Military Wiki
Otto Ohlendorf
SS-Brigadeführer Otto Ohlendorf
Born (1907-02-04)4 February 1907
Died 7 June 1951(1951-06-07) (aged 44)[1]
Place of birth Hoheneggelsen, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Place of death Landsberg Prison, Landsberg am Lech, Bavaria
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen-SS
Years of service 1925 — 1945
Rank SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei
Commands held
Battles/wars World War II
Awards War Merit Cross I class

Otto Ohlendorf (4 February 1907 – 7 June 1951) was a German SS-Gruppenführer and head of the Inland-SD (responsible for intelligence and security within Germany), a section of the SD. Ohlendorf was the commanding officer of Einsatzgruppe D, which was accused of conducting mass murder in Moldova, south Ukraine, the Crimea, and, during 1942, the north Caucasus. As such, Otto Ohlendorf was a Holocaust perpetrator and mass murderer. He was convicted of and executed for war crimes committed during World War II.


Early life

Born in Hoheneggelsen (part of Söhlde; then in the Kingdom of Prussia), the son of farm owners, he joined the Nazi Party in 1925 (member 6631) and the SS (member #880) in 1926. Ohlendorf studied economics and law at the University of Leipzig and the University of Göttingen, and by 1930 was already giving lectures at several economic institutions. He studied at the University of Pavia, where he gained his doctor's degree in jurisprudence; and as a career man he had successfully worked himself up to a research directorship in the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (at that time Institut für Weltwirtschaft und Seeverkehr - Institute for World Economy and Maritime Transport). By 1938 he was also Hauptgeschäftsführer in the Reichsgruppe Handel, the German trade organization. While Ohlendorf had joined the party in 1925, the SS in 1926, and the SD in 1936, he regarded his party activities, and even his position as chief of SD-Inland, as a sideline of his career. Actually, he devoted only four years (1939–43) to full-time activity in the RSHA, for in 1943 he became a Ministerialdirektor and deputy to the Staatssekretär (state secretary) in the Reichswirtschaftsministerium (Reich ministry of economic affairs).[2]

Third Reich

In early 1936, he became an economic consultant to the SD, attached to the SS with the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer. In May 1936, he was promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer and took a senior post. In 1939, he was once again promoted to SS-Standartenführer and appointed as head of Amt III Inland-SD, of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, a position he kept until 1945. In addition, from 1943 onwards, Ohlendorf was appointed as deputy director general of the Reich Ministry of Economic Affairs, and promoted once more in 1944 to Gruppenführer.

In June 1941, Reinhard Heydrich appointed Ohlendorf to be commander of Einsatzgruppe D which operated in southern Ukraine and Crimea. Ohlendorf's Einsatzgruppe would be responsible for the 13 December 1941 massacre at Simferopol where at least 14,300 people, mostly Jews, were killed. Over 90,000 murders are attributed to Ohlendorf's command, who testified to this effect during his trial at Nuremberg.

At the end of 1943, Ohlendorf, in addition to his other jobs, became deputy secretary of state in the Reichsministerium für Wirtschaft (Reichs-Ministry for Economics). He coordinated plans to rebuild the German economy after the war, a war he and others believed to be lost. Such planning for the post-war time was strictly forbidden, on one side. On the other side, Heinrich Himmler, who detested the state interventionist regime of Albert Speer as "totally bolshevik" and was himself hoping for a career in a militarily defeated Germany, protected the working group around Ohlendorf and Ludwig Erhard and other experts, who planned how to introduce the new German currency Deutsche Mark, among other things. Ohlendorf himself spoke out for "active and courageous entrepreneurship (aktives und wagemutiges Unternehmertum)", which was intended to replace bureaucratic state planning of the economy after the war.

Because of Ohlendorf's work in this field, many petitions for leniency were filed after he was sentenced to death by hanging. These, however, were turned down by the Allies.[3]

Nuremberg War Trials

Ohlendorf (left) with Heinz Jost

Ohlendorf at the Nuremberg Trials

Ohlendorf took part into Himmler's flight from Flensburg and was arrested with him near Lüneburg, where Himmler committed suicide.[4]

During the trial against Einsatzgruppen leaders, Ohlendorf was the chief defendant, and was also a key witness in the prosecution of many other indicted war criminals. Ohlendorf's frank, apparently reliable testimony was attributed to his distaste for the corruption that was rampant in Nazi Germany and a stubborn commitment to duty. He expressed no remorse for his actions, telling prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferencz at the trial that the Jews of America would suffer for what the prosecutor had done, and seemed to have been more concerned about the moral strain on those carrying out the executions than those actually being executed.[5][6]

Otto Ohlendorf was sentenced to death and hanged at the Landsberg Prison in Bavaria shortly after midnight on 8 June 1951.

In popular culture

  • Ohlendorf appears at length in Jonathan Littell's docudrama Les Bienveillantes.
  • He was played by Christopher James in the 2006 British television docudrama Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial[7]
  • He was portrayed by Nigel Hawthorne in the miniseries "Holocaust" (1978)


  1. "Five death sentences were confirmed: the sentence against Oswald Pohl, as well as those passed against the leaders of the Mobile Killing Units, Paul Blobel, Werner Braune, Erich Neumann, and Otto Ohrlendorf. . . . In the early morning hours of 7 June, the [] Nazi criminals were hanged in the Landesburg prison courtyard." Norbert Frei, Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past: The Politics of Amnesty and Integration. Columbia University Press, 2002. p. 165 and p. 173
  2. Hilberg, Raul, Destruction of the European Jews (New York, NY: Quadrangle Books, 1961), p.187
  3. See also Michael Brackmann in Handelsblatt, June 2006.
  4. Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel, Heinrich Himmler: The SS, Gestapo, His Life and Career, Greenhill Books, 2007, p. 76-78.
  5. Nuremberg Trials and Tributions by Benjamin B. Ferencz
  6. Mass Murderers Seek to Justify Genocide by Benjamin B. Ferencz
  7. "Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial (2006) (TV)". Retrieved May 20, 2008.


  • Michael Brackmann: Der Tag X. - Im Juni 1948 kommt die D-Mark und verändert das Land. Die Währungsreform ist von langer Hand vorbereitet und bis ins Detail ausgetüftelt worden. In: Handelsblatt 23./24./25. June 2006. Der Tag X In English: "The day X. - In June 1948 the Deutschmark is introduced and this changes the country. The currency reform has been prepared for a long time and had been subtly and punctiliously prepared in detail in advance." The article claims a collaboration between Otto Ohlendorf and Ludwig Erhard and other experts in preparing the post war economy with collusion and protection by Heinrich Himmler.

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