Born in Teterow, a small town in German province Mecklenburg-Schwerin on January 3, 1921, Herta Bothe was a daughter of a local woodworker and she often helped in her father’s shop as she grew up. Later, Herta decided that woodworking isn’t her forte and sought another career. After a short stint as a factory worker, she became a hospital nurse.
At the age of 18, Herta Bothe enrolled in League of German Girls, a Nazi organization aiming at indoctrinating young girls into the Fascist ideology and Adolph Hitler cult. It was a starting point for many of the notorious SS-Aufseherin, a German name for female concentration camp guards, and Herta was no exception. She applied for the position in 1942 and was sent to a four-week course. After graduation, she was placed in Stutthof camp near Danzig, in East Prussia. She soon made the reputation of an exceptionally cruel guard and prisoners gave her the nickname “Sadist of Stutthof.” In 1944, she was transferred to Bromberg-Ost, one of the Stutthof subcamps. Bromberg-Ost was recently open, strictly female, facility, and seven aufseherinnen were sent to oversee some 300 mostly Jewish women. Among the seven were some of the cruelest female guards in the SS, including Ewa Paradies and Gerda Steinhoff, who was in charge of the prisoner selection for gas chambers. Herta Bothe was in the right company.
In 1945, Soviet troops were deep in Poland and were advancing towards Stutthof. Germans, trying to prevent them from liberating the prisoners, sent them on a death march to notorious Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. Herta Bothe accompanied the prisoners as they struggled on foot across the war-torn countryside. Not many reached their destination.
On April 15, 1945, Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the British VII Corps. Disgusted with the sight, British ordered guards and civilians from the nearby town of Celle to bury dead prisoners, which were heaped around the camp. Later, Herta Bothe recalled that they weren’t allowed to wear gloves and that she was afraid of contracting typhus, which was rampant in the camp. She also said that the bodies were so rotten that arms and legs fell off as she tried to pick them up and that she had a terrible back pain form the labor.
Herta Bothe was tried at the Belsen Trials and sentenced to 10 years in prison, as judges deemed her “ruthless overseer.” She claimed that she never beat prisoners with rods like other guards and that she never killed anyone, despite several witnesses stating to the contrary. She was released from prison in 1951 and lives in Germany under the name Lange.