Fritz Klein

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Fritz Klein
Fritz Klein.jpg
Klein at his trial in 1945
Born(1888-11-24)24 November 1888
Died13 December 1945(1945-12-13) (aged 57)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Criminal statusExecuted
Conviction(s)War crimes
TrialBelsen trial
Criminal penaltyDeath
Span of crimes
Location(s)Auschwitz concentration camp
Military career
Allegiance Germany
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Klein surrounded by bodies. The British Army liberating Bergen-Belsen forced German camp personnel to bury the corpses of prisoners.

Fritz Klein (24 November 1888 – 13 December 1945) was an Austrian Nazi doctor and war criminal, hanged for his role in atrocities at Auschwitz concentration camp and Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Early life and education[edit]

Klein was born in Feketehalom, Austria-Hungary (now Codlea in central Romania).[1]

Klein was considered a Volksdeutscher, or ethnic German. He studied medicine at the University of Budapest and completed his military service in Romania, finishing his studies in Budapest after World War I. He lived and worked as a doctor in Siebenbürgen (Transylvania), Romania.[citation needed]

In 1939, as a Romanian citizen, he was drafted into the Romanian army, where, after the outbreak of the war with the Soviet Union in 1941, he served as a paramedic on the eastern front. In May 1943, Romanian fascist dictator Marshal Antonescu, on a demand from Hitler to release ethnic Germans in the Romanian Army, drafted them into the German army. Hence Klein became a soldier in the Waffen-SS, was listed in the SS-Personalhauptamt, and posted to Yugoslavia.[citation needed]


On 15 December 1943, he arrived in Auschwitz concentration camp, where at first he served as a camp doctor in the women’s camp in Birkenau. Subsequently, he worked as a camp doctor in the Gypsy camp. He also participated in numerous selections ("Selektionen") on the ramp. In December 1944 he was transferred to Neuengamme concentration camp, from where he was sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in January 1945. He remained at the camp with commandant Josef Kramer and assisted in handing it over to British troops. Klein was imprisoned and forced to help bury all unburied corpses in mass graves. The British Army Film and Photographic Unit Number 5 photographed Klein standing in a mass grave, in a well-known 1945 photo (seen on the right).

In Auschwitz, when asked by Ella Lingens-Reiner how he reconciled his actions with his ethical obligations as a physician, Klein famously stated:

"My Hippocratic oath tells me to cut a gangrenous appendix out of the human body. The Jews are the gangrenous appendix of mankind. That's why I cut them out."[2][3][4]

Klein and 44 other camp staff were tried in the Belsen Trial by a British military court at Lüneburg. The trial lasted several weeks, from September to November 1945. During the trial Anita Lasker testified that Klein took part in selections for the gas chamber.[5]

Klein was sentenced to death and hanged at Hamelin prison [de] by Albert Pierrepoint on 13 December 1945.[6][7]


  1. ^ Onciu, Camelia "Bestia in halat alb",, 15 April 2008; retrieved 15 October 2010. (in Romanian)
  2. ^ Brueggemann, Rudy Mad Science And Criminal Medicine Archived 20 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Markusen, Eric; Markusen, ic; Kopf, David (1995-04-26). The Holocaust and Strategic Bombing: Genocide and Total War in the Twentieth Century. Avalon Publishing. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-8133-7532-8.
  4. ^ Lingens-Reiner, Ella (1948). Prisoners Of Fear. pp. 1–2.
  5. ^ Law reports of trials of war criminals, selected and prepared by the United Nations War Crimes Commission. – Volume II, The Belsen Trial (PDF). London: United Nations War Crimes Commission. 1947. p. 21f.
  6. ^ "30 GERMANS GUILTY OF CAMP MURDERS; Kramer, Irma Grese and 28 Belsen and Oswiecim Guards Convicted--14 Acquitted SENTENCING SLATED TODAY Soldiers Search Spectators Entering Court to Prevent Violence at Decisions Acquittal of 14 a Surprise List of Those Convicted". The New York Times. 1945-11-17. p. 7. ISSN 0362-4331.
  7. ^ Associated Press (14 December 1945). 11 Belsen Gang Leaders Hanged for War Crimes[permanent dead link], Christian Science Monitor; accessed 7 April 2018.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Lifton, Robert Jay (1986). The Nazi doctors: medical killing and the psychology of genocide. Basic Books.