There is a type of people who don’t regret their mistakes. Their actions do not make them feel embarrassed, shameful or sad when they come to light, but they actually love being the center of attention. They love themselves as they are: cruel.
Her full name was Irma Ida Isle Grese, born in 1923 in Wrechen, Germany. Her father, Alfred Grese, was a farmer, and after her mother killed herself, her childhood became too difficult to handle. Her lack of communication skills and the fact that she did not have anyone to stand by her, made her drop school and start feeling closer to Hitler and connect to his philosophy. She became a member of the Bund Deutscher Mädel, a club for young girls created by the Nazis and, being one of the most devoted members, she felt popular, accepted and socialized. Her devotion to Adolf paid off since her Nazi friends put her in an SS hospital to study nursery but in 1942, Irma was transferred to the concentration camp of Ravensbrück where she was trained to be a guard. That’s when she started turning into a monster.
In March of 1943, Irma became officially a guard and started working in Birkenau, Auschwitz, only to get promoted to an officer supervising 30,000 Jewish women from Hungary and Poland. Irma was 19 years old, and she always wore her ironed uniform and her shined shoes, carrying a gun and a whip which had worn out by use. After torturing every single one of her inmates, Irma became the working director of Bergen – Belsen, where she ended her criminal career some months later.
In April of 1945, British troops invaded the Bergen – Belsen concentration camp, setting all the prisoners free. The conditions under the inmates were found were described by R. Philips’ book, “Trial of Josef Kramer and Fourty-Four Others,” saying that 40,000 men and women used to live in Bergen – Belsen, tormented by illnesses, starvation, and death. In addition, 13,000 unburied bodies were lying down, preparing them for the future. The British army arrested the camp commander Joseph Kramer, Irma Grese, and 42 more guards and SS officials. All 44 of them were accused of war crimes at the Belsen Trial, where every single one of the defendants had number tags attached on their chests. Irma was number 9.
Grese was facing charges led by the intimates’ testimonies: murders of Auschwitz and Bergen – Belsen detained women, beating them using her whip, unleashing her hungry dogs to feed on them, and many more. All the survivors described the Hell that Irma had put them through, but one of the most infamous testimonies was the one by Ilona Stein, who claimed that, when both of them were at Birkenau, she had seen Grese participating in the selection of the Jewish women who were to be sent to the gas chamber. She and Dr. Josef Mengele would get inmates to walk in a parade to choose the ones to die and within a month, Irma Grese had chosen 2,500 people. Also, three lampshades made of three dead Jews’ skins, were seized by the authorities and were presented in front of the Judge as evidence, while other testimonies indicated Irma Grese as a sex offender too, claiming that she abused her female prisoners, to please her sexual instincts. Third-degree sadism was, of course, one of them.
Irma pleaded not guilty and pointed the finger to Heinrich Himmler, saying that she and the rest 43 defendants were equally responsible. Nineteen of the thirty cases led to imprisonment while eight men and three women got convicted to death. Irma was one of the three.
Irma Grese, Elisabeth Volkenrath, and Juana Bormann were led to the Hameln prison waiting for their conviction by Albert Pierrepoint, the most famous hangman of all times, who travelled from London for the execution which was scheduled for Friday, December 13, 1945. At the rehearsal, a guard was crosschecking Irma’s identity when he asked her age. She stayed quiet, smiled and, eventually, said “I am 22,” making everyone around her smile as well. Yes, Irma Grese was a charming, beautiful monster: both the beauty and the beast.