Whenever we talk about the atrocities of the Nazis and their concentration camps and everything they did in between, we often picture out men in their uniforms all while ruthlessly torturing the Jews and their enemy prisoners of war. That was not wrong, although there were also women who did equally brutal things but were often overlooked for some reason. Here are some of them that you probably have never heard of before.

Irma Grese

Irma Ida Grese was born in the small village of Wrechenon on October 7, 1923. Her father was a farmer, while her mother was a housewife. When Irma was 9, her mom allegedly committed suicide because of marital problems. She left behind her five children. Their father was a conservative, regular churchgoing Christian who was very strict with his children. He forbade his children to join the Bund Deutscher Madel or any other Nazi organization, as he was apathetic toward the Nazis.

Regardless, Irma joined the Bund Deutscher Madel when she was just 10, together with her younger sister Helene. At first, her father just hated their decision but soon, he disowned her after her crimes were made public during her war-crimes trial.

She wanted to be a nurse, so she began studying at an SS hospital in 1939 at Hohenlynchen. She worked with Karl Gebhardt, who performed and failed medical experiments on patients. When Irma turned 18, she joined the Aufseherinnen SS and passed the necessary examinations.

Irma Grese. (Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

After completing her training, Grese was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943, where she was tasked to guard female prisoners. It only took her a year to be promoted to the second-highest position within the camp. There, she oversaw 30,000 female prisoners and was known for her heavy boots, whip, pistol, blond hair, and blue eyes, which gave her an “angelic” appearance. The truth was far from that, as she would often kick prisoners and generally punish them for the slightest of offenses. She also had the camp doctors operate without anesthetic, enjoying the sight as the prisoners suffer. She would also make women kneel for extended periods of time and then hold large rocks over their heads, sometimes making them stand in the snow or rain for hours. After her capture in April 1945, Grese was sentenced to hang at the age of 22, making her the youngest Nazi to be executed.

Herta Bothe

Bothe did some domestic work in her early 20s before training to be a nurse, where she worked for a hospital for a time and was then sent to  Ravensbruck for training to be a member of Aufseherinnen. There she was dubbed as the “Sadist of Stuffhof,” which pretty much gives you an idea of how she treated the prisoners.

Herta Bothe (born 1921); guard in various German concentration camps. (Silverside (Sgt), Tanner A (Lt); No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

She then went to Bromberg, Oranienburg, and finally to Bergen-Belsen in February 1945, where she was tasked to oversee the female prisoners. She was known as a sadist who would often beat prisoners without mercy. One time, Bothe beat to death an 18-year-old girl who was caught eating peelings in the kitchen. Another witness testified that she shot down weak women as they carried heavy containers of food. Bothe denied all of these during her trial between April 1 to 15, 1945. In the end, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison, although she only served six before she was released in 1951.

Greta Bosel

Like the two ladies above, Bosel also trained as a nurse when she joined the Nazi party in 1939. Beginning in 1944, she first worked as one of the Aufseherinnen at Ravensbrück as the “work input overseer,” who was tasked to make the decision of who would live and who would die among the female prisoners at the camp. She was the one in charge of deciding which of the women would be sent to the gas chambers or sent to do forced labor. For her, a prisoner who couldn’t work deserved to die. As she said, “If they cannot work, let them rot.”
When the war ended, Bosel was taken into custody and tried for murder, mistreatment, and especially her role in the selection process. In the end, she was convicted and hanged.

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