The SS-Totenkopfverbände or SS-TV (SS skull units) was an organization from Nazi Germany. The organization was part of the SS and aimed at guarding the concentration camps. After the establishment of the Waffen-SS a large number of the members of the Totenkopfverbände transferred to the SS-Totenkopfdivision, one of the strongest Waffen-SS units during World War II..
In 1933 SS-Brigadeführer Theodor Eicke,
who at that time was also camp commander of the Dachau concentration camp, set up the SS-Totenkopfverbände, in order to have enough SS soldiers to guard Dachau. Later on, units were also set up in Sachsenhausen and Oranienburg, where the office of Theodore Eicke was also located.
After the Night of the Long Knives, which was directed against the SA-top officers in June 1934 Theodore Eicke, who shot the SA leader Ernst Röhm , here with SA Obergruppenführer Edmund Heines, in his cell in Munich, was appointed Inspector of the Konzentrationslager und Führer of the SS Wachverbände (Inspector of the concentration camps and commander of the SS guards), after which he was responsible for the further expanding his organization, which had set up the year before. On March 29, 1936, the SS-Totenkopfverbände were officially recognized and appointed by the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
after which the organization continued until the abolition of the SS in 1945, although the organization had undergone many changes in the course of the war.
The units of 1934 consisted of six guard troops in each large Nazi concentration camp. In 1935, these original six Wachtruppe were extended and renamed Wachsturmbann and in 1937 eventually became the three most important SS-Totenkopfstandarten . This structure continued to exist until 1941, when the expansion of the system of labor and concentration camps in the occupied territories necessitated a reorganization. From that year the Totenkopfverbände came under the Waffen-SS and were divided into three large groups, namely Work Camps, Concentration Camps and Extermination Camps.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp for instance was set up for Poles, and Poles were the first political prisoners there. The number of prisoners grew steadily as a result of the constant arrival of new transports. In 1940, nearly 8 thousand people were registered in the camp. Almost all of them were Poles. There were also small numbers of Jews and Germans in the camp. At that time, the latter usually held supervisory functions as capos and block supervisors.
In 1941, over 26.000 people were registered in Auschwitz (about 15.000 Poles, 10.000 Soviet POWs, and more than 1000 Jews).
As a result of the inclusion of Auschwitz in the process of the mass extermination of the Jews, the number of deportees began to soar. About 197.000 Jews were deported there in 1942, about 270.000 the following year, and over 600.000 in 1944, for a total of almost 1.1 million. Among them, about 200.000 people were selected as capable of labor and registered as prisoners in the camp.
In this same period, from 1942 to 1944, about 160.000 Poles, Gypsies, Byelorussians, Ukrainians, French, and others were registered as prisoners and given numbers. There were also more than 10.000 people, mostly Poles, Soviet POWs, and Gypsies, not entered in the camp records or given numbers.
The mass deportation of Jews to Auschwitz that began in 1942 radically changed the makeup of the prisoner population. After three months of deportation, in mid-1942, Jews already made up the most numerous ethnic group, and their share of the population rose steadily from about 46% in June 1942 to about 68% at the peak of the camp’s population, in August 1944. A total of about 400.000 prisoners were registered: 195.000 non-Jews and 205.000 Jews.