Concentration Camps Inspectorate

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The Concentration Camps Inspectorate (Inspektion der Konzentrationslager) was the central SS administrative and managerial authority for the concentration camps of the Third Reich. Created by Theodor Eicke, it was originally known as the "General Inspection of the Enhanced SS-Totenkopfstandarten, after Eicke's position in the SS. It was later integrated into the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt as "Amt D".

Inspector of all concentration camps[edit]

Concentration Camp Inspector Theodor Eicke
Inspection by the Nazi party and Himmler at Dachau on 8 May 1936.

SS-Oberführer Theodor Eicke, became commandant of Dachau concentration camp on 26 June 1933. His form of organization at Dachau stood as the model for all later concentration camps. Eicke claimed the title of "Concentration Camps Inspector" for himself after May 1934. As part of the disempowerment of the SA through murder during the "Night of the Long Knives" he had personally shot Ernst Röhm on 1 July 1934.[1][2]

The factional police functions of the SS was dissolved on 20 July 1934 with the subordination of the SA. Shortly thereafter, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler officially named Eicke "Concentration Camps Inspector" and promoted him to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer in command of the SS-Wachverbände. Additionally, the Concentration Camps Inspectorate (CCI) was established as a department for Eicke. These had had a de facto existence beginning May 1934. The CCI moved into offices at the Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8 in Berlin.[note 1] The CCI was subordinate to the SD and Gestapo only in regards to who was admitted to the camps and who was released.[3] What happened inside the camps was under the command of the CCI.[3]

The head of the CCI (first Eicke) was subordinate both to the SS-Amt as an SS member and directly to the Chief of the German Police, (Reichsführer-SS) Heinrich Himmler. This form of dual subordination was characteristic of many SS posts and created free room for interpretation for their members. Eicke especially knew how to use this system for his own ends and contributed significantly to the CCI having sole control of all concentration camp prisoners.

Inspectorate from 1935 to 1945[edit]

Prisoners of Sachsenhausen, 19 December 1938

The CCI remained a small agency till the beginning of the Second World War. At the end of 1934, there were 11 employees. Eicke let his subordinates have broad discretion in routine matters. Beginning in 1934, there were several departments of the CCI, the political department (headed by Arthur Liebehenschel as of 1937), the administrative department (led by Anton Kaindl as of 1936), and a medical department, headed by a chief doctor (initially Friedrich Dermietzel, then in 1937, by Karl Genzken). Eicke's most important subordinate, beginning in 1936, was Richard Glücks, head of the military staff. On 1 April 1936, Glücks was named by Eicke military chief of staff of the Inspector of the Wachverbände and later became Eicke's deputy. By the end of 1936, the number had increased to 32 and by the end of 1938, there were 45 people working there.

In 1934, the CCI moved into Oranienburg the site of an early concentration camp which was closed and replaced in 1936 by the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The CCI then moved into a large staff building on the southern edge of the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg.[4]

At the beginning of World War II, Eicke was reassigned to the front, to be the commander of the SS-Totenkopf-Standarten and in November 1939, Glücks was promoted to Concentration Camps Inspector. Glücks made few changes, leaving the organizational structure intact as Eicke had set it up.

Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Straße in Berlin, 1933

Near the end of 1941 and beginning of 1942, it was decided that to support the Nazi war machine, concentration camp prisoners should be put to work in armaments factories. As a result, the CCI became "Amt D" of the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA) and employed 20 SS chiefs and some 80 SS men. Since the inception of the concentration camp system, Oswald Pohl, head of the WVHA, had been trying to influence the administration of them. He succeeded, in part, because while camp commandants handled the discipline of SS members under them, they were not actually their superiors. The SS camp members received their instructions from the CCI (later "Amt D"), through their SS camp department heads. This is another example of the SS practice of dual subordination.

Except for the admittance and release of concentration camp prisoners, which the SD and Gestapo handled (later as departments of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA), the CCI had sole control over the prisoners.[3] Eicke's agency made all decisions regarding internal camp matters. The CCI also coordinated the operations for systematic murder in other SS divisions, for example, the murder of Soviet commissars, Action 14f13, keeping informed about them, as well. Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek concentration camps were under the CCI, having been especially built for use as extermination camps in the "Final Solution".

SS hierarchy inside the camps[edit]

Divisions and duties[edit]

The Politische Abteilung ("political department"), which controlled the lives of prisoners at each camp, became the most important subdivision within the CCI.

Under Eicke's direction, all new concentration camps were organized along the "Dachau model". Principally, this meant the segregation of SS members from among the guards or those working in the commandant's department. Within the commandant's department, the same sections were formed, building a core command structure that was replicated at each camp.

Because of the CCI Inspector's personnel policy, which was based largely on personal relationships, there was only a small elite of concentration camp commandants during the entire Nazi era. Unlike the guards, these "experts" were generally not dispatched to the front.

Duties of the Schutzhaftlagerführer[edit]

The Schutzhaftlagerführer (head of the "preventive detention camp") and his adjutant were responsible for the operation of the camp. The Schutzhaftlagerführer had to maintain order, take care of daily routines, roll calls and so on. Under him were the Rapportführer, the Arbeitseinsatzführer and the Oberaufseherin (if there was a women's camp). They were directly responsible for order in the camp and they assigned prisoners to the outside work details. The Blockführer, each of whom were responsible for one or more barracks, were subordinate to them.

The Arbeitseinsatzführer (head of "work details") was responsible for prisoner work details, both at the camp and outside and making use of professional skills and abilities. The arbeitseinsatzführer had every prisoner in the camp listed in a card file by profession and skill.

Subordinate to him, was the Arbeitsdienstführer (an SS-Unterführer) who was responsible for assembling and superivsing the "internal command", the prisoner functionaries. The Blockführer ("block" or "barracks" leader) identified candidates from the ranks of prisoners to become the Blockälteste" ("barracks elder") and the Stubenälteste" ("room elder"). Prisoner functionaries were used by the SS as auxiliary police in a "divide-and-conquer strategy".

Duties of the political department[edit]

The Politische Abteilung was responsible for records about prisoners, their initial registration, release, transfer, police comments about the death or escape of a prisoner, investigations (which most often involved torture or threats, and keeping prisoner card files up to date. The head of the political department was always an officer from the Gestapo, generally an officer from the Kriminalpolizei ("criminal police"). He was subordinate to the local Gestapo headquarters, but often received instructions and orders from the RSHA, generally the office involved with matters related to "protective custody". For example, execution orders went directly from the RSHA office to the Politische Abteilung and the RSHA decreed individual admissions and release of protective custody prisoners.

As a Gestapo officer, the head of the political department reported to the RSHA or the local Gestapo headquarters. He was subordinate to them, as was his deputy. The other members of the department, however, as members of the Waffen-SS, were subordinate to the Gestapo regarding technical and functional matters, but otherwise belonged to the Stabskompanie (staff troops) so that in terms of discipline, they were subject to the camp commandant.

Duties of the maintenance department[edit]

The maintenance department was responsible for housing, food, clothing and remuneration of the command staff and guards, as well as for housing, feeding and clothing the prisoners. It was the chief accounting clerk in a commercial enterprise, responsible for the verification of all material goods and their current status and the management and upkeep of its real property. Internal accounts were prepared as requested by Amt D IV, first under Richard Glücks, then Gerhard Mauer. An important office of this department was the Gefangeneneigentumsverwaltung, the "prisoners' property management", which was responsible for holding all the personal property brought to the camps by the prisoners, for sorting, bundling and storing the prisoners' money, valuables, "civilian" clothing and so on. This department was held responsible for the assets; embezzlement or misappropriation was disciplined and offenders could be held criminally liable.

Duties of the chief physician[edit]

The head of the Sanitätswesen was in charge of several camp doctors, including dentists, who were subordinate to him. They had several areas of responsibility. The "troops doctor" was responsible for the medical care of the SS guards. The rest of the camp doctors divided up the remaining areas of the camp (men's camp, women's camp, etc.), according to the duty roster. The medical care of prisoners was secondary to their main tasks. Of primary importance were camp hygiene to prevent disease and maintaining prisoners' capacity to work. To this end, they availed themselves of prisoners who were doctors and nurses to serve as auxiliary staff in the infirmary. Direct contact with prisoners as patients was rare.

In addition, camp doctors had different non-medical or pseudo-medical tasks, such as selektions at arriving transports with new prisoners and in the infirmary, supervision of gassing procedures, supervision of the removal of dental gold from dead prisoners' mouths, certification of death after executions, especially murders committed by the camp Gestapo, performing abortions and sterilizations on prisoners, as well as taking part in pseudo-scientific human experiments.[5][6][7]

Personnel[edit]

Management[edit]

In a study, historian Karin Orth[8] established that the management level at the concentration camps (commandants and division heads) repeatedly were recruited from a small group of SS members who also, during the course of the war, were never ordered to the front.

Excluding the approximately 110 camp doctors, who were subject to a bit more fluctuation, this group numbered about 207 men and a few women. Orth showed numerous similarities within this group, including social background, path of life, year of birth (around 1902), the date they joined the SS and their political development. She describes it as a real network of concentration camp SS.[9]

Size of the force[edit]

In January 1945, there were 37,674 men and 3,508 women working as concentration camp guards.[10]

Rotation[edit]

Job rotation between concentration camps and the military units of the SS is estimated to have involved at least 10,000 SS men and some historians estimate the number to have been 60,000.[11] This exchange of staff refutes the claim that the Waffen-SS had no connections with the SS guards of the concentration camps.

Procedures for punishing violations[edit]

Punishment horse, Dachau concentration camp

The CCI set uniform guidelines for the punishment of violations, enabling Himmler to insist, for purposes of Nazi propaganda, that a proper procedure was in place for the punishment of violations at concentration camps. Adherence to the guidelines was rare, however. Dachau was the first systematically organized concentration camp of the National Socialists. The regimentation of concentration camp order and resulting penalties were later extended to all SS concentration camps. Since Dachau was set up as the model camp, other camps' procedure for punishing violations followed the example of Dachau.

The punishment of a violation began with the "violations report". A prisoner could be punished for violations related to camp order, such as missing a button on his jacket, for a dish that wasn't washed well enough. The SS man noted the prisoner number on the violations report. Under Egon Zill, for example, prisoner functionaries, such as the Lagerälteste, were instructed to deliver some 30–40 violations daily to the SS.[12] If a group of prisoners collectively violated a camp regulation, the entire group would have to kneel and then be beaten, for example. If they didn't call the name of any individual prisoner, then all the names would be noted on the violations report. Work crews were searched before and after work for contraband, such as a cigarette butt. The penalty for smaller things was corporal punishment or excessive exercise. A more serious violation, such as sabotage or theft could be merit a "special treatment". After a violation report, the prisoner had to wait in limbo while the report was processed before finding out what his punishment would be, sometimes resulting in weeks or months of uncertainty.

If a citation came back, the prisoner had to report for roll call and wait. The hearing took place in the Jourhaus. If the prisoner denied his guilt, he was often accused of lying, which meant additional flogging. In severe cases, prisoners were interrogated in the "bunker" until they confessed. At the end, came the verdict and the punishment, for example "tree", or "twenty-five" (see photo, above).

The camp commandant had to sign off on the sentence worked out by the interrogation officer. In cases such as corporal punishment, the Inspector in Oranienburg had to approve the punishment. An SS camp doctor had to assess the health of the prisoner, but medical objections were rare. The prisoner had to go to before the infirmary and undress. The SS doctor walked through the rows of prisoners and the infirmary clerk recorded the opinion, "fit".

A few days later, the sentence was carried out. The particular prisoners had to report for punishment and a functionary prisoner had to carry out the punishment. An SS guard unit attended the procedure.

The rules stipulated that the following people were involved in carrying out punishment:

  • the SS man or prisoner functionary who had filed the punishment report,
  • the interrogation officer,
  • the commandant,
  • an SS doctor,
  • an infirmary clerk,
  • a unit of SS guards,
  • prisoner functionaries, who had to carry out the sentence,
  • the Inspector of the CCI,
  • in some cases, Himmler himself.

Nazi propaganda[edit]

Himmler cited the protracted procedure as alleged proof that SS concentration camps were absolutely run as orderly prisons that safeguarded against abuse.

Cruelty, sadistic things, as are often stated in the foreign press, are impossible there. First, only the Inspector of the entire [SS] camp [system] can impose punishment, not even the camp commandant; second, the punishment is carried out by a company of guards so that there is always a platoon, 20–24 people are there; finally there is a doctor at the punishment, and a secretary. And so, you can not have more rigor.
—Speech by Himmler to Wehrmacht officers, 1937.[13]

Breach of their own rules[edit]

The cumbersome, bureaucratic procedure obscured the trail of accountability. The complexity of the penal procedure did not lead to a reduction of violations. The "Penalty Catalog" was unconstrained. Prisoners were often beaten without any violations procedure or they were killed by the punishment itself. Compliance with the penal procedure was not a given. For example, Lagerführer Egon Zill once ordered two men to implement the number of blows in a particular punishment. Although this doubled the number of blows given to the prisoner, the total was counted just once.[14]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ This site is today the location of Topography of Terror, a Holocaust memorial and museum.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Röhm Purge" United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, official website. Retrieved May 14, 2010
  2. ^ Dr. Zdenek Zofka: Die Entstehung des NS-Repressionssystems http://www.km.bayern.de/blz/report/01_04/1.html, Landeszentrale für Politische Bildungsarbeit in Bayern, Retrieved May 14, 2010 (German)
  3. ^ a b c Williams, Max (2001). Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volume 1, p. 51
  4. ^ Weale, Adrian (2007). The SS: A New History, pp. 106, 107.
  5. ^ Baruch C. Cohen, "The Ethics Of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments" Jewish law website. Retrieved May 27, 2010
  6. ^ "Mad Science and Criminal Medicine" With photos. Retrieved May 27, 2010
  7. ^ Spitz, Vivien (2005). Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans, foreword by Elie Wiesel, Sentient Publications. pp. 232–233. ISBN 1-59181-032-9
  8. ^ "Karin Orth at the University of Freiburg". Histsem.uni-freiburg.de. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  9. ^ Orth, Karin (2000). Die Konzentrationslager-SS, p. 151
  10. ^ Orth, Karin (2000). Die Konzentrationslager-SS, p. 54
  11. ^ Mirsoslav Karny, "Waffen-SS und Konzentrationslager" in Die nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager, edited by Ulrich Herbert and others. Vol. 2, fiTb 15516, Frankfurt (2002) pp. 791–793 ISBN 3-596-15516-9
  12. ^ Zámečník, Stanislav (2002). Das war Dachau Luxemburg, pp 125, 132–135
  13. ^ Buchenwald. Mahnung und Verpflichtung. Berlin (1960) p. 26
  14. ^ Zámečník (2002). Das war Dachau. Luxemburg, p. 128 (German)

Sources[edit]

  • Karin Orth (1999). Das System der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. Eine politische Organisationsgeschichte. Hamburg Edition, Hamburg. ISBN 3-930908-52-2 (German)
  • Karin Orth (2004). Die Konzentrationslager-SS, dtv, Munich. ISBN 3-423-34085-1 (German)
  • Johannes Tuchel, Konzentrationslager. Organisationsgeschichte und Funktion der „Inspektion der Konzentrationslager“ 1934–1938, Oldenbourg, (1991) ISBN 3-7646-1902-3 and Die Inspektion der Konzentrationslager 1938–1945. Das System des Terrors. Edition Hentrich, Berlin, (1994) ISBN 3-89468-158-6 (German)
  • Eugen Kogon, Der SS-Staat. Das System der deutschen Konzentrationslager, Alber, Munich (1946), republished by Heyne, Munich, (1995) ISBN 3-453-02978-X (German)
  • Weale, Adrian (2010). The SS: A New History. London: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-1408703045. 
  • Max Williams, Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography: Volume 1, Ulric Publishing, (2001) ISBN 0-9537577-5-7.
  • Stanislav Zámečník, Das war Dachau, Comité International de Dachau, Luxemburg, (2002) ISBN 2-87996-948-4 (German)