The SS was all about brutal intimidation. It terrorized prisoners as soon as they set foot inside the camp. This was known as the “welcome”, described here in a Social Democrat underground report from the Esterwegen concentration camp. Guards would greet new arrivals with screams, slaps and kicks. This was followed by more abuse and torturous exercises during registration. The message to newcomers was clear: they were at the complete mercy of the SS.

028 – German resistance report on prisoner arrivals at Esterwegen, 1936

Treatment of recently admitted prisoners […] is inhuman.[…] The new arrivals are received with kicks, blows with rifle butts and foul language. Until the reception formalities are completed, over which a lot of time is taken, the new arrivals have to stand for hours in wind and bad weather, only scantily clad. After hours of waiting, during which time no one was allowed to move away, came reception of uniforms. With the prevailing cold – the author of this report was admitted in February – the changing of clothes was not fast enough for the guards and there was more pushing and shoving. Then came a drill in heavy Dutch wooden clogs. This footwear was unfamiliar to all and even old army veterans were scarcely able correctly to implement the orders of the young louts. After an hour’s drill the new arrivals were at last allowed to go to their barracks and had to “make beds”. Needless to say, these were not made well enough for the camp commandant and the job had to be done again and again. Only then did they receive their first food, towards 7 o’clock in the evening.

Source: Deutschland-Berichte der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands, vol. 3 (Frankfurt a. M., 1980), p. 1609

Translation: Ewald Osers