Franz Murer, also known as the “Butcher from Vilnius,” was an Austrian SS officer, who set up, organized, and ruled the Vilna Ghetto.
Murer was born in Sankt Georgen ob Murau, Austria in 1912. He joined the NSDAP in 1938. Murer was trained with Hitler Youth in Nuremberg. He was then transferred to Vilnius and was from 1941 to 1943 responsible for Jewish affairs as deputy of Territorial Commissioner (Gebietskommissar) Hans Christian Hingst. He was known as a sadist who showed special cruelty toward Jews. On July 1, 1943, Murer was replaced by Bruno Kittel, who liquidated the ghetto.
Vilnius, which was known as “the Jerusalem of Lithuania” before the war, had a Jewish population of about 80,000. After the war, approximately 250 Jews were living there. The rest were murdered.
After the war Murer moved to Steiermark in Austria. Near his residence in Admont there was a camp for displaced persons. In 1947, one of these DPs recognized Murer and British forces arrested Murer. In December 1948, he was deported to the Soviet Union since Vilnius had been under Soviet jurisdiction. A Soviet military court in Vilna convicted Murer of murdering Soviet citizens and sentenced him to death, but his sentence was commuted to 25 years at hard labor.
In 1955, after the signing of the Austrian State Treaty, which ended the four-power occupation of that country, Murer was returned to Austria. The Austrian Ministry of Justice ruled that the proceedings against Murer were closed because he had already been tried in the Soviet Union.
He was re-arrested in 1961 and charged with the murders of 17 people. Survivors of the Vilna ghetto testified that Murer shot members of their families. “We have to prove that the past is past in Austria and that anybody who kills, regardless of the race of the victim, will be punished,” the prosecutor told the jury. Nevertheless, he was acquitted.
Murer died in Gaishorn am See in 1994.