Ernst Kaltenbrunner

Ernst Kaltenbrunner

Ernst Kaltenbrunner was born on 4 October 1903 and during his life he worked his way up the ranks of the Nazi party - he is best known for being the highest ranking SS officers that the Allies caught when World War Two ended. He was executed in 1946 as part of the Nuremberg Trials.

Kaltenbrunner was raised in Austria, in a place called Ried-im-Innkreis, and went to school at Linz’s State Real Gymnasium. Kaltenbrunner attended Graz University and graduated with a Law degree. By 1928 he was working in Linz.

Kaltenbrunner was a keen admirer of Adolf Hitler and in 1932 he took the decision to join the Austrian Nazi Party, and this brought him into close contact with the likes of Adolf Eichmann and Arthur Seyss-Inquart. Within the space of a year Kaltenbrunner had established himself as an SS legal counselor as well as a district speaker. He was particularly well known for his strong leadership which led him to climb the ranks to become head of the Nazi Party’s Austrian branch.

Kaltenbrunner rise through the Nazi ranks could have been very different though; he was thrown in jail for 6 months at the start of 1934 and was accused of high treason but this was dismissed following an investigation, he did spend time in prison for a separate charge of conspiracy however. This time in jail resulted in Kaltenbrunner being banned from his work as a lawyer.

When Austria was successfully annexed by Germany in 1938 - in what is known as Anschluss - Kaltenbrunner was rewarded for his part in the process by being named the State Secretary for Security Matters.

Continuous promotions between 1938 and 1943, Kaltenbrunner’s power was steadily growing. For example, in 1941 Kaltenbrunner became the Major-General of the Police and one year later, following the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, he took over as the head of the SD and the Chief of the Security Police.

The high regard Kaltenbrunner was held in by Hitler himself was shown when the Fuhrer presented him with the Knight’s Cross of the War Merit, Cross with Swords.

By the end of the war Kaltenbrunner had become one of the central figures of the Nazi party and key figure in the planning and execution of the ‘Final Solution’. Furthermore, as well as controlling the SD and the criminal police, he was also controlling the Gestapo.

Kaltenbrunner tried to flee from southern Germany when it became clear that the Germans was going to lose the war. However, he did not manage to escape and American troops caught him on 15 May 1945. He was subsequently involved in the Nuremberg Trials, where he faced charges of crimes against humanity.

Kaltenbrunner was found guilty and sentenced to death, with his execution conducted on 16 October 1946.

At his trial, Kaltenbrunner said:

“I do not feel guilty of any war crimes, I have only done my duty as an intelligence organ, and I refuse to serve as an ersatz for Himmler.”

MLA Citation/Reference

"Ernst Kaltenbrunner". 2023. Web.

Key facts

Name: Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Birth Date: 4 October 1903, Austria-Hungary
Death: 16 October 1946, Nuremberg, Germany
Occupation: Chief of the Security Police and the SD Known for: Most senior SS member to be captured by the Allies