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Erfassung: Volkszahlen, Identi¬zieren, Aussondern im Nationalsozialismus (Berlin: Rotbuch
Verlag, 1984), especially 105“9.
Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

of this particular operation.43 This claim is supported by the following parallel
developments. As the Nazi labor administration centralized its organization
in 1935“6,44 employment of¬ces simultaneously intensi¬ed the registration of
and restrictions placed on the unemployed; similarly, when the Nazi welfare
agency, Winterhilfswerk, became a permanent organization in 1937“8, it cur-
tailed its services and raised its de¬nitional hurdle for vulnerability “ this,
despite the fact that funding for the organization actually increased. No longer
was it the agency™s sole objective to ameliorate the sufferings of all citizens
impacted by the Great Depression. Biology mattered, as well. Indeed, start-
ing in 1933, individuals could receive support only with an acceptable genetic
Between 1935 and 1938, a new approach gained favor with the police “
an approach based upon the racist belief that certain individuals and fami-
lies were biologically degenerate and, thus, predetermined to exhibit deviant
behavior, including shying away from work. In accordance with this perspec-
tive, police work shifted from the “¬ght against enemies” to that of “racial
control” (generelle Rassenpravention).46 “Asocials,” however, continued to
be arrested. In 1942 and 1943, large operations led to the transfer of 12,000
“asocial” prisoners from German jails to concentration camps and the arrest of
“asocial” Poles residing in the General Government.47 Not only did “asocials”
suffer from the camp system™s already high mortality rates, but they were fur-
ther targeted in the course of the 1941 “Operation 14f13” (euthanasia) killings,
which resulted in the murder of sick camp prisoners, and in the general euthana-
sia killing program. Still others met their fate in the mass murder of Gypsies

Wolfgang Ayaß, “Ein Gebot der nationalen Arbeitsdisziplin: Die Aktion ˜Arbeitsscheu Reich™

¨ ¨
1938,” in Feinderklarung und Pravention: Kriminalbiologie, Zigeunerforschung und Asozialen-
politik (Berlin: Rotbuch, 1988), especially 63, 67“70; idem, Asoziale, 139“65; Wagner, Volks-
gemeinschaft, 279“92; Karin Orth, Das System der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager
(Hamburg: Hamburger, 1999), 48“53; Broszat, “Nationalsozialistische Konzentrationslager,”
77“78, 93; cf. Timothy Mason, Social Policy in the Third Reich: The Working Class and the
“National Community,” trans. John Broadwin (Providence, RI: Berg, 1993), 185“95.
Kahrs, “Die ordnende Hand,” esp. 36“7; Andreas Kranig, Lockung und Zwang: Zur Arbeitsver-

fassung im Dritten Reich (Stuttgart: Deutsch Verlags-Anstalt, 1983), 153“7.
Herwart Vorlander, Die NSV: Darstellung und Dokumentation einer nationalsozialistischen

Organisation (Boppard am Rhein: H. Boldt, 1988), 54, 60“1; Peter Hammerschmidt, Die
¨ ¨
Wohlfahrtsverbande im NS-Staat: Die NSV und die konfessionellen Verbande (Caritas und
Innere Mission) im Gefuge der Wohlfahrtsp¬‚ege des Nationalsozialismus (Opladen: Leske +
Budrich, 1999), 397“407.
Ulrich Herbert, “Von der Gegnerbekampfung zur rassischen Generalpravention™: ˜Schutzhaft™
¨ ¨

und Konzentrationslager in der Konzeption der Gestapo-Fuhrung 1933“1939,” in Die national-
sozialistischen Konzentrationslager: Entwicklung und Struktur, eds. Ulrich Herbert, Karin Orth,
and Christoph Dieckmann (Gottingen: Wallstein, 1998), 60“86; Wagner, Volksgemeinschaft,
Broszat, “Konzentrationslager,” 125; Helmut Krausnick, “Judenverfolgung,” in Anatomie des

SS-Staates (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), 233“366, here 320 and 358; Klee,
State Violence “ Violent Societies 147

and criminals.48 It must be noted, however, that gaping holes remain in our
knowledge of the practices of repression between 1940 and 1945.
In 1940, an additional category of camp emerged in Germany: “labor edu-
cation camps.” In total, two hundred such Gestapo-run camps were built, with
a capacity for approximately 40,000 inmates. It was in these camps that many
“work-shy” and those with substandard work performance served their time.
Internment lasted up to eight weeks (although inmates were often subsequently
sent to concentration camps) and aimed to shock prisoners with brutal work
and living conditions. Employers, meanwhile, knew that there was a strong like-
lihood that their employees would return after only a relatively short period
of absence. While these camps complemented the campaigns against deviants,
their main target was industrial workers already employed, not the outcasts,
homeless, or unemployed. The primary responsibility for addressing the latter
remained with the criminal police “ at least of¬cially.49
In reality, actions targeting “asocials” were hardly con¬ned to the police;
rather, violence against “asocials” in Nazi Germany was very much shaped
by the networking between public and private welfare institutions, labor of¬-
cials, medical doctors, the criminal police, and the Gestapo. Despite the fact
that principal authority lay with the criminal police, for example, the Gestapo
often interfered in police operations. Of¬cials in welfare bureaus and Wan-
derer (vagrant) welfare houses submitted their own recommendations and pro-
posals regarding the arrest of certain individuals and groups and, not infre-
quently, recommended concentration camp imprisonment and sterilization.
Some labor of¬ces and welfare bureaus went so far as to maintain their own
card indices and operate their own internment camps. The National Socialist
People™s Welfare Organization (NSV) denounced individuals as well. At the
local level, communal authorities invested tremendous energy in the cleans-
ing of their cities of “asocials.”50 Indeed, the impetus for ever-more radical
measures against “asocials” resulted primarily from local and regional pres-
sures. Without all of these competing pressures, individual arrests and mass
raids by the police would most certainly have yielded smaller results. At this

See the dispute about how many “asocials” were targeted in “operation 14f13” between Walter

Grode, Die Sonderbehandlung 14f13™ in den Konzentrationslagern des Dritten Reiches (Frank-
furt am Main: P. Lang, 1987), especially 87, and Orth, System, 114“21; cf. Gotz Aly, “Medizin
gegen Unbrauchbare,” in Aussonderung und Tod: Die klinische Hinrichtung der Unbrauch-
baren (Berlin: Rotbuch, 1987), 9“74, here 34“56.
Gabriele Lot¬, KZ der Gestapo: Arbeitserziehungslager im Dritten Reich (Stuttgart: Deutsche

Verlags-Anstalt, 2000), in particular 89, 117 and 216; Ayaß, Asoziale, 177“9.
Ayaß, “Gebot,” 45, 49“51, 62“3, 65; Ayaß, Asoziale, 57“104 (for communally run camps,

100“2, 123“37); Pine, Nazi Family Policy, 128“46; for of¬cials from different levels within
the Welfare Bureau in Munich, Claudia Brunner, “˜Fursorgeempfanger wurden ausgemerzt™:
¨ ¨
Die Sozialpolitik des Munchner Wohlfahrtsamtes am Ende der Weimarer Republik und in der
fruhen NS-Zeit,” in Durchschnittstater, ed. Christian Gerlach (Berlin: Verlag der Buchladen,
¨ ¨
2000), 53“72; Kahrs, “Die ordnende Hand,” 31; many telling examples in Klee, 30“3, 54“6,
345“56; cf. Wagner, Volksgemeinschaft ohne Verbrecher.
Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

time, however, there is not yet suf¬cient evidence to determine adequately the
extent to which the German public, broadly considered, consented to such
violence. Current research seems to indicate that the majority of denunciations
originated from of¬cial rather than private channels.
Because of the rather nebulous de¬nition of the term, it is impossible to
determine precisely how many people were arrested or murdered as “asocials”
and how many of them were released from concentration camps.51 The most
convincing estimate to date is that 63,000 to 82,000 “criminals” or “aso-
cials” were imprisoned in concentration camps between 1933 and 1945. Of
these, 26,000 to 34,000 did not survive the war. Included in these ¬gures
were an estimated two-thirds of approximately 20,000 “criminals” interned
in concentration camps who did not return alive. Relatively few Gypsies, it
appears, were marked as “asocials.”52 These ¬gures, however, do not re¬‚ect
other forms of persecution. Accordingly, it seems reasonable to approximate
that some 100,000 “asocials” and criminals were imprisoned in camps or sen-
tenced to death, and that 50,000 of them did not survive the Nazi era. The
majority of the latter fell victim to the euthanasia program, perished in the
concentration camps, or died in the Gestapo™s “labor education camps.”
That having been said, the overall degree of violence in¬‚icted against “aso-
cials” in Nazi Germany was much lower than that in the Soviet Union. In fact,
abundant evidence suggests that, in Germany, intimidation and deterrence were
as instrumental as the arrests themselves. And, it was precisely the shifting def-
inition of “asocials” that proved so useful in increasing public pressure for
conformity. Often, police measures against the “asocial” were publicized in
the German press. The criminal police published novels and tracts, some of
which were widely circulated, articulating the eugenic view that their of¬cers
were “doctors for the social body.”53 If the absolute level of violence required
to restore social order in the wake of the Great Depression and to construct
the new Nazi social order is considered substantial, but relatively low com-
pared to Soviet standards, this is a consequence of the Nazi logic of integration
and exclusion. Experts and of¬cial surveys suggested that only relatively few
people could not be reintegrated productively in society. Note that most of

See for releases Ayaß, “Gebot,” 61“6.

Wagner, Volksgemeinschaft, 9, 333, 343 (according to a speech of Himmler in October 1943,

70,000 of 110,000 German non-Jews arrested at different times in concentration camps were
“asocials” and criminals, the rest of the 40,000 political opponents). Cf. Nikolaus Wachsmann,
“˜Annihilation through Labor™: The Killing of State Prisoners in the Third Reich,” in Journal of
Modern History 71, no. 3 (1999): 624“59, here 649“50. Michael Zimmermann, Rassenutopie
und Genozid: Die nationalsozialistische “Losung der Zigeunerfrag” (Hamburg: Christians,
1996), 118“19, suggests that 10 percent or less of the “asocials” in concentration camps were
Gypsies. For foreign forced workers inside the Reich and inhabitants of the German-occupied
areas, no data are available even for an educated guess.
Ayaß, Asoziale, 30, 10; Ayaß, “Gebot,” 51; Kahrs, “Die ordnende Hand,” 51; Robert Gellately,

Hingeschaut und weggesehen: Hitler und sein Volk, trans. Holger Fliessbach (Stuttgart and
Munich: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2002), 60, 108, 132“8; for press reports see ibid., 94“8,
114“15; for the novels Wagner, Volksgemeinschaft, 9 and 409, note 5.
State Violence “ Violent Societies 149

the 10 million who lived off public welfare in 1933 were reintegrated into
the labor market after some months or years without personal repression. The
labor of¬ces and the Reich Labor Service became involved only when they
felt the need to reeducate people or to get them accustomed to hard work.
Only a minor portion of tramps in 1933 were actually considered “asocial,”
and, in 1937, of 215,000 persons with limited ¬tness for use in the labor mar-
ket, only 6.6 percent were classi¬ed as having “¬‚aws in personality” and only
2.4 percent were categorized as “work-shy.”54
The fact that years of efforts to pass a “law against those alien to the com-
munity” (Gemeinschaftsfremdengesetz) met with no success indicates that the
regime was careful to limit who was to be persecuted as “asocial.” The law
would have resulted in the regulation of policy against “asocials” and the
legalization and expansion of measures already taken by the police. Accord-
ing to the law, the criminal police would have been able to determine whether
“asocials” should be placed in concentration camps. Many would undoubtedly
have been sterilized. Plans were even included for regular executions of persis-
tent offenders. In essence, the objections made (at different times) by the Reich
Ministries of Justice and of Agriculture, the head of the Nazi Party™s Justice
Bureau, Hans Frank, Propaganda Minister Goebbels, and Hitler centered on
the sense of lawlessness, the fear that political worries would spread among the
German population, and that too much power would be accorded the SS and
police in the arena of social policy.55 Earlier attempts to introduce a Custody
Law (Bewahrungsgesetz), demanded by welfare experts since the 1920s, that
would intern persons selected by public welfare authorities were equally futile.
While the rules envisioned by advocates of the law were ultimately surpassed
by the reality of post-1938 Nazi Germany,56 it can be assumed that the “law
against those alien to the community” would have resulted in more than just
the legalization of existing practice, for legal authorization may very well have
led to new dynamics of violence.57
In a way, the persecution of “asocials” in Nazi Germany can be viewed as
another example of the vast gap between intention and reality that accompanied
Nazi violence, particularly if one takes into account estimates of police and
other experts that there were 1.0 to 1.6 million “asocials” in Germany.58 It
appears that many politicians considered the actual level of repression and
the extant apparatus and legal framework to be suf¬cient, at least during
the war “ this, despite their ideological conviction that being “asocial” was

Brunner, “˜Fursorgeempfanger,™” 55“6; Klee, 39; Kahrs, “Die ordnende Hand,” 43“6, 49;
¨ ¨

Kiran Patel, Soldaten der Arbeit: Arbeitsdienste in Deutschland und in den USA, 1933 bis 1945
(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003).
Wagner, “Gesetz,” 75“99; Ayaß, Asoziale, 202“9; Gellately, Hingeschaut, 148.

Ayaß, Asoziale, 14“18, 88“100.

This point is discussed in ibid., 208, and Ralph Giordano, Wenn Hitler den Krieg gewonnen

¨ ¨
hatte: Die Plane der Nazis nach dem Endsieg (Hamburg: Rasch & Rohring, 1989), 200“13.
Wagner, Volksgemeinschaft, 375; quote: Heinrich Wilhelm Kranz, Professor of Race Cultiva-

tion at the University of Gießen, in a statement of 1940, Klee, 177.
Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

a racial-biological condition.59 Another interpretation, of course, is that for
some “ for example, criminalists “ a society purged of “genetically determined
criminal and deviant German citizens” remained a “vision for the future.”60
In any case, an of¬cial overall plan for the persecution of “asocials” was never
adopted.61 The centralization of repressive machinery that occurred around
1938 remained limited, and only in some regions “ regions with particularly
“eager” authorities “ were card indices of “asocial” persons expanded.62
Perhaps more than in the Soviet case, German violence against “asocials”
aimed at establishing social discipline and was based on a diverse spectrum of
societal values regarding labor, crime, family, and sexuality.63 Control over the
labor market was also a critical factor in Germany, especially when one con-
siders mass raids on persons deemed “asocial.” Many “asocials” were arrested
for labor-related “offenses.” Yet, the main Nazi objective, at least domesti-
cally, was not to mobilize labor by throwing as many “asocials” as possible
into camps. Rather, it was to enhance labor discipline among “free” German
workers through the pressure to conform. The same, of course, did not apply
to foreigners, who were forced to work one way or another. Radically vio-
lent responses to “labor contract offenses” (there were 30,000 such offenses in
each month of 1943) included internment in concentration and labor education


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