The three notorious German concentration camps at Auschwitz in Poland were liberated by the Red Army on January 27th, 1945. Some of the German staff escaped; the trial of those who didn’t began at the supreme court at Krakow in Poland in the autumn of 1947 and concluded on December 22nd.

Twenty-one defendants, including two women, were sentenced to death by hanging. They were executed in groups of five or six inside the Montelupich Prison, Krakow, on Saturday, January 24th, 1948.

The hangings began at 7.09 in the morning with four male prisoners and one woman, Maria Mandel, 36. Each prisoner was made to mount a single portable step. When they were noosed the step was removed, leaving them suspended, slowly strangling to death. The four men were hanged one at a time, followed by Maria Mandel. It was reported that it was 15 minutes before they could be declared dead.

A second group of five prisoners, all men, was hanged at 7.43, with a further five men following them at 8.16. The final group, comprising five men and the other condemned woman, Therese Rosi Brandl, 45, went to the gallows at 8.45. They were hanged one by one and were certified dead 15 minutes later.

After the executions the 21 bodies were taken to the medical school at the University of Krakow for post-mortems, and for use as specimens for the students to practise anatomy.