Himmler sets up Dachau

On 20 March 1933, SS leader Heinrich Himmler, recently appointed police president of Munich (in Bavaria), announced the creation of the first SS concentration camp, in nearby Dachau. As the following document shows, Himmler envisaged Dachau as a large camp for left-wing prisoners. A first small group of inmates arrived on 22 March at the rundown grounds, which had been turned into a makeshift camp. As Himmler’s power grew, so did Dachau: prisoner numbers rose from 151 (31 March 1933) to over 2,000 (30 June 1933). Dachau would be the only concentration camp to operate from the beginning of the Nazi dictatorship in 1933 to the end in 1945.

003 – A Munich newspaper reports on the opening of Dachau, March 1933

At a press conference the Acting Police President of Munich Himmler announced:

German newspaper report on the opening of Dachau (March 1933)

On Wednesday the first concentration camp will be opened near Dachau. It has a capacity of 5,000 persons. Here all the Communist and – as far as necessary – Reichsbanner [pro-democratic paramilitaries] and Marxist functionaries who threaten the security of the state will be concentrated as it is not possible in the long run, if the state apparatus is not to be greatly overstressed, to leave the individual Communist functionaries in local court prisons. On the other hand, it is no longer acceptable to set these functionaries free again. Individual experiments made by us have shown that they continue to agitate and attempt to organize. We have taken this measure without regard to petty misgivings, in the conviction that we are thereby calming the national population and acting in its spirit.

Source: 'Ein Konzentrationslager für politische Gegner': In der Nähe von Dachau, Münchner Neueste Nachrichten, 21 March 1933 (emphasis in the original)

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes