Karl Eberhard Schöngarth (22 April 1903 – 16 May 1946) was a German SS functionary during the Nazi era. He was a war criminal who perpetrated mass murder and genocide in German occupied Poland during the Holocaust.
Karl Georg Eberhard Schöngarth was born on 22 April 1903 in Leipzig, Germany,. His father was a master brewer. Schöngarth began high school at the age of 11, but soon dropped out in order to work at a garden center to support the war effort. On 7 March 1918 Schöngarth was awarded a “Young Men's Iron Medal”. After the war, he was to go back to high school to complete his education, but instead joined a Freikorps paramilitary group in Thuringia. This eventually lead to Schöngarth joining a local Nazi group in Erfurt on November 1923, as he felt the organization agreed with his ethno-nationalistic tendencies. Schöngarth fled to Coburg to try and escape from his crime of treason, but eventually came back to Erfurt and was given amnesty. In 1924 Schöngarth finished his high school education and got a job at the Deutsche bank while also joining the Army Infantry Regiment 1/15 in Gießen.
Karl Eberhard Schöngarth later joined the SA (Sturmabteilung) as member number 43,870 while claiming expulsion from the army. By 1924, Schöngarth's involvement with the Nazi party had decreased, and he enrolled at the University of Leipzig, majoring in economics and law. He completed his first bar exam in 1928 and landed a job in the Naumburg Superior Courts. He then went on to acquire his doctorate in law from the Institute for Labor and Law, on 28 June 1929 at just the age of 26, and was awarded a Cum Laude. His thesis was on the subject of 'the refusal of notices of termination of employment contracts. He then decided to take his second bar exam in December 1933 and became a court official for Magdeburg, Erfurt and Torgau.
Eberhard married Dorothea Gross, with whom he had 2 sons.
Beginning of Nazi participation
After becoming a court official, Schöngarth began involving himself more heavily in the Nazi party. On 1 February 1933 he joined the SS (member No°. 67,174 and Nazi N°. 2,848,857). Because party membership was now crucial for getting a government job in Germany, his involvement allowed him to become a postmaster in Erfurt. In 1933 he became a member of the SD, the SS's own intelligence service. He eventually left his postmaster position on November 1, 1935, and joined the Gestapo. During his time working with the Gestapo, he worked in the main press office, the political-church council, and the Arnsberg district office in Dortmund, he also served as police chief in Münster and was named a government counselor. Though unknown why he found employment at the political church, a letter from Reinhard Heydrich to the Reich Ministry of the Interior recommended Eberhard become a part of the Secret State Police due to his broad and insightful law background. He was placed with the Gestapo, and later with the SS. He also rose in ranks in the SS, becoming a first lieutenant, captain, major and lieutenant colonel in 1939, and from colonel to brigadier general in 1940.
During the German attack on Poland he was promoted to SS Obersturmbannfuhrer. He later served as a Senior Inspector for the RSHA in Dresden.
In January 1941 he was sent to Kraków, occupied Poland, as senior commander of the SiPo and SD (BdS). During this time Schöngarth was stationed in Kraków, he formed several Einsatzgruppen (Special Action Groups) in Warsaw, Radom, and Lublin, with the intention of perpetrating massacres. He was responsible for the murder of up to 10,000 Polish Jews between July and September 1941 and the massacre of Lwów professors behind the frontlines of Operation Barbarossa in the Soviet Union. Schöngarth attended the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942, along with Dr. Rudolf Lange (Einsatzgruppen A), who had also participated in the Holocaust. From early July 1944 until the end of war he was the BdS in the Netherlands. He is also reported to have killed 263 persons (including one German soldier) in reprisal for the ambushing of SS General Hanns Albin Rauter March 6, 1945.
In 2019, a mass grave containing the remains of more than 1,000 Jews was discovered during renovation work on houses in Brest. An Einsatzgruppe led by Schöngarth murdered more than 5,000 Jews in the area between 10 and 12 July 1941.
Trial and execution
Schöngarth was captured by the allies at the end of the war in Europe. After an investigation into his background, he was charged with the crime of murdering a downed Allied pilot (on 21 November 1944) at Enschede, Netherlands and tried by a British military court in Burgsteinfurt. He was found guilty of this war crime on 11 February 1946 and sentenced to death by hanging. Schöngarth was executed by Albert Pierrepoint on 16 May 1946 at Hamelin prison .