MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

The command hierarchy

Below the commandant in the command hierarchy came the camp director (SS-Schutzhaftlagerführer), who, in turn, was in charge of the non-commissioned report officers (Rapportführer) and the SS men responsible for supervising each prisoner block (Blockführer) and prisoner labor detail (Kommandoführer).

The expansion of the Auschwitz complex led to the creation of the posts of directors of the sectors that made up the Birkenau camp, director of the Monowitz camp, and directors of the sub-camps that made up Auschwitz III Concentration Camp. Some of these figures became notorious, such as main camp (Auschwitz I Concentration Camp) directors SS-Haupsturmführer Karl Fritzsch and SS-Haupsturmführer Hans Aumeier, or the main camp Rapportführers, SS-Hauptscharführer Gerhard Palitzsch and SS-Oberscharführer Oswald Kaduk.

SS attitudes towards the prisoners

On October 1, 1933, Theodor Eicke, commandant at the time of Dachau Concentration Camp and inspector from 1934 of the concentration camps and SS guard divisions, defined the relationship between the camp garrison and the prisoners in instructions that he issued to the SS guard units. Eicke stressed the necessity of treating the prisoners harshly, as enemies of the Third Reich and the German people. Showing any kind of human impulses towards them was not only frowned upon by superiors, but also sneered at among the SS men themselves as being “soft” and showing a “lack of character.” Many years of indoctrination in the spirit of National Socialism, along with the cultivation of the German militaristic tradition, purged the SS guards of humanitarianism and respect for human dignity, and trained them to ignore moral and legal norms.