April 22, 1945, near the end of the war, Kurt Gerstein surrendered
to the French, who arrested him as an alleged war criminal. They
took him to the Cherche-Midi Military Prison on July 5, 1945. On
July 23, 1945, the Swedish diplomat, Baron Göran von Otter, then in
Helsinki, wrote to his London colleague, Baron Lagerfelt, strongly
urging that something be done to help a German named Gerstein, and
asking Lagerfelt to bring the matter to the Allied authorities.
It was too late. Kurt Gerstein was found dead in his cell on July
In his book A Spy For God: The Ordeal of Kurt Gerstein the author
Pierre Joffroy tells about his death and the witnesses:
Entz (1968): "I was on duty on the second floor. We went
the rounds at two and checked the prisoners. I knew the one who had
been put in solitary. He scarcely said anything although he could
have talked to me because I speak German. I went round that day at
two as usual. When we went in they stood to attention and clicked
But when I opened the door of his cell there wasn't a sound. I went
in and saw his body hanging from the ventilation grille."
Alexader Auer, sergeant in charge (1969): "Entz shouted
to me down the corridor to come at once. I went in and saw the mand
had hanged himself. I knew him, a tall silent man, very depressed.
He had once or twice said in German: ' I've nothing to reproach
myself with, nothing.'"
Dr. Jackues Trouillet (1945):"At 17:25 on that day I
signed the death certificate of the prisoner Gerstein. That the
death was caused by hanging was clearly evident from the furrow
round the neck and the position of the body when found. It is a form
of suicide that cannot possibly be prevented in a prison."
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 remains a mystery. In his book The Ambiguity of Good
Saul Friedlander tells that among
Gerstein's papers was found the opening portion of a letter he had
begun to write before he was transferred to France, addressed to his
Dutch friend H. J. Ubbink:
You are one of the first to whom I shall send greetings. Let me
congratulate you from the bottom of my heart on the liberation of
your country from our brood of vipers and criminals. However dark
our fate may now be, those terrible people could not be allowed to
win. Ask your people if, now at least, they believe what went on in
Blezec, etc. I thank God that I did everything in my power to cut
through this abscess on the body of humanity."
Gerstein was buried in the Thiais cemetery under the name Gastein.
But even that was temporary, for his grave was within a section of
the cemetery that was razed in 1956.
In 1950, a denazification court posthumously condemned him: "Taking
into account the extenuating circumstances noted the court has not
included the accused among the main criminals but has placed him
among the 'tainted' .." It was not until January 20, 1965, that
Kurt Gerstein was cleared of all charges, by the Premier of Baden-Württemberg.
While in prison Gerstein turned over to a French intelligence team
his detailed report on atrocities in Belzec and Treblinka. His date
provided the Allies in later trials with their most detailed
accounts of the Nazi murder mills, and it was used at the Nuremberg
Kurt Gerstein's report became perhaps the most horrifying eyewitness
account of the Holocaust.
After the war the basic facts of his report were verified by SS
Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Pfannenstiel before the Land-Court of
Darmstadt in the Federal Republic of Germany, on June 6, 1950.
an interrogation in the Court at Tuebingen, on February 16, 1961,
Elfriede Gerstein confirmed her husband's signatures and his