Nazi Camp Hierarchy

SS

Theodor Eicke, an SS Lieutenant General, had established a structure for how to run a camp from his experience of running Dachau. The systems and buildings Eicke had developed at Dachau soon became the basic model by which all concentration camps would be established and managed.

The camps were split into five sections:

  1. Commandants office This office oversaw the whole camp.
  2. Political department This department was responsible for registration of prisoners, interrogations, the camp prison and crematoria.
  3. Protective custody camp This section oversaw the prisoners complex. It was ruled by the infamous SS Death’s Head Units.
  4. Administrative department This department was responsible for all administration for the camp, such as the maintenance of the camps own equipment and facilities.
  5. Medical department This department was run by the camp physician, and provided medical care for the SS and prisoners – though the quality of this care varied greatly between the two.

In the protective custody camp, prisoners were also used as staff in the form of Kapos.

Kapos

Kapos were inmates of Nazi camps who were appointed as guards to oversee other prisoners in various tasks.

There were three main types of Kapos: work supervisors, block elders, and camp administrators.

  1. Work supervisors oversaw prisoners at work, and were responsible for ensuring efficiency, making sure that no one escaped, and reporting delays.
  2. Block elders supervised the barracks. Typically, there was one block elder per block, and they ensured all prisoners kept the barracks clean, made their beds, and got to roll call on time. They were also responsible for counting the prisoners (accounting for any that had died or were ill), and handing out food.
  3. Camp administrators undertook various other jobs, such as supervising work in the kitchen, in the storeroom, or working as secretaries/interpreters.

Kapos had more authority than regular prisoners and were typically given preferential treatment, such as extra rations, not having to complete hard physical labour or more hygienic and larger sleeping spaces.

Whilst there were incentives to becoming a Kapo, there were also disadvantages. Kapos were under the direct authority of the SS, and had to report to them daily. Any failures meant they could quickly be removed from their post. In addition to this, their authority, especially in regards to punishing or informing on other fellow prisoners meant that they were often unpopular and disliked.

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