Höss on Glucks

richard glucks

Richard Glucks holding briefcase centre, visit to Gross Rosen Concentration Camp (USHMM)

Glucks originally came from Dusseldorf and had spent several years before the First World War in the Argentine. When the First World War broke out, he got through the British control by smuggling himself on board a Norwegian ship and eventually reported for military service. He served throughout the First World War as an artillery officer. After the war he was appointed a liaison officer with the armistice commission, and later on joined a Freikorps in the Ruhr district. Up to the time when Hitler assumed power, he was engaged in business activity.

Glucks was one of the early members of the Party and the SS. In the SS he at first spent some years as a staff officer in the Senior Sector West, after which he commanded a regiment of the general SS in Schneidenmuhl. In 1936, he joined Eicke as a staff officer on the Concentration Camp Inspectorate.

Glucks attitude of mind was that of a typical office worker who has no knowledge of practical matters. He imagined that he could direct everything from his office desk. Under Eicke, he scarcely made his presence felt in connection with the camps, and the occasional visits which he paid to individual concentration camps, in Eicke's company had no practical effect on him, for he saw nothing and learnt nothing. Nor had he any influence with Eicke in this connection in his capacity as staff officer, for Eicke handled these matters himself, mostly through personal contact with the commandants during his inspections of the camps.

But Eicke held him in great esteem and Glucks opinions on questions dealing with personnel were practically decisive, to the disadvantage of the commandant's staff. Various commandants had repeatedly tried to cold-shoulder Glucks, but his status with Eicke remained unassailable.

On the outbreak of war, as I have already stated, the active service guards were transferred for military duties and their places were taken by reservists from the general-SS. In addition, new formations of the Death's Head units were built up from the younger age groups, which were intended at first to be used for strengthening the police and as occupation troops. Eicke became 'General Inspector of the Death's Head Formations and of the Concentration Camps,' with Glucks as his chief of staff.

When Eicke was given the job of building up the Death's Head Division, the general inspectorate of the Death's Head formations was taken over by the administrative office of the Waffen-SS under Juttner, and Glucks became Inspector of Concentration Camps and also subordinate to the administrative office of the Waffen-SS. In 1941, the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps became incorporated in the Economic Administration Head Office as Department D.

The Reichsfuhrer-SS never had any particular confidence in Glucks and had often considered employing him in a different capacity. But Eicke and Pohl always warmly supported him , and so he retained his position as Inspector. The appointment of Glucks as Inspector made no difference to the camps. Glucks always felt that Eicke's arrangements and his orders and instructions should not be disturbed, even when they had obviously become out of date. Moreover he believed that his position as Inspector was only a temporary one. He did not consider himself justified in making the smallest alteration in the existing organisation of the camp without the permission of the Reichsfuhrer-SS. Any changes suggested by the commandants were either turned down or shelved.

During the whole time he held office he had an almost unbelievable fear of the Reichsfuhrer-SS. A telephone call from Himmler would throw him into the utmost confusion. If he had to pay a personal visit to Himmler, he would be useless for anything for several days beforehand. His otherwise imperturbable calm would completely forsake him when Himmler requested him to forward reports or comments. He therefore avoided everything that might lead to a discussion with Himmler, or even to a refusal, or, worse still, a reprimand.

He was never seriously perturbed over incidents that occurred in the camps, so long as they did not have to be reported to Himmler. Escapes had to be reported, and when one of these occurred, he was given no rest. The first question he asked when work started in the morning was always: 'How many got away?' Auschwitz gave him more trouble than any of the other camps.

His persistent fear of Himmler determined, quite naturally, his whole attitude towards the concentration camps, which roughly speaking, was: do what you like, so long as it doesn't get to the Reichsfuhrer-SS. When he was subordinated to Pohl, he breathed again. Someone stronger than him was now able to deflect the blows. But he never lost his fear of the Reichsfuhrer-SS, since the latter would still ask him for reports or summon him to his presence, although Pohl helped him out of many of his difficulties.

He never took me seriously. He regarded my perpetual worries and complaints about Auschwitz as grossly exagerated and he was astonished if he heard from Pohl or Kammler confirmation of my views. He never gave me any kind of help, although he could have done, for example, by transferring the officers and junior officers who had become intolerable in Auschwitz. But he wanted to spare the other commandants. He would do anything to avoid trouble. And Auschwitz brought nothing but trouble to disturb the holy peace of the Inspector of Concentration Camps.

Glucks inspections of Auschwitz were worthless in practice, and never achieved any results. He had no liking for the place. He found it too straggling and too badly arranged, and it caused him too much unpleasantness. Also the commandant had so many complaints and requests to make. On two occasions Glucks wanted to get rid of me, or to put a higher ranking officer over me, but he was afraid to do so because of the Reichsfuhrer-SS. This was on account of the large numbers of escapes, which exceeded anything so far experienced in concentration camps, and which was causing him so much trouble with the Reichsfuhrer-SS. Auschwitz was a perpetual thorn in Glucks's flesh because it was troublesome and because Himmler took too much interest in it.

He did not want to have anything to do with the extermination actions against the Jews, nor did he like hearing about them. The fact that the catastrophic conditions, which later arose, were directly connected with these actions, was something he could not understand and he adopted the same helpless attitude towards it as he did towards all the difficulties in all the camps and mostly left them to the commandants to settle as best they could.

'Don't ask me so much,' was the reply so often heard at his conferences with the commandants. 'You know better than I do.' He often asked Liebehenschel just before one of his conferences, 'What on earth shall I say to the Commandants?' I know nothing.' That was the Inspector of Concentration Camps, the camp commandants' superior officer, who was supposed to give directions and advice on any difficulties which might arise and for which he alone was responsible. Later on the commandants turned to Pohl for assistance. Glucks very often resented this.

When, after Liebehenschel's departure to Auschwitz, Mauer became Glucks's deputy and at the same time I became head of Department 1, Maurer and I rid headquarters of most of the officers and men of the staff, who up to then had been considered indispensable. There was a certain amount of argument with Glucks over this, but Maurer finally threatened to go to Pohl, and Glucks gave way with a heavy heart. Gradually he handed over the reins, which he had never held very tightly., to Maurer. Apart from Maurer, whom he had to check when he considered his actions too severe, his only worry then was the Reichsfuhrer-SS. Glucks was the opposite to Eicke in every respect. Both held extreme views and both were responsible for developing the concentration camps in a way that inevitably ended in tragedy.


Commandant of Auschwitz, Pan Books Ltd,1959

Photograph: USHMM

© Holocaust Historical Society December 27, 2020