Henryk Mania

27.04.2016 ( Last modified: 14.06.2016 )
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Born in 1923, Henryk Mania grew up in the small town of Szczecin, in the Northwest of Poland. Mania was arrested by the Gestapo in 1939 and imprisoned in the camp of Fort VII in Poznan, Poland. It is in this camp that he has been selected by the Nazi soldiers, along with other Polish prisoners, to take care of the burial and incineration of the bodies of the prisoners killed by the camp’s guards. Most often, these prisoners were mentally ill Poles whom the Nazi regime wanted to get rid of. This was part of this regime’s euthanasia policy. In 1941, Mania has been designated to be part of the sonderkommando, under the command of Herbert Lange, which was about to begin its activities at the Chelmno camp, in Konin district, in Poland.

The sonderkommandos were special units consisting of Jewish or Polish prisoners. These prisoners were under the orders of Nazi soldiers and forced to work for them. Their task was first to retrieve any valuable object on the prisoners’ dead bodies, such as clothing, jewelry and gold teeth. They then had to bury or burn the corpses. Herbert Lange’s sonderkommando (often called sonderkommando Lange) is known for the extermination of Jews, Polish and mentally ill prisoners from the Chelmno camp, in Poland. This camp was the first to have implemented the extermination of prisoners by gassing. They were locked in trucks specially modified for that purpose and asphyxiated by the exhaust gas.

Eight Polish prisoners worked as part of the sonderkommando Lange at Chelmno under the command of Herbert Lange from October 1941 to February 1942, and then his successor Hans Bothmann until March 1943. At this date, the activities of the Chelmno death camp were suspended. This work gave these prisoners advantages in terms of housing and food.

Mania and the rest of sonderkommando Lange were transferred to the camp of Fort VII then to the Poznan Gestapo transit camp of Zabikowo. Mania was released from a Mathausen sub camp in May 1945. He is the only one of the eight members of the sonderkommando Lange to have been indicted for his role in the extermination of prisoners at Chelmno. Lech Jaskolski, Marian Libelt, Henryk Maliczak, Franciszek Piekarski, Stanislaw Polubinski, Kajetan Skrzypczynski and Stanislaw Szymanski, the seven other members of the sonderkommando Lange are all dead before having been indicted.

Several investigations have been launched against Mania over the years that followed the end of the war. Mania and Maliczak have been interviewed on several occasions in the 1960s on their activities at the Chelmno camp. Mania has even been involved in the tracking and research of mass graves on the Chelmno site in 1995.

On 18 December 1998, the Polish Parliament created the Institute of national remembrance to investigate the crimes committed by Poles during the Second World War and to prosecute the suspects.

The Institute of national remembrance has charged Mania on 14 March 2001, for «cooperation with the Nazis in Chelmno camp where, in cooperation with others, he took part in the genocide of Jewish Poles».

legal procedure

The Institute of national remembrance has charged Mania on 14 March 2001, for «cooperation with the Nazis in Chelmno camp where, in cooperation with others, he took part in the genocide of Jewish Poles».

Although the Attorney asked for fifteen years prison sentence, on 6 July 2001, the Konin district Court sentenced Mania to eight years in prison. The judge took into account the young age of Mania at the time of the crime (he was sixteen years old) and his irreproachable attitude since his liberation from the camps. During his trial, Mania argued that he was only a prisoner in Chelmno and that he had been forced under threat of death to perform the tasks for which he was charged. Judge Marian Pogorzelski considered that Mania had the opportunity to escape from the camp of Chelmno.

Mania’s lawyer, Jaroslaw Ladrowski, appealed the judgment. Before the Court of appeal of Poznan, he argued that Mania had no way to escape the Nazi soldiers. The Poznan Court of appeal confirmed the sentence on 2 February 2002, noting that Mania had shown «some degree of keenness that was quite advanced and expressed itself in beating victims and taking their belongings».

The case went up to the Polish Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment on 8 April 2003. The judge found that Mania’s role in the events in Chelmno was proven.

Mania has apparently been released for humanitarian reasons, linked to his health.


After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.


The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.

After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute [2]).


According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.

Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:

– Crimes against peace;

– War crimes and

– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).

The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure

The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.