De beul van Amersfoort. Biografie van Josef Kotalla (1908 - 1979)

Hoving, R., 2019, Amsterdam: Prometheus. 391 p.

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As a deputy camp commander in the German concentration camp outside the Dutch city of Amersfoort SS-mann Josef Kotalla was extremely cruel and led several firing squads. After a brief trial, a special court for war criminals sentenced Kotalla to death for extensive maltreatment and murder of camp prisoners in 1948. Three years later, the death sentence was changed to life imprisonment due to diminished responsibility. He eventually died in prison in 1979.
More than thirty years after his death, Kotalla is still known in the Dutch collective memory as the embodiment of evil. As clear and definite his image is, as little research has been done on his life and actions during the war. This biography fills the gap. It examines situational and dispositional factors in Kotalla’s life and tries to explain his behaviour during the war.
His post-war trial was neither fair nor balanced. Several former prisoners took revenge and made false testimonials in court. Kotalla’s trial ended with capital punishment for the executions he took part in and for beating prisoners to death. As this biography shows, this latter accusation was not true.
His years in prison were dominated by the constant hope of being released. When his health was deteriorating and his death was unavoidable there was still no willingness in the Netherlands to end Kotalla’s captivity. Kotalla – the executioner from Amersfoort – died on 31st July 1979 in prison. He was the only German war criminal in the Netherlands to die in captivity.
Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Renders, Johannes, Supervisor
  • Piersma, H., Co-supervisor, External person
  • Bosscher, Doeko, Assessment committee
  • Ribbens, K., Assessment committee, External person
  • Tames, I., Assessment committee, External person
Award date24-Sep-2019
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Print ISBNs978 90 446 3723 6
Electronic ISBNs978 90 446 3724 3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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