In the last year of the Second World War, Jenny-Wanda Barkmann was a young SS-guard in the German concentration camp Stutthof. Nicknamed ‘Beautiful Spectre’, she was infamous for her brutal treatment of the prisoners. Apprehended after the war, she was sentenced and publicly hanged in Gdansk.
Jenny-Wanda Barkmann was born in Hamburg in 1921. Little is known about her life, but it is a known fact that in 1944 she became- Aufseherin, a female-guard, in the women’s section of Stutthof concentration camp. Of all the guards in the nazi concentration camps 3.700 were women. Some of them enlisted voluntarily. The camp guards were expected to treat the prisoners ruthlessly, but even in the brutal reality of the Stutthof camp Barkmann became known for her exceptional cruelty. She did not hesitate to beat her victims to death and she did not flinch while selecting the women and children for the gas chambers. Because of the confusing combination of her attractiveness and her cruelty the prisoners nicknamed her ‘Beautiful Spectre’.
After the war she hid a few months in besieged Gdansk, hiding her wartime actions. But in May 1945 she was recognized and arrested. The first trial of Stutthof criminals, held in 1946 in Gdansk, saw her among 13 other defendants: six German female SS-guards, one SS-man and six Polish ‘kapos’, prisoners who supervised the forced labour in the camp. During her imprisonment and trials Barkmann still was concerned with her appearance – she wore a different hairstyle every day – and reportedly flirted with the prison guards. Barkmann was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging, together with ten other defendants. The public hanging took place on 4 July 1946. Former Stutthof prisoners volunteered to serve as executioners. The event gathered innumerable crowds, according to some sources around 200.000. For humanitarian reasons, the authorities soon refrained from organizing further public executions. When Barkmann was hanged, she was 25 years old.