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August Meyszner

SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei
August Meyszner
a black and white photograph of a male in uniform
August Meyszner wearing the rank
of SS-Oberführer in 1938
Birth name August Edler von Meyszner
Born (1886-08-03)3 August 1886
Graz, Austria-Hungary
Died 24 January 1947(1947-01-24) (aged 60)
Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Allegiance Austria-Hungary
Service/branch Austrian Gendarmerie
Allgemeine SS
Years of service 1906–45
Rank SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei
Commands held Higher SS and Police Leader, German-occupied territory of Serbia (1942–44)
Awards Iron Cross 1st Class
War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords
Spouse(s) Pia (née Gostischa)

August Meyszner (3 August 1886 – 24 January 1947) was an Austrian Gendarmerie officer and right-wing politician who held the post of Higher SS and Police Leader in the German-occupied territory of Serbia from January 1942 to March 1944, during World War II.

Meyszner began his career as an officer in the Gendarmerie, served on the Italian Front during World War I and reached the rank of Major der Polizei by 1921. He joined the Austrian Nazi Party in September 1925 and became a right-wing parliamentary deputy and provincial minister in the Austrian province of Styria in 1930. Due to his involvement with the Nazis, Meyszner was forcibly retired in 1933 and arrested in February 1934, but released after three months at a detention centre in Wöllersdorf. That July, he was rearrested following an attempted coup, but escaped police custody and fled to Nazi Germany, where he joined the Ordnungspolizei and then the Allgemeine SS. After police postings in Austria, Germany and Norway, he was appointed as Higher SS and Police Leader in Serbia in early 1942.

Meyszner's time in Belgrade was characterised by friction and competition with German military, economic and foreign affairs officials and by his visceral hatred and distrust of Serbs. During his tenure, he oversaw regular reprisal killings, and his Gestapo detachment killed as many as 8,000 Jewish women and children using a gas van. After the war, the Western Allies extradited Meyszner to Yugoslavia, where he was tried for war crimes. He was found guilty by a Yugoslav military court and executed in January 1947.


  • Early life and World War I service 1
  • Interwar period 2
    • Police and political career in Austria 2.1
    • Germany 2.2
  • World War II 3
    • 1940–42 3.1
    • Higher SS and Police Leader in Serbia 3.2
      • 1942 3.2.1
      • 1943 3.2.2
      • 1944 3.2.3
  • Fate 4
  • Notes 5
  • Footnotes 6
  • References 7
    • Books 7.1
    • Journals 7.2
    • Websites 7.3

Early life and World War I service

August Edler von Meyszner was born in Graz, Austria-Hungary on 3 August 1886, the son of Rudolf Edler von Meyszner, an Oberstleutnant in the Imperial-Royal Landwehr who had been knighted two years earlier,[1] and his wife Therese (née Tuschner).[2] His uncle was Feldmarschalleutnant Ferdinand von Meyszner.[1] He completed primary and secondary schooling in Graz, before attending a cadet school in Vienna. In 1908, he was posted to the 3rd Imperial-Royal Landwehr Infantry Regiment in Graz as an officer candidate and on 1 May 1908 was commissioned as a Leutnant.[3]

By May 1914, Meyszner had transferred to the Austrian Gendarmerie as an Oberleutnant and been appointed to command the gendarmerie unit in Görz (now the Italian town of Gorizia). Later that year, he was appointed to command the coastal gendarmerie section at Grado and then the border guard unit at Tolmein, in modern-day Slovenia.[3] A few days after the outbreak of World War I, Meyszner married Pia Gostischa from Marburg an der Drau. In 1916, he was promoted to Rittmeister,[4] and commanded the 12th Alpine Company on the Italian Front in 1917.[3] He was wounded once,[5] and was also awarded several decorations for his service during the war, including the Order of the Iron Crown 3rd Class, Military Merit Cross 3rd Class, Military Merit Medal with Swords and War Decoration, Karl Troop Cross and Red Cross Decoration 2nd Class. In August 1917, Meyszner was recalled to the Styrian Gendarmerie Command and was appointed as gendarmerie section commander in Trieste.[3]

Interwar period

Police and political career in Austria

In 1919, Meyszner was placed in charge of border police at the Styrian town of Judenburg, on the frontier with the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia),[3] and was involved in fighting there.[5] That year, he had become involved with the German-nationalist sporting association Deutsch-Völkischen Turnvereins and was made a leader in the right-wing paramilitary Steirischen Heimatschutz (Styrian Home Guard).[6] He later used his senior position in the gendarmerie to funnel arms to the Home Guard.[7]

a black and white image of the front page of a German language newspaper
The front page of the Austrian-Styrian Heimwehr newspaper Der Panther on 13 September 1931, the day of Pfrimer's abortive putsch. The headline reads "Something must and will happen!"

Meyszner remained stationed at Judenburg for the next nine years, although he was sent on several detachments. In 1921, he was promoted to July Putsch was launched by the Bavarian branch of the German Nazi Party, during which Dollfuss was assassinated, Meyszner escaped police custody on 27 July and fled to Yugoslavia. His role in the July Putsch is unclear, though Austrian authorities suspected that he had encouraged participation and provided supplies to the conspirators.[11]

In Yugoslavia, Meyszner was no longer able to access his pension and had few assets. He travelled to Germany by sea in November 1934 and submitted his

  • "Der deutsche Reichstag, 1936: 3. Wahlperiode nach d. 30. Jan. 1933" [The German Reichstag, 1936 Third Legislature from 30 January 1933]. Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum [Munich Digitization Centre] (in German). Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek [Bavarian State Library]. 1936. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 


  • Moll, Martin (2011). "Vom österreichischen Gendarmerie-Offizier zum Höheren SS- und Polizeiführer Serbien, 1942–1944. August Meyszner: Stationen einer Karriere." [From Austrian Gendarmerie Officer to Higher SS and Police Leader of Serbia, 1942–1944. August Meyszner: Stations of a Career.]. Danubiana Carpathica. Jahrbuch für die Geschichte und Kultur in den deutschen Siedlungsgebieten Südosteuropas [Danubiana Carpathica. Yearbook of History and Culture in the German Settlement Areas of South-east Europe (in German) (Munich, Germany: Oldenbourg) 5 (2): 239–308.  


  • Browning, Christopher R. (1991). Fateful Months: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution. New York, New York: Holmes & Meier.  
  • Browning, Christopher (2014). The Origins Of The Final Solution. London, England: Cornerstone Digital.  
  • Kroener, Bernhard R.; Muller, Rolf-Dieter; Umbreit, Hans (2000). Germany and the Second World War: Volume 5: Organization and Mobilization of the German Sphere of Power. Part I: Wartime Administration, Economy and Manpower Resources, 1939–1941. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.  
  • Manoschek, Walter (1995). ]"Serbia is free of Jews": Military Occupation Policy and Extermination of Jews in Serbia 1941/42 ["Serbien ist judenfrei": militärische Besatzungspolitik und Judenvernichtung in Serbien 1941/42 (in German). Munich, Germany: Oldenbourg Verlag.  
  • Ramet, Sabrina P.; Lazić, Sladjana (2011). "The Collaborationist Regime of Milan Nedić". In Ramet, Sabrina P.; Listhaug, Ola. Serbia and the Serbs in World War Two. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 17–43.  
  • Rich, Norman (1974). Hitler's War Aims: The Establishment of the New Order 2. New York, New York: Norton.  
  • Schulz, Andreas; Wegmann, Günter (2008). Die Generale der Waffen-SS und der Polizei: Lammerding-Plesch [The Generals of the Waffen SS and Police: Lammerding-Plesch]. Bissendorf, Germany: Biblio-Verlag.  
  • Shelach, Menachem (1989). "Sajmiste — An Extermination Camp in Serbia". In Marrus, Michael Robert. The Nazi Holocaust. Part 6: The Victims of the Holocaust. West Berlin, West Germany: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 1168–1185.  
  • Tomasevich, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration 2. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.  
  • Trigg, Jonathan (2008). Hitler's Jihadis: Muslim Volunteers of the Waffen-SS. Stroud, England: History Press.  



  1. ^ a b Moll 2011, p. 242.
  2. ^ Schulz & Wegmann 2008, p. 187.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bavarian State Library 1936, p. 316.
  4. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 242–243.
  5. ^ a b c Moll 2011, p. 243.
  6. ^ a b Moll 2011, p. 244.
  7. ^ Moll 2011, p. 245.
  8. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 246–247.
  9. ^ Moll 2011, p. 247.
  10. ^ a b Moll 2011, p. 248.
  11. ^ a b c Moll 2011, p. 249.
  12. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 249–250.
  13. ^ a b c d Moll 2011, p. 251.
  14. ^ a b Moll 2011, p. 252.
  15. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 252–253.
  16. ^ a b c d Moll 2011, p. 300.
  17. ^ Moll 2011, p. 253.
  18. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 254–255.
  19. ^ a b Moll 2011, p. 257.
  20. ^ Moll 2011, p. 305.
  21. ^ a b c Tomasevich 2001, p. 70.
  22. ^ Rich 1974, p. 285.
  23. ^ Kroener, Muller & Umbreit 2000, p. 97.
  24. ^ a b Browning 2014, p. 334.
  25. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 257–260.
  26. ^ Shelach 1989, p. 1169.
  27. ^ a b Tomasevich 2001, p. 77.
  28. ^ Ramet & Lazić 2011, p. 24.
  29. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 193.
  30. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 260–261.
  31. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 261–262.
  32. ^ a b Tomasevich 2001, p. 78.
  33. ^ Steinberg 2002, p. 32.
  34. ^ Steinberg 2002, p. 101.
  35. ^ Steinberg 2002, p. 37.
  36. ^ Browning 1991, pp. 76–78.
  37. ^ Manoschek 1995, p. 174.
  38. ^ Browning 1991, pp. 79–82.
  39. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 262–263.
  40. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 263–264.
  41. ^ Moll 2011, p. 284.
  42. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 267–268.
  43. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 269–270.
  44. ^ Moll 2011, p. 270.
  45. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 270–271.
  46. ^ Moll 2011, p. 272.
  47. ^ a b Moll 2011, p. 273.
  48. ^ Moll 2011, p. 276.
  49. ^ Tomasevich 2001, pp. 75–76.
  50. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 212.
  51. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 276–277.
  52. ^ Moll 2011, p. 278.
  53. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 278–279.
  54. ^ Browning 1991, p. 80.
  55. ^ Moll 2011, p. 281.
  56. ^ Moll 2011, pp. 285 & 288.
  57. ^ a b c Tomasevich 2001, p. 81.
  58. ^ a b Moll 2011, p. 290.
  59. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 213.
  60. ^ Moll 2011, p. 286.
  61. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 79.
  62. ^ Tomasevich 1975, p. 319.
  63. ^ a b Tomasevich 1975, p. 320.
  64. ^ a b Tomasevich 1975, p. 336.
  65. ^ Moll 2011, p. 296.
  66. ^ Mazower 2008, p. 112.
  67. ^ Browning 1991, p. 83.
  68. ^ Rich 1974, p. 288.
  69. ^ a b Moll 2011, p. 299.
  70. ^ Trigg 2008, p. 89.
  71. ^ Moll 2011, p. 301.
  72. ^ Moll 2011, p. 302.
  73. ^ Manoschek 1995, pp. 169–170.
  74. ^ Moll 2011, p. 303.


  1. ^ According to Browning, the 64th Reserve Police Battalion later became the 1st Battalion of the 5th SS-Polizei Regiment.[54]


As far as the killing of Jewish women and children is concerned, Meyszner's direct involvement is less clear. According to Moll, Schäfer claimed that he had received the orders and gas van directly from Berlin and had carried out the killings with little reference to Meyszner.[72] Manoschek accepts Schäfer's assertion, stating that Schäfer also had an independent Gestapo chain of command, over which Meyszner had very limited control.[73] Despite this, as HSSPF he was formally responsible for all his subordinates, including the Gestapo department that killed the Jewish women and children. He was also responsible for carrying out policies that saw 70,000 Serbs transported to the Reich as forced labourers, 4,000 of whom ended up in occupied Norway. The Holocaust in Serbia played little part in his trial before the Supreme Military Court in Belgrade between 9 and 22 December 1946. On 22 December, he was sentenced to death, along with most of the 20 leading members of his HSSPF staff who were tried at the same time. On 24 January 1947, Meyszner was executed by hanging.[74]

While he agreed to relieve Meyszner as HSSPF for Serbia and Montenegro, Himmler did this by transferring him to Berlin and appointing him as Generalinspekteur der Gendarmerie und Schutzpolizei der Gemeinden (General Inspector of the Gendarmerie and Schutzpolizei in the Reich) with the intention of establishing a Europe-wide gendarmerie.[69] Nothing is known about Meyszner's activities in this role. At the end of the war, he fell into the hands of the Western Allies and his high SS rank ensured attention from investigators. He was interrogated by the United States Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Robert H. Jackson, in June 1945 and was placed into Yugoslav custody soon after. His involvement in the carrying out of reprisal executions both on his own account and on behalf of the Wehrmacht, and the publication of his name along with lists of those executed, meant that his fate was certain.[71]


In April, Neubacher and the Wehrmacht finally managed to get rid of Meyszner. The catalyst for his recall was Meyszner's public criticism of Neubacher over reprisals, which Neubacher characterised as "undermining official discipline". Neubacher was assisted in this by Meyszer's old nemesis, Kaltenbrunner, who was now the chief of the RSHA.[68] Even Schäfer was no longer able to work with Meyszner and supported Neubacher's campaign against his superior.[69] Meyszner was replaced by SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei Hermann Behrends,[32] a protégé of the assassinated head of the SD, SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei Reinhard Heydrich. Immediately prior to his appointment, Behrends had been serving as an SS-Sturmbannführer der Reserve commanding a mountain artillery battalion in the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian).[70] In mid-May 1944, Meyszner was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class for his efforts fighting the Partisans in Serbia.[16]

In February 1944, Meyszner's campaign against the German-Chetnik agreements escalated sharply. He had unusual allies in this, as Nedić and Ljotić were also against them, in their case because the agreements tended to sideline them in favour of the Chetniks. In particular, Meyszner strongly opposed the further arming of the Chetniks led by Đurišić and Lukačević, on the grounds that they had not upheld their previous agreements and that the Croats, as well as Muslims in Albania, Kosovo and the Sandžak, had expressed concerns about any strengthening of the Chetniks. The commander of the Bulgarian 1st Occupation Corps, General Asen Nikoloff, also opposed the agreements. Meyszner's increasing objections to the agreements coincided with growing Partisan pressure from the west and the advance of the Red Army from the east.[64]


In November, Meyszner's area of responsibility was expanded to include the German occupied territory of Montenegro.[58] The following month, SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel's Kommando 1005 arrived in Belgrade to dig up and burn the bodies of the Jewish women and children killed by Meyszner's Gestapo.[67] At the end of 1943, Meyszner was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class.[16]

In September 1943, a new plenipotentiary of the Foreign Ministry was appointed for the Balkans. This made Benzler's position redundant and he was recalled to Berlin.[61] Special Envoy Hermann Neubacher arrived in Belgrade armed with orders from Hitler, directing him to undertake a range of tasks aimed at unifying the fight against communist forces in south-east Europe. These orders specifically directed Neubacher to make best use of the local anti-communist forces and to negotiate with them to achieve that goal. He was also empowered to streamline the German occupation administration and transfer more power to local proxies, like the Nedić regime. The orders also placed Neubacher in charge of all decisions regarding the carrying out of reprisals against the local population.[62] But like Meyszner, Neubacher found that the local conditions meant his ability to carry out his mandate was limited. Neuhausen, having recently been appointed as the chief of the military administration, had far more real power than Neubacher and was doing too good a job of exploiting the Serbian economy to hand any of it over to the Serbs.[63] Meyszner himself was strictly opposed to the transfer of any power to the Nedić puppet government and also resisted attempts to conclude agreements with the Chetniks to fight the Partisans,[64] seeing the former as an attempt to return to Turner's failed policies.[65] The main success Neubacher was able to achieve was a significant reduction in reprisals.[63] Neubacher was contemptuous of Meyszner and what Neubacher called his "totally primitive extermination thesis".[66]

The good relationship between Bader and Meyszner continued until spring 1943, when Bader became aware that Meyszner had been undermining him in his reports to Himmler, blaming the Wehrmacht for the failure to combat the Partisan threat.[56] In April 1943, Bader wrote to Löhr complaining bitterly about Meyszner allocating 300 Soviet prisoners of war to the Russian Factory Protection Group without consulting him and the fact that he had not been advised of desertions from the Serbian Volunteer Corps. Bader described his situation as "impossible", observing that Meyszner was disputing his orders through the police chain of command but that he, Bader, was held responsible for all matters concerning the occupied territory.[57] Thereafter, Bader was no longer Meyszner's ally and this did not bode well for any future clashes with other powerful individuals in the occupation regime.[58] Nedić continued to rail against German occupation policy and the fact that he had to report to four different authorities, who issued sometimes contradictory orders.[57] In May, Meyszner attended a meeting at the Foreign Office, at which he disparaged Nedić and his loyalty to Germany, stating that he could be considered reliable only in fighting the communists.[59] In July and August, some simplification occurred, when Neuhausen was appointed as chief of the military administration staff but Meyszner remained largely independent.[57] Meyszner's police and security apparatus continued to carry out reprisals when requested by the Wehrmacht. At the end of June, Meyszner ordered the execution of 575 prisoners in response to an attack in which eight German auxiliary police officers were killed and seven were wounded.[60]

a black and white photograph of a seated male in uniform looking at a map
General der Artillerie Paul Bader worked well with Meyszner until the spring of 1943, when he realised he was being undermined with Berlin

Using his responsibility for the Volksdeutsche of the Banat as a pretext, Meyszner constantly interfered with operational orders issued to the 7th SS Division. In September 1943, the total police forces at his disposal comprised the 5th SS-Polizei Regiment,[1] minus one company detached to occupied Greece and seven battalions of Hilfspolizei (auxiliary police) of various ethnicities, which had only received 4–5 weeks training due to constant employment.[55]

From the time he had fled to Germany, Meyszner had been engaged in a dispute regarding his membership in the Nazi Party. He had believed that the Venice Agreement meant that he and other members of the Styrian Home Guard had been transferred to the Nazi Party with prestigious low Nazi Party numbers issued prior to Hitler's seizure of power in 1933. This became an issue when Hitler decided to mark the 10th anniversary of that event and tasked his private secretary and head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, to determine who should be issued one of a strictly limited number of Golden Party Badges to mark the anniversary. Bormann did not accept the Vienna arrangements, retrospectively determined Meyszner's party membership date to be 1 June 1938 and allocated him a party number of 6,119,650. Due to these decisions, Meyszner did not qualify as an Alter Kämpfer (Old Fighter) and Himmler had to intervene on behalf of Meyszner to ensure he received the badge. Meyszner was one of only five SS men that Himmler considered worthy of the award.[53]

a circular golden badge with a central swastika
Meyszner was awarded the coveted Golden Party Badge in 1943

In March 1943, Meyszner complained to Himmler that Benzler had adopted a "soft" policy towards the Serbs, allowing them to take charge of the supervision of crops. He considered those that granted additional powers and freedoms to the Serbian puppet regime were irresponsible, because they did not understand the real motives of the various Serb groups. One of many matters of concern to Meyszner was the formation of the Serbian Volunteer Corps, which was an extension of Ljotić's pre-war Yugoslav National Movement. Meyszner thought that Turner and Benzler had erred in allowing its formation and observed that it was spreading royalist propaganda. According to Moll, Meyszner's perspective was very narrow and did not take into account foreign policy objectives associated with giving some power to the Nedić regime.[51] By the end of 1942, Meyszner had extracted all the usable military manpower from the Banat and the economy and administration of that territory was suffering. As a consequence, he requested the release of all men aged 40 and over from service in the 7th SS Division. As an alternative, he turned his attention to the minority groups that also lived in the Banat, including Hungarians, Romanians and Slovaks. His recommendation that these people be subjected to conscription was not accepted by Himmler.[52]

In January 1943, Nedić proposed a fundamental law for Serbia, in effect a constitution creating an authoritarian corporative state similar to that long advocated by Dimitrije Ljotić. Bader asked the various agency heads for their views, and despite some specialists recommending its adoption, Meyszner strongly opposed it, seeing it as a threat to German interests. Passed to Löhr then to Hitler, a response was received in March. Hitler considered it "untimely".[50]


[16] During 1942, Meyszner was awarded the War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords.[21] but the local command situation did not change.Army Group E In December 1942, Löhr was redesignated as Commander-in-Chief South-East Europe and Commander [49] On 17 October, Himmler met with Meyszner at

Meyszner's reports to Himmler fueled distrust of the Serbian security forces, stating that it was "insane" to arm the 16,000-strong Serbian State Guard, as he believed that their loyalties lay with the royalist Chetnik leader Draža Mihailović, not with the Germans or the Nedić regime.[44] The depths to which Turner and Meyszner's personal vendetta plunged is demonstrated by the fact that they could not agree on how to use the funds stolen from Serbian Jews killed as part of the Final Solution in 1941 and the first half of 1942.[45] On 1 August 1942, Kuntze was replaced as Wehrmacht Commander in South-East Europe by Luftwaffe Generaloberst Alexander Löhr, another Austrian.[21] In early September 1942, Meyszner filed an official report with Himmler alleging that Turner had breached section 90 of the German Penal Code by betraying state secrets.[46] Concerned, in mid-September Turner issued an order to his staff directing them to defer to the authority of the HSSPF and his staff in all police matters and also many other administrative and highly political matters, such as the approval of events, gambling, right of assembly and monitoring of commerce.[47] The dispute was so out-of-hand that only outside intervention would be effective. In October, the Main SS Personnel Office sent an emissary to Belgrade to investigate and report on the situation. This report described the behaviour of both Turner and Meyszner as "shameful" but the die was cast.[47]

a black and white photograph of Draža Mihailović wearing glasses and Yugoslav Army dress uniform
Meyszner distrusted Nedić's security forces, as he believed they were loyal to the Chetnik leader, Draža Mihailović (pictured)

Despite their initial misgivings, the Wehrmacht established a good working relationship with Meyszner during 1942. Bader and Meyszner met regularly and supported each other where their interests coincided.[41] By contrast, the conflict between Meyszner and Turner soon became intractable, with the men sending long letters of complaint to each other, with copies to Himmler. Himmler stuck to his general approach, which was that SS officers should resolve their differences face-to-face.[42] Meyszner fundamentally opposed any attempts by Turner to expand the remit of the Serbian puppet regime, including the creation of sporting organisations and the re-opening of Belgrade University, asserting that it could not be in Germany's interests to "breed hostile Slavic intelligence".[43]

Turner and Meyszner clashed continually throughout 1942, as Meyszner sought to remove all police matters from Turner's remit, including the supervision of the security forces of the Serbian collaborationist regime. In response, Turner fought hard to maintain control over these areas. Meyszner believed the only way to maintain peace and security was the use of brutal police methods; Turner wanted to empower the Nedić regime and then replace the military administration with a civil one, akin to the Reichskommissariat Niederlande, with himself as Reichskommissar (governor).[39] Meyszner attempted to have Turner's staff downgraded and incorporated into Bader's staff but Wolff's intervention prevented this. However, Turner's approach was also seriously out-of-step with the Wehrmacht, which considered the territory a combat zone and wanted to eliminate inefficiencies and overlapping jurisdictions.[40]

Schäfer delegated the task of killing the Jewish women and children to Sattler. In turn, Sattler tasked the camp commandant, Herbert Andorfer, to accompany the van, which would be operated by two SS-Scharführers sent with the van from Berlin. Except for Sundays and public holidays, the van collected groups of about 100 women and children from the camp on a daily basis and drove them to a shooting range outside Belgrade. During the trip, the exhaust would be redirected into the cargo area, killing the occupants. On arrival at the range, a four-man detachment from the 64th Reserve Police Battalion would be waiting with a group of seven Serbian prisoners from the Belgrade prison. The prisoners would unload the van and put the corpses in a pre-dug mass grave. By 10 May 1942, the camp was empty and as many as 8,000 Jewish women and children had been killed by Meyszner's Gestapo. On 8 June, Schäfer declared to a group of Wehrmacht officers, including Bader and Kuntze, that there was "no longer a Jewish question in Serbia".[38]

In April, Turner wrote in a self-congratulatory tone to Himmler's personal staff officer, SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff, stating that he had already had all the available Jewish men killed and all the women and children placed in the Sajmište concentration camp. He went on to claim that he had arranged, with the help of the SD, a gas van to clear the camp in a period of a fortnight to four weeks.[35] Holocaust historian Christopher Browning considers this claim suspect, stating that Turner's reports about Jewish affairs were often inaccurate and self-serving in an attempt to ingratiate himself with Hitler and shore up his position. Browning's view is that a van was dispatched after regular requests from Belgrade for the remaining Jews to be deported directly, so that the local authorities could resolve the matter themselves. When the van arrived in Belgrade, Meyszner was kept informed,[36] and Schäfer asked him for directions.[37]

As soon as he took up his role, Meyszner immediately ran into difficulties with Turner, who was responsible for internal affairs and co-operation with the puppet regime. Turner was a proponent of strengthening the puppet regime and making use of all Serbs that were willing to collaborate with the occupiers. Meyszner had a diametrically opposite personal view and throughout his time in Belgrade refused to support or work with the Serb authorities, except at a purely tactical level.[31] Indeed, his dislike of Serbs was so great that his favourite slogan is said to have been, "I like a dead Serb better than a live one".[32] Meyszner was also reported to have referred to Serbs as "a people of rats" (ein Rattenvolk).[33] The historian Jonathan Steinberg describes Meyszner as one of Himmler's most brutal subordinates.[34]

As HSSPF, Meyszner was not restricted to police matters. His subordination to Bader was "personal and direct" but this did not mean the police and security apparatus he commanded was subject to day-to-day direction from Bader. Military jurisdiction over Meyszner and his organisation was restricted to matters involving the military security of the territory and military operations. Meyszner's duties also extended to any matter related to the "strengthening" of the German minority in Serbia, which included authority over the security forces of the puppet regime and collection of revenue and the consolidation and utilisation of existing Volksdeutsche volunteer units in the Waffen-SS. Almost as soon as he arrived in Belgrade, Meyszner met with SS-Obergruppenführer Werner Lorenz, the Chief of the Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (Main Welfare Office for Ethnic Germans, or VoMi), founded to manage the interests of the Volksdeutsche outside the borders of the Reich. The VoMi was also responsible for orchestrating the Nazi ideology of Lebensraum (living space) in Eastern Europe. Meyszner also met with SS-Obersturmführer Sepp Janko, the leader of the Volksdeutsche in the Banat and with SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen SS Artur Phleps, to discuss the formation of the new division, the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen. Plans for more general conscription of the Volksdeutsche did not meet with approval from Berlin.[30]

As soon as he took office, Meyszner embarked on a thorough re-organisation of all police operations in the occupied territory. He created four police area commands, aligned to the four military area commands and ten police districts, corresponding to the military district commands.[27] He took under his command the forces of the Serbian puppet government, known as the Serbian State Guard,[28] and also established a number of auxiliary and volunteer police units across the whole territory.[27] One of the units controlled by Meyszner was the Auxiliary Police Troop, recruited from Russian Volksdeutsche from the occupied territory but also from Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania and trained by the Orpo. It was planned to reach a strength of 400 men but little is known about its activities.[29]

a black and white photograph of two men in uniform
Wilhelm Fuchs (right) with Daluege. Fuchs was responsible for police and security matters in Serbia prior to the arrival of Meyszner

Meyszner took control of the police organs that had formerly been under the control of Turner, grouped as Einsatzgruppe Serbien, consisting of Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service, or SD) and Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police, or SiPo), as well as the 64th Reserve Police Battalion.[24] These had been commanded by SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Fuchs, who had overseen the shooting of many Serbian Jewish males and others, mainly by Wehrmacht units, between August 1941 and the end of that year. Meyszner's deputy was SS-Standartenführer Emanuel Schäfer and the head of the Belgrade Gestapo was SS-Sturmbannführer Bruno Sattler. The head of the Gestapo Jewish Section was SS-Untersturmführer Fritz Stracke.[26]

Overlapping the military chain of command, there was a plenipotentiary of the Foreign Office, Felix Benzler, reporting to the Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop and for economic affairs, a representative of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Franz Neuhausen. These power structures competed with each other, to a greater extent than anywhere else in occupied Europe. Meyszner's appointment further complicated an already complex situation, as prior to this decision, Turner had been responsible for police and security matters. Meyszner had to formally acknowledge Bader as his superior but received his orders from Hitler and Himmler. One of his priorities was to improve coordination of policies towards the Volksdeutsche (or Germans of Yugoslavia), concentrated in the Banat region, as the decision had been made in late 1941 to subject them to conscription in order to raise a Waffen-SS division. This decision, approved by Hitler a few days before Meyszner's appointment, had strengthened Himmler's case for a HSSPF in Belgrade.[25]

Bader's staff was split into a military command staff led by Oberst Erich Kewisch and an administrative staff under the control of SS-Gruppenführer Harald Turner. Kewisch's staff had direct control of the regional defence battalions and worked with the military forces of occupation in the territory. Turner's staff supervised the Serbian puppet regime, the German commandants of the four military districts and the police and security forces.[24]

Meyszner arrived in [22] with Kuntze's chief of staff describing Meyszner as one "for whom we did not ask".[23]

The German-occupied territory of Serbia, an area of Yugoslavia roughly corresponding to the borders of the pre-1912 Kingdom of Serbia, had been retained under military administration following the April 1941 German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia. It included a Serbian puppet regime known as the Government of National Salvation, led by the former Yugoslav Minister of War, Milan Nedić. The appointment of a HSSPF had not been planned and this initially accorded with the preferences of the Wehrmacht commander in the territory. A communist-led uprising had erupted in mid-1941 and while it had been brutally suppressed during Operation Uzice in December, it was expected to return in the spring of 1942. To address this, it was decided to appoint a Higher SS and Police Leader for the occupied territory.[18] Meyszner was chosen for the new position, despite the fact that few HSSPF were selected from the Orpo.[19] At 55 years old, Meyszner was also the oldest HSSPF appointed.[20]

a map showing the administrative divisions of the German-occupied territory of Serbia
The German-occupied territory of Serbia


Higher SS and Police Leader in Serbia

With the outbreak of war, Meyszner started being appointed to more senior positions, beginning in the spring of 1940 when he was named a representative of the Higher SS and Police Leader (German: Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer, HSSPF) for Fulda-Werra, SS-Obergruppenführer Josias Waldeck-Pyrmont. Soon after this, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler appointed Meyszner to command the Orpo in newly occupied Norway, working with HSSPF Nord, SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Rediess. Meyszner remained in Norway until the end of 1941.[15] During 1941, Meyszner was awarded the War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords.[16] In mid-January 1942, he was recalled to Germany and, despite his low rank, attended a conference of senior SS leaders at Hegewald, Himmler's field headquarters near Hitler's Wolf's Lair in East Prussia. The conference discussed the use of forced labour, the coming Final Solution and Generalplan Ost, a plan for the colonisation of Central and Eastern Europe by ethnic Germans. According to the German historian Martin Moll, Meyszner's attendance at this conference highlighted his suitability for working in the German-occupied territory of Serbia due to his relevant language skills.[17]


World War II

Soon after arriving in Austria, Meyszner and Kaltenbrunner clashed, requiring the intervention of the Chief of the Orpo, SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei Kurt Daluege. Meyszner was transferred to the Sudetenland in early October 1938, after its annexation by Germany, as an Orpo district commander. In June 1939, he was again transferred, this time to Kassel, as Inspector of Orpo for the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau.[14]

Meyszner was briefly given a job coordinating support for Nazi refugees from Austria but soon after he arrived he joined the Schutzpolizei (protection police), a branch of the uniformed Ordnungspolizei (order police, or Orpo), in his previous rank of Major.[11] He received German citizenship in May 1935.[13] He was honourably discharged from the SA and accepted into the SS but this was short-lived, as police officers were not permitted to be members of the SS at that time. Meyszner was obliged to resign from the SS in October 1935.[11] On 20 April 1937, he was promoted to the rank of Oberstleutnant der Polizei.[3] He was allowed to return to the SS in October 1937 and was promoted to the SS rank of Oberführer, backdated to February 1935. He was appointed to the staff of SS-Abschnitt III (SS District III),[13] and Schutzpolizei Group East Berlin.[3] In 1937,[13] Meyszner was appointed as an honorary judge of the People's Court,[3] and in 1941 this appointment was extended. In March 1938, he was promoted to the rank of Oberst der Polizei. Following the Anschluss with Germany, Meyszner was elected as a deputy in the Reichstag, a position he retained to the end of World War II.[13] On 12 April 1938, he was sent to Vienna and appointed as the Inspector of Orpo in Austria,[3] working for the State Secretary for Security in Austria, Ernst Kaltenbrunner.[14]

black and white portrait of a man in uniform
Orpo chief Kurt Daluege (pictured) had to intervene on Meyszner's behalf during an altercation with the State Secretary for Security in Austria, Ernst Kaltenbrunner


[12] As a result of his meetings with Habicht, Meyszner was appointed deputy leader of the Central Styria

In 1930, Meyszner became a right-wing Theodor Habicht. Habicht met Meyszner and Rauter in Venice to arrange the absorption of the Home Guard into the Nazi Party in early 1933. The outcome of these discussions subsequently became known as the Venice Agreement. Meyszner's conversion to Nazi thinking was demonstrated by an anti-Jewish diatribe in the Landestag in April 1933.[9] From March 1933, the authoritarian Fatherland Front government of Engelbert Dollfuss prorogued parliamentary government and in June they banned the Austrian Nazi Party, which had absorbed the Home Guard. A few days before this, public servants who were members of the Austrian Nazi Party were classified as subversive. Based on these decrees, Meyszner was denied his seat in parliament and was forcibly retired from the gendarmerie in September 1933 at the age of 47.[10]


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