SS Main Economic and Administrative Office

The SS Main Economic and Administrative Office (German: SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt; SS-WVHA) was a Nazi organization responsible for managing the finances, supply systems and business projects of the Allgemeine-SS (a main branch of the Schutzstaffel; SS). It also ran the concentration camps and was instrumental in the implementation of the Final Solution through such subsidiary offices as the Concentration Camps Inspectorate and SS camp guards.

SS Main Economic and Administrative Office

Heinrich Himmler at an SS construction site, 1940.
SS-WVHA overview
FormedFebruary 1, 1942[1]
Preceding agencies
  • Hauptamt Verwaltung und Wirtschaft
  • Hauptamt Haushalt und Bauten
DissolvedMay 8, 1945
JurisdictionGermany Germany
Occupied Europe
HeadquartersUnter den Eichen 125-135, Lichterfelde, Berlin
52°27′5.12″N 13°18′35.24″E / 52.4514222°N 13.3097889°E / 52.4514222; 13.3097889
Minister responsible
SS-WVHA executive
Parent SS-WVHA Allgemeine-SS

Economics of the Holocaust edit

In June 1939 SS-Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl became chief of both the Verwaltung und Wirtschaft Hauptamt (VuWHA) and the Hauptamt Haushalt und Bauten ("main bureau [for] budget and construction", part of the Reich's Ministry of the Interior).[2] He oversaw all SS "construction projects and building enterprises" through these offices.[3] Pohl also worked with Walther Funk, Reich Minister of Economics (German: Reichswirtschaftsminister), to oversee financial aspects of the Final Solution, the most deadly phase of the Holocaust.[4] Valuables such as gold watches, rings, even tooth fillings, glasses, and currency were taken from the inmates on arrival at the death camps. These items were then sent back to Berlin in WVHA-marked crates for processing at the Reichsbank, under its director Emil Puhl.[5][a]

US troops, while liberating Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945, found thousands of wedding rings that had been taken from victims during The Holocaust.

Pohl's administrative staff at the WVHA even created evaluative tables that calculated the value of concentration camp inmates as farmed-out wage earners (minus the depreciation of food and clothing), their profit intake from valuables remaining after their deaths (minus crematoria expenses), and any costs recovered from selling their bones and ashes; in total, the average concentration camp inmate had a life-expectancy of nine-months or less and was valued at 1,630 marks.[8]

The Deutsche Wirtschaftsbetrieb (German Industrial Concern; GmbH) fell under the jurisdiction of the WVHA;[9] it was designed to unify the massive business interests of Himmler's SS, taking in profits from the slave labour of concentration camp prisoners.[10] Merging operations, the inspectorate of concentration camps was also incorporated into the WVHA on 13 March 1942.[11] In 1942, the WVHA's main remit was to expand the SS's contribution to the war effort by using forced labor in armaments manufacture and construction projects.[12] Slave labour at the camps was part of the effort to maximize economic utility.[3] Expressing his sentiments regarding the use of prisoners for labour in a memo, Pohl wrote, "SS industries [Unternehmen] have the organize a more businesslike (more productive) execution of punishment and adjust it to the overall development of the Reich."[13] SS guards at the camps used murderous brutality to achieve higher quotas from forced labor in its punitive units.[14] When it came to exploiting the working potential of the Jews, this eventually amounted to "annihilation through labour," according to historian David Cesarani.[15] As a commodity of the WVHA, inmates were deliberately worked to death, even when it conflicted with production.[16] This practice was a compromise between Nazi ideological imperatives and the practical needs of a militant Nazi state.[17]

Concentration camps were constructed at Auschwitz, Lublin (Majdanek), and Stutthof to facilitate a "vertically integrated construction and building supply enterprise" under the administrative oversight of the WVHA.[18] Expansion of the concentration camps and the satellite network was so rapid over such a vast area—with camps hastily opening and closing—that even the WVHA had a difficult time keeping count of them.[19] The catalyst for the expansion of SS construction initiatives stemmed from Hitler's megalomania, namely, his plans to erect massive German cities and monuments (masterminded by the young architect Albert Speer) as the Reich subsumed more and more territory. Himmler was likewise inspired by these plans, which were designed to expand SS production and "boost the status of the SS".[20] To accomplish the job of carrying out the Führer's vision, Pohl expanded the WVHA, creating the East German Building Supply Works (Ost-Deutsche Baustoffwerke GmbH; ODBS) along with the German Noble Furniture Corporation (Deutsche Edelmöbel GmbH) with the aide of Dr. Emil Meyer, an officer in the Allgemeine-SS and prominent figure within the Dresdner Bank.[21]

Slave labor for private companies, included Heinkel and BMW, firms that produced aircraft and aircraft engines;[22] the chemical giant, IG Farben, which manufactured rubber, synthetic fuels, synthetic explosives, pharmaceuticals, and one of its subsidiaries even produced Zyklon B;[23] Junkers aircraft;[24] Krupp steel;[22] one of Germany's foremost aircraft manufacturers, Messerschmitt;[25] the metal and tubing firm Salzgitter AG,[26] which was part of Reichswerke Hermann Göring; the electrical engineering company, Siemens-Schuckertwerke;[27] Apollinaris mineral water;[28] Allach porcelain;[29] and DEST (building material and armament),[30] among others. To facilitate this integration, the number of slave laborers the WVHA had available increased steadily from 21,400 in 1939, to upwards of 524,286 by August 1944.[31]

Another enterprise that fell under the purview of the WVHA—and one Albert Speer was keen on as well—was the construction works at Dora-Mittelbau, the underground complex where the V2 rockets were assembled.[32] This enormous subterranean facility near Nordhausen in the Harz Mountains was completed in a mere two months using camp labor supplied by Pohl's WVHA.[33] Work on the prestigious wonder-weapon V1 and V2 projects remained bitterly contested between the SS and Speer's ministry.[34]

During the summer of 1944, control of the concentration camps was removed from Pohl's WVHA and executive power was instead given over to local HSSPF offices, which, according to Pohl, occurred for operational reasons.[35] Speer's armaments ministry took over arms production without the intermediation of the WVHA in the application process for industrial firms seeking business with the Reich.[36] Estimates provided by Pohl indicate that during the second half of 1944, there were upwards of 250,000 slaves working for private firms, another 170,000 working in underground factories and an additional 15,000 clearing rubble from the Allied bombing raids.[37]

In 1947, a detailed description showing the scale of the operation was given at the WVHA trials at Nuremberg. Evidence outlined how property and cash worth hundreds of millions of Reichsmarks was taken from the victims of Aktion Reinhard. It was collected from the detailed notes that had passed between SS and Police Leader Odilo Globocnik and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler during the operation to kill most of the Jews in the General Government.[5]

Organization edit

Structure of the WVHA, according to an exhibit presented at the WVHA trial

Organizationally, the WVHA was made up of five main departments (German: Ämter or Amtsgruppe):[38]

  • Amt A, Personnel—Finance, Law and Administration
Amtsgruppe A, among other things, discharged the responsibility for financial matters of the SS, including those relating to its concentration camps.[39]
  • Amt B, Payroll and Supply
Amtsgruppe B, among other things, was responsible for the supply of food and clothing for inmates of the concentration camps, and of food, uniforms, equipment, billets, and camp quarters for the members of the SS.[39]
  • Amt C, Buildings and Works
Amtsgruppe C, among other things was charged with the construction and maintenance of houses, buildings, and structures of the SS, the German police, and of the concentration camps and prisoner of war camps.[39]
Amtsgruppe D, which prior to March 1942 was known as the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps, was responsible, among other things, for the administration of the concentration camps and of the concentration camp inmates.[39]
  • Amt W, Business—Economics
Amtsgruppe W, among other things, was responsible for the operation and maintenance of various industrial, manufacturing, and service enterprises throughout Germany and the occupied countries. It was also responsible for providing clothing for concentration camp inmates. In the operation of the enterprises under its control, this Amtsgruppe employed many concentration camp inmates.[39]

The WVHA was also put in charge of numerous commercial ventures that the SS had been increasingly engaged in since the mid-1930s.[40]

SS commercial operations edit

Oswald Pohl, former Chief of the SS Main Economic and Administrative Dept, standing, is indicted on war crimes charges in connection with the operation of concentration camps at the Nuremberg Trials in 1947. After making numerous appeals, he was executed in Landsberg Prison on June 7, 1951.

Some commercial ventures and assets owned or operated by the SS through its SS-WVHA units:[41]

  • Land and forests
  • Brick factories
  • Stone quarries
  • Fine porcelain and pottery factories
  • Building materials factories
  • Cement factory
  • Mineral water extraction and bottling
  • Meat processing
  • Bakeries
  • Small arms manufacturing and repair
  • Wooden furniture design and production
  • Military clothing and accessories
  • Herbal medicine
  • Fish processing
  • Publishing of books and magazines on Germanic culture and history
  • Art acquisition and restoration

Criminal entity within the SS edit

Since the WVHA fell under the administrative jurisdiction of the SS, it was deemed part and parcel to the legal indictments levied against the greater organization. This included the formal declaration of the Nuremberg Tribunal, which stated: "The SS was utilised for the purposes which were criminal under the Charter involving the persecution and extermination of the Jews, brutalities and killings in concentration camps, excesses in the administration of occupied territories, the administration of the slave labour programme and the mistreatment and murder of prisoners of war."[42] To that end, the SS and its subordinated entities were officially recognized as a criminal organization in 1946.[43]

See also edit

References edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Responding to the distribution of these valuables, one of Emil Puhl's colleagues warned him against visiting the camps and complained about dealing in "secondhand goods."[6] Members of the Reichsbank collaborated with the Nazi Finance and Economics Ministries in maximizing the monetary exploitation of Jewish and foreign assets of every kind in the occupied territories.[7]

Citations edit

  1. ^ Sofsky 1997, p. 40.
  2. ^ Höhne 2001, pp. 404–405.
  3. ^ a b Weale 2012, p. 115.
  4. ^ Yahil 1990, pp. 367–368.
  5. ^ a b Nuremberg Trial Proceedings, Vol. 20, Day 195.
  6. ^ Hilberg 1985, p. 280.
  7. ^ Aly 2006, pp. 183–187.
  8. ^ Kogon 2006, pp. 295–296.
  9. ^ Read 2004, p. 672.
  10. ^ Longerich 2012, p. 485.
  11. ^ Tuchel 1994, p. 88.
  12. ^ Allen 2002, pp. 165–167.
  13. ^ Allen 2002, pp. 81–82.
  14. ^ Sofsky 1997, pp. 113–114, 156.
  15. ^ Cesarani 2016, p. 478.
  16. ^ Read 2004, p. 799.
  17. ^ Tooze 2007, pp. 531.
  18. ^ Allen 2002, p. 100.
  19. ^ Wachsmann 2015, p. 464.
  20. ^ Wachsmann 2015, p. 162.
  21. ^ Allen 2002, p. 102.
  22. ^ a b Wachsmann 2015, p. 407.
  23. ^ Bartrop 2017, pp. 742–743.
  24. ^ Allen 2002, p. 234.
  25. ^ Allen 2002, pp. 243, 262.
  26. ^ Wachsmann 2015, p. 488.
  27. ^ Wachsmann 2015, pp. 447, 478.
  28. ^ Allen 2002, p. 95.
  29. ^ Allen 2002, pp. 33–35, 62, 100.
  30. ^ Rees 2017, p. 389.
  31. ^ Hilberg 1985, p. 224.
  32. ^ Stackelberg 2007, p. 231.
  33. ^ Read 2004, p. 818.
  34. ^ Allen 2002, pp. 203–222.
  35. ^ Blatman 2010, p. 173.
  36. ^ Sofsky 1997, p. 181.
  37. ^ Bloxham 2009, p. 253.
  38. ^ Allen 2002, p. 18.
  39. ^ a b c d e USA v. Pohl et. al - The Indictment.
  40. ^ Allen 2002, pp. 31–36.
  41. ^ Lisciotto, WVHA (2010).
  42. ^ Judgement: The Accused Organizations.
  43. ^ Zentner & Bedürftig 1991, p. 906.

Bibliography edit

  • Allen, Michael Thad (2002). The Business of Genocide: The SS, Slave Labor, and the Concentration Camps. London and Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-80782-677-5.
  • Aly, Götz (2006). Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State. New York: Metropolitan Books. ISBN 978-0-80507-926-5.
  • Bartrop, Paul R. (2017). Bartrop, Paul R.; Dickerman, Michael (eds.). The Holocaust: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection. Volume 1. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-44084-832-2.
  • Blatman, Daniel (2010). "The Death Marches and the Final Phase of Nazi Genocide". In Jane Caplan; Nikolaus Wachsmann (eds.). Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany: The New Histories. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-41542-651-0.
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  • Cesarani, David (2016). Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933–1945. New York: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 978-1-25000-083-5.
  • Hilberg, Raul (1985). The Destruction of the European Jews. New York: Holmes & Meier. ISBN 0-8419-0910-5.
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  • Kogon, Eugen (2006). The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-37452-992-5.
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  • Tooze, Adam (2007). The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-67003-826-8.
  • Tuchel, Johannes (1994). Die Inspektion der Konzentrationslager, 1938–1945: Das System des Terrors (in German). Berlin: Hentrich. ISBN 978-3-89468-158-6.
  • Wachsmann, Nikolaus (2015). KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-37411-825-9.
  • Weale, Adrian (2012). Army of Evil: A History of the SS. New York; Toronto: NAL Caliber (Penguin Group). ISBN 978-0-451-23791-0.
  • Yahil, Leni (1990). The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, 1932–1945. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504522-X.
  • Zentner, Christian; Bedürftig, Friedemann (1991). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: MacMillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-897500-6.

Online edit

External links edit