Johann Paul Kremer
(1883 - 1965)
SS-Obersturmführer Johann Paul Kremer, M.D., Ph.D., was an assistant professor at the University of Münster. As a physician of the Waffen SS, Kremer was ordered to Auschwitz on August 30, 1942, where he replaced a doctor who had fallen sick. He carried out his duties there only for a short time — less than 3 months.
His job was to assess prisoners attempting to gain admission to the hospital. Kremer ordered most of them killed by phenol injection. He selected prisoners who struck him as particularly good experimental material, and questioned them just before their deaths, as they lay on the autopsy table awaiting injection, about such personal details as their weight before arrest and any medicines they had used recently. In some cases, he ordered these prisoners photographed.
He witnessed gassings in Auschwitz and wrote about them in his diary:
September 2, 1942
For the first time, at 3:00 A.M. outside, attended a special action. Dante's Inferno seems to me almost a comedy compared to this. They don't call Auschwitz the camp of annihilation for nothing!
September 5, 1942
In the morning attended a special action from the women's concentration camp (Muslims); the most dreadful of horrors. Master-Sergeant Thilo (troop doctor) was right when he said to me that this is the anus mundi. In the evening towards 8:00 attended another special action from Holland. Because of the special rations they get a fifth of a liter of schnapps, 5 cigarettes, 100 g salami and bread, the men all clamor to take part in such actions. Today and tomorrow (Sunday) work.
After the war, Johann Paul Kremer testified about his diary. An extract is found in The Good Old Days: The Holocaust As Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders, Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, and Volker Riess, Eds., 1991, p. 258:
Particularly unpleasant was the gassing of the emaciated women from the women's camp, who were generally known as 'Muslims'. I remember I once took part in the gassing of one of these groups of women. I cannot say how big the group was.
When I got close to the bunker [I saw] them sitting on the ground. They were still clothed. As they were wearing worn-out camp clothing they were not left in the undressing hut but made to undress in the open air.
I concluded from the behavior of these women that they had no doubt what fate awaited them, as they begged and pleaded to the SS men to spare them their lives. However, they were herded into the gas chambers and gassed.
As an anatomist I have seen a lot of terrible things: I had had a lot of experience with dead bodies, and yet what I saw that day was like nothing I had ever seen before. Still completely shocked by what I had seen I wrote in my diary on 5 September 1942: 'The most dreadful of horrors. Hauptscharführer Thilo was right when he said to me today that this is the anus mundi', the anal orifice of the world.
I used this image because I could not imagine anything more disgusting and horrific.
SS-Doctor Kremer at a hearing on 18 July 1947 in Cracow
Kremer was tried at the Auschwitz Trial in November-December 1947. Through his diary and depositions, the court concluded that Kremer participated 14 times in mass murders (gassings). Kremer said he sat with the driver and, after the completion by SS men of their duties, he drove away. Prosecutors said that witnesses questioned in the trial of the camp Commandant, Rudolf Höss, maintained that the duty of doctors assigned to the gassings was to supervise the poisoning of the prisoners and to decide when the gas chambers were to be opened, and that there was no reason to believe Kremer's duties were different..
According to Kremer's diary, he also was involved on September. 1, 1942, in the shooting of some undefined persons with small caliber arms; on October 17, in 11 executions; on October 19, in the execution of 7 Polish civilians; on October 24, in "stuffing" 6 women who had participated in an uprising.
At the Block No. 28 clinic in the main camp, Kremer carried out assessments of prisoners attempting to gain admission to the hospital. Many of them were at the point of exhaustion, in the "Musselman" state, in the final stages of starvation to death. One witness testified that Kremer carried out the "sick block" (hospital) selections of the prisoner in as ruthless a manner as that of the other SS doctors. Kremer did not examine the sick, he assessed them by their appearance.
Kremer ordered most of them killed by phenol injection. Kremer selected prisoners who struck him as particularly good experimental material, and questioned them just before their deaths, as they lay on the autopsy table awaiting injection, about such personal details as their weight before arrest and any medicines they had used recently. In some cases, he ordered these prisoners photographed. Before their bodies were cold, they were subjected to autopsies and slides were made for Kremer of the liver, spleen, and pancreas. Kremer said he was interested in the changes that occur in the human body as a result of starvation. He was given permission to collect material that interested him from prisoners put to death by injections of phenol.
The prosecution was unable to calculate the exact number of victims for whose death he was responsible, but, in one diary entry Kremer had noted that 1,600 people had been murdered in one day. The prosecutors estimated that given Kremer's involvement in the gassings, he was likely to have been involved in the deaths of several thousand prisoners.
Kremer was found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commutted to life imprisonment.
Sources: Angels of Death; The Mazal Library; The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum