The SS state

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The SS State (1946)

The SS-State - The System of the German Concentration Camps is a work first published in 1946 by the sociologist Eugen Kogon , who himself was a prisoner of the Buchenwald concentration camp for six years as an opponent of National Socialism . It is a comprehensive presentation of the German concentration camp - terror and is considered the first historical analysis of the Nazi -Terrorsystems.

Origin of the book

Eugen Kogon had been a prisoner in Buchenwald concentration camp since 1939 - with several interruptions when he was imprisoned in a Gestapo prison in Vienna. After the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp by the 3rd US Army, on behalf of the Psychological Warfare Division for the headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces ( SHAEF ), within four weeks he prepared an initial report on “the extremely complicated internal conditions” of the camp. This happened “in constant contact with the camp and the numerous groups of former prisoners”. His testimony included a 125-page main report and nearly 120 reports from individual prisoners. The book that emerged from this and other reports "is a new manuscript," as Kogon emphasizes in the introduction. “Here and there I used a piece of text from my original report, but the difference is clear: instead of Buchenwald as an individual case, the system of the German concentration camps, instead of 12 now 23 chapters. ... Significant documentary material was added. ”Kogon wrote the book from June 15 to December 15, 1945. At the end of his introduction he points out that he “did not have to write a history of the German concentration camps, nor a compendium of all the atrocities committed, but a predominantly sociological work, the human, political and moral content of which has been established as being of exemplary importance. “The book was published in spring 1946 in three editions for the various zones of occupation in Germany . Since then it has been regarded as a standard work on Nazi crimes .

The German concentration camps

Eugen Kogon in the foreword to the SS state : “The German concentration camps were a world of their own, a state of their own - an order without law, into which man was thrown, who now with all his virtues and vices - more vices than virtues - fought for bare existence and bare survival. Against the SS alone? Certainly not; the same, yes even more so against his own fellow prisoners! The whole thing behind the iron bars of a terrorist discipline is a jungle of wilderness, shot into from outside, taken out to hang, poisoned, gassed, slain, tortured to death, intrigued for life, influence and power, fought for material better position , was cheated and cheated, new classes and strata were formed, celebrities, parvenus and pariah within the ranks of the slaves, where the contents of consciousness changed, the moral standards bent to the breaking point, orgies and masses celebrated, held allegiance, showed love and hatred, in short the tragoedia humana was exemplified in the most peculiar way. "


The work contains explanations about the goals of the National Socialist state. The organizations SS , SD , Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), criminal police and the organization of the concentration camps are described. The living conditions in a concentration camp are depicted: delivery, daily routine, work, punishments, nutrition, receipt of money and mail, “free time” and sanitary conditions. The special facilities are also described: crematoriums , gas chambers , medical test stations , camp brothels and luxury businesses of the SS.Kogon describes the psychology of the SS, the psychology of KL prisoners, the struggle between the SS and anti-fascist forces in the camp and the end of the concentration camps. In the last chapter he looks at the relationship between the population and concentration camps. The term “ Temporary Preventive Detention ” used by Kogon is controversial; likewise his remark that the so-called “ anti-socials ” made up the highest percentage of dismissals.


  • “National Socialism not only raped people, but also language. The bad habit of scalping words arose earlier and is by no means a German peculiarity, but just as widespread in Russia and America. In addition, the National Socialists created a real gibberish with a military-jagged sound: Reichsführer-SS, Reichsarzt SS and police, head doctor KL is linguistic nonsense, a kind of headhunter dialect. "


The Spanish writer Jorge Semprún , who came to Buchenwald in January 1944 after interrogation and torture, had SS State in his luggage during a visit to the Kogons camp in 1992 . He calls the book the most objective and exhaustive report on living, working and death conditions in Buchenwald. - Konrad Adam 2005: "Kogon's book about the SS state, to this day probably the most descriptive account of the concentration camp system."

The SS state was included in the ZEIT library of 100 non-fiction books .

Proposed Consequences

In the preface to a new edition in 1974, Kogon draws profound conclusions from the experiences described in his book, going far beyond the polarization at the time in the Cold War between the USA and the USSR ; namely with regard to a foreseeable “ globalization ” with increasing humanity or inhumanity and increasing importance of moral categories in politics: “Since the universalization of the conditions has increased and humanity is on the way to one world or none , one should get away from the problem morality in politics - do not consider this to be absent in the best conceivable sense: ... "


  • German: 1st edition Verlag Karl Alber , Munich 1946; also in the publishing house of Frankfurter Hefte , Frankfurt a. M., Verlag des Druckhaus Tempelhof, Berlin, and Schwann-Verlag, Düsseldorf. Copyright 1974 Kindler Verlag. Another German-language edition was published in 1947 by Bermann-Fischer Verlag AB, Stockholm.
  • 13th edition: Heyne Verlag , 1983
  • 44th edition: Heyne, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-453-02978-X .
  • 47th edition 2015
  • French: 1947, 1969, 1980, 1993, 2002
  • English: 1950, 1958, 1960, 1968, 2006 (revised with new introduction by Nikolaus Wachsmann)
  • Spanish: 1965, 2005
  • Dutch: 1968, 1984, 2014
  • Norwegian: 1974, 1981
  • Swedish: 1977, 2002, 2006
  • Croatian: 1982
  • Romanian: 1987
  • Danish: 1991
  • Japanese: 2001
  • Hungarian: 2006
  • Polish: 2017

See also

Web links

Notes / evidence

  1. Quotations from the introduction to Der SS-Staat , 1. A., Alber, Munich 1946, pp. XI – XV.
  2. ^ The SS State , 1. AS IX.
  3. Der SS-Staat , 1. A, p. 16.
  4. Hans-Dieter Schmid: The action 'Arbeitsscheu Reich' 1938. In: Herbert Diercks (Red.): Ausgänket. 'Asocials and criminals' in the National Socialist camp system. Bremen 2009, ISBN 978-3-8378-4005-6 , p. 38.
  5. It should be noted that “there were also enough people among those arrested as anti-social who could not be accused of anything other than arriving late for work about twice or taking unauthorized leave, changing jobs without the approval of the employment office, their National Socialist maid 'treated badly' when dancers had earned their bread, and whatever other such 'offenses' were. ”( Der SS-Staat , 1. A, p.15) Also included in the category marked with a black triangle' Asocials '“Women who did not fit in with the Nazi state in any way, for example rejected the Association of German Girls or did not go to the Reich Labor Service.” (Robert Sommer in an interview with Franziska von Kempis: Himmler's KZ brothels - “The cursed hours on Evening " . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , June 19, 2009.)
  6. Der SS-Staat , 13th edition, p. 63.
  7. ^ Jorge Semprun: Writing or Living. Frankfurt a. M. 1995, pp. 336f.
  8. ^ Die Welt , April 16, 2005.
  9. ^ From the foreword to the 10th edition, Kindler Verlag, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-463-00585-9 .