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Erich Bauer

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Erich Bauer

Erich Bauer
Erich Bauer in Wehrmacht uniform
Nickname(s) Gasmeister ("Gas Master"), Badmeister ("Bath Master")
Born (1900-03-26)March 26, 1900
Berlin, German Empire
Died February 4, 1980(1980-02-04) (aged 79)
Berlin Tegel prison, West Germany
Allegiance
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Rank SS-Oberscharführer (Staff Sergeant)
Commands held Operated gas chambers at Sobibór Camp III; lorry driver
Other work Tram conductor, laborer

Hermann Erich Bauer[1] (March 26, 1900 — February 4, 1980), sometimes referred to as "Gasmeister", was a SS-Oberscharführer (Staff Sergeant). He participated in Nazi Germany's Action T4 program and later in Operation Reinhard, serving as a gas chamber operator at Sobibór extermination camp. Erich Bauer was one of the persons who directly perpetrated the Holocaust.

Biography

Early life

Erich Bauer was born in Berlin on 26 March 1900.

He served as a soldier in World War I and was POW under the French.

In 1933, Erich Bauer joined the NSDAP and SA while working as a tram conductor.[2]

Action T4

In 1940 he joined the T-4 Euthanasia Program where the physically and mentally disabled were exterminated by gassing and lethal injection. In the beginning, he worked as a driver but he was quickly promoted. Erich Bauer described in testimony one of his first mass murders:[3]

Sobibór

In early 1942, Bauer was transferred to Odilo Globocnik, the SS and Police Leader of Lublin in Poland. Bauer was given an SS uniform and promoted to the rank of Oberscharfuhrer (Staff Sergeant). In April 1942, he was dispatched to the Sobibór death camp where he remained until the camp's liquidation in December 1943.[2]

At Sobibór, Erich Bauer was in charge of the camp's gas chambers. At the time the Jews called him the Badmeister ("Bath Master"),[4] while after the war he became known as the Gasmeister ("Gas Master").[2] He was described as a short, stocky man, a known drinker who regularly overindulged. He kept a private bar in his room. While other SS guards were neatly dressed, Bauer was different: he was always filthy and unkempt, with a stench of alcohol and chlorine emanating from him. In his room, he had a picture on the wall of himself and a picture of all of his family with the Führer.[5]

On October 14, 1943, the day of the Sobibór uprising, Bauer unexpectedly drove out to Chełm for supplies. The uprising was almost postponed since Bauer was at the top of the "death list" of SS guards to be assassinated prior to the escape that was created by the leader of the revolt, Alexander Pechersky. The revolt had to start early because Bauer had returned earlier from Chełm than expected. He discovered that SS-Oberscharführer Rudolf Beckmann was dead and started shooting at the two Jewish prisoners unloading his truck. The sound of the gunfire prompted Pechersky to begin the revolt early.[6]

After the war

At the end of the war, Bauer was arrested in Austria by the Americans and confined to a POW camp until 1946. Shortly afterwards he returned to Berlin where he found employment as a laborer cleaning up debris from the war.[7]

Erich Bauer was arrested in 1949 when two former Jewish prisoners from Sobibór, Samuel Lerer and Esther Raab, recognized him during a chance encounter at a Kreuzberg fair ground. When Ester Raab confronted Erich Bauer at the fair, he reportedly said, "How is it that you are still alive?"[2] He was arrested soon afterwards and his trial started the following year.

During the course of his trial, Bauer maintained that at Sobibór he only worked as a truck driver, collecting the necessary supplies for the camp's inmates and the German and Ukrainian guards. He admitted being aware of the mass murders at Sobibór, but claimed to have never taken any part in them, nor engaged in any acts of cruelty. His primary witnesses, former Sobibór guards SS-Oberscharführer Hubert Gomerski and Untersturmführer Johann Klier testified on his behalf.

The court, however, convicted Erich Bauer based on the testimony of four Jewish witnesses who managed to escape from Sobibór. They identified Bauer as the former Sobibór Gasmeister, who not only operated the gas chambers in the camp but also engaged in mass executions by shooting as well as in a variety of particularly vicious and random acts of cruelty against camp inmates and victims on their way to the gas chambers.[2]

On May 8, 1950 the court, Schwurgericht Berlin-Moabit, sentenced Erich Bauer to death for crimes against humanity.[8] Since capital punishment had been abolished in West Germany, Bauer's sentence was automatically commuted to life imprisonment. He served 21 years in Alt-Moabit Prison in Berlin before being transferred to Berlin Tegel prison. During his imprisonment, he admitted to his participation in mass murder at Sobibór and even occasionally testified against his former SS colleagues.

Bauer died at Berlin Tegel prison on February 4, 1980.[2][7]

Quotes

References

  1. ^ The Holocaust: Lest we forget: Extermination camp Sobibor
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dick de Mildt. In the Name of the People: Perpetrators of Genocide, p. 381-383. Brill, 1996.
  3. ^ a b  
  4. ^ Nikzor Web Site Sobibor Archive Retrieved on 2009-04-09
  5. ^ Testimony of Eda Lichtman. Retrieved on 2009-04-09
  6. ^ Thomas Blatt. From the Ashes of Sobibor, p. 128. Northwestern University Press, 1997.
  7. ^ a b Sobibor Interviews: Biographies of SS-men
  8. ^ a b c Klee, Ernst, Dressen, Willi, Riess, Volker The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders. ISBN 1-56852-133-2.
  9. ^ Yitzhak Arad (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, p. 77
  10. ^ Yitzhak Arad (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 116-117.
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