Maria Mandel (also spelled Mandl) (January 10, 1912 - January 24, 1948) was an Austrian SS-Helferin infamous for her key role in The Holocaust as a top-ranking official at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp where she is believed to have been directly responsible for the deaths of over 500,000 female prisoners.
After the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany she moved to Munich, and on 15 October 1938 joined the camp staff as an Aufseherin at Lichtenburg, an early Nazi concentration camp in the Province of Saxony where she worked with fifty other SS women. On May 15, 1939 she along with other guards and prisoners were sent to the newly opened Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin. She quickly impressed her superiors and, after she had joined the Nazi Party on 1 April 1941, was elevated to the rank of a SS-Oberaufseherin in April 1942. She oversaw daily roll calls, assignments for Aufseherinnen and punishments such as beatings and floggings.
On October 7, 1942, Mandel was assigned to the Auschwitz II Birkenau camp in Poland where she succeeded Johanna Langefeld as SS-Lagerführerin, a female commandant under (male) SS-Kommandant Rudolf Höß. As a woman she could never outrank a man, but her control over both female prisoners and her female subordinates was absolute. The only man Mandel reported to was the commandant. She controlled all the female Auschwitz camps and female subcamps including at Hindenburg, Lichtewerden, Budy and Raisko.
Mandel took a liking to Irma Grese, whom she promoted to head of the Hungarian women's camp at Birkenau. According to some accounts, Mandel often stood at the gate into Birkenau waiting for an inmate to turn and look at her: any who did were taken out of the lines and never heard from again. In the Auschwitz camps Mandel was known as "The Beast", and for the next two years she participated in selections for death and other documented abuses. She reportedly often chose so-called "pet" Jews for herself, keeping them from the gas chamber for a time until she tired of them, then sending them to their deaths. Mandel is also said to have enjoyed selecting children to be killed. She created the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz to accompany roll calls, executions, selections, and transports. She signed orders sending an estimated half a million women and children to their deaths in the gas chambers at Auschwitz I and II. For her services rendered she was awarded the War Merit Cross 2nd class.
In November 1944, she was assigned to the Mühldorf subcamp of Dachau concentration camp, and Elisabeth Volkenrath became head of the crumbling Auschwitz empire of camps, which were liberated in early January 1945. In May 1945, Mandel fled from Mühldorf into the mountains of southern Bavaria to her birthplace of Münzkirchen, Austria.
he United States Army arrested Mandel on August 10, 1945. Interrogations reportedly revealed her to be highly intelligent and dedicated to her work in the camps. She was handed over to the Republic of Poland in November 1946, and in November 1947 she was tried in a Kraków courtroom in the Auschwitz Trial and sentenced to death. Mandel was hanged on January 24, 1948 at the age of 36.