Social outsiders

Nazi leaders targeted social outsiders from the start. Some were dragged to early camps in 1933–4. Later, police measures escalated. As the German economy geared up for war, Nazi leaders cracked down on the “work shy”. The largest action came in June 1938. Based on a decree (of 14 December 1937) that allowed “criminals” and “asocials” to be sent to the camps, Himmler’s deputy Reinhard Heydrich gave the following order for a nationwide raid. In the end, the police sent 9,500 “asocial” men to Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen. Most were homeless, beggars, welfare recipients and casual workers; in addition, Heydrich picked out “criminal” Jews and Gypsies. “Asocials”, wearing the black triangle, made up the largest prisoner group in the final period before the Second World War. They also made up the largest number of victims: between January 1938 and August 1939, well over 1,200 “asocial” men died in concentration camps.

049 – Reinhard Heydrich orders a nationwide raid against “asocials”, 1 June 1938

Reinhard Heydrich orders a nationwide raid against “asocials” (1 June 1938)

As criminality is rooted in asocial behavior and constantly replenishes itself from it, the Decree of the Reich and Prussian Ministry of the Interior of 14 December 1937 […] provided the Criminal Police with far-reaching opportunities to round up not only professional criminals but also those asocial elements whose behavior is a burden on the community and therefore damages it. However, I have had to observe that the Decree has not so far been applied with the necessary incisiveness. The strict execution of the Four-Year Plan requires the employment of all forces capable of work and does not tolerate asocial persons avoiding work and thereby sabotaging the Four-Year Plan.

a burden on the community

I therefore order:

  1. […][D]uring the week from 13 to 18 June 1938, at least 200 male work-capable (asocial) persons are to be taken into preventive police custody by Criminal Police directorates [in each district]. The following are to be particularly borne in mind: (a) vagabonds, who are at present drifting from one place to another without work, (b) beggars, even if they have a permanent place of residence, (c) gypsies and persons wandering about in gypsy fashion, if they have shown no liking for regular work or have committed criminal offences, (d) pimps, who were involved in serious criminal proceedings – even if not enough evidence could be found – and who still move in circles of pimps and prostitutes, or persons under strong suspicion of acting as pimps, (e) persons with numerous previous convictions for affray, bodily harm […] and such like, who have thereby demonstrated that they do not wish to integrate into the order of the people’s community. […]

  2. Likewise in the week from 13 to 18 June all male Jews of the Criminal Police Directorate’s district, who have served a prison sentence of no less than one month are to be taken into preventive police custody. […]

Those arrested are to be deported immediately to the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar without confirmation or instruction by me.

Source: IfZ, Fa 183/1, Bl. 407–9 (emphasis in the original)

Translation: Ewald Osers