, also known as Josef Kramer, was the Commandant of Bergen-Belsen
, one of the many concentration camps in Nazi Germany. He was notorious as a Nazi war criminal and earned the nickname "Beast of Belden" from prisoners. He was arrested after World War II and convicted of war crimes, for which he was hanged. He was one of the youngest Nazi leaders that is notorious for his role in the Holocaust.
Josef Kramer was born in 1906 in Munich, and led a simple life up until 1931 when he joined the Nazi Party. He also joined the SS in 1932, becoming trained as a prison guard. Once the war started, Kramer became a guard at concentration camps throughout German-occupied areas. His first post was at Dachau in 1934, but he gained promotions quickly and obtained a variety of senior posts at camps throughout the area. Eventually, he became the assistant to the Commandant at Auschwitz in 1940 and then took on a role as the Commandant of Natzweiler-Stuthof camp in 1941.
Kramer is notorious because he was the commandant of the only concentration camp that had been established on French territory. He was personally responsible for 80 deaths in the gas chamber, which he carried out as part of a project to create a Jewish skeleton collection for a University. At Auschwitz, Kramer was put in charge of the gas chambers in 1944. At the end of the year, he was transferred to Belsen, where he took on the role of Commandant. This temporary camp had become a full-blown concentration camp by the time Kramer arrived.
Although Bergen-Belsen had no gas chambers
, Kramer was a merciless ruler. Bergen-Belsen is best known for its outbreak of Typhus, which caused up to 300 deaths every single day in 1945. As guards were fleeing in April and the administration of the Nazi Party was collapsing, inmates at these camps were left behind. Kramer stayed behind, watching people struggle and get eaten by rats if they were too weak to fight them off. He even took the British on a tour of the camp when they arrived to arrest him, seeming callous about the horrific scene.
Kramer was tried as a part of the Belsen Trial in late 1945, at which point he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to death and was hanged in 1945 at Hamelin Jail.