SS members at Flossenbürg concentration camp, September 1938

The ad­min­is­tra­tion and sur­veil­lance of con­cen­tra­tion camps was one of the cen­tral duties of the SS (Schutz­staf­fel). SS mem­bers em­ployed in the camps were all mem­bers of the Death’s Head Di­vi­sions (Toten­kopf­ver­bände). The SS con­ceived of it­self as an ideo­log­i­cal order and racial elite.

Hein­rich Himm­ler, Reichs­führ­er SS, de­ve­loped the SS into a com­plex or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­volved in mat­ters rang­ing from settle­ment pol­i­cies to “com­bat­ing en­e­mies” and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly kill­ing mem­bers of so-called “in­fe­ri­or races.” In ad­di­tion, the SS ran its own busi­ness en­ter­prises.

In the con­cen­tra­tion camps, the Death’s Head Di­vi­sions were or­ga­nized into the com­mand staff and the guard units. Each camp was headed by a Kom­man­dant. Along with his sub­or­di­nate de­part­ments, the Kom­man­dant de­ter­mined the pris­on­ers’ fates.


The SS staff were re­spon­si­ble for guard­ing the pris­on­ers.

Ap­prox­i­mate­ly nine­ty SS mem­bers worked in the com­mand staff at Floss­en­bürg. By spring 1940, the guard units had grown to a force of near­ly 300. By 1945, with the con­struc­tion of sub­camps, the guard units ex­pand­ed to ap­prox­i­mate­ly 2,500 men and 500 wom­en. Af­ter the start of the war, many younger SS men were sent to the front. The SS lead­er­ship then en­gaged older men, air force sol­diers, wom­en, and for­eign na­tion­als for duty in the camps.

Af­ter the war, the ma­jo­ri­ty of SS mem­bers re­ceived only light pun­ish­ment for the crimes they com­mit­ted at Floss­en­bürg.


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