A War Criminal’s Clemency

Clemency Archive of Hans Bösenberg.

Waffen-SS Obersturmführer Hans Bösenberg (1912–1984) was sentenced to death by a British military court for murdering a Canadian pilot. This collection of over 400 pp. is his wife Ilse Bösenberg’s (1912– fl. 2002) seven-year campaign for her husband’s clemency in Allied post-war legal proceedings.

On January 6, 1945, Canadian pilot Sgt. Lamarre flew a bombing run to Hannover. After the air raid, he crash-landed in a field. Sgt. Lamarre was intercepted by a group of German soldiers from the 38. SS Panzer Grenadier Division. Bösenberg was commanding officer of the German soldiers.

Bösenberg interrogated and beat Sgt. Lamarre, or as one included report describes it (in English): “…admitted, that his hand had slipped for several times in a state of extreme excitement.” Bösenberg then ordered two of his men to escort Sgt. Lamarre to a POW camp. While transporting the prisoner, the 18-year-old soldier Max S. shot and killed Sgt. Lamarre. Max S. claimed that Sgt. Lamarre attempted to escape, and he was forced to shoot him. Another German officer testified that Bösenberg had told him that he had ordered Max S. to shoot Sgt. Lamarre. An exhumation report of Sgt. Lamarre from 1947 (included in the Archive) states that his head was smashed to pieces and his fingers and hands were incomplete”. Bösenberg proclaimed his innocence because he did not order the shooting and further, Sgt. Lamarre attempted to flee and therefor the killing was justified.

Bösenberg was a prisoner of war starting with Germany’s surrender in May 1945. Initially held in captivity by American troops, they released him, only for Bösenberg to be re-arrested shortly thereafter by British troops. Bösenberg was tried for the murder of Sgt. Lamarre in a British military court known as the Curiohaus-Prozesse”. There he was sentenced to death on November 3, 1948. His appeal was denied, and the death sentence confirmed December 22, 1948.

Ilse Bösenberg commenced a mammoth letter-writing campaign for her husband’s clemency. This archive is hers. It is primarily the documentation of her fervent attempts to free her husband. She wrote the Commander of the British Army, the Protestant Church, the House of Commons, the German State Department, the German War Department, the Red Cross, numerous newspapers, she even wrote to an Uncle in the United States requesting him to telegram the King of England: To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty…Save my nephew by an act of mercy.” In all, 76 people wrote letters to the court requesting clemency.

Somehow, although without written explanation, it worked. On January 13, 1949, the British military court revised its ruling to a life sentence. Bösenberg was imprisoned at the Allied National Prison in Werl (where the depicted color drawing is from). At this point, Ilse Bösenberg started to involve attorneys. The attorneys’ letters are in the collection. The attorneys submitted Bösenberg to denazification legal proceedings (“Entnazifizierungsverfahren”). Those were successful, and Bösenberg was deemed innocent under post-war German law. The results of the denazification proceedings were then used to attempt and obtain further clemency from the British military court.

Ilse Bösenberg was successful again. On February 5, 1950 Bösenberg’s sentence was reduced to 15 years. Finally, and without explanation, Bösenberg was released on September 22, 1952. He had spent seven years in prison.

We do not know how many individuals were sentenced to death as war criminals and then granted clemency. It must be a very small number. This material provides a view into post-war justice implemented by Allied Forces, the clemency process, and the impact a determined spouse can have.

Index: The Archive is sorted into five folders of original documents, comprising over 400 pp. Almost all typed and in German, a few clemency related documents in English.

Folder 1912 – 1948: [58] pp. A4 sized; [23] pp. A5 or smaller sized; two photographs; four black and white drawings by Bösenberg while imprisoned; one newspaper clipping; three misc. items.

Most of the documents dated after 1933. It starts with love letters and the marriage certificate between Hans Bösenberg and Ilse Bösenberg. Then, war-time correspondence between the two, and ends with correspondence relating to Bösenberg’s initial imprisonment and death sentence. This folder contains a one-page summary exhumation report of the murdered Canadian pilot.

Folder 1949 and 1949: [22] pp. A4 sized; [8] pp. A5 or smaller sized.

Comprises clemency petition letters and their responses.

Folder 1951 – 9.21.1952: [70] pp. A4 sized; [54] pp. A5 or smaller sized; one color drawing (depicted in this List) and two black and white drawings, all by Bösenberg while imprisoned; seven newspaper clippings; three misc. items.

Includes, many clemency letters and their responses; application documents for denazification proceedings; letters to and from prison; information on prison conditions at Allied National Prison Werl.

Also contains a two-page list with names of 60 prisoners from Werl, their birth dates, and dates between 1945 and 1947 that they were executed along with a notation of whether they were shot or hung, and where the execution took place.

And, certified copies of denazification proceedings ruling Bösenberg not guilty.

And, letters regarding the death of Max S., the young German soldier who shot and killed the Canadian pilot. Max S. died at age 26 in an Allied prison shortly prior to a scheduled re-hearing of his case. The cause of death, as reported to his family, was: [Heart problems].

Folder 9.22.1952 – End: [76] pp. A4 sized; [36] pp. A5 or smaller sized; five photographs; two newspaper clippings; 12 misc. items.

This folder addresses the time after Bösenberg’s release. Most items dated late 1940’s through 1955; a handful of documents from the 1960’s. Primarily thank you correspondence to supporters and correspondence with various governmental agencies for reimbursement of costs incurred for clemency; petitions for a military pension and compensation for time in prison. There is a two-page letter from General Kurt Wolff, who also spent seven years at Allied National Prison Werl and Hans Bösenberg’s three-page response. Mr. and Mrs. Bösenberg had engraved thank you cards printed for supporters, one of the cards is included. The three-page list of 76 people who wrote letters in support of clemency is depicted in this List.

Folder Family: [40] pp. A4 sized; [9] pp. A5 or smaller sized; four large format pre-1920 photographs (father, Hans Bösenberg as a child); two newspaper clippings; three large format family trees; nine misc. documents.

Contains general family history: marriage and death notices; family tree; and a detailed narrative by Hans Bösenberg of his family’s history.

All documents ranging from good to very good; yellowing and fragile paper; some tears; many two-hole punched. 

From the estate of Ilse Bösenberg.


In stock

Stock Code: 1039A20 Collection: Catalogue:


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