The camp bureaucracy

The SS perpetrators could abuse prisoners almost at will. But there was more to the camps than arbitrary violence. Behind the daily outbursts stood a large bureaucracy. Camps were also places of work, with meetings and paperwork, offices and schedules, rules and regulations. At its most basic, the SS order of terror rested on the division of the Camp SS into the Guard Troop (who guarded the camp) and the Commandant Staff (who ran it). The Commandant Staff, who worked inside the camp perimeter, was further divided into administrative departments, as this pre-war document from the Camp Inspectorate indicates.

019 – SS guidelines for the structure of concentration camps

Members of the SS Guard Troop in Gross-Rosen

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Martin Mansson

The purpose of the concentration camp is to safeguard all those enemies of the people and the state, who by their behavior threaten the existence and security of the nation and the state, who therefore, for security, educational or otherwise preventive reasons, have to be deprived of their personal freedom on the basis of legal provisions.

Such enemies of the people […] are taken into protective custody (or preventive custody) and assigned to a concentration camp. […]

An SS leader runs the concentration camp as responsible camp director [commandant]. For dealing with his official business the camp director has several SS leaders as section leaders by his side, with the necessary personnel (SS sub-leaders and men) who are answerable to him for the orderly running of their sections.

SS photo of prisoner registration in Sachsenhausen

The Wiener Library

The members of the concentration camp service perform their service with a sense of duty. They discharge their official duties toward the inmates severely but fairly. Any other unofficial contact with the inmates, even the very slightest, is most strictly prohibited and results in the immediate expulsion from the SS and deportation to a concentration camp.

Topping up of the Commandant Staff is done solely from the Death’s Head Standarten.

Special regulations will be issued in the event of war.

The sections of a concentration camp are:

  1. the Commandant’s office and the Adjutant’s office
  2. the Political Section
  3. the protective custody camp
  4. the administration
  5. the camp doctor

Source: Bundesarchiv Berlin, NS 3/291, Bl. 1–2 (emphasis in the original)

Translation: Ewald Osers