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Ernst Kaltenbrunner was born on October 4, 1903, in Ried im Innkreis, Austria.

His father was a lawyer


and his family members were active supporters of the Pan-German Movement. The Pan-German
movement was a nationalist movement aiming to unify all the Germanic people of Europe under one
government, or Reich. According to his testimony at the International Military Tribunal:

"I attended secondary school, high school, graduated, and in 1921 went to Graz University. First I
studied chemical-technical sciences at the Institute of Technology and later on, when my father returned
from the war seriously ill and when the possibility arose that I might have to take over his solicitor's
practice, I studied law. I completed these studies with the degree of Doctor of Law and Political Science
in 1926. I had a hard time. I had to earn my own living and the expenses for my studies. I had to work
while I studied and for two years I worked as a coal miner during the night shift; and I have to thank my
fate that thus I got to know the German workman much better than people usually do... After leaving the
University I had to complete 7 or 8 years work as a candidate for the bar examination in accordance with
the Austrian law, of which I spent one year in court as assistant and the rest of the time in lawyers'
offices in Sandburg and Linz."

Kaltenbrunner passed the Austrian bar exam in 1931. At some point around that time, perhaps earlier, he
began to give free legal assistance to the Austrian Nazi party and joined the Nazi party shortly thereafter,
making speeches in his home region of Austria in support of an Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by
Germany. By 1933 he had joined the Austrian SS. In the following year, after Austrian Nazis
assassinated Dolfuss, the Austrian prime minister, Austrian conservatives took power in the government
and banned the SS and the Nazi Party, and Kaltenbrunner was arrested and put in a detention camp.
(The defense at the IMT tried to call that it a concentration camp, probably to elicit sympathy but it does
not appear to have been so). He was pardoned shortly thereafter as part of an appeasement agreement
allowing Austrian Nazis to return to their jobs, but in 1935 was brought to trial for conspiracy to commit
high treason. However, Kaltenbrunner was acquitted and from 1935-1938 worked to organize Nazis and
expand the SS in Austria, and he worked to become close to Hitler’s primary contact in Austria, Arthur
Seyss-Inquart.

As a result, when the Anschluss did occur, Seyss-Inquart appointed Kaltenbrunner State Secretary of
Security, and Hitler himself appointed him SS-Brigadefürhrer, or lieutenant general, in charge of the SS
in the Upper Danube region, and later that year, all of Austria. One of his first assignments was to help
coordinate the construction of the Mauthausen camp, which was initially a prison camp for common
criminals, but over time, evolved to become a location where political prisoner were worked to death. At
the same time, he had authority over the police of Vienna while they were participating in forcing Jews to
scrub the streets and working to dismantle all Jewish organizations, and overall pressure Jews to leave
Austria.

Kaltenbrunner gradually expanded his intelligence network in Austria and to the east, and was given
more and more responsibility for coordinating police actions in the region – some police personnel
were placed on loan to the Eastern European Einsatzgruppen, who engaged in the mass extermination
of Jews, communists, and others prior to the mass deployment of gas chambers. His superior, Reinhard
Heydrich, was assassinated by Czech resistance members, and Heinrich Himmler chose him to head the
Reich Main Security Office in January 1943. After this, he examined methods of execution and
cremation at Mathausen and ordered an urgent acceleration in the killing of Italian Jews. As a result,
many Jews in Italy were rounded up by police and sent to camps, typically Auschwitz. Also in 1943, he
oversaw a plot to assassinate Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin at the Tehran conference, but this plot
failed after it was uncovered by a Soviet agent. He continued to rise in stature throughout 1944, being
promoted to General of the Waffen-SS. At this time he was a participant in the issuing of orders to
execute captured Allied commandos and paratroopers. In early 1945, as conditions began to deteriorate,
he gave policeman carte blanch to kill anyone necessary without judicial process. In April 1945,
Kaltenbrunner fled to an old vacation spot in southeast Austria and discarded many of his badges of
office to hide his identity. A month later, when apprehended by US infantry, he claimed to be a doctor,
but when brought back to the main town, his mistress called out his name and ran to hug him, and so
he was identified.

Kaltenbrunner’s testimony at trial was extremely disappointing because he lied about essentially
everything one could conceivably lie about. He claimed to have been for greater autonomy for Austria
accopanied by a more gentle antisemitism, and he claimed to know virtually nothing about gas
chambers in concentration camps, and claimed, when visiting concentration camps, he was shown
“Potemkin villages.” He even claimed that in October 1944 the Nazi government ended the
persecution of Jews in concentration camps, even though this does not square with his testimony that
he did not know anything of gas chambers and was not properly kept abreast of working conditions in
the camps. The court did not find him guilty of crimes against peace, but did execute him for his
exercise of activate authority leading to war crimes and crimes against humanity.