Georg Konrad Morgen, the SS judge who persecuted the SS

The title seems like an oxymoron but it happened just like that. On May 15, 1961, during the thirty-ninth session of the trial to which he was subjected in Israel and as part of his defense against charges of genocide against him, Adolf Eichmann based part of his argument on the fact that he was obeying orders without necessarily agreeing with him. agreed with them and that proof of this was that even an SS judge had issued a warrant for his prosecution. In the latter he was telling the truth, although that order was only for embezzlement. The magistrate who issued it was named Georg Konrad Morgen and had become the scourge of the corrupt SS.

Morgen was born in Frankfurt in mid-1909, the son of a locomotive engineer. He began in the world of work working in a bank but left it to study Law at the university in his hometown, later expanding his curriculum at the International Academy in The Hague, apart from other locations such as Berlin, Rome and Kiel. While he was studying, he entered the university section of the DVP (Deutsche VolksparteiGerman People’s Party), heir to the NLP (German Liberal Party), whose postulates were monarchical, conservative and nationalist.

In 1933, with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, the new government dissolved that formation and many of its members went over to the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Morgen was one of them, entering the SS shortly after (schutzstaffelProtection Squads), the paramilitary organization of the Nazis that was in charge of everything related to their security at headquarters, meetings and rallies.

All this did not deviate Morgen from his professional orientation and in April 1939 he obtained the appointment of judge of the town of Szczecin, in Western Pomerania. He did not last long in office because an obscure incident led to his dismissal; Apparently he acquitted a teacher who had exceeded the application of corporal punishment to a student who, they say, belonged to the Hitler Youth and he managed to get revenge. The fact is that a few months later World War II broke out and the idle judge served in the ranks of the Waffen SS, taking part in the invasion of France in 1940.

It was practically his last arms service because once the country was occupied, and with the British expelled from the continent, it was time to administer. Thus, they demobilized him to name him a judge of the Judicial Court of the SS. This body had its headquarters in Munich but Morgen obtained a more distant destination, the Krakow court, where he was sent at the beginning of 1941. There he began his activity by pursuing the corruption that had settled within the SS. ; He prosecuted several officers, among whom was Hermann Fegelein, without it being useful for him to be Himmler’s personal assistant (and future brother-in-law of Eva Braun, since in 1944 he would marry his sister Gretl). Morgen accused Fegelein of keeping jewelry seized from Jews and taking over a company with the help of a mistress who was also suspected of working for Polish intelligence; a more serious charge was soon added, that of rape.

Himmler’s intervention put an end to the investigation of the process and the judge’s stay in Poland, since the zeal in his work, pursuing irregularities such as misappropriation or relations with people of another race, had caused discomfort among many SS. Morgen, demoted to lieutenant, was attached to the 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wikingoriginally called germana but that he changed his name because of the numerous Scandinavians that were in his ranks. The Wiking He fought on the Eastern Front, mainly in the Soviet Union and, more specifically, in the Caucasus.

Wiking soldiers/Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild, on Wikimedia Commons

In mid-1943 he was in the Ukraine, where the Battle of Kharlov had just begun, but around this time Morgen received a direct order from Himmler to travel to Berlin to join the RKPA (ReichskriminalpolizeiamtReich Criminal Police Office), created in 1937 by Arthur Nebe (who, paradoxically, in 1944 would form part of the Operation Valkyrie and he would be about to escape simulating his suicide, although in the end they caught him and hanged him). The functions of this police agency were to prosecute common crime, from counterfeiting to drug trafficking, through pickpocketing, illegal gambling, pornography, fraud, etc.

Morgen’s mission, once again, was to deal with the corruption detected in the SS commanders on duty in the concentration camps, which had become endemic. His first performance was in Buchenwald, investigating Major Karl-Otto Koch and his wife Ilsa, along with Martin Sommer and Dr. Waldemar Hoven. He accused the couple of corruption, fraud, embezzlement, drunkenness, sexual crimes and murder, no less, causing his transfer to the Majdanek camp. Koch diverted money from the SS to various accounts in his name, stole prisoner property, and had ordered several crimes, including his own doctor so he wouldn’t reveal he had syphilis, for which he was shot just days before he was killed. the Americans liberated the camp.

Ilse, aka the Buchenwald Witch, had a reputation for involvement in human experiments and torture, although the most famous accusation against her was that of using the skin of prisoners to make lampshades. The latter would not be given credibility in her trial, in which Morgen’s summary was essential, both to accuse her of some things and to exonerate her from the lamps, but even so, the other charges made her earn the chain life; she did not fully comply because in 1967 she hanged herself at the age of sixty-one.

As for Sommer and Hoven, the former was a sadist who enjoyed torturing prisoners even more than the guards themselves did. He lost to him the murder of two priests, one a Protestant whom he left to freeze naked in the open air in the dead of German winter after throwing a bucket of water on him, and another a Catholic, whom he beat to death. Demoted and sent to a punishment battalion, he was maimed in action and captured by the Red Army, which returned him to Germany in 1955. There he was put on trial two years later and imprisoned for life.

Finally, Dr. Hoven, a Buchenwald doctor, was prosecuted by Morgen for the murder of an SS officer who could testify against him during the investigation of Ilse Koch, because he was apparently having an affair with her. They sentenced him to death but he escaped due to the need for doctors at that point in the war, although only until 1948, when the executors were the allies.

Morgen’s work was not limited to Buchenwald. He then reviewed the reports against Christian Wirth, supervisor of the death camps where the Operation Reinhard, that is to say the systematic killing of more than a million and a half Polish Jews and Gypsies that can be considered the prologue of the Holocaust and which was named after its designer, Reinhard Heydrich. The three camps in question were Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec.

Originally Wirth, nicknamed Christian the Wild for obvious reasons, he would have allowed his officers to participate in a drunken Jewish wedding; but pulling the rope, the judge discovered much more serious things about him, such as the appropriation of valuables from his victims and the mass executions of prisoners when some weapons were discovered. Forty-three thousand people were shot for that, exhausting the SS so much that it was one of the causes that led to the introduction of the use of gas in the future.

The execution of Rudolf Höss/Photo: public domain on Wikimedia Commons

The other extermination camp where he acted was Auschwitz-Birkenau, as a result of the postal inspection intercepting a package full of prisoners’ gold teeth sent illegally by one of those in charge of the health service. The magistrate himself appeared there and, as in previous cases, when investigating more things appeared, deciding to prosecute the camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, and the head of the local Gestapo, Maximilian Grabner, accusing them of murdering the inmates to profit from their belongings. As can be imagined, his presence was not well received; a proverbially accidental fire burned down the archives and one of his aides, SS-Stabsscharführer Gerhard Putsch, was never seen again.

Höss and Graben escaped after their trials were suspended sine die (although they were hanged after the war) but Morgen still kept bugging other camps. He opened about eight hundred processes, of which about two hundred managed to reach the end. The commanders of Dachau, Flössenburg, Herzogenbusch, Sachsenhausen and Lublin were charged with various crimes ranging from the lightest (drunkenness, scandalous life, ill-treatment) to the serious (corruption, murder). All received sentences and degradation except Hermann Florstedt, commander of Lublin, who ended up on the scaffold.

Despite all this, Georg Konrad Morgen was a convinced Nazi who simply put the law before his ideology. In fact, after the war he was one of the defense witnesses at the Nuremberg trials and although he said he had been beaten by his captors to make him endorse the exaggerations about Ilse Koch, he refused. He also insisted on painting an almost idyllic image of the concentration camps, where only the deviations of some commanders were punishable; he even pointed out that in Buchenwald the inmates had a cinema, a library and even a brothel.

In this sense, he assured that the extermination of prisoners horrified him -especially the one unleashed by Wirth because it was totally unexpected-, because although he generically detested the Jews, he had nothing personal against them nor was there -until the Final solution– no law that allowed them to be killed; this, he said, was legalized by Hitler once it had already started. Likewise, he explained that the processes that he opened against the commanders were intended to stop the killings, a compromising action for which he chose instead of escaping to Switzerland, as he had originally thought. Something that generated controversy because others believed that his actions only began because many had been killed for witnessing corruption. Furthermore, he told himself that Morgen was not really opposed to the fields but to the corrupting effect they had on his command.

In any case, he was able to continue his legal career in Frankfurt. He retired in 1979 and passed away three years later.


Sources

Conrad Morgen. The conscience of a Nazi judge (Herlinde Pauer-Studer and J. Velleman)/Beyond Justice (Rebecca Wittman)/Auschwitz. The Nazis and the “Final Solution” (Lawrence Rees)/Wikipedia