War’s Early Years
During much of the spring of 1940 Wolff was involved in the infighting over Himmler’s attempts to set up further armed fighting units of the Waffen SS. Gruppenfuhrer Theodor Eicke, commander of the Totenkopf division[i], was prepared to beg borrow or steal equipment for his men. Eicke informed Wolff that he planned to break into the Skoda works to arm the Totenkopf troops. In the alternative he suggested that Wolff could ask Himmler to approve the creation of a heavy artillery battalion for the division.By March Eicke was writing to Himmler complaining that none of the booty at the Skoda works had been given to his men; instead it had been passed on to the Wehrmacht. Wolff was used by Himmler as an intermediary between Eicke and himself, suggesting that Eicke did not escalate the fight over the weapons.
On 23rd March Wolff contacted the Ministry of Justice informing them that
‘”The Fuhrer proposes to postpone punishment of the so-called “decent poachers” and, provided they acquit themselves well at the front, to guarantee them amnesty.”’[ii]Wolff then demanded a list of all poachers known to the ministry; 55 poachers were eventually transferred to the Totenkopf division.
On 12th May[iii] Wolff, along with Pieper, Professor Gebhardt[iv], and Dr Stumpfegger[v], joined Himmler on an inspection tour of the new occupied territories and Waffen SS troops. The first night was spent in Hasselt where the party was joined for dinner by the commander of the Der Fuhrer standarte & his deputy.
Fifteen days later the Totenkopf division were responsible for the massacre at le Paradis[vi]. Himmler was furious with Eicke and declared the matter a state secret. Wolff was well aware of the massacre as he discussed it on the phone with Rudolf Brandt. On 31st May Himmler gave Eicke one of his most trusted subordinates, Brigadefuhrer[vii] Kurt Knoblauch, as a deputy; the paranoid Eicke was not impressed with what he believed was a spy from HQ.Mid-July saw Wolff back on tour with Himmler in Burgundy; where Himmler burbled on about creating an SS state within a state; Himmler would be Grand Master and his Wolffchen[viii] the Chancellor. On 19th July Wolff and Himmler flew back to Berlin to attend Hitler’s justification of his aggression and an offer of peace to Britain;
‘"My foreign policy had identical aims. My program was to abolish the Treaty of Versailles. It is futile nonsense for the rest of the world to pretend today that I did not reveal this program until 1933 or 1935 or 1937. Instead of listening to the foolish chatter of émigrés, these gentlemen would have been wiser to read what I have written thousands of times.”’[ix]The Intermediary
Erich von dem Bach Zelewski
Wolff always claimed that he knew nothing of the Holocaust; but he was certainly aware that the Jews were being mistreated. On 13th September Erich von dem Bach Zelewski[x] wrote to Wolff about his meeting with Himmler two days earlier, discussing using Jews for hard labour in Silesia.During the autumn Wolff was acting as an intermediary in the internecine brangling between Eicke and Gottlob Berger head of the Waffen SS recruitment, over replacement troops for the Totenkopf division. Eicke claimed that Berger was sending him sub-standard troops; while Berger complained that Eicke was placing the needs of the Totenkopf above the remainder of the Waffen SS. Eicke also upset Hans Juttner[xi] who disbanded Eicke’s motorcycle division.
Eicke asked Wolff to complain to Himmler about Berger’s recruitment procedures; an action Wolff was unwilling to undertake as Himmler was very enthusiastic about the numbers of men, including Volksdeutsche[xii], that Berger was recruiting to the Waffen SS[xiii]. Eicke was also desperate to save one of his men arrested by Juttner’s orders for attempting to remove military equipment from Dachau[xiv].
Dachau - SS barracks on right
By spring 1941, as the military build up for the invasion of Russia was underway, Wolff was embroiled in a scandal at one of the Lebensborn homes under his control. The conditions at the Kurmark Lebensborn home[xv] were provoking local gossip. Himmler, worried about the reputation of the home as a brothel, ordered;
‘The homes risk losing their good reputation through such visits [from male friends of the inmates]. To avoid hardship a visitor’s hut will be established……where there will be no opportunity for intimacy.’[xvi]Preparing for the Invasion
Sometime in March 1941 Wolff attended a meeting about the preparation for the invasion of Germany’s ally Russia. Kurt Daluege[xvii], Berger, the Obergruppenfuhrers[xviii] and the Gruppenfuhrers who were in charge of the Einsatzgruppen and were to be the SS leaders of the conquered territories attended Himmler’s meeting at Wewelsburg[xix].
On 1st March Wolff joined Himmler, IG Farben executives, von dem Bach Zelewski, Richard Glucks[xx] and a number of other officials for the first inspection of Auschwitz[xxi]. On this day Himmler ordered an increase in the size of the camp from 10,000 to 30,000 prisoners who would be used to build a factory for IG Farben. The same month Wolff was involved with Himmler, Daluege and Heydrich in deciding the role of the police in the to-be conquered lands in Russia.It would appear that Wolff had overreached himself financially, as the following month, having admitted that he owed 150,000 Reichsmarks on his house on the Tegernsee, SS negotiators reduced the debt to 21.500 Reichsmarks. FX Schwarz, the Nazi party treasurer, gave 1,500 Reichsmarks towards paying off the loan. Later Himmler was to write to Schwarz giving his opinion of Wolff; he would give Wolff 21,500 Reichsmarks partly as a gift and partly as a loan from Freundeskreis RFSS funds.
On the 4th May Wolff accompanied Himmler to listen to Hitler detail the results of the campaign in the Balkans, thrust upon an unwilling Hitler[xxii] by Mussolini’s overweening ambition to emulate Hitler’s successes in France. Hitler castigated Churchill as the architect of the war, claiming;
'He is the most bloodthirsty or amateurish strategist in history'[xxiii]On 9th May Wolff joined Himmler on a trip to inspect the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler[xxiv] in Larissa, Greece.
In mid-June Wolff attended a three day meeting of Himmler and his senior staff at Wewelsburg. Heydrich, von dem Bach-Zelewski, Friedrich Jeckeln[xxv], Daleuge, Oswald Pohl and Rudolf Brandt were among those attending. The future Higher SS and Police Fuhrers (HSSPF) were given copies of Heydrich’s instructions to the Einsatzgruppen. It was expected that 30 million undesirables[xxvi] in the Soviet Union would have to be killed.The Killing Fields
In October, after the invasion of Germany’s former ally Russia, Wolff joined Himmler on a trip to the newly conquered territories. On 15th October Himmler, accompanied by his faithful Wolffchen, addressed the men of Bach-Zelewski’s einsatzgruppen in Minsk. There had been complaints from the army about the einsatzgruppen killing methods.Himmler witnessed an 'execution' of partisans and Jews;
‘After the first salvo Himmler came right up to me and looked personally into the ditch, remarking that there was someone still alive. He said to me “Lieutenant, shoot that one!”’[xxvii]He told his men that he and Hitler would answer to history for the necessary extermination of the Jews as;
'”The carriers of world Bolshevism.”’[xxviii]According to him this justified the harshest possible measures against the Jews.
In afternoon Himmler visited mental hospital in Novinki, where Artur Nebe[xxix] was instructed to kill the inmates. Himmler also found time to visit a POW camp, drive through the Minsk ghetto and talk to Bach-Zelewski about killing methods. He also instructed Nebe to develop less brutalizing methods of killing.
On 21st October Heydrich wrote to Wolff complaining about the number of Jews being claimed as indispensible to the work force; no doubt Heydrich and his men were eager to murder them. Wolff must have been aware of the reports coming in from Heydrich’s einsatzgruppen, in competition with each other, boasting about the numbers of Jews and political commissars being killed.
Schwerin von Krosigk
In late October 1941 Wolff accompanied Himmler to Joachim von Ribbentrop’s shooting lodge at Schonhof, near Salzburg. Also present, at what Hitler intended to be a reconciliation between Himmler and von Ribbentrop[xxx], was Galeazzo Ciano Italy’s foreign minister, Schwerin von Krosig[xxxi] and Himmler’s masseur Felix Kersten[xxxii]. Himmler told Kersten;
'”I would never have come to this shooting party if the Fuhrer had not expressly wished me to come.”'[xxxiii]The beaters comprised 400 soldiers and the majority of the bag was taken by Ciano.
BibliographyThe Architect of Genocide – Richard Breitman, Pimlico 1991
Master Race – Catine Clay & Michael Leapman, BCA 1995Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume V – International Military Tribunal, US Government Printing Office 1946
Hitler – Nemesis – Ian Kershaw, Penguin 2001Top Nazi – Jochen von Lang, Enigma Books 2005
Heinrich Himmler – Peter Longerich, Oxford University Press 2012Himmler – Peter Padfield, Cassell & Co 2001
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – William L Shirer, Book Club Associates 1985The SS A New History – Adrian Weale – Little Brown 2010
[i] Originally formed from concentration camp personnel. Eicke had been the inspector of the camps; a job which was then given to Richard Glucks
[ii] The SS - Weale
[iii] Two days after the commencement of the invasion of France
[iv] Himmler’s boyhood friend and a doctor
[v] Himmler’s doctor
[vi] Soldiers of the Royal Norfolk Regiment were executed contrary to the rules of war
[vii] Equivalent of a Brigadier General
[viii] Himmler’s pet name for Wolff, he often gave those around him nicknames
[ix] Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume V – International Military Tribunal
[x] Leader of one of the Einsatzgruppen, responsible for the death of tens of thousands of Russians and Jews; later SS head of Russland Mitte
[xi] Head of the SS Fuhrungshauptamt and Berger’s alter-ego, responsible for equipping and all other matters pertaining to the Waffen SS. He and Berger reported direct to Himmler, while theoretically Eicke reported to Juttner. But as an old SS man he had Himmler’s ear and was able to contact Himmler direct.
[xii] People of German origin
[xiii] In competition with the Wehrmacht
[xiv] Not only a concentration camp but also SS barracks
[xv] In Klosterheide near Lindow
[xvi] Master Race – Clay & Leapman
[xviii] Equivalent to a Lieutenant General
[xix] Himmler’s castle, used for meetings of the senior SS officers and for training; adapted by slave labour at enormous cost
[xx] The concentration camps inspector
[xxii] Hitler always claimed that having to pull the Italian eggs from the fire was the principal cause of the disasters at the end of the year.
[xxiii] The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich - Shirer
[xxv] An HSSPF Bach-Zelewski had oversight of Einsatzgruppe B
[xxvi] Including Jews and Communist party officials; presumably Wolff was out having a cigarette when this forerunner of the Holocaust was mentioned
[xxvii] Heinrich Himmler - Longerich
[xxix] A police officer and head of Eisatzgruppe B and later one of the conspirators attempting to kill Hitler
[xxx] The two former friends had a falling out over the activities of the SD men placed in German embassies around the world; Ribbentrop had the SD men thrown out of the embassies, much to Himmler and Heydrich’s fury
[xxxi] Minister of Finance
[xxxii] A very ambiguous man who took credit for Himmler’s release of Jews in the last months of the war
[xxxiii] Himmler - Padfield