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A Judge in Auschwitz (Hardback)

Konrad Morgen's Crusade Against SS Corruption & 'Illegal' Murder

WWII Biographies Military

By Kevin Prenger
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 33 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399018760
Published: 20th October 2021

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In autumn 1943, SS judge Konrad Morgen visited Auschwitz concentration camp to investigate an intercepted parcel containing gold sent from the camp. While there Morgen found the SS camp guards engaged in widespread theft and corruption.

Worse, Morgen also discovered that inmates were being killed without authority from the SS leadership. While millions of Jews were being exterminated under the Final Solution programme , Konrad Morgen set about gathering evidence of these ‘illegal murders’.

Morgen also visited other camps such as Buchenwald where he had the notorious camp commandant Karl Koch and Ilse, his sadistic spouse, arrested and charged. Found guilty by an SS court, Koch was sentenced to death.

Remarkably, the apparently fearless SS judge also tried to prosecute other Nazi criminals including Waffen-SS commanders Oskar Dirlewanger and Hermann Fegelein and Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss. He even claimed to have tried to indict Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for organising the mass deportation of the Jews to the extermination camps.

This intriguing work reveals how the lines between justice and injustice became blurred in the Third Reich. As well as describing the actions of this often contradictory character the author questions Morgen’s motives.

As is the case with a number of other more articulate and intelligent Nazis who were implicated in wartime crimes (most notably Albert Speer), Morgen has been able to construct his own narrative. With most of Morgen's professional contacts either dead or in hiding and, given the victorious allies desperation to work with credible witnesses, it is hardly surprising that Morgen has hitherto been posited as an innocent functionary. This important well evidenced biography sets the record straight.

Read the full review here

Phil Curme

I love how well documented this was. Prenger described the timeline and events clearly. Some incidents were so frustrating to read and again horrifying details of what happened in the camps is still hard to stomach. Prenger also added pictures of some of the officers at the end of the story and I honestly felt like ripping their smiling faces. Overall, I would recommend reading this with an open mind.

NetGalley, YiWen Sim

Prenger dives into the life story of SS Officer Konrad Morgen and his investigations of crimes committed by fellow SS officers during the war. Few know what they would have personally done in those circumstances but Morgen walked a fine line between maintaining a facade for whatever group he was talking to. Prenger's book is well-researched and presented nicely... This would make a good gift for anyone interested in the human side of the war.

NetGalley, Teresa Grabs

A remarkable book about a German lawyer who, seemingly, made a stand against the Nazis by investigating a number of concentration camp commandants and senior officials for, oddly, theft. Morgan was already an established lawyer in 1943 when, with the permission of the Nazi hierarchy, he began investigating the most senior concentration camp officials for misappropriating money and valuables taken from Jews en route to the gas chambers. He discovered a lucrative business whereby gold teeth were being converted into ingots while money and jewellery was being confiscated and, instead of the proceeds going to fund the Nazi party, it was going into the private accounts of those involved. The position taken by Morgan was simple; this was theft. Morgan also reported back numerous cases of ‘unauthorised’ murder by camp officials; he saw the mass murder of Jews as ‘correct’ being an order from Hitler, while the theft of valuables or casual murder of inmates was not.
When Morgan reported his findings to Himmler, Morgan was given full authority to conduct his investigations however he thought fit. Morgan was also authorized to undertake similar investigations at other camps. Those officials found to be looting ‘Reich ‘property were severely dealt with; as an example to camp officials Himmler ordered the camp commandant at Auschwitz to be arrested and hanged.
The book is difficult to comprehend as is the motive of Morgan. He was fully prepared to observe the mass murder of the Jews and visit concentration camps where inmates lived in inhumane conditions before being mass murdered in the gas chambers. What he was not prepared to do was ignore the widespread looting of Jews’ money and valuables ‘properly’ destined for the Reich. It is suggested that Morgan was even responsible for the Jews to be advised in advance by leaflets that they should take their money and valuable when sent off to the numerous concentration camps. Morgan claimed it was to spread the belief that they could then purchase necessities on arrival; this would also prevent panic among the Jews. For what purpose is unclear unless he was acting simply to ensure such loot became the property of the Nazi party.
A disturbing book – but true accounts are frequently disturbing. The book is well written and worth reading.

Dr Adrian Greaves, The Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society

A judge in Auschwitz tells the story of Konrad Morgen, a mostly unknown story that should definitely be read and known to everyone. It is a fascinating and educational book, with good research. Definitely a must for anyone interested in history, especially the Second World War.

Read the full review here

The New Royalty World

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A Judge in Auschwitz details the life of a German judge who seeks to maintain justice, law, and order in concentration camps - holding camp officers accountable- during World War Two.

NetGalley, Crystal Credeur

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Well researched and absolutely fantastic.

NetGalley, Jay Freer

With this book, 'A Judge in Auschwitz', Kevin Prenger (1980), author of for instance 'War Zone Zoo' and 'Christmas under Fire', has produced an intriguing document again. To the reader he portrays the various aspects and angles of Morgen's career. Eventually he attempts to draw conclusions here and there but the reader is also being given room to make his own judgement. Whatever it is, this book should not be lacking on the book shelf of fans of documentation about the Nazis and the Holocaust.

Read the full review here

Traces of War

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Well this was completely different but so informative and you could tell the research that had gone into it. Sometimes with detailed books they are a bit dry but this wasn't. It really explored the motives of the judge both during the war and after. The way the chapters were written really helped with this.

NetGalley, Caroline Wright

A very interesting subject of reviewing one man's professional career as a Nazi SS Officer Judge, working in the concentration camps to prosecute other Nazi's performing illegal acts, such as murder, stealing and profiteering.
The book opens up a new perspective into the workings of the SS in an area that really hasn't seen the light of day.
It covers the investigations into the offences and the trials and also covers the trials after the end of World War Two.
A good read and worth space on your bookshelf.

NetGalley, Kevin Stabler

A Judge in Auschwitz Konrad Morgen's Crusade Against SS Corruption & 'Illegal' Murder by Kevin Prenger follows SS Judge Konrad Morgen has he gathers evidence to prosecute his fellow Nazi officers for acts of theft, corruption and unauthorized murders. Morgen was instrumental in the charges against Karl Koch and and his wife Ilse. Ilse was known as the “Witch of Buchenwald” for her brutality. Morgen also tried to prosecute other SS officers such as Oskar Dirlewanger and Hermann Fegelein and Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss, Adolf Eichmann. “A Judge in Auschwitz” follows Morgen’s testimonies in the Nuremberg trials... It is evident that Prenger has spent a great deal of time researching the life of Morgen.

NetGalley, Diane Jackson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In autumn 1943, SS judge Konrad Morgen visited Auschwitz concentration camp to investigate an intercepted parcel containing gold sent from the camp. While there Morgen found the SS camp guards engaged in widespread theft and corruption.

Worse, Morgen also discovered that inmates were being killed without authority from the SS leadership. While millions of Jews were being exterminated under the Final Solution programme , Konrad Morgen set about gathering evidence of these ‘illegal murders’.

Morgen also visited other camps such as Buchenwald where he had the notorious camp commandant Karl Koch and Ilse, his sadistic spouse, arrested and charged. Found guilty by an SS court, Koch was sentenced to death.

Remarkably, the apparently fearless SS judge also tried to prosecute other Nazi criminals including Waffen-SS commanders Oskar Dirlewanger and Hermann Fegelein and Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss. He even claimed to have tried to indict Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for organising the mass deportation of the Jews to the extermination camps.

This intriguing work reveals how the lines between justice and injustice became blurred in the Third Reich. As well as describing the actions of this often contradictory character the author questions Morgen’s motives.

This was a five star read! What a book! Fully recommend you buy this well researched book!

NetGalley, Michelle Coates

About Kevin Prenger

Kevin Prenger is a writer of World War II history, living in his native Netherlands. He is the chief editor of the website TracesOfWar.com and also contributes to the Dutch online history magazine Historiek.net. His previous works include War Zone Zoo, the history of the Berlin zoo during World War II and Christmas under Fire, 1944. A Judge in Auschwitz, previously published in Dutch and Polish, is his third book translated in English.

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