Lorenz Hackenholt, the nazi that got away?

Posted: , Last update: August 24 2017, in Personal stories. No Comments

Lorenz Hackenholt in 1940

Lorenz Hackenholt in 1940

Last summer my interest in WWII led me to focus on the IG Farben company and their involvement in concentration camps and the use of slave labour. Starting from this subject you’ll soon end up in the Zyklon-B case and the companies Degesch and Tesch & Stabenow that produced Zyklon-B. Searching for more background information I found the law report about the case trail of Bruno Tesch on The Mazal Library archive. As usual I tried to soak up as much information from the archive as possible, so I studied every item. There are lots of very interesting documents in the archive. And so I found “An essay about the search for Lorenz Hackenholt.” by Michael Tregenza.

The essay is a report on the 1959-63 West German Police Search for SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Lorenz Hackenholt, the Gas Chamber Expert of the Aktion Reinhard Extermination Camps. It is a very interesting story, which raises questions why the German Police leaves some stones unturned. But most noteworthy of all is the fact that multiple witnesses in this report state that Hackenholt survived the war.

A short Bio

Full name:   Laurenzius Marie Hackenholt
Born:           26 June 1914 in Gelsenkirchen/Ruhr.

His father was Theodor Hackenholt and his mother was Elizabeth Wobriezek. He attended the local elementary school until he became the age of 14. He went to work as an apprentice bricklayer and passed the trade examination. In 1933, Hackenholt volunteered for the SS and served for 2 years in the 12th Engineers’ Battalion. After that he joined the SS Totenkopfverbände working as a driver and mechanic. Starting from March 1938 he was stationed at Sachsenhausen concentration camp as a driver and later as a guard.

From November 1939 Hackenholt was assigned to the Action T4 programme, working in all six facilities. In the fall of 1941, he and other T4 personnel were transferred to Lublin, Poland to work in Belzec extermination camp for Operation Reinhardt. Here he experimented with the mass killing of Jews by gas, resulting in 50,000 killed from mid March to mid April 1942. As a gas chamber “expert” he later also designed and operated the gas chambers of the extermination camps of Treblinka and Sobibor.

Hackenholt congratulated after receiving the Iron Cross

Hackenholt congratulated after receiving the Iron Cross

The dissapearance of Lorenz Hackenholt

Near the end of 1943 Hackenholt was stationed in “Risiera di San Sabba” concentration camp in Trieste, northern Italy near the border with Slovenia. In 1944 he was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for his efforts in Operation Reinhardt.
After the surrender of the Wehrmacht in Italy he disappeared in the turmoil of the war, and based on an application by his wife was declared dead by a Berlin court on the 1st of April 1954. The official date of death was set by the court on 31st of December 1945.
Hackenholt was supposedly killed in Italy in 1945, possibly by execution for selling guns to partisans. His death has never been confirmed by any evidence. Different reports state that witnesses saw Hackenholt alive after the war.

Read the essay by Michael Tregenza about the disappearance of Lorenz Hackenholt.

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