Josef Stroop (he changed his first name to the more “Aryan”-sounding Jurgen in 1941) was born in Detmold, in central Germany on September 26, 1895. He joined the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) in 1932. By 1939, he was an SS-Oberfuhrer and commander of a police unit.
Stroop volunteered to fight on the eastern front when Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. After being wounded, he was transferred to police functions in the occupied Soviet territories, where he specialized in persecuting the population and harassing local partisans.
Friedrich Wilhelm Kruger, the Hoherer SS - und Polizei - Fuhrer (Higher SS and Police Leader) of the Generalgouvernement, decided that the local police commander, Ferdinand Sammern-Frankenegg, was not up to the task of liquidating the Wasrsaw ghetto and replaced him with Stroop.
Stoop assumed command of the 2,000 Waffen-SS troops that entered the ghetto on April 19, 1943 in what he called the
Great Operation (Grossaktion). Though they possessed only two machine-guns, fifteen rifles, 500 pistols, and some grenades and petrol bombs, the 750 Jewish resistance fighters attacked the soldiers. The Germans took heavy casualties and Stroop ordered his men to retreat. He then gave instructions for all the buildings in the ghetto to be set on fire.
As people fled from the fires, they were rounded up and deported to the extermination camp at Treblinka. The ghetto fighters continued the battle from the cellars and attics of Warsaw. On May 8, the Germans began using poison gas on the insurgents in the last fortified bunker. About a hundred men and women escaped into the sewers, but the rest were killed by the gas.
Stroop sent daily reports to Krakow documenting the military campaign. His final report said:
The Great Operation terminated on May 16, 1943, at 8:15 pm, with the blowing up of the Warsaw synagogue. There is no longer any activity in the former Jewish residential quarter. According to Stroop, out of 56,065 Jews caught, 13,929 were exterminated and about 5,000 to 6,000 were killed in the shelling and burning. Approximately 300 Germans were killed in the fighting; only about 100 Jews survived the uprising.
Later in 1943, Stroop was appointed SS and political leader of Greece. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenfuhrer. That November, Stroop was transferred to serve in the same capacity in the Twelfth Army District in the Reich, where he remained until the end of the war.
After the war, Stroop was arrested and charged with war crimes. His home was searched and an album was discovered containing his reports from the Warsaw ghetto campaign and photographs taken by the Germans during the uprising.
In January 1947, Stroop was tried by the American military court in Dachau (Trial No. 12 - 3188, United States v. Stroop) and charged with responsibility for war crimes perpetrated in the Twelfth Army District. Stroop was sentenced to death. The verdict was not carried out, and he was extradited to Poland as a war criminal wanted in the Polish People’s Republic.
In July 1951, Stroop was tried in the Warsaw district court and found guilty. He was executed in Warsaw on September 8, 1951.