New England Holocaust Institute and Museum acquires Kurt Franz's uniform
Photo Gallery | Darrell English acquires uniform of Kurt Franz This story has been updated to clarify that the Treblinka concentration camp was run by the Nazis in German-occupied Poland.
NORTH ADAMS -- The summer uniform of a mass murderer will soon be on display at the New England Holocaust Institute & Museum on Eagle Street.
Darrell English, founder and operator of the museum, acquired the items at auction on June 14.
He said the uniform belonged to Kurt Franz, who served at the Treblinka concentration camp in German-occupied Poland for several years, and as its last commandant in 1943. He oversaw its dismantling and the destruction of evidence.
"This was a very nasty character," English said. "While he was there, more than 300,000 people were exterminated. He is said to have killed 139 people by his own hand."
Treblinka II, as it was known, was a camp where train loads of Jews and gypsies -- men, women and children -- were shipped, stripped of their clothing, stuffed into small brick buildings and gassed until they asphyxiated. They were then buried in mass graves. Later the bodies were exhumed, burned, and the ashes mixed with sand before they were reburied in the same holes.
Franz was known to shoot people as they were getting off the trains. He was also known to have trained his dog to attack the prisoners on command.
Survivors of the camp described him as small in stature and handsome, belying his vicious character.
English said this is the only intact uniform of a concentration camp commandant, an important artifact and a tangible link to one of the darkest periods in human history.
He said that when he has replaced the medals that once hung from the uniform jacket, it will be fitted to a mannequin and put on display, probably in a few months.
The uniform was found in Franz's home after he was captured in 1959. It wound up in a museum in Canada, which was about to discard it. Someone rescued it and put it up for auction, English said.
Franz was born in 1914. He was a fervent follower of Hitler from the early days of his campaigns. Trained as a cook, he initially was part of the Nazi operation to euthanize the mentally handicapped, and from there was assigned to serve at the extermination camps, eventually to be posted at Treblinka.
After the camp was shut down, Franz was transferred to Trieste, Italy where his unit hunted partisan fighters and Jews. He was wounded there.
When the war ended, he went back to working as a cook in Germany under his real name. In 1959 he was arrested, and in 1965, tried and found guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison, but released in 1993. He died on July 4, 1998.
"As evil as it is, it still needs to be seen," English said. "We're talking about a very warped historical figure, but you have to preserve history. He is now more than just a name in a book. I am privileged to have this item."
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