War Criminal Hermine Braunsteiner, the “Mare of Majdanek,” on Trial

U.S. v. Ryan, 360 F. Supp. 265 (E.D.N.Y. 1973)

Austrian Holocaust survivor and dedicated Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal followed Hermine Braunsteiner’s trail from Vienna to Canada to Queens. He and his associates finally found her playing housewife in a cozy house on 72nd Street.

Her name was now Hermine Ryan, but witnesses at her extradition trial remembered her as “the Mare of Majdanek,” a guard at the former Majdanek concentration camp guard who kicked Jews with steel-studded jackboots, tossed children by the hair into trucks bound for gas chambers, and savagely beat inmates for infractions as minor as not standing up straight. On May 1, 1973, Ryan became the first American to be extradited to Germany on the charge of war crimes.

On November 26, 1975, the Majdanek trial began in Düsseldorf. It would last more than five years, setting a record for the German judicial system. Ryan received a life sentence in 1981.

After losing a leg to diabetes, she won release in 1996 and died three years later. US officials, using Ryan’s case as a precedent, established a Special Investigations office to find and denaturalize war criminals.