Maximilian Grabner

(Vienna 1905-Krakow 1948): The “Lord God of Auschwitz”

Head of the Political Department from May 1940 to November 1943

Maximilian Grabner was born on 2 October 1905 in Vienna and trained as a forestry worker. After three years of service in the Austrian army, in 1930 he became a police officer and soon rose to the rank of detective. On 1 September 1932 he joined the Nazi Party, and a few months after the “Anschluss” he became a member of the SS. From November 1939 Grabner spent half a year as a criminal secretary at the Katowice Secret State Police. In May 1940 he took up his post as Head of the Political Department at the recently established concentration camp in Auschwitz. His role was that of Police Chief within the camp, responsible for prisoner misconduct, punishment, escapes and the camp resistance. Still an employee of the Gestapo, at Auschwitz he was subordinate only to the Commandant.

Grabner established a regime at Auschwitz that was characterised by arbitrary cruelty, ruthless violence and torture. His department, which also employed Wilhelm Boger, was responsible for the “death block”. Its basement was home to the “bunker”, the main camp’s prison, where Grabner presided over summary court-martial trials. Thousands of prisoners were shot against the “black wall” between blocks 10 and 11 after being sentenced or singled out during “bunker selections”. Many starved to death or suffocated in the cells. Grabner’s arrogant manner and supposed omnipotence led prisoners to give him the soubriquet “Lord God of Auschwitz”. On 1 December 1943 Grabner was deposed and arrested by a judicial commission headed by SS judge Konrad Morgen. Several months later he was brought to trial before an SS and police court in Weimar for the unauthorised killing of prisoners, as well as for corruption and theft. The trial was adjourned, however, and Grabner returned to the Gestapo in Katowice, and later on in Breslau.

Following the liberation, Grabner went into hiding and worked for a Lower Austrian farmer before he was betrayed. He was arrested by Heinrich Dürmayer in person, the last camp elder of Auschwitz and subsequent head of the Austrian state police. In the interrogations that followed, Grabner presented himself as a victim of Nazism, protesting that he had only ever participated out of concern for his family. In response to Poland’s demand for his extradition, Grabner was transferred to Krakow in July 1947, where he was sentenced to death at the Krakow Auschwitz Trial on 22 December. Grabner was executed on 24 January 1948.



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