A Brief History
On December 13, 1945, Irma Ida Ilse Grese, age 22, was executed in accordance with her sentence of death for the crime of committing War Crimes (Crimes Against Humanity) for her service as a concentration camp guard at Ravensbruck and Auschwitz Nazi death camps during World War II.
The apparently attractive young lady thus became the youngest female executed by British authorities during the 20th Century.
Irma was born in 1923 to a dairy working family in Germany, but her mother committed suicide by drinking acid in 1936, after finding out her husband was having an affair. Irma’s father remarried and probably joined the Nazi Party. A somewhat troubled girl, Irma quit school at age 14 and was deeply involved (obsessed) with a Nazi program for girls called the League of German Girls. She attempted to become an apprentice nurse, but could only find work at an SS sanatorium. Irma also found work as a dairy helper, but took the opportunity of getting a job as a concentration camp guard at Ravensbruck in 1942. Apparently enthusiastic about her job, she quickly rose to the second highest rank a female guard could hold and transferred to Auschwitz in 1943 where she was involved in selecting which inmates would go to the gas chambers.
Camp inmates learned to hate and fear Irma, who dressed as stylishly as possible and took great pains to prepare her makeup and feminine appearance. Irma was known to deviate from picking the sickest inmates for death, and instead choosing any female that retained a semblance of her beauty. Irma was accused at trial of taking sadistic pleasure in the beatings and general savaging of prisoners, including torture and attacking prisoners with guard dogs. Witnesses testified that Irma often wore heavy boots and carried a whip and pistol, randomly shooting prisoners as she saw fit.
Irma was subjected to a 53 day trial conducted under British jurisdiction, and was one of only 3 female concentration camp guards executed, despite many others being accused of similar crimes. At her trial Irma claimed she was sent to camp duty against her will. Along with the 3 females sentenced to death, 8 male guards from Auschwitz were also sentenced to death and executed. Of all these, only Irma remained defiant of her captors. Her last word before being hanged was “schnell!” meaning “hurry up.”
Another sordid side story to Irma Grese is that she apparently was quite popular with the SS officers and guards (males), and had relations with some of them, reputedly even Dr. Josef Mengele, the notorious sadistic camp doctor. Irma reportedly forced an inmate doctor to abort Irma’s baby by one of these Nazis, and Irma planned on a career as a movie actress after the war. In a bizarre twist on her wish to be in movies, Irma was the inspiration for the title character Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, a 1975 Canadian film.
Fortunately, Grese and many of her fellow murderous concentration camp guards and staff members faced justice and were either executed or jailed, but not so fortunately many of these sickos also escaped, including Josef Mengele who fled to South America to live out his life.
Despite incredibly convincing mountains of evidence, some people still deny the Holocaust. Question for students (and subscribers): Do you know of any reasons why people deny that the Holocaust occurred? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Jenkins, Robert. Irma Grese & Other Infamous SS Female Guards: The Secret Stories of Their Holocaust & Auschwitz Atrocities Revealed. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
Jennings, Raymond. Irma Grese & Auschwitz: Holocaust and the Secrets of the The Blonde Beast. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.
Livingston, Mike. Irma Grese: The Untold Stories of Hitler’s most Brutal Female SS Guard. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
The featured image in this article, a mugshot of Bergen-Belsen guard Irma Grese (1923-1945) at Celle awaiting trial, August 1945, was created by the United Kingdom Government and is in the public domain, because it is one of the following:
- It is a photograph taken prior to 1 June 1957; or
- It was published prior to 1968; or
- It is an artistic work other than a photograph or engraving (e.g. a painting) which was created prior to 1968.
A similar photo can be found in the Imperial War Museum collection as BU 9700.