How were camp guards recruited ?

Discussion in 'The Holocaust' started by Owen, Oct 26, 2009.

  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    The Holocaust isn't my strongest point in the history of WW2.
    I've had a search on the forum for an answer , I'm sure we had a thread about this before but can't find it.
    So how did someone get to be an SS camp guard?
    Did they wander into a recruiting office & ask to be one?
    Were they unfit Waffen-SS rejects ?
    I just wondered did they want to be there or they just ended up being posted there?
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Some routes mentioned on Nizkor, from the tribunals:
    Trials of German Major War Criminals: Volume 21

    "Of further significance is the following: As early as 1939 Wehrbezirkskommandos were drafting men for the Waffen SS. The witness Brill has also spoken on this subject. And Wehrbezirkskommandos drafted men to guard concentration camps by drafting them into the Waffen SS.

    Further, members of the Reich labour service were taken over forcibly into the Waffen SS. The concentration camp guards were supplied by the Labour Office; through so-called emergency service obligation the Labour Office obtained the men for concentration camp guards, and there they were taken over forcibly into the Waffen SS. Some minor points are the forcible transfer of postal officials for the aid of the German Reich Post service at the front and for the SS field post."

    More on the 'Wehrbezirkskommandos':
    Lone Sentry: TM-E 30-451 Handbook on German Military Forces: Conscription System: Conscription, Replacement, and Training: The German Military System

    None of which analyses the specific selection process, but perhaps gives a start on German/Nazi/SS/Wehrmacht recruiting processes.
  3. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    The Dachau camp was a training center for SS concentration camp guards, and the camp’s organization and routine became the model for all Nazi concentration camps. The camp was divided into two sections — the camp area and the crematoria area. The camp area consisted of 32 barracks, including one for clergy imprisoned for opposing the Nazi regime and one reserved for medical experiments. The camp administration was located in the gatehouse at the main entrance. The camp area had a group of support buildings, containing the kitchen, laundry, showers, and workshops, as well as a prison block (Bunker). The courtyard between the prison and the central kitchen was used for the summary execution of prisoners. An electrified barbed-wire fence, a ditch, and a wall with seven guard towers surrounded the camp.

    From Dachau Concentration Camp

    The SS Division Totenkopf ("Death's Head" or "Skull"), also known as 3. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Totenkopf and 3. SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf, was one of the 38 divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS during World War II. Prior to achieving division status, the formation was known as Kampfgruppe Eicke. The division is famous due to its insignia and the fact that most of the initial enlisted men were SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS concentration camp guards).
    The Totenkopf division was numbered with the "Germanic" divisions of the Waffen-SS. These included also the SS-Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, SS-Panzer Division Das Reich, and SS-Panzer Division Wiking.

    From 3rd SS Division Totenkopf - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I must consult a book and see if there is more for you Owen, particularly the initial camp guards.

    I believe that as time progressed a lot of Non German Guards were used and injured soldiers unfit for returning to combat were enlisted.

    In the mean time I am sure that several other members with greater knowledge will reply.

  4. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

  5. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  6. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

  7. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    So the branch of the SS than ran the camps was theSS-Totenkopfverbände then?

    Organisation of the SS in general was highly chaotic and it's very confusing if you want to really understand how it worked.

    Pre-war SS consisted of Allgemeine SS, SS-Verfügungstruppe (incl. the Leibstandarte) and SS-Totenkopfverbände.
    The SS-VT was neither a part of the Wehrmacht nor of the police but an independend branch of the NSDAP.
    The SS-TV were an "armed troop for the use of 'special police tasks'"

    Both SS-VT and later SS-TV formed what was later called the Waffen-SS.
    It was members of the A-SS who took over guarding the camps and during war, those unfit for service like wounded SS, Wehrmacht etc.

    Sydnor, Soldiers of Destruction is a good book on the Totenkopfdivision and it's origin and background, interesting to read, too.
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    So when they joined the SS of whatever branch, they didn't know they'd be guarding concentration camps then?
    It was just part of their duty in serving the Fatherland ?
    Sorry I'm sounding a bit dim.
    Has anyone got any interviews with former guards who say how they ended up there?
    Either by choice or just as another posting in their service life.
  9. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Camp Men: SS Officers Who Ran the Nazi Concentration Camp System Schiffer Military History: French Maclean: Books book is one which is gives a lot of information,
    During the war some 5-6,000 members of the Waffen SS rotated from camps to frontline units.

    The actual number of Waffen SS men used to run even large camps were quite small , they employed / used Ukrainian and other "ethnic volunteers" to do much of the "guarding" and the "kappo" system to enforce discipline amongst the inmate population.
    Administration and the killing - the SS themselves.

    Commanders of Auschwitz: The SS Officers Who Ran the Largest Nazi Concentration Camp, 1940-1945 Schiffer History Book: Jeremy Dixon: Books

    This one I do have "Officers of Auschwitz" - the men who ran the camp - it is interesting to note that the same bastards who "graduated" from Dachau and places like it went on to "serve" within the concentration camp system - for some like Kraemer and Hoess it was their "career" - no different to them than running a business - this was what it represented to them.
    Men wounded at the front may have from time to time found themselves within the camp system for a short time and you have to wonder what they talked about or if they mentioned what they had seen when they rotated back to the front. As part of their service in the camps they were sworn to secrecy what they saw or did was not to be mentioned or imparted to others.
    I will scan some biographical information and attach it later this evening.

    Attached Files:

    Owen likes this.
  10. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Wiki has a bit on recruitment of female guards. Implies that one could request to go directly in as a matter of 'Reich-pride':

    Female guards were generally low class to middle class[1] and had no work experience; their professional background varied: one source mentions former matrons, hairdressers, street car ticket takers, opera singers, or retired teachers.[2] Volunteers were recruited by ads in German newspapers asking for women to show their love for the Reich and join the SS-Gefolge ("SS- Retinue" an SS support and service organisation for women). Additionally, some were conscripted based on data in their SS files. The League of German Girls acted as a vehicle of indoctrination for many of the women.[3] One head female overseer, Helga Hegel, referred to her female guards as "SS" women at a post-war hearing. She placed the SS in quotes because the women were not official members of the SS, but many of them belonged to the Waffen-SS. In fact, fewer than twenty women ever served as true SS members, mostly because Schutzstaffel membership was indeed closed to women. The relatively low number of female guards who belonged to the Allgemeine-SS or SS-Gefolge served in the camps. Other women, such as Therese Brandl and Irmtraut Sell, belonged to the Totenkopf ("Death's Head") units.
    At first, women were trained at Lichtenburg (1938). (Some sources say that some women were trained in 1936 at Sachsenhausen, including Ilse Koch, but no record of this has ever been found.) After 1939, women were trained at Ravensbrück camp near Berlin. When the war broke out, the Nazis built other camps in Poland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium as well as other countries they occupied. The training of the female guards was similar to that of their male counterparts: The women attended classes which ranged from four weeks to half a year, headed by the head wardresses - however, near the end of the war little, if any, training was given to fresh recruits. Sources cite former SS member Hertha Ehlert, who served at Ravensbruck, Majdanek, Lublin, Auschwitz, and Bergen Belsen, as describing her training as "physically and emotionally demanding" when questioned at the Belsen Trial. According to her, the trainees were told about the corruption of the Weimar Republic, how to punish prisoners, and how to look out for sabotage and work slowdowns. The same sources claim Dorothea Binz, head training overseer at Ravensbruck after 1942, trained her female students in the finer points of "malicious pleasure" (Schadenfreude or sadism).
    Female guards in Nazi concentration camps - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It'd be intriguing to see one of these "ads in German Newspapers".
  11. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Yeah, I read that about women guards but they were in a minority in the camps.
  12. mrjimmyboy1972

    mrjimmyboy1972 Junior Member

    there were hard core guards who were permanent staff and the rest were ss who had been wounded and were not fit for active service therefore were posted to the camps. i had read that female camp guards at stutthof cc were recruited via newspaper ads. dont know if thats true.

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