Ernst Kaltenbrunner was born near Braunau in Austria. Hhe was the son of a lawyer. Educated at the State Realgymnasium in Linz and Graz University. He obtained a law degree in 1926. He worked as a lawyer briefly in Linz and Salzburg and from 1928 in Linz. He was a huge man, nearly seven feet tall.
Kaltenbrunner joined the Nazi Party and the SS in Austria in 1932. He was the Gauredner (district speaker) and Rechtsberater (legal consultant) of the SS division VIII. In January 1934, Kaltenbrunner was briefly jailed by the Engelbert Dollfuss government with other National Socialists at the Kaisersteinbruch concentration camp. In 1934, he was jailed again on suspicion of High Treason in the assassination of Dollfuss. This accusation was dropped, but he was sentenced to six months for conspiracy.
From mid-1935, Kaltenbrunner was the leader of the Austrian SS. He assisted in the Anschluss and Hitler promoted him to SS Brigadeführer on the day the Anschluss was completed. On September 11, 1938, he was promoted to the rank of SS Gruppenführer. He was also a member of the Reichstag from 1938. In April 1941, he was promoted to Major General of the Police.
On January 30, 1943, Kaltenbrunner was appointed Chief of the RSHA, comprising both the Security Police (SIPO) and the SD, replacing Reinhard Heydrich, who had been assassinated in June 1942. Kaltenbrunner held this position until the end of the war.
Toward the end of the war, Kaltenbrunner's power increased greatly, especially after the attack on Hitler of July 20, 1944. He gained direct access to Hitler. It was said that even Heinrich Himmler feared him.
On December 9, 1944, he was awarded the Knight's Cross. By then his full title was SS Obergruppenführer and General of the Police Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Chief of the Security Police and the SD. In addition, he held the Golden Insignia of Honor and the Blutorden.
At the Nuremberg Trials he was charged with conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war-crimes and crimes against humanity.
His close control over the RSHA meant that direct knowledge of and responsibility for the following crimes was ascribed to him:
Mass murders of civilians of occupied countries by Einsatzgruppen.
Screening of prisoner of war camps and executing racial and political undesirables.
The taking of recaptured prisoners of war to concentration camps, where in some cases they were executed.
Establishing concentration camps and committing racial and political undesirables to concentration and annihilation camps for slave labor and mass murder.
Deportation of citizens of occupied countries for forced labor and disciplining of forced labor.
The execution of captured commandos and paratroopers and protection of civilians who lynched Allied fliers.
The taking of civilians of occupied countries to Germany for secret trial and punishment.
Punishment of citizens of occupied territories under special criminal procedure and by summary methods.
The execution and confinement of persons in concentration camps for crimes allegedly committed by their relatives.
Seizure and spoliation of public and private property.
Murder of prisoners in SIPO and SD prisons.
Persecution of Jews.
Persecution of the churches.
He was found guilty of war-crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death. He was executed at around 1.40 a.m. on October 16, 1946; his last words were "Germany, good luck."