Gottlob Berger (July 16 1896 - January 5, 1975) was a German general during World War II. From 1940, he was Chief of Staff for the military SS and head of the SS main leadership office. He was born at Gerstetten, Württemberg, and served as Himmler's main recruiting officer in 1939.
Berger volunteered for Army service at the beginning of World War I and rose to the rank of first lieutenant in the infantry by the time of his discharge in 1919. He received several wounds and decorations of the iron cross first and second class. After joining the Nazi Party in 1922, he became a member of the SA and entered SS service in 1936. He achieved the rank of major in the reserve by 1938, but his initial rank upon entering the SS was colonel, based upon his SA service through 1933.
He was a co-author of Heinrich Himmler's pamphlet Der Untermensch, and also promoted the pamphlet Mit Schwert und Wiege (With Sword and Cradle) for the recruitment of non-Germans. He was the father-in-law of SS-Sturmbannführer Karl Leib, the head of the Norwegian recruitment office at Drammensveien, Oslo. In SS ranks he was known as one of Himmler's 'Twelve Apostles' and was nicknamed 'der Allmaechtige Gottlob' - 'the Almighty Gottlob'. His organizational abilities contributed to the amazing expansion of the Waffen-SS in World War II, but he also became ensnared in typical in-fighting among the SS hierarchy.
He ran the main SS office in Berlin from 1940 and was involved in liasing with the so called 'Eastern Territories'. In August 1944 he was sent to deal with an uprising in Slovakia and immediately after this was put in control of all prisoner of war camps.
"that between September 1944 and May 1945, hundreds of thousands of American and Allied prisoners of war were compelled to undertake forced marches in severe weather without adequate rest, shelter, food, clothing and medical supplies; and that such forced marches, conducted under the authority of the defendant Berger, chief of Prisoner-of-War Affairs, resulted in great privation and deaths to many thousands of prisoners.
Berger claimed that it was in fact the Germans' duty under the Geneva Convention to remove POWs from a potential combat zone, as long as it did not put their lives in even greater danger. He also claimed that the rapid advance of the Red Army had surprised the Germans, who had planned to transport the POWs by train. He claimed that he had protested about the decision, made by Hitler, according to him, but he was "without power or authority to countermand or avoid the order". The case failed due to these claims and the lack of eyewitness evidence - most ex-POWs were completely unaware of the trial taking place.
He was however convicted in 1949 for his role in the genocide of European Jews and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The sentence was reduced to 10 years in 1951 because of his refusal to kill the Prominente in Oflag IV-C at Colditz Castle, despite direct orders from Adolf Hitler. He had helped these prisoners escape by moving them to Bavaria and then onto Austria where he met up with them twice before they were returned to American forces. He claimed that he had saved the Prominente as the head of the Gestapo, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, had sent a group of extremists to try and kill them.
After the war he claimed that Hitler had wanted more shootings of prisoners and more punishments, but that he had resisted this. In 1948 Berger gave details to an American judge in Nuremberg of Hitler's plans to hold 35,000 Allied prisoners hostage in a 'last redoubt' in the Bavarian mountains. If a peace deal was not forthcoming, Hitler had ordered that the hostages were to be executed. Berger claimed that on 22 April 1945 Hilter had signed orders to this effect and these were passed to him by Eva Braun but he decided to stall and not carry out the order.
After World War II Berger also claimed that there was a plan, proposed by the Luftwaffe and approved by Hitler, to set up special POW camps for British and American airmen in the centre of large German cities to act as human shields against Allied bombing raids. Berger realised that this would contravene the Geneva Convention and argued that there was not enough barbed wire - as a result this plan was not implemented.