12 February 1912|
Friedland in Böhmen, Austria-Hungary
29 July 1969 57) (aged|
Leipzig, East Germany
|Years of service||1938–1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Josef Blösche (12 February 1912 – 29 July 1969) was a member of the Nazi Party who served in the SS and SD during World War II. Blösche became known to the world as a symbol of the Nazi cruelty inflicted on people within the Warsaw ghetto because of a famous photograph taken during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which portrays a surrendering little boy (possibly Tsvi C. Nussbaum) in the foreground, and Blösche as the SS man who is facing the boy with a sub-machine gun in hand. He was sentenced to death and executed in Leipzig on 29 July 1969.
Blösche spent his early life working as a farmhand and as a waiter at his father's hotel. He joined the Nazi Party and the SS in 1938, after Adolf Hitler's Germany annexed the Sudetenland. After serving in Warsaw with the SS from March 1940 onwards, he joined the Security Service Sicherheitsdienst (SD), a division of the SS. In 1941, he was briefly transferred to the Eastern front, where he served with the Einsatzgruppen and participated in executions in the occupied parts of the Soviet Union, before being transferred back to Warsaw. He served in the SD's Warsaw ghetto outpost in mid-1942, when the mass deportation to the Treblinka extermination camp began. Blösche found many Jews who were hiding from the deportation. In January 1943, during another wave of deportations to the death camps, he took part in another search which involved frequent executions. He participated in the shooting of about 1,000 Jews in 1943. The Jews gave him the nickname "Frankenstein" for raping and then killing women in the ghetto. Together with other SS men, he would go on expeditions in the ghetto and shoot random Jews to terrorize the residents. He participated in the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and received the German War Merit Cross for his actions during the uprising.
In May 1945, he surrendered to the Red Army and became a prisoner of war of the Soviet Union. Blösche was sent to a camp administered by GUPVI (Main Administration for Affairs of Prisoners of War and Internees) shortly thereafter. In early 1946, he was repatriated to East Germany, still as an internee. In August 1946 he suffered a major accident at work which left the side of his face severely deformed. In 1947 his labour camp was dissolved, and Blösche was released. He returned to where his parents dwelled and lived quietly. His facial scars protected him from discovery as the SS soldiers that were pictured in the photos of the Warsaw ghetto. He began living a normal life, was married, and had two children.
Trial and conviction
In 1961, a former SS acquaintance who was on trial in Hamburg linked Blösche to the atrocities he had committed in Warsaw. Further investigation by the East German police led to a series of findings resulting in his identification. Blösche was arrested on January 11, 1967 and imprisoned in Hohenschönhausen Prison.
- German TV Documentary (2003) and accompanying book "Der SS-Mann Josef Blösche - Leben und Sterben eines Mörders" (The SS figure Josef Blösche - A Murderer's Life and Death) by Heribert Schwan.
- Richard Raskin. A Child at Gunpoint. A Case Study in the Life of a Photo. Aarhus University Press, 2004. ISBN 87-7934-099-7