- What was the Holocaust?
- Memories of pre-war life
- The Nazi rise to power
- The Nazification of Germany
- The Nazi impact on Europe
- The Nazi camp system
- The Final Solution
- How did the world respond?
- Survival and legacy
Role of the SS
The first makeshift concentration camps were established and managed by local SA, SS and police units. However, in the spring of 1934, the SS became the only authority able to set up concentration camps.
Theodor Eicke, an SS Lieutenant General, had been the commandant of Dachau since June 1933. He had established a structure for how to run a camp. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, was impressed with Eicke, so chose him as ‘Inspector of concentration camps’. The systems and buildings Eicke had developed at Dachau soon became the basic model by which all concentration camps would be established and managed.
The SS administered life inside the camp, and guarded the perimeter fence and an exclusion zone around the camp. An electrified barbed wire fence, ditches and a wall with guard towers (manned by SS guards) surrounded the camp.
Camps were divided into sections, each separated by rows of barbed wire fences. Prisoners were housed in wooden or brick-built barracks, which were intended for between 250 to 400 prisoners, but often housed 700 to 1200 prisoners in each.
Each barrack or block would have its own a male or female guard or block commander, usually a German or Ukrainian. The block commanders were extremely ruthless and cruel.