Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Early Nazi Leaders
Nazi Racial Laws
Sinti & Roma
Richard Glucks Biography
Richard Glucks was born on the 22 April 1889 and he served as an officer in World War One and joined the Nazi Party relatively late. Nevertheless, he was an SS Brigadier General before the start of the Second World War, and was appointed Inspector of Concentration Camps in autumn 1939.
From 1942 on, the Concentration Camps Inspectorate formed one of the four large divisions of the WVHA with a broad purview. Glucks had authority over all the Camp Commandants and was the person who gave the monthly orders for carrying out the “Final Solution” and “extermination through labour.”
Thus, Glucks was one of the key figures of the concentration camp system. Together with Himmler and Pohl, he decided how many of the deported Jews were to be killed and determined that the hair of the murdered people was to be collected and made into “hair-yarn stockings for U-boat crews and hair-felt stockings for the railroad.”
In 1943, Glucks was promoted to Major General of the Waffen –SS. After the end of the war, in May 1945, he is thought to have committed suicide in the Flensburg Naval Hospital, where he was supposedly being treated for a shock he had suffered in a bombing.
SS Gruppenfuhrer Richard Glucks was the second Inspector of Concentration Camps
“Glucks originally came from Dusseldorf and had spent several years before the First World War in the Argentine. When 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 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 activities.
Glucks was one of the early members of the Party and the SS. In the SS he 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.
Gluck’s attitude of mind was that of the 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 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 Gluck’s 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 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 (later the headquarters 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 have got away?” Auschwitz gave him more trouble than any of the other camps.
His pertinent 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 only inspected the camps when there was some very important reason for doing so, or at the request of the Reichsfuhrer SS or Pohl. As he often said, he observed nothing during his inspections and he was always glad if the commandant did not spend too long in dragging him round the camp.
“It is the same in every camp. I am never shown what they don’t want me to see and the rest I have seen so often that I no longer find it interesting.” He far preferred to sit in the officers’ mess and talk about every possible subject except those which were troubling the commandants.
Glucks possessed an unquenchable Rhenish humour and he saw the funny side of everything. He made the most serious matters sound comic, and he laughed over them and forgot them and made no decisions about them. It was impossible to be angry with him, for it was the way he was made.
He never took me seriously. He regarded my perpetual worries and complaints about Auschwitz as grossly exaggerated 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 always had so many complaints and requested 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 number of escapes, which exceeded anything so far experienced in concentration camps, and which were causing him so much trouble with the Reichsfuhrer SS.
Auschwitz was a perpetual thorn in Glucks 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 action’s, 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 much 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 the war alone was responsible. Later the commandants turned to Pohl for assistance. Glucks very often resented this.
Glucks was too weak, and he did not like to offend his subordinates. In particular he was too indulgent towards the older commandants and officers, who were his favourites. Officers who should have been brought before the SS tribunal, or at least removed from concentration camp service, were retained by him out of sheer good nature. It was good nature too which made him forgive many failures on the part of his staff.
When, after Liebehenschel’s departure to Auschwitz, Maurer became Glucks deputy and at the same time I became head of Department DI, Maurer and I rid headquarters of most of the officers and men of the staff, who up to then had been considered indispensible. 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, who he had to check when he considered his actions too severe, his only worry then was the Reichsfuhrer SS.
Glucks was the opposite of 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.”
Rudolf Höss Kommandant in Auschwitz. Edited by Martin Broszat Munich 1963, published by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag 1998
Kalendarium der Ereignisse im KZ Auschwitz, by Danuta Czech, published by Rowholt, Reinbeck Verlag 1989
Who’s Who in Nazi Germany by Robert S Wistrich published by Routledge, London and New York 1995
Copyright Hans Leerhand H.E.A.R.T 2009