While browsing through couple of pages related to “Holocaust Studies” today I found a name which is not in the list of ‘popular names’ associated with the World War II. “Irma Grese”. Sounds like a normal German name. But Irma Grese was one the most notorious of the female Nazi war criminals and was one of the relatively small numbers of women who had worked in the concentration camps that were hanged for war crimes by the Allies. She became the youngest woman executed under British jurisdiction in the 20th century and was also the youngest of the concentration camp guards to be hanged.
Irma's early childhood was pretty humble and unassuming. She was born on October 7th, 1923 to an agricultural family. She left school at the age of 15 and had various jobs in farming, retail, and nursing.
Irma was captivated by Hitler and joined a Nazi youth group. She was later sent to Ravensbruck which was used to train female SS guards. Here she became a camp guard. She was then transferred to Auschwitz where in 1943 she became the senior SS-supervisor which is the second-highest rank a female camp guard could have. In this position she had virtually complete control of over 30, 000 female prisoners.
Many survivors provide extensive accounts of the murders, beatings, and tortures that Irma engaged in. She was known for her arbitrary shooting of prisoners, sexual excesses, cruelty and her unrelenting half starved dogs that she would unleash on the prisoners. She habitually wore heavy boots and carried a whip and a pistol. She was alleged to have used both physical and emotional methods to torture the camp's inmates and seemed to enjoy shooting prisoners in cold blood. It was claimed that she beat some of the women to death and whipped others mercilessly using a plaited cellophane whip. Survivors reported that she seemed to derive great sexual pleasure from these acts of sadism.
She was thought to be held accountable for nearly 30 murders a day. These atrocities continued in the Bergen-Belsen camp where she was transferred in 1945 (link to Bergen-Belsen page). When Bergen-Belsen was liberated, there were three human lampshades found in her quarters.She habitually wore heavy boots and carried a whip and a pistol.
It has been said that Nazism replaced this young girl's normal sex life and that her sexuality manifested itself in the brutal and sadistic treatment of her female prisoners. But for the conditions of war prevailing at this time in her life, one wonders whether Irma would have kept her sexual/sadistic impulses contained or just acted them out in sexual fantasies with her partner. She may well have grown up and become a respectable citizen, wife and mother had she lived under normal peacetime conditions.
Irma, for all intents and purposes could have grown up to be a perfectly normal woman, not a torturing murder. She fully adopted the anti-Semitic rhetoric and even referred to her prisoners as "dreck" or trash, sub-humans. Also, in her defense statement, we can see that she felt she was following orders and that they should bear the brunt of the responsibility. This girl was corrupted at a young age by what she heard from Hitler and learned in her nazi youth group, and by the extreme amount of power placed in her hands at the young age of 19. Does this mean that she is exempt from blame? That she was a pawn in the Nazi Regime? These questions are difficult to answer and may never be able to be given a complete one-sided answer, but it is interesting to try to understand how a quiet farmers daughter grows up to be one of the most villainous female guards known today.
It is clear that she accepted her fate with great courage - perhaps she felt she was dying for her country - almost a form of martyrdom - perhaps she felt that it was the best way out for her as Germany had lost the war. Irma's only defense during the trial was that "Himmler is responsible for all that has happened but I suppose I have as much guilt as the others above me". Irma was sentenced to death and was hanged on December 13th, 1945.
(info collected from multiple Sources)