Radical SS guards

One of the most brutal guards in the early days of Dachau was Hans Steinbrenner. Born in 1905, he had long been a far-right radical. After his transfer to the Dachau camp in March 1933, he became notorious for his extreme violence. Prosecuted after the Second World War, Steinbrenner testified about his path to the SS and to Dachau. He was sentenced to life for murder and other crimes, but released early in 1962; he committed suicide two years later.

004 – Former guard Hans Steinbrenner on joining the SS and on the early days in Dachau

In 1929 my father died and my mother took over the business. I helped as much as I could. In 1932 she had to file for bankruptcy and I tried to keep the business running under my name. I was pleased to be able to sell anything, so I sold knuckledusters, rubber truncheons, coshes, steel rods and also pistols and ammunition with or without an official authorization, but only to members of patriotic organizations and from time to time to the police. I came into contact more and more with the SA and SS and sold what I could. The police were soon onto me […].

As a result I was fined. How was I supposed to keep the business going? I was married now. Then the SS came along and asked me to take on teaching the SS to shoot at the shooting range. Big promises about the future. That was end of [19]32, beginning of [19]33. I did it and I enjoyed the work and the people, and the future prospects kept me interested. I handed the business over to my brother and on 16 February 1933 I joined the SS and the Nazi Party, the Party only because that was part of the deal, a formality, but I was enthusiastic about joining the SS. They were soldiers, after all, and were supposed to become part of the military. That’s how it seemed to me then. Way back I had wanted to be a soldier too and of course weapons were my speciality. […]

The more of them that die, the better

When Dachau concentration camp was first opened in March 1933 the administration and guards for the camp came from the regular Munich police. SS men were only gradually involved at Dachau and in fact the first time was the night of 22/23 March, when they came to support the police and training. I was one of the first. […]

We [the SS men] stopped in front of a long building. On our right was a stone building surrounded by barbed wire. The regular police were on guard. Then [SS Standarte commander Freiherr von Malsen-Ponickau] addressed us and told us what we were there for. The meaning of what he said was roughly as follows: “SS men, you are here to guard the greatest enemies of the state, criminals and scoundrels. Your job is to keep the nation, the fatherland, safe from these dangerous criminals. If any of them try to escape you must shoot them and I hope you hit them. The more of them that die, the better.”

Source: Staatsarchiv Munich, Staatsanwaltschaften 34479/1, Bl. 73, 94

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes