Franz Stangl

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Franz Stangl
Stangl, Franz.jpg
Birth nameFranz Paul Stangl
Nickname(s)The White Death
Born(1908-03-26)26 March 1908
Altmünster, Austria-Hungary
Died28 June 1971(1971-06-28) (aged 63)
Düsseldorf, West Germany
AllegianceFlag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Years of service1931–1945
Service number NSDAP #6,370,447
SS #296,569
Unit SS-Totenkopfverbände
Commands held Sobibór, 28 April 1942 – 30 August 1942 Treblinka, 1 September 1942 – August 1943

Franz Paul Stangl [1] (German: [ˈʃtaŋl̩] ; 26 March 1908 28 June 1971) was an Austrian-born police officer who became an employee of the T-4 Euthanasia Program and an SS commander in Nazi Germany. He was the commandant of the Sobibór and Treblinka extermination camps during the Operation Reinhard phase of the Holocaust. He worked for Volkswagen do Brasil and was arrested in Brazil in 1967, extradited to West Germany and tried for the mass murder of 900,000 people. In 1970, he was found guilty and sentenced to the maximum penalty, life imprisonment. He died of heart failure six months later. [2] [3]

<i>Aktion T4</i> Nazi German euthanasia programme with 275,000–300,000 victims

Aktion T4 was a postwar name for mass murder through involuntary euthanasia in Nazi Germany. The name T4 is an abbreviation of Tiergartenstraße 4, a street address of the Chancellery department set up in the spring of 1940, in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, which recruited and paid personnel associated with T4. Certain German physicians were authorised to select patients "deemed incurably sick, after most critical medical examination" and then administer to them a "mercy death". In October 1939, Adolf Hitler signed a "euthanasia note", backdated to 1 September 1939, which authorised his physician Karl Brandt and Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler to implement the programme.

<i>Schutzstaffel</i> Major paramilitary organization during the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany

The Schutzstaffel was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in Nazi Germany, and later throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II. It began with a small guard unit known as the Saal-Schutz made up of NSDAP volunteers to provide security for party meetings in Munich. In 1925, Heinrich Himmler joined the unit, which had by then been reformed and given its final name. Under his direction (1929–45) it grew from a small paramilitary formation during the Weimar Republic to one of the most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany. From 1929 until the regime's collapse in 1945, the SS was the foremost agency of security, surveillance, and terror within Germany and German-occupied Europe.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.


Early life and Nazi affiliations

Stangl was born in 1908 in Altmünster, located in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. He was the son of a night-watchman and had such an emotionally distressing relationship with his father that he was deeply frightened by and hated the sight of the elder Stangl's Habsburg Dragoons uniform. [4] Stangl claimed his father died of malnutrition in 1916. To help support his family, Franz learned to play the zither and earned money giving zither lessons. Stangl completed his public schooling in 1923. [5]

Altmünster Place in Upper Austria, Austria

Altmünster, also known as Altmünster am Traunsee, is a market town located about 3 kilometres south of Gmunden in the Austrian state of Upper Austria, on the west shore of the Traunsee. Its economic base consists primarily of tourism, light industry, and as a bedroom community for people working in larger communities such as Gmunden and Vöcklabruck.


The Salzkammergut is a resort area located in Austria, stretching from the city of Salzburg eastwards along the Alpine Foreland and the Northern Limestone Alps to the peaks of the Dachstein Mountains. The main river of the region is the Traun, a right tributary of the Danube.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a land-locked country in Central Europe composed of nine federated states (Bundesländer), one of which is Vienna, Austria's capital and its largest city. Austria occupies an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi) and has a population of nearly 9 million people. It is bordered by Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. While German is the country's official language, many Austrians communicate informally in a variety of Bavarian dialects.

In his teens he secured an apprenticeship as a weaver, qualifying as a master weaver in 1927. Concerned that this trade offered few opportunities for advancement – and having observed the poor health of his co-workers – Stangl sought a new career. He moved to Innsbruck in 1930 and applied for an appointment in the Austrian federal police. Stangl later suggested that he liked the security and cleanliness that the police uniforms represented to him. He was accepted in early 1931 and trained for two years at the federal police academy in Linz. [5]

Innsbruck Capital city of Tyrol, Austria

Innsbruck is the capital city of Tyrol and the fifth-largest city in Austria. It is in the Inn valley, at its junction with the Wipp valley, which provides access to the Brenner Pass some 30 km (18.6 mi) to the south.

Linz City in Upper Austria, Austria

Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital and largest city of the state of Upper Austria. It is in the north centre of Austria, approximately 30 kilometres south of the Czech border, on both sides of the River Danube. The population of the city is 204,846, and that of the Greater Linz conurbation is about 789,811.

Stangl became a member of the NSDAP (commonly referred to in English as the Nazi Party) in 1931, an illegal association for an Austrian police officer at that time. [2] Post-war, he denied having been a Nazi since 1931 and claimed that he had enrolled as member of the party only to avoid arrest following the Anschluss of Austria into Nazi Germany in May 1938. Records suggest that Stangl contributed to a Nazi aid fund but he disavowed knowing about the intended party purpose of the fund. Stangl had Nazi Party number 6,370,447 and SS number 296,569.[ citation needed ]

Nazi Party a far-right political party in Germany that was active between 1920 and 1945

The National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly referred to in English as the Nazi Party, was a far-right political party in Germany that was active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported the ideology of National Socialism. Its precursor, the German Workers' Party, existed from 1919 to 1920.

<i>Anschluss</i> annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938

Anschluss refers to the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938. The word's German spelling, until the German orthography reform of 1996, was Anschluß and it was also known as the Anschluss Österreichs.

In 1935, Stangl was accepted into the Kriminalpolizei as a detective in the Austrian town of Wels. [4] After Austria's Anschluss, Stangl was assigned to the Schutzpolizei (which was taken over by the Gestapo) in Linz, where he was posted to the Jewish Bureau (German : Judenreferat). [6] Stangl joined the SS in May 1938. [5] He ultimately reached the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain). [7]


Kriminalpolizei is the standard term for the criminal investigation agency within the police forces of Germany, Austria and the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland. In Nazi Germany, the Kripo was the criminal police department for the entire Reich. Today, in the Federal Republic of Germany, the state police (Landespolizei) perform the majority of investigations. Its Criminal Investigation Department is known as the Kriminalpolizei or more colloquially, the Kripo.

Wels City in Upper Austria, Austria

Wels is a city in Upper Austria, on the Traun River near Linz. It is the county seat of Wels-Land, and with a population of approximately 60,000, the eighth largest city in Austria.

<i>Schutzpolizei</i> (Nazi Germany)

The Schutzpolizei des Reiches was the State (Reich) protection police of Nazi Germany, a branch of the Ordnungspolizei. Schutzpolizei is the German name for a uniformed police force.

T-4 Euthanasia program, 1940-3/1943-

After the onset of World War II, in early 1940, Stangl was instructed to report for work at the Public Service Foundation for Institutional Care (Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Anstaltspflege), a front organization of the T-4 Euthanasia Program. [6] Stangl purposely solicited for a job in the newly created T-4 program in order to escape difficulties with his boss in the Linz Gestapo. He traveled to the RSHA in Berlin, where he was received by Paul Werner, who offered Stangl a job as supervisor in charge of security at a T-4 facility, and in the language commonly used during recruitment, described Action T4 as a "humanitarian" effort that was "essential, legal, and secret". Next Stangl met with Viktor Brack, who offered him a choice of work between Hartheim and Sonnenstein Euthanasia Centres; Stangl picked Hartheim, which was near Linz. [5]

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

A front organization is any entity set up by and controlled by another organization, such as intelligence agencies, organized crime groups, banned organizations, religious or political groups, advocacy groups, or corporations. Front organizations can act for the parent group without the actions being attributed to the parent group thereby allowing them to hide from public view.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with Potsdam, Brandenburg's capital. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Through a direct order from Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler issued in November 1940, Stangl became the deputy office manager (Police Superintendent) of the T-4 Euthanasia Program at Hartheim Euthanasia Centre, and in late summer 1941 at Bernburg Euthanasia Centre, where people with mental and physical disabilities, as well as political prisoners, were sent to be killed. [4] [8]

At Hartheim, Stangl served under Christian Wirth as assistant supervisor in charge of security. When Wirth was succeeded by Franz Reichleitner, Stangl stayed on as Reichleitner's deputy. During his brief posting to Bernburg Euthanasia Centre Stangl reorganized the office at that T-4 facility. [5] In March 1942, Stangl was given a choice to either return to the Linz Gestapo or be transferred to Lublin for work in Operation Reinhard. Stangl accepted the posting to Lublin in the General Government, where he would manage Operation Reinhard under Odilo Globočnik. [4]

Extermination camps

Sobibór, 4-8/1942

Stangl was appointed by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to be the first commandant of Sobibór extermination camp. Stangl was Sobibór's commandant from 28 April until the end of August 1942, at the rank of SS-Obersturmführer . He claimed that Odilo Globočnik initially suggested that Sobibór was merely a supply camp for the army, and that the true nature of the camp became known to him only when he himself discovered a gas chamber hidden in the woods. Globočnik told him that if the Jews "were not working hard enough" he was fully permitted to kill them and that Globočnik would send "new ones".

Stangl studied the camp operations and management of Bełżec, which had already commenced extermination activity. He then accelerated the completion of Sobibór. [9] Around that time Stangl also had further dealings with Wirth, who was running extermination camps at Bełżec and Chelmno. Between 16–18 May 1942, Sobibór became fully operational. Around 100,000 Jews are believed to have been killed there while Stangl was the administrator until the furnaces broke down in October, by which time Stangl had left. [4] Stangl was succeeded as Sobibór commandant by his Hartheim Euthanasia Center colleague, Franz Reichleitner.

Treblinka, 9/1942-8/1943

On 28 August 1942, Odilo Globočnik ordered Stangl to become Kommandant at the newly opened but disorganized death camp, Treblinka, then under the incompetent[ further explanation needed ] command of Irmfried Eberl. Globočnik trusted that Stangl could restore order at Treblinka, since Stangl had a reputation as a highly competent administrator and people manager with an excellent grasp of detail. [1]

Stangl assumed command of Treblinka on 1 September 1942. Stangl wanted his camp to look attractive, so he ordered the paths paved and flowers planted along the sides of Seidel Street, near camp headquarters and SS living quarters. Despite being directly responsible for the camp's operations, Stangl said he limited his contact with Jewish prisoners as much as possible. Stangl rarely intervened with unusually cruel acts (other than gassing) perpetrated by his subordinate officers at the camp. He usually wore a white uniform and carried a whip, which caused prisoners to nickname him the "White Death". [1]

He claimed while in prison that his dedication had nothing to do with ideology or hatred of Jews. [4] He said he matter-of-factly viewed the prisoners as material objects rather than people, including their extermination: "That was my profession. I enjoyed it. It fulfilled me. And yes, I was ambitious about that, I won't deny it." [10] Stangl accepted and grew accustomed to the killings, perceiving prisoners not as humans but merely as "cargo" that must be destroyed. Stangl accepted the extermination of the Jews as a fact. At about this time, Stangl began drinking heavily. [11] He is quoted as saying:

To tell the truth, one did become used to it... they were cargo. I think it started the day I first saw the Totenlager [extermination area] in Treblinka. I remember Wirth standing there, next to the pits full of black-blue corpses. It had nothing to do with humanity — it could not have. It was a mass — a mass of rotting flesh. Wirth said 'What shall we do with this garbage?' I think unconsciously that started me thinking of them as cargo... I rarely saw them as individuals. It was always a huge mass. I sometimes stood on the wall and saw them in the "tube" — they were naked, packed together, running, being driven with whips... [10]

In September 1942, Stangl supervised the building of new, larger gas chambers to augment the existing gas chambers. The new gas chambers became operational in early autumn 1942. It is believed that these death chambers were capable of killing 3,000 people in two hours, and 12,000 to 15,000 victims easily every day, [1] with a maximum capacity of 22,000 deaths in 24 hours. [12] According to Jankiel Wiernik: "When the new gas chambers were completed, the Hauptsturmführer [Stangl] came and remarked to the SS men who were with him: 'Finally the Jewish city is ready' (German : Endlich ist die Judenstadt fertig)". [10]

Erich Bauer later remarked:

I estimate that the number of Jews gassed at Sobibor was about 350,000. In the canteen at Sobibor I once overheard a conversation between Karl Frenzel, Franz Stangl and Gustav Wagner. They were discussing the number of victims in the extermination camps of Belzec, Treblinka and Sobibor and expressed their regret that Sobibor "came last" in the competition. [8]

Trieste, 8/1943-1945

In August 1943, along with Globočnik, Stangl was transferred to Trieste, where he helped organize the campaign against Yugoslav partisans and local Jews. Due to illness, he returned to Vienna in early 1945, where he served in the "Alpine Fortress" (Alpenfestung). [6]

Post-war escape, 1945–1961

At the end of the war, Stangl fled without concealing his name. He was detained by the American Army in 1945 and was briefly imprisoned pending investigation in Linz, Austria in 1947. Stangl was suspected of complicity in the T-4 euthanasia programme.

On 30 May 1948, he escaped to Italy with his colleague from Sobibór, SS sergeant Gustav Wagner. Austrian Roman Catholic Bishop Alois Hudal, a Nazi sympathizer, forced in 1952 to resign by the Vatican, helped him to escape through a "ratline" and to reach Syria using a Red Cross passport. [13]

Stangl was joined by his wife and family and lived in Syria for three years. In 1951, they moved to Brazil. After years of other jobs, he found work at the Volkswagen do Brasil plant in São Bernardo do Campo with the help of friends, still using his own name. [14]

Arrest, trial, and death

Although Stangl's role in the mass murder of men, women, and children was known to the Austrian authorities, a warrant for his arrest was not issued until 1961. Despite being registered under his real name at the Austrian consulate in São Paulo, [15] it took another six years before he was tracked down by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and arrested by Brazilian federal police on 28 February 1967. He never used an assumed name during his escape, and it is not clear why it took so long to apprehend him. After his extradition to West Germany by Brazilian authorities, he was tried for the deaths of around 900,000 people. He admitted to these killings but argued: "My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty..." [16]

Stangl's attempt to justify his actions as non-criminal in the face of German law was subsequently quoted by Arad:

What I had to do while I continued my efforts to get out was to limit my own actions to what I — in my own conscience — could answer for. At police training school they taught us that the definition of a crime must meet four requirements: there has to be a subject, an object, an action and intent. If any of these four elements is missing, then we are not dealing with a punishable offence... I could apply this to my own situation — if the subject was the government, the "object" the Jews, and the action the gassing, I could tell myself that for me, the fourth element, "intent", (I called it free will) was missing. [10]

Philosopher John Kekes discussed Stangl and the degree of his responsibility for war crimes in chapter 4 of his book, The Roots of Evil. [17] The Schwurgericht Düsseldorf court found Stangl guilty on 22 December 1970 and sentenced him to the maximum penalty, life imprisonment. [8] While in prison, Stangl was interviewed extensively by Gitta Sereny for a study of him which was published under the title Into that Darkness. [18]

She wrote, quoting him:

"My conscience is clear about what I did, myself", he said, in the same stiffly tone he had used countless times at his trial, and in the past weeks, when we had always come back to this subject, over and over again. But this time I said nothing. He paused and waited, but the room remained silent. "I have never intentionally hurt anyone, myself," he said, with a different, less incisive emphasis, and waited again - for a long time. For the first time, in all these many days, I had given him no help. There was no more time. He gripped the table with both hands as if he was holding on to it. "But I was there", he said then, in a curiously dry and tired tone of resignation. These few sentences had taken almost half an hour to pronounce. "So yes," he said finally, very quietly, "in reality I share the guilt... Because my guilt... my guilt... only now in these talks... now that I have talked about it all for the first time..." He stopped.

In his prison interview with Sereny, she later wrote:

Stangl had pronounced the words 'my guilt': but more than the words, the finality of it was in the sagging of his body, and on his face. After more than a minute he started again, a half-hearted attempt, in a dull voice. 'My guilt,' he said, 'is that I am still here. That is my guilt.' [19]

He died of heart failure nineteen hours after the conclusion of that interview, in Düsseldorf prison on 28 June 1971. [4]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Treblinka Death Camp, with photographs Archived 2012-03-22 at the Wayback Machine , Ounsdale, PDF (2.2 MB)
  2. 1 2 "SOME SIGNIFICANT CASE - Franz Stangl". Simon Wiesenthal Archiv. Simon Wiesenthal Center. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  3. Sobibor - The Forgotten Revolt Archived 24 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Robert S. Wistrich (1982). Who's Who in Nazi Germany, pp. 295-96.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Henry Friedlander (1995). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, pp. 204-05; ISBN   0-8078-2208-6
  6. 1 2 3 Christian Zentner, Friedemann Bedürftig (1991). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, pp. 910-11. Macmillan, New York; ISBN   0-02-897502-2
  7. Klee, Ernst: Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945?. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2003; ISBN   3-10-039309-0
  8. 1 2 3 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. Christian Zentner, Friedemann Bedürftig. The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, p. 878. Macmillan, New York (1991); ISBN   0-02-897502-2
  10. 1 2 3 4 Yitzhak Arad (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 184-86.
  11. Sereny, Gitta (1995). Into That Darkness. Pimlico. p. 200. ISBN   978-0712674478.
  12. David E. Sumler, A history of Europe in the twentieth century, Dorsey Press; ISBN   0-256-01421-3.
  13. Michael Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust
  14. Komplizen? – VW und die brasilianische Militärdiktatur. DasErste, ARD, 24.07.2017
  15. Sereny, Gitta Into That Darkness: from Mercy Killing to Mass Murder, a study of Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka (1974)
  16. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. Kekes, John. Roots of Evil excerpt via; accessed 5 March 2017.
  18. Sereny, Gitta (1974). Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (1995 paperback ed.). London: Pimlico. ISBN   978-0-7126-7447-8.
  19. Sereny (1974), p. 364
Military offices
Preceded by
Commandant of Sobibór extermination camp
28 April 1942 – 30 August 1942
Succeeded by
SS-Obersturmführer Franz Reichleitner
Preceded by
SS-Obersturmführer Irmfried Eberl
Commandant of Treblinka extermination camp
1 September 1942 – August 1943
Succeeded by
SS-Untersturmführer Kurt Franz

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