Source: Nazi Conspiracy and Aggresion. Vol. II. USGPO, Washington, 1946,pp.173-237

[Note: The characters in brackets, eg, (2233-N-PS) refer to the official document numbers included in the series Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression.   A list of legal references and documents relating to the SS appears on pages 237-248.  For information on the referencing of Internet sources see Chapter 4 of S D Stein Learning, Teaching and Researching on the Internet. Addison Wesley Longman 1999-published Nov.1998]

Error Submission Form

The Schutzstaffeln (SS)

The Nuremberg Charges

Part III

Part I
Part II
Part IV
Part V

Criminal Aims and Activities of the SS (part 1)

The Purge of 20 June 1934
Functions as a Repressive Police Organisation
Functions and Activities with Respect to Concentration Camps

Criminal Activites of SS Guards and Camp Personnel

D. Criminal Aims and Activities of the SS.

(1) The Purge of 20 June 1934.

Proof of the elite Nazi quality and thorough reliability of the SS, the test by which it won its spurs, occurred on 30 June 1934, when it participated in the purge of the SA and other opponents or potential opponents of the Nazi regime. That was the first real occasion for use of this specialized organization which could operate with the blessing of the Nazi State but outside the law. In an affidavit signed and sworn to in Nurnberg on 19 November 1945, Wilhelm Frick says, referring to the victims of that purge:

"They were just killed on the spot. Many people were killed-I don't know how many-who actually did not have anything to do with the putsch. People who just weren't liked very well, as for instance, Schleicher, the former Reich Chancellor, were killed * * * The SS was used by Himmler for the execution of these orders to suppress the putsch." (2950-PS)

Himmler referred to this same event in his Posen speech:

"Just as we did not hesitate on June 20, 1934, to do the duty we were bidden, and stand comrades who had lapsed, up against the wall and shoot them, so we have never spoken about it and will never speak about it." (1919-PS)

It was in recognition of its services in this respect that the SS was elevated to the status of a component of the Party equal in rank to the SA and other similar branches. The following an-nouncement appeared on page 1 of the Voelkischer Beobachter of 26 July 1934:

"The Reich press office announces the following order of the Fuehrer. "In consideration of the greatly meritorious service of the .SS, especially in connection with the events of 30 June 1934, I elevate it to the standing of an independent organization within the NSDAP. "Munch 20 July 1934." (1857-PS)

(2) Functions as a Repressive Police Organization.

One of the first steps essential to the security of any regime is control of the police. The SS was the type of organization which the conspirators needed for this purpose. Their aim was to fuse the SS and police, and to merge them into a single, unified repressive force.

Shortly after the seizure of power the conspirators began to develop as part of the state machinery, secret political police forces. These originated in Prussia with the Gestapo, established by decree of Goering in April 1933, and were duplicated in the other German States. (This development is discussed in Section 6 on the Gestapo.) By 1934 Himmler, the Reichsfuehrer SS, had become the chief of these secret political police forces in each of the German states except Prussia, and deputy chief of the Prussian Gestapo. In that capacity he infiltrated these forces with members of the SS until a virtual identity of membership was assured.

On 17 June 1936, by Decree on the Establishment of a Chief of the German Police (2073-PS), the new post of Chief of the Ger-man Police was created in the Ministry of the Interior. Under the terms of the decree, Himmler was appointed to this post with the title of "Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police in the Ministry of the Interior." The combination of these two positions, that of leadership of the SS and head of all the police forces in the Reich, was no accident but was intended to establish a permanent relation between the two bodies and not a mere "transitory fusion of personnel." The significance of the combination of these two positions was referred to by Hitler in the preamble to his secret order of 17 August 1938:

"By means of the nomination of the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police in the Ministry of the Interior on June 17th, 1936 (Reichsgesetzblatt I, page 487), I have cre-ated the basis for the unification and reorganization of the German Police.
"With this step, the Schutzstaffeln of the NSDAP, which were under. the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police even up to now, have entered into close connection with the duties of the German Police." (647-PS)

Upon his appointment, Himmler immediately proceeded to reorganize the entire Reich Police Force, designating two separate branches: (1) the regular uniformed police force (Ordnungs-polizei, or Orpo), and (2) the Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei, or Sipo). 'The Sipo was composed of all criminal police organiza-tions in the Reich and all the secret political police forces, or Ges-tapo. This reorganization was achieved by the Decree Assigning Functions in the Office of the Chief of the German Police (1551- PS). To be head of the Sipo, that is the criminal police and Gestapo, Himmler appointed Reinhard Heydrich, who was at that time the Chief of the SD. Thus, through Himmler's dual capacity as leader of the SS and as Chief of the Police, and through Heydrich's dual capacity as head of the Sipo and as chief of the SD, a unified personal command of the SS and Security Police Forces was achieved. But further steps toward unification were later taken. In 1939, the Security Police and the SD were combined in a single depart- ment, the Reich Security Main Office, commonly referred to as the RSHA.(The details of the organization of the RSHA are discussed in Section 6 on the Gestapo.) The important point to be observed is this: The newly created Reich Security Main Office was not a mere department of the Government. It was a dual body: an agency of the government, organizationally placed in the Department of the Interior, and at the same time one of the principal departments of the SS, organizationally placed in the Supreme Command of the' SS. (Cf. the chart of the SS organization (Chart Number 3)). The following description of the RSHA appears in the Organizations Book of the NSDAP for 1943:

"The RSHA handles all the organizational, personnel, man-agement and technical affairs of the Security Police and the SD. In addition, it is the central office of the State Police and criminal police executive, as well as the central directorate of the intelligence net of the SD." (2640-PS)

The position of the RSHA in the Supreme Command of the SS is also similarly described in the SS manual, "The Soldier Friend". (2825-PS)

But it was not merely the Gestapo and the Criminal Police which came under the sway of the SS. The regular uniformed police as well were affected. For, like the RSHA, the Department of the Regular Police (Ordnungspolizei, or Orpo), was not merely a department in the Ministry of the Interior, but also simultaneously in the Supreme Command of the SS. Its position in the SS is indicated by the seventh box on the chart of the SS organization (Chart Number 3). The following description of the Department of the Regular Police appears in the Organizations Book of the NSDAP for 1943:

"The sphere of duties of the Main Office of the Ordnungspolizei includes police administration as well as the management and direction of the protective police (Schutzpolizei) of the Reich, the Gendarmes, the protective police of the community, the water protection police, the air protection police, the fire protection police, the protective groups in the occupied territories, the colonial police, the volunteer fire department, the cornpulsatory and youth fire departments, the technical aid and the technical SS and police academy." (2640-PS)

The position of this Department in the SS Supreme Command is also similarly described in the SS Manual, "The Soldier Friend". (2825-PS)

This unity of the Command was not a mere matter of the highest headquarters. It extended down to the operating level. As the chart shows, the Higher SS and Police Leader in each region, who was directly subordinate to Himmler, had under his command both the Security Police and the regular, uniformed police (Chart Number 8). These forces were subject to his orders as well as to those of the RSHA and the Department of the Regular Police respective-ly. This position of the Higher SS and Police Leader is described in the Organizations Book of the NSDAP for 1943. (2640-PS)

SS control of the police was, however, not only a matter of organization and of unified command. Unity of personnel was also in large measure achieved. Vacancies occurring in the police forces were filled by SS members; police officials retained in the force were urged to join the SS ; and schools operated by the SS were the required training centers for police as well as SS officials. These measures are described in Himmler's article, "Organization and Obligations of the SS and the Police" (1992-PS). They are also described in an authoritative book on the police and on the SS, entitled "The German Police," written by Dr. Werner Best, a Min-isterial Director in the Ministry of the Interior and a department head in the Security Police and published in 1940. It bears on its flyleaf the imprimatur of the Nazi Party and is listed in the official list of National Socialist Party bibliography. Chapter 7 from that book is reproduced in document (1852-PS). Reference is also made to the order of the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief o f the German Police of 23 June 1938, entitled "Acceptance of Members of the Security Police into the SS" (1637-PS). In that order 'pro-vision was made for admitting members of the Security Police into the SS upon certain conditions. The preamble of the order states that it was issued "with the aim of fusing members of the German Police with the 'Schutzstaffel' of the National Socialist German Workers Party into one uniformly turned out State Pro-tective Corps of the National Socialist Reich" (1637-PS). Parenthetically, it should be observed that even this aim was not suffi-cient to cause a relaxation of SS admission standards since the order provided that, to be admitted as an SS member, personnel of the Security Police were obliged to fulfill the general requirements of the SS (its racial and ideological standards).

Through this unity of organization and personnel, the SS and the police became identified in structure and in activity. The resulting situation was described by Best as follows:

"Thus the SS and the Police form a unit, both in their struc-ture and in their activity, although their individual organiza-tions have not lost their true individuality and their position in the larger units of the Party and State administration * * * *"
"In the relationship between the Police and the SS, the principle of the 'orderly' penetration of an organization of the National order has been realized for the first time to the final outcome through the supporters of the National Socialist movement". (1852-PS)

As Himmler stated in his address to the officers 'of SS-Leibstand-arte "Adolph Hitler" on the "Day of Metz":

"I want to tell you: In the entire Waffen-SS we must begin to view the other great activity of the entire SS (Gesamt-SS) and entire Police. We must see to it that you consider the activity of the man in the green uniform as just as valuable as the activity you yourself are engaged in. You have to consider the work of the SD man or the man of the Security Police as a vital part of our whole work just like the fact that you can carry arms". (1918-PS)

Through the police the SS was in a position to carry out a large part of the functions assigned to it. The working partnership between Gestapo, the criminal police, and the SD, under the direction of the Reichsfuehrer SS, resulted. in the ultimate in repressive and unrestrained police activity. (Cf. the discussion in Section 6 on the Gestapo.) It must be remembered that the Gestapo activi-ties were but one aspect of SS functions-one part of the whole criminal SS scheme.

(3) Functions and Activities with Respect to Concentration Camps.

Control over the police, however, was not enough. Potential sources of opposition could be tracked down by the SD. Suspects could be seized by the criminal police and Gestapo. But those means alone would not assure the complete suppression of all opponents and potential opponents of the regime. For this purpose concentration camps were invented, and the SS was given large responsibility in that system.

(a) Criminal activities of SS guards and camp personnel.

The first requirement of the camps was for guard and administrative personnel. Part-time volunteer members of the Allgemeine SS were originally utilized as guards. But part-time volunteers could not adequately serve the need of the extensive and long-range program that was planned. Hence, beginning in 1933 full-time professional guard units (the SS Totenkopf Verbaende) were organized. Their very name (" Death Head Units") and their distinguishing insignia, the skull and cross bones, appropriately marked the type of activity in which they engaged.

During the war, members of the Allgemeine SS resumed the function of guarding the camps which they had undertaken when the camps were created. This was provided for in the Hitler order of 17 August 1938 (647-PS) directing the substitution of Allgemeine SS members for the Death Head Units in the event of mobilization. That substitution took place. In reviewing the events of the period between 1938 and 1940, significant for the SS, the National Socialist Yearbook of 1940 congratulated the Allgemeine SS on the performance of its new mission:

"However, not only the garrisoned parts of the SS were employed. Also the General SS were brought forth for special missions. Thousands of younger and older SS comrades were employed for the strengthening of the police and for the guarding of concentration camps and have faithfully fulfilled their duty throughout the weeks." (2164-PS)

It is unnecessary to repeat the evidence of wholesale brutali-ties, tortures, and murders committed by SS guards. These were not sporadic crimes committed by irresponsible individuals. They were a part of a definite and calculated policy, which necessarily resulted from SS philosophy, and which was carried out from the initial creation of the camps.

Himmler bluntly explained to the Wehrmacht in 1937 the prevailing view of the SS as to the inmates of concentration camps:

"It would be extremely instructive for everyone, some members of the Wehrmacht were already able to do so, to inspect such a concentration camp. Once they have seen it, they are convinced of the fact that no one had been sent there unjustly ; that it is the offal of criminals and freaks. No better demonstration of the laws of inheritance and race, as set forth by Doctor Guett, exists than such a concentration camp. There you can find people with hydrocephalus, people who are cross-eyed, deformed, half-Jewish, and a number of racially inferior products. All that is assembled there. Of course, we distinguish between those inmates who are only there for a few months for the purpose of education, and those who are to stay for a very long time. On the whole, education consists of discipline, never of any kind of instruction on an ideological basis, for the prisoners have, for the most part, slave-like souls; and only very few people of real character can be found there." (1992-A-PS)

Even these "slave-like souls," however, might be redeemed by SS hygienic measures. For, as Himmler continued:

"The discipline thus means order. The order begins with these people living in clean barracks. Such a thing can really only be accomplished by us Germans, hardly another nation would be as humane as we are. .The laundry is frequently changed. The people are taught to wash themselves twice daily, and the use of a toothbrush with which most of them have been unfamiliar." (1992-A-PS)

Despite this callous jest to the Wehrmacht, all pretense was swept away in Himmler's speech to his own Gruppenfuehrers at Posen:

"I don't believe the Communists could attempt any action, for their leading elements, like most criminals, are in our concentration camps. And here I must say this-that we shall be able to see after the war what a blessing it was for Germany that, in spite of all the silly talk about humanitar-ianism, we imprisoned all this criminal substratum of the German people in concentration camps : I'll answer for that." (1919-PS).

Certainly there was no "silly humanitarianism" in the manner in which SS men performed their task. An illustration of their conduct, not in 1944 or 1945 but in 1933, is shown in four reports relating to the deaths of four different inmates of the Concentra-tion Camp Dachau between May 16 and 27, 1933. Each report is signed by Winterberger, the Public Prosecutor of the District Court in Munich, and addressed to the Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Munich. The first (641-PS) 1 June 1933, relates to the death of Dr. Alfred Strauss, a prisoner in protective custody in Dachau. That report states:

"On May 24, 1933 the 30 year old, single, attorney at law, Dr. Alfred Strauss from Munich who was in the concentration camp Dachau as a prisoner under protective custody was killed by 2 pistol shots from SS man Johann Kantschuster who escorted him on a walk outside of the fenced part of the camp prescribed to hirn by the camp doctor.
"Kantschuster gives the following report: He himself had to urinate; Strauss proceeded on his way. Suddenly Strauss broke away towards the shrub located at a distance of about 6 m from the line. When he noticed it, he fired 2 shots at the fugitive from a distance of about 8 m, whereupon Strauss collapsed dead.
"On the same day, May 24, 1933, a judicial inspection of the locality took place. The corpse of Strauss was lying at the edge of the wood. Leather slippers were on his feet. He wore a sock on one foot, while the other foot was bare, obviously because of an injury to this foot. Subsequently an autopsy was performed. Two bullets had entered the back of his head. Besides, the body showed several black and blue spots (Blutunterlaufung) and also open wounds." * * *
"I have charged Kantschuster today with murder and have made application for opening and execution of the judicial preliminary investigation as well as for a warrant of arrest against him." (641-PS)

The second (642-PS) also 1 June 1933, relates to the death of Leonhard Hausmann, another prisoner in Dachau. That letter states:

"On 17 May 1933, Leonhard Hausmann from Augsburg, 31 years old, married, relief worker, who was kept in protective custody in the Dachau concentration camp, was shot by SS Staff Sergeant Karl Ehmann. According to the account of the latter, Hausmann was to dig out young fir trees in the woods in the vicinity of the camp and pile them up on a certain spot. He was supervised by Ehmann. Suddenly the latter did not see him anymore. Therefore Ehmann looked after the prisoners and saw him running away in a stooped position, Ehmann ran after him, called 'Halt' several times, once also 'Stop, ' but in vain. Whereupon Ehmann raised his pistol at the prisoner and fired without aiming; Hausmann dropped dead. Ehmann asserts that he fired from a distance of 10 to 12 meters.
"The corpse was inspected already on 17 May 1933 with the assistance of the State court physician. It was found that death was due to a shot through the left side of the chest. According to the autopsy protocol, the shot was fired from a distance less than 1 meter. Meanwhile the legal-medical institute ascertained that the distance was less than 30 cm." (642-PS)

The third (644-PS) 22 May 1933, relates to the death of Louis Schloss, an inmate of Dachau. Attached to the letter is a copy of a report of the autopsy conducted in the Schloss case, signed by the examining physicians. The letter of 22 May 1933, begins :

"In the afternoon of 16 May 1933 the police station Dachau informed the State Prosecution that an inmate of the con-centration camp Dachau, the merchant Louis Schloss, from Nurnberg, widowed, born on 21 June 1889, has hanged him-self in solitary confinement. At the request of the state pro-secution, on the same day the legal inspection was performed with the assistance of the state court physician with the State Court Munich II. As it was proven that the corpse exhibited numerous whip marks and as the cause of death appeared doubtful, an autopsy was carried out on 17 May 1933. According to a preliminary certificate of the participating physicians, the autopsy did not prove death by hanging". (644-PS)

The preliminary opinion of the examining physician states:

"Preliminary opinion:
"I. The death through hanging could not be proven by autopsy. "II. Extensive blood suffusions and whipmarks were found, particularly on the back, on the buttocks and on both arms, as well as on both legs, abdomen and thorax to a minor extent. In the region of the buttocks and shoulders extensive destruction of adipose tissue was found together with the blood suffusions. This is adequate to explain death through autointoxication and fat embolism." (644-PS)

The fourth (645-PS) 1 June 1933, relates to the death of Sebastian Nefzger, another Dachau prisoner. The letter reads:

"On May 27, 1933, the following report was received by the Lower Court Dachau:
"Concentration Camp Dachau, Political Division,. May 27, 1933, to the Lower Court Dachau. An inquest on the dead body of the prisoner Nefzger Sebastian merchant in Munich, Schommerstrasse 17/ 0, born : l/ 10/ 1900 in Munich, religion : Catholic, marital status : married-showed that death through the action of third persons must be excluded. Death was indubitably caused by excessive bleeding resulting from an opened artery of the left hand. Signed Dr. Nuernbergk, Camp Physician.
"Neither the Lower Court Dachau nor the State Attorney Munich II had up to that time been informed of Nefzger's death reported in the letter in spite of the fact that Nefzger had already died in the night of the 25 to the 26th of May 1933. The Lower Court Dachau informed the State Attorney, Munich II of this letter. A coroner's inquest was ordered, which took place as late as May 27, 1933. Since the physician appointed by the Superior Court, doubted that death had occurred to excessive bleeding and in identified marks of strings on the victim's neck, a judicial autopsy was arranged by the State Attorney on May 29, 1933. The resulting opinion of the expert is so far: I) The autopsy discloses that excessive bleeding due to a cut on the left arm must be excluded as a cause of death: II) The cut on the left wrist reveals three incisions of the bone. Trial cuts are lacking. These findings are contrary to the assumption that 'the wound has been self-inflicted: III) It must be assumed that the cause of death was suffocation. As a cause for suffocation, strangulation and throttling must be considered. The characteristics of the marks left by the strings do not agree with those otherwise observed in cases of death caused by hanging." (645-PS)

These four murders, committed within the short space of two weeks in the Spring of 1933, each by different SS guards, are but a few examples of SS activities in the camps even as early as 1933. Many similar examples from that period and later periods could be produced.

Indeed, that sort of thing was officially encouraged. Disciplinary Regulations for the Dachau Concentration Camp were issued on 1 October 1933 by SS Fuehrer Eicke, who later became commander of all the Death Head Units (778-PS). The fourth paragraph of the introduction of those rules provides:

"Tolerance means weakness. In the light of this conception, punishment will be mercilessly handed out whenever the interests of the Fatherland warrant it. The fellow country-man who is decent but misled will never be affected by these regulations. But let it be a warning to the agitating poli-ticians and intellectual provocators-regardless of which kind-; be on guard not to be caught, for otherwise it will be your neck and you will be shut up according to your own methods." (778-PS)

So many inmates were killed "while trying to escape," to use the pat official phrase, that by 1936 the Minister of Justice was moved to appeal to Himmler to regulate the use of firearms by the Death Head Units. A memorandum 9 March 1936, prepared by Minister of Justice Guertner, reads as follows:

"On the 2d of this month, using the Hoppe case as an illustration, I discussed the question of use of arms by the guard-personnel of the concentration camp with the Reichsfuehrer SS. I suggested to Himmler that he issue an order on the use of arms for the officials subordinated to him. I referred in this respect to the example of the decree on the use of arms by. the armed forces of 17 January of this year. Himmler has promised me that such a decree will be issued and will grant us participation in the preliminary work." (781-PS)

The memorandum bears the pencil notation, "Initiative with Himmler". Subsequent events showed how Himmler carried out this initiative.

SS Nuremberg Charges Part IV
SS Nuremberg Charges Part II

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 18/01/99
ęS D Stein

Holocaust Index Page
Genocide Index Page
ESS Home Page