Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 3: The role of police officer Leo Karsten

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The history of the actions of authorities and politicians towards Roma and Sinti in the post-war era has still not been adequately researched, but in many cases it is known that the people who planned, organised and carried out the genocide against the Roma und Sinti were able to continue their careers undisturbed after the war. One example is the police officer Leo Karsten.


Katrin Seybold: „Wir brauchen nicht aufzuschreiben, wer die Mörder an uns Sinte waren, wir wissen es“. In Memoriam Melanie Spitta (2.6. 1946 – 27.8. 2005). In: Dachauer Hefte, 21. Jg. (2005), p. 197-216, quotes p. 198 and 213f.

Daniel Strauß, „da muß man wahrhaft alle Humanität ausschalten ...". Zur Nachkriegsgeschichte der Sinti und Roma in Deutschland, in: "Zwischen Romantisierung und Rassismus". Sinti und Roma 600 Jahre in Deutschland, als Bausteine ausgearbeitet, hrsg von der Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart 1998, p. 30.

Sinti Camp Berlin-Marzahn“Zigeunerlager” Berlin-Marzahn, the first internment camp for Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) in the Third Reich. Germany, date uncertain, between 1936 and 1943, © Landesarchiv Berlin

"The Sinti who were deported from the Berlin gypsy ghetto at Marzahn always named the same detective superintendent: Leo Karsten – he had been the person responsible, he had walked through the camp and pointed his finger at people and said: 'You go and you stay here'."

Report of the deportation of 1940: "Resettlement of Gypsies", State Archives Wiesbaden, Dept. 483​​, 5748.

Detective Sergeant Leo Karsten

According to research by film maker and art historian Katrin Seybold, Detective Sergeant Leo Karsten was not charged after the war, his trial was halted for lack of proof of a criminal offence. It was noted during the trial in Cologne that:

"Karsten had already been prosecuted under case number 9 Js 153/58 — Frankenthal public prosecutor’s office. Furthermore no evidence of participation in criminal activities had come to light."

[…] Through the agency of Hermann Arnold, Leo Karsten soon becomes a witness in several compensation cases. The court believes his claims that he had only treated gypsies delivered to the camp as “antisocial elements and criminals". In a report of 1958 to the public prosecutor’s office, Leo Karsten boasts that his appearance before the court could in the end be dangerous for a large number of gypsies because the payment of "compensation money" could be discontinued or delayed. He is accused of manhunts by several Sinti and Roma families and states on record to the public prosecutor that:

"The word criminal hunt would really be better and more apt than manhunt and would get us much closer to the mark ... the gypsies have managed to construe criminal investigations ... as racist persecution and blame it on me. All this just because I have thus far refused, under pressure from the gutter, to pronounce in their favour or to present a so-called denazification certificate to the restitution authorities ... Furthermore, they have stated when questioned that they were delivered to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which proves conclusively that they had been arrested as criminals and antisocial elements, probably by officers of the crime prevention office."

Source: Js 429/61 Köln and Karsten’s report of 6.7. 1958, copy of Hermann Arnold’s letter to the Higher Regional Court Celle 6 U 69/68.

Leo Karsten became head of the "Traveller Police Office" of the State Police in Karlsruhe.


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