Eicke, Theodor “Papa”, born on 17-10-1892 in Solingen, Lothringen, youngest of 11 children of the railway stationmaster Heinrich Eicke, attended Volkschule and Realschule in Hampont. A poor student, he left and joined the German Army in 1909 and during the First World War won the Iron Cross
for bravery. Eicke was active in the Freikorps before becoming an inspector in the Thuringian police force. He joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)
in 1928 and two years later took command of a Schutzstaffel (SS) Regiment of the Rhine-Palatinate. He joined the SS on 29-07-1930 and became SS Truppenführer shortly thereafter. The same year he became his next promotion, SS Sturmführer. In the beginning of 1931 he became SS Sturmbahnführer and he was Führer der II/10 SS Brigade
. Theodor Eicke was a person who makes quick promotions and after be the Verwaltungsofficier der 10 SS Standarte and Führer der 10 SS Standarte
, he makes his next promotion in October 1932 to SS Oberführer. Suspected of carrying out bomb attacks on political opponents, Heinrich Himmler
(did you know
) advised him to go and live in Italy in 1932. However, due to protection received from Franz Gürtner,
who would later serve as minister of justice under Adolf Hitler, he was able to flee to Italy. Gürtner died age 59, on 29-01-1941 in Berlin. After Adolf Hitler
(see Alois Hitler
) came to power Eicke returned to Germany In March 1933, less than three months after Hitler’s rise to power, Eicke had political quarrels with Gauleiter Joseph Bürckel,
who had him arrested and detained for several months in a mental asylum. Bürckel died, at about 11.04 hours in Neustadt-an-der-Weinstrasse on 28-09-1944, age 49. A report from Bürckel’s personal physician, since 1936, Gaugesundheitsführer Ewig, dated 28-09-1944, stated that Bürckel was physically and mentally worn out, spending all of his time at work because of the deteriorating situation in his Gau. He suffered an inflammation of the intestine with diarrhea, eventually becoming too ill to continuedied. Himmler set up the first official concentration camp at Dachau
. Hitler had stated that he did not want it to be just another prison or detention camp. In June 1933, Himmler obtained the release of Eicke from the asylum and promoted him to an SS-Oberführer. On 26-06-1933, Himmler appointed him commandant of Dachau after complaints and criminal proceedings against former and first Dachau commandant SS-Sturmbannführer Hilmar Wäckerle
following the murder of several detainees under the “guise of punishment”.
Wäckerle was killed, age 41, on 02-07-1941, near Lemberg. Eicke requested a permanent unit and Himmler granted the request; the SS-Wachverbände, Guard Unit, was formed.
In May 1934 Eicke was given responsibility of reorganizing Germany’s concentration camp system. One of his recommendations was that guards should be warned that they would be punished if they showed prisoners any signs of humanity. In the same year he became SS Brigadeführer on 30-01-1934 and SS Gruppenführer on 11-07-1934. During the Night of the Long Knives, Eicke was given personal the task of killing SA leader, Ernst Julius Röhm
in his cell, together SS Obergruppenführer Ernst-Heinrich Schmauser
he was missed in action on 10-05-1945 near Altenrode/ Breslau, age 55 and with SS-Obersturmbannführer Michael Lippert
, Lippert died age 72, on 01-09-1969 in Wuppertal and is described as “filled with a dangerous and unrepentant fanaticism” Other leaders of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) were also killed, Edmund Heines
and Johannes Schweighart
. Three days after the purge Eicke was appointed Inspector of Concentration Camps and head of Death’s Head Units.
On the outbreak of the Second World War Eicke was placed in command of the Totenkopf Division of the Waffen SS. He fought without distinction but committed several war crimes including the execution of over 100 prisoners of war in the 2nd
Royal Norfolk Regiment “The Holy Boys”
. During the Battle of France as part of the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940, members of the Royal Norfolks were victims of a German war crime at Le Paradis in the Pas-de-Calais on 26 May. The bodies of the murdered soldiers were exhumed in 1942 by the French and reburied in the local churchyard which now forms part of the Le Paradis War Cemetery. The massacre was investigated by the War Crimes Investigation Unit and SS Obersturmführer Fritz Knoechlein
was traced and arrested. Tried in a court in Hamburg, he was found guilty Knöchlein applied for clemency, arguing that he had a wife and four children that depended on him, but was sentenced to be hanged, a verdict that was carried out on 28-01-1949, age 37. He became his next promotion in 1941, Generalleutnant der Waffen SS and his last one in 1942, SS Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen SS. He received the Oak Leaves on 20-02-1942.
During Operation Barbarossa Eicke fought in the Soviet Union, with the Totenkopf Division
The Totenkopf Division went on to become one of the most effective German fighting formations on the Eastern Front, often serving as “Hitler’s firemen”, rushed to the scene of Soviet breakthroughs. During the course of the war, Eicke and his division became known for brutality and several war crimes, including the murder of 97 British POWs in Le Paradis in 1940
, the murder of captured Soviet soldiers and the plundering and pillaging of several Soviet villages. The Totenkopf continued to show ferocity, during the advance in 1941 as well as the summer offensive in 1942, the conquest of Kharkov, the defense of the Demyansk Pocket, the defense of Warsaw, and Budapest in 1945.
Death and burial ground.
Eicke was killed on 26-02-1943, age 50, several months after being promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer. While performing a battlefield reconnaissance during the opening stages of the Third Battle of Kharkov, his Fieseler Fi 156 Storch was shot down by Soviet troops 1 kilometre southwest of Artelnoje, near Lozovaya. At first light, a Kampfgruppe commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Arzelino “Lino” Masarie
set out for Artelnoje. It consisted of two Sturmgeschutze Ills, three SPWs and two platoons of motorcycle troops. The Kampfgruppe reached the plane and recovered the bodies of Theodor Eicke, SS Hauptsturmführer Friedrich and the pilot, an Oberfeldwebel named Werner. The bodies had been stripped of their boots and some of their insignia and decorations. Artelnoje was searched in hopes of finding some of Eicke’s personal effects. After looking through the wreckage and debris of the Flak gun position, Eicke’s Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves was recovered, along with other articles taken from the plane. Lino Masarie was wounded three times during his service in May 1942, August 1943 and died of wounds on 09-08-1944, age 31, near Radzymin, Poland.
Eicke was portrayed in the Axis press as a hero, and soon after his death one of the Totenkopf’s infantry regiments received the cuff-title “Theodor Eicke”.
Eicke was originally buried at a German military cemetery near Orelka, Russia. Later, Himmler ordered Eicke’s remains dug up and reburied at the Hegewald German military cemetery in Zhitomir. In 1944, the Germans were pushed back and forced to retreat yet again. Eicke’s corpse was left where it had been re-buried. Eicke married Bertha Schwebel on 26-12-1914. They had two children, Irma, born 05-04-1916 and Hermann, born 04-05-1920, apparently served in the German Army as his rank, given somewhere in Theodor’s SS file, was Leutnant killed in action as Leutnant of the Wehrmacht on 02-12-1941, age 20.