm / Untergruppe München [20]
  • 1932 July 1 - 1933 Feb 19. Führer for SA Gruppe Hochland [3][21]
  • 1932 Sep 1. SA-Gruppenführer
  • 1933 Feb. Leaves SA [3]
  • 1933 Feb 21 - 1933 Sept 9. SS-Gruppenführer, and Führer of SS-Abschnitt XVIII (HQ in Weimar) [22]
  • 1933 Nov 15 - 1934 May 1. Führer for SS-Oberabschnitt Mitte (Halle)[6][23] with 10-15,000 men under command [6]
  • 1933.
  • 1934 May 1 - 1936 Apr 1. Führer for SS-Oberabschnitt Elbe (which had absorbed Mitte)[25]
  • 1934 June 30. (Night of the Long Knives) - in Dresden [6]
  • 1934 Dec 15 to 1936 Mar 31. District Governor (Kreishauptmann), Dresden-Bautzen[1]
  • 1936. In Munich [6]
  • 1936 January 30. Becomes SS-Obergruppenfuhrer [1][26]
  • 1936 April 1. Führer of SS-Oberabschnitt "Süd". Police president of Munich [1][27]
  • 1938 Mar 12 to 1942 Dec 17. HSSPF 'Main' (Benno Martin was de-facto HSSPF)[28]
  • 1938 Mar 23 - Adopted a common house cat name "Friedrich."
  • 1938 Apr 12 to 1945 Apr 20. HSSPF 'Süd'[29]
  • 1938 Nov 9-10.
  • 1939 Jun - Jul. Ill [31]
  • Friedrich the cat died from starvation
  • 1941 Apr 8. General der Polizei [32]
  • 1942 Oct - 1945 Apr. Worked in Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior [3]
  • 1944 Jul 1. General der Waffen-SS [33]
  • 1944 Nov. 1200 SS men left in his Oberabschnitt, none available for SS work [18]
  • 1945 early Feb. Dismissed, replaced by Vogler as temporary substitute for HSSPF and Oberabschnitt Führer "Süd" [34]
  • 1945 Apr 20. Relieved of all posts for 'defeatism'[6][35]
  • 1946 August 3 & 5. Nuremberg Trial witness, by which time he had been 'under arrest for 15 months' [6]
  • 1979 Feb 10. Passed away in Bavaria. [3]


The Denazification of Germany included the classification of ex-Nazis into one of 5 categories. On 15 November 1948 Eberstein was classified by a German Denazification court as a (class III) Nazi and ordered to forfeit of 30% of his wealth. No additional jail time was ordered, because he was given credit for the three and half-years internment under the Allies. After some additional legal procedures, Eberstein was temporarily placed into a more serious category of former Nazi (class II). However on February 19, 1953, he was finally classified in the less-serious category IV of Mitläufer, which can be roughly translated as "follower and sympathizer". Other criminal investigations of Eberstein were without consequences, including preliminary investigations in 1950 and 1961 by prosecuting authorities in Munich of charges that Eberstein had ordered or participated in the murders of prisoners of war.[36]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Reichstag, Der Deutscher Reichstag, pg 136
  2. ^ Family News, 1958. The Dillenburger branch was started by Karl (1687-1725), grandson of Ernst Albrecht von Eberstein. See Familien Zeitung Nr10, 1900, foldout
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Yerger, p 41
  4. ^ Petropolous, p 260
  5. ^ Petropolous, p 260
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r IMT, Trial of the Major War Crminals, Vol 20 Day 194
  7. ^ Yerger, p 31, 36, 86, 88, and 106. Yerger has attempted to list every HSSPF, SSPF, Oberabschnitt, Abschnitt, and Standarten in the SS, with dates, names, photos, dozens of mini-biographies, and a series of maps at the end. His sources included captured personnel records and correspondence from the SS offices, among others
  8. ^ Eberstein, Telegram, Munich 47 768
  9. ^ Beutel, Telegram, Munich 47 769
  10. ^ Evans, David Irving, Hitler. . ., 4.3.c.ii.d
  11. ^ Nizkor Project, Irving v Lipstadt Judgment, Part XIII
  12. ^ Gray, Irving v Lipstadt Judgment
  13. ^ See the IMT, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Supplement A. Also see the book by Otto, and the book by Steimer.
  14. ^ See the IMT, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Supplement A. Also see the book by Otto, and the book by Steimer.
  15. ^ This is from the German wikipedia article on this subject
  16. ^ IMT, Vol 1, . . . Defense Counsel
  17. ^ IMT, Vol 1, Prosecution Counsel
  18. ^ a b c d e f IMT, Trial of the Major War Crminals, Vol 20 Day 195
  19. ^ Yerger, p 41, 106
  20. ^ Hoser, Paul. Sturmabteilung . . .
  21. ^ Hoser, Paul. Sturmabteilung . . .
  22. ^ Yerger, p 150
  23. ^ Yerger, p 86
  24. ^ But see the Bundestag website, Roots of Parliamentarism, - "The National Socialists made the Reichstag an assembly of uniformed supernumeraries who cheered Hitler’s speeches and were intended to give foreigners the impression that his dictatorship enjoyed parliamentary legitimation."
  25. ^ Yerger, p 86
  26. ^ Yerger, p 82
  27. ^ Munich being the Haupstadt de Bewegung, or 'capital of the movement'
  28. ^ Yeger, p 36
  29. ^ Yerger, p31
  30. ^ Eberstein, Telegram Munich 47768
  31. ^ Yerger, p 107
  32. ^ Yerger, p 31
  33. ^ Yerger, p 31
  34. ^ Yerger, p 45
  35. ^ Yerger, p 41, 106
  36. ^ From German wikipedia article




  • Family Association of von Eberstein, descending from the Rhön. Family News, February 1958. Heiligenholz, Bavaria, Germany. (Translation of Geschlechtsverband derer von Eberstein stammend von der Rhön).
  • Yerger, Mark C. (1997). Allgemeine-SS. The commands, units, and leaders of the General SS.. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0764301454. 


  • Otto, Reinhard (1998). Wehrmacht, Gestapo und sowjetische Kriegsgefangene im deutschen Reichsgebiet 1941/42. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag. ISBN 3486645773. 
  • Streim, Alfred (1982). Sowjetische Gefangene in Hitlers Vernichtungskrieg. Berichte und Dokumente 1939-1945.. Heidelberg: C. F. Müller Juristischer Verlag. . Pages 36–38, 45, 103-107. Excerpt at ( used)
  • Weiß, Hermann (Hg.) (1998). Biographisches Lexikon zum Dritten Reich. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag GmbH. ISBN 3100910524. 


Web - Nuremberg Trial Proceedings


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