Information on the Holocaust

Schutzstaffel (SS)
In May 1923, Adolf Hitler created the short-lived Stabswache Berlin from selected SA members; this should protect him from attacks by the party’s own Storm Troopers. Julius Schreck (later first Reichsführer-SS), in May 1925, formed a special unit consisting of eight members of the shock troops on behalf of Hitler, who made up the core of the later SS. The tasks of the organization described Hitler in a “Führerbefehl” from November 7, 1930 as follows:

“The task of the SS is initially the exercise of the police service within the party.”

 

Sturmabteilung (SA) and SS
The SA tried to limit the SS to 10% of the Sturmabteilung, with the exception of Berlin, where the SS should have twice the strength. The SS should consist of a maximum of 10 men and a leader. Joseph Berchtold, the 2nd SS leader, disagreed and resigned. The following guide was not taken seriously by the SA, the SS was described as “toffs”, however, the SS described the SA as “bullies”. Later, it became a huge organization. Heinrich Himmler developed the first small group with about 100 men into a mass organization that already included 204,000 members in 1933.

 

Members

Those who wanted to belong to the SS must provide biological characteristics (study of race), and even their wives were reviewed.

 

The SA during the War and the Holocaust

In 1934, the SS murdered the leadership of the SA and many political opponents. The SS was also involved in the war, for example, at the attack on Poland.

With the help of the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office, the SS operated the management of the concentration camps, which were run by the so-called “SS-Totenkopf-Wachsturmbannen”.

 

Concentration Camp
Shortly after Hitler came to power, Heinrich Himmler (head of the SS) began with the establishment of the first concentration camps. The first concentration camp was established in Dachau, with the explanation that the prisons are overcrowded. The prisoners, especially political and religious opponents of National Socialism, were deported without judicial judgment to concentration camps. Most camps served as labor camps, where the inmates had to work for the needs of the war and the SS. By 1945, a total of 180 camps were built. For millions of Jews, Gypsies, and also for criminals, prisoners of war, and hostages, deportation meant a death sentence. People with intellectual disabilities, homosexuals, and other so-called “Asoziale” were killed, too.

For the solution of the “Judenfrage”, giant concentration camps were built, especially in Poland, to take masses of prisoners. The inmates had to do hard labor, people who were too weak were killed. Up to 6,000 prisoners were killed in 10 minutes in the four gas chambers of Auschwitz. A total of 6 million people, most of them Jews, died in the concentration camps.

 

Auschwitz Trials
Between 1963 and 1965, the trials of supervisors and the administration of the concentration camp, Auschwitz, took place in Frankfurt am Main. Individual acquittals and some mild penalties led to disgust in the world. The Auschwitz trial is the biggest criminal case that should sanction the participation in the Nazi genocide of European Jews. During the four-year process of preparation, 1,300 testimonies were collected and 359 witnesses from 19 countries in the process itself were heard. In the trials against the twenty defendants, not only the cruel reality of the Nazi extermination machine comes to light. The hearing also keeps asking the question of the support of Hitler by large sections of the German population. After twenty months of time in court, the judgment would be announced on August 19, 1965. Six defendants received a life sentence, eleven are sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 14 years, and three defendants were acquitted. Despite the great indignation about low penalties in the international public and parts of the German public, it is recognized that the courts can pursue only detectable crimes of individual perpetrators. The boundaries of the judiciary in dealing with the Nazi past are evident in the process.
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