Reading Eagle (August 8, 1942)
SIX SPIES DIE IN ELECTRIC CHAIR
Seventh gets life; eighth thirty years
Electrocuted in DC jail, starting at noon, White House announces
Death ends trail of these saboteurs
Washington (UP) –
Six of the eight Nazi wreckers who came here by U-boat under German High Command orders to sabotage the American war effort were executed today – beginning at noon – in the electric chair at the District of Columbia jail.
The White House announced the executions in a statement which disclosed that two of the Nazis were spared death:
…because of their assistance to the government of the United States in the apprehension and conviction of the others.
The special military commission which tried the saboteurs found all eight guilty and recommended the death penalty for all. It transmitted to the President, however, a unanimous recommendation that the sentences of Ernst Peter Burger, and George John Dasch be commuted.
The President directed that Burger’s sentence be commuted to life imprisonment at hard labor, and Dasch’s to confinement at hard labor for 30 years.
The others were executed in an 18-year-old electric chair on the fourth floor of the forbidding and bleakly designed District jail.
- Herbert Hans Haupt, 22, and the youngest, formerly of Chicago;
- Edward John Kerling, 33, leader of the four Nazis who landed on a Florida beach the night of June 17;
- Heinrich Harm Heinck, 35;
- Richard Quirin, 34;
- Werner Thiel, 35;
- Hermann Neubauer, 32.
The Nazis, trained in a German High Command school near Berlin, came here equipped to blast and burn vital American war factories, communications, and railway lines and bridges.
Landed in June
One group of four landed at Ponte Vedra Beach, near Jacksonville, Florida, the night of June 17. The other, led by Dasch, landed neat Amagansett, Long Island, the night of June 12. Their capture was announced June 27.
The White House announcement, issued by White House Secretary Stephen T. Early, was held up until sentences had been executed.
Since 6:30 a.m., it had been apparent that the case was approaching its climax at the District jail. Brig. Gen. Albert L. Cox, provost marshal pf the Washington Military District, charged by the President with carrying out the commission’s verdict, entered the jail at that time.
Clergyman enters jail
About 10:15 a.m., a clergyman – either Catholic or Episcopalian – was admitted to the jail. He was not identified by reporters and he refused to answer any questions.
Brig. Gen. Cox, charged with carrying out the as-yet-officially-secret sentences, arrived at the early hour of 6:30 a.m. He was accompanied by his assistant, Maj. Thomas M. Rives.
Rain streaked across the jail entrance as two Army sedans and an Army scout car rolled up a little later. At least one officer was in each vehicle.
At 8:30, Cox Rives and two other Army officers met in a corridor on the first floor. They conversed briefly and Cox was overheard to say in a firm tone:
Then they entered an elevator which goes to the fourth floor, where the death chamber is located. The two officers soon drove away, but returned at 9:27 a.m.
Supt. John Green, of the District jail, arrived at 8:20, and at 9:40, he entered the elevator. A group of soldiers then came down their stairs.
Shortly before 10 a.m., Cox came down to the first floor again. He refused to say anything.
Reporters are admitted
Some reporters were permitted inside the jail and at least 25 more stood outside.
As far as could be learned, no one except the military had seen the saboteurs today. They have been held in a separate wing of the building from which civilian officials have been barred.
At 10:35 a.m., White House Secretary Stephen T. Early made this statement:
Regarding the eight prisoners in the District jail, there is as yet no news for you.
All lights on the first floor of the jail except those in the vestibule and over the telephone switchboard were turned off at 11:10 a.m. Reporters had been watching for a telltale dimming of lights which might mean that the current had been thrown through the 18-year-old electric chair.
At 11:32 a.m., Dr. A. Magruder MacDonald, District coroner, entered the jail. He would not discuss the purpose of his visit.
There has been no official indication of the fate awaiting the saboteurs or the method, time or place any sentence imposed will be carried out, but District officials were preparing the electric chair and execution chamber at the jail if that method of punishment is decreed.
Jailer had no instructions
Supt. Green said he was absolutely without any official instructions concerning execution of the saboteurs. From one authoritative quarter, it was understood the eight men would be given their breakfast as usual at 7 a.m.
But reports said authorities, on their own initiative, have already made preparations for use of the death chamber. It was said that while there are usually only five witness chairs in the execution chamber, prison attendants have set up 20 more because officials believe more witnesses would be on hand for electrocution of the saboteurs.
The verdict of the military commission reached Mr. Roosevelt last Monday. On Tuesday, he said he expected to finish his review in “two or three days.” The third day – Friday – passed, however, without announcement of sentence.
In addition to Dasch, the saboteurs are:
- Ernst Peter Burger, who has been mentioned unofficially as a possible recipient of clemency along with Dasch;
- Herbert Hans Haupt, a former Chicagoan;
- Henry Harm Heinck
- Edward John Kerling
- Hermann Neubauer
- Richard Quirin
- Werner Thiel.