Although KL Auschwitz prisoners were involved in some of the camp’s work, managerial
functions were performed only by specifically designated SS men. How was this
exceptionally inhumane Nazi military formation formed and what it meant for the inmates?
The SS was a paramilitary unit that at the beginning of its operation was considered very
elite, especially in Nazi circles. To get to it, you had to meet strict conditions and present the
multi-generational history of your family. The SS already participated in the September
campaign but was not taken too seriously by the Wehrmacht. Over time, however, this
changed, and zealous supporters of Nazism were accepted into its ranks, and
Schutzstaffel’s training grew. That made the SS one of the most powerful organizations in
the Third Reich. Only German or Volksdeutsche citizens could become members. In the last
years of the war, older or former soldiers of the Wehrmacht were also sent to work in camps
within the SS.
Of course, the task of this unit was not only to guard concentration camps and supervise
their work and extermination. The SS had twelve specialized groups at the end of the war,
dealing with administration, police, and indoctrination. Then, this unit was responsible for all
internal and external state activities. People joining these ranks swore allegiance to the
leader of the Third Reich. Of course, the members had no right to object to the given order,
since even an attempt to express it was severely punished.
Of course, not all SS units were assigned to work in concentration camps, including KL
Auschwitz. Documents and the organizational structure of Schutzstaffel show that people
belonging to the Main Reich Security Office (RSHA-SS), and the Main Administrative and
Economic Office (WVHA-SS) were sent to extermination and work in the camps. In
Auschwitz-Birkenau itself, at its peak, 4,480 SS men and 71 female overseers were working.
Throughout history, about 8,000 SS-men and about 200 female overseers went through this
camp. They were ordered to treat all camp prisoners harshly, and all „human” reflexes
towards inmates were a manifestation of the lack of character among the SS personnel.
There was also a hierarchy in the camp structure and division into subsequent departments:
employment, administrative matters, health service, and commandant’s office. It consisted
of seven departments and several smaller administrative units. However, more than three-
quarters of the staff working in the Auschwitz concentration camp were assigned to work as
Of all the concentration camps, it was the Schutzstaffel staff from Auschwitz that was the
most numerous, about 15 percent, before the Nuremberg Tribunal. War crimes indictments
were brought against 673 people. Not all were convicted. The most famous trial, however,
was the trial of the first and former camp commandant Rudolf Hoss, ahead of the Supreme
National Tribunal in Warsaw. It ended with the execution of the death penalty by hanging in
the KL Auschwitz camp, near block 11. The execution was partially secret because the local
population wanted to self-judge.
After the war, in 1947, Schutzstaffel was recognized internationally as a criminal and