Auschwitz in the Camp System
The Auschwitz concentration camp complex was subordinate to the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps. Originally subordinate to the SS Main Office, the Inspectorate was transferred to the SS Operations Main Office after World War II began. In March 1942, the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps was incorporated into the SS Economic-Administrative Main Office and remained subordinate to that agency until the end of World War II.
In November 1943, the SS decreed that Auschwitz-Birkenau and Auschwitz-Monowitz would become independent concentration camps. The commandant of Auschwitz I remained the SS garrison commander of all SS units assigned to Auschwitz and was considered the senior officer of the three commandants. SS offices for maintaining prisoner records and managing prisoner labor deployment continued to be located and centrally run from Auschwitz I. In November 1944, Auschwitz II was reunified with Auschwitz I. Auschwitz III was renamed Monowitz concentration camp.
Auschwitz Camp Commandants
Commanders of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex were:
- SS Lieutenant Colonel Rudolf Hoess from May 1940 until November 1943
- SS Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Liebehenschel from November 1943 until mid-May 1944
- SS Major Richard Baer from mid-May 1944 until January 27, 1945.
Commanders of Auschwitz-Birkenau while it was independent (November 1943 until November 1944) were
- SS Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Hartjenstein from November 1943 until mid-May 1944
- SS Captain Josef Kramer from mid-May to November 1944.
The commandant of Monowitz concentration camp was
- SS Captain Heinrich Schwarz from November 1943 until January 1945.
Critical Thinking Questions
- How might the local population have been aware of this camp, its purpose, and the conditions within? How would you begin to research this question?
- Did the outside world have any knowledge about these camps? If so, what actions were taken by other countries and their officials? What choices do other countries have in the face of mistreatment of civilians?
- How does this camp demonstrate the complexity and the systematic nature of the German efforts to abuse and kill the Jews?