The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story of Hitler’s SS_
English translation c. 1969,
Paperback Edition: 1972, Pan Books, Ltd.,
ISBN 0 330 02963 0
The temporary clean-up which Konrad Morgen, the SS Judge, was allowed to
conduct among the SS liquidators was a good illustration of Himmler’s
Jekyll-and-Hyde character: the Reichsfuehrer’s dual personality was
suddenly exposed — the lower-middle-class citizen with his strict moral
upbringing clashed with the aotomaton, the fanatical agent of the
Fuehrer’s commands. It was an absurd spectable; one or two
‘unauthorized’ murders of Jews were investigated — by a whole squad of
SS legal experts — inside the extermination camps where thousands were
being murdered daily!
Dr. Konrad Morgen was the son of a railwayman, born 1910 in
Frankfurt-am-Main. His professional and legal career had ended when he
refused to accept a judgement by his provincial magistrate, but he had
then been appointed to the SS/Police Court in Cracow as Assistant Judge
to deal primarily with cases of corruption. After quarrelling with
Krueger, the HSSSPF, he had been posted to the SS ‘Viking’ Division as a
punishment. In 1943 he was transferred to the RKPA but forbidden to deal
with pilitical cases. ^183 There he stumbled across a case of
wide-spread corruption in the concentration camps.
One day the RKPA group ‘Financial Crimes Office,’ to which Morgen
belonged, received a call for assistance from Kassel, where SS Police
Couty XXII was located. The Court, which was responsible for Buchenwald
concentration camp, wished to clear up an old corruption case with
ramifications extending into the camp itself. ^184 Emil Holtschmidt, a
young Criminal Police officer, had been keeping a watch on Bornschein,
the local Nazi Group leader in Weimar; he was a provisions merchant who
had run various profitable rackets in partnership with Karl Koch, the
Commandant of Buchenwald. When Holtschmidt became over-inquisitive,
Bornschein joined the Waffen SS and got himself posted to the
headquarters staff of Buchenwald. ^185 The SS/Police Court took up the
case but could do nothing, since such Courts had juristiction over the
Waffen-SS (to which the concentration camp guard units theoretically
belonged) only in the capacity of a sort of court-martial; within the
camp itself, however, so-called legal officers were in charge and they
were responsible not to Hauptampt SS-Gericht but to the highest legal
authority concerned with the concentration camps. Obergruppenfuehrer
Oswald Pohl, Head of the SS Wirtschaftsverwaltunghauptampt (Economic and
Administrative Department — WVHA). ^186
The SS/Police Court Kassel now brought the RKPA into the game. It asked
for Criminal Police assistance against the Kocj gang, specifying as a
condition, however, that the selected RKPA official must carry officer
rank in the Waffen-SS — no one else would have the smallest prospect of
penetrating into Buchenwald concentration camp. ^187 Morgen, being an
Oberstrurmfuehrer in the Waffen SS, was allotted the job and went to
Weimar where he installed himself in the Elephant Hotel and initiated
unobtrusive investigations. He soon succeeded in convicting Bornschein.
^188 Then, however, he found himself uncovering the murkiest secrets of
Buchenwald Camp. Though not officially auhorized to do so, he checked
Koch’s accounts in Weimar banks and intercepted letters between Koch
(who had meanwhile been appointed Commandant of the Lublin extermination
camp) and his wife Ilse, who had remained in Buchenwald. ^189 The
deeper he delved, the more clearly he perceived that a network of
corruption existed with ramifications into the other concentration
From corruption the case developed into one of multiple murder, for
Morgen discovered that Koch had not only been blackmailing rich Jews who
had landed in his concentration camp after the 1938 Kristallnacht, but
had also been causing awkward witnesses among the prisoners to
disappear. Morgen determined to bring to justice the entire blackmail
and murder gang centered around Koch. When, however, he submitted the
results of his searches to Nebe, his Kripo master was apalled by the
over-enthusiasm of his sleuth. Nebe forsaw frightful consequences from
Morgen’s campaign and was unwilling to take responsibility. Morgen,
however, hot on the trail of his prey, chased from one SS leader to
another. He explained the case in detail to Gestapo Mueller, who sent
him to the Head of RSHA. The latter passed him on to the Head of the
Hauptampt SS-Gericht who could think of only one solution: Himmler. [FN
Morgen proceeded to the Reichsfuehrer’s Field Headquarters but could
not get in touch with Himmler. With one of Himmler’s personal staff, to
whom he told the whole story, he drafted an innocently worded telegram;
provided it was delivered, Himmler’s agreement seemed certain. The
telegram was delivered. ^191 No one can say what caused Himmler to give
the go-ahead for action against the Koch gang. Perhaps it was his
permanent mistrust of Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl and his corrupt
hangers-on, or he may have underestimated the chain reaction which the
Koch case was bound to produce. The fact remains that, for a short
instant, Himmler (in his lower-middle-class role) could congratulate
himself on putting his house in order.
Morgen seized his chance. He ordered Koch to Buchenwald and subjected
him to so severe an interrogation that the ex-king of the camp finally
broke down and confessed everything. The case for the prosecution
became longer and longer; it included murder of two prisoners, Kraemer
and Peix, embezzlement and actions detrimental to the war effort. ^192
Morgen also got his hooks on Koch’s accomplices — Sommer, a sadist in
charge of one of the barracks blocks, Dr. Waldemar Hoven, the camp
doctor, Hauptscharfuehrer Blanck and last, but not least, the ‘Queen of
the Camp,’ Ilse Koch. The indictment included murder, manslaughter, and
assault with intent to murder. ^193
But Morgen and his assistants were not prepared to be satisfied merely
with the elimination of the Koch gang. On his initiative the Kassel
SS/Police Court had been turned into a ‘special’ court with the right to
investigate all crimes in concentration camps. ^194 Morgen had
discovered new clues and they led eastwards, straight into the
top-secret extermination camps. He unearthed what he was not supposed
to unearth, the million-fold murders of Jews in the death factories of
the East. In Lublin and in Auschwitz he suddenly stumbled across the
gas chambers and realized that he had been hunting one or two cases of
murder in places where millions were being slaughtered. ^195 But how
did he react to his discovery? The answer he gives today shows that he
also suffered from his Reichsfuehrer’s schizophrenia. There were at the
time, he would have us believe, three types of murder: the officially
decreed murder of Jews ‘against which nothing could be done because the
orders issued from the Fuehrer’s Chancellery within the framework of the
‘Final Solution’ and were given by Hitler himself; the euthanasia
killings which were equally official; finally ‘arbitrary killings’ of
prisoners. ^196 Only against the third category of murders did he set
the SS machine in motion.
In practically every concentration camp Morgen and the RKPA installed
Commissions of Inquiry to investigate cases of corruption and ‘arbitrary
killings.’ ^197 Pohl’s minions, however, put up fierce resistance to
the entry of the investigators; looking for sadists in a concentration
camp was a dangerous business, for the camp staff reacted savagely,
sometimes even with murder. One of the Oranienburg prisoners named
Rothe, who was an RKPA informer, was only saved in the nick of time ^198
from a public execution arranged by the camp staff as a warning to other
prisoners not to collaborate with Morgen. ^199 In another camp a hut
containing RKPA files was burnt down and in Auschwitz Hauptscharfuehrer
Gerhard Palitsch, whom Morgen had dispatched to investigate the doings
of Hoess, the Camp Commandant, vanished into a punishment cell. ^200
Nevertheless Morgen registered numerous successes. 800 cases of
corruption and murder were dealt with and 200 resulted in sentences.
^201 Well-known names from the sinister concentration-camp-aristocracy
figured on Morgen’s list: Karl Koch, Commandant of Buchenwald and
Lublin — two death sentences for murder — executed, ^202 Hermann
Florstedt, Commandant of Lublin — condemned to death for murder and
executed, ^203 Hermann Hackmann, in charge of protective custody in
Lublin — condemned to death for murder but eventually posted to a penal
unit, ^204 Hans Loritz, Commandant of Orianenburg — procedings
initiated on suspicion of arbitrary killings, ^205 Adam Gruenewald,
Commandant of ‘sHertogenbosch [sic] — sentenced for maltreatment of
prisoners and posted to a penal unit, ^206 Karl Kuenstler, Commandant of
Flossenburg — dismissed for drunkeness and debauchery, ^207 Alex
Piorkowski, Commandant of Dachau — accused of murder but not sentenced,
^208 Maximilian Grabner, Head of the Political Section in Auschwitz —
accused of murder but not sentenced. ^209
The deeper the men of RKPA delved into the secrets of the
concentration-camp world, however, the more uneasy did Himmler become.
As early as mid-April 1944 he ordered Morgen to confine himself to the
Koch case; all other investigations were to be stopped. ^210 The order
illustrated the conflict of principle between Himmler the mass
liquidator and Himmler the apostle of rectitude. He ordered that Pohl
should personally supervise Koch’s execution; the other miscreants,
however, must report their crimes voluntarily; anyone who came forward
of his own free will could be sure of clemency. ^211 Himmler withdrew
into his world of illusion. At a meeting of SS-Gruppenfuehrer as early
as 1943 he had said, ‘All in all we can say that we have completed this
painful task (the annihilation of the Jews) out of love for our people.
In our own selves, in our souls and in our character we have suffered no
damage therefrom.’ ^212
It was no accident that Himmler closed down Morgen’s campaign just at
the moment when investigations were starting against Hoess, the
Commandant of Auschwitz. Rudolf Hoess was an outstanding exponent of
the hygenic mass-murder system, the clinically clean automatic process;
he was the ideal SS man, for whose ‘purity’ Himmler had been so
concerned when he authorized this short period of house-cleaning. The
system and the rhythm of mass extermination were dictated not by the
sadists such as Boger or Kaduk but by men like Rudolf Hoess — worthy
family men brought up in the belief that anti-Semitism was a form of
pest control, harnessed into an impersonal mechanical system working
with the precision of militarized industry and relieving the individual
of any sense of personal responsibility.
183. Verbal information from Dr. Konrad Morgen, Feb 3rd, 1966.
184. ‘Nebe Series,’ Feb 23rd, 1950, p 24.
185. ‘Lady mit Lampenschirm,’ _Der Spiegel_, Feb 16th, 1950, p 12.
186. Testimony by Guenter Reinecke, IMT Vol XX, pp 419 et seq, 436-7,
496 et seq. Statement by Dr Konrad Morgen, IMT Vol XLII, pp 551 et seq,
563 et seq. Statement by Dr Werner Paulmann, IMT Vol XVII, pp 543 et
187. Reinecke: IMT Vol XX, p 505.
188. _Der Spiegel_, Feb 16th, 1950, p 12.
190. Ibid. Verbal information from Dr Konrad Morgen, Feb 3rd 1966. IMT
Vol XX, pp 510 et seq.
192. _Der Spiegel_, Feb 16th, 1950, pp 13-14. IMT Vol XX, pp 506 et
193. ‘Nebe Series,’ Feb 23rd, 1950, p. 24.
194. Hilberg: op cit, p 579.
195. Statement by Dr Konrad Morgen, _Sueddeutsche Zeitung_, Mar 11th,
1964, p 3.
197. IMB Vol XLII, p 552.
198. IMT Vol XX, pp 439-40.
200. Ibid, p 508.
201. IMT Vol XLII, p 556. IMT Vol XX, pp 489, 438.
202. Hilberg: op cit, p 579.
203. IMT Vol XLII, p 556.
204. IMT Vol XLII, p 548. Hilberg: op cit, p 579.
205. IMT Vol XLII, p 556. IMT Vol XX, p 489.
206. IMT Vol XX, p 378. Verbal information from ‘Central Office for
investigation of National-Socialist crimes,’ Ludwigsburg, Dec 15th,
207. Hilberg: op cit, p 579.
209. Statement by Dr Morgen, _Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung_, Mar
210. IMT Vol XX, p 507. Verbal information from Dr Konrad Morgen, Feb
211. IMT Vol XX, p 442.
212. IMT Vol XXIX, p 146.