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Josef Oberhauser

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Title: Josef Oberhauser  
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Subject: Bełżec extermination camp, Treblinka extermination camp, Timeline of Treblinka, Częstochowa Ghetto Uprising, Franz von Bodmann
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Josef Oberhauser

Josef Oberhauser
Josef Oberhauser at his trial
Nickname(s) Sepp
Born (1915-01-21)January 21, 1915
Munich, German Empire
Died November 22, 1979(1979-11-22) (aged 64)
Munich, Germany
Allegiance German Reich
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Years of service 1935—1943
Rank Obersturmführer, SS
Unit Bełżec
Other work Bartender, waiter

Josef "Sepp" Kaspar Oberhauser (January 21, 1915 – November 22, 1979) was a German Nazi SS officer. He participated in Action T4 and Operation Reinhard. Oberhauser was the only person to be successfully convicted of war crimes committed at the Bełżec extermination camp. He was charged with 450,000 counts of accessory to murder and sentenced to 4.5 years imprisonment during the Belzec Trial of 1964.[1]

Josef Oberhauser (left), with Kurt Franz (right) and Jirmann (centre) at Belzec during Operation Reinhard

Youth and education

Josef Oberhauser was born in Munich during World War I. He was the son of Melchior Oberhauser, and he grew up with his parents. After finishing Volksschule, he found employment on his uncle's farm in Markt Schwaben.


In 1934, Oberhauser enlisted for 18 months in the Reichswehr and was assigned to the 19th Infantry Regiment in Munich. He joined the SS in November 1935, specifically joining the SS-Wachverbände (SS member no. 288,121). In April 1937, he was stationed at Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In addition to the SS, he was also a member of the NSDAP.[2] In 1936, he was promoted to SS-Rottenführer, and two years later SS-Unterscharführer.

Polish campaign

Oberhauser, as a member of the "SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler" of the 8th Army, took part in the 1939 Invasion of Poland. During this time, he was promoted to the rank of SS-Oberscharführer.

Action T4

At the end of the Invasion of Poland, he was no longer with the SS-Totenkopfverbände "Brandenburg" section, but was assigned to Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft für Heil- und Pflegeanstalten, part of the office for Action T4. At the killing centers of Grafeneck, Brandenburg and Bernburg, where these people were murdered en masse by gas (carbon monoxide poisoning), Oberhauser was a Brenner (burner), or Leichenbrenner (corpse burner): he was responsible for the burning of the bodies in the specially installed crematory ovens.

Operation Reinhard

After finishing Action T4 in August 1941, in November Oberhauser was transferred to the staff of the SS and Police Leader (SSPF) for the Lublin district, SS-Brigadeführer Odilo Globocnik, to take part in Operation Reinhard, the extermination of Poland's three million Jews. From November 1941 until 1 August 1942, Oberhauser was posted to Bełżec extermination camp as the leader of a guard platoon. He first visited Bełżec in the fall of 1941, before the extermination camp existed, to remove military equipment at the site. He was responsible for the development of the camp. In December 1941, Oberhauser returned to Bełżec with construction materials and a team of Ukrainian Trawnikis. He was under the command of camp commandant Christian Wirth, and he also served as Wirth's liaison to Globocnik.[3]

In the 21 January 1965 judgment of the Munich District Court I (Case No. 110 Ks 3/64), his work is described as follows (translated to English):

For his work in the implementation of Operation Reinhard, Oberhauser was promoted from SS-Hauptscharführer to SS-Untersturmführer, effective 20 April 1943, reaching officer rank in the SS. Previously, the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had made a personal visit to the Operation Reinhard camps, including Bełżec, on 12 February 1943, and had decided to promote Oberhauser.

Anti-partisan action in Italy

After the completion of Operation Reinhard, Oberhauser, along with many of his colleagues, was sent to northern Italy in the group Sonderabteilung Einsatz R to participate in anti-partisan warfare and the deportation and destruction of Jews there. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmführer on 30 January 1945. Purportedly, Oberhauser was commandant of Risiera di San Sabba until its closure in late April 1945 (3,000 to 5,000 people died there). He then went to Austria with his unit, and was arrested by the British authorities in May 1945 in Bad Gastein.

Post-war and convictions

After his release, Oberhauser was employed as a sawmill worker in Bevensen. On 13 April 1948, he was arrested during a stay in the Soviet occupation zone. On 24 September 1948, he was convicted by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany of violating "Control Council Law No. 10" of 20 December 1945 (which also served as a basis at the Nuremberg Trials), by his membership in a criminal organization (the SS) and his killing of victims in Grafeneck, Brandenburg and Bernburg. Oberhauser was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 years deprivation of civil rights. He was granted an amnesty on 28 April 1956, and released after only 8 years. Following his release, Josef Oberhauser served as a casual labourer, bartender and waiter in Munich.

In 1963 the Bełżec trial began and Oberhauser was one of 8 defendants charged with war crimes committed at the extermination camp. On 30 January 1964, all of the defendants but Oberhauser were acquitted due to the collapse of the prosecution case but re-arrested shortly thereafter. Oberhauser appeared before the court again in January 1965. He was found guilty of a number of charges, namely:

  • Accessory to 300,000 cases (charged with 450,000) of collective murder
  • Five other crimes of aiding and abetting collective murder in each of 150 cases

Oberhauser was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months imprisonment. He was released after serving half of his sentence. Oberhauser was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia for his crimes committed in Italy, but the Italian extradition request failed. Josef Oberhauser died on 20 November 1979 in Munich.

Oberhauser was unwillingly filmed for Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah, released in 1985.[5]

Notes and references

  1. ^ )LG München ISentence by the First Munich District Court (Belzec-Prozess - Urteil, (German)
  2. ^ Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, Volker Riess, "The Good Old Days": The Holocaust as Seen by its Perpetrators and Bystanders, Free Press, 1991, p. 228
  3. ^ Christopher Browning. The Origins of the Final Solution : The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939 – March 1942 (With contributions by Jürgen Matthäus), Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 2004. pp. 419-420 ISBN 0-803-25979-4 OCLC 52838928
  4. ^
  5. ^ This article contains a translation of the corresponding article in the French WorldHeritage
  • Jewish Virtual Library


  • Ernst Klee : Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Fischer, Frankfurt, 2007. ISBN 978-3-596-16048-8. (updated 2nd edition)
  • Ernst Klee : Was sie taten – Was sie wurden. Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt, 1986, ISBN 3-596-24364-5
  • Ernst Klee, Willi Dreßen, Volker Rieß: „Schöne Zeiten.“ S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt, 1988, ISBN 3-10-039304-X
  • Claude Lanzmann: Shoah
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