Service dogs in concentration camps

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Service dogs in concentration camps were increasingly used from 1942 to guard the concentration camp prisoners . Under the central responsibility of the Economic and Administrative Main Office (WVHA) of the SS , dog handlers and service dogs were trained. Numerous reports from prisoners document the use of dogs to track down refugees, as well as the injuries and murder of prisoners by dogs.

Private dogs and service dogs

Dogs were used in the military and police of the German Reich even before the First World War . During the National Socialist dictatorship , service dogs in the police were expanded considerably after Heinrich Himmler was appointed head of the German police in 1936 . There were at least two police service dog schools , such as that of the security police in Rahnsdorf and a facility for the police in Grünheide .

There is no reliable knowledge about the beginning of a systematic use of dogs to guard the concentration camp prisoners. Orders from individual concentration camps in which the keeping of private dogs was prohibited have been handed down. In August 1937, the commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp , Karl Otto Koch , banned dogs from being kept in the area of ​​the concentration camp and allowed unsupervised dogs to be shot in the camp area. At the same time, Koch allowed an SS-Obersturmführer to keep a dog as it was to be trained as a sniffer dog. In the early days of the concentration camp system, the transition between private and business dog ownership was probably fluid.

The attitude of private dogs that killed inmates is known from camp commanders : Ralf and Rolf, the two dogs of the commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp , Amon Göth , bit many inmates to death. According to statements made by survivors, Barry , the dog of the commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp , Kurt Franz , threw less strong prisoners to the ground and tore them apart beyond recognition.

Service dogs from 1942

Commissioner for service dogs at the Reichsführer SS

In the spring of 1942 the administration of the concentration camps was reorganized. The background to this was the new function of the concentration camps, which now served as a manpower reservoir, especially for the armaments industry. This created until the war ended a variety of satellite concentration camps , the new, more flexible forms of prisoner guarding realized. In addition, an increasing shortage of personnel became noticeable within the SS , which was caused on the one hand by the high losses of the Waffen SS after the German attack on the USSR , on the other hand by the rapidly increasing number of concentration camp prisoners.

On May 15, 1942, Himmler ordered a reorganization of the service dog system of all SS and police institutions and appointed a "representative for service dog systems at the Reichsführer SS". The service dog officer was SS-Standartenführer Franz Mueller , a leading German cynologist . Oswald Pohl , head of the Economic and Administrative Main Office (WVHA) of the SS, had his own main department DI / 6 "Protection and Search Dogs" set up in his office on July 23, 1942. The tasks of this main department were the procurement, breeding and training of dogs, the training of dog handlers and veterinary matters . Standartenführer Mueller also took over the management of this main department, his deputy was SS-Hauptsturmführer August Harbaum . In 1943, Himmler expressed his ideas about the use of dogs in concentration camps:

“Dogs that roam the outside of the camps must be trained to be such raging beasts as the hound dogs are in Africa. They must be trained to tear everyone apart with the exception of their guardian. The dogs must be kept accordingly so that no misfortune can happen. They are only allowed in in the dark, when the camp is closed, and have to be caught again in the morning. "

Rudolf Höß , commandant of Auschwitz and from the end of 1943 as head of the DI office in the WVHA was responsible for service dog matters, reported on other ideas of Himmler:

“He himself always had in mind that dogs would have to be trained in such a way that they could constantly circle the prisoners like a flock of sheep and thus prevent them from escaping. A post with several dogs should be able to safely guard up to a hundred prisoners. "

Dog teaching and testing department in Sachsenhausen

The establishment of the "dog teaching and experimentation department" (LVA) in June 1942 on the grounds of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp was also initiated by Oswald Pohl . In July 1942, the department was assigned to the Waffen SS as the central facility; initially 75 members of the SS and 60 dogs were assigned to her. In Sachsenhausen, kennels for around 200 dogs as well as several barracks as accommodation and training rooms were built by 1943 .

The duties of the LVA included the training of dogs and the organization of courses for dog handlers from both the Waffen-SS and the concentration camps. From 1943 on, veterinary assistants were also trained. The SS members sent from the concentration camps to Sachsenhausen for training did not always prove to be suitable. In March 1944, the department DI / 6 of the WVHA complained in a circular to the commanders of the concentration camps, "that lacked a significant proportion of men of sufficient intelligence to real interest and of genuine love of animals." Dogs were in the LVA trained for different purposes: as a companion or protection dog , guard dog or tracking dog . In ongoing trials, the LVA tried out ways of using less personnel to guard the concentration camps and workplaces by using dogs.

Use of dogs in concentration camps

The use of dogs was concentrated in the camps themselves as well as on large work units, for example in factories. Dogs were used as an instrument to guard prisoners, to search for people who had fled and as a weapon that could injure or kill prisoners. One focus in the training of the dogs was the search for escaped prisoners. According to a circular from the WVHA, the following behavior of the dogs was aimed for: “During patrol work (rummaging) the dog should catch the perpetrator and bark at the perpetrator as long as he stands still with his hands up. However, if the perpetrator flees, attacks the dog or even makes defensive movements, the dog should bite ruthlessly. ” In practice, the dog handlers were likely to have freedom of action, as the actual posture of the refugee could hardly be clarified afterwards.

Sheepdogs , Airedale Terriers , Dobermans and Boxers were predominantly used as dog breeds . From the point of view of the SS, boxers turned out to be less suitable: The boxer present in the SS special camp in Hinzert was certified as being unreliable, unsuitable for picking up tracks and performing very well when biting in the protection service. In July 1944, the breeding of purebred boxers was banned.

When the dogs are housed on the camp grounds, the dogs should have no visual contact with the concentration camp inmates. This was based on the notion that “the hostile attitudes associated with training are not dulled towards inmates in camp clothing. For this reason the dog is never allowed to run around freely in the camp. ” That is why the use of prisoners to care for the dog and to clean kennels was prohibited. Despite the threat of severe punishment, this ban was often disregarded by the SS members in the camps. For the LVA in Sachsenhausen there is evidence that numerous concentration camp prisoners were called in to do auxiliary work. Prisoners who took access to the dog food because they were hungry were sent to punishment companies. After the end of the war, an inmate of the Wiener Neudorf subcamp reported that the camp leader there, Kurt Emil Schmutzler, had shot his private dog after the dog had put his head on the inmate's knee. In the Saulgau subcamp , where there were four service dogs to guard around 400 prisoners, the dog handlers put on prisoner clothing themselves when training their dogs .

The dog handlers had a special position within the camp staff. Organizationally, they were grouped together in a dog squad which, depending on the size of the camp, formed a company or a separate platoon . Because the dog got used to the handler, both were only used together. The special position of the dog handlers also resulted from the fact that they were not used for any other activities in the camps. According to Rudolf Höß, it was very difficult for the camp commandant to replace dog handlers because the time-consuming re-training was to be avoided.


After the liberation , numerous concentration camp prisoners described the injuries and killing of prisoners by the dogs of the concentration camp personnel: The escape of a Soviet prisoner in the Wiener Neudorf satellite camp in November 1943 ended with the death of the prisoner: “The dogs accompanied by the SS literally tore the prisoner to pieces so that the entrails remained lying in all directions ” , so the affidavit of a fellow prisoner. Danilo Veronesi, an 18-year-old Italian prisoner in the Ebensee concentration camp , was tortured and beaten after an attempt to escape before the camp leader and block leader let loose a mastiff on him, which bit the prisoner dead after an hour. During the recovery of corpses from a mass grave in which inmates of the Überlingen-Aufkirch subcamp were buried, dog bite wounds were found in 10 of the 97 corpses in April 1946. The use of service dogs is documented in documents relating to Nazi trials and can be found in the prisoners' memorial literature.


  • Bertrand Perz : "... must be raised to be raging beasts". The use of dogs for guarding concentration camps. In: Dachauer Hefte , Volume 12 (1996), ISSN  0257-9472 , pp. 139-158.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hermann Kaienburg : The SS military and economic complex in the Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg concentration camp. (= Series of publications by the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation , Volume 16) Metropolverlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-938690-03-8 , p. 359.
  2. a b This assessment in Bertrand Perz , Bestien , p. 140.
  3. Amon Göth at
  4. On Barry see judgment of the Düsseldorf Regional Court of September 3, 1965 (8 I Ks 2/64) in: Adelheid L. Rüter-Ehlermann (edit.): Justiz und NS-Verbrechen. Collection of German criminal convictions for Nazi homicide crimes 1945-1966. Volume XXII, University Press Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1981. ISBN 90-6042-022-5 . P. 56 ff.
  5. Perz, Bestien , pp. 141 ff.
  6. ^ Letter from Himmler to Oswald Pohl and Richard Glücks dated February 8, 1943, quoted in Perz, Bestien , p. 145.
  7. ^ Martin Broszat: Commandant in Auschwitz. Autobiographical notes by Rudolf Höß. P. 122f. Quoted in Perz, Bestien , p. 157.
  8. ^ Kaienburg, Wirtschaftskomplex , pp. 358 ff.
  9. ^ Letter from Department DI / 6 of the WVHA to the camp commanders of March 5, 1943, quoted in Perz, Bestien , p. 148.
  10. a b Kaienburg, economic complex , p. 360.
  11. ^ Perz, Bestien , p. 144.
  12. ^ Letter from Department DI / 6 of the WVHA to the camp commanders of May 28, 1943, quoted in Perz, Bestien , p. 148.
  13. This assessment in Perz, Bestien , p. 153 f.
  14. ^ Perz, Bestien , pp. 152f.
  15. Richard Glück's letter to the camp commanders from August 12, 1941, quoted in Perz, Bestien , p. 155.
  16. Perz, Bestien , pp. 155f.
  17. ^ Georg Metzler: "Secret command matter". Missile armor in Upper Swabia - the Saulgau satellite camp and the V2 (1943–1945). Eppe, Bergatreute 1996, ISBN 3-89089-053-9 , p. 71.
  18. Perz, Bestien , p. 151 f.
  19. Affidavit by Dura Bernhard, Mauthausen, May 13, 1945 (Nuremberg Document NO-2176), quoted from Perz, Bestien , p. 139.
  20. ^ Andreas Schmoller: Roberto Castellani. Memories on the occasion of the first day of death on December 3, 2005 ( Memento from April 26, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF, 1.7 MB) In: Betrifft Vorteil. 75 (December 2005) pp. 30–33, here p. 31.
  21. Oswald Burger : The tunnel. Edition Isele, Eggingen 2005, ISBN 3-86142-087-2 , p. 30.
  22. Exemplary: Summaries of court judgments on dog handlers or dogs in concentration camps: Cologne Regional Court ; 1965 ( Memento of February 26, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), Düsseldorf, 1965 ( Memento of April 16, 2008 in the Internet Archive ); Duisburg, 1993 ( memento of February 26, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) on justice and Nazi crimes.