This page was created by Angela Mesna a senior English major at UCSB (link to author's page). I became interested in Irma when I read a short profile about her on the internet. It intrigued me how someone at the age of 19 could be so actively envovled in the horrors of Concentration Camps. Most of the reasearch on Irma was gathered through various internet sites (sources).
Irma's early childhood was pretty humble and unassuming. She was born on October 7th, 1923 to an agricultural family. She left school at the age of 15 and had various jobs in farming, retail, and nursing.
Irma was captivated by Hitler and joined a nazi youth group. She was later sent to Ravensbruck which was used to train female SS guards. Here she became a camp guard. She was then transferred to Auschwitz where in 1943 she became the senior SS-supervisor which is the second-highest rank a female camp guard could have. In this position she had virtually complete control of over 30, 000 female prisoners. Many survivors provide extensive accounts of the murders, beatings, and tortures that Irma engaged in. She was known for her arbitrary shooting of prisoners, sexual excesses, cruelty and her unrelenting half starved dogs that she would unleash on the prisoners. She was thought to be held accountable for nearly 30 murders a day. Many survivors remember her being dressed in heavy boots and carrying a plaited whip and pistol to beat her prisoners, often to the point of death. These atrocities continued in the Bergen-Belsen camp where she was transferred in 1945 (link to Bergen-Belsen page). When Bergen-Belsen was liberated, there were three human lampshades found in her quarters.
After the camp commandant Josef Kramer, Irma Grese became the most notorious defendant at the Belsen trial. Irma's only defense during the trial was that "Himmler is responsible for all that has happened but I suppose I have as much guilt as the others above me". Irma was sentenced to death and was hanged on December 13th, 1945.
Irma, for all intents and purposes could have grown up to be a perfectly normal woman, not a torturing murder. She fully adopted the anti-Semitic rhetoric and even referred to her prisoners as "dreck" or trash, sub-humans. Also, in her defense statement, we can see that she felt she was following orders and that they should bear the brunt of the responsibility. This girl was corrupted at a young age by what she heard from Hitler and learned in her nazi youth group, and by the extreme amount of power placed in her hands at the young age of 19. Does this mean that she is exempt from blame? That she was a pawn in the Nazi Regime? These questions are difficult to answer and may never be able to be given a complete one-sided answer, but it is interesting to try to understand how a quiet farmers daughter grows up to be one of the most villainous female guards known today.
Content by: Angela Mesna
Web Design: Brittney Smith
Date created: December 8, 2003