Holocaust survivors have revealed their encounters with a notorious SS officer who would hand-pick Jews to send to the gas chambers and taunt starving children with food.
Irma Grese was nicknamed the ‘Hyena of Auschwitz’ before becoming head of Bergen-Belsen’s women section, and at 22 she was the youngest woman to be sentenced to death for war crimes after the camps were liberated.
Survivors Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and Maurice Blik have told about their encounters with the ‘nasty piece of work’ in new BBC2 documentary, ‘Belsen: Our Story’, which airs tonight.
Maurice, now 80, was also sent to Auschwitz from his home in Amsterdam at the age of four, and told how Grese would leave her viscous dog guarding scraps of food, hoping that prisoners would attempt to steal it and be ‘torn apart’ by the animal.
He said: ‘I was sitting on the floor by the bunk and this woman walked in with her dog, the guard. She got this big apple she was eating and she’d eaten it down to a fairly juicy core.
‘She took the core and put it on the floor and put the dog next to it to guard it, gave it instructions to guard the thing, unleashed it and runs off.
‘It had the apple core between it’s front legs and it was snarling and growling and so on, but I knew very well I couldn’t make a grab for the apple core because that would be the end of me, it would literally tear me apart.
Holocaust survivors have told of their encounters with the notorious SS officer, Irma Grese (pictured) who was the youngest woman to be sentenced to death for war crimes at the age of 22. She is pictured ahead of her trail in 1945
Irma is pictured at at the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp, with fellow female guard Herta Bothe (right) who was sentenced to 10 years for her crimes
‘Then she came back and saw nothing had happened and thought this was amusing and so ground the apple core into the floor with her boots, so there was nothing left their to even scrape up.
‘Many years later I recognized who she was – she was notorious’.
Anita, now 90, was sent to Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland, in 1943, where she survived by playing cello for the camp’s Women’s Orchestra, until she was moved to Belsen in 1944.
By 1945, Soviet troops had began liberating camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, meaning many SS guards were sent West, to camps in Germany.
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, 90, (picture) appeared on new BBC2 documentary, ‘Belsen: Our Story’ where she spoke about her experience in Belsen at 18-year-old
Maurice Blik (pictured), 80, was imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen at the age of four. He appeared and told how Irma tormented him with food by leaving scraps in front of him, guarded by her dog who would ‘tear him apart’
Anita told how towards the end of her time at Belsen, Grese began to try and make amends and says she was shocked when all of a sudden began referring to the pair of them as ‘we’.
She said: ‘She’s actually the one, when it was going badly for the Germans, started talking to me, unheard of.
She said – that I will never forget – she said “Now, we’ll soon be home”. We, suddenly we. We’re in the same group of species.
Who was Irma Grese, the Hyena of Auschwitz?
Irma Grese worked as an assistant nurse for the SS after leaving school at the age of 15 before volunteering at Ravensbrück concentration camp, exclusively for women.
There she found herself as a supervisor by the age of 19 and in 1943 Irma was sent to Auschwitz, to act as a guard.
Known as the Hyena of Auschwitz, Irma Grese, was one of the most feared guards at the infamous concentration camp.
A sadistic nymphomaniac who slept with SS guards, she participated in selecting prisoners for the gas chamber as well as exacting horrific punishment beatings.
She was rounded up when concentration camp Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the British army in 1945.
She was hanged for war crimes in 1945 and many survivors testified against her, claiming she’d hand-selected prisoners for the gas chambers, trained half-starved dogs to savage prisoners, gave brutal beatings and arbitrarily shot prisoners.
‘I thought “My god, things must be going badly for you”. She was trying to make herself room in my heart somehow’.
She scoffed: ‘Such a nice lady. She was such a b*****d.’
She added that Irma is an example of how perfectly normal people were turned into monsters simply by being given a bit of power by the Nazis.
‘You know someone like Irma Grese, how did she get into this position?’ she said.
She was one of the most feared guards at Auschwitz, before becoming the warden of the women’s section of Belsen, located in Northern Germany, in 1945, alongside the ‘Beast of Belsen’, camp commander, Josef Kramer (pictured right)
Many survivors testified against her, claiming Grese often gave brutal beatings and arbitrarily shot prisoners
‘She comes from a village somewhere, she’d never heard of Jewish people, she had a job somewhere in a factory. Then she was approached by someone who was trying to get people to work in concentration camps.
‘So she was given a uniform and black boots, a dog a, gun, better pay – fantastic, so she ends up as a guard.
‘You see, very proud to suddenly be in charge of other people. Look at the psychology of these people who worked in the concentration camps.
‘It’s very interesting where they all came from.’
Anita told how towards the end of her time at Belsen, Grese began to try and make amends. She is pictured in 1940, before becoming an SS guard