Auschwitz – SS garrison

Establishment of Auschwitz concentration camp on 27 April 1940 on Himmler’s order Rudolf Höss became the first commandant of Auschwitz. Höss lived in a two-story stucco house near the commandants and administration building with his wife and two children. With his deputy Josef Kramer, Höss served as commandant of Auschwitz until November 11, 1943, when Arthur Liebehenschel took the role of the new commandant. Rudolf Höss then joined the SS Business and Administration Head Office in Oranienburg as director of Amt DI, becoming the deputy of the camps inspectorate with his new title.

On May 11, 1944, Richard Baer became the commandant of Auschwitz I and Fritz Hartjenstein of Auschwitz II from 22 November 1943 with his successor being Josef Kramer from 15 May 1944 until the camp’s liquidation in January 1945. When Auschwitz III became an autonomous camp in 1943 Heinrich Schwarz took command of it until the liquidation of the camps. Rudolf Höss made his appearance once again from 8 May until 29 July 1944 as the local SS garrison commander to overseer the arrival of Jews from Hungary making him the superior officer of all commandants of the Auschwitz camps.
According to Aleksander Lasik, a Polish historian, throughout the camp’s existence, around 6,335 people worked at Auschwitz under SS command. 4,2 percent under the camp workforce were officers, 26,1 percent non-commissioned officers, and rank and file made up the rest. 700 SS guards were in Auschwitz in March 1941, rising to 2000 guards in June 1942, in August 1944 number of guards was 3,342. The highest number of SS guards was in January 1945, 4,480 men and 71 women. The high number of guards at its peak in 1945 was probably due to the requirements of logistics for evacuation of the camp.

The majority of staff at Auschwitz were from Germany and/or Austria. As the war progressed the number of staff from other countries began to rise, including Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and the Baltic states. Not all personnel at the camp were of German ethnicity, guards were recruited even from Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Guards made up around three-quarters of the SS personnel and were members of SS-Totenkopfverbände (death’s head units). The rest of the SS staff were assigned to work in medical, political departments. or economic administration which was in charge of supplies for the camp, as well as clothing and even property of the dead prisoners. Being assigned a post at Auschwitz was seen as a comfortable position by the SS, with being able to avoid the front lines of the war they even had access to the victim’s property.

Our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau

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