Tolerance means weakness

Camp Inspector Eicke taught his men to hate prisoners. He demanded brutal discipline and terror in his camps. His mindset is illustrated by the following order, issued on 1 August 1934 for Esterwegen (an SA camp recently taken over by the SS). It is especially revealing that Eicke threatened prisoners with hanging, given that the death penalty was officially still in the hands of courts and judges (not the SS). But Eicke did not care about the law. He believed that anything was allowed in the “war” against “enemies” behind the barbed wire.

023 – Eicke order to the Camp SS, summer 1934

It is left to every protective custody detainee to reflect on why he got to the concentration camp. Here he will be given an opportunity to change his inner attitude to nation and fatherland in favor of a people’s community on a National Socialist basis or else, if the individual prefers, to die for the dirty Second or Third Jewish International of a Marx or Lenin. […]

Order and discipline
Regardless of origin, status or occupation the prisoners are, without exception, in a subordinate position. Whether old or young, everyone has to get used to military discipline and order from the very first day on. All SS men, right up to the commandant of the concentration camp, are the superiors of the prisoners; their orders are to be followed at once and without argument. […]

Behavior in the camp
[…] Huts and quarters may only be entered and exited by the prescribed entrances. Anyone who climbs through a hut window by day or night, gets on hut roofs without instruction, throws stones over the camp wall, leaves his hut during the night – between last post and reveille – will be fired on without warning. […]

we will reach for your throats and silence you

Disciplinary and penal order
Within the framework of the existing camp regulations the following penal regulations have been issued for the maintenance of discipline and order in the Esterwegen concentration camp. […]

Tolerance means weakness. Because of this realization merciless action will be taken whenever the interest of the fatherland requires. The decent misguided fellow German will not be affected by these penal regulations. The political agitators and subversive intellectuals […], however, should know this: Watch out that you are not caught – else we will reach for your throats and silence you according to your own methods. […]

Anyone making political or inciting speeches […] for the purpose of agitation, rallies together with others for this purpose, forms cliques or drifts about, collecting, receiving, burying true or false reports for the purpose of enemy atrocity propaganda about the concentration camp or its installations, passing them on to outside visitors or others, smuggling them out of the camp in secret notes or in any other way […] or encouraging others to escape or to commit a crime […] will, according to revolutionary law be hanged as an agitator!

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, RG-11.001 M.20, Reel 91, Fond 1367, Opis 2, Folder 19 (emphasis in the original)

Translation: Ewald Osers