Herbert Lange

Herbert Lange

Herbert Lange in civilian clothing, before WWII
Born 29 September 1909
Menzlin, Pomerania
Died 20 April 1945(1945-04-20) (aged 35)
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Years of service until 1945
Rank Sturmbannführer
Unit SS-Totenkopfverbände
Commands held Organizer and first commandant of Chełmno extermination camp (November 1941 – April 1942) [1]

Herbert Lange (29 September 1909 – 20 April 1945) was an SS-Sturmbannführer and the commandant of Chełmno extermination camp until April 1942; leader of the SS Special Detachment Lange conducting the extermination of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto. He was responsible for numerous crimes against humanity including the murder of mental patients in Poland and in Germany during the Action T4 forced euthanasia programme.


Born in Menzlin village near Anklam, Western Pomerania, Lange studied law, but failed to obtain a degree and he subsequently joined the NSDAP (Nazi Party) on 1 May 1932. He enlisted in the Sturmabteilung (SA) three months later, and the following year, he joined the SS. He subsequently joined the police force, becoming a deputy commissioner in 1935.

Crimes against humanity

Lange entered Poland with Einsatzgruppe Naumann (EG VI) during the September campaign. On 9 November 1939, following a Nazi German victory, Lange was promoted to the rank of SS-Untersturmführer (2nd lieutenant) in occupied Poland and posted in charge of the Posen Gestapo in occupied Poznań.[1] In the beginning of 1940 he assumed command of an SS-Sonderkommando Lange named after him and tasked with the extermination of mentally ill in Wartheland area (Wielkopolska) under the direction of notorious Holocaust perpetrators Ernst Damzog and Wilhelm Koppe.[2] Lange served with Einsatzgruppe VI during Operation Tannenberg.[3] Already by mid-1940, he and his men were responsible for the murder of about 1,100 patients in Owińska, 2,750 patients at Kościan, 1,558 patients and 300 Poles at Działdowo, and hundreds of Poles at Fort VII where the mobile gas-chamber (Einsatzwagen) was invented. Their earlier hospital victims were usually shot in the back of the neck.[4] The unit, equipped with a gas van, shuttled between hospitals, picking up patients and killing them with carbon monoxide.[5]

After his promotion to SS-Obersturmführer (1st lieutenant) on 20 April 1940, his unit was permanently stationed at the Soldau concentration camp. In one special case, Wilhelm Rediess hired Kommando Lange to kill 1,558 mental patients from East Prussia for ten Reichsmark a head.[6] By December 1941 Lange was a SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and was appointed commander of the Chełmno extermination camp by then SS-Standartenführer Ernst Damzog, chief of the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo) and Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in Posen (Poznań). [7] He held that position until March 1942.[8] His commando was tasked with the liquidation of 100,000 Jews from the Warthegau via Ghetto Litzmannstadt. In April 1942 Lange's unit was renamed SS Sonderkommando Kulmhof and introduced improvements to the extermination process at Chełmno. Lange constructed cremation pits to replace mass graves.[9] He was succeeded by Hans Bothmann who formed Special Detachment Bothmann in 1942. At a very minimum 152,000 people (Bohn) were killed at the camp,[10] though the West German prosecution, citing Nazi figures during the Chełmno trials of 1962–65, laid charges for at least 180,000 victims.[11]

Upon the completion of his task in 1942 Lange was transferred to the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office) and served under Arthur Nebe as a Kriminalrat (Criminal Investigator). He went to the Balkans on an anti-partisan mission.[12] In March 1944 Lange returned to the already inactive death camp at Chełmno, and resumed the gassing operations on the request of Greiser, for the final ten transports of ghettoised Jews.[12] In 1944 Lange aided in catching the conspirators of the attempt on Hitler's life (the 20 July Plot), leading to his promotion to SS-Sturmbannführer.

Lange was killed in action during the Battle of Berlin on 20 April 1945.[13]


  1. 1 2 Friedlander, Henry (1997). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. UNC Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0807846759.
  2. Friedlander 1997, pp. 138-139.
  3. Artur Hojan, Cameron Munro (2015). "Nazi Euthanasia Programme in Occupied Poland 1939-1945". Overview of the liquidation of the mentally ill during actions on the Polish territory (1939-1945). The Tiergartenstrasse 4 Association, international centre for the documentation, study and interpretation of Nazi crimes. Nazi Euthanasia in European Perspective conference, Berlin, Kleisthaus, Feb. 28-30, 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  4. Holocaust Research Project.org (2007). "Lange, Herbert; SS-Hauptsturmführer". Chelmno Death Camp Dramatis Personae. Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  5. Friedlander 1997, p. 139.
  6. Friedlander 1997, pp. 139-140. Rediess denied payment and left for Norway; legalese correspondence between Lange's superiors and Rediess continued for a whole year.
  7. Epstein, Catherine (2010). Model Nazi - Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0199646531.
  8. Epstein 2010, p. 188.
  9. Montague 2012, pp. 189-190.
  10. USHMM (May 11, 2012). "Chelmno". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. OTRS ticket no. 2007071910012533 confirmed.
  11. JTA (January 22, 1963). "Jewish Survivors of Chelmno Camp Testify at Trial of Guards". JTA Archive. Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  12. 1 2 Montague 2012, p. 190.
  13. Epstein 2010, p. 338.


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