Born to an Austrian family of Slovene descent in Trieste (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Odilo Globocnik first worked as a building tradesman. From 1922 he was an active member of pre-Nazi Carinthian paramilitary organisations. He joined the NSDAP in 1931 and became a member of the SS in 1934. Between 1933 and 1935 he was arrested four times by Austrian authorities because of his activities for the illegal NSDAP and high treason. Altogether he spent 11 months in jail.
Regarded as an extremely energetic and dynamic person, Globocnik quickly climbed the NSDAP career ladder. He became one of the leading Austrian National Socialists who helped to organise the overthrow of the Austrian government and make the Anschluss of Austria to the German Reich possible. As a reward for his assistance, Adolf Hitler made Globocnik Gauleiter of Vienna on May 22, 1938.
But soon his decline commenced. One reason was that Globocnik loved using an astonishing number of dirty tricks, in particular in financial matters. Another reason was that he was an absolutely uncompromising person who was extremely successful in finding new opponents and enemies in the party ranks, mainly in the Catholic wing of the NSDAP. More important, Hermann Göring, Germany's economic dictator, endeavoured to have Globocnik removed from his high party office. On January 30, 1939, Globocnik was suspended as a Gauleiter. Hitler proclaimed Josef Bürckel as his successor.
Globocnik soon volunteered for the Waffen-SS and served as a non-commissioner officer with the SS-Standarte Germania from March until November 1939, serving with distinction in the German invasion of Poland.
The Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler had not forgotten one of his most obedient servants: surprisingly enough, on November 9, 1939, Globocnik was appointed SS and Police Leader in the Lublin district of the General Government. After a disappointing party career, Globocnik now had a second chance in the ranks of the SS and the police. The following years proved what he was capable of.
On October 13, 1941, Globocnik received a verbal order from Heinrich Himmler to start immediate construction work on Belzec, the first extermination camp in the General Government. The construction of two more extermination camps, Sobibor and Treblinka, followed in 1942. All in all Globocnik was responsible for killing more than 1.5 million Polish, Slovak, Czech, Dutch, French, Russian, German, and Austrian Jews in the death camps of Operation Reinhard which he organised and supervised. He exploited Jews as slave laborers in his own forced labor camps, and seized the properties and valuables of murdered Jews.
After Mussolini's downfall, Globocnik was transferred from the General Government to Istria in the German-occupied portion of Italy in September 1943, and was stationed in his hometown of Trieste. He was appointed Higher SS and Police Leader of the Adriatic Coastal Region.
His main task there was combatting partisans, but again, he played a leading role in the persecution of Italian Jews. With the advance of Allied troops, Globocnik retreated into Austrian Carinthia and finally went into hiding high in the mountains in an alpine hut near Weissensee, still in company of his closest staff members.
Tracked down and captured by the British on May 31, 1945, he committed suicide the same day in Paternion, by biting on his capsule of cyanide.