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Euthanasia in the Warthegau

Herbert Lange and his kommando (so called SS Sonderkommando Lange, part of Einsatzgruppen VI) arrived in Poznan soon after the German invasion of Poland, on September 12, 1939. Lange was responsible for setting up the first concentration camp on Polish soil, Fort VII near Poznan. Sonderkommando Lange had been assigned to Aktion Tannenberg ie the arrest and liquidation of persons known for their anti German views before the war or who had been active in resisting during the Polish invasion. For this purpose amongst others, Fort VII was created. Lange remained commandant until October 16, 1939 being replaced by SS-Stubaf H Weibrecht. 

Lange and his kommando had been freed-up for another task namely euthanasia; the physical liquidation of the mentally and terminally ill. It was codenamed Aktion T4 and their mandate was the secret "decree" of A Hitler from October 1939 (backdated to September 1 , 1939) authorising euthanasia on the whole area of the Reich and conquered territories incorporated into the Reich. The base camp for the kommando was Fort VII and it was mainly active in the Warthegau but was also sent to neighbouring districts. 

Sonderkommando Lange was at the disposal of Supreme SS and Police Leader (Hoherer SS-und Polizeifuhrer) in the Warthegau, SS- Gruf Wilhelm Koppe reporting directly to Heinrich Himmler. Koppe also worked closely and in cooperation with the wishes for a close confidant of Himmlers, the Warthegau Gauleiter SS-Brif Artur Greiser. As Gauleiter of the Warthegau (formally from October 2, 1939) Greiser was the highest civilian authority in this district. In reality due to the close relationship with Himmler, Koppe was being managed by Greiser from spring 1940 in the actions in the Warthegau. Lange's direct supervisor was the Inspector of the Security Police and Security Service for Warthegau SS-Oberf Ernst Damzog, having his base in Poznan.

Lange was responsible for the organisation and execution of euthanasia actions in the Warthegau. For this purpose he used a mobile gas chamber (gas van or gas trailer) inscribed with the advertisement  "Kaisers Kaffee Geschaft".  Lange carried out aktions in the following homes and asylums in the Warthegau and nearby districts between 1939 and 1941:

- Owinska Mental Asylum

- Koscian Mental Asylum

- Kochanowka Mental Asylum (near Lodz)

- Warta Mental Asylum (near Sieradz)

- Srem Mental Asylum 

- Gniezno (Dziekanka) Mental Asylum

- Kalisz Jewish Hospital

- Srem Shelter for the Poor

- Poznan House for Social Care

- Gostynin Mental Home

- Bojanowo House for Compulsory Work

- Dzialdowo (Soldau) in Pomerania


Herbert Lange Biography

Herbert Lange was born September 29 th 1909 in Menzlin in Pomerania. He studied law but failed to obtain his degree. He joined the NSDAP on May 1 1932 and three months later the SA. In 1933 he joined the SS and subsequently the police becoming a deputy commissioner in 1935. In 1938 he was promoted to the rank of SS-Untersturmfuhrer.

In August 1939 he was assigned to Einsatzgruppe VI commanded  SS-Oberfuhrer Erich Naumann made up of 150 men. This unit followed the Wehrmacht into Poland in September 1939

Within Einsatzgruppe VI a Sonderkommando under Lange was formed. He received orders from Artur Greiser to create a concentration camp in Fort VII in Poznan. Lange was commander of Fort VII for a short time between 10th and 16th October 1939 only being responsible for finding the location, setting it up, staffing etc. 

From mid October 1939 he was assigned to the euthanasia program in the Warthegau. His unit became independent of Einsatzgruppe VI reporting directly to the RSHA in Berlin and locally to Koppe and Greiser. In the next 18th months Lange and his Kommando undertook euthanasia actions in the asylums in Warthegau and neigbouring districts. 

On 20 th April 1940 Lange was promoted to SS-Obersturmfuhrer and was from the end of 1940 until December 1941 head of the Economic Crimes Deaprtment of the Kriminalpolizei in Poznan.  However during this time he undertook additional euthanasia aktions as well as beginning in the holocaust in the Warthegau region by killing Jews in the Konin region.

In November and December 1941 Lange at the behest of Himmler and Greiser was looking around for a location for a death camp to kill the jews of the Warthegau. On December 7th 1941 Lange became commandant of the Chelmno death camp. On February 21, 1942 Lange was released from his position at Chelmno and returned to Berlin to serve under Artur Nebe as a Kriminalrat (criminal investigator). 

Lange was charged with investigating and catching the July 1944 Hitler bomb conspirators leading to his promotion to SS-Sturmbannfuhrer.

The circumstances of his death are not totally verified but most sources claim he was killed on April 20 1945 fighting in Berlin. 


001_Koppe HQ.jpg Headquarters of SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Koppe (1896 - 1975) in Poznan. He was responsible for numerous crimes against Poles and Jews (includes euthanasia) in Reichsgau Wartheland.