When Nazis come to mind, I doubt that the first picture in your head is that of a woman. Instead, you probably see the evilest men in history committing atrocities against other humans, acts of horror unfathomable to most people, but acts that were very real for a lot of people, including some who survived and are still alive to tell the story.
Throughout human history, crimes against humanity have overwhelmingly been committed by men. Just as serial killers are predominantly men, and violent crimes are predominantly committed by men, so are history’s most infamous tragedies, including the Holocaust. But that does not mean that the entire female species was innocent; as always, there is the exception and not the rule. And in the case of Hitler’s Nazis, women were exactly that. They were involved in many aspects of World War II, as we know, but as many people may not realize, women readily participated in what is argued by many to be our world’s greatest genocide.
The women of the Third Reich were many in number, and they played various roles in World War II. This list is one of images of the ladies of the Third Reich, the worst of the worst. Every bit as evil as the men, some even more so, Hitler’s murderesses were not to be underestimated. Here is why…
15. Bullies With Batons
As stated above, thousands of women worked as guards in the concentration camps, where we are well aware of the horrors that took place under their watch. They played a vital role in Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews of the world, and ultimately to “ethnically cleanse” the earth. This is a photo of Irma Grese (see number three of this list) and Maria Mandel, who is thought to have been directly responsible for the deaths of 500,000 people. She chose prisoners to be her pet, then killed them when she was through with them. She created the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz to perform during roll calls, executions, selections, and transports. The awful woman was executed in 1948.
14. Heil Hitler
This chilling photograph would seem like nothing we haven’t seen before, except for the fact that this crowd of Nazis saluting Hitler are all women. They are the women of the Third Reich, wholly devoted to Hitler’s cause in several different ways. They may be the fairer sex, and they may not be as many in number as the men when it came to being Nazis, but women were not even close to being innocent in World War II Europe. The so-called “weaker sex” were not weak at all, and committed tons of atrocities right alongside their male counterparts. We just do not hear about it as often. This photo is representative of all the women who supported the Nazi regime in various different ways, all helping push Europe toward the Final Solution, no matter how small or large their contribution. Around 3200 women served in the concentration camps, and it is suggested that these women were simply allured by the ideology of it all.
13. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
These Nazi ladies appear as if it is all fun and games after a hard day’s work. The photo was labeled “Nazi party girls”, and that pretty much looks to be the case. It is sickening to think what their day of work entailed, and even more so to see them having such a blast afterwards, while their fellow human beings were suffering nearby at Auschwitz. Kathrin Kompisch said in her book Female Perpetrators: Women Under National Socialism: “…At the end of the war [the women] tried to diminish their responsibility by saying they were just cogs in the all-male machine which gave the orders… Apart from a few particularly cruel examples, the participation of women in the crimes of the Nazis has been blended out of the collective conscious of the Germans for a long time.” Perhaps this is why we never see photos like this, and why we seldom think of the perpetrators of the Holocaust as being women.
12. Saluting Evil
Here is yet another example of female Nazis saluting their Fuhrer. It is representative of the goal of the Third Reich, and of all the women who participated in furthering that goal. This is just one group of light-featured women of the many, but they no doubt did their share of evil; just look at those stone cold faces. They are far from the nurturing looks society associates with women, just because of their gender. Women are every bit as capable of committing evil acts as men are, and although their war crimes are not as well-known as the men’s, their role in the Third Reich proves that. Although they were blocked from leadership positions by the all-male hierarchy of the Nazi state, the women still participated, both as guards and at the root of everything, as enforcers of the Nazi ideal. Without the support of the women, the men would never have had as much power.
11. Herta Oberheuser
At the Auschwitz and Ravensbruck concentration camps, Nazi physician Herta Oberheuser participated in the horrific sulfa experiemnts. She killed healthy children with injections of oil and the barbiturate evipan, after which she would remove their limbs and vital organs. It took the children five minutes to die, and they were fully conscious the whole time. In addition, she performed medical experiments that were painful, and deliberately inflicted wounds upon them. She even rubbed things like rusty nails, glass, and dirt into the wounds to simulate the wounds of soldiers and thus find cures for them. The only female defendant in the Nuremberg Trials, Herta was sentenced to 20 years behind bars. She served just five and was released in 1952. She went on to practice family medicine until a Ravensbruck survivor recognized her, and she lost her position. She ultimately lost her medical license in 1958.
10. Herta Bothe
This photo of Herta Bothe was taken while she awaited trial in August of 1945. At the age of 21 in 1942 she became the SS-Aufseherin guard at the Ravensbruck concentration camp for women. As a former nurse, she took a one-month-long training course to prepare her. Once at Ravensbruck, she became known by her nickname, the Sadist of Stutthof, because of her brutal beatings of the prisoners. Later she accompanied a death march of women to Bergen-Belsen. When it was liberated in 1945, she was arrested and sentenced to 10 years for using a pistol on prisoners. She was released early in 1951, and is still living to this day, at the age of 96. Herta said in a rare interview, “Did I make a mistake? No. The mistake was that it was a concentration camp, but I had to go to it, otherwise I would have been put into it myself. That was my mistake.”
9. The Sadist of Stutthof
Here is Herta Bothe again, at the Bergen-Belsen camp. The other women are Hildegard Kanbach, Irene Haschke, and Elisabeth Volkenrath. This photo was taken during the death march from central Poland to Bergen-Belsen, in which she accompanied 60 women to the camp. In her interview 60 years later, Herta described having to clear the dead bodies and being forbiddento wear gloves, which made her afraid of contracting typhus. She spoke of the rotting limbs that would tear off when a body was moved, and although she said she never killed anyone, at her trial people testified that they saw her beat a Hungarian Jew named Eva to death with a stick, and that she shot two other prisoners for no reason. She was merciless to the prisoners, seemingly all because she thought their fate would become her own if she did not participate.
8. Manual Labor
Here we see the females getting down and dirty with the men, disposing of the bodies of those at the concentration camps. Even though ideally, the Nazis would have preferred that the women keep to their domestic roles, and to the compulsory Nazi League of German Girls, in the end the demands of war and the need for labor made them rethink that. Women went to work, and even into the military. In fact, by the war’s end in 1945, the number of females in the German armed forces was nearing half a million. Clearly from this photo and others like it, the women did plenty of dirty work. They do not necessarily look thrilled with their grisly task, but nor are they refusing to do it.
7. Dirty Work
And here we have more of the same, on a much larger scale. This mass grave is being filled by Nazis of both genders. Many of the women who became Nazi soldiers did so for social or fiscal advancement, but many actually believed in what they were doing, like Karin Magnussen, who was a biologist and physicist who aided the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele in his demented experiments. She did not have to participate because of her standing as a doctor, but she did because of her own fanaticism. Only by hearing stories like hers are photos like these slightly more explainable; after all, could you imagine any old woman (or person, for that matter) engaging in this behavior if they were not insane or fanatical about their beliefs? I cannot see someone filling a mass grave for simple social or financial gain.
6. At Attention
This group looks like a whole bunch of fun. Not. If you just look at their faces, it is clear that these are not women you would want to mess with. Their expressions while standing at attention in uniform range from stern to sarcastic to bored to haughty and pretty much every other negative emotion one could convey. These are the faces of the women who helped to and who did carry out a genocide on the Jewish and other people of Europe in the 1940’s. And though they are women, that means nothing. Just look at the woman on the end, closest to us; her fists balled up at her sides, she looks ready for a fight, and those hands that appear so ready to strike were likely responsible for an unimaginable amount of pain and torture.
5. Nazi Chic
This pretty lady is disturbing on so many levels. It is unclear if she was just being fashionable by her choice in wardrobe, or if she was an actual Nazi, but either way she is creepy AF. Besides the fact that she kind of looks high, she is wearing this garbage and smiling, almost appearing as if she finds it all to be some lame joke. She obviously supports Hitler and the Nazi regime, no matter her role, and proudly wears their symbol for the world to see. That she is so visibly relaxed and mellow only says to me that she is that much more of a psychopath. She is literally wearing people’s suffering as an outfit, and literally flaunting the world’s worst genocide, too. It is terrifying that a person who would otherwise appear very soft and nonthreatening, is in truth just the opposite, which is why you truly can never judge a book by its cover.
Some of the war’s most notorious female war criminals were guards at the concentration camp Ravensbruck in Germany. Roughly 90 kilometers north of Berlin, it was a camp solely for women. It was also used to conduct medical experiments. Between 1939 and 1945, it saw about 130,000 prisoners, 50,000-100,000 of whom died there from disease, starvation, being overworked, and the gas chambers. In the above photo, SS leader Heimlich Himmler, who first ordered the construction of the camp, is there on inspection. Standing at his attention are the camp’s female guards, ready and willing to please his every murderous whim. At any one time there were 150 female guards, in addition to the male Nazi administrators. Ravensbruck was also a training camp for more than 4,000 female overseers.
3. Irma Grese
One of the more well-known female war criminals of the time, and who was also a guard at Ravensbruck, was a woman named Irma Grese. As if she wanted to have a career to match her face, Irma worked at both Ravensbruck and Auschwitz, and was a warden of the women’s section of Bergen-Belsen. Nicknamed the Hyena of Auschwitz, she helped make selections of prisoners for the gas chambers. She routinely selected the weak, sick, and any woman who had somehow managed to retain any of her former beauty despite the ravages of being in a concentration camp. It is rumored that Irma had multiple lovers in the camps, including Josef Mengele, who she forced to give her an illegal abortion. In 1945 Irma became the youngest person to be executed under British law in the 20th century at age 22. She was hanged on December 13, 1945.
2. Break Time
This horrific image is so disturbing partly because of how nonchalantly these female guards are standing around, while not 10 feet away, prisoners are laying dead in the mud. It is really baffling how immune to it they seem. There are all sorts of horror stories of Hitler’s murderesses, such as Juana Bormann, who was notorious for having her German Shepherd attack the prisoners. Then there is Wanda Klaff, who worked at Stuthoff and during her trial, proudly admitted to striking at least two prisoners per day because she was devoted to her work in the camps. And women served another purpose other than simply guarding the prisoners at the camps, as well: Hitler put in place an aggressive population policy that encouraged “racially pure” women to bear as many children as humanly possibly, thereby enhancing the Aryan population and aiding in a more racially pure world.
1. Alice Orlowski
A particularly interesting (and gruesome) female war criminal is Alice Orlowski, who was one of the worst. She was known for doing things like whipping prisoners across the eyeballs which was of course unbearably painful, but this also rendered them useless as laborers and often therefore sent them to the gas chambers. Also, to “save space”, she would throw children on top of those being sent to the gas chambers so they would die, too. Strangely, toward the end of the war, she did a complete 180 and started to comfort the prisoners, bringing them water and even sleeping on the ground next to them. No one will ever know her motive for that, but she was spared execution, and only served 10 years of a life sentence. However, she died in 1976 at the age of 73.