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Otto Ohlendorf German SS-Gruppenführer

Otto Ohlendorf
Otto Ohlendorf

Otto Ohlendorf (February 4, 1907 - June 7, 1951) was a German SS-Gruppenführer and head of the interior division of the SD.

Nazi official

Born in Hoheneggelsen near Hildesheim, the son of a farm owner, he joined the Nazi party in 1925 (member #6631) followed by the SS 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. In early 1936 he became an economic consultant to the SD, attached to the SS with the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer. In May of 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 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.

Einsatzgruppe commander

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

Ministry for Economics

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, 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.


Otto Ohlendorf (left).
Otto Ohlendorf (left).

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 and famously, would seem to have been more concerned about the moral strain on those carrying out the executions than those actually being executed.

Otto Ohlendorf was sentenced to death and hanged on June 7, 1951.

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