At the end of the Second World War, the world saw its first ever war crimes trial, ‘The Belsen Trial of Josef Kramer and 44 Others’. The proceedings attracted massive media attention around the world. For the first time, evidence was presented detailing the horrors of the Final Solution.
The trial began on 17 September 1945 in a large courtroom in the German city of Luneburg. The defendants sat at the very centre of the room: twenty-one women and twenty-four men, each wearing their trial number affixed to a large white cotton square.
On 17 November 1945, the Belsen Trial came to a close. Of the forty-five defendants, thirty were found guilty of war crimes. Nineteen were sent to prison. For the remaining eleven, including the five that Hanns had interrogated — Kramer, Klein, Hössler, Volkenrath and Grese — the judge pronounced, ‘the sentence of this court is that you suffer death by being hanged’.
On 13 Dec 1945 these eleven were taken into the courtyard of Hamelin Jail, and then, during the course of the morning, hung from a purpose-built gallows.
Former Auschwitz women's guard, Elisabeth Volkenrath, was hung first. Then, at half hourly intervals, the remainder of the prisoners were executed: Irma Grese was hung at 10.04 am, shouting ‘Schnell!’ (Hurry up!) before the act; Kramer and Klein were hung next to each other at 12.11 pm; Hössler was hung at 3.37 pm. It was all over by 4.16 p.m.
The executioner was Albert Pierrepoint.