Execution of the women SS Guards of Stutthof concentration camp for “sadistic abuse of prisoners” after on trial by the Polish Special Law Court at Danzig. The women did not seem to take the trial seriously until the end; July 4th, 1946
It was one of the few public executions in Poland after the war. This one was witnessed by about 100 000 people. They had been standing on trucks which drove off (which is why they swing a bit). Among the witnesses were former prisoners of Stutthof.
Nazi General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by a firing squad, Italy; ca. 1945.
General Dostler ordered and oversaw the unlawful execution of fifteen captured US Soldiers. The soldiers were sent behind the German lines with orders to demolish a tunnel that was being used by the German army as a supply route to the front lines. They were captured and upon learning of their mission, Dostler ordered their execution without trial. The US soldiers were wearing proper military uniforms and carried no civilian or enemy clothing and were in compliance with Hague Convention to be considered non-combatants after their surrender. Under the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, it was legal to execute “spies and saboteurs” disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms but excluded those who were captured in proper uniforms. Since fifteen U.S. soldiers were properly dressed in U.S. uniforms behind enemy lines and not disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms, they were not to be treated as spies but prisoners of war, which Dostler violated. They shot the Americans and buried them in a ditch by their field headquarters.
The general was convicted and sentenced to death by an American Military Tribunal. The trial found General Dostler guilty of war crimes, rejecting the defense of superior orders. He was sentenced to death and shot by a firing squad on December 1, 1945 in Aversa. The execution was photographed on black and white still and movie cameras.
*You can see this photo being taken at 1:22 here:
Photo of sentencing from the Nuremburg trials. The name of the offender and their punishment next to them, Hess is hidden because Goering was standing up, he received life imprisonment; Oct 1st 1946.
Pretty much all of them served their sentences, and a couple were apparently repentant.
Sentenced to hang:
- Hermann Goering: Committed suicide on the 15/10/46, the day before his execution. (He took a potassium cyanide pill the night before his execution was to take place. He had requested a firing squad like a soldier would receive instead of hanging like a commoner and was denied.)
- Fritz Sauckel: Hanged on the 16/10/46.
- Alfred Jodl: Hanged on the 16/10/46. (One of the three French judges later declared that Jodl should not have been found guilty and hanged. In 1953, the denazification courts in Germany reversed the verdict and returned all of his confiscated property to his widow.)
- Arthur Seyss-Inquart: Hanged on the 16/10/46. (Interesting point, his reaction to the sentence was “Death by hanging… well, in view of the whole situation, I never expected anything different. It’s all right.” He was the last to be hanged and remarked: “I hope that this execution is the last act of the tragedy of the Second World War and that the lesson taken from this world war will be that peace and understanding should exist between peoples. I believe in Germany.”)
- Joachim von Ribbentrop: Hanged on the 16/10/46.
- Wilhelm Keitel: Hanged on the 16/10/46. (Last words “I call on God Almighty to have mercy on the German people. More than 2 million German soldiers went to their death for the fatherland before me. I follow now my sons – all for Germany.”)
- Ernst Kaltenbrunner: Hanged on 16/10/46.
- Alfred Rosenberg: Hanged on 16/10/46. (He was asked if he had any last words and replied “No”.)
- Hans Frank: Hanged on 16/10/46. (He was reportedly very calm and quiet, viewed his sentence as atonement for his sins and gave the last words: “I am thankful for the kind treatment during my captivity and I ask God to accept me with mercy.”)
- Wilhelm Frick: Hanged on 16/10/46. (He was the most afraid and unsteady, and his last words were “Long live eternal Germany”)
- Julius Streicher: Hanged on 16/10/46. (He was entirely unrepentant, and gave 4 last statements: “Heil Hitler” at the foot of the gallows, a mocking reference to the Jewish festival Purim as the noose was secured, “The Bolsheviks will hang you one day!” as the bag was put on his head and “Adele, meine liebe Frau!” as he was dropped.)
Sentenced to life
- Erich Raeder: Freed on 26/9/55 after nearly 9 years due to ill health. Died 6/11/60.
- Rudolf Hess: Committed suicide by hanging on 17/08/87, aged 93. (He spent his last 41 years in prison, presumably well. He lived a long time, after all. And then one day, after four decades of confinement, he finally just said, “Whelp, this is it,” and did himself in at 93.)
- Walther Funk: Freed 16/5/57 after 10 years due to ill health. (Died of diabetes three years later.)
Sentenced to 10-20 years
- Karl Doenitz: Served his 10 year sentence, (and died 24 years later.)
- Baldur von Schirach: Served his 20 year sentence, (retired alone due to his wife divorcing him in prison, and died 8 years later.)
- Albert Speer: Served his 20 year sentence. (He chose not to return to architecture, but instead became an author. He personally accepted responsibility for the Nazis crimes, and anonymously donated most of his book royalties to Jewish charities (Up to 80%). Died of a stroke in 1981 while visiting London to appear on the BBC. *He is quite an interesting character. He’s known by some as “The Nazi Who Said Sorry” because he seemed to genuinely regret being involved with the whole thing. His testimony at the Nuremberg Trials is a fascinating read, if you’ve got the time.)
- Konstantin von Neurath: Released 7 years early from his 15 year sentence due to ill health. (He returned to his family home and died of a heart attack 2 years later.)
Milada Horáková was a lawyer, social democrat, and a prominent feminist in the interwar and postwar periods — her life’s work, rather overshadowed by an end that was memorable for different reasons — Horakova survived Nazi imprisonment and was a member of parliament when the Communists seized power in 1948.
She spurned counsel to flee the country, and found herself the headline attraction at a show trial for a supposed plot to overthrow the government. In a hopeless scenario, she distinguished herself with off-script defiance despite having broken under torture and signed a confession; Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt all pleaded in vain for clemency.
Horakova left the world clear in her purpose. In a letter to her teenage daughter awaiting execution, she justified her own dangerous choices:
“The reason was not that I loved you little; I love you just as purely and fervently as other mothers love their children. But I understood that my task here in the world was to do you good … by seeing to it that life becomes better, and that all children can live well. … Don’t be frightened and sad because I am not coming back any more. Learn, my child, to look at life early as a serious matter. Life is hard, it does not pamper anybody, and for every time it strokes you it gives you ten blows. Become accustomed to that soon, but don’t let it defeat you. Decide to fight.”
Hours before her hanging, she wrote a few last words for her loved ones:
“I go with my head held high. One also has to know how to lose. That is no disgrace. An enemy also does not lose honor if he is truthful and honorable. One falls in battle; what is life other than struggle?” (Both excerpts cited here)
The only woman among Czechoslovakia’s postwar political executions was abortively rehabilitated during the 1968 Prague Spring. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, her resistance to both Naziism and Communism — worthy of an opera(topical interview) and a forthcoming film — have elevated her into her country’s official pantheon.
As a result, this date is “Commemoration day for the victims of the Communist regime” in the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, Horakova’s now-octogenerian prosecutor Ludmila Brozova-Polednova, whose repulsive legal barbs at trial (“Don’t break her neck on the noose. Suffocate the bitch — and the others too.”) were probably the consequence of the foregone conclusion more than the cause, was convicted late last year for her role in the trial. That verdict has kept in the news these past several months — most recently, the Czech Supreme Court returned it for retrial after an appeals court overturned the sentence — a tangible symbol of the challenges inherent to confronting the past. (Brozova-Polednova, for her part, is unapologetic.)
* One of the goons who tortured confessions out of the conspirators in Horakova’s “terrorist center,” Karel Svab, was among those later hanged with Slansky.
A Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, Rukajärvi, in East Karelia, in November 1942.
A Soviet spy laughs at his executioner in a picture taken in Rukajärvi, in East Karelia, in November 1942. It has been thought within the Finnish Defence Forces that the decision to withhold pictures of the fate of Russian POWs and spies may also have been prompted by concerns that pro-Soviet elements in Finnish society could have used the images for propaganda purposes. This picture was declassified by the Ministry of Defense of Finland in the 2006, with the description: Unknown Soviet intelligence officer before being shot. Finland, in 1942.
It’s a pretty amazing picture. To capture the last few moments of life. He knows he will die in a few seconds, in a forest in the snow. And there he will bleed out and be forgotten. His life, his experience, has come to an end. What else could he do but smile? That smile was is final Defiance. Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back.
Of note, Finland was allied with Germany and at war with USSR. This is the Continuation War, not the previous Winter War. By 1942 Finland was involved in the blockade of Leningrad (that starved to death 1 million civilians). Finland was not that involved, to be exact they refused to assist with the siege directly even though their frontlines we’re just about 30km away.
WWII for Finland was the Winter War (Soviets invade Finland, Finland fights until it almost literally has no more ammunition left in Finland so they have to negotiate a peace where they lose territory which the Soviets were glad to accept since they had lost so many people – meanwhile, the other democracies of the world initially help Finland since the Soviet Union is one of the “bad guys” – allied with Nazi German – but then get distracted by Nazi shenanigans), the Continuation War (Finland allies with Nazi Germany to take back territory lost in the Winter War – meanwhile, other democracies are placed in an awkward situation since now, the Soviet Union is one of the “good guys” since the Nazis backstabbed the Soviet Union) and the Lapland War (Finland negotiates separate peace with allies on fairly favorable terms – since the western allies realize that the Soviet Union is actually not a “good guy” but an “enemy of my enemy” – and kicks Nazis out of Finland).
This picture was declassified in 2006.
Death was also not always instantaneous. ( There had been instances when the artillerymen were injured by flying chunks of the executed, and in some cases, spectators too.)
After the explosion, the grouping of the men’s remains in front of each gun was various and frightful. One man’s head was perched upon his back, and he was staring round as if looking for his legs and arms. All you see at the time is a cloud like a dust storm composed of shreds of clothing, burning muscle, and frizzing fat with lumps of coagulated blood. Here and there a stomach or a liver came falling down in a stinking shower.
One wretched fellow slipped from the rope by which he was tied to the guns just before the explosion, and his arm was nearly set on fire. While hanging in his agony under the gun, a sergeant applied a pistol to his head ; and three times the cap snapped, the man each time wincing from the expected shot. At last a rifle was fired into the back of his head, and the blood poured out of the nose and mouth like water from a briskly handled pump.
This reminds me of the movie “Master and Commander.” Watch this scene. Are the firing mechanisms they are using on their cannons friction primer? Something about the action of firing a cannon in that manner just looks compeletely badass.
She was sent to prison for the murder of her husband. From Wikipedia: “Her distaste for her husband apparently began when he insisted on hanging a picture of his late fiancée, Jessie Guishard, on the wall of their first home, and also named his boat after her. Guishard, whom Albert described to Ruth as “the finest woman I have ever met,” had been dead for 10 years.”
Basically mistakes in how it was run and the public perception they received from it – for example the public was expecting to see the first time a woman [the Sheriff] executed a man, instead they got a drunk man basically falling over activating the gallows. The press wrote bad things about the mostly underwhelming (from their expectations) event, and so those in charge were embarrassed and decided to have non-public executions from then on.
Among the hundreds of letters that Sheriff Thompson received after it came to public attention she would perform the hanging was one from Arthur L. Hash, a former Louisville police officer, who offered his services free of charge to perform the execution. Thompson quickly decided to accept this offer. He only asked that she not make his name public.
…Hash arrived at the site intoxicated, wearing a white suit and a white Panama hat. At this time, no one but he and Thompson knew he would be pulling the trigger.
…Hanna placed the noose around Bethea’s neck, adjusted it, and then signaled to Hash to pull the trigger. Instead, Hash, who was drunk, did nothing. Hanna shouted at Hash, “Do it!” and a deputy leaned onto the trigger which sprang the trap door. Throughout all of this, the crowd was hushed. Bethea fell eight feet, and his neck was instantly broken.