is the story of one remarkable man who refused to surrender his conscience
in the face of mass murder as one of the few SS officers in the Third
Reich. Kurt Gerstein showed true heroism, tirelessly denounced
genocide and alerted the Allies, the Pope, the Germans and the church
of the crimes during World War 2.
The mission of Kurt Gerstein was to expose the horrors of the Nazism to
the world and to mitigate the suffering around him. The
conscience-stricken Gerstein left one of the most horrifying testimonies
of the Holocaust - he visited the death camps Belzec and Treblinka in
August 1942 and witnessed the mass gassing of Jewish men, women and
"There are not ten people alive, who have seen or will see as much as
you," he was told by SS Major Christian Wirth, responsible for
overseeing the murder of more than two million Jews in the death camps
Kurt Gerstein, thirty-seven-year-old head of the Waffen SS Technical
Disinfection Services, was shocked by what he had seen. Yet, he realized
that as a witness, his position was unique, and he was determined to
expose what he knew to the world to stop the atrocities.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Toland describes how Kurt
Gerstein upon arrival in Warsaw set off immediately for Berlin, resolved
to tell those who would listen of the ghastly sights he had witnessed:
modern Ancient Mariner, he began spreading the truth to incredulous
colleagues. As a rock thrown into a pond creates ever widening
ripples, so did the tale of Kurt Gerstein .."
he risked his life to inform the Allies: "I was one of the
handful of people who had seen every corner of the establishment,
and certainly the only one to have visited it as an enemy of this
gang of murderers ..."
Kurt Gerstein continued to tell people what he had seen, anyone he
felt would spread the word about the atrocities. Later during the
war evidence shows how a despairing Gerstein risked everything
stopping shipments of gas by marking it no good and ordering it
All his efforts proved futile and Kurt Gerstein died in a French
prison on July 25, 1945 - overwhelmed by a sense of personal
responsibility and guilt ..
Whether he committed suicide out of despair and guilt in not being
able to stop the Holocaust or whether he was murdered by other SS
officers in the prison to
silence an accuser remains
The author Gitta
Sereny later wrote:
life is perhaps the most significant testimonial to the presence of
moral convictions and heroism in the midst of the Nazi monstrosities
.. a man in Germany who at almost unimaginable personal risk had
tried, actively and from the start, to stop Hitler's
His friend, Pastor Martin Niemoller, later said: "He was a very
special kind of saint, but perfectly pure and of irreproachable
rectitude. He was prepared to sacrifice, and indeed did sacrifice,
his honor, his family and his life ..."