Hermine Braunsteiner

Braunsteiner-Hermine Ryan ( Vienna , Austria , 16 of July of 1919 – Bochum , Germany , 19 of April of 1999 ) was a female concentration camp guard and the first war criminal Nazi who was extradited from the United States . He participated in person in painful and cruel deaths of women and children. 1 2

Early years

She was born in Vienna , the youngest daughter of a strictly Catholic working class family. His father Friedrich was apolitical Braunsteiner a driver of a brewery or butcher . His mother Mary was cleaning. Hermine Braunsteiner was a tall, blond, blue-eyed woman who went to school for eight years. She was frustrated that she had not fulfilled her aspiration to be a nurse and worked as a maid. Between 1937 and 1938, he worked in England at the home of an American engineer . 3 2 4 5

World War II


In 1938 the unification of Germany and Austria ( Anschluss ), became a German citizen, returning to Vienna . Later that year, he moved and found work in the Heinkel aircraft factories in Berlin . 2 4


Pressed by her landlord, she presented her candidacy for a better paid job as a prisoner supervisor (as a guard, she could quadruple her income). He began his training on 15 August 1939 as Aufseherin under Maria Mandel at the Ravensbrück Prison Camp . 1 2 6

After some years, due to misunderstandings with his supervisor María Mandel , requested a transfer. 2


Entrance to the Majdanek camp.

The 16 of October of 1942 he resumed his work in a factory at Majdanek , a suburb of Lublin , Poland that was both death camp and Arbeitslager . 1

In January of 1943 she was promoted to assistant of guard 1 of Elsa Ehrich , along with other five women. [ Citation needed ] Their abuse and sadism took different forms in the extermination camp, getting involved in the selection process of women and children to be sent to the gas chambers and beat several women to death. In the company of Elsa Ehrich , Hildegard Lächert , Marta Ulrich , Alice Orlowski , Charlotte Karla Mayer-Woellert , Erna Wallisch or Elisabeth Knoblich , came to kill women on foot, thereby gaining the nickname “trampling mare” (in Polish “Kobyła “, Or in German ” Stute von Majdanek “). 1 2 7 [ citation needed ]

In 1943, he received the second-class merit cross of war for his work. 1

Again in Ravensbrück

Field of Ravensbrück.

In January 1944, Hermine Braunsteiner was ordered to return to Ravensbrück as soon as the evacuations in Majdanek began . A subfield of Ravensbrück , outside Berlin, was promoted to supervisory guard at Genthin . 1 According to witnesses, he abused some prisoners with a special whip he carried with him. [ Citation needed ]

Postwar in Austria

On May 7, 1945, Braunsteiner fled the countryside to avoid being captured by the Red Army . After his flight, he returned to Vienna . 1 The Austrian police arrested her and handed her over to the British military authorities; being imprisoned since May 6, 1946 until April 18, 1947. An Austrian jury of Graz sentenced for torture , ill – treatment of prisoners and crimes against humanity and against human dignity committed in Ravensbrück (not Majdanek); Was sentenced to three years in prison, where she entered on 7 April 1948 and was released in early April 1950. An Austrian civil court granted her amnesty in the face of further charges in Austria . 1 3 8 5

Once released, she performed low-level jobs in hotels and restaurants . 2

United States

Emigration and marriage

The American Russell Ryan met her during a vacation in Austria , both married in October 1958, later emigrating to Nova Scotia , Canada . She entered the United States in April 1959, becoming a US citizen on 01/19/1963. 3 Marriage lived in Maspeth , Queens being a meticulous housewife and a friendly neighbor. 3 4

Discovery and accusation

The Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal had followed her trail through the world to Queens . 3 9 In 1964, Wiesenthal alerted the New York Times that Braunsteiner might have married a man named Ryan and live in Maspeth . The newspaper assigned Joseph Lelyveld , then a young reporter , the task of finding “Mrs. Ryan.” The reporter found her without too much difficulty, later wrote that she received him saying: “My God, I knew this would happen, you have come.” 5 8

Mr. Ryan explained that she had exercised only one year in “Majdanek”, spending eight months of the year in the field nursing. “My wife, sir, would not kill a fly,” he said; “There is not a more decent person on earth, she told me that this was a service she had to do, it was a mandatory service.” Referring to Fig.

The 22 of August of 1968 the US authorities revoked his citizenship for not having purged his war crimes; His nationality was withdrawn in 1971 following a trial to avoid deportation . 2 3


A Duesseldorf prosecutor began investigating his behavior during the war and in 1973 the German government requested his extradition accusing it of its shared responsibility in the death of 200,000 people. 1 2 10

El jurado norteamericano inmediatamente denegó la nulidad de la extradición, que tuvo su origen en que la normativa impide extraditar un ciudadano estadounidense a Alemania debido a que los cargos eran delitos políticos cometidos por una ciudadana “no alemana” fuera de las fronteras de la República Federal Alemana.2 Durante todo el año, se sentó junto a su marido escuchando a supervivientes mientras daban su testimonio contra la antigua guardiana de las SS. Los testigos describieron los azotamientos y las palizas mortales.11

The judge certified the extradition to the Secretary of State on May 1, 1973 and August 7, 1973 Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan was the first Nazi criminal extradited from the United States to Germany . 2

Return to Germany

She was held in custody in Düsseldorf in 1973 until her husband surrendered bail . The German court rejected the argument of having no jurisdiction over the accused, since she was not German, but Austrian; It also rejected the argument that the events tried outside Germany . The court ruled that at the time of the crimes she was a German citizen and, more importantly, that she had been an officer of the German government acting on behalf of the Third Reich . 1 2

Hermine Braunsteiner appeared at his trial in Germany along with 15 other men and women former members of the SS of Majdanek . One of the witnesses against Hermine testified that she “grabbed children by the hair and threw them into trucks heading for the gas chambers .” Others spoke of their savage beatings. A witness spoke of Hermine and the steel-studded boots with which she mistreated the inmates. 4 12

The third trial of Majdanek (Majdanek trial ) was held in Düsseldorf , commenced on 26 November 1975 and extended 474 sessions; Was the longest and most expensive trial held in Germany [ citation needed ] . All of the defendants, including Hermine Braunsteiner and Hermann Hackmann , had been SS guards at Majdanek. The court ruled that there was a lack of evidence in six sections of the indictment and condemned it only for three: murdering 80 people, leading to the murder of 102 children and collaborating in the death of 1000. On June 30, 1981, the court sentenced her to Life sentence , a punishment more severe than that of any of his imputed companions. 1 13 14

Complications related to diabetes , including amputation of a leg, led to her being released from the female prison in Mülheimer in 1996. Hermine Braunsteiner died on 19 April 1999 in Bochum , Germany. 1 4 12 15


Following the publicity surrounding the extradition of Hermine Braunsteiner, the United States Government established in 1979 the Office of Special Investigations to search for war criminals and deprive them of nationality and extradite them. This office took over the jurisdiction previously held by the immigration and naturalization service.


  1. ↑ Jump to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m “Biographie: Braunsteiner-Hermine Ryan, 1919-1999” (in German) . Deutsches Historisches Museum . Retrieved on October 15, 2008 .
  2. ↑ Jump to:a b c d e f g h i j k l Friedlander, Henry ; Earlean M. McCarrick. “The Extradition of Nazi Criminals: Ryan, Artukovic, and Demjanjuk .” Annual 4 Chapter 2 Part 1 . Museum of Tolerance (Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center) . Retrieved on October 14, 2008 .
  3. ↑ Jump to:a b c d e f Wistrich, Robert S. (2001). Who’s Who in Nazi Germany . Routledge. P. 215. ISBN  9780415260381 . Retrieved on October 14, 2008 .
  4. ↑ Jump to:a b c d e MARTIN, DOUGLAS (December 2, 2005). “Nazi Past, Queens Home Life, an Overlooked Death .” New York Times . Retrieved on October 14, 2008 .
  5. ↑ Jump to:a b c Lelyveld, Joseph (March 6, 2005). Breaking Away . New York Times Magazine . Retrieved on October 14, 2008 .
  6. Back to top↑ Frühwald, Wolfgang (2004). Internationales Archiv Für Sozialgeschichte Der Deutschen Literatur . M. Niemeyer. P. 92 . Consulted the 16 of October of 2008 . “Hermine Braunsteiner-Ryan’s pay at … Majdanek … four times what she earned in a munitions factory.” Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Mar 18, 2008.
  7. Back to top↑ Schlink, Bernhard (December 13, 1996). «Der Vorleser» . Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin (in German) . Retrieved on October 14, 2008 . «Hermine Ryan nannte man” Kobyla, die Stute “: weil sie mit ihren eisenbeschlagenen Stiefeln die Menschen trat.»
  8. ↑ Jump to:a b c Lelyveld, Joseph (July 14, 1964). «Former Nazi camp guard now a housewife in Queens» (PDF) . New York Times . P. 10.
  9. Back to top↑ Bernstein, Adam (September 21, 2005). «Simon Wiesenthal, 1908-2005: Victim Became Nazis’ Prime Pursuer» . Washington Post . P. A01 . Retrieved on October 14, 2008 .
  10. Back to top↑ American Jewish Committee. «Central Europe – West Germany – Nazi Trials» . AMERICAN JEWISH YEAR BOOK. 1974-75 . New York: AJC Information Center and Digital Archives . P. 479 . Consulted the 16 of October of 2008 . “The prosecutor’s office began an investigation into the case of the former concentration camp supervisor Hermine Braunsteiner-Ryan who had been extradited by the United States to Germany where she was wanted to participate in the murder of 2,000 Jews.”
  11. Back to top↑ Rabinowicz, Dorothy ; Elie Wiesel, Elliot Lefkovitz, Robert McAfee Brown, Lucy Dawidowicz (1990). «The Holocaust as Living Memory» . In Eliot Lefkowitz. Dimensions of the Holocaust: Lectures at Northwestern University . Evanston, Illinois : Northwestern University Press. Pp. 34-45. ISBN  9780810109087 . Retrieved on October 15, 2008 . In the winter of 1973 in New York City, deportation hearings were held for Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan, wife of an American citizen, a resident of Queens, New York. Former SS guard at Ravensbrueck and Majdanek, Mrs. Ryan was accused of beating inmates to death durint the years 1939-1944 while performing her duties the vice-commandant of the women’s camp at Majadanek; Of being responsible for the death of hundreds of others. A stream of witnesses arrived at the small hearing room of the Immigration and Naturalization Service headquarters to give evidence. These were former prisoners at Majdanek. … they had learned, among other things, that in this society a show of vengeance or any talk of it would be the form of behavior strictly to be avoided. They had learned … to say that they were not interested in vengeance: justice, only justice was their concern. ‘ (Conflates extradition and deportation.)
  12. ↑ Jump to:a b «Hermine Braunsteiner» . Some Significant Cases . Simon Wiesenthal Archive . Retrieved on October 15, 2008 .
  13. Back to top↑ American Jewish Yearbook (PDF) . JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY OF AMERICA. ISBN  0-8276-0247 |isbn= incorrect ( help ) . Retrieved on October 15, 2008 .
  14. Back to top↑ Wendel, Marcus. Third Majdanek Trial . Axis History Factbook . Retrieved on October 15, 2008 . (Also cited in Jewish Virtual Library.)
  15. Back to top↑ «BEHIND BARS, FINALLY» . New York Times . 5 July 1981 . Retrieved on October 15, 2008 . «She will be as far as the United States, to a marriage with an American and to home in Maspeth, Queens. But Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan could not hide indefinitely and finally found out she was stripped of American citizenship in 1971 and deported in 1973. And last week, after a five-year trial, she was convicted of murder as a guard in the Maidanek Concentration camp near Lublin, Poland, during World War II. Seven other former guards were convicted with her, but of lesser offenses. They got relatively light sentences; Mrs. Ryan got life in prison. »