Almost all Camp SS staff in the pre-war camps were German nationals. But this changed during the war. There were constant staff shortages, as camps and prisoner numbers grew, and the SS drafted thousands of foreigners to plug the gaps. Some were Soviet POWs, who had gone through the SS training camp Trawniki. Many others were “ethnic Germans” from eastern Europe, who had German roots. New prisoners often saw the SS as a united force. But there were many tensions within SS ranks – including deep rifts between foreigners and Germans, who looked down on new recruits from abroad. These rifts are illustrated by the following complaint from an “ethnic German” SS man against a German colleague.
Birkenau, 13 July 1944
To the camp authorities of the women’s camp at Birkenau […]
I am herewith reporting SS Stormtrooper Marschall of the administration department for grossly insulting me.
learn to speak German properly
Reason for this complaint:
On 7 July 1944 I was the duty block leader responsible for block BIa in the women’s camp. Around 11am SS Stormtrooper Marschall passed the block guard room on his way to the camp. In answer to my question as duty guard about his business in the camp he replied: That’s none of your bloody business and, what’s more, learn to speak German properly before you to speak to me.
As duty block leader I cannot tolerate being insulted in this way, in particular because not only were fellow SS men present but also prisoners were standing close by. They heard and understood what he said.
As an ethnic German I may not speak perfect German, but that ought not to be an excuse for SS Stormtrooper Marschall to insult me.
Johann Kasaniczky, SS Stormtrooper
Source: Bundesarchiv Berlin, NS 4/Au1
Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes