Friedrich Engel as a young man in a black and white photo. His hair is parted on the right and he is looking directly into the camera. A punch-out is visible at the bottom right of the picture, like in old passport photos.
© BArch, R 9361-III/39025

Friedrich Wilhelm Konrad Siegfried Engel

* " 3 January 1909" – Warnau an der Havel (Sachsen-Anhalt)
† " 4 February 2006" – Hamburg

Starting in 1944, Siegfried Engel played a leading role in the massacres committed by German forces in Upper Italy and in the deportation of Italian Jews. He was active in Genoa as head of the Außenkommando (‘external headquarters’) of the Security Police and Security Service (the SD). 

In Germany, Engel would only be convicted of a crime in 2002: this was for his role in the massacre at the Turchino Pass. He was not brought to justice in either Italy or Germany for his other crimes. His ascent in the institutions of the Nazi state, as well as his sluggish prosecution after the war, are exemplary for the life-course of prominent Nazi perpetrators. 

Engel had an academic background. He was already a member of the Nazi Party and SA in the early 1930s and joined the SD in 1934. From the following year onward, he was integrated into the RSHA (the Reich Security Main Office), responsible for training cadres of the Security Police and SD. 

After the war Engel was arrested but escaped in 1946, then lived under a false name until 1954. Although he was interrogated in the 1980s and even accused of crimes, he was only convicted in the 1990s in Italy and in 2002 in Germany. He was never incarcerated. In the postwar years he preferred the first name Friedrich.

Joined the NSDAP
Membership no. 1.305.576 (1 Oct. 1932)
Armed force
Außenkommando of Security Police and SD Genoa
Years of service
1936 – 1945
Norway 1940
Occupation of Italy 1944-45
Confirmed Massacres

Benedicta (Alessandria)

Turchino Pass (Genoa)

Portofino (Genoa)

Cravasco (Genoa)

Post war period

Lived in Hamburg and worked as an agent in an import firm.

1960s-1980s: interrogated as a witness in various investigations of Nazi crimes.

1969: Proceeding on account of war crimes in Italy; terminated.

1999: sentenced in absentia in Turin to life imprisonment.

2002: Trial in Hamburg. Sentenced to seven years in prison; overturned on appeal.

Training and war experience

As a National Socialist intellectual, Engel was responsible for indoctrination within the RSHA. He had great influence on the training of the Security Police and SD men who would constitute the Einsatz (mobile killing) squads in the East. His vision of early modern and modern German history was based on the idea of a long struggle of a threatened ‘northern race of rulers’ for liberation from Romanic rule and Catholic universalism.

‘Today, 1942, we have entered the last stage of this third Thirty Years’ War. The new peace that will victoriously end the third Thirty Years’ War and with it three centuries of struggle for German unity at the same time also brings with it the final overcoming of the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648. And this time – we all know this – there will be no half decisions.’

Friedrich Engel

Engel’s men participated in numerous executions by shooting of partisans and anti-fascists at various locations in occupied Liguria. The following massacres are the most well-known: the massacre at the Turchino Pass, in the Benedicta Chapel, on Monte Tobbio, in Portofino, and in Cravasco.

Participation in massacres of civilians

A large, detached building on a wide street can be seen in the black and white photo. Including the ground floor, it has seven storeys. The main entrance is in the centre, slightly elevated on the first floor, and is reached by stairs to the left and right. The seventh floor is a superstructure surrounded by a terrace. On the left, at the level of the ground and first floors, there is a semicircular extension. The roof is flat.
Headquarters of the Security Police and the SD in Genoa.

The postwar period

The German public only became aware of Engel and his conviction in an Italian court on 12 April 2001 through the nationally broadcast political TV-journal Kontraste. For this edition, journalists René Althammer and Udo Gümpel had reconstructed the massacre at the Turchino Pass.
  • The colour photo shows a section of the filming for the documentary of the German television programme Kontraste. In the middle, Friedrich Engel, now with white hair, is sitting on a chair and studying some files he is holding in his hand. Other documents lie on his lap. At the bottom left of the picture, the screen of the camera filming Engel can be seen.
    On 12 April 2001, the investigative programme Kontraste is broadcast in prime time on German television. In it, journalists René Althammer and Udo Gümpel reconstruct the massacre at Turchino-Pass and show how Friedrich Engel lives undisturbed in Hamburg despite his life sentence in Italy. © rbb Red. Kontraste
  • The colour photo is a shot taken during the filming for the German TV programme Kontraste. It shows Friedrich Engel in portrait. His hair is white and he is wearing a jumper and a scarf.
    © rbb Red. Kontraste
  • A shot from the film material for the magazine Kontraste. The colour photo shows a section of a questionnaire from Engel's SD personnel file.
    © rbb Red. Kontraste
The colour photo is a shot taken during filming for the magazine Kontraste. It shows Engel in portrait, speaking into the camera.
© rbb Red. Kontraste

It would have been good, if I had had more civil courage.

Friedrich Engel :
Der Spiegel, 28 June 2004


The SS personnel files are kept in the German Federal Archives, Berlin, R 9361-II/210036, R 9361-III/39025, and R 9361-III/523093. On Engel’s life after the war, see the verdict reached at the Hamburg trial and the BGH appeal. Some biographical information is available on the Internet.


Christian Ingrao, Hitlers Elite. Die Wegbereiter des nationalsozialistischen Massenmords, Berlin, Ullstein, 2012 (licensed edition for the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Bonn 2012). pp. 48, 63, 65, 71, 85f., 112, 152, 206, 239f., 330. 

Ingo von Münch: Geschichte vor Gericht. Der Fall Engel, Hamburg, Ellert und Richter, 2004.

Pier Paolo Rivello, Il processo Engel, Recco, Le Mani, 2005.

Pier Paolo Rivello: Quale giustizia per le vittime dei crimini nazisti? L’eccidio della Benedicta e la strage del Turchino tra Storia e Diritto, Turin, Giappichelli editore, 2002. 

Michael Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten. Das Führungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes, Hamburg, Hamburger Edition, 2002, pp. 87, 509, 742-744, 838

Authorship and translation

Author: Carlo Gentile

Translated from German by: Joel Golb

© Project ‘The Massacres in Occupied Italy (1943-1945): Integrating the Perpetrators’ Memories’


Text: CC BY NC SA 4.0