SS responses

The SS tried with all its might to crush prisoners’ resistance. It also came down hard on escapes. A fugitive who was caught faced terrible punishment or death. As a further deterrent, the SS used collective punishments: in place of an escaped prisoner, others were tortured and killed. SS concerns about prisoner resistance and escapes, which increased sharply towards the end of the war, were reflected in many Camp SS orders, including the following directive from WVHA chief Oswald Pohl to his commandants.

093 – Oswald Pohl tells commandants that prisoners cannot be trusted, 6 January 1944


Recently another SS Rottenführer has died in a concentration camp while on escort duty.

The SS member left the camp on his own in the company of two prisoners in order to search for Communist propaganda material hidden near the camp and did so without official authorization. He was then murdered and the two prisoners succeeded in escaping.

If the SS member had followed orders he would still be alive. I request that this incident should be used once again to instruct the guards and to point out that 1. No prisoner can be trusted and 2. It is the most important duty in escorting prisoners to keep six steps apart from the prisoners 3. The guards escorting the external squads and equipped with firearms should carry their loaded and secured weapon only under their right arm, with the arm resting on the cartridge case.

Signed: Pohl

Source: J. Tuchel, Die Inspektion der Konzentrationslager, 1938–1945 (Berlin, 1994), p. 193

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes