Online lessons on the perpetrators of crimes in Auschwitz
“The SS Garrison of Auschwitz” and “Women working for the SS” are new online lessons prepared by the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust (ICEAH). They tell the history of the German Nazi camp in the context of perpetrators.
‘Focus on the male and female perpetrators of crimes in Auschwitz and analysis of their postwar explanations is a crucial lesson on how powerful the ideology of hatred and dehumanization can be, and how ordinary people - fathers, husbands, wives or mothers - acting in the name of this ideology did not pay attention to the suffering of people in Auschwitz,’ - said Agnieszka Juskowiak-Sawicka, head of E-learning at the ICEAH.
‘Also astonishing is how the perpetrators were able to create and believe in a world view that some people can and should be isolated, treated cruelly and finally put to death while they live in the separate world of their families, friends and communities. It shows that human evil has a universal dimension, and if we do not act the moment it begins, it can grow to an unimaginable scale,’ stressed Juskowiak-Sawicka.
The author of the lesson on the SS garrison is Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, head of the Memorial Research Center.
“Members of the SS directed to serve at Auschwitz during the initial period of its existence came mostly from the staff of other concentration camps, mainly Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and Mauthausen. There were also those from training centers and the Waffen-SS frontline units, including those who were disabled and convalescents. The frequent personnel turnover was indeed a rule during the entire operation period of Auschwitz. SS were also transferred to other camps and to frontline SS divisions.” – we read in the lesson.
“However, in trying to address the lack of available staff, an increasing number of older SS men were sent to Auschwitz among them were ones unable to fulfill their military service for various reasons and so-called ‘ethnic Germans’ (Volksdeutsche) from Yugoslavia, Romania, and Hungary. […] After the war, the SS personnel who were captured and brought to justice could not recall being at Auschwitz and doing anything wrong. In most cases, the prosecutors were unable to find witnesses of any specific crime that had been committed by the accused.” – wrote Piotr Setkiewicz.
The author of the lesson on women working for the SS in Auschwitz is Dr. Sylwia Wysińska from the Memorial Archives.
“Over two hundred women served the SS in KL Auschwitz. They were divided into three groups according to the duties they performed: the biggest group constituted the so-called Aufseherinnen (female SS guards) whose main task was to watch over female prisoners sent to Auschwitz from March 1942; the second group was formed by women employed in communication services described as SS-Helferinnen (SS auxiliaries) working in SS headquarter offices as radiotelegraph operators, stenographers and telephone operators; the last group consisted of DRK Schwestern (Sisters of the German Red Cross) and nurses who were members of Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund Deutscher Schwestern (National-Socialist Union of German Nurses), also known as the “SS sisters” as they were subordinate to the SS within the camp structure,” we read in the lesson.
Among almost two hundred female SS guards working in Auschwitz concentration camp between 1942 and 1945 only few were sentenced. None of them pleaded guilty. On the contrary, they tried to diminish their participation in the crimes, explaining that their attitude towards prisoners was decent.
Lessons about the SS garrison and the female supervisors at Auschwitz are available at lesson.auschwitz.org