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Herbert Lange

Last Update 23 August 2006


Herbert Lange
Herbert Lange (29 September 1909 Ė 20 April 1945 ?) was a SS-Sturmbannführer. Lange was born in Menzlin (Pomerania). He studied law but failed to obtain a degree and he subsequently joined the NSDAP on 1 May 1932. Three months later he enlisted in the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the following year he joined the SS. He subsequently joined the police becoming a deputy commissioner in 1935.
In 1938 he was promoted to the rank of SS-Untersturmführer, and in August 1939 he went to Frankfurt/Oder for gathering of Einsatzgruppe VI, commanded by SS-Oberführer Erich Naumann, prior to the invasion of Poland. There were about 150 members. This mobile killing unit followed after the Wehrmacht when Poland was invaded.

On 12 September 1939 the Einsatzgruppe VI marched to Poznan in the Warthegau. Within the confines of Einsatzgruppe VI a Sonderkommando was established, commanded by Lange. He received orders from Arthur Greiser (governor of the Warthegau) to create a concentration camp in Poznan. The KZ Posen (Poznan) was established at Fort VII (Fort Colomb), one of the bastions belonging to huge Prussian fortifications that encircled Poznan. Lange was the first commander of the KZ Fort VII although only for a short time, from 10-16 October 1939.
It seems that his only tasks were to find a suitable location and organize the camp, staffing and the admittance of the first prisoners. Once these were completed, his role as camp commandant was finished.
Next (from mid-October) at the head of his Sonderkommando (so called Sonderkommando Lange) he carried out inspections of the mental homes in Owinska, Koscian and Gniezno. This action was probably at the personal request from Heinrich Himmler to carry out euthanasia actions in Polish mental homes in the Wielkopolska region. From this time he and his squad operated completely independently. The Sonderkommando Lange was subordinated directly to the RSHA in Berlin, apart from occasional local instances.

Lange was responsible for the organization and execution of euthanasia actions in several mental homes in the Wielkopolska region. His Sonderkommando used for these actions a mobile gas chamber (gas van or gas trailer) inscribed with an advertisement for "Kaiser's Kaffee Geschäft". Euthanasia actions by the SS-Sonderkommando Lange was carried out at the
- Owinska Mental Home (near Poznan): 15 September - 20 December 1939. Victims: 1,100
- Koscian Mental Home: January - February 1940. Victims: 3,334
- Kochanowka Mental Home (near Lodz): 13-15 March 1940, 27-28 March 1940, June - August 1940. Victims: 629
- Warta Mental Home (near Sieradz): 2-4 April 1940. Victims: 499
- Srem Mental Home: June 1941. Victims: 58

His accomplishments in euthanasia actions in Poland were highly valued in the SS and as a result on 20 April 1940 he was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmführer.
Later Lange was responsible for mass killing actions in the Konin region, but officialy from the end of 1940 until December 1941 he was head of the Economicís Crimes department of the Kriminalpolizei in Poznan.

On 7 December 1941 Lange became the first commandant of the Chelmno Death Camp. He organized this camp by orders of Himmler and Greiser. Some sources suggest that Lange selected Chelmno as the most suitable location for a death camp. On 21 February 1942 Lange was dismissed from the commandants position. Together with him two gas van drivers were also dismissed.

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

The circumstances of his death are not clear. Most of sources announce that he was killed on 20 April 1945 in action, during the battle of Berlin.

Gulczynski, Janusz. Oboz smierci w Chelmnie nad Nerem, Konin, 1991
Hojan, Artur. Nazistowska pseudoeutanazja w Krajowym Zakladzie Psychiatrycznym w Koscianie (1939-1940), Koscian 2004
Nawrocki, S. Policja hitlerowska w tzw. Kraju Warty 1939-1945, Poznan 1970
AGKBZH, investigation files of Arthur Greiser
Documents and notes from private archives of Jerzy Zielonka, Artur Hojan and Zdzislaw Lorek.

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