Berlin. It is April 24, 1945, shortly before the end of the devastating Second World War. The Soviet troops have already arrived in the Berlin metropolitan area. Four prisoners get into a van, accompanied by six police officers. Actually, all ten are police officers, they are colleagues. But four of them are driving towards their death, the other six die forming the firing squad. The trip takes longer than usual because they have to avoid combat. In the evening, four men were brought to a police site in Berlin-Spandau at Pionierstrasse 160 – it still exists today.
A hole has already been dug. One man after the other IS put in front of the firing squad, accompanied on the right and left by a police officer. The four prisoners die from being shot in the neck. The execution lasts 45 minutes under the direction of Alfred Wandelt, first lieutenant of the security police. Otto Jordan, Reinhold Hofer, Willi Jenoch and Erich Bautz died under the Nazi regime because they were homosexual. Because they didn’t fit into the social image of the Nazis.
Policeman works on the past
Ralf Kempe knows everything there is to know about crime today. For three years he has been trying to solve the exact situations of the four murders and to find the human remains of Jordan, Hofer, Jenoch and Bautz. On the phone he immediately starts with key data, reports how Otto Jordan’s widow tried to find out something about her husband’s fate after the end of the war. Reported on the secret decree of Adolf Hitler from 1941, which called homosexual members of the police and SS “pests of the people”. Reported that to date the exact situations are not known. Tells that the shooter has not been found to this day.
Kempe is, among other things, LGBTQI * officer at the Berlin police. “In 2018 I discovered a memorial plaque at the police station where they were held shortly before their execution in Berlin Spandau,” he says. When he asked the authorities what the case was all about, he learned little – the crime had since been forgotten. And so Kempe rummaged through the archives, through the Berlin State Archives, even wrote to the German Historical Institute in Moscow, in addition to his normal work as police chief inspector.
There are only a few documents on the four victims: “This is also because the police headquarters were damaged by bombs in 1943. After the end of the war, the Russians took away a lot of documents. “
Much of his knowledge comes from the court proceedings that were brought against Alfred Wandelt in 1947 and 1948 for the murder of the police officers – due to the efforts of the widow Jordan. While her husband was imprisoned, she visited him every day – until she could no longer reach him on April 14, 1945. After the end of the war, she even went to Spandau to find out about his fate. She got to Oberleutnant Wandelt – the head of the firing squad. He lied, he told her that her husband had died in the war. “But she must have found out that Otto Jordan was murdered and observed a criminal complaint shortly after the war,” reports Kampe in a sober tone.
Search for the dead
In the process, Wandelt describes the schedule in great detail. When the prisoners were picked up, when they arrived at the site, the exact sequence of the executions. “The matter should be settled by 9 p.m.,” Kempe quoted the defendant as saying. The first lieutenant was back at his accommodation punctually at 9:15 p.m.
But Wandelt no longer knew exactly where the bodies were buried. In his statement there are only vague information: The earth was slightly raised where the grave was shoveled. There was a small tree nearby, but a short time later it no longer existed. A few years after the murders, one of the perpetrators no longer knew where the dead were buried.
Suddenly emotions can be heard in Kempe’s voice: “When you read the files, you get a shiver. How someone can describe a killing in such detail. “
Perpetrator dies in mental hospital
Lieutenant Wangelt was sentenced to ten years in prison, went on appeal and was dismissed. “Wangelt said that an order was an order and he had no reason to doubt it,” said Kempe. Wangelt argued in a similar way to Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust, during his trial in Israel. After his release from prison, Wangelt applied for benefits in 1958 and died a short time later in a mental hospital. “Perhaps the act affected him mentally,” suspects investigator Kempe. Incidentally, Wangelt was not right from a purely legal point of view: “Even under the Wehrmacht Act at the time, he could have refused the order – because three of the murdered had no court rulings.”
Today Kempe assumes that the bones of the four victims are in the front part of the area. When: “It was in the middle of the war – air attacks are feared all the time. Wangelt and the six officers probably didn’t have time to go any further. “In fact, the police quickly got to safety after the execution because low-flying aircraft were sighted,” he says. In mid-October, he and other colleagues carried out excavations on the site in order to find the remains – but to no avail. Perhaps the corpses were destroyed as a result of grenade strikes, tank attacks or other acts of war on the site, or through training missions in the post-war years. “We saw craters from bombing in aerial photographs.”
No living descendants known
Little is known about relatives of the other victims. “We know from Erich Bautz that he had a daughter who has already passed away. But there are no grandchildren and great-grandchildren, ”says Kempe. He is currently trying to find out whether there might still be descendants of siblings or other relatives.
But he is certain of one thing: even if he finds out which other police officers were involved in the execution, this will no longer have legal consequences: “The perpetrators are very likely no longer alive – they would now be well over 100 years old. “It is no longer a question of working through the case legally. “We have the moral obligation of the grandchildren, Otto Jordan, Reinhold Hofer, Willi Jenoch and Erich Bautz to show their last dignity and, if we find their remains, to bury them with decency and dignity,” said Kempe. He does not give up hope: Perhaps he will receive an answer to his inquiry from Russia – and that will give new insights.
But Kempe’s research is also about the here and now: “I do this for my police,” he says. The interest in reprocessing has grown over the years. And outside of Berlin? Although he does not know of any other cases, he is certain that such crimes also took place in other police stations in Nazi Germany due to Adolf Hitler’s secret decree.
A new memorial plaque will be unveiled in Berlin next year with the names Otto Jordan, Reinhold Hofer, Willi Jenoch and Erich Bautz. And whoever is asked in the authority WILL remember which crime four victim fields die.