Thursday, June 07, 2007

Meet Karl Frenzel (2)

[Continued from Meet Karl Frenzel (1)]

II.2 The Defendant Karl Frenzel

II.2.1 Personal Data

Karl Frenzel was born in Zehdenick/Havel on 20 August 1911, the son of a railway interlocking manager. He had two brothers and a sister; both brothers were killed in World War II. After basic school he learned the trade of a carpenter, but found no employment in this trade and had to make out as an agricultural worker and driver for a meat store. In 1930 he became a member of the NSDAP and the SA, through which he obtained a job as auxiliary policeman with the gendarmerie in Grüneberg. In the autumn of 1933 he left the service and got a job in the Grüneberg munitions factory, where he worked until 1935. From 1 September 1935 until August 1939 he worked as a hired administrator at Castle Löwenberg/Mark. In October 1934 he married Sofie née Aum., with whom he had five children who, at the time of the judgment in 1966, were 25, 28, 29, 30 and 31 years old (so much for denierbud’s sentimental whining about "Frenzel's 5 children who had their dad taken away to prison", which gives the reader the impression that the "children" were toddlers at the time, or in their early teens at most). On 27 August Frenzel joined a construction battalion of the Reich Labor Service, from which he was released at the end of 1939 on account of being the father of five children. However, he immediately reported voluntarily at his local recruitment post to be again taken in, and when he was rejected he turned to his SA-unit asking them to make some pressure so that he would, despite his five children, be recruited anew. The SA suggested that Frenzel report at the Columbushaus in Berlin, where according to a circular from the Führer’s Chancellery reliable party members were being searched for a special service.

Frenzel reported there, and in the first days of January 1940 he and 15 other persons were informed about the purpose and nature of their service within the scope of the “Euthanasia” action and thereafter sworn to secrecy. They were expressly assured that the killing itself was the task of the medical personnel. Frenzel saw service in the "Euthanasia" institutions Grafeneck, Bernburg and Hadamar, partially as a craftsman, but also for a longer time as a "disinfector" or "burner". In mid-April 1942 he was ordered back to Berlin, and from there he was put on the march to Lublin together with other participants in the "Euthanasia" action led by Franz Stangl, later commander of Treblinka extermination camp. Frenzel was placed at Sobibor extermination camp, to which he belonged until that camp was dissolved in November 1943.

Like the other members of Aktion Reinhard, Frenzel was then sent to North Italy in December 1943, where he became a part of the unit "R", commanded by the former head of Aktion Reinhard, Odilo Globocnik. There he suffered a motorcycle accident and was in several hospitals for a longer time. At the end of the war Frenzel and other members of his unit were taken captive by the Americans, who released him on 8 or 10 May 1945 and for whom he worked until August 1945. Thereafter he worked as a carpenter in Giessen and returned to his hometown, Löwenberg, in November 1945. His wife had meanwhile died of typhus (so much for the "complications from being raped by a Soviet soldier", which seem to be an invention of denierbud’s). From Löwenberg he moved via Berlin to Göttingen, where he lived since November 1945 and worked first in a construction tools store, then in a fish wholesale firm and a print shop and since 1947 at the film studio Filmatelier GmbH in Göttingen. In 1946 he met Elfriede Gru., who he made his fiancée in 1947 and lived with since but never married. At the time of his arrest on account of his activities at Sobibor on 22 March 1962, Frenzel had never been prosecuted, even though he had been mentioned by the defendants at the trial against Hubert G. and Johann Kli before a jury court in Frankfurt am Main, which on 25.8.1950 had sentenced G. to lifetime imprisonment and acquitted Kli. An investigation against Frenzel and Christian Wirth in 1946, on account of their participation in the "Euthanasia" killings at Hadamar, had led to no results (regarding the inefficiency of West German prosecution of National Socialist crimes in the first 1 ½ postwar decades see this article).

The Hagen court’s above-mentioned findings of fact regarding the person and life of Karl Frenzel were based on Frenzel’s own statements in the main proceedings, on documents from the Berlin Document Center he was confronted with, and on the partially read-out file of the above-mentioned trial against Hubert G. and Johann Kli, 52 Ks 3/50 StA Frankfurt.

II.2.2 Activity at Sobibor: Conviction Cases

II.2.2.1 General Participation

In Case 13 of the Indictment the defendant Frenzel was charged with having, from April 1942 until 14 October 1943 and together with his co-defendants Bol., Dub., Fuc., Itt., Lac., Sch., Unv., Wol. and other former members of the camp staff of Sobibor, consciously aided and abetted the treacherous and cruel killing of at least 250,000 Jews out of base motives, by having exercised an essential influence on events in the camp in his capacity as SS-Oberscharführer. He was accused of having

• taken part in the building of the camp,
• commanded the camp sections I and II (i.e. the housing and workshops of the Jewish command and the "reception" area, the extermination area proper being camp section III, as shown on this sketch and described here),
• occupied a predominant position among the German camp staff, and
• exercised the "camp justice".

He was further accused of having
• primarily commanded the railway station detachment and driven it on with whip lashes,
• selected sick and infirm people as well as children for shooting at the "Lazarett", sometimes taken them there and
• occasionally also controlled the undressing process.

The Hagen court’s findings of fact regarding this charge were the following:

Frenzel arrived at Sobibor on 28 April 1942 with the Stangl detachment and remained there until the final dissolution of the camp, i.e. at least until the beginning of November 1943, with several home leaves during this time. During his entire time at Sobibor at least 150,000 Jews were killed in this extermination camp with his willing, consciously energetic participation, most of them by gassing, the others by a series of other killing methods.

Frenzel held the rank and wore the uniform of an SS-Oberscharführer, though (like the other servicemen detached from the "Euthanasia" program) without the SS-runes. This corresponded to the rank of an Obertruppführer, which he had held at the SA. As a learned carpenter he at first took part in the building of the camp, namely of the fences and accommodations. Even at a later stage, at the end of 1942 and in 1943, he occasionally supervised construction work in the camp, for instance when barracks or other buildings were torn down by Jewish inmates in Wlodawa and other places near Sobibor and rebuilt inside the camp.

Since the beginning of the extermination actions Frenzel was ever more employed in the immediate process thereof. In the summer of 1942 he succeeded Weiss as commander of Camp I, where the accommodations and workshops were under his command. There he regularly made the roll calls after the Jewish kapos had lined up the inmates under their orders. Frenzel organized the work detachments, both those with a steady roster of workers (railway station detachment, sorting detachments) and those that were put together on occasion (clearing detachments, forest detachments). Frenzel also supervised the work detachments at the various places throughout the camp, except in Camp III, even when the special supervision at the respective place of work was the task of another German overseer. He regularly commanded the station detachment when transports arrived.

Although he was subordinated to the camp top-kick (first Michel, then Wagner) and the camp commandant (first Stangl, then Reichleitner) and the deputy camp commandant SS-Untersturmführer Niemann, Frenzel had great power inside the camp. He wielded that power in a terrifying manner, by standing out in the execution of his tasks related to the extermination of the Jews as best as he could and in such a way as not to fall behind any other overseer. With his loud, piercing voice he gave orders and abused the Jews, and he often used his leather whip to hit the inmates at will. When transports arrived, he as commander of the station detachment was at the ramp together with Wagner and other German overseers as well as the Ukrainians, where he eagerly carried out the task of getting the arrivals on their way to the gas chambers. When things were going too slow for him he screamed at the Jews and hit them with his whip in order to urge them on their way to death or to break upcoming reluctance or resistance. He occasionally chose inmates for work from among the arrivals. Besides others, especially Wagner, he saw to it that the sick and those unable to walk were taken from the ramp to the "Lazarett" to be killed there. Occasionally he controlled the progress of the undressing and haircutting immediately by the gas chamber. Besides Wagner and others he arbitrarily exercised the so-called "camp justice" and ordered that for so-called "camp felonies" the inmates receive 25 or 50 whip lashes. One some occasions he beat them himself, on others the Jewish kapos or other inmates had to do the beating. The delinquents had to lean over a table or rack and were hit on the naked buttocks, often until possible death or until they were "ripe for the ‘Lazarett’", which meant their prompt killing in Camp III. Like Wagner, Frenzel also chose inmates for the "penal detachment" set up in 1943, who were tormented until their possible death. Furthermore Frenzel took advantage of his position in Camp I in such a way that he, contrary to regulations, appropriated valuables from the possessions of the Jews, had them processed by the camp inmate Szm., who was in charge of goldsmith works, and sent them home. Frenzel also eagerly took part in the camouflage of the camp’s extermination purpose towards the outside, by inducing the Jews from the Netherlands who arrived in 1943, before they were killed, into writing letters to relatives and acquaintances under the cover address "Work Camp Wlodawa", claiming that they were well off.

Along with others, especially Wagner, Frenzel was one of the overseers that the working inmates feared most and tried to avoid as best as they could, and he enjoyed that. His position of power over the life and death of many people considered "racially inferior" had gone to his head. He didn’t just carry out his superiors' orders regarding the systematic killing of the Jews, but also wanted the killing himself.

Within the scope of Frenzel’s general participation in the mass killing, as described above, there were four specific occurrences that had been stated as individual charges in the Indictment, but were considered by the court as part of the charge of overall participation. These will be summarized hereafter, in each case mentioning i) the charge (as stated in the Indictment), ii) the court’s findings of fact (as they resulted from the main proceedings, usually differing in certain aspects or details from the charge), iii) Frenzel’s defense allegations against the charge, iv) the evidence that the court’s findings of fact were based on and v) eventual defense motions for counter-evidence and the court’s decision on such motions pursuant to Section 244 of the German Criminal Procedure Code.

a) Case no. 34

i) The charge: shooting and hanging, together with the defendant Bol. and other members of the camp staff, of 200 Jews who had arrived from Biala Podlaska in the summer of 1942 and submitted a petition.

ii) The court’s findings of fact: on 10 June 1942 a transport with Jews from Biala-Podlaska in Poland arrived at Sobibor. The arrivals did not yet know that Sobibor was an extermination camp. An eldest handed over a petition requesting that his people be treated well. This was considered an "impertinence", and as "punishment" it was ordered – who gave the order could not be established – that a part of the transport be submitted to a "special treatment" prior to the gassing. About 200 Jews were picked from the transport, who together with the camp’s "working Jews" had to load luggage from the sorting barracks onto empty wagons at the ramp. The Jews from Biala-Podlaska had to put on hats and carry their loads on the run. The Germans and Ukrainians formed an "alley" through which these Jews had to pass; when they did they were hit with whips and clubs, and the dog Barry was set onto them to frighten and to bite them. Only thereafter these Jews were gassed, like the rest of the transport before them. The defendant Frenzel joyfully took part in this "entertainment", and days later he described this event to the defendant Bol., who (as it turned out during the main proceedings, contrary to the statement of the charge in the Indictment) had not been present, as a happy and satisfying experience.

iii) Frenzel’s defense: he claimed to know nothing about this occurrence.

iv) The evidence: the witnesses Ler., Mar., Zi., Bac., and Biz. provided coincident and credible testimonies in the main proceedings, according to which they saw this defendant as participant in the "alley" at this event. Frenzel himself had to admit that during pre-trial interrogations he had still recalled the forming of the "alley". The defendant Bol., who later committed suicide, stated that Frenzel had some days later told him about the petition incident, mentioning that Bol. had "missed something" and that it had been "great fun". As Bol. had been especially reserved throughout the main proceedings when it came to incriminating co-defendants, and as he admittedly had described this occurrence already during pre-trial interrogations, his statement was considered to confirm the Jewish witnesses’ coincident testimonies.

v) Defense motions: Frenzel’s defense attorney requested interrogating Adam and Hela We. from Israel on their not having been at Sobibor, contrary to the witness Mar.’s statement. The jury court denied this motion on grounds that the fact to be proven, i.e. that Adam and Hela We. had not been at Sobibor, could be assumed as true in the defendant’s favor. The court explained that, even if Mar.’s statement regarding the We.’s were wrong (for which the court, within the scope of its investigation conducted ex officio, had found no indications), this would have no bearing on Mar.’s credibility regarding the Biala-Podlaska petition incident, as his testimony in this respect was matched by the other evidence.

b) Case no. 48

i) The charge: In 1943, Frenzel had taken 10 sick "working Jews", who had not appeared at the roll call, out of their barracks and sent them to Camp III for being shot.

ii) The court’s findings of fact: since about the turn of the year 1942/43, the sick working inmates, who were attended by the witness Tho., were allowed to remain up to three days in sick bay, whereas before they had been immediately killed. The reason behind this change in camp regulations was the camp’s need for experienced inmates who could assure a smooth running of the extermination process and other camp tasks (initially working inmates had been killed on a daily basis after the transport they had been taken from had been "processed", and replaced by working inmates taken from the next transport, but later the SS had realized that it was to their advantage to have a permanent stock of inmates who had become familiar with the camp’s tasks and could thus carry out these tasks more quickly and efficiently). The decision whether a sick "working Jew" was to be killed or allowed to live another day, in order to eventually get well enough to go back to work, was usually taken during the morning roll-call, which as a rule was held by Franz. On the morning before the revolt on 14.10.1943, Franz noted during the morning roll call that at least 10 "working Jews" had not shown up for work. He further noted that the inmate Tho. had allowed these inmates to remain in sick bay for longer than three days, and he threatened Tho. that the next time it would be his turn. Then he had the sick inmates removed from the barracks and taken to the "hospital" for being shot.

iii) Frenzel’s defense: he admitted to the possibility of this incident having occurred, maintaining that he had acted within the scope of the camp regulations in force.

iv) The evidence: the charge was considered proven based on the witness Tho.’s credible testimony in the main proceedings, which was essentially confirmed by the testimonies of witnesses Chajm Eng., Saartje Eng. and Cuk. There was no indication, however, that Frenzel had acted in excess of orders, rather than in accordance with the aforementioned camp regulations.

c) Case no. 51

i) The charge: In the summer of 1943 Frenzel provided for and carried out the shooting of 15 "working Jews". These were the remainder of the forest detachment, from which two Jews had fled after killing one Ukrainian guard.

ii) The court’s findings of fact: One day in the summer of 1943, two Jews from a forest detachment working outside the camp escaped after killing one of the Ukrainian guards. Camp commandant Reichleitner thereupon had the detachment taken back to the camp, during which further inmates managed to escape by running into the thick underbrush. The remaining 12 to 15 inmates were thereupon no longer allowed to walk, but had to crawl back to the camp. They were taken to the open square between Camp II and Camp III, where all working Jews from Camp I and Camp II were ordered to gather in circle around them. One of the German staff members – it could not be established whether it had been Reichleitner, Niemann or Frenzel – then held a speech in front of the gathered inmates, informing them of the escapes and announcing that the remainder of the forest detachment would be shot and that, if there were further escape attempts, all "working Jews" would immediately be shot. Thereupon the 12 to 15 men of the forest detachment were shot by a firing squad, in front of the other gathered inmates.

The defendant Frenzel was involved in this incident insofar as he took part in having the working inmates gather at the execution site to watch the execution, and he was also present during the same together with other staff members. It could not be proven that he had ordered the execution, or that it was he who made the aforementioned speech to the working inmates.

iii) Frenzel’s defense: During the pre-trial interrogations, as he admitted in the main proceedings, Frenzel had stated that he had commanded the firing squad but not fired himself. In the main proceedings he claimed that he had no memory of this incident and heard about it only during the pre-trial interrogations.

iv) The evidence: The testimonies of numerous working Jews in the main proceedings, confirmed by the defense allegations of co-defendant Wol., provided the required certainty that Frenzel and Wol. had been present at the execution. It could not be established, however, whether Frenzel had in any way stood out during the execution, namely whether he had ordered the shooting, held the speech, commanded the firing squad or given the coup de grace to those of the execution’s victims who had not been lethally wounded. In this respect the eyewitness testimonies differed, some incriminating Reichleitner or Niemann instead of Frenzel.

d) Case no. 54

The charge: during the revolt on 14 October 1943, Frenzel fired with a machine gun on the fleeing Jews, killing several of them.

The court’s findings of fact: Frenzel, who at that time replaced Wagner as the camp’s top-kick while the latter was on leave, was to be killed like all other German staff members to make possible the breakout from the camp. While most German staff members were killed at workshops or at their posts, Frenzel escaped being killed; so did Bauer because he arrived belatedly at the camp and Wol. by hiding. When the Jews escaped through the camp gate in the southern fence, the Ukrainian guards opened fire from their posts and the guard towers. It could not be established that Wol. had fired, he remained in hiding. Whether Bauer had fired was not examined at this trial as Bauer had already been convicted at a previous trial. Frenzel was found to have fired from a place near the gate on the Jews running towards the gate, at least with a pistol. It could not be proven that he had fired with a machine gun, although a machine gun had been used on the escapees, possibly by one of the Ukrainian guards. There were several dead among the Jews running through the gate, but it could not be established whether the shots fired by Frenzel had killed anyone, as the Jewish witnesses were at that time only concerned with getting away and therefore did not record who fired on and hit exactly whom. At any rate, the fire directed against the fleeing by Frenzel and the Ukrainians caused the escapees to give up trying to get away though the gate and instead escape over and through a torn-down part of the fence in Camp I and then through the minefield surrounding the camp, where many were torn apart by exploding mines but thus opened the way for those following them.

Frenzel’s defense, evidence: Frenzel admitted to what could also be established on hand of eyewitness testimonies, i.e. that he had fired on the fleeing inmates with a pistol. His defense attorney demanded acquittal on grounds that Frenzel had to fire, otherwise he would have been court-martialed and sentenced to death for cowardice in the face of the enemy. This argument was not accepted by the court, as there had been no court-martialing of the defendant Wol. despite his having remained in hiding all the time during the revolt. Frenzel was thus convicted on this charge as well. Just like his actions in the above-mentioned cases 34, 48, and 51, Frenzel’s shooting at the escapees was considered not a separate crime but a part of the crime of overall participation in the mass killings for which he was convicted in case 13.

Click here for the next part.


  1. I read that this bastard is still alive at 97, in Germany.

  2. Frenzel stated that his wife contracted typhus after being raped by Soviet soldiers in 1945. He stated it in this interview with Thomas Blatt.

    (This is not attempt to defend Frenzel)


Please read our Comments Policy