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  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • Eicke, Theodor

    lang=EN-US style='font-size:10.5pt;font-family:"Meridien-Medium","serif"; color:black'>(18921943)

    chief inspector of concentration camps

    Theodor Eicke was born in Hampont, ALSACELORRAINE,

    in 1892, which at the time was part of

    the German Empire. After service in the army

    during WORLD WAR I he joined the police in

    Thuringia in 1919. He held a variety of positions,

    all of which he lost because of his hostility

    toward the WEIMAR REPUBLIC. In 1928 he joined

    the NAZI PARTY and its SA. Later, he transferred

    to the SS, where in 1931 he was made a lieutenant

    colonel (SS-Standartenfuehrer). He

    became involved in political terror bomb attacks

    for which he was imprisoned. Having escaped to

    Italy, he returned to Germany when HITLER

    became chancellor. In June 1933 Heinrich HIMMLER

    appointed Eicke to replace commandant

    Hilmar Waeckerle at the new DACHAU concentration

    camp, which gave him the opportunity to

    demonstrate his organizational abilities. He

    developed a company of well-disciplined SS

    camp guards called the Deaths Heads Formations.

    In April 1934 Himmler appointed Eicke

    inspector of concentration camps and SS guard

    formations and promoted him to lieutenant

    general (SS-Gruppenfuehrer).

    Next to Himmler, Eicke was undoubtedly the

    most influential in forming the organization and

    esprit of the SS camp guards. He issued precise

    regulations, which the guards were expected to

    follow to the letter on everything from beatings

    to solitary confinement. Guards had to be ruthless

    and without pity. A rigid person and narrowminded

    in his thinking, Eicke was unable to

    consider future needs.

    Examples of Eickes short-range vision can be

    seen in the construction of camps at Flossenburg

    and Mauthhausen, which were built as work

    camps for quarrying stone, but which soon had

    to house many more prisoners as independent

    camps. The camps were built with too few barracks

    for their future use, which was largely

    Eickes fault. Another example was the camp for

    women to be built at Ravensbrück, which Eicke

    insisted needed facilities for only 2,000 prisoners,

    while Oswald Pohl, who was a better planner,

    argued in favor of a larger capacity of

    10,000. Eicke won out, but in the future

    Ravensbrück was to house 25,000 women in

    extremely overcrowded conditions.

    For Eicke the concentration camps were a

    means to the end of expanding the number of

    guards in the Deaths Heads units. He took great

    pains to provide for the comfort and furnishings

    of their quarters. Through his efforts the Waffen

    SS and the Concentration Camp SS were separated

    into different units after 1937. As he separated

    the more able soldiers into the Waffen

    SS, an increasing number of the remaining

    camp guards were mediocre or incompetent.

    Eicke overlooked the brutalities and bad conditions

    that existed within many camps and

    became more concerned with external matters.

    After the Waffen SS and the SS guards were

    separated, Eicke took greater interest in the

    Waffen SS.

    Some Deaths Heads units participated in the

    takeover of Czechoslovakia and were involved in

    the invasion of Poland. After the Polish campaign

    Hitler ordered Eicke to speed up the formation of

    a Deaths Head division, and he was first promoted

    to lieutenant general and years later to

    general (SS-Obergruppenfuehrer) of the Waffen

    SS. Eicke replaced the units doing camp duty

    with reserves from the General SS. As the division

    was being assembled in 1940, Eicke was

    replaced as chief inspector of concentration

    camps by Richard Glücks. The Deaths Head division

    participated in the French campaign and

    later in Russia. In February 1943 Eicke was killed

    on a reconnaissance flight near Kharkov in the

    Soviet Union, where his plane was shot down.

    Eicke, Theodor 349

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