Perhaps the parents of Stella Kubler (1922 – 1994) should not have coddled her so much. Born and raised as the only child of an assimilated middle class Jewish family in Berlin, Stella was treated like a princess by her overprotective parents. She grew up financially comfortable, but not as wealthy as other students in her Jewish school. That ate at Stella, and left her harboring resentments against her richer schoolmates. During WWII, she became infamous for collaborating with the Gestapo to track down and denounce other Jews hiding from the Nazis. Many of those denounced by her were her former schoolmates and their families, whom she repaid in spades for their crime of being richer than Stella’s family.
A Wannabe Aryan
When Germany began rounding up Jews and sending them to the death camps, Stella secured forged identity papers that listed her as a German Aryan. She was blond and blue-eyed, so it worked for a while. However, she and her boyfriend were eventually denounced to the Gestapo by a “Jew Catcher” – a Jew working for the Gestapo to find other Jews in hiding. To save their necks, her boyfriend and future husband offered the Nazis their services. The Gestapo put the couple to work as Catchers, paying them 300 Reichsmarks for every Jew they turned in, and promising to spare Stella’s parents so long as she kept producing. The duo had good instincts for finding other Jews’ hiding places, having lived in hiding themselves, and went at it with a will.
10. Stella Kubler’s Victims Numbered in the Thousands
Stella Kubler was particularly effective at finding Jews in hiding, because she knew many of Berlin’s Jews from her years in a Jewish school. She had not chosen to become a Jew Catcher of her own free will, but how she exercised what freedom of choice she had while doing that was entirely within her control. She exercised that freedom of choice by pursuing hidden Jews with remarkable zeal. Even after the Jews she turned in were arrested, and her task was over, Stella enthusiastically took part in beating, torturing, and humiliating them. Notwithstanding her zeal, the Nazis reneged on their promises to Stella, and deported her parents to their death in a camp. Her husband and his family were sent to Auschwitz in 1943. Despite that, Stella’s enthusiasm for seeking out hidden Jews and denouncing them to the Gestapo did not wane.
Betting on a German victory, Stella secured a promise from a high ranking Gestapo official in 1944. She wanted to be declared an Aryan after the war. By war’s end, she was responsible for the arrest, deportation, and subsequent murder of untold hundreds of Jews. Estimates of her victims range from a low of 600, to as many as 3000. They included many of her personal friends, former schoolmates and their families, and even some of her own relatives. She got off light. After the war, the Soviets sentenced her to 10 years imprisonment. After her release, she moved to West Berlin, where West German authorities sentenced her to another 10 years. However, she served no time of that sentence. She then converted to Christianity, and became a lifelong anti-Semite. In 1994, Stella Kubler took her own life by jumping out the window of her Berlin apartment.
Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess (1901 – 1947) is often described as history’s greatest individual mass murderer. Born into a strict religious Catholic family, he reportedly had no friends in his early childhood, and socialized only with adults until he entered elementary school. His father, a former army officer who had served in German East Africa, wanted his son to become a priest, and raised him with military discipline on strict religious principles. As a result, Hoess grew up with a fanatical belief that duty was the key to a good moral life.
In his autobiography, Hoess claimed to have been scarred in his youth, when he was abducted by Gypsies. It might not be true – a fanciful origin story he made, to try and explain the horrors he visited upon Gypsies, Jews, and others in later years. Whatever the truth about his childhood and early years, by the time he was a young man, Hoess was the kind of person who thought the Nazis were awesome. So in 1921, at age 20, he became a member of the Nazi Party, and in 1934, he joined the SS. In 1940, Hoess was appointed to command a then-little-known prison camp in western Poland: Auschwitz.
Auschwitz was a small and nondescript prison camp when Rudolf Hoess became its commandant in May of 1940. He transformed it into the biggest industrial scale killing factory ever created, where more than a million people were murdered. By the autumn of 1941, Hoess had expanded Auschwitz by adding to it an annex: Birkenau, which served as a pure extermination camp. In the resulting hybrid Auschwitz-Birkenau establishment, Auschwitz served as a concentration camp in which labor was squeezed out of brutalized slave workers. Birkenau served as a pure murder factory, capable of “processing” up to 10,000 victims a day, from their arrival at its train platform, to their murder, then cremation.
Crimes Against Humanity
Hoess so impressed his superiors with his diligence, that in 1943 he was transferred back to Germany as an inspector of all concentration camps. He would temporarily return to Auschwitz-Birkenau in May to June of 1944, to oversee the extermination of Hungary’s Jews. Hoess’ enthusiasm for his work was in jarring contrast to his private life. A mild mannered and happily married man, Hoess enjoyed a normal family life with his five children, notwithstanding the view of the camp crematoria’s smoke stacks from his bedroom windows. After the war, he was tried and convicted of crimes against humanity, and hanged next to the death camp’s crematorium.
7. The Black Magic Practitioner Who Killed Hundreds
German bandit and black arts practitioner Peter Niers (died 1581) was one of history’s most prolific serial killers. Niers began his criminal career as a highwayman in Alsace, present day France, and eventually came to head a gang that numbered about 24 bandits. He also became a leading figure in a loose network of bandit and highwayman gangs, that joined forces on occasion to conduct major operations requiring large numbers of men. His criminal activities spanned a large territory that included western France, the Rhineland, and Bavaria in southern Germany.
What set Niers apart from other bandits was his bloodthirstiness and gratuitous cruelty. He was not content to simply rob or kill his victims: Niers also relished torturing those who fell into his hands, and murdering them in a variety of monstrously creative ways. He was captured in 1577, and under torture, confessed to 75 murders during the previous 11 years. However, before he could be executed, he managed to escape. After breaking free, Niers returned to his criminal activities, resuming them with even greater cruelty and bloodthirstiness.
6. After Regaining His Freedom, Niers Doubled Down on the Sick
The majority of Niers’ murders and depravities occurred after his escape. He had murdered 75 people in the 11 years preceding his arrest in 1577, but went on to murder an additional 569 people in the 4 years from 1577 to 1581, when he was arrested for a second, and final time. He confessed to having murdered 544 people, and to having cut the fetuses out of the wombs of 24 pregnant women. The fetuses were used as ingredients in his black magic, and consumed in cannibalistic acts.
Niers was taken to the Bavarian city of Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz for a public execution, during which the authorities went Medieval on him, literally and figuratively. Even for an era in which torture and gruesome executions were routine, Peter Niers’ execution, which commenced on September 16th, 1581, stood out. It was a 3 day ordeal, with the first day spent flaying Niers’ skin, then pouring hot oil on his exposed muscles to slough off layers of his flesh. On the second day, his feet were coated in grease, and his lower body was slowly grilled over a low fire. On the third day, his body was broken on the wheel, with dozens of blows that smashed his major bones to pieces. Finally, the executioners quartered him while still alive, by sawing his body into pieces.
Jean-Bedel Bokassa (1921 -1996) is now largely forgotten outside the Central African Republican (CAR). But there used to be a time when he made headlines as the world’s most batty ruler. A military officer, Bokassa launched a coup in 1966 and seized power. He then ruled the CAR as its dictator until 1979. Erratic and prone to delusions of grandeur, Bokassa declared his small landlocked country an empire. He then anointed himself Bokassa I, Emperor of the Central African Empire.
Bokassa lived as a captain in the French colonial army when Central Africa gained its independence from France. The newly-independent country’s president, a distant cousin, appointed Bokassa to head its armed forces. He showed his gratitude by staging a coup, ousting his cousin from power. And, of course, appointed himself president. A huge fan of Napoleon Bonaparte, Bokassa emulated his idol by crowning himself Emperor of Central Africa. He then bankrupted his impoverished country with a lavish coronation event that cost about 80 million dollars. This event featured a diamond-encrusted crown worth 20 million.
4. The Central African Emperor’s Mad and Murderous Rule
Bokassa’s rule created a reign of terror. During his reign, he personally oversaw the judicial beating of suspects. He also ordered that thieves lose an ear for the first two offenses, and a hand for the third. Bokassa also tortured suspected political opponents, then fed their corpses to lions and crocodiles kept in his private zoo. He also practiced cannibalism. In Paris-Match magazine, an expose that ran photos of a deep freezer in Bokassa’s palace, containing the bodies of children. The best known of Bokassa’s atrocities includes the arrest of hundreds of schoolchildren in 1979. The reason? Refusing to buy school uniforms from a company owned by one of his wives. Bokassa personally oversaw the murder of more than 100 of the kids by his imperial guard. That caused an uproar, and soon thereafter, French paratroopers deposed Emperor Bokassa I.
A Lavish Exile
However, he spent his exile comfortably in France, financed by millions of dollars embezzled from his impoverished country. Which, of course, he stashed in Swiss bank accounts. But his comfort did not last for long. Within a few years, Bokassa managed to waste his fortune; reduced to poverty. Things got so bad that he made a brief reappearance in international news in the 1980s. One of his hungry children was arrested for shoplifting food. Bokassa returned to Central Africa in 1986, where he was tried and convicted of murder and treason, and sentenced to death. However, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was released in 1993. He lived another three years, before dying in 1996.
Zhu Houzhao (1491 – 1521) became China’s emperor at age 14 in 1505. Perhaps making a teenager supreme ruler was a mistake: Zhu was uninterested in governing, and disregarded state affairs. Instead, he dove headfirst into a profligate lifestyle. Marked by lavish spending, bizarre behavior, and poor choices that set the stage for the Ming Dynasty’s downfall. The 14-year-old emperor entrusted governance to trusted eunuchs. He devoted himself to pleasure seeking. With governance left entirely in their hands, palace eunuchs became China’s most powerful class. Without checks or oversight, corruption became endemic and public offices were openly bought and sold. Taxes soared to pay for the emperor’s pleasures and to feather the nests of courtiers and officials. In the meantime, Zhu took to learning foreign languages and traveling incognito.
An Alter Ego
He began creating an alter ego for himself, a generalissimo Zhu Zhu. Upon whom, he lavished praise and rewards. He also built a city block within the imperial palace so he could pretend to be a shopkeeper. But he possessed less innocent habits. He took his companions on thrill raids. Bursting into the homes of wealthy citizens, they violently seized and kidnapped their daughters, holding them for ransom. Officials who criticized the emperor’s erratic and irresponsible behavior were arrested, tortured, and executed by the hundreds. He eventually drowned in 1521, when his pleasure barge capsized. This finally brought his reign to a merciful end. Although he left the scene, the damage he left behind proved permanent. During the years of his reign, without oversight from the throne, palace eunuchs went too far. They achieved such power within the government’s structure, subsequent emperors were unable to dislodge them.
Hans Frank (1900-1946): one of history’s most murderous lawyers. As an enthusiastic early Nazi, he took part in the failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. Armed with a law degree, he boasted the role of Hitler’s personal attorney, as well as general counsel for the Nazi Party. When the Nazis took power in 1933, Hitler rewarded Frank’s loyalty by making him a Reich Minister without portfolio. He also made him President of the Reichstag – Germany’s parliament. Hans’ true career as a monster emerged during WWII, when Hitler made him Governor-General of newly-conquered Poland.
An avid proponent of Nazi racist ideology, Frank set out to stamp out Polish identity. He also wanted to let the conquered Poles know that they existed merely to serve. Mainly, as de facto Helots for the Aryan ‘Master Race’. To that end, Frank ordered the execution of hundreds of thousands of Poles. He also engineered the wholesale confiscation of Polish property. He ordered the rounding up of hundreds of thousands Polish workers. They shipped them to Germany to toil as slave laborers. Even that paled in comparison to his most atrocious actions, all directed at Poland’s Jews.
As ruler of rump Poland, Hans Frank instituted a reign of terror, featuring the segregation of Jews into ghettos. Then their wholesale extermination. It did not matter that he fathered five children. Frank reconciled affection towards his own kids with coldhearted indifference towards the murder of thousands of other people’s children. In December of 1941, he instructed his subordinates.
“Gentlemen, I must ask you to rid yourself of all feelings of pity. We must annihilate the Jews wherever we find them and whenever it is possible”.
Under Frank, the mass murder of Jews morphed from ad hoc massacres to deliberate policy. Of the Holocaust’s six extermination camps, four were located in Frank’s General Government. After the war, he tried to pretend he knew nothing about the millions of Jews killed in his territory. But documentary evidence exposed the lie in that claim. Captured by US troops in the war’s closing days, he faced trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at Nuremberg. Convicted, sentenced to death, he hanged on October 16, 1946.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading