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Richard Baer or Bär (Bavaria, September 9, 1911 – June 17, 1963) was a Nazi officer with the rank of SS Sturmbannführer (Major) and commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp from May 1944 to January 1945.
He was born in Bavaria in 1911; initially a pastry chef by profession, he became a guard at the Dachau concentration camp after becoming unemployed in 1930.
Beginnings in Nazism
He joined the Nazi Party with the number 454,991 and the SS with the number 44,225.
In 1939 he joined the SS-Totenkopfverbände, and was appointed assistant in the Neuengamme concentration camp in 1942, following functions in Oranienburg, Columbia Haus (Berlin) and Sachsenhausen. While in Neuengamme, he participated in the assassination of Soviet war prisoners in the Special Gas Chamber and in the selection of prisoners for the so-called “Operation 14f13” and the Euthanasia program “T-4”.
From November 1942 to May 1944 he became assistant to SS-Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl, then head of the SS Central Office for Economic Affairs (Wirtschaftsverwaltungshauptamt or WVHA); in November of 1943, he took charge of the department “D I”, as it was called to the service of “Inspection of the Fields of Concentration”. He succeeded Arthur Liebehenschel as commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp, a position he held from March 1944 until the dissolution of the camp in early 1945. From November 1943, until the end of 1944, Fritz Hartjenstein and Josef Kramer were responsible for the extermination in the camp of Auschwitz II Birkenau, so Baer was only Commander of this part of the camp from late 1944 to January 1945. At the end of the war, Richard Baer replaced Otto Förschner as Commander of the Dora- concentration Camp. Mittelbau, near the town of Nordhausen (Thuringia), being responsible for the execution of Russian prisoners en masse. His last rank was that of SS-Sturmbannführer (Major).
At the end of the war, Baer fled and lived near Hamburg hidden under the false identity of Karl Egon Neumann, forestry worker. In the course of the investigations of the Second Auschwitz Trial, to be held in the city of Frankfurt am Main, he was placed and an arrest warrant was issued in October 1960, his photograph being widely published in the press. He was recognized by his co-workers and arrested in December 1960, after the arrest of Adolf Eichmann. On the advice of his lawyer, he refused to testify and died of a heart attack in detention in 1963.
The story of Baer’s arrest is faithfully told in Devin Pendas’s book, The Auschwitz Trial in Frankfurt, after seeing the photograph in the newspaper Bild, a co-worker on the estate of Prince Otto von Bismarck, He reported that Baer was working as a forester there. When the officers confronted “Neumann” in the forest on the morning of December 20, 1960, he first denied everything. Having his house searched, the wife identified herself as “Mrs. Baer”, although she still claimed that Baer was named Neumann. Baer finally admitted his true identity.
More Facts about Richard Baer
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