The Cruelty Of Irma Grese: The Beast Of Belsen
Irma Grese, a German guard at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, was noted for her cruelty to prisoners. She underwent a trial for war crimes in 1945. Source: (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Her Troubled Childhood
Irma Grese was born in 1923, one of five children. Her mother committed suicide when Irma was thirteen. In school, Irma was bullied very badly. So much so that she dropped out of school in her early teens. She worked in shops and on a farm to earn money. She also became enamored of Hitler which displeased her father tremendously. At the age of nineteen, she became a guard at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. She once returned home after training to show her father what she had accomplished but he beat her severely and told her to never return.
Irma’s Rise in the Ranks
Irma Grese received orders to transfer to Auschwitz in 1943. She was assigned to the women’s camp in Birkenau where the gas chambers were. She commanded a gardening squad, was a telephone operator, and censored the mail. She was there for fourteen months. In 1944, Irma Grese was promoted to Oberaufseherin, which was the second highest rank a woman could achieve within the SS. She commanded 30,000 women prisoners.
The Blonde Beast
Irma Grese became known by many names such as ‘The Blonde Beast’ and ‘The Bitch Of Belsen’. She was always described as a beautiful woman. She had naturally blonde hair and very blue eyes. She wore tailored uniforms and expensive perfumes. She wore the perfumes to torment the prisoners, who had to live in filth. Because of all the items stolen from the Jewish people, she was able to help herself to fine clothing and jewelry. Irma was also quite vain, spending a lot of time in front of her mirror primping. She thought that once the war was over, she would become a movie star.
Irma The Sadist
Irma Grese was known to always have a whip and pistol with her as well as wearing steel toe heavy boots. She used her whip to punish inmates for breaking camp rules and if the woman was well endowed, she would whip her across the breasts to further humiliate. Grese had placed braided wire at the end of her whip and many of the women developed infections from their wounds. Grese also had dogs that she would order to attack an inmate who could not keep up in line. Grese was a sexual deviant as she became aroused at the sight of bloodshed and pain of others. She enjoyed torturing people as that gave her pleasure. She even tied the legs together of a woman giving birth and watched the woman scream with pain.
Irma’s Reign of Terror
It is reported that Irma Grese had an affair with the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele. She helped him decide who would live and who would go to the gas chamber. She was also known to select attractive women to be sent to die. Though it was forbidden to be with any Jewish inmate, she raped many women prisoners. She tortured them and would have them executed when she was finished.
The War Ends and Irma Goes On Trial
When the Allies came to Poland, Auschwitz was closed and Grese ended up in another camp in Belsen where she continued her torture and sadistic practices. Once the Nazis were defeated and the camps liberated, many of the Nazi guards were arrested. Irma was not arrested right away, she and her counterparts were assigned to bury the 10,000 corpses that were all over the camp. Grese was finally arrested after the British legal teams started hearing about her atrocities from the survivors. At one point, Irma was interviewed by an English journalist who asked her why she did such horrible things. She replied, "It was our duty to exterminate anti-social elements so that Germany’s future would be assured.” Grese was indicted on June 16, 194,5 along with forty-three other guards from Belsen. All during the trail, she remained unrepentant and unmoved, even when films of decomposing bodies were shown. She did not seem to care when she heard a survivor’s testimony against her. In fact, she glared at them. Only her sister, Helene, testified in defense of Irma talking about her childhood and the difficulties she had with their father. It was the only time Irma showed any emotion. Nothing could save Irma Grese from her fate. On November 17, 1945, Irma Grese was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. The night before the execution, Grese sang Nazi songs and was unrepentant. Irma Grese was hanged on December 13, 1945. She was twenty-two, the youngest person ever hanged by the British in the twentieth century.