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Hermann Höfle

Last Update 19 August 2005

Hermann Julius Höfle was born in Salzburg on 19 June 1911. He joined the NSDAP on 1 August 1933 with party number 307,469, having joined the Austrian Nazi party three years earlier. He was a trained mechanic who ran a taxi company in Salzburg. Höfle joined the SS. Between late 1935 and January 1936 he was imprisoned in Salzburg. A year later he was head of the SS-Sturmbann 1/76, a SS-unit. The first action in which he took part was the Reichskristallnacht. He impressed Adolf Eichmann and was recommended to Globocnik.

After training at the officersí school in Dachau, Höfle served briefly in the Sudetenland prior to the outbreak of WW2. After the invasion of Poland he served in the Selbstschutz in Nowy Sacz in Southern Poland.
From November 1940 he served as an overseer of Jewish work camps working on frontier fortifications, a network of anti-tank ditches near Belzec.

Höfle, along with a number of other key players in Aktion Reinhard, was also involved in the construction of SS and Police bases in the newly occupied eastern areas. During 1941 Höfle was in Mogilev. Then he was sent back to Lublin, where he was involved in the early planning of Aktion Reinhard. On 16 March 1942 he participated in a meeting of Aktion Reinhard SS-men and members of the German civil administration to discuss how to organize the deportations to Belzec.

Julius Schreck Barracks
Julius Schreck Barracks
According to another member of the Aktion Reinhard staff, Georg Michalsen, Höfle, as Globocnikís Chief of Staff for Aktion Reinhard, lived in the Julius Schreck Barracks in Lublin.
On the ground floor of this building was the transport squad. On the first floor was the administration, accounts, and archive. Here the Chief of Staff also had a room and an ante-room. On the second floor was the personnel department. Here Höfle had his living quarters in one room.

Höfle played a major role in deportation actions in Mielec, Lublin, Rzeszow, Warsaw and Bialystok, and also acted as Eichmannís escort when the latter visited the Belzec and Treblinka. He was also responsible for the reception of transports to the Lublin district from Germany, Terezin (Theresienstadt) and Slovakia.
According to some testimonies, he personally selected young men from these transports and sent them mainly to Majdanek. He ordered that selections of people fit for work must take place from all transports which were sent to the transit ghettos or directly to Belzec and Sobibor. These selections were organised in Lublin, on the ramp at the Flugplatz Camp or at Naleczow railway station 30 km from Lublin, from which the transports were sent to the transit ghettos in Opole Lubelskie, Konskowola or Deblin or directly to Sobibor. The selections in Naleczow were organised when the Slovakian transports arrived in Lublin.

The procedures in which Höfle was involved during the first weeks of Aktion Reinhard, were repeated later during the deportations from other ghettos, especially Warsaw. His activity in the Warsaw Ghetto Clearing is well documented: At 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday 22 July 1942, one week after he had arrived in Warsaw, Höfle appeared at the Judenrat Headquarters, where he informed Czerniakow, the Chairman of the Warsaw Judenrat, "that all the Jews irrespective of sex and age, with certain exceptions, will be deported to the East. By 4 p.m. a contingent of 6,000 people must be provided. And this, at the minimum, will be the daily quota." At midday on 22 July official posters to this effect appeared in the streets of the ghetto, with wording dictated by Höfle but prepared by the Judenrat, under his orders.

Zygmunt Warman, member of the Warsaw Judenrat, stated that during this meeting with Czerniakow Höfle ordered the Judenrat to prepare wooden boxes measuring 150x70 cm. "This was a very strange order for us. Much later we realised that the boxes were for gathering the valuables in Treblinka, the gold teeth and jewellery which were plundered and which did not go directly into the pockets of the hangmen."

Throughout the "Great Action" in the Warsaw ghetto, according to the memoirs of Samuel Puterman, Höfle visited the streets of the ghetto and the Umschlagplatz. He was indifferent to everything he saw except the number of deportees to Treblinka. Every evening a SS-Unterscharführer who was responsible for counting the numbers of people loaded into the trains, reported to Höfle on the daily statistic of Jews deported to Treblinka. Probably the same procedure was followed during deportations from other ghettos, and the reports on the numbers of the victims were sent to Höfle's office in Lublin.

Michalsen and Höfle in May 1945
Höfle knew exactly what conditions in the transports were like and that many people died before they arrived at the camps. He also knew that within a short time rumours spread about Treblinka in the Warsaw Ghetto, because some deportees who had been at the camp escaped and returned to the ghetto. According to Michalsen, Höfle told him that "it made no sense to keep the destination of the transports a secret if every Jew know about it."

Höfle had four children. Two of them, twins, died of illness in Lublin. At their graveside, overcome with grief, he exclaimed: "This is punishment for the children of Warsaw."

Höfle remained in Lublin after Globocnik had left for Trieste in September 1943, and was heavily implicated in the Aktion Erntefest (Harvest Festival) in November 1943, when the inhabitants of the Jewish labour camps in the Lublin district were killed. After leaving Lublin Höfle served somewhere in Brussels and the Netherlands, but eventually rejoined Globocnik in Trieste. At least he was captured together with Globocnik, Lerch and Michalsen in Carinthia on 31 May 1945.

Höfle was not immediately brought to justice. He then lived in Italy, Austria and Germany. He was arrested in 1961 in Salzburg. From there he was transferred to Vienna where he hanged himself in his cell on 20 August 1962.

Joseph Poprzeczny: Hitlerís Man in the East, Joseph- McFarland &Co. Inc, 2004
Simon Wiesenthal: Justice not Vengeance
Yisrael Gutman: The Jews of Warsaw
Stephen Tyas: Decoded Radio Messages from the PRO
Yad Vashem Archives
Public Records Office (PRO), Kew
Institute of National Memory in Warsaw: Documents of the Investigations in the Case against Karl Georg Brandt.
Bundesarchiv in Ludwigsburg: Investigation against Georg Michalsen
Memoirs by Samuel Puterman in: Pamietniki z getta warszawskiego. Fragmenty i regesty (Memoirs from Warsaw Ghetto. Fragments). Ed. M. Grynberg. Warszawa 1993.

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