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Born in Vienna Austria to a well-off family. She finished school and dreamed of becoming a nurse, but to no avail. Hermine then tried to become a servant along with her sister in Holland, but this too turned up dry. In the early 1940's Hermine was picked from her job at a Heinkel aircraft plant in Berlin and sent to be trained at Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin. There she was well known for stomping old women to death. In October 1942, the blue-eyed blonde was transferred to Majdanek death and concentration camp outside Lublin, Poland. There she was promoted to assistant wardress under Oberaufseherin Elsa Erich along with five other women. Her abuse and sadism took many forms in the camp. She involved herself in "selections" of women and children to be sent to the gas chambers and beat to death several women with her whip. She even stomped many women to death, which gained her the nickname, "The Stomping Mare."
She was regarded as one of the worst Aufseherin in Majdanek next to Hildegard Lachert and Elisabeth Knoblich . In March 1944, after two years of service at Majdanek, Hermine was reordered back to Ravensbrück and Majdanek began evacuations. In Ravensbrück Hermine was promoted to head of a work detail and in late 1944 Hermine was promoted to supervising wardress at the Genthin subcamp of Ravensbrück located outside Berlin. Witnesses say that there Hermine abused many of the prisoners with a special whip she carried. In May 1945, Braunsteiner fled the camp on the heels of the Soviet Red Army. She then returned to Vienna, but soon left, complaining that there was not enough food there. On 6 May 1946, Braunsteiner was arrested by an Austrian court and imprisoned until 18 April 1947. She was again arrested on 7 of April 1948 for assassination, infanticide and manslaughter at Ravensbrück but once again released on 22 November 1949. None of these charges ever mentioned crimes in Majdanek.
Following her release from prison the Austrian government promised not to charge her with any additional crimes and granted her amnesty. During the following years she worked at hotels and restaurant. She met an American soldier called Russell Ryan who became her fiancé. In 1959 Hermine Braunsteiner married Ryan, now a business man in Queens, New York. This granted her US citizenship on 19 January 1963. Within five years time, she had been discovered. One account of her discovery holds that the famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal discovered her real identity and reported this to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. However, in his memoirs, former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld writes that, when he was a young reporter at the Times, Wiesenthal alerted the paper to the possibility that Braunsteiner had married a man named Russell Ryan and was living in Maspeth , a neigborhood of the borough of Queens in New York City. By tracking down women named "Mrs. Ryan," Lelyveld eventually arrived at Braunsteiner's house. He writes that she greeted him at her front doorstep and said, "my God, I knew this would happen. You've come."
In 1971 the Department of Justice began to strip Hermine Ryan of her citizenship because she was an alien of "questionable quality." During the next year Hermine as well as her husband sat in a US court in Queens hearing survivors' testimonies against the former SS guard. Finally on 14 March 1973, Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan became the first Nazi criminal ever to be extradited by the U.S. She stood trial in West Germany with 15 other former SS men and women from Majdanek. One of the witnesses against Hermine testified that she "seized children by their hair and threw them on trucks heading to the gas chambers." Others told of her beating women to death with a whip. One witness told of Hermine and the steel-studded jackboots with which she dealt blows to inmates. On 30 May 1980 the 61 year old former SS woman was given a life sentence for her overall sadistic acts at the Majdanek camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan died in April 1999 after being released from prison in 1996 after coming down with diabetes.
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