The famed Hyena of Auschwitz...or the Beautiful Beast of Belsen. Whichever nickname you decide to give her, Irma Grese is perhaps one of the most terrifying, and unrelenting characters to be found in the history of World War II.
She turned her back on her family. Had a love affair with Josef Mengele. Fed starving prisoners to her starving dogs. Had Jews turned into lampshades for her quarters. Tortured as many prisoners as she could, on a daily basis. And she carries perhaps one of the largest body counts in terms of casualties for any one person to rack up, during the war...and maybe of all time – not necessarily a personal best to be proud of.
But to hear it from her, she was forced into training. She never hurt the prisoners more than she had to. All she wanted was to work as a nurse...and then become a movie star. Even if she was forced into it, she took up the job with joy. And her dreams of becoming a star didn't come true quite the way she wanted to. Though she still is one hell of a sensation, she was the youngest person ever to be executed by the British. So let's learn a little bit about this horrifying harlot.
15 Turning Her Father In
Irma didn't have the greatest of childhoods, if we're being fair here. That doesn't excuse the murder and mayhem, but it does help to explain it. Her mother committed suicide when Irma was only thirteen, and she dropped out of school the very next year, due to bullying. It seemed her father loved her very much. But in spite of him being a member of the Nazi party, he didn't approve of her increasingly radical views. Radical towards the League of German Girls. This group was essentially the female counterpart to the Hitler Youth program (of which the last pope was a part). Given her trenchant views, her father ordered Irma to keep away from her childhood home. She did one better. She did stay away from home, as per his orders...but she did also land him in prison, where he spent the entirety of the war. All because she loved Hitler more, I guess.
14 The Mengele Affair
Now some of this is speculation, but the proof is pretty overwhelming. So many firsthand accounts tend to add up to at least a tiny bit of truth. Irma Grese was not afraid of her sexuality. She embraced it. Quite readily at that. When she wasn't getting off from torturing, and killing, she was seducing members of the SS. If she had been an agent for the Allies, she'd have done very well. Her seductions even landed her some alone time with the Angel of Death himself. That's right, she and Josef Mengele had a bit of a love affair. Of course things got awkward when she got pregnant. What could she do? Well it was exceptionally easy for her. She simply forced the Jewish medical assistant to perform an abortion. How could she continue her career of killing, while carrying a baby around? Besides, Mengele would probably use it in one of his experiments anyway.
13 Executed At 22
Grese wasn't one of the criminals sentenced at the Nuremberg Trials. She was instead tried at the Belsen Trial (as that's where she was working when the Allies captured her). Being only 22 years old, Grese became the youngest person to ever be tried, sentenced, and executed by order of the British government. Something that the Brits didn't stress a lot about. Especially given her long list of crimes. Even though the gallows waited for her, she was proud till the end. She sang Nazi songs in her cell. She was sweet all through the trial (even though she continually changed her story). And she walked to the rope without any look of fear about her. She only had one, single last word before the drop would break her neck. Perhaps for fear of breaking down in front of the Allies...all she said was "Schnell!" (quickly).
12 Would-Be Nurse
Now this photo was taken after her capture, so of course she looks unhappy. But imagine looking at that face with a gun to your head. Or whip to your back. Or with a frenzied dog by her side. Now imagine that face, as you lay on a stretcher bed, looking for medical aid. Grese, for quite some time, didn't have that horrible urge to kill. She originally wanted to be a nurse. And to be fair to her, she did work as a nurse's assistant for about two years. However, she was then assigned to work on a dairy farm. After another two years, she applied to work as a nurse again, but she would not be accepted. Instead, she was sent to Ravensbruck. This would be her first foray into the concentration camps, but it would not be her last. From that time on, she wasn't interested in helping the sick. She was far more interested in watching them suffer.
11 Starving Prisoners Feed Starving Dogs...
It's no secret that German Shepherds were the preferred breed of attack dogs for the Third Reich. It has German in the name, so it must be good. As it happened though, Grese didn't really take great care of her dogs. She trained them well enough, but purposely starved them. Of course there was a very sickening method to her madness. She would send her dogs to ravage helpless prisoners. Some stories even speak of her dogs taking the legs of some prisoners. These poor souls were allegedly kept alive for a time so that they were made to crawl. Though surely, disgusted by the sight, Irma must have then shot them to death. The breed of Irma's dogs is somewhat debated. Ranging from Doberman, to German Shepherd, to wolf hound. Whatever the breed, she clearly used them for one purpose only: to strike terror into the hearts of her frail prisoners.
10 Irma's Jewish Lampshades...
Some might sicken at the idea of people being turned into soap, candles, and lampshades. Their hair being used to line coats and bedding. Their fillings to be melted down for currency, or trinkets. But these things most certainly happened during the processing of people that was the Holocaust. Now it's not as though Irma Grese went about tanning, and drying the skins of Jews herself. She was a disturbed woman, but she apparently had limits (or too much of a schedule to keep). But she was not opposed to acquiring some pieces of human art, made from those she killed. When she was taken from Belsen, her quarters were searched. Within her rooms were found three separate lampshades, made from the skins of Jewish prisoners. Who knows if she washed with Jewish soap, dressed in Jewish-lined outfits, or rad by Jewish candlelight?
9 Big Body Count
Grese has probably one of the biggest body counts in the world. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes Elizabeth Bathory (The Blood Countess) as the most prolific female killer. And while her highest accused kill count was 650 women, Irma Grese certainly has killed more. This is a woman who used to sit with Mengele on occasion, and help decide the fate of those who came to Auschwitz. By the wave of her hand, she would send thousands to death. At one time! Not to mention the number of people she would kill everyday, by shootings, beatings, and hungry dogs. She was alleged to have murdered thirty prisoners per day, during her time at the concentration camps. Even if you only count her two years at Auschwitz...that would mean she murdered some twenty thousand women in the camp, on her own.
8 Pregnant Prisoners And Their Punishment
This quotation might just say enough about this entry: "My greatest pleasure is to shoot a pregnant Jewish and so I kill two enemies of Hitler".
If that doesn't tell you enough about how deranged this woman truly was, then I don't know what could. And considering that Josef Mengele went out of his way to force siblings to have sex, there would have been plenty of pregnancies for both to be concerned about. Mengele must have chosen the ones he'd want to carry to term (for study). While Grese would be given the rest to suss out. And once she did, the act was brutal. At the very least, she shot them. One could only imagine the sadistic things she could have done. Especially with her dogs close at hand. One can only hope that the shooting wasn't a slow bleed out through the stomach. Though there is no great detail to this atrocity, other than that it surely happened.
7 A Nazi At 18
As mentioned earlier, Irma left home behind at the age of only fourteen. Her mother had committed suicide, and she had left school. Her love of the League of German Girls ostracized her from her father. But it took a full four years before she would actually take action, and become a full fledged Nazi. Of course it was her dream of being a nurse that held her back from taking direct action within the Nazi regime. She'd come so close to reaching her desired position in life. However, the doctor she ended up working alongside, was the terrifying Josef Mengele. Regardless, she was still one of the youngest, and most fervent female members of the Nazi regime. She truly took the teachings of the Third Reich to heart. And it only took her four years to go from would-be nurse, to a mass-murdering war criminal. The former pope Benedict started at fourteen...and he managed to be pope!
6 Fierce Sexuality
Irma was allegedly a bisexual, and would not only just seduce high ranking male members of the SS, but females also. Sure, Mengele is the most notable of her conquests, but she was quite the sexually charged woman. And very openly sexual, as it happened. There are stories of her even having sex with some of the prisoners, before sending them directly to the gas chambers. It's a wonder she was not called the Black Widow of Auschwitz, or the Praying Mantis of Auschwitz. Perhaps that's another reason she never carried her own child to term. She would not want to breed with a lesser people. And given the amount she slept around, how could she know it was a German child, or a Slavic child, growing inside her? Sickeningly enough, sex was not the only act that gave her sexual pleasure. Torture, and the slow death of prisoners also gratified her in that way.
5 Plaited Whipping
One of the ways in which she would torture prisoners, was by way of whipping them. It was actually against regulations to carry a whip on your person in the camps. But Grese did so brazenly. Now consider that a plaited whip is used for things like gathering cattle. Now imagine that use against human hide, instead of the tough cow hide. So disturbed was Irma Grese that she would even take to whipping prisoners' bare breasts. With no careful medical attention spared on those who were meant to die anyway, the wounds would infect. This would then lead to the "necessary" amputation of the breasts. Which was done without any anesthetic. This was apparently another way in which Grese reached a sort of sexual euphoria. Small wonder that she was so incredibly feared throughout Auschwitz and Belsen.
4 Emotional Abuse
Examples of her physical abuses are all over this article. But there is a psychological element behind Grese's abuses as well. And not just in that she had clear psychological issues. She also tortured prisoners through emotional trauma. Of course, the biggest example of this was making it known that they would all die, but would not know when. Roll call was always a terrifying thing for prisoners under Grese's supervision. Jobs were handed out during this process, but so to were bullets, and beatings. Sometimes there was nothing though...it's that sort of messing with heads that kept prisoners from rising up. Not to mention Irma simply walking by, inspecting workers, as her dogs snarled and growled at them all; waiting for their next meal. She even used her looks as a means of torture. And that's not meant as a joke either.
3 Aspiring Film Star
Of course this above tabloid is completely fabricated (though what is mentioned on the cover is mostly corroborated). Aside from being a nurse, Irma Grese had another big dream. She was going to be a movie star. Unsure of how this dream suddenly came to her mind, she was convinced that she would make it big after the war. Of course she is clearly famous now, but I think she intended to be still living while she was famous. At least she got her brief time in the spotlight before her execution. Surely she must have taken some solace in that. But imagine the sort of mental separation it must take to go from mass murderer, to movie star. Of course, by her confessions, she hardly did any killing, and she just wanted to be a nurse before she was forced into the Nazi regime. She was just a victim...you know...she probably would've made a great little actor.
2 Forced Training
That's right. Irma Grese would have everyone believe that she was forced into her training with the Nazis. Now remember, this was the girl who was kicked out of her home by her Nazi father, for being too radically into the cause. The girl who loved the League of German Girls seemingly more than wanting to be a nurse. So sure, maybe she was forced to give up her dream of being a nurse. Because she was needed on a dairy farm. And then she was needed at the concentration camps. But then she somehow found her passion for acting...and he passion for mass murder. So who is really going to buy that this poor, innocent, radical Nazi, was forced into her training? She may have come out of Ravensbruck a slightly different person, but she was off her rocker from the beginning anyway. No wonder the British government didn't buy it, or accept her appeal in the court.
1 Some Girlish Grooming
Three entries back I wrote: "She even used her looks as a means of torture." And it's true. Aside from her gigantic boots that she wore for kicking prisoners, she was always very well kept. She would go out of her way to look as pretty as possible (which to look at her must have taken some time to do). Why would she do this? Partly to seduce SS members, sure. But also because she wanted to show her superiority over the prisoners who were now unshaven, starving, and exhausted. And if any of the women in the cell blocks happened to retain any hint of beauty from their former lives...Irma was not by any means nice to them. That is partially why the whipping of the breasts. She would also scar the faces, or gouge the eyes of those who kept a hint of beauty. After all, she was the Beautiful Beast of Belsen.
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