Irma Grese

Irma Grese

Probably the most notorious female war criminal during the Second World War, SS officer Irma Grese, otherwise known as ‘the Hyena of Auschwitz’, worked as a guard in two Nazi death camps: Belsen and Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was captured by the British at the end of the war and later hanged for crimes against humanity.

Born on 7 October 1923, Grese left school at the age of 14 due to poor academic results, bullying and a strong interest in joining the League of German Girls. She worked in a shop for a short time, before working as an assistant nurse in a SS sanitorium. After being rejected for a nursing apprenticeship, Grese began work at the all-female Ravensbrück concentration camp in July 1942, the same year that she had become part of the SS.

The next year, in March 1943, Grese was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau. With Nazi Germany's withdrawal from Poland, Grese moved back to Ravensbrück in January 1945 and then on to Belsen in March 1945.

Grese became known for her brutality within the death camp, with accusations of torture and murder brought against her when the war ended. While holding the rank of Oberaufseherin - or Senior SS-Supervisor - at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, Grese was in charge of the 30,000 females being held prisoner there. During her trial in 1945 trial it was stated that Grese was individually responsible for the death of at least 30 people a day in the camp - she is also alleged to have whipped prisoner in the face, leaving them scarred, as well as setting hungry dogs loose on the people inside the camp.

At the time of her capture, Grese was working at the Belsen death camp. After she was caught and indicted - the British had issued a Royal Warrant - Grese stood on trial for crimes against humanity during the Belsen Trials, which took place soon after the end of the war between 17 September 1945 and 17 November 1945.

Grese, aged just 21, was found guilty of her crimes and sentenced to death by hanging, with her execution taking place a month later on 13 December 1945.

See also: Christian Wirth

MLA Citation/Reference

"Irma Grese". 2023. Web.

Key facts

Name: Irma Grese
Nickname The Hyena of Auschwitz
Birth Date: 7 October 1923
Death: 13 December 1945
Occupation: SS Guard
Known for: Brutality against prisoners; executed for crimes against humanity