Josef Kramer: The Beast of Belsen | Horrific History & True Crime Series With Caledonian Kitty

(Josef Kramer. Prison photograph. Picture credit: Alchetron)

In my final instalment of my Horrific History & True Crime series, I have chosen to write about Josef Kramer, otherwise known as 'The Beast of Belsen'. First of all I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has commented about the posts in this series and read them, I really appreciate it and I'm very honoured that you have found my posts to be interesting and informative. It's one thing to be told that my posts have been an interesting read but to also hear that you've learned some new things, well, that is also a nice thing to hear. 

Before I begin getting into the last subject in this series, I would like to let you know (and I'm sure you will be pleased to hear) that I will be starting a new Serial Killer series next week. I know how many of you find my Serial Killer cases to be fascinating and the posts always do incredible with the views. 

As you know. I am very old school and have a vast collection of books on various Serial Killers in my collection, so from next week onwards I will be delving deeper, researching, writing and putting together posts for my Serial Killer series so I hope you will join me for that. 

You're probably familiar with the name Josef Kramer? You may or may not be but he was another sick and twisted individual who was a devoted follower and believer in the Nazi regime. He was born on the 19th of November 1906 in Munich, Germany. His early life was normal, no traumatic incidences or strange behaviour. He was brought up in a strict, religious household and was taught to have manners and always say please and thank you. 

As he got older his life didn't seem to have much of a direction as if he wasn't sure what he wanted to do. He wasn't one to hold down a job for very long and spent most of the time unemployed. He had some previous experience in retail and there was some hopes that he would make a career as an accountant but his heart wasn't really in it. 

Like a lot of Germans, he was exposed to Nazi propaganda and believed in their promises of putting German people first and creating better jobs and living conditions so he joined the Nazi party in 1931. By 1932 he decided he wanted to join the SS, he flourished in training and was soon working as a prison guard before being promoted to the position of guard in a number of the concentration camps 

In his position as guard at the camps, Josef couldn't have been happier, it was like he had found his calling. He was a very proud Nazi and because of how ambitious he was, how he conduced himself towards prisoners and how devoted he was to the regime, he was moved further up the ranks to the point of being given his own camp to manage and that was Bergen-Belsen.

Like all of the camps, Belsen was appalling, the conditions were horrendous and the prisoners were tortured, starved, worked to death or sent to the gas chamber. It really was hell on earth. 

Josef was promoted quickly partly due to his sadistic and evil ways which was a huge bonus for anyone who was a Nazi trying to climb the ranks. It seemed the more evil you were, the more benefits and responsibility you were given and now here he was in charge of his own camp where he'd spent most of the time before this, being unemployed. 

He had no proper experience, no organisational skills and no heart. He was a maniac and a dangerous one at that. When he arrived to take over the Belsen camp by the end of 1944, there were around 15,000 prisoners at the camp, the place was horrendous and already the stuff of nightmares but when he took the helm, things got dramatically worse. 

The camp was already bursting at the seams, there was a lack of food and disease was everywhere. Despite the terribly poor state of the prisoners, they were forced to work to death. Josef enjoyed torturing these poor people, kicking them, shooting them for his own sadistic pleasure. He took an active part in selecting prisoners for the gas chambers as well as forcing them into the gas chambers himself. 

He would beat people, shoot them and there were incidences where he once kicked a woman to death and shot some starving prisoners for eating rotten potato peelings that they'd found in the mud. 

(Bergen-Belsen. Picture credit: Wikipedia)

He had no soul and was very proud of his role. Unknown to him though, his evil reign of terror was to be a short lived one because just months later, the whole Nazi regime was about to come crashing down. The British Army was on their way to liberate the camp and try their best to bring the Nazi war criminals who were responsible for all of the sickening atrocities, to justice. 

In April 1945, the British Army descended upon Bergen-Belsen and what they found was the stuff of nightmares, there were no words for it. There are some clips on YouTube (viewers discretion is advised) which I will include at the bottom of the post which show the devastating conditions of the camp and the prisoners. 

I mentioned earlier about Josef Kramer taking over the camp in late 1944 and the numbers of prisoners being around 15,000, well by the time the British Army arrived, that number had swelled to 60,000 just in a matter of months. There was no food and Josef said himself that hundreds of prisoners would die every day due to lack of food and the diseases that ran rampant in the camp. 

The British Army were made of tough stuff (forgive me for blowing our own trumpets - my grandparents fought in the war) and had seen a lot in their time but nothing could have prepared them from Bergen-Belsen or the other scenes from neighbouring camps. There was decomposing bodies everywhere, scattered all over the ground, some were piled on top of each other. There was flies, insects and rats everywhere. There were people who were barely alive, their bones and ribs protruding through their pale, malnourished skin. 

The smell was horrific, a mix between decomposing flesh and human waste. there was horror at every turn and there was no escaping it. 

I mentioned in previous posts in this series that some of the guards made a run for it, Dr Josef Mengele used his money and connections to flee, others were caught some time later but in the case of Josef Kramer, well, that was an unexpected turn of events. 

With all of this going on, some guards escaping, some being caught (who were forced to gather the bodies on the ground under order by the British Army) and thousands of prisoners, guards and British soldiers in this one place of hell, Josef stood there without a care in the world. 

Instead of running off and joining his Nazi pals on the run and ending up in Argentina. Josef Kramer proudly stood before the British Army like this whole disgusting place of death and torture under his watch was something to be proud of. He stayed right there and actually took British soldiers on a tour of the camp, showing them around without a shred of remorse. He seemed proud and like he had accepted his fate, 

Well, of course they took him away and put him on trial where he tried to deny everything. He said he wasn't part of the selection process and had no idea what the gas chambers were for. His excuse was (like we've all heard before) that he was simply following orders. 

Despite his 'charming' personality (yes, he was a charming sadist and psychopath who thought he was clever at manipulating people) and denials of the extent of his involvement in the deaths of thousands of innocent people, the evidence and witnesses was too much to deny. He was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. 

Josef Kramer was executed on the 13th of December 1945 by the famous British executioner, Albert Pierrepoint. (on a side note: if you would like me to write about Albert Pierrepoint in a future post, please let me know as his story is quite a fascinating one in itself) Josef was 39 years old. 

And there you have it. In this series we had Irma Grese who met the hangman's noose for her crimes, Dr Josef Mengele who escaped justice for his murders, sadistic torture and so-called experiments. Ilse Koch who almost got away with it, served some of her life sentence and then took her own life for her sickening pleasure and fetish for human skins. Ilse's husband, the equally evil Karl Otto Koch, who took the fall for everything and met his end in front of a firing squad, and finally here, we have Josef Kramer he stood proud with no regret or apology for his crimes. 

Another thing that all of these monsters had in common was the lack of remorse, even seeing the death, the suffering all around them was not enough to bring a flash of humanity. Just when you thought they had gone far enough they would go further, there was no line drawn. 

I always think of the innocent prisoners who died and suffered so horribly in these camps and the people who were beaten and had their homes and livelihoods stolen from them but I also think of these soldiers not just from the British Army but other countries too (the ones with the purest of hearts) who went into these camps and saw the devastation before them. I can imagine it must have left some terrible psychological scars. Just seeing the pictures from the camps and the footage on the TV screen is enough but to be there, to see it in front of your very eyes, to smell the death all around. It just doesn't bare thinking about. 

RIP to all of the victims and survivors of WW2 and God Bless all of the soldiers and good Samaritans who did what they could do help the victims and bring the war criminals to justice

Further reading & sources:

Nazi Concentration Camp Commandants | Book by Ian Baxter

The Nazis: A Warning From History | Book by Laurence Rees

The Nazis & The Final Solution | Book by Laurence Rees

Josef Kramer | Murderpedia

Josef Kramer | Wikipedia

Josef Kramer | Encyclopedia Britannica

The Liberation of Bergen-Belsen | (Documentary Clip)

Thank you again for joining me in this series. I will be doing another series in this vein soon. As mentioned earlier my Serial Killer series starts next Sunday. See you on my socials x


  1. Hello Jo,

    I read your new true crime post, the final post from your incredible and amazing series. I was fascinated by each and every case. Josef Kramer is obviously another monster. I thought that I knew some of the craziest people from the Nazi regime but I’ve been learning so much reading your series.

    That camp was pure nightmare and it’s not surprising that this monster is better known as the “The Beast of Belsen”. Gruesome shocking case !

    He was a sadistic individual, oh my my, all the torture.

    At least, he got executed !!!

    I’m super excited about your upcoming “Serial Killer series of cases” !!!

    I’m going to check every links bellow your true crime case Jo.

    RIP to all the poor innocent victims.

    Thank you for your awesome series Jo !!!

  2. This post was a real education for me. The Nazi regime was a very dark period in our human existence. Kramer was one of the beasts that reigned during this time. As you stated, the lack of remorse is unreal. Were these people convinced that what they were doing was right or their version of god’s plan?….or did they simply enjoy eradicating a race?
    You should be proud of what you accomplished in this series Jo. You are fearless and unrelenting, two major components of a great writer.