Wolfram Sievers

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Mugshot of Wolfram Sievers, taken by American authorities after his arrest Wolfram Sievers.jpg
Mugshot of Wolfram Sievers, taken by American authorities after his arrest

Wolfram Sievers (10 July 1905 – 2 June 1948) was Reichsgeschäftsführer, or managing director, of the Ahnenerbe from 1935 to 1945.

Ahnenerbe Nazi political and pseudoscientific think tank (1935-1945)

The Ahnenerbe was a think tank that operated in Nazi Germany between 1935 and 1945. It was an appendage of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and had been established by Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer of the SS. It was devoted to the task of promoting the racial doctrines espoused by Adolf Hitler and his governing Nazi Party, specifically by supporting the idea that the modern Germans descended from an ancient Aryan race which was biologically superior to other racial groups. The group comprised scholars and scientists from a broad range of academic disciplines.


Early life

Sievers was born in 1905 in Hildesheim in the Province of Hanover (now in Lower Saxony), the son of a Protestant church musician. It is reported that he was musically gifted, that he played the harpsichord, organ, and piano, and loved German baroque music. He was expelled from school for being active in the Deutschvölkischer Schutz und Trutzbund and went on to study history, philosophy, and religious studies at Stuttgart's Technical University while working as a salesman. A member of the Bündische Jugend, he became active in the Artamanen-Gesellschaft ("Artaman League"), a nationalist back-to-the-land movement. [1]

Hildesheim Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Hildesheim[ˈhɪldəsˌhaɪ̯m](listen) is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany with 104,230 inhabitants. It is in the district of Hildesheim, about 30 km (19 mi) southeast of Hanover on the banks of the Innerste River, a small tributary of the Leine River. With the Hildesheim Cathedral and the St. Michael's Church Hildesheim has become a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.

Province of Hanover Prussian province

The Province of Hanover was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia from 1868 to 1946.

Lower Saxony State in Germany

Lower Saxony is a German state (Land) situated in northwestern Germany. It is the second-largest state by land area, with 47,624 km2 (18,388 sq mi), and fourth-largest in population among the 16 Länder federated as the Federal Republic of Germany. In rural areas, Northern Low Saxon and Saterland Frisian are still spoken, but the number of speakers is declining.


Sievers joined the NSDAP in 1929. In 1933 he headed the Externsteine-Stiftung ("Externsteine Foundation"), which had been founded by Heinrich Himmler to study the Externsteine in the Teutoburger Wald. In 1935, having joined the SS that year, Sievers was appointed Reichsgeschäftsführer, or General Secretary, of the Ahnenerbe , by Himmler. He was the actual director of Ahnenerbe operations and was to rise to the rank of SS-Standartenführer by the end of the war.

Externsteine rock formation in Germany

The Externsteine[ˈɛkstɐnʃtaɪnə] is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg in the Lippe district of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills.

<i>Standartenführer</i> Nazi party paramilitary rank

Standartenführer was a Nazi Party (NSDAP) paramilitary rank that was used in several NSDAP organizations, such as the SA, SS, NSKK and the NSFK. First founded as a title in 1925, in 1928 the rank became one of the first commissioned NSDAP ranks and was bestowed upon those SA and SS officers who commanded units known as Standarten which were regiment-sized formations of between three hundred and five hundred men.

In 1943 Sievers became director of the Institut für Wehrwissenschaftliche Zweckforschung (Institute for Military Scientific Research), which conducted extensive experiments using human subjects. He also assisted in assembling a collection of skulls and skeletons for August Hirt's study at the Reichsuniversität Straßburg as a part of which 112 Jewish prisoners were selected and killed, after being photographed and their anthropological measurements taken. [2]

August Hirt German anatomist and SS officer

August Hirt was an anatomist with Swiss and German nationality who served as a chairman at the Reich University in Strasbourg during World War II. He performed experiments with mustard gas on inmates at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp and played a lead role in the murders of 86 people at Natzweiler-Struthof for the Jewish skeleton collection. The skeletons of his victims were meant to become specimens at the Institute of anatomy in Strasbourg, but completion of the project was stopped by the progress of the war. He was an SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and in 1944, an SS-Sturmbannführer (major).

Reichsuniversität Straßburg

The Reichsuniversität Straßburg (RUS) was founded 1941 by the National Socialists in Alsace, annexed to Nazi Germany, while the regular University of Strasbourg had moved to Clermont-Ferrand since 1940. The purpose was to create a continuity to the German character of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Universität - as the University of Strasbourg was named from 1872 to 1918. In 1941, it was to the fore of German invaders to propagate the „pure German knowledge“ of national socialistic character in the annexed Alsace-Lorraine. When the Allies arrived in Alsace in 1944, the Reichsuniversität was first transferred to Tübingen and then dissolved.

The Jewish skeleton collection was an attempt by the Nazis to create an anthropological display to showcase the alleged racial inferiority of the "Jewish race" and to emphasize the Jews' status as Untermenschen ("sub-humans"), in contrast to the German race, which the Nazis considered to be Aryan Übermenschen. The collection was to be housed at the Anatomy Institute at the Reich University of Strasbourg in the annexed region of Alsace, where the initial preparation of the corpses was performed.

Trial and execution

Sievers was tried during the Doctors' Trial at Nuremberg following the end of World War II, where he was dubbed "the Nazi Bluebeard" by journalist William L. Shirer because of his "thick, ink-black beard". [3] The Institute for Military Scientific Research had been set up as part of the Ahnenerbe, and the prosecution at Nuremberg laid the responsibility for the experiments on humans which had been conducted under its auspices on the Ahnenerbe. Sievers, as its highest administrative officer, was accused of actively aiding and promoting the criminal experiments. [4]

William L. Shirer American journalist

William Lawrence Shirer was an American journalist and war correspondent. He wrote The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a history of Nazi Germany that has been read by many and cited in scholarly works for more than 50 years. Originally a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and the International News Service, Shirer was the first reporter hired by Edward R. Murrow for what would become a CBS radio team of journalists known as "Murrow's Boys". He became known for his broadcasts from Berlin, from the rise of the Nazi dictatorship through the first year of World War II (1940). With Murrow, he organized the first broadcast world news roundup, a format still followed by news broadcasts.

Sievers was charged with being a member of an organization declared criminal by the International Military Tribunal (the SS), and was implicated in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In his defense, he alleged that as early as 1933, he had been a member of an anti-Nazi resistance movement which planned to assassinate Hitler and Himmler, and that he had obtained his appointment as Manager of the Ahnenerbe so as to get close to Himmler and observe his movements. He further claimed that he remained in the post on the advice of his resistance leader to gather vital information which would assist in the overthrow of the Nazi regime. [5]

Sievers was sentenced to death on 20 August 1947 for crimes against humanity, and hanged on 2 June 1948, at Landsberg prison in Bavaria.

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  1. Lixfeld, Hannjost; James R. Dow (1994). The Nazification of an Academic Discipline: Folklore in the Third Reich. Indiana University Press. pp. 198–199. ISBN   0-253-31821-1.
  2. "Nuremberg - Explore the Nuremberg Trials!". nuremberg.law.harvard.edu.
  3. Shirer, William L. (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Simon and Schuster. p. 981.
  4. Epstein, Fritz T., War-Time Activities of the SS-Ahnenerbe (in On the Track of Tyranny: Essays Presented by the Wiener Library to Leonard G. Montefiore, on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday. Ayer Publishing. 1971. pp. 79–81.)
  5. McDonald, Gabrielle Kirk; Olivia Swaak-Goldman (2000). Substantive and Procedural Aspects of International Criminal Law: The Experience of International and National Courts. BRILL. p. 1755. ISBN   90-411-1134-4.