Guardians in Nazi concentration camps

The guards in Nazi concentration camps or Aufseherinnen were women who acted as guards in concentration camps and extermination during the period of Nazi Germany . Of the 55,000 guardians who served in the Nazi concentration camps , about 3,700 were women. In 1942, the first guardians arrived at Auschwitz and Majdanek from Ravensbrück . The following year, the Nazis began recruiting women because of the shortage of male guardians. The German name for this post was Aufseherin (plural Aufseherinnen ) and means supervisor or assistant .


The guardians were generally middle class and low 1 and had no previous experience in that work; Their work profile was varied: it indicates that they were old matrons, hairdressers, tram collectors, opera singers or retired teachers. 2 The volunteers were recruited by advertisements in German newspapers claiming women who wanted to show their love of the Reich and join the SS- Gefolge ( “SS-Escort”, a support organization and service of the SS for women). In addition, some were recruited on the basis of the SS data files themselves. The League of German Girls acted as a vehicle of indoctrination for many of the women. 3 In one of the postwar hearings, the Oberaufseherin Herta Haase-Breitmann-Schmidt , chief of supervisors, asserted that the guardians were not women entirely of the SS. As a result, in some courts it was disputed whether the SS-Helferinnen employed in the camps were official members of the SS, leading to contradictory judicial decisions. Many of them belonged to the Waffen-SS and the SS-Helferinnen Corps. 4 5 Some women who served in the fields belonged to the Allgemeine-SS or the SS-Gefolge . Other women, like Therese Brandl and Irmtraut Sell belonged to units of the Totenkopf ( “Skull” or “skull”). 6

At first the new recruits were trained in Lichtenburg in Germany in 1938 and after 1939 in Ravensbrück , a camp near Berlin . At the outbreak of war , the Nazis built other camps in Poland , France , Netherlands , Belgium and other occupied countries. Guardian training was similar to that of their male counterparts: women attended classes lasting between 4 weeks and 6 months, given by veteran guardians – however, near the end of the war, they were trained with almost inexperienced guardians. The court records cite former SS member Herta Ehlert , who served in Ravensbruck, Majdanek, Lublin, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, who described his training as “physically and emotionally demanding” when he was interrogated at the Bergen- Belsen . According to her, the participants were taught about the corruption of the Weimar Republic and how to punish the prisoners and how to monitor possible sabotage and slowdowns at work. The same sources affirm that Dorothea Binz , supervisor in Ravensbruck from 1942, trained her students in the finer points of “evil pleasure” 6 ( Schadenfreude or sadism).


The guardians were collectively known as SS-Helferin (in German: “Assistaenta of the SS”) and never received an equivalence with the ranges of the Schutzstaffel / SS. These employees were known as Rapportführerin “Director”, Erstaufseherin , “First Guardian”, Lagerführerin , “Field Leader” and Oberaufseherin the “Chief Supervisor”. The highest position obtained by a woman was that of Chef Oberaufseherin , “Chief Chief Supervisor” as it happened with Luise Brunner and Anna Klein . In the Nazi command structure, no female guardian could give orders to a man, the rank of SS- Helferin was below any male with rank in SS, so that women were not recognized as effective members of SS Except for ancillary tasks.

No concentration camp was run by a female commander. Ravensbrück , the only camp reserved for female inmates, was run by male SS soldiers, assisted by a minority of female assistants. 6

Daily life

It is said that personal relationships between SS men and guardians existed in most camps. For his part Heinrich Himmler said that the men of the SS should see the guardians as equals and comrades. In the relatively small field of Helmbrechts near Hof , Germany, the camp commander, Doerr had a relationship with the head of supervisory Herta Haase-Breitmann . [ Citation needed ]

Corruption was another prominent aspect of guardian culture. Ilse Koch , known as “the bitch of Buchenwald” was the chief gatekeepers field Buchenwald , and at the same time was married to the camp commandant, Karl Koch . It was rumored that both were involved in the embezzlement of millions of Reichmarks , due to which Karl Koch was condemned and executed by the Nazis a few weeks before the liberation by the North American army of the field of Buchenwald; However, Ilse was exempt from guilt. Some sources speculate if there were witnesses of murders in Buchenwald.

Despite the reputation of brutality, there were certainly cases of guardians who showed relative empathy. An apparent case of this was that of Klara Kunig, who became guardian in mid-1944 and served in Ravensbruck and in the secondary camp of Dresden-Universelle. The guardian of the camp stated that she was too polite and polite to the inmates, which was why she disregarded her in the camp in January 1945. Her fate has remained unknown since February 13, 1945, when the Allies carried out the bombing of Dresden . 7 At Auschwitz-Birkenau , an Aufseherin was found guilty of assisting the inmates illegally, and the chief of guards ordered her punishment: her ward companions were obliged to give her twenty-five lashes.

Fields, names and ranks

Towards the end of the war, the women were taken from the factories on the German Job Exchange and sent to training centers. Women were also trained on a small scale in the Neuengamme camps ; Auschwitz I, II, III and IV; Plaszow ; Flossenbürg ; Gross Rosen ; Vught and Stutthof as well as in Dachau , and a few in Mauthausen and a few women were trained in Buchenwald and its satellite camps. Most of these women came from areas around the fields. In 1944 the first female guards were sent to Neuengamme, Dachau, Mauthausen, a minority to Natzweiler Struthof, and even less to Dora Mittelbau (only one is known). Referring to Fig.

Between seven and twenty Aufseherinnen worked in Vught, twenty- four SS women trained in Buchenwald (three at a time), thirty-four at Bergen Belsen , ninety at Dachau, twelve at Mauthausen, three at Dora Mittelbau , seven at Natzweiler-Struthof , Twenty in Majdanek , 200 in Auschwitz and its subfields, 140 in Sachsenhausen , 158 in Neuengamme, forty-seven in Stutthof compared to 958 who served in Ravensbrück (2,000 were trained there), 561 in Flossenbürg, and 541 in Gross Rosen. Many women supervisors were trained and / or worked in the subfields in Germany , Poland , and a few in eastern France , a few in Austria , and a few in Czechoslovakian camps . Referring to Fig.

  • The Chief Supervisor at Allendorf was Oberaufseherin Kaethe Hoern (September 1944 – March 1945); In Auschwitz Oberaufseherin Johanna Langefeld (March 1942 – October 1942), Lagerfuehrerin Maria Mandel (October 1942 – November 1944), Stellvertetende Oberaufseherin Emma Zimmer (1942-43), Stellvertretende Lagerfuehrerin Margot Dreschel (? – November 1944), Rapportfuehrerin Irma Grese (1944), and Oberaufseherin Elisabeth Volkenrath (November 1944 – January 1945). Mandel herself was in command of all the women of the “SS” within Auschwitz-Birkenau. Grese and Volkenrath were convicted of war crimes and hanged on December 13, 1945, Mandel was hanged on December 2, 1947.
  • In Barth Lagerfuehrerin Gerda Langner (Nov 1943-1944), Lagerfuehrerin Irmgard Reissner (1944 – April 1945), Stellvertretende Lagerfuehrerin Gertrud Herrmann , and Oberaufseherin Ruth Neudeck (March 1945 – May 1945); In Belzigla was as head of the female guard Hedwig Ullrich (summer of 1944 – April 1945).
  • In Bergen Belsen the three supervisory heads were the Oberaufseherin Elisabeth Volkenrath (February 1945 – April 1945), Rapportfuehrerin Hildegard Gollasch , while Herta Ehlert served as additional backup guard, and Irma Grese (January / February 1945 – April 1945) As chief of work of the prisoners ( Arbeitsdienstfuehrrin ). In the annexed field of Gross-Rosen in Bernsdorf (Bernartice), Maria Muehl was Kommandofuehrerin under the orders of the Lagerfuehrerin Else Hawlik , who was in command of all the fields of work of the Ring of Trautenau. In the annexed field of Gross-Rosen in Breslau-Hundsfeld (Wroclaw Psie Pole) the Kommandofuehrerin was Emilie Kowa and another high-ranking official, Margarete Schueller .
  • Johanna Wisotzki was Oberaufseherin in Bromberg-Ost from June 1944 until January / February 1945 together with Gerda Steinhoff , while Ilse Koch was selected (unofficially) as head of guardians in Buchenwald , although the camp had very few prisoners . Koch was convicted of war crimes; Committed suicide in the women’s prison in Aichach on September 1, 1967.
  • In Christianstadt , a satellite field of Gross-Rosen in Silesia, Emilie Harms was in charge of the field; His assistant was Stellvertretende Kommandofuehrerin Lina Pohl . In the sub-field of Danzig Holm Stellvertreende Oberaufseherin Gerda Steinhoff was second in command of all the supervisors and prisoners (ocutbre of 1944 – December of 1944); In the satellite field of Dora Mittelbau in Gross-Werther , this post was occupied by the Lagerfuhrerin Erna Petermann .
  • In the subfield of Ravensbrück / Flossenbürg in Dresden Universelle , Erstaufseherin Charlotte Hanakam and Erstaufseherin Ida Guhl were the chiefs of the guardians (1944 – April 1945), and in the subfield of Flossenbürg in Dresden-Goehle, this rank was granted to several Women, including the Esratufseherin Margarethe de Hueber (1944); Erstaufseherin Gertrud Becker supervised the satellite camp of Flossenbürg in Hainichen (October 1944 – April 1945), Erstaufseherin Dora Lange and later Erstaufseherin Gertrud Weniger (1944 -?) Were commanded by Oederan.
  • In the subfield of Gross Rosen in Gabersdorf , Kommandofehrerin Charlotte Roessel was responsible, and in the main field Oberaufseherin Jane Bernigau was head of all the women of the guard personnel of all the subfields (800); in the satellite field Gruenberg ( Zielona Góra ), Lagerfuehrerin Anna Fiebeg (June 1944 – January 1945) served as head of supervisors, as of Anna Jahn and Hela Milefski acted as field supervisors replacement.
  • In Graeben , Kommandofuehrerin Katharina Reimann was head of guards and Margarete Hentschel was his assistant like Rapportfuehrerin; In Graeflish-Roehrsdorf , Silesia, Kommandofuehrerin Gertrud Sauer was in charge of the women’s camp; And in the sub -camp of Gross Rosen in Gruschwitz-Neusalz Helene Obuch (1943 – June 1944), and more taarde Kommandofuehrerin Elisabeth Gersch (June 1944 – January 1945) were in charge, and in Hamburg- Wandsbek , Oberaufseherin Annemie von der Huelst was in command, assisted by his second, Kommandofuehrerin Loni Gutzeit . In Hamburg-Sasel , Kommandofuehrerin Ida Roemer was head of guardians.
  • Helmbrechts was a sub- camp of Flossenbürg built near Hof , Germany. Originally, Martha Dell ‘Antonia (summer of 1944 -?) Served there as chief female guard over twenty-two guardians. At the end of 1944 it was replaced by the mistress of the commander (Doerr), Herta Haase-Breitmann .
  • In Holleischen Dora Lange was senior supervisor in conjunction with Anni Graf .
  • Kratzau I and II in Czechoslovakia was supervised by Elsa Hennrich and certain Denner (or Dinner); Lenzing by Lagerführerin Schmidt and Oberaufseherin Margarete Freinberger (November 1944 – May 1945).
  • Majdanek was headed by Else Ehrich (October 1942 – June 1944), and his immediate assistant Rapportfuehrerin and Stellvertretende Oberaufseherin Hermine Braunsteiner , and assisted by the deputy colonels Else Weber , Redeli , Ellert and Elisabeth Knoblich . Knoblich was nicknamed “Halt die Klappe!” (“Shut up!”), Hermine Braunsteiner was deported to Germany from the United States in 1973 and died in 1999.
  • The concentration camp of Mittelsteine ​​the supervisor was Kommandofuehrerin Philomena Locker (sentenced after the war to seven years imprisonment), Charlotte Neugebauer, and a young woman of last name Schneider (name unknown). In Merzdorf Erna Rinke was head of guardians (Kommandofuehrerin).
  • In Obernheide , Kommandofuehrerin Gertrud Heise was supervisory boss on seven women (known) of the “SS” (September of 1944 – April of 1945); And in Plaszow , Oberaufseherin Elsa Ehrich , Anna Gerwing (as Rapportfuhrerin) and Kommandofuehrerin Alice Orlowski with another unknown woman.
  • Ravensbrück was the training center for field guards. Else Grabner was at the head of this field for women; Oberaufseherin and later Lagerleiterin (field leader). The wardens heads were there Anne Zimmer (May 1939 – May 1941), Maria Mandel (March 1942 – October 1942), Johanna Langefeld (May 1941 – March 1942 / October 1942-1943), Greta Boesel ( 1944 – April 1945), Erna Rose (1944 – April 1945), while Dorothea Binz served as her assistant from August 1943 until the liberation of the camps in April 1945. Binz and Boesel were convicted of war crimes and Hung on 2 May 1947. Ulla Jürß (1942-1944) and Ruth Neudeck (1944) were Blockführerin (barracks supervisors). Neudeck was later promoted to Oberaufseherin and located in the extermination complex of Uckermark on the road to Ravensbrück.
  • Rochlitz was led by Marianne Essmann ; Sachsenhausen by Ilse Koch and then by Hilde Schlusser and Anna Klein .
  • In St. Lambrecht it was Jane Bernigau (1944 / January 1945), while in Stutthof were Johanna Wisotzki and Gerda Steinhoff , promoted to supervisory heads, while in Theresienstadt this position was awarded to Hildegard Neumann and Oberaufseherin Elisabeth Schmidt.
  • Erstaufseherin Ruth Closius headed Uckermark (January 1945 – March 1945); Oberaufseherin Margarete Gallinat (Maria) and later Oberaufseherin Gertrud Weiniger (1944) supervised Vught (1943 – June 1944); Susanne Hille was first guardian in Unterluess (or Vuterluss) (September 1944 – April 1945); Oberaufseherin Anneliese Unger and a young woman named Schneider were in charge of the subfield of Flossenbürg in Zwodau from June 1944 until May 1945. Closius was convicted of war crimes and executed by hanging on 29 July 1948.
  • In an investigation of his German relatives by his mother, American historian James L. Cabot found that two people related to him were supervisors – Maria Kleinschmidt , who operated in Neuengamme, and Charlotte Kleinschmidt (née Peters), of whom are unknown her Activities in the fields. 10

In addition to those mentioned as being executed for war crimes, the following guardians were tried after the war, condemned and executed for the same reasons: Sydonia Bayer of Litzmannstadt ( Lodz ), date unknown (in Poland); Juana Bormann of Bergen-Belsen, hung the 13 of December of 1945; Ruth Hildner de Helmbrechts, hung on May 2, 1947; Christel Jankowsky of Ravensbrück, date unknown (in East Germany); And Gertrud Schreiter and Emma Zimmer de Ravensbrück, both on 20 September 1948. And an unknown number were summarily executed by the Soviets at the end of the war. 6

From the postwar period to the present time

When the Allies liberated the camps, SS women were generally on active duty. Many of them were captured near or in the same concentration camps as Ravensbrück, Bergen Belsen, Gross Rosen, Flossenbürg, Salzwedel , Neustadt-Glewe , Neuengamme, and Stutthof. After the war, many SS women were held in detention camp in Recklinghausen , Germany, or in the former Dachau concentration camp. Between 500 and 1,000 women were detained while the United States Army was investigating their crimes and the services provided in the camps. Most of them were released as SS men were declared a priority. Many of the women held there had a high rank in the League of German Girls , while others had served in concentration camps .

Many SS members (men and women) were executed by the Soviets when they liberated the camps, while others were sent to the Gulags . Only a few SS women were tried for their crimes compared to those of SS men. Most of the guardians were tried at the Auschwitz Trial , four of the seven Ravensbrück Trials , the first Stutthof Trial , and the second and third of the Majdanek Trials and the small Hamburg-Sasel camp. In this trial all forty-eight SS members involved were tried. 6

Guardians at present

The last trial of a supervisor was held in 1996. Former Aufseherin Luise Danz , who worked as a supervisor in Plaszow since January 1943 and later in Majdanek , Auschwitz-Birkenau and in the secondary camp of Ravensbrück in Malchow as Oberaufseherin, was tried In the first trial of Auschwitz and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1947. In 1956, she was released for good behavior. In 1996, she was again tried for the murder of a young woman in Malchow at the end of the war. The doctor who supervised the trial confirmed to the court that the proceedings could not be sustained because of the defendant’s advanced age and all charges were dropped. As of 2011, Danz is still alive at the age of 94. 6

In 1996, a story broke out in Germany about Margot Pietzner (married name Kunz), an old Aufseherin of Ravensbruck, the subfield of Belzig and a subfield in Wittenberg. She was originally sentenced to death by a Soviet court but was sentenced to life imprisonment and finally released in 1956. In the early 1990s, at the age of seventy-four, Margot received a compensation of DM 64,350 (32,902 euros) To receive the consideration of “victim of Stalin”. Some historians argue that she lied and is not deserving of that economic compensation, and remember that she served brutally as a staff in three concentration camps.

The only guardian to have told her story in public was Herta Bothe , who served in the concentration camp at Ravensbrück in 1942, then at Stutthof , the secondary camp at Bromberg-Ost , and finally at Bergen-Belsen . She was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and was released in the mid-1950s. In an interview in 2004, Bothe was asked if she regretted being a guardian in a concentration camp . His answer was, “What do you mean? … I made a mistake, no … The mistake was that it was a concentration camp, but I had to go, otherwise I would be inside myself, that was my mistake.” eleven

It has not been proven, but in 2006 was deported by the US Department of Justice 84-year-old Elfriede resident Lina Rinkel , who hid her secret for more than 60 years from her family, friends, and her Jewish husband “Hello, Fred.” He had worked in the Ravensbrück concentration camp from 1944 until April 1945, and had used an SS-trained dog in the field. Rinkel emigrated to the United States in 1959 at the end of World War II seeking a better life and omitted Ravensbrück in the list of places of residence in his visa application. In Germany, Rinkel does not face criminal charges since only the allegations of murder can be sustained after this time, 12 although the case continues to be investigated. 13

In fiction

In the novel The Reader a young man has a relation with an old woman (who had been guardian in a concentration camp) Hanna Schmitz. She is finally tried by a court of law. In the film adaptation was interpreted by Kate Winslet .

In the film Pasqualino Settebellezze , directed by Lina Wertmüller , the protagonist saves its life by having a sentimental relation with the commander of a concentration camp, in which it was confined for having deserted of the Italian army.

Aufseherinnen have been represented in different roles of diverse importance in numerous films:

  • In Schindler’s list , the guardians can be seen in the scenes of the Plaszow labor camp and when the wife of Oskar Schindler arrives and leaves Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  • Although unnamed, a field supervisor plays a major role in the 1975 film The Hiding Place during scenes in which Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie are imprisoned in Ravensbruck. Several other guards were also observed on arrival in procession of new prisoners in the field.
  • Maria Mandel is played by the actress Shirley Knight in the film version of Playing for Time focused on the female orchestra of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Other Aufseherinnen are portrayed in small roles, processing prisoners and attending performances by the orchestra.
  • Irma Grese was staged in a supporting role in Out of the Ashes and also in The Last Hangman , which details her execution after Belsen’s war crimes trial. Both films feature guardians in supporting roles. Grese is also briefly described in a non-audio recreation at Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State .
  • Polish actress Aleksandra Śląska has played the role of an Aufseherin in two films, the first The Last Stage as the Oberaufseherin and the other as Lisa in Pasazerka . Both films contain numerous references of personages like Aufseherinnen .
  • Guardians also appear in small roles in The Triumph of the Spirit , The Battle of the V-1 , and in the beginning scene of the X-Men movie .


  1. Back to top↑ There were, however, some exceptions. There were four supervisors of aristocratic origin: Annemie von der Huelst and Gertrud von Lonski in Neuengamme and Euphemia von Wielen and Ellen Freifrau von Kettler in Ravensbrück. Brown, Daniel Patrick (2002), The Camp Women. The Female Auxiliaries Who Assisted the SS in Running the Nazi Concentration Camp System , pp. 226, 242. Atglen, Pa .: Schiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7643-1444-0
  2. Back to top↑ Feig, Konnilyn G. (1981). Hitler’s Death Camps: The Sanity of Madness (Hitler’s Death Fields: The Sense of Madness) . Holmes & Meier. ISBN  0841906769 .
  3. Back to top↑ Aroneanu, Eugene (1996). Inside the Concentration Camps: Eyewitness Accounts of Life in Hitler’s Death Camps . Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN  0-275-95446-3 .
  4. Back to top↑ Rachel Century, Das SS-Helferinnenkorps Royal Holloway, University of London.
  5. Back to top↑ Gerhard Rempel, The SS Female Assistance Corps (in) Hitler’s Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS. UNC Press Books, 1989. ISBN 0807842990 .
  6. ↑ Jump to:a b c d e f “Women of the SS” ,; Accessed 22 December 2014.
  7. Back to top↑ Sarti, Wendy Adele Marie (2011). Women and Nazis: Perpetrators of Genocide and Other Crimes During Hitler’s Regime, 1933-1945 . Academica Press, p. 35
  8. Back to top↑ Ausbeutung, Vernichtung, Öffentlichkeit: Neue Studien Zur Nationalsozialistischen Lagerpolitik, p. 38
  9. Back to top↑ Daniel Patrick Brown, The Camp Women, The Female Auxiliaries who assisted the SS in Running the Concentration Camp System
  10. Back to top↑ Brown (2002), p. 140.
  11. Back to top↑ Dreykluft, Friederike (2004). Holokaust (TV mini-series). Germany: MPR Film und Fernsehproduktion.
  12. Back to top↑ Luke Harding, ‘Shameful secret of the Nazi camp guard who married to Jew’, The Guardian, 21 September 2006, [1] Retrieved 4/22/2014
  13. Back to top↑ Jeevan Vasagar, ‘Six German women investigated over Auschwitz crimes,’ The Telegraph, 9 August 2013 [2] Retrieved 4/22/2014