On this date in 1952, SS Gruppenfuhrer Jurgen Stroop was hanged in Poland near the site of the Warsaw Ghetto he had liquidated nine years before.
A World War I veteran, Stroop caught the Nazi star as it ascended and was carried to various wartime posts in occupied Poland. The experience he thereby garnered in countering partisans made him a hot ticket when the Warsaw Ghetto revolted. Dissatisfied with the slow suppression of the Jewish quarter, Heinrich Himmler put Stroop in charge in April 1943.
Stroop got results: unburdened by the slightest need to save the village or win hearts and minds, he simply put it to the sword. Wholesale slaughter followed vicious house-to-house urban warfare, with buildings torched or demolished to drive out defenders. By mid-May, the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw had not been pacified: it had been annihilated.
His “Stroop Report”, a masterpiece of oblivious horror in the clipped narrative of the military bureaucracy, helped to hang him* with entries like this:
Progress of large-scale operation on 16 May 1943, start 1000 hours.
180 Jews, bandits, and subhumans were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large-scale action was terminated at 2015 hours by blowing up the Warsaw Synagogue.
Total number of Jews dealt with 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved.
In one of those ironies history is so unnervingly fond of, Stroop was imprisoned in Communist-controlled Poland in the same cell with a resistance fighter from the anti-Communist Home Army.**
Kazimierz Moczarski, who survived a death sentence of his own, infiltrated this bizarre roommate scenario into the (nonfiction) literary canon with his Conversations with an Executioner — published in the 1970s.
* Stroop was also condemned to death for war crimes by an American tribunal prior to being repatriated to Poland. He was separately convicted in Poland and hanged under that latter sentence.
** These pages have previously taken note of the anti-Nazi partisans’ rivalries.
Part of the Themed Set: The Written Word.