Cozy post-war life of Nazi who oversaw torture and murder at CHILDREN'S concentration camp revealed

Cozy post-war life of Nazi who oversaw torture and murder at CHILDREN’S concentration camp revealed

A Nazi officer in charge of a concentration camp for children escaped justice and lived a ‘cozy post-war life’ writing books and police manuals, new research has found.

A three-month investigation by Polish historians has revealed that the commandant who oversaw the camp, which was dubbed ‘Little Auschwitz’, escaped justice because his name had been misspelt in official documents.

SS Sturmbannführer Friedrich Camillo Ehrlich was head of the notorious children’s concentration camp ‘Kinder-KZ’ in the city of Lodz in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War.

There, he oversaw the mistreatment of up to 2,000 Polish youngsters, of whom as many as 300 were murdered or died due to the horrendous conditions.

Captured by the Red Army and sentenced to life imprisonment at the end of the war, Ehrlich was later released by East German authorities – and then disappeared.

Now, after digging through German and Polish archives, researchers have found that he lived happily in retirement, writing books and doing consultancy work for the German police.

One book he wrote for the police bore the title in German of Einbrecher, which translates as ‘Burglars’. 

Michał Hankiewicz from the Museum of Polish Children of Victims of Totalitarianism which carried out the investigation said that because of an admin mistake, he was known as Karl Ehrlich after the war.  

‘Consequently, he was never held accountable for his war crimes,’ Mr Hankiewicz said. 

Armed with the new information that Karl Ehrlich and Friedrich Camillo Ehrlich were the same person, the researchers were able to start piecing his life together. 

Nazi officer SS Sturmbannführer Friedrich Camillo Ehrlich, who was in charge of a concentration camp for children in occupied Poland escaped justice and lived a 'cozy post-war life' writing books and police manuals, new research has found. Above: Ehrlich inspecting the children in the camp, which was inside the Lodz Jewish ghetto

Nazi officer SS Sturmbannführer Friedrich Camillo Ehrlich, who was in charge of a concentration camp for children in occupied Poland escaped justice and lived a ‘cozy post-war life’ writing books and police manuals, new research has found. Above: Ehrlich inspecting the children in the camp, which was inside the Lodz Jewish ghetto

Ehrlich was head of the notorious children's concentration camp in the city of Lodz in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War. Above: Children line up as they are inspected by Ehrlich

Ehrlich was head of the notorious children’s concentration camp in the city of Lodz in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War. Above: Children line up as they are inspected by Ehrlich  

Captured by the Red Army and sentenced to life imprisonment at the end of the war, he was later released by East German authorities - and then disappeared. Above: Ehrlich's original ID card which features his real name

Captured by the Red Army and sentenced to life imprisonment at the end of the war, he was later released by East German authorities – and then disappeared. Above: Ehrlich’s original ID card which features his real name 

Hankiewicz said: ‘By examining the German archives, we managed to discover that in February 1950 he was transferred to a prison in Waldheim.

‘On May 16, 1950, the National Court in Chemnitz sentenced him to life imprisonment, deprivation of public rights and forfeiture of property.

Ehrlich's wartime photograph

Ehrlich’s wartime photograph 

‘He was found guilty of active participation in the terror apparatus of the Third Reich, but no reference was made to the crimes committed by him in the children’s camp.

‘On April 28, 1956, Ehrlich was released by the GDR authorities without giving any reason.

He left for West Germany, where his conviction was considered groundless.’

After fleeing to West Germany he began publishing articles on forensic science and also wrote handbooks for police officers on how to encourage teenagers to avoid crime.

Hankiewicz added: ‘He lived out his life comfortably in Munich writing how-to manuals for the German police and died in Munich on 6 June 1974 at the age of 81.’

However, in 1970, Ehrlich was questioned as a suspect in connection with an investigation against Heinrich Fuge, who ran another camp near to the one in Lodz.

Ehrlich denied that he had committed any crimes and claimed he had forbidden the beating of children. He also claimed he had never seen guards with whips or lashes. 

He said he had allowed children to see their families and maintained that only three children died in the camp under his command. 

No charges were brought against Ehrlich and he died a free man.  

Born on 23 February 1893 in Löβnitz, Saxony, during the First World War Ehrlich was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and earned an Iron Cross.

In 1922 he married Elisabeth Oelsner, before joining the police and becoming a detective in what is now the city of Chemnitz.

One book he wrote for the police bore the title in German of Einbrecher: Aufzeichnungen eines Kriminalkommissars, which translates as 'Burglars: Notes of a Detective Inspector'

One book he wrote for the police bore the title in German of Einbrecher: Aufzeichnungen eines Kriminalkommissars, which translates as ‘Burglars: Notes of a Detective Inspector’ 

Cozy post-war life of Nazi who oversaw torture and murder at CHILDREN'S concentration camp revealed Some of the documents that researchers found which revealed Ehrlich's brutal past as a war criminal

Some of the documents that researchers found which revealed Ehrlich’s brutal past as a war criminal

Joining the Nazi Party in 1937 and becoming chief of the criminal police, in April 1939 he joined the SS where he rose to the rank of Sturmbannführer before being posted to Litzmannstadt, the name the Germans gave to Lodz.

Historians say that now they know Ehrlich’s real name, they are continuing to find out as much as they can about his post-war life. 

With the opening of the children’s camp in December 1942 on the orders of SS chief Heinrich Himmler, Ehrlich was appointed as its commandant.

Hidden inside the Lodz Jewish ghetto, renamed Litzmannstadt by the Germans, it was the only camp to be established by the Nazis specifically for children in occupied Europe.

As many as 2,000 Polish children aged between two and 16 years old faced untold horrors inside as they were imprisoned in horrendous conditions, which saw them beaten, tortured and starved.

The camp soon became known as ‘Little Auschwitz’ because of its high death rate and the violence handed out by SS thugs in charge.

The children were isolated from the main Lodz ghetto which housed adults by a high wooden fence constructed by Jewish prisoners.

Most were sons and daughters of what the Nazis called ‘dangerous bandits’ – men or women who belonged to the underground resistance movement, but homeless children and those with mental and physical disabilities were also forced into the camps. 

Some children who had been arrested for petty crimes were also taken to the camp.

The prisoners were stripped of their identity and forced to wear grey prison uniforms and clogs. 

They were known by numbers instead of names and forced to endure relentless and unbearable camp conditions. 

Although not strictly part of the Nazi’s vast concentration camp system, survivors say the barbaric conditions were worse than other camps. 

Inmates were crammed in wooden blocks that offered little protection from the cold during winter, while the German guards were accommodated in brick buildings.

Prisoner testimonies tell of constant, unrelenting hunger.  

For breakfast children would be given just one slice of bread and half a litre of black coffee.

The children were starved of lunch and given just a litre of turnip or potato soup with beet leaves or cabbage for dinner. 

They were very occasionally given a spoonful of marmalade.

Many of the children died of starvation and disease or from vicious beatings and floggings at the hands of SS guards.

As many as 2,000 Polish children aged between two and 16 years old faced untold horrors inside the Lodz camp as they were imprisoned in horrendous conditions, which saw them beaten, tortured and starved. Above: A female inmate Another of the inmates

As many as 2,000 Polish children aged between two and 16 years old faced untold horrors inside the Lodz camp as they were imprisoned in horrendous conditions, which saw them beaten, tortured and starved. Above: Two female inmates

Boys straightened needles and made straw shoes, wicker baskets, gas mask belts and leather parts of backpacks. Girls worked in the camp laundry, kitchen, tailor's workshop and the garden. Above: The children's are seen being inspected by SS officers as they work

Boys straightened needles and made straw shoes, wicker baskets, gas mask belts and leather parts of backpacks. Girls worked in the camp laundry, kitchen, tailor’s workshop and the garden. Above: The children’s are seen being inspected by SS officers as they work  

Girls worked in the camp laundry, kitchen, tailor's workshop and the garden. Above: Children in the camp

Girls worked in the camp laundry, kitchen, tailor’s workshop and the garden. Above: Children in the camp 

It is believed that as many as 300 children were murdered or died within the camp walls, though the exact number is unknown. Above: A female prisoner A boy seen with his head shaved

It is believed that as many as 300 children were murdered or died within the camp walls, though the exact number is unknown. Above: A female and male prisoner

The camp’s filthy conditions saw a typhus epidemic in late 1942 and early 1943 which claimed the lives of many children.

Those who remained alive were subjected to forced labour morning to night and dehumanising punishment by sadistic German guards.

Boys straightened needles and made straw shoes, wicker baskets, gas mask belts and leather parts of backpacks. 

Girls worked in the camp laundry, kitchen, tailor’s workshop and the garden. 

It is believed that as many as 300 children were murdered or died within the camp walls, though the exact number is unknown.

Children were forced to sleep in camp uniforms on bare planks, which rotted when they wet themselves in fear of camp brutality.

They were made to wash outside, usually without soap, in freezing conditions under a pump or in a basin. 

Until spring 1944 there was no active bath or room to steam clothes, meaning camp lice were commonplace – though being found to have them was punishable by flogging or starvation. 

One of the camp’s most notorious guards was the sadist Edward August.

Pictured left, Sydonia Bayer (third from left) inspects new arrivals with SS officers. One survivor recalled that she enjoyed pouring could water over sick children

Pictured left, Sydonia Bayer (third from left) inspects new arrivals with SS officers. One survivor recalled that she enjoyed pouring could water over sick children

SS guards inspect the arrivals of children at the camp in spring 1943

SS guards inspect the arrivals of children at the camp in spring 1943

Camp survivor Jozef Witkowski recalled: ‘He was constantly drunk. He was omnipresent. He took pleasure in subjecting prisoners to the most imaginative torture.

‘He beat and kicked them in the most sensitive places, he buried them in boxes of sand, dunked them in a barrel of water, hung them by the legs on a chain and lowered their heads into a tank with used car lubricants, he cut their genitals with a penknife, beat their heels and extinguished cigarettes on prisoners’ chests’.

Sydonia Bayer was the Nazi thug in charge of the girls’ section of the camp and was nicknamed ‘Frau Doctor’ by the children.

The former saleswoman had a basic understanding of First Aid and was put in charge of blocks where severely ill children were taken.

Jozef recalled: ‘She liked to drag sick children into the snow and pour cold water on them. She ordered them to be whipped, beaten, kicked, deprived of meals.

‘As a form of repression for children who wet their beds, she organised a special penal ‘block for children unwittingly urinating’.’

Survivor Maria Jaworska recalled how a 10-year-old girl who had wet her bed died a few days after being savagely beaten by Bayer.

Camp records show that Bayer recorded tuberculosis as the cause of the girl’s death.

Children were also subjected to horrendous experiments as guards infected them with various diseases to test treatment methods. 

SS officers stand outside Block 8 where boys have been forced to line up. Block 8 has been recreated as part of the new 'digital' camp

SS officers stand outside Block 8 where boys have been forced to line up. Block 8 has been recreated as part of the new ‘digital’ camp

The visualisation will help 'teachers trying to familiarize students with the issues of martyrdom of Polish children during World War II.'

The visualisation will help ‘teachers trying to familiarize students with the issues of martyrdom of Polish children during World War II.’

Bayer and August were arrested after the war and executed for crimes committed against children at the camp. 

Much of the camp has since been rebuilt and turned into flats. 

Some original buildings including workshops and the commandant buildings remain, though these have also been converted into accommodation.

Vital documents were destroyed by Germans before fleeing the advancing Red Army on January 18, 1945.

When the Nazi occupation of Lodz ended, there were over just 800 child prisoners left in the camp. 

Last year, the researchers at the Museum of Polish Children of Victims of Totalitarianism discovered letters written by children imprisoned at the camp in Lodz.  

They revealed the inhuman conditions in which the children were forced to live in.  

In one, a 12-year-old girl called Halinka Cubrzyńska wrote on February 15, 1944: ‘My dear parents, if you can get me some leather boots and send me, because I have nothing to wear (…) I am asking for some soap and a spoon too, because I do not have anything to eat.’

Another from a 12-year-old boy called Jas Spychala and dated October 16, 1944 says ‘My darling mummy, please bake me 20 pancakes. And onions and mustard.

He added: ‘I work as a saddle maker… You can send me photos but don’t expect a reply for a month.’

Yet another from a 13-year-old girl called Gertruda Nowak and dated April 2, 1944, reads: ‘Jerzy came from the hospital healthy, now he has fallen ill again with pneumonia and water in his side. I am very worried that it will get worse.’

The camp was separated from the main ghetto by a high wooden fence made by Jewish prisoners and was run by the SS between 1942 to 1944

The camp was separated from the main ghetto by a high wooden fence made by Jewish prisoners and was run by the SS between 1942 to 1944

Describing the finds as ‘priceless’ Dr Andrzej Janicki from the museum said: ‘These letters are a special, intimate form of contact with the experiences of these children’s truly tragic experiences.

‘Read literally, the letters from the youngest prisoners of the German camp could suggest the conditions were good.

‘The letters are full of assurances that the children are doing well, that everyone is healthy.

‘But between the lines a tragic picture emerges. There is information here that tells about the real situation in the camp.

‘From a letter of one of the girls we learn that “they are all healthy”, but her brother “recently suffered from pneumonia and he has water in his side”.

‘Another girl asks for shoes for herself and her sister.’

He added: ‘The content of the letters written by the children to their parents or immediate family does not show the whole truth about the conditions of the camp – hunger, beatings, and diseases.

‘Each letter was censored and dictated by the guards. However, even what the children managed to describe is shocking.’   

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