Adam Grünewald was a rather insignificant person within the SS, who managed, despite his limited abilities, to get promoted to SS-Sturmbahnführer and commander of the Vught concentration camp in the Netherlands. There he was the one to blame for the Bunker tragedy, which happened during the night of the 15th to 16th of January 1944. Ten female prisoners died that night of suffocation, after they had been detained with 64 other fellow prisoners in a cell that was too small and had a poor ventilation system. This terrible incident led to his resignation as camp commander.
Though Eicke stated that Grünewald was unsuitable for his job, he was appointed again as the leader of a company, this time in the SS-Totenkopfverbände "Thuringia", an armed unit that was used, among other things, for monitoring Buchenwald. Here too, he attracted attention through his incompetence: he was considered unsuitable to serve as an officer on the front, and to manage a post in a concentration camp "he lacked the hardness necessary for dealing with state enemies." That's why he was registered for a training to become a SS-Sturmbannführer in the Allgemeine-SS, the non-military branch of the SS. Especially in the intellectual field, Grünewald did not excel during the training he followed in Dachau from February 26, 1938. In his evaluation report from the 8th of April they noted that he indeed was trustworthy and had a good will and a friendly attitude, however because of his "strongly limited mental ability [...] a longer education and training at an officer's school will hardly have the desired result". He was found capable of training small units, but he was not eligible for promotion to SS-Sturmbannführer.
Then for a short time he was working for the Allgemeine-SS in Austria, until in 1938 he was transferred to Dachau concentration camp, where Richard Glücks, successor to Eicke, promoted him to the second Schutzhaftlagerführer. Again they had to admit, this job was not suitable for him. His immediate superior in Dachau found that Grünewald showed "little interest" for his work. "Grünewald won't become a self-reliant Schutzhaftlagerführer, because he does not care about anything and does not show a sense of responsibility." Because no other position could be found for him, he continued working at this post for a while.
The war brought new perspectives with it for Grünewald's career. In November 1939 the young SS member (who in his young years was educated as a baker) was assigned to a post of bakers company leader of the SS-Totenkopf-Division. On this position he participated in a campaign in the West and then arrived at the Eastern Front. Finally he was praised: on the 26th of July 1940 he was awarded with the Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz) second class, and on the 2nd of August 1941 his commander ordered to get him promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer: "Because of the excellent leadership of the company [by Grünewald] this unit always and in every situation fulfilled the orders given to it in a professional manner. Besides, H’Stuf Gr. succeeded in bringing the military company to a very respectable level in a world-view and sporting way."
The order was approved, and on the 1st of September it came into force. Though it seemed he finally found his place, Grünewald was transferred to Amtsgruppe D of the SS-WVHA starting the 20th of November 1942, to be responsible for the management of the concentration camp system. After first working as Schutzhaftlagerführer in Sachsenhausen he was appointed as a commander of the concentration camp Herzogenbusch in 1943, better known as camp Vught. He replaced the previous camp commander, SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Walter Chmielewski, who got fired in October 1943 as guilty of embezzlement.
It wouldn't take long before Grünewald too would get fired and had to answer for the court because of a serious incident, the so-called Bunker tragedy, that happened in the night of 15th to 16th of January 1944 in his camp. He ordered to detain 74 female prisoners in cell 115, because they had protested against the detention of the fellow prisoner. The area of the 9 m² had a poor ventilation, and ten women suffocated during the interment. The news of the tragedy quickly got outside the camp and would be described in details by the Dutch illegal press. This was a thorn in the flesh of Nazi leadership in the Netherlands, as such incidents could fuel the resistance there. Measures were taken to prevent further negative publicity. The camp commander and his assistant SS-Obersturmführer Hermann Wicklein were summoned for the SS court martial.
The lawsuit was handled by the X SS- and Police Court in The Hague, but took place in Velp, in the province of Gelderland, where the court moved to in February 1944. The sentence was mild, because the court was convinced that Grünewald "didn't wish for the death of ten women". They pointed out the years of Grünewald's service in the Reichswehr and his military commitment to the SS where he would "stick up for his mates". The court had "the full conviction" that Grünewald's "deed did not come in the slightest out of dishonorable motives." Admittedly he was given fault for the death by guilt, but he got off with three and a half years imprisonment. Wicklein got off with six months.
Both men didn't spend long in the prison, because in March already they were freed as ordered by Heinrich Himmler. Grünewald was allowed to spend eight days in March with his family and after that he followed a short training in Wrocław. With the lowest SS-rank, he then served in the 3rd SS-Panzer-Division "Totenkopf" starting June. In October 1944 he got the rank of SS-Obersturmführer, two ranks lower than he had as camp commander. We assume that he fell on the 22nd of January 1945 at the front in Hungary.