Kurt Gerstein – A Tragic Hero

Kurt GersteinAs a member of the German SS, Kurt Gerstein was responsible for carrying out many of Hitler's orders and with taking part in them. However, most today agree that he was actually working to spread the word of just what was happening during the Holocaust and was funneling information out to members of the Catholic church.
Gerstein was born in 1905 in Westphalia Germany and joined the Nazi party in 1933 as a member of the SA. Gerstein was torn from the beginning between his religious faith and the ideology of the German government. In 1936 he was expelled from the Nazi party and become unable to find employment for some time. Finally, in 1941 Gerstein rejoined the Nazis by enlisting in the SS. Even from this early stage in his career, he joined specifically with the goal of infiltrating the SS and witnessing the crimes they committed from inside the group, eventually hoping to change the direction that the party was taking. He said as much in a letter sent to his wife, proclaiming his desire to act as an agent of the church.
It took little time for Gerstein to rise in the ranks thanks to his solid education, and he became the Head of Technical Disinfection Services within a year. In 1942, Gerstein witnessed 3,000 Jews being gassed to death. This was followed by visits to other concentration camps where he saw other evidence of the atrocities being committed against the Jews and other groups.
Gerstein began funneling out information just a few days later. It started with an accidental encounter with a Swedish diplomat, whom Gerstein told about the massacres he had witnessed. Afterwards, Gerstein began to try to contact representatives of the Vatican as well as other diplomats and religious officials. Sadly, over a period of 3 years very few authorities did anything regarding his reports or his efforts.
Gerstein later surrendered to the French army and was actually received warmly, being transferred to a hotel where he wrote out his reports concerning what he had seen. Once it was completed, he was transferred to a military prison and subsequently treated as a war criminal. As a result, he essentially became regarded as no better than those he tried to stop. He was found dead in his cell on July 25, 1945, the victim of an apparent suicide. Still, despite the tragic end of his life, today he is regarded as a hero by many. 

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