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Kurt Bolender
May 21, 1912(1912-05-21) – October 10, 1966 (aged 54)
Bolender kurt ss.gif

Kurt Bolender in SS uniform
Place of birth Duisburg, German Empire
Place of death Hagen, West Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Rank Oberscharführer, SS
Commands held Sobibor Camp III
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Iron Cross 2nd Class
Other work Doorman at Nightclub

Kurt Bolender, was a Nazi and SS-Oberscharführer (equivalent to Senior Squad Leader). During the Second World War, he participated in the extermination of Jews and Gypsies (Romani) at the Sobibor death camp during the Nazi operation known as Operation Reinhard. He was recognized in 1961 while working under a false identity as a doorman at a nightclub in Germany. He was accused in 1965 of personally murdering 360 Jewish inmates and assisting in the murder of 86,000 more at Sobibor. He committed suicide in prison two months prior to the end of the trial.


Early life

He stayed in school until the age of 16 when he became a blacksmith apprentice.[1]


He joined the NSDAP in the 1930s and in 1939 joined the SS Totenkopf "Death's Head" unit, attached to the T-4 Euthanasia Program. He worked at Schloss Hartheim, Hadamar, Brandenburg and Sonnenstein Castle killing centers where the physically and mentally disabled were exterminated by gassing and lethal injection.[2] During this period he worked with Franz Stangl and Christian Wirth. In 1941/42 he was attached to an ambulance unit on the Eastern Front in Russia along with his other euthanasia co-workers.[3]


In April 1942, SS-Obersturmführer Franz Stangl was appointed commander of Sobibor. Stangl appointed SS-Oberscharführer Kurt Bolender as his deputy due to their prior work relationship and his extensive experience in the euthanasia program. Kurt Bolender served as commander of Sobibor Camp III (gas chambers/crematoriums) from April until Autumn of 1942.[4]

Camp III Commander

Kurt Bolender actively participated in operating the gas chamber at Sobibor. SS Scharfuhrer Erich Fuchs, who served with Bolender testified about him in 1966:

"About thirty to forty women were gassed in one gas chamber. The Jewish women were forced to undress in an open place close to the gas chamber, and were driven into the gas chamber by SS members and the Ukrainian auxiliaries. When the women were shut up in the gas chamber I and Bolender set the motor in motion. About ten minutes later the thirty to forty women were dead."[5]

SS Scharfuhrer Erich Bauer, who served with Bolender at Sobibor testified about him in 1966:

"Bolender was in charge of Camp III. In Sobibor there was a working Jew whom Bolender ordered to box with another working Jew, and for his pleasure they hit each other almost until death. Bolender had a big dog, and when he was in charge of the platform workers, he set the dog at the Jews who did not work quickly enough."

In 1965, Eda Lichtman, a Sobibor survivor, described Kurt Bolender and his dog:

"Paul Groth and Kurt Bolender would take Barry (the dog) with them. The dog would walk quietly by their side, but when his master turned to one of the people and asked, “So you don’t want to work?” Barry would launch himself at the person, biting the flesh, tearing at it and pulling off chunks of it."[6]

Commander of Sobibor's Ukrainian Guards

In the Autumn of 1942, Kurt Bolender became the commander of all the Ukrainian death camp guards at Sobibor.[7]

Moshe Bahir, a Sobibor survivor, writes about Kurt Bolender:

"It is hard to forget Oberscharfuhrer Kurt Bolender, with his athletic body and long hair, who used to go walking half naked, clad only in training breeches, carrying a long whip with which he brutally lashed the camp prisoners whom he came upon on his way.
On his way to lunch he was in the habit of passing the main gate and swinging a whip with all his strength upon the heads of the Jews who went through. Once, when I was still working in the platform commando, the group was accused of carelessness when we had left a window open on one of the train cars. Each one of us was punished with 100 lashes. Bolender was very active in this task."

Moshe Bahir continues:

"More than once I saw him throwing babies, children, and the sick straight from the freight cars into the trolley with the load that went to the Lazarett (execution pits disguised as a field hospital)."[8]

After Sobibor

On October 14, 1943, there was a successful uprising and escape of Jewish prisoners at Sobibor. The destruction of Sobibor caused Operation Reinhard to come to an end. Bolender was transferred for a short time to the SS labor camp at Dorohucza and subsequently to Trieste, Italy. In January, 1945 Bolender was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class. As the war came to a close, Bolender returned to Germany.


After World War II

After World War II, Kurt Bolender assumed a fake identity, did not contact his family or his relatives, and after some time, had himself declared 'deceased.' He was recognized in 1961 working as a doorman at a nightclub in Germany and was immediately arrested. He was arrested under an assumed name 'Brenner' which from German translates to 'person who burns things' or 'burner'. At his residence police found a whip with the silver initials 'KB' inscribed on it that was created at Sobibor by Stanisław Szmajzner, a Jewish prisoner who survived.[9]

In 1965, Kurt Bolender along with eleven former SS guards from Sobibor was tried in Hagen, West Germany. At the trial Bolender initially claimed that he had never been in Sobibor, but instead fought against partisans around Lublin, Poland. However, he broke down under cross-examination and confessed to being present at Sobibor.[10]

Prior to the completion of the trial, Kurt Bolender committed suicide by hanging himself in his prison cell. In his suicide note, he insisted that he was innocent.[11]


  1. ^ Yitzhak Arad: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka – The Operation Reinhardt Camps. Indiana University Press, Indiana, 1987, ISBN 0-253-21305-3.
  2. ^ Ernst Klee: Euthanasie im NS-Staat. 11. Auflage. Fischer-Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-596-24326-2.
  3. ^ Yitzhak Arad: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka – The Operation Reinhardt Camps. Indiana University Press, Indiana, 1987, ISBN 0-253-21305-3. (pg. 193)
  4. ^ Yitzhak Arad: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka – The Operation Reinhardt Camps. Indiana University Press, Indiana, 1987, ISBN 0-253-21305-3. (pg. 33)
  5. ^ Trial testimony of SS Scharfuhrer Erich Fuchs Retrieved on 2009-04-09
  6. ^ Eda Lichtman - Sobibór – Camp of Death and Revolt, Tel Aviv 1979 Retrieved on 2009-04-09
  7. ^ Nizkor Web Site Retrieved on 2009-04-09
  8. ^ Yitzhak Arad: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka – The Operation Reinhardt Camps. Indiana University Press, Indiana, 1987, ISBN 0-253-21305-3. (pg. 193)
  9. ^ Biography of Kurt Bolender in ItalianRetrieved on 2009-04-09
  10. ^ 'Publication of the Museum of the Combatant and Partisans.' Tel Aviv 1973, p. 39. Quoted in Arad, aa, p. 193.
  11. ^ Time Magazine Obituary Retrieved on 2009-04-09


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