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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Josef Kramer

'The Beast of Belsen The Camp Commandant Josef Cramer'

Josef Kramer became Commandant of Belsen concentration camp on 2 December 1944, and remained in command until its liberation by the British Army in April 1945.

Photograph of Josef Kramer (D/DLI 7/404/65)
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Josef Kramer was born in Munich in 1906 and joined the Nazi Party in 1931. In 1932 he became a member of the SS and was appointed a guard at Dachau concentration camps, Germany, in 1934.

He was promoted rapidly, obtaining senior posts at Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps. He became assistant to Rudolf Hoss, the Commandant at Auschwitz in 1940, then Commandant of Natzweiler concentration camps in April 1941.

Kramer was promoted to the rank of Hauptsturmführer [Captain] in 1942 and, in May 1944, was put in charge of the gas chambers at Auschwitz. He remained there until December 1944, the date of his appointment as Commandant of Belsen.

When the British Army liberated Belsen in April 1945, Josef Kramer was arrested and put on trial with 44 other camp staff, including 15 women. They were tried at Luneburg, Germany, in September to November 1945. Kramer was found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to death with ten others. He was executed (by hanging) on 12 December 1945.