Camp SS murders

SS men committed hundreds of murders in the pre-war camps. But such murders did not happen daily. Before the war, SS men often stopped short of murder, partly because legal courts could still prosecute them (at least in theory). This legal provision fell away during the Second World War, as did other restraints. The result was a dramatic rise in murders by local Camp SS men. Among the killers were Gustav Sorge and Wilhelm Schubert. In 1959, a West German court sentenced them to life imprisonment for crimes committed in Sachsenhausen. The following extract from the judgment details one of Sorge’s murders.

024 – The murder of Heinz Spreckelsen in Sachsenhausen

On 5 February 1940 the defendant Sorge broke into the block [20] during the night with a pack of SS men. On his command the prisoners were chased out of their beds, back into them, under their beds and up into the rafters. In the process the SS men beat the prisoners with bull whips and kicked them. [Heinz] Spreckelsen and Witness P. fell over. While the witness managed to get up again quickly, Spreckelsen was unable to and was lying on his stomach directly in front of the defendant, who trampled on the back of his head and on his back with his boots. Though the SS men, Sorge included, smelt of alcohol, they did not at all appear to be drunk. When the SS men had left the hut the witness carried his fellow prisoner Spreckelsen back to bed. His comrades had to carry him to morning roll call. They laid him next to the hut. The witness then took him to the sick bay. Immediately after being admitted Spreckelsen died in the arms of Witness P., who closed his eyes. According to his death certificate Spreckelsen died aged 25 on 5 February 1940 from “an influenzal infection”. […]

The defendant killed a prisoner from base motives, regarding him as an outlaw without rights. He believed he could do what he liked with him without let or hindrance.

Source: District Court Bonn, Sentence against Sorge and Schubert, 6 February 1959, in Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, vol. 15 (Amsterdam, 1976), pp. 561–2

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes