The ‘Disappearance’ of SS-Hauptscharführer
Lorenz Hackenholt

A Report on the 1959-63 West German Police Search for
Lorenz Hackenholt, the Gas Chamber Expert of the Aktion
Reinhard Extermination Camps ©

Michael Tregenza

(Page 4)

the first Nazi extermination installation, was to dispose of over 10,000 mentally ill patients. They were killed by pure carbon monoxide (CO) gas released from cylinders into the hermetically-sealed coach shed. [9]

From the beginning of 1940 when Grafeneck became operational until the summer of 1941 when the gassings were stopped on Hitler's orders, Lorenz Hackenholt served in all six killing centres, both as a bus driver and as a so-called 'disinfector/burner' unloading the corpses from the gas chambers and cremating them. He also acted for a time as the driver for SS-Untersturmführer Dr. August Becker, the chemist employed by the Foundation to procure and deliver the gas cylinders to the killing centres.

It was Dr. Becker's file at the Berlin Document Center that gave the first indication of Hackenholt's character. In January 1941, a charge of assault and battery (tatlicher Beleidigung) was brought against both Becker and Hackenholt in Plauen by Albin Wunderlich, the owner of a bar in the town. The two SS-men had left the bar at 5 o'clock in the morning, considerably drunk and in the company of two prostitutes. In the street, the plaintiff continuously insulted Hackenholt and then attacked him - a foolhardy act as Hackenholt was a well-built man over two metres tall. In self-defence, Hackenholt struck the plaintiff and knocked out two of his teeth, whereupon the plaintiff called the police. All three men were taken to the police station where Becker and Hackenholt refused to divulge to the police the nature of their work or the reason for their presence in Plauen. The police referred the criminal charges to the SS who began disciplinary proceedings against the pair, which resulted in a delay in promotion for Becker. After much bureaucratic wrangling, however, the SS disciplinary proceedings against Becker and Hackenholt were dropped. [10]

After the termination of the T4 gassings, Hackenholt, together with a small group of SS-NCOs from the Foundation, was transferred in the autumn of 1941 to the authority of SS-Brigadeführer Odilo Globocnik, the SS-und Polizeiführer of the Lublin District in south-east Poland. But shortly after arriving in Lublin, Hackenholt was allowed home leave to marry his Berlin neighbor 29-year-old Ilse Zillmer at the Registry Office in Berlin-Schmargendorf. After the wedding and a brief honeymoon, Hackenholt returned to duty in Lublin. From there he was sent to Belzec, a remote and isolated village in the far south-eastern corner of Poland, on the railway line between Lublin and Lemberg (Lvov). On a sand hill four hundred metres south-east of the railway station an experimental extermination camp intended for the mass gassing of Jews was under construction. The first three zinc-lined gas chambers were located in a wooden shed constructed with double walls, the intevening space was filled with sand to render the


[9] For a short history of Grafeneck and its extermination installation see: Karl Morlok, Wo bringt ihr uns hin? Geheime Reichssache Grafeneck (Stuttgart, Quel Verlag 1986).
[10] BKBZ personal file August Becker. Disziplinar-Sache Becker/Hackenholt (Tatlicher Beleidigung).
[11] ZStL 208 AR-Z 252/59: The Case Against Josef Oberhauser et al (Belzec Case), pp. 1495-1502. SK III/a Report on the Interrogation of Ilse Hackenholt, 30.10.1961 in Sonthofen.
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