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Herbert Lange

Herbert Lange
Herbert Lange in civilian clothing, before WWII
Born September 29, 1909
Menzlin, Pomerania
Died 20 April 1945(1945-04-20) (aged 35)
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Years of service until 1945
Rank Sturmbannführer
Unit SS-Totenkopfverbände
Commands held Organizer and first commandant of Chełmno extermination camp (November 1941 – April 1942) [1]

Herbert Lange (September 29, 1909 – April 20, 1945) was an SS-Sturmbannführer (major) and the commandant of Chełmno extermination camp until April 1942; leader of the SS Special Detachment Lange conducting the extermination of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto. He was responsible for numerous crimes against humanity including the murder of mental patients in Poland and in Germany during the Action T4 of mid-1940.


Born in Menzlin village near Anklam, Western Pomerania, Lange studied law, but failed to obtain a degree and he subsequently joined the NSDAP (Nazi Party) on May 1, 1932. He enlisted in the Sturmabteilung (SA) three months later, and the following year, he joined the SS. He subsequently joined the police force, becoming a deputy commissioner in 1935.

Crimes against humanity

On November 9, 1939, following the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, Lange was promoted to the rank of SS-Untersturmführer (2nd lieutenant) in occupied Poland and posted in charge of the Posen (Poznań) Gestapo.[1] In the beginning of 1940 he assumed command of an SS-Sonderkommando (Kommando Lange) tasked with the extermination of mentally ill in Wartheland area (Wielkopolska).[2] Lange served with Einsatzgruppe VI during Operation Tannenberg.[3] Already by mid-1940, he and his men were responsible for the murder of about 1,100 patients in Owińska, 2,750 patients at Kościan, 1,558 patients and 300 Poles at Działdowo, and hundreds of Poles at Fort VII where the mobile gas-chamber (Einsatzwagen) was invented. Their earlier hospital victims were usually shot out of town in the back of the neck.[4] The unit, equipped with a gas van, shuttled between hospitals, picking up patients and killing them with carbon monoxide.[5]

After his promotion to SS-Obersturmführer (1st lieutenant) on April 20, 1940, his unit was permanently stationed at the Soldau concentration camp. In one particular case, Wilhelm Rediess hired Kommando Lange to kill 1,558 mental patients from East Prussia for ten Reichsmark a head.[6] By December 1941 Lange was a SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and was appointed commander of the Chełmno extermination camp by then SS-Standartenführer Ernst Damzog, chief of the Sicherheitspolizei and Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in Posen. [7] He held that position until March 1942.[8]

In 1942, Lange's services were needed at the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office) and he was transferred. He served under Arthur Nebe as a Kriminalrat (Criminal Investigator) and in 1944, he aided in catching the conspirators of the attempt on Hitler's life (the July 20 Plot), leading to his promotion to SS-Sturmbannführer.

Lange was killed in action during the Battle of Berlin.[9]


  1. ^ a b Friedlander, Henry (1997). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. UNC Press. p. 138.  
  2. ^ Friedlander 1997, pp. 138-139.
  3. ^ Artur Hojan, Cameron Munro (2015). "Nazi Euthanasia Programme in Occupied Poland 1939-1945". Overview of the liquidation of the mentally ill during actions on the Polish territory (1939-1945). The Tiergartenstrasse 4 Association, international centre for the documentation, study and interpretation of Nazi crimes. Nazi Euthanasia in European Perspective conference, Berlin, Kleisthaus, Feb. 28-30, 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  4. ^ Holocaust Research (2007). "Lange, Herbert; SS-Hauptsturmführer". Chelmno Death Camp Dramatis Personae. Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  5. ^ Friedlander 1997, p. 139.
  6. ^ Friedlander 1997, pp. 139-140. Rediess denied payment and left for Norway; legalese correspondence between Lange's superiors and Rediess continued for a whole year.
  7. ^ Epstein, Catherine (2010). Model Nazi - Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 145.  
  8. ^ Epstein 2010, p. 188.
  9. ^ Epstein 2010, p. 338.

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