The capture of Oswald Pohl 1946

Discussion in 'The Holocaust' started by Hoover, Aug 14, 2019.

  1. Hoover

    Hoover Junior Member

    I wrote a short account of the capture of Oswald Pohl in my hometown of Verden
    I am sorry for my mediocre English.

    The capture of Oswald Pohl

    Oswald Pohl was born on June 30th, 1892 in Duisburg. He joined the Imperial Navy and was a member oft he Freikorps „Brigade Loewenfeld“ and fought against communist revolutionaries from 1918 to 1920. He joined the NSDAP in 1923, the SA in 1925 and the SS in 1934. He was an administration expert and has been appointed to the chief of the SS economical and administrative office (SS Wirtschafts- und Verwaltunghauptamt). In this position he also was the chief of the economical exploitation oft he concentration camps.

    For this task he founded a special coorporation in 1943, the Ostindustrie GmbH“, for robbing of Jewish property and exploitation of Jewish labour force.

    He was „excellent“ in his murderous business, that´s why he was the number 7 on the Alliied searchlist for war criminals which contains nearly 80.000 names!

    The war got lost for the Germans and Pohl was not able to escape to South America like many other criminals. We don´t know why. Now the story of the hunt for Pohl started in May 1945.

    The first step to go underground was to take a new name. He choose the name „Ludwig Gniss“, born on June 12th, 1889. Ther name was not fiction, there has been a Ludwig Gniss. It was the name of the father of the daughter of his second wife Eleonore. Pohl adopt the girl when he married Eleonore von Brüning in December 1942. His first hideout was the small village of Ottersberg, 15 km southeast of Bremen. There is no date of registration of his arrival there, but a notice of his departure on April, 8th, 1946. He told the authorities in Otterstberg, that he move his home to Lübeck.

    Pohl moved his home on that April 8th, 1946 from Ottersberg tot he small village of Armsen, 6km east of Verden.

    The British established three „War Crimes Investigation Teams“ (WCIT) in April 1945. Each team consistend from 3 soldiers, at least one German Jew was in every team for interrogation, reading, talking and all work, for which knowledge oft he German language would be helpful. For support oft he WCIT´s, SAS officers were sent to Germany. The first success in the hunt for Pohl was scored in January 1946, when the FSS (Field security section) in Hamburg found Georg Hebert Witt, born in 1920 and the former adjutant of Pohl. Captain William K. Murdoch of the WCIT Team 2 did the first interrogation, and Witt told them about the first weeks after the surrender. Witt and Pohl stayed in Bavaria in May 1945 and travelled back Hamburg, where Witt had relatives. Pohl left the hideout in Hamburg in fall 1945 with the information, that he will stay in a village south of Hamburg.

    And, Witt got a postcard from Pohl with a post mark from the post office in Verden. This postcard he gave to the British and it was a small work to find out, that one of Pohls sons in law, Werner Westphal, was living in Verden. Westphal arrived on March 25th, 1946 from Hamburg and lived in a house of the family Topp in Verden, directly opposite oft he British occupied Dettlingen Barracks (the British called them Caithness Barracks later). 2 men oft he WCIT (Captain Murdoch and Capt Harry Schweiger, a German Jew and former member oft he FSS Bad Oeynhausen), supported by 2 SAS men and some soldiers oft he „3 Bn The Black Watch“ (which were stationed in the Barracks in that time) were setting up a obervation point in the nearest barracks building. 2 men were sitting behind a dormer window, 2 men oft he Black Watch sat behind a window on the buildings side and 2 men were at the ready, and every time a visitor entered the Topp-house a soldier with a broom started to sweep the pavewalk at the barracks fence.

    Whereas the soldiers observed the Topp-house Schweiger as a native German speaker went to all photographic shops in Verden (4 in that time) and looked to all passport photos which were made during the last months. Witt told them, that Pohl has grown a moustache beard, and Schweiger finally found a matching passport photo with the name „Ludwig Gniss“ written on the backside. With that name they eventually found out that Pohl worked as a gardener on a farm in Armsen.

    They wanted him alive so they tried a trick. On May 27th 1946 Schweiger (in a common British officers uniform), accompanied by a German policeman (who did not know was the task of his duty was) and a Corporal of the Black Watch, disguised as a former Polish forced labourer went tot he farm. The police first took a look if Pohl was on the farm. He was, and Schweiger stayed behind while the Corporal accused Pohl for stealing his bike. During the (loud) discussion the Corporal grabbed the arms of Pohl so he could not reach his cyancali capsule. Schweiger then appeared and searched Pohl, he found 2 capsules, stored in reworked 7,92mm cartridge cases. The German Policeman arrested Pohl, imprisoned him in the Verden civil jail but was handed over to the British after a few hours.

    They took him to the WCIT-prison in Minden where Captain Murdoch interrogated him on May 28th 1946, in that evening the BBC reported in the 22 o´clock news the capture of „Himmlers second in command“ (what Pohl never has been).

    Pohl finally confirmed his identity. He said that the father of hiss on in law, Werner Westphal, was policeman in the Gendarmerie in Ottersberg, that´s why there not has been a registration of his arrival. He lived a few weeks in the in Verden but only by chance he moved back to Ottersberg a few days before the observation oft he Topp-house started.

    Werner Westphal and his father Karl Westphal, the Gendarmeriewachtmeister, were arrested in the internment camp in Fallingbostel. They were released after 12 months imprisonment.

    Pohl was sentenved to death in Nuremberg on November 11th 1947 and was hanged on June 8th 1951.

    My grandfather was working in Armsen too, after his descharge. He (like all the villagers) were interrogated by the WCIT for supporting Pohl. But there were no evidences that the villagers even knew who Pohl was.
    The Topp-house in August 2019

    The look from the Topp-house to the Caithness Barracks, the former Wehrmacht "Dettingen-Kaserne of the Artillerieregiment 22. The top red circle marks the dormer window. The right green circle marks the window of the other men. And the small left green cirlce marks the room in that my grandfather lived during his basic training in 1940.

    The corner today. The barrack building are mostly gone, on the sport os now a car dealer whch is selling Volkswagens.The Topp-house is directly behind the photographers position.
    If there are any questions, please ask.

    Deacs, andy007, Lindele and 4 others like this.
  2. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Frank, danke, dein Englisch ist prima!

    And thank you for putting my mind at rest, as Pohl was the "stolen bicycle" man as I remembered in your other post;

    2 lucky German POWs

    Kind regards,

  3. Hoover

    Hoover Junior Member

    Some additional infos to Oswald Pohl:
    He was awarded the Knights Cross of the War Merits Cross with Swords on October 10th, 1944 for his "economical performances"

    Pohl after award of his KNights Cross, the peak of his career.

    Pohl,_Oswald.JPG Pohl after capture

    Pohl_Death_Sentence.jpg Pohl during his death sentence

    0735bd7299caacc3fdf91c8ea5a539b2.jpg Pohl at his last moment...

    b4dc78e17ffd7121f46f335b02864c03.jpg ... and after.

    Just nice to know:

    In the fantastic movie "Judgement at Nuremberg" from 1961 the indicted war criminal Emil Hahn said to the prisoner Oswald Pohl (played by Otto Waldis), that the amount of murdered Jews would be impossible. Pohl said only "Of course it is possible. It depends on the amount of railway waggons and the capicity of gas chambers and a good organisation.".
    Pohl made no secrets of his and the Nazi crime overall. Of course, he never killed a prisoner in person, but he made all the organisation.
    Film Appreciation: Judgment At Nuremberg

    In 1950 he converted the to the catholic church and wrote a book: "Credo - Mein Weg zu Gott" (Credo-my way to god) in that he pleaded himself guilty of all crime he was accused for.

    His grave in Landsberg-Spötting has become a pilgrim site for neo fascists in the past, that´s why the city of Landsberg removed the nametags of the graves in 2003 and deleted the graves.
    Harry Ree likes this.
  4. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    SHAEF had the intelligence on the structure of the Allegemine SS, its various substructures covering the whole of the SS and the leading personalities from its Evaluation and Dissemination Section (G2 Counter Intelligence Section)

    From this, there was evidence that Pohl had a very important role to keep the wheels of the ideology turning and to maintain the Third Reich's SS war machine.Reporting directly to Himmler, Pohl's responsibilities received less publicity than any other SS department.It was the view of SHAEF that a definite effort was made to make the sphere of influence of Pohl's office from becoming common knowledge.

    As head of the WVHA,( SS Wirtschafts und Verwaltungs Hauptamt)....... SS Economic and Administrative Department at Berlin-Lichterfelde,Unter den Eichen,126-135, Pohl had responsibility for five departments which answered to him, each headed by a senior SS officer,for example,Ampsgruppe D,(Concentration Camps) being headed by Richard Glucks. These Ampsgruppen had further sub structures to manage the various facets of the SS responsibilities which stood overall in the range of scope of the SS.

    These departments were:

    Ampsgruppen A ......Finance,Law and Administration
    Ampsgruppen B.......Supply Billeting and Equipment
    Ampsgruppen C......Works and Buildings
    Ampsgruppen D......Concentration Camps
    Ampsgruppen E ..... Economic Enterprises

    Pohl was a hardened NAZI,being a member of Himmler's inner circle from the early days of the NSDAP,a career that took him to the very top of the ideology structure.At the start of the war, he was appointed as a Ministerial Director. Among his war crimes was the responsibility for the concentration/ extermination camps policy of seizing the personal effects,including tooth gold fillings of Jewish inmates.These effects and cash were channelled through the conduit of the secret "Max Heiliger Deposit Account" to the Reichsbank.

    With a background as this,Pohl had little chance to evade justice.

    As an aside, Pohl's son Otto was a tank commander in the Das Reich division which was involved in the Oradour sur Glane atrocity although as see it, was not involved in the event.He survived the 3 week journey made by the division to the Normandy battlefield and was captured there.
    Hoover and Lindele like this.
  5. Hoover

    Hoover Junior Member

    Yes, Pohl was one of the most important head in the SS economical system.
    Oh yes, but now the question, why he didn´t escape via the "Rattenlinie". Too late? Or bad luck?

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