Heinrich Bergmann

Heinrich Bergmann
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  • Last edited 23 June 2023

Heinrich Bergmann, born on 21 November 1902 in Kassel, Germany, played a key role in the destruction of the Estonian Roma in his capacity as Head of the German Criminal Police in Estonia in January 1942 – February 1944.

Bergmann began his long career in the police in 1923. In 1934–35 he worked in the Security Police (Sipo) in Hanau, and in 1935–39 in the criminal police in Kassel. He became a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in 1937, and joined the ranks of the Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1939. At the end of November 1941, Bergmann joined the office of the German Sipo in Estonia under Dr Martin Sandberger (1911–2010) as Head of the German Criminal Police. During the few months in the summer and autumn of 1942, he consecutively took charge of the German Sipo outposts in the part of Russia bordering Estonia: Pskov, Luga, and Krasnoe Selo. Upon his return to Estonia, Bergmann served as Head of Department A-IV (‘political offenders’) of the German Sipo in the autumn of 1942. He then went back to leading the criminal police division.

Besides his immediate responsibilities, Bergmann was in charge of training the personnel of the Estonian Security Police, introducing the Estonian policemen to the Nazi German concept of ‘preventive custody’. Bergmann said the criminal police was increasingly embracing racial and hereditary research in its practices [‘mehr und mehr in den Dienst der Rasse- und Erbforschung gestellt’]. Racial biology determined the innate traits in habitual criminals, he argued. For that reason, he urged Estonian members of the police to fight ‘asocial and criminal enemies of the people as well as political enemies of the state’ [‘neben den politischen Staatsfeinden auch die asozialen und kriminellen Volksfeinde zu bekämpfen’]. The 1937 German Decree on the Preventive Fight against Crime by the police—promptly translated into Estonian—explicitly mentioned Roma among ‘asocial elements’.

On 27 May 1942, Bergmann proposed treating ‘itinerant‘ Roma like the Jews while keeping ‘sedentary‘ Roma under police surveillance. Individuals prone to ‘asocial behaviour‘ aggravated by previous convictions could be killed. On 27 October 1942, the Estonian Security Police sent Bergmann a report on the execution of 243 Roma at Harku. The case of Willem Indus (unknown–1943) from Narva illustrates Bergmann’s direct involvement in the process of mass murder of Roma. On 7 December 1942, he retroactively signed Indus’s death sentence, which had been executed earlier by the Estonian Security Police. The verdict read: ‘Gypsy’.

During his brief service as Head of the Department A-IV of the German Security Police in the autumn of 1942, Bergmann took part in the mass murder of Jews. He signed death sentences for the last surviving Estonian Jews such as Reet Türno (born Rose Tisch) (unknown–unknown), processed the eight Finnish Jews slated for onward deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp, and played a major role in the mass killing of 1,754 Jews deported to Estonia from Theresienstadt, Frankfurt am Main, and Berlin. There is also evidence of Bergmann physically abusing the few surviving German and Czech Jews subsequently incarcerated in Tallinn Central Prison.

Between March and September 1944, Bergmann once again headed Department A-IV of the German Security Police in Estonia. In September 1944, Bergmann left Tallinn for Berlin where he joined Department VI of the Reich Security Main Office, as his immediate superior, Sandberger, had done a year earlier. At the end of the war, along with several other Reich Security Main Office officials, Bergman found himself in Innsbruck, Austria. As of August 1945, he lived in Germany.

From 1955 and until his retirement in 1962, Bergmann served as an official in the Federal Criminal Police Office [Bundeskriminalamt] in Wiesbaden. Within a year, he assumed the position of a criminal commissar. Bergmann’s name came up in the proceedings of the 1961 Soviet war crimes trial dealing with the mass murder of the German and Czechoslovakian Jews at Kalevi-Liiva in the autumn of 1942. In late 1967 the Criminal Court in Kassel ordered Bergman’s arrest pending a criminal investigation. He only spent four months in custody, however. The defendant was subsequently found unable to stand trial on account of poor health, and in 1970 the case against him was dropped. He died on 14 May 1980 in Kassel.


Anton Weiss-Wendt: Heinrich Bergmann, in: Enzyklopädie des NS-Völkermordes an den Sinti und Roma in Europa. Hg. von Karola Fings, Forschungsstelle Antiziganismus an der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg 20. Februar 2023. -

14. Dezember 1937In Deutschland ergeht der „Erlass zur vorbeugenden Verbrechensbekämpfung”. Auf dieser Grundlage kann die Kriminalpolizei jederzeit Sinti:ze und Rom:nja in Konzentrationslager verschleppen.
27. Mai 1942Konferenz in Tallinn (deutsch besetztes Estland) zum Thema der Zusammenarbeit zwischen der deutschen und der estnischen Polizei. Heinrich Bergmann, Kommandeur der deutschen Kriminalpolizei in Estland, spricht über die „Lösung der Zigeunerfrage”.
27. Oktober 1942Ermordung von 243 Rom:nja in Harku (deutsch besetztes Estland), unter ihnen Karl Siimann, Leontine Siimann und Richard Siimann.
17. Februar 1943Massenerschießung von 337 Rom:nja, die zuvor im Zentralgefängnis von Tallinn (deutsch besetztes Estland) inhaftiert waren, durch die deutsche Sicherheitspolizei, wahrscheinlich in Kalevi-Liiva. Willem Indus aus Narva ist unter den Opfern, ebenso der fünfzehnjährige Pavel Koslovski aus der Gemeinde Petseri und sein Vater, Nikolai Koslovski.