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Wilhelm Koppe (15 June 1896 – 2 July 1975) was a German Nazi commander (Höhere SS und Polizei Führer, HSSP, SS-Obergruppenführer) who was responsible for numerous atrocities against Poles and Jews in Reichsgau Wartheland and the General Government during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.



SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Koppe salutes SS and German police troops.

Born in Hildesheim, he fought in the First World War. During the interwar period, he pursued a career in trade and wholesale. He joined the Nazi Party in 1930, the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1931, and the Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1932. Prior to World War II, he was a regional SS and SD commander in Münster, the Free City of Danzig, Dresden and Leipzig. The German invasion of Poland took place in September 1939, and in October he became the Höhere SS und Polizei Führer in Reichsgau Wartheland, under the command of Arthur Greiser, Gauleiter. However, because of the confusing power struggle inside the Nazi organisation where Hitler divided and ruled via his changing favourites, he had the same power and responsibilities as Greiser. He had a very good relationship with Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler.

The newly appointed police commander was an active participant in the implementation of Nazi racial ideals, and in November 1939 he declared that he would make Poznań (Posen) 'free from Jews' (judenrein), after which he ordered numerous executions and deportations of Poles and Polish Jews. He also participated in the Nazi's euthanasia program as the overall commander of 'Special Detachment (Sonderkommando) Lange', an SS squad which gassed 1558 patients from mental asylums at the Soldau concentration camp in the nearby Gau of East Prussia during May and June 1940.[1] [2] On 30 January 1942 he was promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer, and in October 1943 he replaced Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger as Höhere SS und Polizei Führer in the General Government with headquarters in Kraków. He also held the position of state secretary on the issues of security (Staatssekretär für das Sicherheitswesen) in the General Government, and was involved in the operations of Chelmno extermination camp and Warsaw concentration camp as well as operations against the Polish resistance. He organized the execution of more than 30,000 Polish patients suffering from tuberculosis, and ordered that all male relatives of identified resistance fighters should be executed, and the rest of their family sent to concentration camps.

The Polish Secret State ordered his death, but an assassination attempt in July 1944 in Kraków failed.

With the Eastern Front approaching Poland, Koppe ordered all prisoners to be executed rather than freed by the Soviets.

In 1945 Koppe went underground and assumed an alias (Lohmann, his wife's surname) and became a director of a chocolate factory in Bonn, Germany[3]. In 1960 he was arrested but released on bail on 19 April 1962. His trial opened in 1964 in Bonn. He was accused of being accessory to the mass murder of 145,000 people. The trial was adjourned due to Koppe's ill health and in 1966 the Bonn court decided not to prosecute and Koppe was released for medical reasons.[1] [4] The German government refused a Polish request for extradition. Koppe died in 1975 in Bonn.

See also


  1. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis, p. 261
  2. ^ Dick de Mildt, In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide..., p. 229
  3. ^ Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, p. 15
  4. ^ Dick de Mildt, In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide..., p. 381


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