Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Key Nazi personalities in
the Camp System
The Labor &
The Labor Camps
Arthur Nebe was born on 13 November 1894, in Berlin, the son of an elementary school teacher. He volunteered for military service fighting in the 17th Pioneer Battalion during the Great War, where he was wounded twice by poison-gas.
After the war ended Nebe joined the criminal police and reached the rank of Police Commissioner in 1924. A professional policeman and the author of an authoritative treatise on criminology, Nebe entered the NSDAP on 1 July 1931 and the SS on 2 December 1936.
Even before the Nazis seized power Nebe was their liaison man in the Berlin criminal police, with close links to the SS group led by Kurt Daluege, who in April 1933 recommended him as Chief Executive of the State Police.
Though initially fond of Hitler and his vows to restore Germany to great power status, Nebe soon develops serious doubts about the Nazi regime following the Röhm massacre.
As these doubts accumulate, he eventually confides to his close friends of his intention to resign from the force, especially after the Criminal Police is absorbed into the SS empire.
A close colleague, Hans-Bernd Gisevius persuades him to stay on arguing that the conspirators desperately need someone within Himmler's empire to carefully document all the crimes that were being perpetrated by the Nazi regime - evidence the conspirators hope one day to use to bring Hitler, Goering, Himmler, and the rest to justice before Germany and the world.
The former Chief of the Berlin CID under Weimar, Nebe was now given the task of reorganising the criminal police in the Third Reich. As head of the KRIPO and a top Gestapo official, Nebe played an important part in the establishment of the totalitarian police system.
In September 1939 Nebe was put in charge of Amt V of the RSHA, which was responsible for the criminal police. Promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenfuhrer, Nebe was later given command of Einsatzgruppen B between June and November 1941, an extermination unit whose headquarters were in Minsk, and which also covered the area of the Moscow front.
During this period of five months, Nebe was credited with the “modest” number of 46,000 executions. During Himmler’s visit to Minsk in July 1941, Nebe was instructed to find new methods of mass killing. After the war an amateur film showing a gas chamber worked by the exhaust gas of a lorry was found in his former Berlin flat.
It should be noted that Nebe took it upon himself to save thousands of Russian civilians from execution by falsifying figures and claiming credit for slaughters that have never been carried out, however Nebe is soon suspected by fellow SS-Einsatzgruppen colleagues of being "too soft."
In late 1942, using a special code-language, Nebe informs co-conspirators of secret conferences he has attended chaired by Himmler to develop a clandestine extermination program referred to repeatedly as The Final Solution. The program involves the extermination of European Jewry and all other categories of people deemed by the fuehrer as unfit to exist. Measures such as transportation by rail in sealed wagons and gas chambers are discussed.
Nebe’s alleged disgust at mass murder is somewhat weakened by a letter he wrote on 28 June 1944 recommending the use of so-called “half-breed asocial types from Auschwitz for human guinea- pig experiments such as drinking sea-water.
Despite his very questionable record, Nebe was apparently involved in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.
Though not under suspicion he chose to go into hiding on an island in the Wannsee and was betrayed by a rejected mistress.
According to official records, Nebe was executed in Berlin at Ploetzensee prison on 2 March 1945.
(He was hung with piano wire)
Who’s Who in Nazi Germany by Robert S Wistrich published by Routledge, London and New York 1995.
The Final Solution by G. Reitlinger, published by Vallentine and Mitchell 1953.
The Field Men by French L Maclean, published by Schiffer Military History, Atglen PA 1999.
Copyright CW H.E.A.R.T 2007