Nowadays, the Nazis are seen as the epitome of evil. No other regime in history, save for maybe Stalin’s, are as reviled. It is easy to forget then that normal people continued to live their lives in the iron grip of Nazi power. Average Germans worked, went to school, got married, and traveled. Trains were a popular means of transportation at the time. Quick, safe, and relatively inexpensive, they were favorites especially for city dwellers.
If average Germans lived their lives, so to did the criminal element who preyed on them. Again, this is something that is often forgotten about the Nazi regime; criminals though they were, they had to deal with crime among their own people. One often forgotten case sheds light on daily life under the Nazi regime, and shows just how much their ideology warped their view of the world. Paul Ogorzow was a serial killer who preyed on women riding trains in the eastern districts of Germany. He came to be known to history as the S-Bahn Murderer.
The citizens of Berlin in 1940 were living with rationing, nightly blackouts, and the first regular Allied bombing raids. To add to their plight, the bodies of women who had suffered horrific abuse began to appear. Gerda Ditter’s body appeared in October, strangled and stabbed to death. In November, another young woman was thrown from a moving train. And on December 4, two more bodies were found, thrown from a moving train. One woman survived, the other didn’t.
On December 22, the body of Elisabeth Bungener was found with a fractured skull close to the railroad tracks. A week later, the body of another woman who suffered a fractured skull was found near the tracks. Another body was found in January 1941. After that, the killer disappeared for five weeks. Then on February 11 Johanna Voigt’s body was discovered, also with a fractured skull. The final victim, Frieda Koziol, was found five months later in July.
The hunt for a killer
While the infamous S-Bahn Murderer was on his rampage, he was being pursued by the Kriminalpolizei (aka ‘Kripo’), Berlin’s serious crime unit. But they had a tough row to hoe. Their biggest antagonist wasn’t the S-Bahn murderer, but the blackout. The killer’s victims weren’t the only bodies that appeared around the railroad tracks; in fact, in December of 1940 alone there were 28 deaths attributed to accidents on the railway. These were direct results of the blackout—people were hit by trains either when crossing tracks or when they accidentally stepped off train platforms. In addition, the blackouts had sparked a crime wave in Berlin, distracting from the investigation and adding to the body count as well.
Besides the blackout, the investigators were hampered by the Nazi regime. The government did not want word of the killings to cause fear among the general populace, and so they tamped down on reporting. This deprived the investigation of any tips from the general public.
Other hindrances to the investigation came from biases that shaped the investigator’s outlook. There was a tendency to trust people in uniform who held an official position. Paul Ogorzow worked for German Railways, and his uniform proved as a kind of shield.
A bigger bias though was the racial prejudices the Nazis became infamous for. Some believed the killer had to be a Jew, because large numbers of Jews worked on German Railways. Others thought it might be a British Agent attempting to sow fear in the capital. Given the Nazi’s tendency toward bizarre espionage, it at least seemed plausible. Another theory was that the killer was one of the thousands of foreign workers who were brought to Berlin to fill the need for labor. Given the large numbers of foreigners in the city, this seemed plausible.
That is, until a serious look at German Railway employees netted one name again and again. Paul Ogorzow was known among his coworkers for his hatred of women and his slacker tendencies—he had a habit of wandering off during his shifts. If it were not for his coworker’s suspicions, the Kripo may not have looked at him at all, because he was a married man with two children. Not to mention, he was a Nazi party member.
Ogorzow was brought in and subjected to intense questioning. He eventually cracked and confessed to eight murders and several assaults. His weapon of choice seemed to be a length of lead cable. In a bizarre attempt to save himself, he claimed that a Jewish doctor’s treatment for gonorrhea had awakened his murderous urges. The Kripo didn’t buy it, nor did the government. It seems that Ogorzow’s Nazi allegiance cloud not save him. He was executed by guillotine (some sources say by firing squad) the same month he committed his final murder.
Moorhouse, Roger, “Paul Ogorzow—The Nazi Serial Killer.” RogerMoorhouse.com. July 31, 2010. Accessed September 8, 2014. http://www.rogermoorhouse.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=69:paul-ogorzow-the-nazi-serial-killer&Itemid=30
“Paul Ogorzov.” Murderpedia.org http://murderpedia.org/male.O/o/ogorzov-paul.htm