Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Key Nazi personalities in
the Camp System
The Labor &
The Labor Camps
Gauleiter of the Warthegau
Arthur Greiser was born in Schroda, Posen on 22 January 1897, the son of a civil servant. During World War One he served as a naval officer, and after a period in the Freikorps and later as an unsuccessful businessman, co-founded the Stalheim, a veterans’ organisation in Danzig in 1924.
Greiser joined the Nazi Party in 1929 and the following year he entered the SS as one of Himmler’s earliest adherents. From 1930 Greiser was deputy district leader of the NSDAP in Danzig and leader of the Party faction in the district. On 20 June 1933 he became Deputy President of the Danzig Senate and on 28 November 1934 he succeeded Hermann Rauschning as President, a post he retained until 1 September 1939.
Greiser was then made head of the Civil Administration in Posen and on 21 October 1939 he became Gauleiter and Reich Governor of the Warthegau- the Polish western regions annexed to the German Reich, which also included the district of Lodz.
From July 1940 Greiser was a member of the Reichstag for the Warthegau electoral district and in 1943 he was promoted to the rank of SS General. As Gauleiter for the Warthegau and Lodz, he was in charge of the mass deportation and extermination of Jews and Poles to provide room for Germans from the Baltic States, Volhynia, the Balkans and the Reich proper.
As a result of his measures the German population in his region swelled from 325,000 in 1939 to almost 950,000 by the end of 1943. Greiser had a black record of cruelty towards the Polish population, advocating in a letter to Himmler of 1 May 1942 that tubercular Poles be sent for “special treatment” to Chelmno death camp.
Greiser also supervised the anti-Jewish terror which led to the burning of synagogues, the sending of thousands of Jews to forced labour, deportations to Germany, to the Generalgouvernement and to the extermination camps.
Theodor Malzmuller one of the members of the Chelmno Sonderkommando, recalled a visit to the death camp by Arthur Greiser:
"Shortly before the dismantling of the Chelmno death camp in March 1943 Gauleiter Greiser suddenly appeared at the camp, together with his staff – consisting of fifteen high-ranking SS officers. All members of the SS-Sonderkommando and the Wachkommando had to assemble in the courtyard of the castle where they were addressed by Greiser.
In the presence of his staff he explained that Chelmno extermination camp would shortly be dismantled and he wanted to thank us on behalf of the Fuhrer for the work we had done in Chelmno.
He then went on to say that everybody would be given four weeks’ special leave and that we were welcome to spend it free of charge on one of his estates.
He then invited all those present to a farewell party at the Riga Hotel in Warthbrucken.
The farewell party was held in a big room at the Riga hotel. After a short while everyone was drunk and fell asleep at the table. The party ended at about one or two in the morning."
Gauleiter Greiser wrote to RFSS Heinrich Himmler on 19 March 1943 about Chelmno:
Towards the end of the war he fled to the Bavarian Alps, where he eventually surrendered to the Americans. Extradited to Poland and tried by a Polish court, he was sentenced to death and hanged on 20 June 1946
Who’s Who in Nazi Germany, by Robert S. Wistrich, published by Routledge, London 1995
Those Were the Days, by Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, Volker Reiss, published by Hamish Hamilton – London 1991
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