The SS

From an original strength of 600 in February 1940, the guarding force grew to 3.000 men in March 1945, posted at the camps of Gusen I, II and III.

As part of the Waffen-SS, the members of the guard companies were at first recruited from SS regulars. As the war dragged on, however, manpower shortages in the Waffen-SS meant that SS recruits considered German “nationals” („Volksdeutsche“) along with “volunteers” from German occupied countries were also used to guard the concentration camps. Where the work assignments carried out by the prisoners had some relevance for the armaments effort of the Wehrmacht, German soldiers would also be used after 1944. This is why the guard company at Gusen II consisted of members of the German Airforce.

The composition of this force was subject to constant change. Individual members as well as entire units were rotated from posting to posting within the concentration camp system or exchanged places with units fighting at the front.

Members of the guard companies were not permitted to enter the camp and only were supposed to come into contact with the prisoners while guarding the work columns. Inside the camp, the members of the headquarter staff were in charge of the prisoners in their barracks, work details, offices, and workshops. The headquarter staff, the composition of which remained comparatively constant, numbered up to 300 SS regulars.