This article needs additional citations for verification
. (December 2018)
Richard Baer (9 September 1911 – 17 June 1963) was a German SS officer who, among other assignments, was the commandant of Auschwitz I concentration camp from May 1944 to February 1945, and right after, from February to April 1945, commandant of Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp . Following the war, Baer lived under an assumed name to avoid prosecution but was recognized and arrested in December 1960. He died in detention before he could stand trial.
Born in Floss, Bavaria in 1911, Baer grew in a Protestant family. In 1925 he moved to Weiden in der Oberpfalz where he performed a three-year apprenticeship spell as pastry chef. After completing his vocational training, Baer toured Bavaria for several years as a journeyman. Eventually, in winter of 1932, he returned to the pastry company of his apprenticeship, and worked there until he resigned in March 1933.
Baer signed on with the Nazi Party in 1930, and on 1 July 1932 he became a member of the General SS.
In the local SS post, in Weiden, he met the future concentration camp commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss. Under the direction of Weiss, the small SS gang was used to offer on weekends speaker protection at the public meetings of the Nazi Party in the surrounding villages.
Baer later stated that he had joined the General SS because he liked the "soldier discipline" and the "joy of playing soldiers".
After the Nazi came to power, most of the SS men in Weiden served as auxiliary police officers locally, and, as early as mid-April 1933, they were assigned as guards to the Dachau concentration camp, where Baer was subjected to military drills, Nazi ideological indoctrination, and hard training on techniques of systematic terror against the prisoners. His teacher was Theodor Eicke, the camp commandant since June 1933 and shaper of the Nazi concentration camp system, the so-called "Dachau Model". Baer described the training for guard duty in Dachau as "very strict" and as being "sharply polished" there: "The more we were polished, the more proud we were of it".
From December 1934 to end-March 1935, Baer performed guard duty at the infamous Gestapo prison called Columbia-Haus in Berlin. He was later assigned to the SS-Death's Head (SS-TV) 2nd regiment Brandenburg, which in 1936 was involved in the build up of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After taking a platoon commander course in Oranienburg concentration camp, Baer served, from March to September 1938, with the SS-TV 3rd regiment Thuringen in Buchenwald concentration camp. In September 1938, Baer was promoted to SS-second lieutenant (Untersturmführer), and, at the end of the same year, he headed the first group of guards in the newly established Neuengamme concentration camp, then still a sub-camp of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In September 1940 became a commando overseer.
At the end of 1940, Baer asked to reach the front line, and, after completing a course to become company commander, he was sent to the eastern front. In December 1941, as a result of a wound, he was transferred back to Neuengamme concentration camp.
In 1942 Baer was appointed adjutant to the commandant of the Neuengamme concentration camp. At Neuengamme he participated in the killing of Soviet prisoners of war in a special gas chamber and in the selection of prisoners for the so-called Operation 14f13 in the T4 Euthanasia Program.
From November 1942 to May 1944, Baer was adjutant to Oswald Pohl, then chief of the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office. In November 1943, he took over the office DI (Central Office) in the Department D "Concentration camps Inspectorate". He succeeded Arthur Liebehenschel, considered by Himmler to be too "soft" with the prisoners , as the third and final commandant of Auschwitz I from 11 May 1944, until the final dissolution of the camp in early 1945.
From November 1943 until the end of 1944 Fritz Hartjenstein and Josef Kramer were responsible for the extermination camp in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, so that Baer was only Commandant of this part of the camp from the end of 1944 until February 1945. Near the end of the war Richard Baer, having replaced Otto Förschner as commandant of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in Nordhausen, was responsible for the execution of Soviet prisoners at mass gallows. His final rank was SS Major.
At the end of the war, Baer fled and lived near Hamburg as Karl Egon Neumann, a forestry worker. In the course of investigation in the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials a warrant for his arrest was issued in October 1960 and his photograph was printed in newspapers.
The story of Baer's arrest is vividly recounted by Devin Pendas in his book The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial. After seeing a wanted picture in the tabloid newspaper Bild-Zeitung, a co-worker on Otto von Bismarck's estate reported that Baer was working as a forester there. When officials confronted "Neumann" on the early morning of 20 December 1960, he at first denied everything. Having already addressed Baer as her "husband", the woman in the house subsequently gave her name as "Frau Baer", but still claimed that Baer was named "Neumann". Baer, however, finally admitted his true identity. On the advice of his lawyer, he refused to testify. He died of a heart attack while in pre-trial detention in 1963.
- Gross, Raphael; Renz, Werner, eds. (2013). Der Frankfurter Auschwitz-Prozess (1963–1965). Wissenschaftliche Reihe des Fritz Bauer Instituts (in German). Annotated edition in 2 volumes. Frankfurt a/Main / New York City: Campus Verlag. ISBN 978-3593399607.
- Klee, Ernst (2011). Das Personen Lexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945? [People Dictionary of the Third Reich. Who's Who Before and After 1945] (in German). Koblenz: Edition Kramer. ISBN 978-398114834-3.
- Klee, Ernst (2013). Auschwitz - Täter, Gehilfen, Opfer und was aus ihnen wurde [Auschwitz - Perpetrators, Helpers, Victims, and what became of them] (in German) (Kindle ed.). Frankfurt a/Main: Fischer E-books. ISBN 978-310402813-2.
- Langbein, Hermann (1980). Menschen in Auschwitz (in German). Frankfurt: Ullstein. ISBN 9783548330143.
- Orth, Karin (2004). Die Konzentrationslager-SS. Sozialstrukturelle Analysen und biographische Studien (in German). München: DTV. ISBN 3-423-34085-1.
- Pendas, David (2006). The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, 1963-1965: Genocide, History and the Limits of the Law. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521127981.
- Segev, Tom (1995). Die Soldaten des Bösen. Zur Geschichte der KZ-Kommandanten (in German). Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag. ISBN 3-499-18826-0.
- Wagner, Jens-Christian (2001). Produktion des Todes: Das KZ Mittelbau-Dora (in German). Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag. ISBN 3-89244-439-0.