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The Second and Third Rakers Trials and the Pardon

In the course of the main proceedings in the trial of Bernhard Rakers, who had been a detachment leader and roll-call leader in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp, the trial court separated the lawsuit with respect to two charges, in orders on January 26 and February 6, 1953: the killing of the prisoner Emile Bottin on the way to work on the I.G. Farben plant grounds; and the killing of prisoners (“Muselmänner”) with shots in the back of the neck during the transport from Gleiwitz to Sachsenhausen in January 1945. In the session of June 10, 1958 (second Rakers trial: one day in court), the Osnabrück judges dismissed the action in the Bottin case, involving intentional bodily injury resulting in death.[1] Only aggravated battery could be proven against Rakers beyond reasonable doubt. The crime had already become time-barred in May, 1950, however.


In September and October 1959 (third Rakers trial: eight days in court), the Osnabrück Regional Court tried the crime of which several witnesses accused the defendant: on several occasions during the evacuation transport, having pulled enfeebled prisoners (Muselmänner) out of the freight cars and killed them, in concert with SS-Hauptscharführer Otto Moll (1915–1946), by shooting them in the back of the neck. Norbert Wollheim also appeared in these proceedings as a witness.[2] The testimony of the Auschwitz survivors, however, did not convince the jury court. For lack of evidence, the court acquitted Rakers of the charge. On the other hand, the court convicted the accused of having shot a prisoner during the journey. The prisoner, while relieving himself over the side of the open freight car, was discovered by Rakers. The judges ruled the act an attempted homicide, committed for base reasons and in an underhanded manner. Rakers was sentenced to six years in prison on October 9, 1959.[3] The 15-year sentence pronounced on February 10, 1953, was quashed and articulated again by the trial court; once again, it was set at 15 years in prison. The sentence of lifelong imprisonment imposed in the first Rakers trial was unaffected by the third action.


Rakers served his sentence mostly in the Celle Correctional Facility. Letters from the prison administration relating to pleas for clemency reveal that the Auschwitz offender believed himself to be an innocent victim of the judicial system. In mid-1971, Rakers was released following his pardon by Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Alfred Kubel (SPD; Social Democratic Party of Germany) on March 2, 1971, with a supervised parole period of five years. Rakers once again found employment as a baker, maintained a low profile during his probationary period, and was granted abatement of his remaining sentence in 1976. He died in Barmstedt near Hamburg on August 10, 1980.

(WR; transl. KL)


Indictment. StA b. LG Osnabrück, 4 Ks 2/52, Hauptakten, Vol. V (Staatsarchiv Osnabrück, Rep 945 Akz. 2001/054 Nr. 235).

Verdict in the First Rakers Trial. StA b. LG Osnabrück, 4 Ks 2/52, Hauptakten, Vol. VI, pp. 1–105 (Staatsarchiv Osnabrück, Rep 945 Akz. 2001/054 Nr. 236).

Verdict in the Second Rakers Trial. StA b. LG Osnabrück, 4 Ks 2/52, Hauptakten, Vol. VII, pp. 92–103 (Staatsarchiv Osnabrück, Rep 945 Akz. 2001/054 Nr. 237).

Verdict in the Third Rakers Trial. StA b. LG Osnabrück, 4 Ks 2/52, Hauptakten, Vol. IX, pp. 1–36 (Staatsarchiv Osnabrück, Rep 945 Akz. 2001/054 Nr. 239).

Pardon. StA b. LG Osnabrück, 4 Ks 2/52, Gnadenheft (4 Gns 25/56), pp. 9–9R and p. 20, p. 86.

Execution. StA b. LG Osnabrück, 4 Ks 2/52, Vollstreckungsheft, p. 63.



Dirks, Christian: „Die Verbrechen der anderen“. Auschwitz und der Auschwitz-Prozess der DDR: Das Verfahren gegen den KZ-Arzt Dr. Horst Fischer. Paderborn: Schöningh, 2006.

Knoch, Habbo: Die Emslandlager 1933–1945. In: Wolfgang Benz / Barbara Distel, eds.: Der Ort des Terrors. Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. Vol. 2 Frühe Lager, Dachau, Emslandlager. Munich: Beck, 2005, pp. 531–570.

Makowski, Antoni: “Organisation, Entwicklung und Tätigkeit des Häftlings-Krankenbaus in Monowitz (KL Auschwitz III).” In: Hefte von Auschwitz 15 (1975), pp. 113–181.

Justiz und NS-Verbrechen. Sammlung deutscher Strafurteile wegen nationalsozialistischer Tötungsverbrechen 1945–1999. Christiaan F. Rüter et al., eds. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 1976ff. [Including: Urteil im 1. Rakers-Prozess [Verdict in the First Rakers Trial]. Vol. X, pp. 346–391; Urteil im 2. Rakers-Prozess [Verdict in the Second Rakers Trial]. Vol. XIV, pp. 733–738; Urteil im 3. Rakers-Prozess [Verdict in the Third Rakers Trial].” Vol. XVI, pp. 60–74.]

Strzelecka, Irena: Arbeitslager Gleiwitz II. In: Hefte von Auschwitz 14 (1973), pp. 107–127.

Das Urteil im I.G.-Farben-Prozess. Der vollständige Wortlaut. Offenbach am Main: Bollwerk, 1948.

Werle, Gerhard / Wandres, Thomas: Auschwitz vor Gericht. Völkermord und bundesdeutsche Justiz. Munich: Beck, 1995.

[1] StA b. LG Osnabrück, 4 Ks 2/52, Hauptakten, Vol. VII, pp. 92–103 (Staatsarchiv Osnabrück, Rep 945 Akz. 2001/054 Nr. 237); and also: Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, Vol. XIV, pp. 733–738.

[2] See Wollheim’s letter to the prosecuting counsel in the public prosecutor’s office of the Osnabrück Regional Court, Public Prosecutor Krochmann, dated September 30, 1959, and also Krochmann’s letter to Wollheim on December 29, 1959, in which the personally committed prosecutor expresses his “disappointment” at the outcome of the trial (StA b. LG Osnabrück, 4 Ks 2/52, Handakten, Vol. II, pp. 159–164). Krochmann had previously represented the prosecution in the first Rakers trial.

[3] StA b. LG Osnabrück, 4 Ks 2/52, Hauptakten, Vol. IX, pp. 1–36 (Staatsarchiv Osnabrück, Rep 945 Akz. 2001/054 Nr. 239); and also: Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, Vol. XVI, pp. 60–74.