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Otto Ohlendorf (German pronunciation: [ˈɔtoː ˈʔoːləndɔɐ̯f]; 4 February 1907 – 8 June 1951) was a German economist and SS functionary during the Nazi era. He was head of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) Inland, responsible for intelligence and security within Germany. Ohlendorf was also the commanding officer of Einsatzgruppe D, which perpetrated mass murder in Moldova, south Ukraine, the Crimea, and, during 1942, the North Caucasus. He was convicted of and executed for crimes committed during World War II.

Otto Ohlendorf
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J08517, Otto Ohlendorf.jpg
Born (1907-02-04)4 February 1907
Hoheneggelsen-Söhlde, Prussia, German Empire
Died 7 June 1951(1951-06-07) (aged 44)[1]
Landsberg am Lech, Bavaria, West Germany
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag of the Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen-SS
Rank SS-Gruppenführer
Service number NSDAP #6,631
SS #880
Commands held


Early lifeEdit

Born in Hoheneggelsen (part of Söhlde; then in the Kingdom of Prussia), the son of farm owners. He joined the Nazi Party in 1925 (member 6631) and the SS (member #880) in 1926.[2] Ohlendorf studied economics and law at the University of Leipzig and the University of Göttingen, and by 1930 was already giving lectures at several economic institutions. He studied at the University of Pavia, where he gained his doctor's degree in jurisprudence; and by 1933 he obtained the position of a research directorship in the Kiel Institute for the World Economy[2] (at that time Institut für Weltwirtschaft und Seeverkehr - Institute for World Economy and Maritime Transport). By 1938 he was also manager in the Trade section of the "Reich business board (Reichswirtschaftskammer).

SS careerEdit

Ohlendorf joined the SD in 1936 and became an economic consultant of the organisation. Attached to the SS with the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer, by 1939, he had obtained the rank of SS-Standartenführer and was appointed as head of Amt III (SD-domestic branch), of the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), a position he kept until 1945. In November 1944 he was promoted again to Gruppenführer.[2]

In June 1941, Reinhard Heydrich appointed Ohlendorf to be commander of Einsatzgruppe D which operated in southern Ukraine and Crimea. Ohlendorf's Einsatzgruppe was responsible for the 13 December 1941 massacre at Simferopol where at least 14,300 people, mostly Jews, were killed. Over 90,000 murders are attributed to Ohlendorf's command, who testified to this effect during his trial at Nuremberg.[2]

He devoted only four years (1939–43) to full-time activity in the RSHA, for in 1943, in addition to his other jobs, he became a deputy director general in the Reich Ministry of economic affairs.[3] He coordinated plans to rebuild the German economy after the war. Such planning for the post-war time was strictly forbidden, on one side. On the other side, Heinrich Himmler, who detested the state interventionist regime of Albert Speer as "totally bolshevik" and was himself hoping for a career in a militarily defeated Germany, protected the working group around Ohlendorf, Ludwig Erhard and other experts, who planned, e.g., how to introduce the new German currency Deutsche Mark. Ohlendorf himself spoke out for "active and courageous entrepreneurship", which was intended to replace bureaucratic state planning of the economy after the war.

Because of Ohlendorf's work in this field, petitions for leniency were filed after he was sentenced to death by hanging. These, however, were turned down by the Allies.[4]

Nuremberg trialsEdit

Ohlendorf (left) with Heinz Jost
Ohlendorf at the Nuremberg Trials

Ohlendorf took part in Himmler's flight from Flensburg and was arrested with him near Lüneburg, where Himmler committed suicide.[5]

During the Einsatzgruppen Trial, Ohlendorf was the chief defendant, and was also a key witness in the prosecution of other indicted war criminals. Ohlendorf's apparently reliable testimony was attributed to his distaste for the corruption in Nazi Germany and a stubborn commitment to duty. He expressed no remorse for his actions, telling prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferencz that the Jews of America would suffer for what the prosecutor had done, and seemed to have been more concerned about the moral strain on those carrying out the murders than those being murdered.[6][7][8]

Otto Ohlendorf was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during World War II. He was sentenced to death and hanged at the Landsberg Prison in Bavaria on 8 June 1951.[2][9]

In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ "Five death sentences were confirmed: the sentence against Oswald Pohl, as well as those passed against the leaders of the Mobile Killing Units, Paul Blobel, Werner Braune, Erich Neumann, and Otto Ohrlendorf. . . . In the early morning hours of 7 June, the [] Nazi criminals were hanged in the Landesburg prison courtyard." Norbert Frei, Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past: The Politics of Amnesty and Integration. Columbia University Press, 2002. p. 165 and p. 173
  2. ^ a b c d e Zentner & Bedürftig 1991, p. 665.
  3. ^ Hilberg, Raul (1961), Destruction of the European Jews, Quadrangle Books, p. 187.
  4. ^ See also Michael Brackmann in Handelsblatt, June 2006.
  5. ^ Manvell, Roger and Fraenkel, Heinrich (2007), Heinrich Himmler: The SS, Gestapo, His Life and Career, Greenhill Books, pp. 76–78.
  6. ^ Nuremberg Trials and Tributions by Benjamin B. Ferencz
  7. ^ Mass Murderers Seek to Justify Genocide by Benjamin B. Ferencz
  8. ^ The Testimony of SS General Otto Ohlendorf, Einsatzgruppe D at the International Military Tribunal. 3 January 1946. 
  9. ^ Klee, Ernst (2011). Das Personen Lexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945? (in German). Koblenz: Edition Kramer. ISBN 978-398114834-3. 
  10. ^ "Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial (2006) (TV)". Retrieved May 21, 2008. 


  • Michael Brackmann: Der Tag X. - Im Juni 1948 kommt die D-Mark und verändert das Land. Die Währungsreform ist von langer Hand vorbereitet und bis ins Detail ausgetüftelt worden. In: Handelsblatt 23./24./25. June 2006. Der Tag X In English: "The day X. - In June 1948 the Deutschmark is introduced and this changes the country. The currency reform has been prepared for a long time and had been subtly and punctiliously prepared in detail in advance." The article claims a collaboration between Otto Ohlendorf and Ludwig Erhard and other experts in preparing the post war economy with collusion and protection by Heinrich Himmler.
  • Zentner, Christian; Bedürftig, Friedemann (1991). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. (2 vols.) New York: MacMillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-897500-6.