Born as Elisabeth Mühlau on September 5, 1919, future Mrs. Volkenrath was a daughter of a forest worker. Together with her five siblings, she lived in a small town Schönau an der Katzbach in Silesia, present-day Świerzawa in Poland. Elisabeth was never the one for school, and her lack of education left her with only a few options once she grew up. In 1941, she joined the SS and was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp as Aufseherin or female guard. She was trained in her duties by Dorothea Binz, one of the most notorious female guards in the SS. Elisabeth did her best to surpass her teacher in cruelty towards prisoners in her career, and she has succeeded for the most part.
In 1942, Elisabeth was transferred to Auschwitz Birkenau camp, a part of Auschwitz complex that consisted of several main and 45 satellite camps. The newly-built facility was originally intended for the housing of Soviet prisoners of war, who began arriving at Auschwitz after the Operation Barbarossa started in July 1941. Out of the first contingent of 10,000 Soviets that arrived in October 1941, by March 1942 only 945 were still alive. This prompted Hitler to re-designate Auschwitz Birkenau as a labor camp and extermination camp. Approximately 1.3 million people passed through the camp during its existence, mostly Jews.
In 1942, she contracted Typhus, but unfortunately for many prisoners, she managed to survive. Elisabeth met her future husband SS-Rottenführer Heinz Volkenrath in Auschwitz. He was working as an SS-Blockführer. The couple married in 1943. In November 1944 Elisabeth Volkenrath was promoted to Oberaufseherin (supervising wardress) and placed in charge of all female camps in Auschwitz.
When Soviet troops approached the camp in January 1945. Germans issued evacuation orders. Elisabeth Volkenrath accompanied prisoners on their death march to Bergen-Belsen camp. She resumed her duties as Oberaufseherin in that camp until it was liberated by the British troops in April 1945. Elisabeth Volkenrath was arrested and tried at Belsen Trial, with many other SS members and prison staff. Among others, she was accused of killing an old woman by pushing her down the stairs. Woman’s crime was approaching Volkenrath and asking her for work.
Elisabeth Volkenrath was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. She was executed by the hangman Albert Pierrepoint, the most efficient executioner in British history, on December 13, 1945. Pierrepoint was brought from Britain to execute the most notorious Nazi criminals after their trials.